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When Did The First Grp Boats Arrive?.

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I was wondering, (like I do) when did the first 'fibreglass' boats arrive on the Norfolk Broads and who was it, that made or hired out, the first ones?...

When we first hired a boat, it was an old wood built craft 'Shining Dawn' from Herbert Woods. The next year, we hired 'Ambassador' from N.B.Y.C. at Wroxham, which I believe was a 'combination' boat, fibreglass hull and wooden built structure. Third year, a completely fibreglass built boat 'Jetstream 2' an 'Elysian' from Southgates Mainyard in Horning. So, in our first few years as hirers, we had run through the change, from wooden craft to fibreglass boats.

In those first few years of the 'seventies' there were definitely still more wood built boats on the Norfolk Broads, but a good number of fibreglass boats were to be seen too. Notably the Wilds 'Bermudas and Caribbeans', a lot of boatyards had 'Elysian' centre & aft cockpit boats and of course there were the little 'Hampton Safaris' from Oulton Broad. It was obvious to the eye, that the wooden boats were made in a lot of different designs and sizes, many of which were easily 'identified' as belonging to particular boatyards. Ripplecrafts 'Broadland' fleet, the Sanderson 'Sanderlings' and some of the older 'Wing Line' craft. They weren't always beautiful, but had very distinctive designs.

We hired a 'bath tub' boat, sometime in the mid seventies 'Royal Eagle' from Eastick's at Acle (next year she had become 'Ray of Light' at Herbert Woods). At that time, she was looking a little 'tired' so must have been around for some time, previously. So, when did the fibreglass' boats first appear and were they popular straight away, or did hirer's prefer the familiar wooden boats?. Did the first fibreglass boats have initial problems, that needed ironing out?. It's pretty obvious, that there are a lot more very skilled 'man hours' in building a wooden craft, also the quality timber required for boat building must have been very expensive. So, when was a halt called, to building traditional wooden cruisers and who built the last wooden hire craft?.

Sorry, lots of questions, but apart from the "Boats of the Norfolk Broads" website, which is wonderful; I'm not aware of any comprehensive 'history of the Norfolk Broads hire fleets' which is available in print or online. If there is such a thing, I'd love to know about it... :12_slight_smile:

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Marthams were still building hireboats from wood quite late, they are currently restoring two of their old boats, a Janet and a Juliette, and have a third boat ready to take a mold off of the hull.

Sent from the Norfolk Broads Network mobile app
 

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As a little taster, I could point you towards an article "wot I wrote" for Carol Gingell on the Broadland Memories website, titled "Broads cruisers, their evolution" - or something like that. You might find it amusing, if not necessarily historically accurate.

I think the short answer, as with other things, is that it didn't all change at once. It happened gradually, over several years. When I used to work at Jenners in Thorpe, in the late 60's, we had fibreglass boats, but over half the fleet still had petrol engines.

Maybe it is time that some of us on the forum (yclept the Old Coots Club by our chairman) got together and tried to produce a history of it all. Could be interesting, to put all the memories together.

 

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17 minutes ago, Vaughan said:

Maybe it is time that some of us on the forum (yclept the Old Coots Club by our chairman) got together and tried to produce a history of it all. Could be interesting, to put all the memories together.

That would be great to do Vaughan.  Ive been reading through the Broadland Memories site and really enjoyed all the stories and photos on there.  

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37 minutes ago, grendel said:

Marthams were still building hireboats from wood quite late, they are currently restoring two of their old boats, a Janet and a Judith, and have a third boat ready to take a mold off of the hull.

Sent from the Norfolk Broads Network mobile app
 

We hired 'Judith 3' from the Martham boatyard for a long weekend in 2010, lovely old craft...

Judith 111.JPG

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36 minutes ago, Vaughan said:

As a little taster, I could point you towards an article "wot I wrote" for Carol Gingell on the Broadland Memories website, titled "Broads cruisers, their evolution" - or something like that. You might find it amusing, if not necessarily historically accurate.

