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  1. Well that was “That Was The Week That Was”, it must be the worst for weather that we have had in 28 years or so. Generally enjoyable but could have done without the fog, rain and wind. Barnes are now supplying non-automatic buoyancy aids (the type with a pull cord), not sure if this is a good idea since you can’t pull the cord if you are unconscious. This was the second time on Encore 1 so I will not say much about the boat apart from the fact that more drawer runners had failed, the hinged glass hob cover was missing and she had obviously been crunched just by the helm position (and a different fender eye plate fitted), such a shame for a new boat. The pull ring on the Escape Ladder was also broken so that was now useless. Through the week we did notice that there were an enormous number of Cormorants about but fewer Grebes, I suspect this may go hand in hand since the Cormorants are basically greedy, haven’t seen so many for quite a few years. After our experience on Thursday I have decided that I really, really hate tinted windscreens, it was cold and raining with the windscreen misting up making life very difficult with having to get my wife to clean the inside of the screen every 5 to 10 minutes or so. The video this time will be very short, didn’t do much video but more stills, since I am sure most people who have seen our videos get bored with the same stretches of river every time. Met up with Meg (NBN member) twice and quite a few very friendly private boaters as well as hirers. As far as mobile signals are concerned every mooring we made had a 4G signal (Vodafone). Virtually every day we saw the Rangers out except for the very windy day (Wednesday) when they were nowhere to be seen, their boathouse at Irstead was all shut up as well that day. We didn’t use the TV at all nor the boats wi-fi since we were getting a good 4G phone signal which we just used for weather forecasts and news. Friday 8th September We had put down on the Arrivals Sheet for 13:00 and called into the yard at about 11:00 to let them know we were in the area, then it was off to Belaugh for sandwiches and coffee. We went back to the yard just before 13:00 to be told that the boat wasn’t ready so we sat in the car watching the black clouds gather just hoping that we would be able to load-up before it rained, wrong. After about ¾ hour there was still no sign of anybody going near the boat so I checked with the office again only to be told that she hadn’t been cleaned on the outside yet so I said we would accept her as she was since it was now pouring with rain and I could mop the decks later. With that we loaded up and finally got away from the yard at about 14:15. As usual we headed for Cockshoot and found plenty of space. We went for a walk around Cockshoot but nothing of much interest. Tea consisted of a home made Chilli Con Carne that we had brought with us. A beautiful full rainbow (with a secondary one even bigger) appeared later on in the early evening unfortunately it was too large and close to get a complete photograph even with a 12mm (24mm equivalent) lens. After having a shower the Towel Ring on the door fell off so it was out with the trusty Swiss Army Knife and managed to tighten the screw sufficiently for it to hold but it did need re-tightening a few times in the week since I didn’t really have the correct screwdriver. As usual it was early to bed in anticipation of an early rising for a sunrise. Saturday 9th September Well I did get a sunrise but not the best I have seen. After breakfast we made a decision to go to Barton Turf via a cruise around Malthouse Broad to see how full the staithe was. There were an enormous number of Swallows flying around Malthouse Broad, presumably topping up ready for the long trip south. There were four or five spaces on the staithe but we didn’t bother to moor since we still had plenty of water, in fact we only filled up with water twice during the week. Onward up the Ant we had to wait at Ludham Bridge for a couple of boats to come through and then it was past How Hill, which was pretty full, and on to Barton Broad. We made a detour to check out Gaye's Staithe where there were only three boats moored and then on to Barton Turf. On arrival at Barton Turf the section I wanted to moor on had a private boat pulled right to the end, I was in two minds what to do but decided that we would moor behind the other boat and then check if they were going to move. The other boat seemed deserted but a guy did come down to it and he told me that they were going nowhere so it was ok to stay where we were. The weather was not bad at all so the afternoon was spent watching the sailors and a model yacht. We did take a wander over to Paddy’s Lane since I was after photographing butterflies and dragonflies and managed a few shots on the upturned dinghies but there was very little around. Shortly after we got back to the boat the heavens opened again. Come evening the sky was lovely but no proper sunset available here. Sunday 10th September Woke at 06:00 to find a foggy morning. After breakfast we decided that Womack would be our destination today but was a little bit dubious about Barton Broad in the fog, we eventually decided to go for it and come back if we could not see two posts ahead over the broad. As it turned out visibility was just ok and by the time we got to How Hill the fog had pretty much lifted. Once again I had to wait for three boats this time to come through Ludham Bridge. Once on the Thurne we met quite a few Hunter’s yachts tacking towards us, all except one were very good but the exception surprised me, I was holding back ready to go behind him on his return tack but he decided to go between me and the reeds much to my alarm since I was pretty close to the reeds anyway. We did meet Albion as well but that was no problem. On arrival at Womack it was quite full so I chose a spot between two other boats but just as our stern was by their bows the boat on our port side decided to leave which had the effect of making Encore swing off track with his prop wash, not too badly recovered and with the help of other folk (water rather high making life difficult for my wife to moor) got safely moored. Not my best stern on mooring. Some time afterwards Encore 2 with Meg (NBN) & Jill came in and moored close to us. Ended up having a rather long chat to them only to find that Meg used to live on the same estate as us and now lives only 30 miles away, got chatting to another couple as