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neilp1962

Fair Commodore 1 - My First Dual-steer Hire

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Great write up. Very descriptive making me feel like I was there with you. I haven’t moored at Stokesby since the 90s! But I agree that the staithe at Womack is  lovely spot although I do also love mooring along  the dyke. 

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Wednesday the 8th and today we're going to have a slow meander up the Ant, see if we can nab an over-night mooring at Neatishead as we've never managed that before. Compared to some of the long days cruising we've done this week it's quite a gentle day ahead with a couple of lengthy stops en-route to get Boris off the boat. He's growing into it and coping better now but ashore is definitely his preference, he likes nothing more than sniffing around new places. We were promised a mighty storm last night, something to clear the air and cool the blood but it never came, just a few spots through the night and today is nice again, if cooling a bit. We were in no hurry today, we walked up into Ludham and I called in the butchers for some raw best mince for the Dog (I know I know, it was Bev's idea and he's on holiday too) and while I was in there I might as well get some of those pork pies and a couple of scotch eggs. I also popped into the general store and was hugely impressed with their deli-counter, shame I couldn't buy anything from it as we only had two more nights and we weren't short of supplies but I now know for next time. What I did need was ingredients for chicken & sweetcorn soup, like you get in a Chinese restaurant, I recently learned how to make this from a youtube video and it was to be our last meal on the boat tomorrow night.

The staithe was fairly empty when we returned to the boat, everyone off to do their thing, go their own way towards whatever adventure today would bring. Chores finished we set off at about 9.30 ish, and we took a little detour around the Island. This was truly bitter-sweet for us, actually very emotional because this spot two years ago is where we finally accepted that our last dog, Alfie was so poorly that we would have to take him home. We'll never forget you boy.

Next stop was St Benets, it was quite a challenging mooring because the current was strong but we managed it, the boat was soon secured and we were off for a good walk to burn a few calories off. The wind had picked up a bit which was welcome, fresh, it was nice here. A good while was spent wandering around, no livestock in view so Boris could wander off the lead although he's still insecure so he never goes far from us. Lots of pictures taken, lots of memories, lots of smiles. Boris always seems to attract a lot of attention, he's a big rough looking fella but soft as clarts, not an ounce of aggression in him. It always pleases us when he gets a fuss because we know a little about his background from the people at the Dogs Trust and believe me, hugs were in short supply. He's a very happy dog today though, absolutely bouncing.

Next stop How Hill, before we left I prepared the boat for the bridge because it would be busy once we got there, yep it's busy as hell. I thought about stopping for a cuppa in the tea shop, but to be honest the madness of Ludham Bridge needed to be left behind so I kept going. I don't need to tell you what a nice river the Ant is to cruise on, but I will. It's delightful, twisty as I like it, not too busy once the bridge is but a memory and the weather today is a bit cooler so even Boris is enjoying the view. There is plenty of room at How Hill moorings, and we set off up the hill to the tea room. Let me tell you about the cake they do in the tea room....Bev had Victoria Sponge and I had lemon Drizzle Cake, big slices of soft moist loveliness washed down with good strong tea. Go there if you haven't been, you wont regret it. Sated we had a walk around the impressive grounds, the secret garden is beautiful and so well laid out but to be honest, we found it pretty easily so it wasn't all that secret. I know I know, I'm joking but it reminds me of the Top Secret War Bunker in Liverpool, a tourist attraction that's advertised all the way from the M62. A nosey through the windows of Hathor the Wherry, but it's shut so back to the boat for the last leg of the day.

The houses through here are magnificent, but I wonder how much people like me looking in annoys them. Slowly through this part respecting their property and the river opens up into Barton Broad which has lots of sailboats, an organised event. We're turning left today, and care has to be taken to allow the wind dependent boats to do their thing, it's nice to see so many boats with young people, children who obviously have done this for ages as they are brilliant. They're also nice and polite as they without exception thanked me with a wave if I'd given way for them. Limekiln Dyke was passaged as slowly as I could manage, just enough speed to allow me to steer, it was magical. Would there be a space for us? Gay's Staithe had a couple of spaces as we passed but yes, the end mooring (last on left as you face the river from the road) was free so I turned and moored. Happy days, lets go for a pint at the White Horse and book a table for tonight.