 

Thank you for that pointer, Vaughan. I have the 'Broadland Memories' bookmarked on my laptop, so I'll read your article later. I don't really know much about the evolution of broads craft, from wood to fibreglass. But, saw a picture you put on the 'NBN forum' earlier, of the Bishop of Norwich on board 'Solace'. Looking along the line of all wooden boats at St. Benets, in the early 60's, got me thinking about when and how that change began... :35_thinking:

 

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The first fibreglass holiday cruisers started to appear in the mid-sixties. Frank Wilds (Carribean etc) was something of a pioneer.

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58 minutes ago, Vaughan said:

Maybe it is time that some of us on the forum (yclept the Old Coots Club by our chairman) got together and tried to produce a history of it all. Could be interesting, to put all the memories together.

 

That really is something that is priceless. The history of a particular area and way of life, recounted by the people who were actually there. Unfortunately, once those people are gone, their version of events, people and places goes too, unless we take time to record their memories & pictures. That's why I love websites like 'Broadland Memories' and 'Voices of Hickling' and the many other websites, that record our history, as seen by the ordinary and extraordinary people who lived it...

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Hi kingfisher, first time we hired a boat on the Broads was from Saunderson marine and that was a traditional wooden cruiser Carville built, We were told the next time we came they would have their new boats which were Sanderling's, but we hired from a different yard and got a bathtub fibreglass many more luxuries like a shower, the first boat we hired which by the way was called Lady Ursula didn't have a shower and had a morris petrol marine engine version of the ones used in a Morris eight car, not the sort of thing you'd want now, anyway that's my two pennies worth, regards Ted

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17 minutes ago, oldgregg said:

The first fibreglass holiday cruisers started to appear in the mid-sixties. Frank Wilds (Carribean etc) was something of a pioneer.

It must have been quite a shock/surprise to see, as the 'Wilds' boats were so different to anything else afloat, at that time, I wonder what the reaction was, from both fellow boatyard owners and seasoned broads holidaymakers, when the first Wilds 'Caribbean' was spotted coming down the river... Did they think "that'll be a five minute wonder, it'll never catch on" or was it, perhaps "there goes the future of Norfolk Broads boating"?...

 

 

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32 minutes ago, kingfisher666 said:

It must have been quite a shock/surprise to see, as the 'Wilds' boats were so different to anything else afloat, at that time, I wonder what the reaction was, from both fellow boatyard owners and seasoned broads holidaymakers, when the first Wilds 'Caribbean' was spotted coming down the river... Did they think "that'll be a five minute wonder, it'll never catch on" or was it, perhaps "there goes the future of Norfolk Broads boating"?...

 

 

1963 or 4 at a guess. As a part owner of a boatyard back then we went out and bought two and Hoseasons guaranteed us so many weeks hire as they were sold on a buy to let scheme.  I always enjoyed using one of them when not on hire, generally as winter beckoned, but they weren't hugely popular with our clients because they couldn't see over the reeds. Repeat business was not as good as with our other boats so we were glad to sell them on at the end of the purchase period but we were sold on the principle of GRP.

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49 minutes ago, JennyMorgan said:

1963 or 4 at a guess. As a part owner of a boatyard back then we went out and bought two and Hoseasons guaranteed us so many weeks hire as they were sold on a buy to let scheme.  I always enjoyed using one of them when not on hire as winter beckoned but they weren't hugely popular with our clients because they couldn't see over the reeds. Repeat business was not as good as with our other boats so we were glad to sell them on at the end of the purchase period but we were sold on he principle of GRP.

Did you buy them direct from 'Wilds', I know they had a factory making the mouldings, somewhere near Loddon. Did they also fit them out, or was that done by the buying yards?. I wonder how many 'bath tubs' were actually made, for a boat that most people seem to disparage these days, there certainly were lots of them made. Still plenty of them about, many years later, though mostly with private owners now.

