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SwanR

Moon Beam Adventure

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Well here we are again, another adventure completed and time for a holiday tale. This time we were out on Moon Beam, an ex-Swancraft boat that had been renamed and is now running out of Horizon Craft's yard at Acle. This was our first time of using this particular yard - yes I know, somewhat late to the party given the move that takes place at the end of this season to relocate them to Richardson's at Stalham. It was interesting talking to the staff and seeing how efficiently they run their small yard. Almost all the hirers going out last Monday 5th September were returning customers and many of them were wanting to take photos with all the staff who they clearly thought of as old friends and were sad that this would be their last trip.

Day One - Monday 5th September

We arrived at midday and the boat was ready. However we decided to go for lunch at the Bridge Inn first. Once we were fed and watered we had our handover from the yard and got out onto the river. I had taken a look at a number of websites over the weekend and knew it was going to be busy as there seemed to be very little available for any late bookings. Horizon Craft themselves had 47 of their 50 boats out so if that was replicated everywhere else then 94% of the hire boats on the north would be out on the rivers ... and potentially trying to get moored up somewhere every day. It wasn't long before we realised that this first week of September was busier than the third week of June when we were last out. And over the course of the few days we were there we saw more private boats also out than we have ever seen before on the northern rivers.

So where to go for our first night. We had a rough plan but nothing definite decided for a 4 night route but headed up the Bure to Fleet Dyke. We were probably there by about 2pm but alas all the moorings were already taken at both ends of the dyke so we turned around and headed back to St Benet's Abbey. We hadn't ever moored there before other than for a coffee stop so we weren't quite sure about being on the main river overnight. In fact it turned out to be a lovely peaceful mooring. Being a flybridge cruiser (is that what you call them when you can sit outside on top to helm?) we had a great view for people and boat watching. The weather was warming up nicely and probably within an hour or two the moorings were full. 

Our experience at other times has been that lots of boats moor up for lunch and then move on again in the afternoon. Of course there were still people doing just that but over the next few days we found that actually a lot of them weren't - there were a lot of boats mooring up by midday to 1pm and then staying put overnight. That did become a consideration for us with so many boats out and so many moorings getting full at a time that was earlier than we expected. More of that on other days ...

In the evening we went for a walk over to the Abbey and the Cross. It was a lovely quiet time - no-one else was over there at all. However I did encounter my first problem - getting on and off the boat!! Moon Beam is quite high at side-on moorings when you only have short legs!! I managed to get off but it was a bigger drop to the path than I expected. So getting back on was interesting - I basically had to sit on the side, swing my legs up and shuffle very inelegantly to where I could get to the back door. Hmmm ... this is why we like forward steer cruisers no matter what some people may say about them. That was the first real decision made - stern-on moorings were going to be our best option for overnight stops even though that is somewhat limiting.

It was an early night as the first day is always quite tiring - the journey up, getting used to a different boat, deciding where to moor and then getting unpacked and sorted out. We slept fairly well using the front cabin that was under the bow - another first for us. And that's something I like about these trips - even though we have been a number of times now there are always new things to do. I'll review the boat in more detail later.

Today's firsts - hiring a different boat - Moon Beam, hiring from Horizon Craft and starting a holiday from Acle, mooring at St Benet's overnight, sleeping in the bow of the boat.

Day Two to follow ...

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You beat me too it, Eric ! Look forward to the next report, Jean.:bow

cheersIain

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Day Two - Tuesday 6th September

Hmmm ... so now I've got to try to remember what we did each day. We do tend to like to be up and away from our overnight stop reasonably early as there's less boats about and the light on the water is lovely - often the best part of the day and not to be missed.

