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Achtung Spitfire!

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March 22nd and the trip begins:

Well the time had come to use the short break that I won by outbidding everbody else for the forum's Christmas Auction...

The trip was a three night weekend or four night mid week break and had to be taken during the "low season", i.e. Autumn, Winter or Spring.

I refer to a four night break as it is just that and really three full days plus a few hours on the first day, and depending on how we planned the last night, a few more hours on the last morning.

After a check of the tide times, ranges etc I had decided that 22nd - 26th March should allow us to get from Brundell to Salhouse and back in the four days, as long as the weather gods didn't throw any spanners in the works.

As that week came closer we started to keep a good eye on the weather forecast, wondering what late March would bring.

The 15th - 19th was good but the forecast was for showers the next week....

But on Monday the 22nd we loaded up the people carrier and headed up to Brundell with a blue sky overhead, a good start but would it hold...

We got to the single carriageway section of the A11 approaching Thetford and there were no hold-ups, luck was still with us...

Down to the level crossing at Brundell, and on into Riverside Estate, on a very narrow road.

Ahead of us a low-loader, with a large cruiser aboard is turning into Brundell Marina, so our luck is holding it could just as easily have been going the other way!

We turn into Alphacraft's yard, get out of the car, and take a stroll along the basin. Lots of big boats, moored stern to, with about 14ft between their bows and the other side of the basin. Getting out of here is not going to be easy!

At the side of the basin there are the hull and superstructure of a dual steer highliner..

Will it be case of "Sorry Mr Goodall but your boat isn't quite ready yet!"


Right at the end of the basin, moored side on, with her bows pointing down the dyke that leads to the River Yare we find the Spitfire.

Either Alphacraft, or our luck, have been kind to us!

Back to reception to check in and then boat manual in hand and the crew carrying the first of the luggage and its along to the boat to start getting settled in,

whilst waiting for the engineer to come along to explain the details of Spitfire to us.

Entering through the rear doors you come into the "owners cabin" with a diagonal double bed and its own en-suite heads with a separate shower cubical.

Moving forward from there you enter an L shaped galley with a four ring cooker, with grill and oven, a full sized fridge, a microwave and even an electric toaster.

She is certainly well set up for the domestic staff!


Moving forward again and you are into the raised saloon with a L shaped sofa facing a row of units one of which hides the TV, DVD, STEREO and PLAYSTATION.


On the port side is the lower steering position which is at first sight is a mass of buttons, dials and switches...

We will leave those for the engineer to explain when he arrives!

Moving forward again we have the "crew" heads and shower compartment to port, and to starboard a double cabin where your feet are actually in under the saloon sofa.

Then we reach the fore-peak which on Spitfire is a V berth that we have asked to be configured as two singles (we could have asked for the in-fill to make it a V shaped double).

Tuning around we can see the spiral staircase that leads to the upper deck.


Up on the upper deck is the upper steering position (to starboard) and behind that is the "sun deck" and an external flight of steps that take you back to the aft deck.

Here "The Captain" shows you his domain!


OK so the engineer has arrived to go through the boat...

Lets start with that complex dashboard!


It is really pretty simple!

All the white buttons are circuit breakers that you shouldn't have to worry about!

Dials? Rev Counter, Speedo, Oil Pressure, Engine Temperature, Fuel Gauge, Water Gauge and two indicators for the charging circuits.

We have two separate charging circuits so there is no need to switch batteries etc.

Switches? Wiper, Bilge Pump (leave it on auto!), Water Pump (Leave it on auto unless you want to turn it off at night),

Horn, Console Lights (but you won't be out at night)

and Bow Thruster (down at the top to go to port , at the bottom to go to starboard, or is it the other way around?

oh well press it and see what happens it it goes the wrong way use the other end...)

On the left you have the engine key, indicator lights and stop button and the lower morse controller for throttle and gears.

Up top it it a bit simpler, rev counter , speedo, horn and bow thruster, and engine stop and start buttons plus the morse controller for throttle and gears.

Now for the engine.

Pull out the wooden bit at the bottom of the spiral staircase, undo a bolt and swivel the stairs and there it is!

"OK that should be all you need to know see you when you get back!"

What no trial drive?

Perhaps its the fact that we had brought our own life-jackets, extra lines, GPS, VHF, etc, and asked the right questions during the briefing that convinced him that he could just let us go!

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Supplies loaded, and we are ready to set off.