I've hired a few 'bath tubs' but never worried too much about the 'seeing over the reeds' thing, though I know many do. We've always had an 'early & late' philosophy (if you can call it that) to cruising. In that, we start early and reach a destination by mid/late morning, when most boats are leaving, or have left, their mooring. The rivers are generally quiet (most people either asleep, or still topping up with coffee) in the early morning and as you'll know, there is lots to see (reeds allowing). We spend the middle of the day, away from the boat, walking, exploring, birding, on the beach, or whatever. We arrive back at the boat early evening and move off again, for an evening cruise, when the rivers/broads are quiet and the wildlife comes out to play again, so we always have plenty to see. Mooring late isn't really a problem, despite the apparent dearth of moorings we hear about, if you have a reasonable knowledge of the area, you can always find somewhere.

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Andrew, we bought ours before the move to Loddon. They were delivered ready to go.

 

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50 minutes ago, kingfisher666 said:
1 hour ago, JennyMorgan said:

1963 or 4 at a guess. As a part owner of a boatyard back then we went out and bought two and Hoseasons guaranteed us so many weeks hire as they were sold on a buy to let scheme.  I always enjoyed using one of them when not on hire as winter beckoned but they weren't hugely popular with our clients because they couldn't see over the reeds. Repeat business was not as good as with our other boats so we were glad to sell them on at the end of the purchase period but we were sold on he principle of GRP.

Did you buy them direct from 'Wilds', I know they had a factory making the mouldings, somewhere near Loddon. Did they also fit them out, or was that done by the buying yards?. I wonder how many 'bath tubs' were actually made, for a boat that most people seem to disparage these days, there certainly were lots of them made. Still plenty of them about, many years later, though mostly with private owners now.

This is a subject one could write a book about! I also remember first seeing a Caribbean in Thorpe in 1964. We all called them "the 79 bus" because that was the number of the bus that came out from Norwich along the Yarmouth Rd!

The important thing about them was not just Fibreglass - it was that radical design - now often copied - which radically altered the way people could enjoy Broads boating :

Single level throughout. Wide side decks. Low level hull for getting on and off when mooring. Handrails all round. No sharp corners at the bow or stern, so could be moored up almost like a dodgem car. Light and airy with big windows in all cabins, even the galley. Engine out aft, so no noise or smell inside the boat when cruising. Fully opening saloon canopy. Could actually be driven by someone in a wheelchair. Profile shaped like Potter bridge, so would go anywhere on the Broads.

What have I forgotten? It wasn't Fibreglass that made them famous - it was the design!

They made the Bermuda (4 berth) The Caribbean (6 berth) and the Mediterranean, which was an 8 berth, mainly exported to Blue Line in France.

I can take you to any mooring on the Broads, right now, and show you modern boats which have all been built around those original Wilds mould tools - later bought by Langford Jillings of Alphacraft. The superstructures may be different, but the hull is just the same.

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From a boatyard's point of view they could be moored stern onto the shore and all servicing done directly from the quay heading. On a busy turn-round day that was an invaluable asset. 

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Where does the Dawncraft DC30 come in all of this. One of the earliest Blakes brochures I have - I think 1974 or 75 has DC30s with lots of boatyards. I assumed they came out before the Wilds boats as they were so numerous.

San Rafael.jpg

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8 minutes ago, DAVIDH said:

Where does the Dawncraft DC30 come in all of this. One of the earliest Blakes brochures I have - I think 1974 or 75 has DC30s with lots of boatyards. I assumed they came out before the Wilds boats as they were so numerous.

San Rafael.jpg

We bought two hulls, as did Trumans, and fitted them out ourselves, very popular with our hirers, more so than the Wilds boats.

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The Griffin 35(Bourne 35) was selling in big numbers from 1963 years before the Caribbean. Moores and Woods bought the first 12 in 1963 and many more yards followed their example after that.The first glass fibre boats were made by Halmatic. Seamaster and Freeman were making  small glass fibre boats from about 1961.

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3 hours ago, Vaughan said:

This is a subject one could write a book about! I also remember first seeing a Caribbean in Thorpe in 1964. We all called them "the 79 bus" because that was the number of the bus that came out from Norwich along the Yarmouth Rd!