I was happy with our departure from St Benet's - hubby always does the ropes and I take the helm. Bow thrusters give that extra bit of reassurance and experience has taught us that it's often best to go astern into the middle of the river and thus mostly avoid even the slightest idea that this is a contact sport! Full steam ahead then ... well 4mph is as full steam as it needs to be and we pass the Ant mouth allowing another craft to swing out in front of us - I don't think they were expecting there to be anyone coming. By the way, we decided to give the Ant a miss this time. If you lower the screens up top to get under Ludham Bridge, then the throttle is covered and you have to helm from inside which would not be great - a little bit of a design issue there pointed out to us on handover the previous day. As we had hired from Stalham last time out, we had done the Ant quite fully so only having four days this time we decided to stick to the Bure and the Thurne.

Onward then past the turning for Ranworth, past Cockshoot Dyke, through Horning and then a little spin into Hoveton Little Broad - something we hadn't done before. It is very beautiful in there but another boat coming out of the narrow entrance just as we were turning in complicated things slightly. Once back on the main river we carried on past Salhouse Broad, past Wroxham Broad and on towards Wroxham itself. 

By this time the traffic was picking up and there were quite a few day boats about so I decided that proceeding right into Wroxham was not for me. I therefore turned the boat around before we got as far as Barnes Brinkcraft and left the procession behind me to wend its merry way on towards the bridge. We did hear someone remark later on once moored up, that they could have got through the bridge that morning to go on towards Coltishall but there were too many large hireboats hanging around and they couldn't get over to pick up the pilot so changed their minds. 

Tuesday was probably the warmest day although cloudy - by late morning the humidity was rising and it felt stiflingly hot. We decided to moor up in Salhouse Broad. As it's stern-on that meant that I could get off the boat and we could walk up to the Fur and Feathers for lunch and then make up our minds whether to carry on to anywhere else in the afternoon. In the heat and humidity it felt like a very long walk up to the car park and then up the hill to the pub. But we had a lovely lunch there and hubby bought some bottles of beer back with him from the brewery's shop next door. Once we got back to the boat the moorings were quite full and although we knew we could find somewhere else later we decided to stay put, as did most other boats that were there.

The afternoon was spent sat out on top watching any boats coming in as hardly anyone left. The large trip boats from Wroxham duly turned up ... all at the same time. Within the space of about five minutes three of them arrived one after the other and circled the broad making us the exhibit for the tourists. Quite amusing really. We photographed them photographing us photographing them ... and so it goes on. The rest of the day was spent quietly on board. We had lovely vanilla 99's when the little ice cream boat came round. And we sat out until it was dark.

Today's firsts were our visit to Hoveton Little Broad and our visit to the Fur and Feathers.

Day Three to follow ...

 

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Enjoying your write up as always!

I'm really surprised you can't use the upper helm with the screens lowered. That's a horrible design flaw and puts me off hiring Moon Beam or one of its sisters. I have a fair bit of experience of dual steers and I always prefer the upper helm unless the weather is completely horrible, especially for negotiating tricky bits like Ludham Bridge. Who wants to swap from outside to inside and back again?

On the mooring for the night at lunchtime issue, to be honest it would drive me nuts just sitting on the boat doing nothing for a whole afternoon as I do love helming the boat and getting to see plenty of places. In peak season I'll take my chances on available moorings at the busy spots because you can always wild moor and almost always moor in a boatyard. Some places rarely fill up - Salhouse Spit comes to mind. I guess it comes down to personal preference and how much you want to be in a popular spot.

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9 hours ago, Broads01 said:

Enjoying your write up as always!

I'm really surprised you can't use the upper helm with the screens lowered. That's a horrible design flaw and puts me off hiring Moon Beam or one of its sisters. 

On the mooring for the night at lunchtime issue, to be honest it would drive me nuts just sitting on the boat doing nothing for a whole afternoon as I do love helming the boat and getting to see plenty of places. 

The man at the yard reckoned that Moon Enterprise is a better design. Moon Beam was Swan Rapier so the one to watch out for might be Swan Ranger which I think already hires out of Stalham - these were Swancraft's use of the Alphacraft Highliner 35 rather than a Richardson's design. I can't remember what the air draft was quoted as with the screens still up but I think that there might be times that you would get under Ludham Bridge without dropping them down. We didn't helm from inside at all but I don't think the visibility would be great from there.