We booked for 6.30 as we like to eat early, and went for a walk with Boris, we actually walked miles across fields and down lanes and we were a bit short of time when we got back to the boat, only time for a quick wash and change before our reservation. The excellent reputation the White Horse enjoys is earned and deserved. A lovely meal with a couple of pints of Spitfire lager, everyone here tries their hardest to make sure you're enjoying it, thanks for a lovely meal. We don't stay late, we're back at the boat by 8.30 and I take up residence on the seat at the end of the moorings by the ladder. Bev is catching up on TV as this is the first time it's had a decent signal, and I have a bottle of Malbec, the company of a devoted dog and a view up the dyke that will stay with me for a long time. I watched a kingfisher, or more accurately a blue flash of colour streaking backwards and forwards across the dyke, when suddenly a sailboat approached, it's reflection in the still water quite breath-taking. Oh my goodness, this place is heaven. I managed to get a picture which I posted on facebook at the time, I hope no-one minds me including it again here, it's the Norfolk Broads to me, the epitomy of serenity.

I sat for ages into darkness, the wine gone replaced with Balvenie 12 year old malt. I'd brought Boris's bed out and he was asleep on it next to me, I couldn't see a thing, perfect blackness. Time to reflect on a week almost gone, the highs without lows, the peace, the company of my wife who I still can't believe agreed to marry me, my dog who is changing from a nervy shell of a dog into a confident and loving companion, I'm so at ease, so relaxed, when......HISSSSSSSSS........ bloody swan, Me and Boris just nearly had a dicky fit.

Time for bed, the weather's changing.

 

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Really lovely write up. Great story. Boris has found himself wonderful parents :) 

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Beautiful photos and another very descriptive account of your day and your companions.

This is why I so enjoy reading other people’s tales even though I’ve done a few holidays myself. I didn’t know there is a tea room at How Hill and haven’t yet been round the gardens there either. I haven’t been right down Limekiln Dyke, never moored at Coltishall and never been to the White Horse. So many places I’ve seen but so many more still to be done. 

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9 minutes ago, SwanR said:

Beautiful photos and another very descriptive account of your day and your companions.

This is why I so enjoy reading other people’s tales even though I’ve done a few holidays myself. I didn’t know there is a tea room at How Hill and haven’t yet been round the gardens there either. I haven’t been right down Limekiln Dyke, never moored at Coltishall and never been to the White Horse. So many places I’ve seen but so many more still to be done. 

No time to waste then, another boat trip coming up soon?

Lovely write-up Neil, it’s good to know Boris is settling and clearly beginning to enjoy his holiday. That yacht picture is good for a calendar entry I reckon. 

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48 minutes ago, vanessan said:

No time to waste then, another boat trip coming up soon?

Maybe next year. Needed my pennies for other things this time round. 

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It's Thursday, the skies look like rain and the boat goes back tomorrow. I've woken up on a boat though so I'm smiling. Today we're having another slowish day, we'll set off when we're ready, no rush, and we'll head for Ranworth to see if a miracle has a space available for lunch at the Maltsters. It hasn't started raining yet as we cast off, so I'm upstairs with Boris as we revisit the dyke back towards Barton Broad, another thoroughly enjoyable little trip through this perfect little part of Norfolk, but rain is coming soon so I'm prepared with an umbrella and a raincoat. I don't like the downstairs helm, it's not cramped at all but it feels that way to me, I think because upstairs is so open, so I'm up here regardless of the weather. The Ant is once more traveled at leisure, the rain starts and anyone that way might have seen the sight of me holding the umbrella over the dog while I get wet. I'm staying up here though, I paid for a dual-steer boat and I'm getting my money's worth. Bev is downstairs warm and dry, reading something and drinking tea. Occasionally I catch her looking up at me with a puzzled expression, I've got used to that in the 26 years we've been together. We follow a small sailie all the way down to the Thurne, her sail tied to the mast (there's bound to be a sailing term for that) and under power, the high-pitched thrum of it's little engine quite a contrast against the gruffer 'hubble bubble' of Fair Commodore's exhaust. We reach the bridge and it's a hive of activity from sailie as they lower the mast and prepare to go through, my windscreen etc has been lowered along the way, lots of time to do it and it's very easy to do even for one person. At the Thurne we part company, sailie turns left and I go right towards the holy grail of Ranworth Staithe. The rain has eased, almost stopped but it's only a respite, not a reprieve but I enjoy it while it lasts. Of course the staithe is full, I can see that through the binoculars as we enter Malthouse broad so we decide to stop for a couple of minutes at the island before heading to our final overnight mooring at Salhouse Broad. I'm not too disappointed, we have so much food still aboard so we'll not starve, and the weather means we'd not be sitting outside the pub anyway which is always our preference. We moored, then something terrible happened.