The important thing about them was not just Fibreglass - it was that radical design - now often copied - which radically altered the way people could enjoy Broads boating :

Single level throughout. Wide side decks. Low level hull for getting on and off when mooring. Handrails all round. No sharp corners at the bow or stern, so could be moored up almost like a dodgem car. Light and airy with big windows in all cabins, even the galley. Engine out aft, so no noise or smell inside the boat when cruising. Fully opening saloon canopy. Could actually be driven by someone in a wheelchair. Profile shaped like Potter bridge, so would go anywhere on the Broads.

What have I forgotten? It wasn't Fibreglass that made them famous - it was the design!

They made the Bermuda (4 berth) The Caribbean (6 berth) and the Mediterranean, which was an 8 berth, mainly exported to Blue Line in France.

I can take you to any mooring on the Broads, right now, and show you modern boats which have all been built around those original Wilds mould tools - later bought by Langford Jillings of Alphacraft. The superstructures may be different, but the hull is just the same.

Indeed, Vaughan, when we met in May you identified Swan Roamer as one such Wilds hull boat. 

Was it definitely 1964 you saw the Caribbean? Something in my head says they were new in 1968 or 1969.

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According to the FB Wilds website the first Caribbean was launched in 1966.  

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I seem to remember my brother mentioned a Seamaster 26/27’ (an old style) he owned for a while was built in the late 1950’s. There were a few around this time all GRP run out of Barns in Wroxham, Named queen something. I think there are some pictures of them on the Broadland memories site? 

I will try and find out from him when the one he owned was built. 

Cheers 

Paul  

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9 hours ago, Stationerystill said:

The Griffin 35(Bourne 35) was selling in big numbers from 1963 years before the Caribbean. Moores and Woods bought the first 12 in 1963 and many more yards followed their example after that.The first glass fibre boats were made by Halmatic. Seamaster and Freeman were making  small glass fibre boats from about 1961.

GRP actually predates this by ten years Tods produced a 12' dinghy in 1951 the next year a cooperation by Uffa Fox and Patrick de Laszlo ( founder of Halmatic) produced a Flying 20. 

In 1954 Halmatic produced the 48' TSMY Perpetua. Perpetua was produced at Halmatic's expense to prove to the Admiralty that GRP was able to withstand the torque and vibration of diesel engines.

Early GRP boats were seriously over-engineered with very heavy layup. Various oil crisis and the high degree of cost control applied by todays mass producers in the USA, Poland, France, Spain and Germany lead me to think the their lifespan will be considerably shorter than those produced in the late 60s early 70s when we also had big producers like Westerly, who produced 2500+ Centaur most of which are still sailing.

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Uffa Fox was certainly quick to see the potential of grp. Back in 1963/64 I was a sailing instructor at Pin-Mill Sailing school where one of the boats was an Uffa designed dinghy called a Pegasus, not dissimilar to a Firefly and certainly prettier than the Albacore. No gel coat and semi-transparent she was an exciting boat to sail, totally unsuited as a school boat and liable to capsizing whilst being boarded, but she could certainly fly! The school had bought her second hand and apparently very cheaply. Perhaps the sailing world was not quite ready for grp at that time.  

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9 hours ago, Stationerystill said:

The Griffin 35(Bourne 35) was selling in big numbers from 1963 years before the Caribbean. Moores and Woods bought the first 12 in 1963 and many more yards followed their example after that.The first glass fibre boats were made by Halmatic. Seamaster and Freeman were making  small glass fibre boats from about 1961.

Thanks for that - I was hoping we would hear from you as you must be the forum's oracle on Broads GRP boats!

If the Caribbean didn't come out until 1968 that explains a lot to me, as I clearly remember that there was a period of transition in Broads building, before we began to get fully moulded superstructures. Until then yards were buying hulls (by Bourne) and fitting them out like wooden boats. There were some beautiful examples, especially by Earnest Collins.

The last boat built by Hearts Cruisers in 1965 was an Appleyard Lincoln Elysian 37 centre cockpit. As far as we knew, these were the first Broads boats of any size to have a fully moulded superstructure.

The Wilds boats were not only built for the Broads. Frank Wilds got together with John Humphries and others and founded Blue Line, at Castelnaudary in France. By the early 80s they had over 150 boats on the French canals, before they were bought by Crown Cruisers, to form Crown Blue Line. 

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