As for mooring up at lunchtime, you are right that it's a shame not to cruise for much longer. I've certainly learnt a few things being out this week. It was our first September trip. As you will see from my next instalment there was plenty of room for mooring in the boatyards and mud weighting in one of the broads would always have been an option as well.

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9 hours ago, ScrumpyCheddar said:

Me and her in doors loving it...  Are you on it now Jean.. Are you venturing south.. :naughty:

Glad to hear that you are enjoying reading my tale. We were only out Monday to Friday last week. The plan had been to see how we liked the boat and then consider hiring from Acle next year to go south but of course that has been scuppered with the move of the fleet to Stalham!

We haven't crossed Breydon Water at all yet as we used to hire from Swancraft and do the southern rivers, which we love, from Brundall. Looking forward to seeing how Silverline's plans for their new two berth forward steer cruiser work out otherwise I think we may well have to hire for ten days and travel north to south at some point next year or the year after. Our daughter has moved to Yorkshire recently so it looks as if we will be taking a holiday up there next summer.

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9 minutes ago, SwanR said:

Glad to hear that you are enjoying reading my tale. We were only out Monday to Friday last week. The plan had been to see how we liked the boat and then consider hiring from Acle next year to go south but of course that has been scuppered with the move of the fleet to Stalham!

We haven't crossed Breydon Water at all yet as we used to hire from Swancraft and do the southern rivers, which we love, from Brundall. Looking forward to seeing how Silverline's plans for their new two berth forward steer cruiser work out otherwise I think we may well have to hire for ten days and travel north to south at some point next year or the year after. Our daughter has moved to Yorkshire recently so it looks as if we will be taking a holiday up there next summer.

You should combine the two Jean week on the rivers then up to Yorkshire he he ...

So here's a question what do you prefer North or South.. Because in two years we have not even made it up to north yet... And is it that much busier than the south and harder to find a mooring ??

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I just love those big Swancraft boats I wanted to have one this year but the boss woman wouldn't pay the extra so we settled on Swan Reflection which we regretted due to the very cramped toilet/shower area. Good write up as usual.m

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Ah, the old question of north v south. We like both but they do give you quite different things. I would say try the north if you haven't done it yet but pick a quieter time, maybe October or early June. There are plenty of moorings and they're not so far apart so even if your first choice is full there will usually be somewhere else not too far away.

We have done the south several times in June and it was definitely quieter than the north and therefore more relaxing. But the north in March is a real treat as long as you don't mind wrapping up to keep warm.

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1 hour ago, JimC said:

I just love those big Swancraft boats I wanted to have one this year but the boss woman wouldn't pay the extra so we settled on Swan Reflection which we regretted due to the very cramped toilet/shower area. Good write up as usual.m

We loved Swan Reflection and have hired it four times. But we did feel that we had outgrown it a bit when we hired it again in June from Stalham. It wasn't quite the same as having it on the southern rivers but it is an excellent starter boat for two.

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Day Three - Wednesday 7th September

Having checked the Barnes Brinkcraft webcam the night before it looked as if there were plenty of mooring spaces in their yard at Wroxham. So we left Salhouse Broad around 8am and headed back down the Bure but unlike the previous day I made it all the way in and executed a very good stern-on mooring in the basin - knowing that the webcam is there always adds a little bit of pressure!

It was very humid and overcast so we walked through to Roys as I wanted to pick up some more soft drinks to chill in the fridge having got very thirsty the evening before. We also picked up some nice fresh cold meats and salad from the deli in Roys food hall to have for lunch later. There was a brief shower when we arrived back at the boat so we stayed where we were with a nice cup of coffee for a while before departing.

We thought that perhaps as we would be arriving late morning we would get a spot down Fleet Dyke today. Hmmm ... well ... good idea but all the moorings were still full so instead we headed down into South Walsham Broad and dropped the mud weight to have the aforementioned lunch. It was lovely, so peaceful and not many boats coming in or out. I had thought that maybe after lunch some boats would have moved on from Fleet Dyke but on leaving the Broad somewhere around 2pm we were still out of luck and in fact St Benet's was also fairly full. 

