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  1. The good fortune of living in Leicestershire is that we observe a different school holiday pattern to the masses. This week is half term which offers excellent value for boat hire. On that basis, we would be foolish not to take the opportunity for one last look at Norfolk before winter sets in, and like all good bears I hibernate. It's twelve months since we booked Contessa, from Richardson's for a northern week, taking advantage of the early booking discount on top of the already very competitive for this ageing tub of a six (originally eight) berth twin steer Aquafibre 37. This boating holiday number 60, the 50th on the Broads and second visit to Richardson's, the first being 21 years ago. We usually hire Princess from Pacific at Loddon but having spent the last time out purely on the Southern rivers we decided this time for a northern only week, and Contessa is the ideal solution, sister ship as she is to Princess. I'm very impressed with the boat, so much so that I shall cover that separately, rather than take up pages of this holiday tale. One point of note, a long standing record was lost this holiday. In all of those previous 59 holidays we had never started in wet weather. Sadly today that claim can no longer be made. We had hoped that our old mate Roya would be able to join us for a couple of days afloat, there being plenty of room on board, but sadly that hasn't been possible but we stopped in at Lynn on the way and caught up with news, not to mention partake of a good feed courtesy of Gill and a plate full of sausage cobs. That left a slightly different route to the Broads for us. Instead of returning to the A47 we took the Cromer road from Lynn, then turned through Melton Constable and Aylsham, North Walsham and on to Stalham. That's a lovely route and avoids that rotten stretch of the A47 between Lynn and Swaffham. We arrived at the boatyard around twenty past two. Take over time is 4pm but the confirmation said the boat may be ready early and we checked in to be told she was indeed ready and waiting. A visit to the bouyancy aid shed, then on to Swan Quay where the boat was sitting waiting for us. A an appeared from the arrivals office and checked our paperwork and assigned a colleague to check over the boat with us which he did straight away. Are you comfortable taking the boat out of the yard? He asked. With that formalities were concluded and we loaded the boat, parked the car and headed out for the open river. I noticed a weathered eye watching us as we manouvered through the moored boats, just checking that we were indeed as competent as we claimed, no doubt. We had just left the boatyard, when the race began. A formula one grid has nothing on the exodus from Richardson's yard on a Saturday afternoon and quickly one, then two then three boats came past us with engines roaring. They'll just about make Beccles before dark I joked with Elaine. It didn't matter to us, our first night destination was Sutton Staithe and, as the case for the rest of the week were in no hurry. Moorings are rarely full at this time of the year. We has a pleasant cruise through Sutton Broad and indeed, as we approached there was plenty of space on “Sutton Staithe 2”, though the original staithe further along was fully occupied, with several of the boats looking as if they didn't often move very far. I wonder if the Rangers ever make it to this forgotten little corner of the Broads? The weather remains unsettled, with periods of quite sharp rain, persuading us against a foray to the pub, instead we cook on board and finish stowing the gear away. There is so much room on this boat that once finished you can hardly tell anyone is on board, with plenty of storage throughout the cabins and wheelhouse. A last woodbine topsides then we turn in for an early night. The fresh air and peaceful location invokes the sleep of the dead.
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