Rudder hard a starboard, a quick burst of ahead power and bow thrust to starboard at the same time and she moves off the quay sideways!

N.B. Straighten the wheel before stopping the bow thruster or she will turn to starboard!

Slowly down the dyke and out into the wide waters of the Yare. No traffic in sight anywhere!

Head downstream towards Cantley and there is a dyke off to the right that leads to Rockland Broad and the chart shows another dyke coming back to the Yare further down.

OK right hand down a bit and throttle back and in we go!

3 MPH speed limit!

Spitfire's engine ticks over at 900 rpm and has a maximum limiter of 1400 rpm.

900 revs gives about 3.5mph over the ground in still water so holding her down to 3mph means taking her into and out of gear...

Make the turn at Rockland Broad and chug back to the Yare, open her up to 6mph, and off we go again.

Beauchamps Arms pub to starboard, wind-pump to port


Then suddenly the boat swings off to port... Look below and there is someone at the lower steering position!


It turns out that when you switch over the controls from lower to upper (or vice versa) the only things that are locked on the "passive" position are the morse controller and the stop button.

One little three year old captain playing at steering can seriously effect the helm!

You can also find that your vessel can emit unexpected horn signals!

New standing order to the crew. Inform the helmsman when ever the captain is on the other helm position!

Through Cantley and down towards the Reedham Ferry.

Throttle back to let the ferry get far enough across the river for the chains to have dropped behind her.


Into an empty Reedham staithe, just downstream of the Lord Nelson pub. No need for double parking tonight only one other boat on the staithe so far!

Into our first session of duck feeding as the locals arrive to welcome us.

Go over to the Lord Nelson for dinner and it is shut. The Lord Nelson doesn't open on Mondays! (possibly this is only in the off season)

Ok so we will have to walk down to The Ship at the end of the quay next to the railway bridge.

Into the lounge and the captain is happy!

They have a Thomas the Tank Engine alarm clock on the wall which when the alarm goes off has a little train that does a circuit of the clock going toot-toot!

(why it does it at 10 past the hour confuses me but perhaps it on London time and not Norfolk!)

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March 23rd 2010

We need to be up and away early to get the tides right at Yarmouth with slack water at 9:17

The Admiral is up at 6:30 and the kettle is on.

Out on deck and it is a lovely sunrise, with a low ground mist across the southern marshes.





Have a cup of tea and do the engine checks and we are off.

Suddenly the hatch to the upper desk starts to emit a string of bubbles

and the sound of the Thomas the Tank Engine theme blares out over the chug chug chug of the engine...


The captain is 4 years old today and has discovered his birthday presents!

No sudden helm movements for a while then!

We glide on down a mirror calm river and approach the Berney Arms and Breydon Water...


As we approach Breydon we meet another boat, the first we have seen today, which comes down the Waveney and turn up the Yare towards us.

On down Breydon through Breydon bridge and it is time to get ready for the low bridges on the Bure.

Screens down, lower position manned. OK switch over the helm! "The switch won't turn..."

OK take her back up on top turn back up Breydon and try to sort out what we are doing wrong...

Still can't switch over and the tide is turning...

OK set the throttle on the upper position and leave it and I'll steer from below!

(We knew from the captains's antics that this was possible!)

Lets get through Yarmouth and then work out what we are doing wrong!

Up the Bure and the gauge is still showing 9' so we can get through and we chug under both bridges and then its back up on top and on we go.

"The manual says only switch positions when securely moored up" it also says "moor at Berney Arms at your own risk" did they expect us to do the Yare all the way from Reedham steering from below?

We pull into the Stracey Arms Wind-pump and Shop only to find that they are closed. (Re-turfing, extending the shop etc, "should be ready by Easter")

A bit more tinkering with the steering positions shows that both positions must be in neutral and the clutches disengaged for the switch over to work.

OK so thats sorted and we are off again.

Next stop the Bridge Inn at Acle Bridge. (The Captain discovered their playground on our trip last year and wants to have a go on the little Quad Bikes)

No Mooring signs all along the Bridge Inn grounds they are having the quay heading renewed, and higher banks constructed and re-turfed.

No room at Bridgecraft as all their fleet is still in, so Its a case of find a hole at Horizon Craft and leave it there for a couple of hours.

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Hi Martin

realy liking the tale want more :grin::grin: love the early morning shots of reedham & going up to burney love the inside shots of spitfire that sofa looks so cool keep the tale coming.