A dayboat with several people onboard was moored side-on on the island, they, us and only one other boat were there with lots of space between us, when one of the very long bathtub types came hurtling backwards, and I'm not exaggerating when I say at top speed, straight into the dayboat. The crash was sickening, I still shake when I think of it, the little dayboat flexed inwards, compressed by the shear force then jumped upwards almost onto land, then fell sidewards back into the water before thankfully righting itself. The bathtub boat then roared off forwards, with a man at the rear door who was supposed to be giving directions screaming at the driver to stop. For a long time, at least ten minutes this out of control boat circled round at top speed, the female driver yelling that they were coming back whenever they passed us but she had no idea whatsoever how to get this boat to shore, her partner was not helping because he was in shock and just shouting at her. The people from the dayboat were now ashore and apart from being shocked and one little boy with a bust lip said they were ok. I was desperately trying to give instructions, mainly to cut the power and eventually they were able to approach us straight on, at low speed so I was able to pull the boat around side-on, the dayboat hirer then helped me pull the boat around so she was stern-on and tied. This woman was horrible, sorry but she was. Her reaction when she got off the boat was to merely jest that she was doing ok up until then, and then ask if they can walk to the pub from here. Do you realise what you've just done? You have very nearly killed several people and you want a nice lunch do you?

I had a long discussion with the dayboat hirer, gave him all the phone numbers and details of what to do and how to report this, I offered to make the calls for him there and then but he wanted to do it himself. He was angry but calm, grateful for the advice but he wanted to deal with these people himself and to be honest, they had a better chance with him as I wanted to throw them in the river. I gave him my details as a witness, and reluctantly left him to it, he was making the calls as I left. The dayboat was remarkably in ok shape, at least visibly, I have no idea how it was still afloat. One last bit of advice to her to 'get back to the boatyard and hand the keys in' from me and we left for Salhouse. I get that people want to come onto the river and that a lot have no experience, that's fine and describes me a few a years ago but this was something else. She was at the front going hell bent backwards whilst staring forwards, he was at the back 40 odd feet away, where the noisy engine is, trying to give instructions that she couldn't hear, she had no clue how to slow the boat, even when getting directions from me to head straight for me slowly she would go full throttle forwards, my urgent signals to slow resulted in full throttle backwards and it was like a yo-yo with her appearing at the front door not even at the controls shouting cheerfully that it's not as easy as it looks. The last thing was as I left she was pointing across the broad towards the pub, wondering how to get there, totally oblivious to the carnage she'd caused, the devastation she'd nearly wreaked on a family.

Badly shaken I set off for Salhouse and to be honest, I wanted to be off the river today, I really had just seen something horrific that could have ended so very badly.

We moored at Salhouse along near the water point, money was paid even before I'd tied the ropes and we went for a walk in the rain. We walked along the path through the woods, turned right at the road and headed towards the tea shop in the village. It took half an hour because Boris decided he needed to sniff every single blade of grass and when we got there I poked my head through the door but it was lovely, very.....I don't now, lacey, chintzy, elegant, and I couldn't bring myself to take a wet smelly dog in there so we went back to the boat. The afternoon was spent quietly, the weather didn't break until twilight so our last day was a bit of a washout, I would still rather be there than on a boiling beach though, I hate that. I made our chicken and sweetcorn soup, I hate to brag but this is seriously good and it filled and warmed us. The telly worked so we watched something or other, I wasn't really paying attention, I was still shook-up and actually very angry. An early night, we have to be back in Wroxham by 9 tomorrow morning, it's someone else's turn on this boat.

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That really was an awful event for you to witness, I found my heart thumping just reading it! It was a good thing you were there to witness it anyway, at least you were able to provide support and back-up to the day-boat crew. I wonder if anything happened with regard to the bathtub hirers, it sounds like they should have been removed from the rivers immediately. Did you by any chance advise the day boat crew to inform the Broads Authority?

Love that last picture, peace and tranquility takes over from insanity in the end. 

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Wow! I’m sure we’ve all seen near misses but that sounds as if it was one of those moments when you can’t believe what you’ve seen.