Onwards then to Ranworth Broad. We didn't want to get onto the staithe as we didn't need to get ashore so we happily moored stern-on on the Island - a favourite spot of mine. Another afternoon and evening followed sat out on top of the boat until it was almost dark. Not sure what we did really other than relax completely, watch the boats and the birds (of the feathered variety!) and just talk to each other. That's what's so special about boating ... getting right away from everything. :)

Today's firsts were mooring in Wroxham as a destination rather than when returning a boat to one of the yards and mud-weighting for lunch in South Walsham Broad.

Day Four to follow ...

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Day Four - Thursday 8th September

We awoke to a beautiful clear sunny morning and as is usual for us when out on the rivers, we were up, breakfasted, engine on and ready to depart by 8am. I was very proud of the fact that we were first away from the Island, no-one had yet left the staithe and no boats had arrived - we were the first people on the move on Malthouse Broad. We circled down to Ranworth Staithe just to take a look before getting back onto the Bure heading towards the Thurne. Next stop was to be Potter Heigham.

It was such a lovely day bathed in sunshine and amazing to be out in the fresh air cruising gently along. The Thurne was still fairly quiet when we arrived and it was nice to carry on past the turning for Womack Dyke, past the quiet moorings and all the way up to the bridge. Every time we have tried to moor there before we have been out of luck. But this time was different - a nice big gap and a good side-on mooring. Had I thought about it we might have gone into Herbert Woods yard as there looked to be quite a lot of space there and if we had stern-on moored I could have got off the boat. But having moored side-on out on the river I was not going anywhere!

We had a nice cup of coffee and a chat with some other boaters who my hubby had helped to moor as well as some people on another boat that had also now arrived behind us. It was very breezy and I knew that getting away might be tricky. No pressure then, just four people all watching on the path although to be fair they had offered to help with the ropes. I reversed back out in several moves gradually bringing the bow further round towards the bank so we could go straight back out into the river and then turn round with the help of the bow thrusters. Yes we had read the Skipper's Manual and been watching the Rascal's very informative videos about how to accomplish this.

Where to next? Well we were a little undecided. We intended to end up at Acle as we had to hand the boat back the next day. In the end we came back down the Thurne and then turned left onto the Bure. A nice cruise saw us soon back at Acle and as there were plenty of moorings we carried on to Stokesby just to be out a bit longer. But we found ourselves passing quite a procession of boats who had possibly come up from Breydon Water and by the time we turned round and got back to Acle there were probably only two available spaces out of all the moorings on both sides of the river.

With more boats behind us and more coming towards us I made a quick decision and went for one of the spaces. Two very kind gentlemen came out of their boats onto the bank and helped us to get in and moored. These few days had shown what a community there is and how much so many of us enjoy being able to help each other out. Once we had eaten lunch, hubby said that he was just going for a little walk - yes we were side-on to the bank of course and that meant that I couldn't get off the boat. Not a chance! Bless him, he went down to Horizon Craft to see whether we could get in their yard. This was earlier than we had planned but it turned out to be a very good move.

The staff down there were fabulous and offered to come up to the boat and move it for us. Within a few minutes we were in the basin with the tank having been filled on the way in ready to sort out the cost of the fuel the next morning ... and you really must read on for that bit when I get to the boat review. :)

Anyway ... I digress. Now that I was rescued and could get off the boat as were moored stern-on, we went to get ice creams and then went for a long walk by the river. The rest of the afternoon was spent sat on top of the boat watching the comings and goings. Quite a few other boats also arrived back at the yard. The staff made themselves easily available, grabbed the boats as they appeared, fuelled them up, moved them around and moored everyone up. This was clearly a well rehearsed scene and very impressive - best service from that perspective that I have seen bearing in mind that we have hired from six different yards over the last few years.