Jonny ice sliceice slice

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Hi Martin, i totaly agree with Jonny on the early morning photo`s of Reedham......... absolutely stunning, and with the river that still and tranquil ............... It really sets the scene. You lucky lucky s-d. Keep it coming, especially with photo`s like that Regards .............. Neil :clap:clap .

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Martins been taking great pics for years......

Heres my 'take' on early mornings at Reedham.....you wont get any from Gazpode as he doesn't do mornings!




Just bought a new camera so learning to take photos of other things than people with their heads cut off!

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23rd March 2010 continued.

A few shots taken by Colin (Seadog) whilst coming up the Bure.



We all walked over to the Bridge Inn for lunch. All the kiddies games were still closed (too early in the season) but a word with the nice lady at the bar and they brought out one of the quad-bikes for the Captain.

After a few goes with Gary (Gazpode) helping to drive he got the hang of it and carried on on his own.


We had remembered to bring a supply of one pound coins for it!

Ryan then discovered that they had installed a new JCB digger game sometime since last August but we didn't get that one switched on as the guy with the key was back up on the roof doing painting!


Then it is back to the boat and time to cut Ryan's birthday cake as his grandad had driven up from Beccles to join us for a few hours.


We then took Grandad for a quick trip up the river before dropping him back at Acle Bridge and then set off for Ranworth.

We arrived at Ranworth early enough for me to take Gary up the church tower and for Ryan to spend some of his birthday money in the shop.

Then it was over to the Maltsters for supper and time for bed.

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24th March 2010

The passage plan calls for us to be in Salhouse this evening for the Quiz at the Bell, but we need to run the engine to keep the batteries topped up so it wont be a direct route .

Our departure from Ranworth is delayed slightly by the fact that the shop doesn't open until 9am, and the arrival of the thatchers to work on the roof of the Granary.

Ryan has been told to bring lots of photos into his play-school to show the other children where he has been and what he has seen so a few shots of the thatchers seem to be a good idea. They see us taking photos and give Ryan a sheaf of reeds to hold to show how tall they are.



A last minute trip to the shop for more milk and the warning sign for the ducks. (I wonder if swans and geese are allowed in? Is this discrimination against ducks?)


I was looking in the Hoseasons boat manual for the clearance at Ludham Bridge but it didn't mention it! Luckily we had picked up a copy of the "Broadcaster" which is a free newspaper and events list covering the Broads area and that does have a complete list of the bridge heights. Ludham is 8' 6" at "average high water" so no problem, but to be on the safe side we will aim at going up river and come back either side of low water.

The trip up to Barton is a pleasure with so few boats out this week, and time to keep an eye out for the wildlife.

Herons are a frequent sight and they will often pose for the budding wildlife photographer.


Kingfishers are less frequent but you do often catch that elusive flash of turquoise, we had seen one at Ranworth and another on the Ant before this little chap decided to pose for his portrait!


We reached the start of Barton Broad and as there was no other traffic around allowed Ryan to really turn the boat around so that we could retrace our steps.

When we reached Irstead staithe it was completely empty and hence we stopped there to stretch our legs and let Gary look over the village church whilst Colin and Ryan fed the local ducks and a swan that came calling.

We then pottered down past How Hill and turned back up the Bure towards Horning.

I thought about calling in at Freedom Cruisers to say "hi" as we have their Fair Freedom booked for a week in August, but most of the boatyards were absolutely chock-a-block with them having few (or none) of their boats out. One look up the dyke at Horning and we carried on without trying to go up it!

The frontage at the New Inn looks great now (it may have been done last year but we couldn't see it for moored boats then). This time it was completely empty as we motored past.

Horning Staithe had spaces so we stopped off to visit the shops. Not a lot of choice really and none of the things we needed so its back on the boat and carry on. The crew were very surprised as I did a single handed cast off and departure, utilising my new rudder and thruster combination manoeuvre to move the boat sideways off the quay.

We pottered up to Wroxham and did a quick drop off manoeuvre outside the Wroxham Hotel to let Colin and Ryan off for a visit to Roy's. It turned out to be a bit of an expensive visit as Ryan discovered a Thomas the Tank engine stand in Roy's Children's Clothes Shop. Meanwhile Gary and I had slipped down river as far as Wroxham Broad when we got a call from Colin to say that he was finished with the shopping. "Be about 15 minutes before we get back to you" we said. At this point Ryan dragged his dad into Roy's Toy Shop after a digger that he had seen in the window, one that made lots of different noises (which we would all get very familiar with on the rest of the trip!).