Glad you got to Salhouse ok afterwards. What a shame it spoilt your last day afloat.


Sent from the Norfolk Broads Network mobile app

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1 hour ago, vanessan said:

That really was an awful event for you to witness, I found my heart thumping just reading it! It was a good thing you were there to witness it anyway, at least you were able to provide support and back-up to the day-boat crew. I wonder if anything happened with regard to the bathtub hirers, it sounds like they should have been removed from the rivers immediately. Did you by any chance advise the day boat crew to inform the Broads Authority?

Love that last picture, peace and tranquility takes over from insanity in the end. 

Yes the BA was one of the numbers pre-programmed into my phone which I gave them. As I turned into The Bure a BA launch turned into the dyke heading that way, it seemed to have purpose rather than just cruising around so hopefully they were dealt with properly. I still can't believe it, the broads needs new visitors and the boat yards need money so new boaters have to be encouraged, but boy this self-entitled, self-centred ignorant beast of a woman boiled my blood. It was the need for feeding her face instead of recognising what she'd done that irked the most.

I still love the broads though, thankfully people like that are few and far between.

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I feel for you Neil, in your position I would also have been upset, I really struggle with people like that. I've never thought to save the BA number to my phone but your tale has convinced me to do so for my upcoming trip. 

Thanks very much for a very well written tale and great photos. 

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Sounds like you had a brilliant holiday other than the incident at the end.

Would you hire a dual steer boat again?

I ask as we are hiring our first next year. Previously we have hired aft cockpit, single level forward steer bath tubs and centre cockpit cruisers. So have gone through most of the types. Our favourite so far was the Alphacraft 35 centre cockpit as the slightly raised helm gave much better views. Will hopefully be better again from the on the dual steer.

We have booked Swan Ranger from Richardson's so a similar boat to what you had minus the rear bench seat on the upper helm.

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1 hour ago, Cal said:

Sounds like you had a brilliant holiday other than the incident at the end.

Would you hire a dual steer boat again?

I ask as we are hiring our first next year. Previously we have hired aft cockpit, single level forward steer bath tubs and centre cockpit cruisers. So have gone through most of the types. Our favourite so far was the Alphacraft 35 centre cockpit as the slightly raised helm gave much better views. Will hopefully be better again from the on the dual steer.

We have booked Swan Ranger from Richardson's so a similar boat to what you had minus the rear bench seat on the upper helm.

Yes I would hire one again, but it's a close run thing with centre steering boats. I was going to do a list of pros and cons but now's as good a time as any.

Pros

Extremely good view from top helm, really noticeable on lower Bure towards Great Yarmouth. Also I could stand up there and see for absolutely miles. Brilliant rear bathroom with full size (ish) shower. Lots of headroom everywhere except when sitting at lower helm and front bedroom and bathroom. Very maneuverable even without using bow thrusters. Comfy everywhere including beds and main seating, but why do they make the U shape settee with curved corners? you can't sit with your feet up along the sofa seat to watch TV with your back against the backrest because it's curved. Very bright interior with large windows and roof lights. Easy to switch between helm positions, you just need to be in neutral at both positions, then power on the one you want to use, both steering wheels are connected so steering one also turns the other. Very smart looking boat, felt like I'd paid for something extra. Upstairs position great for breakfast/drinks, if there is no stern seat take camping chairs/table. I bought a padded folding beach mat which was ideal for Bev to relax on next to me and this boat is perfect for that (see picture, amazon £18 or so)

Cons

Small kitchen worktop space. A bit gloomy in front bedroom with low ceiling and very small windows. A bit of a faff on leaving through rear door as it's two small ones which both need to be open to get through. Very steep inner stairs to top helm. Front Bathroom is small and tight on headroom. Lower helm has a high seat to see out the window, which means at 5'10" my head touched the ceiling. No opening side window to stick your head out, couldn't see behind.

Overall I really enjoyed it, only the weather caused us stress which is daft because it was glorious but the dog wouldn't leave me and it was too hot for him. I'm sure you'll love this style of boat, I did.

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We have had both Silver Emblem and Moon Beam. Fantastic if you’ve got the weather. But have to be careful if the water levels are high. We were advised not to try Ludham Bridge one year in October. It’s great to try different styles of boats. As you said, they have their pros and cons. Haven’t hired from NBD for a while so good to read what you thought of the boat.


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