That evening we went to the Bridge Inn again and enjoyed a good meal. Hubby had the curry and I just fancied a burger for a change. So I had the bacon and cheeseburger without the bacon and cheese! All I wanted was a plain burger and they were happy to oblige at a lower price than this item appeared on the menu. Bargain. Just shows that it is worth asking for exactly what you want sometimes.

Once back on the boat we spent the rest of the evening packing our things ready for the next morning's departure.

Today's firsts were mooring at Potter Heigham and mooring at Horizon Craft.

The boat review will follow shortly ... along with that all important report on how much of our fuel deposit was returned! ;)

 

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My Review of Moon Beam and My Holiday Conclusions 

Living in Essex the journey to Norfolk is not too far and I have spent many happy holidays in East Anglia from the days of staying at Haven holiday camps when our children were younger, through to visiting the beautiful North Norfolk coast and now having fallen in love with the Broads. We have been fortunate to be able to hire a number of different boats of various designs so how does Moon Beam compare?

The plus points are easy to list:

  • Lovely view from the outside helm as long as you get good weather, which we certainly did.
  • Really good view for mooring up and getting away without nudging your neighbours!
  • Very cosy sleeping in the bow of the boat and I found the bed very comfortable.
  • Good headroom throughout which makes a difference as hubby is tall.
  • Very easy and responsive to steer especially as it has bow thrusters.

The minuses:

  • Possibly a bit awkward for anyone less mobile - the ladder and hatch out of the living area to the upper helm are a little tricky and quite a small space. 
  • The steps between the different areas inside the boat are steeper than I recall on any other boat we have hired.
  • The galley area is small - not much room for preparing meals.
  • If you are vertically challenged then you may have trouble climbing on and off if side-on moored - I would recommend sticking to stern-on moorings where possible.

In conclusion:
A very comfortable boat but possibly more suited to a couple than four people as the living space is quite small and there is only a seat for two outside on top.

Would I hire it again? Probably not as overall we have concluded that we prefer a centre cockpit or a forward steer boat. But it does represent good value for money, is very comfortable and we were glad that we had given it a go.

Is it economical? Very. We were able to stick to a steady speed, mostly around 1400 to 1600 rpm giving us 4 to 5 mph. We cruised for an average of three hours per day for four days and only used 20 litres of fuel costing us £22. That meant that we had a very nice £98 back on our fuel deposit. Bargain!

Which just leaves me to say that I wish the staff at Horizon Craft all the very best for the rest of this season and their subsequent move to Stalham.

And if you have enjoyed my little tale then perhaps you might also like to watch my video. Fair Prince is booked for a short break at the end of March which should be a little less busy than the rivers were last week. :) 

 

 

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Glad you enjoyed it Griff. It's all part of the fun of belonging to the forum, being able to share what we all enjoy talking about. :)

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Thanks Wonderwall. It is a lovely boat and I certainly enjoyed taking it out. You could set your speed and leave it to steer itself along the straighter parts of the rivers. :)

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Another great review Jean as we have come to expect. :clap

enjoyed the video, looks like you had some great weather

cheers

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1 hour ago, Hockham Admiral said:

 A wonderful write up, Jean!    :clap

(I only wish that I had half your skills at editing pics & vids!)

Agreed John. Jean is a very clever lady. Once again a first class insight to her holiday afloat.:clap

cheersIain

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Thank you, an exemplary write up Jean, very entertaining.

I agree that it is a shame acle is closing this year, have had a few boats off them in the last 18 months and the service and attitude is second to none. It is almost criminal that a very small yet efficient and friendly team will be diluted amongst the many when they Move to Stalham.

Trev

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1 minute ago, tjg1677 said:

Thank you, an exemplary write up Jean, very entertaining.

I agree that it is a shame acle is closing this year, have had a few boats off them in the last 18 months and the service and attitude is second to none. It is almost criminal that a very small yet efficient and friendly team will be diluted amongst the many when they Move to Stalham.

Trev

It was the same when the Horizon Fleet at the Thorpe St Andrew yard closed. I still miss leaving from there.

cheersIain

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