Gary did the mooring up manoeuvre as we came in to pick them up and he handled it well using the bow thruster to swing her in alongside.

Parallel parking is not something he has to do on our sailing trips in Greece as there stern or bows to is the norm.

Then its back down river and into Salhouse, again it is nearly empty one other boat moored stern to and two even moored side on.

A check on the notice board shows that there is no charge for mooring from November to March so I presume that means that there is no warden around.

One of the local Black Swans was around (we saw one up at Wroxam later in the week, could be another of them or the same one, there were a pair with two cygnets at Salhouse a couple of years ago)


There were also various ducks, geese etc to keep Ryan happy. Including one we nicknamed Daffy who was not adverse to slipping up behind you and taking bread out of your hand when you weren't looking.

(Notice Ryan now has his new Thomas the Tank Engine jacket on (courtesy of Roy's of Wroxham). We wouldn't see him without it much for the rest of the trip (I believe that he did take it off to go to bed but then insisted on cuddling it in bed))


I get the phone number of the Bell off their notice and ring Steve to book a table for 7:15 and a 7pm pick up for four from the Broad car-park.

It turns out that we are the first boat to ring for a pick up this year!

Just as we are about to set off we have a medical emergency. Ryan manages to get a cut on his jaw for which we have to borrow a plaster from the neighbouring boat as I had forgotten to bring the First Aid kit with me.

The cause was difficult to determine as four year olds can be as tight lipped as the Kray Twins when you ask them a question. Current suspicion is that he caught it in the zip of his new jacket!

We pick a booth in the bar and order our meal and then the rest of Team NBN start to appear (Jonzo, mbird, plesbit and various partners and friends).

We split the NBN group into two teams (Port and Starboard. Our team was strengthened by Mark joining us but then weakened by the captain deciding that he had had enough!


Unfortunately we didn't win the quiz! :shock::shock: (No internet connection from Colin's phone!)

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March 25th 2010

Our last full day on the boat and we have to get back through Yarmouth and back up the Yare.

The low-tide tide is forecast to be higher today (top of the Neap tides for this week) so I want to go through Yarmouth at low water rather than at slack water as that will give me a bit more clearance!

So it is another early start from Salhouse and down river towards Horning.

More clouds in the sky today so we could be in for a spot of rain.

As we enter Horning Reach I see a Heron posing on the riverbank but my camera is down below...

It then takes off and perches on the veranda railing of a bungalow where there is a lady sitting in an armchair just the other side of the french windows.

Is this a normal occurrence? Is Ethel calling out to her husband "Fred, Harry is here for his breakfast sardine!"?

On down through Horning and along past Ranworth Dyke.

A Marsh Harrier is gliding over the reeds, drops to the riverbank, and then flies off with a twig in its talons.

It must be nesting time! (And again the camera isn't to hand!)

Acle Bridge and there is the Eden Bridge our old boat from last year tucked up in her winter moorings at Bridgecraft along with the Tower Bridge that Daytona-Bill has booked for June.


A last look at the Bridge Inn moorings (will the turf be down for Easter?) and then we spot our sister ship, Mustang, moored just downstream of the Bridge Inn.


No sign of life on her yet though!


Colin has more luck with the wildlife as a swan decides to take off towards us


As we come towards the Yarmouth Yacht Station we start to meet other vessels coming upstream and some of them appear higher than the Spitfire so it looks like the clearance is going to be OK.

One of the other skippers calls out "At least 10 feet!" so we are going to be OK...

Gary is on the helm as we shoot the two bridges, passing another of our sister ships , Clive's Bolero, moored just upstream of the first bridge.




Out past the bent yellow bacon (what hit the original one?) and then Gary has one of his mental moments and turns left instead of right...

A sudden reminder, and he soon has the boat spinning around to point towards Breydon Bridge instead of the Haven Bridge!

We pass under Breydon Bridge and then we see another vessel catching us from astern. It is the Mustang, which we had seen moored at Acle Bridge.

It soon becomes apparent that her engine limiter gives her more power than ours as she passes us on Breydon with a bit between her teeth.


Passing Yarmouth at low water may have given us more clearance but Spitfire notices the difference as she breasts the ebb on Breydon, flat out at 1400 revs and only 5.2mph SOG.