well who, again only live 20 miles away, talk about a small world. An uneventful afternoon generally talking to other boaters, we did also fill up with water even though we still had half a tank left. Monday 11th September Neatishead was to be our destination today and the trip was totally uneventful. On arrival at Neatishead we found only two other boats there so I reversed in to moor on our port side one boat length from the dyke end. We walked up to the shop to buy some of their delicious nougat and then it was an afternoon talking to the owners of Mallard, which had moored in front of us, and the owners of an ex Russell’s boat who moored behind us. Some very heavy showers in the afternoon. Late in the afternoon/evening a yacht came up and moored right at the far end of the staithe in the middle (the staithe was now nominally full) followed by another shortly afterwards which moored behind the first thus blocking four cruisers from getting out. Tuesday 12th September Again an early rising. By 07:30 one boat had left and the second yacht pulled down to moor in his space, very considerate. We left at fractionally after 08:00. A nice day today, the only really good one, it was decided that How Hill would be our destination for the afternoon and night. We took a detour to Sutton Staithe for a pump out (£12) even though the gauge was still showing empty since in June we found that as soon as the gauge went off “Empty” it then very rapidly went to “Full”, we also filled up with water. After Sutton Staithe as we were passing the Irstead Ranger’s boathouse we saw a Kingfisher sitting on a post, unfortunately we had another boat close behind so stopping and turning was not really possible, just my luck. We had about 4 or 5 Hunter’s yachts to pass on the way down the Ant, all but one gave indications to me but I did have to shout and ask one who was all over the river. One arrival at How Hill we moored at the first posts just after the inlet, Hathor was no longer moored there anyway although some red and white cones remained where she normally moors. We took a fairly lengthy walk (in time not distance) around the house lawns and found plenty of dragonflies to photograph this time. We also got some decent shots of the Hunter’s yachts that we had passed down the Ant. We did see Waveney Stardust pass down and up stream which surprised me somewhat, so where is she based on the Ant? In the evening we walked down towards Turf Fen Mill in the hope of a good sunset which was not to be but we did see the amazing site of a Starling murmuration, photographs not good due to slow shutter speed dictated by lack of light but did get some video. Having seen the weather forecast I set an extra rope and ensured that the boathook and mop were tied down. Wednesday 13th September What a wet and windy night, was up at about 06:00 again to the sound of the wind but the rain had pretty much eased. We decided to wait for some time before setting off in the hope that the wind would die down a bit (it was keeping us on the quay side quite well) but by 09:00 decided that if we were going anywhere today we needed to do it and there was a bit of a lull. It was a case of kick the stern out, use the bow thruster and reverse to the inlet section to turn round since we were going to Sutton Staithe. I decided to turn the boat one way but the wind had the opposite idea so I let the wind have its way and all was well with no melodrama, thank goodness for a powerful engine and bow thruster. Because of the wind I decided to go the long way round the island on Barton Broad and on up to Wayford Bridge and then back to Sutton Staithe, only passed about one boat on the way up the Ant. We saw the Kingfisher again at Irstead but it was far too windy to think about photographs, also noticed that the Rangers boathouse was all closed up. On arrival at Sutton Staithe it was full but after turning and going back a boat started to pull out so it was back onto the broad to turn again. Once the other boat was out of the dyke we went back in and moored in their spot with the assistance of the owners of Mallard and Meg from Encore 2 who was moored just along from where we were now, it was still very windy even on the staithe with it blowing down the dyke from the broad. Few boats moved all afternoon with a fair number having stayed put since the previous day. In the evening we took a walk to the end of the dyke, again in the hope of a sunset, and got talking to the couple on Royal Velvet 2 and watched a Kingfisher flying across the broad and down the dyke a few times. Thursday 14th September A wet and dismal morning so it was decided that we would return the boat this afternoon and then go home since we are only 1½ hours away. After clearing all the windows (again) we set off waving goodbye to Meg and Jill. It was not a particularly pleasant cruise down the Ant because I had to keep the canopy closed due to the rain and the screen was continually misting up but that kept my wife busy wiping the screen for me at very regular intervals. I hate tinted windows since they make visibility even more difficult it these conditions. We stopped off on Salhouse Broad (mud weighted) to pack and clean the boat up (not that it was particularly dirty anyway), fortunately the rain had stopped by then but more was threatening. Once back at the yard they topped the diesel up and I got a refund of £69 so £31 pounds used, amazing how economical these boats are when you keep the revs down (never really had it above 1600 except negotiating yachts). Met Phil (Barnes engineer and NBN member) in the office and had a bit of a chat about the boat, likes and dislikes, and ascertained that they are having two more Encores but dates are uncertain, the third Serenade will be available from next April. All in all an interesting week and it was good to meet many friendly people. I will be putting a video/slide show together over the next few weeks and will then update this thread. If anybody knows the owner of “Mallard” “471S” and they would like to get in touch I have a decent side on view of them leaving Sutton Staithe and would be more than happy to send them either a digital or hard copy. The same applies to any of the people who may recognise themselves in the video on the Hunters yachts that were going down stream at How Hill. Next year it will be a bit of a change of routine since we have Swan Roamer booked in April and June, keeping our fingers (and toes) crossed for better weather.
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