We turn to go up the Waveney and I spot some Avocets on the Breydon mud.


Through the bridge at St Olaves and into the New Cut. Now have I got my timings right after all we have a train buff aboard?

Yes here comes a train, the Captain waves, and the Engine Driver responds with a toot toot. Simple things can mean a lot to kids!


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25th March continued

Through Reedham Bridge and the Captain spots a playground at the Ship (it was dark when we went there two nights ago!)

So we moor up for an hour to let him have a play.

His Grandad might come down from Beccles again to meet up tonight, so I think it might be easier for him if we moor on the southern bank.

We therefore wave goodbye to Reedham, pass behind the ferry again (Does it operate at night?), and motor up past Cantley to the Beauchamps Arms.


The tide is on the flood so its turn into the current and starboard side to, which is slightly complicated by the first real rain of the entire trip so we are using the lower steering position.

The quay heading here has received some bad reviews in other threads. Yes it is concrete but most of it has tyre fenders on it especially the bit right outside the pub. One point to remember though is that there is about three feet of tidal range here and it is a low quay. With most hire boats your fenders will need to be adjusted to allow for the movement. Also the quay section right outside the pub is only about 40ft long, and Spitfire was 44ft so had to overhang the end a bit.

The pub was pleasant, if in need of a bit more tlc. It is very isolated and looks like it might be more popular at weekends or on a long summer evening rather than on a Thursday in late March. We were the only customers apart from some dog walkers who popped in. If you want riverside pubs then remember to use them! Far too many have closed already.

For those of you with youngsters this one has a kiddies playground with a trampoline, slide etc.




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26th March 2010

We have to get the boat back to Alphacraft by 9:30 and I'm not sure if they mean back or us off the boat by 9:30 so it will be another fairly early departure.

I was up adjusting fenders at 2:30 this morning, as I suddenly woke up and remembered that it was high water when we went to bed and low water was about 03:00...

Anyway at 06:30 Colin and I are up and he is having a ciggie and his coffee on the quay when he is buzzed by the local bats going back to their roost.

Ciggie in one hand and coffee mug in the other so no camera to hand.



We feed the local ducks, including providing a temporary refuge on our side deck to a duck that is trying to escape the amorous intentions of a drake (other than the one that she had paired up with) and then head off up stream.

We go through Brundall, do a loop into Surlingham Broad and back to the Yare before turning up the dyke to Alphacraft.

The spot on the dyke where we picked up the boat is taken so it looks like she will have to go back into the basin.

I put her alongside another boat and go to find out where they want her.

I could have backed her into the basin but it is safer to let their guy do it.



And now it is just a case of unloading everything and heading for home.

My verdict on the Spitfire:

A very nice boat for adults or a family with older kids that you could trust.

The bow thruster certainly makes the handling easier.

My only gripes with the basic design are:

1) The tinted windows make the scenery appear dim if you are down below.

2) The wiper on the lower helm position could be designed to clear more of the screen than it does.

3) The bow thruster switch on the lower position should be better labelled.

4) The switch over between helm positions doesn't actually isolate very much as we found when "The Captain" went anywhere near the other position.

And 5) Would I go out on her with all of Colin's young brood? No way!

The rear door leads out onto a step down with no railing between the step and the water.

The upper deck also has no rear railing and open steps down to the aft deck which also has no railing.

Take all the youngsters (all under 10) out on Spitfire and I would have them all clipped onto the boat at all times, if I could find points to clip or tie them onto. With three adults and one youngster we managed to keep track of his whereabouts but two adults and four young kids and it would be very worrying.

For trips with youngsters aboard I certainly prefer to have a traditional broads cruiser with fore and aft wells to make it harder for them to fall overboard and where they can sit up the front where I can see them.

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Looks a great trip guys, and the boat looks smart.

Glad you enjoyed yourselves, even if you did outbid me on the auction!! :pirate

I think the switch over from external to internal helm normally just switches throttle controls... we've played the game of swinging the internal wheel a bit when nipping below & Mummy or one of my mates is steering.... I'm easily amused, but I have had a few giggles with that one myself over the years! :grin:


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WOW, What an excellent holiday. A crackin read, and some really excellent photo`s, especially the one with Tower bridge looking so bright and clean (thanks for posting that one). I only hope i can write a decent tale after our trip. WELL DONE MARTIN :clap:clap:clap:clap:clap

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