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Wanderings On Water Rail


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Monday 12th September

The start of what we hoped would be a 12-day trip on Water Rail, lent to us by Dave (JanetAnne).

I say ‘hoped’, as the trip had been in jeopardy. The last person on board (Grendel) had experienced a problem with the engine (understatement). Luckily, Dave had managed to source spare parts and had rebuilt the engine just in time for our trip. He’s a star!

Our eldest son Harry was unexpectedly able to join us for the first week, as IKEA had given him a week’s leave, which he hadn’t applied for (they do that when you haven’t used up sufficient leave). He was keen to bring along the new paddle board that he bought after our July trip on Moonlight Shadow, when he had a taster paddle board session at Geldeston.

We set off fairly early from MK (about 8.40) as we wanted to get to Hoveton by midday. Yes, I know that Hoveton is nowhere near Oulton Broad where we were picking the boat up from, but I had arranged to meet up with Malcolm (Mouldy) and Warren (Tempest) at Jeckell’s in Hoveton to look at some upholstery fabric samples. The three of us make up the newly elected Management Team of the now self-managed Moonlight Shadow Syndicate.

Having selected our samples, we all drove around to Horning Pleasurecraft, where Moonlight Shadow was moored, so that we could view the samples alongside the carpet. It was Warren’s week on board, so we were able to meet his wife Julie for the first time too, which was lovely.

Warren's dogs are a wee bit bigger than Seren. LOL.


We also had a chat with a couple on a boat moored not far from us. They had a boat that looked the same type as Moonlight Shadow and we were invited on board to see their kitchen layout, which looked a big improvement on the layout we have on Moonlight Shadow. More space to move around and more accessible cupboards, though at the cost of sacrificing some worktop space.

It was after 2pm before we said farewell to Malcolm, Warren and Julie and got on our way to Oulton Broad. We chose to go via Great Yarmouth rather than go back to the Norwich bypass and take the Norwich to Beccles/Lowestoft road, and we stopped off at the Yarmouth Aldi to do our food shop. We picked up some sandwiches there too for a late lunch.

Water Rail was at Oulton Broad Yacht Station, moored near the Harbour Master’s office, so we were able to park nearby to load our gear onto the boat, then Dave and Graham went off to park the car at the place we would be ending our trip.



It was after 5pm by the time we got away from Oulton Broad. We had a very pleasant trip up the Waveney.




We only went as far as the wild mooring that’s a few bends upriver from the Waveney River Centre. It’s the one with the Easter Island head carving set in the grass.



Seren loved this mooring, as it has a path that follows the riverbank which connects to the fishing spots further along, so lots of space to have a run around. We had been pushing against the tide since leaving Oulton Dyke, so it had taken a while. Dave had advised us to treat the engine gently, so we did that, and it was getting on for 7pm by the time we moored up. We then spent some time unpacking our stuff before having an easy pasta with pesto supper. I did this in two ‘servings’ as the only saucepans on board were fairly small. I had meant to make something else (more involved) but was too tired.

By the time we’d finished our supper we were all feeling very sleepy, so only had one game of cards before deciding on an early night. Besides, the light was attracting in some daddy longlegs and mozzies. I’m sure we were in bed by 9pm.


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Tuesday 13th September

As usual for a first night on the Broads, I woke at a ridiculously early hour (just after 4). Around 6am, shortly before dawn, I took Seren for a short walk along the riverbank. It was a short walk because it was fairly dewy and I didn’t want to get my new ’ish canvas shoes too wet.



About an hour later I donned my walking boots and Seren and I had a longer walk, as far as a barrier that said (on the far side) ‘No Dogs’ – whoops! However, the sign said the reason for no dogs was due to a disease cattle can get from dog poo, which causes them to miscarry. This didn’t make sense to me, as the path wasn’t adjoining grazing land. I’ve never seen cattle on that stretch and the path runs between the river and marshy dykes on the inland side.

We started off this morning earlier than we should have, by which I mean we didn’t wait for the falling tide to turn. We didn’t push it though, but just pootled up to Beccles at something between 3-4mph. Shortly after setting off we spotted a couple of gulls that each picked up what looked like a rather long fish and then dropped it. As we passed the spot, the ‘fish’ looked more like a young eel – now dead or stunned, not sure which.

On our way up the Waveney.


We got to Beccles mid-morning and went along to the Harbour Master’s office to say we’d be staying until around 3pm – there was no charge.


Harry got ready to do some paddle boarding, having first gone to the office to buy a week’s paddle board toll. Later in the week he decided that the toll sticker that you are given is really designed for canoes/kayaks, as it got rather tatty after the inflatable paddle board had been collapsed and rolled up a few times.




Meanwhile, I went off to have a shower in the nearby ladies conveniences.

After that I paid a visit (with Dave’s blessing) to Tabitha Rose. Tabitha is moored further down near the office. I knew (having stayed on her for a few days in August) that there was a larger saucepan on board, so we borrowed that, along with a large’ ish pyrex mixing bowl and a foldable step stool. The latter came in handy on Water Rail as the berths in the forward cabin are rather high.

We set off from Beccles around 2pm, again not having waited for the tide to turn. We had thought of going as far as Burgh Castle (ready for a trip across Breydon tomorrow) but it was past 4pm by the time we got to Somerlayton and, as there was a space near an electric post, we moored up there. I wanted to prepare some fajitas this evening, to use up some left-over chicken I’d brought from home, and I knew I wouldn’t fancy doing that if we continued cruising until 6 or 7pm.

Initially, Graham and I sat on a nearby bench and relaxed until it was time to start cooking the dinner, whilst Harry visited the nearby pub, the Duke’s Head, for a pint. I prepared the fajitas by roasting some sliced onion and red, yellow and orange peppers in the oven that had been tossed in oil and fajita seasoning. Once cooked, 2/3rd of it was mixed with with strips of the chicken for Harry and I, and the remaining 3rd was mixed with some vegan ‘pretend’ chicken for Graham. It was served with tortillas and soured cream.

Somerlayton wasn’t as quiet as I expected. There was some road noise in the distance as well as the trains. (Writing this up over a week later, when we are again moored at Somerlayton, it seems a lot quieter, so I wonder if the road noise happens when the wind is in a certain direction?)

Today was been a lovely warm summer-like day. I spent most of the day in shorts, only changing in the evening. Not bad for mid-September. We were also blessed with a spectacular sunset this evening. All in all, it’s been a great day.



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Wednesday 14th September

An early start this morning. We had the alarm on for 5.30am as we wanted to start off as soon as it was dawning. However, when I took Seren out to relieve herself and was using a torch to locate her ‘doggy doo’ it occurred to me that our green doggy doo bags and a torch would be a good substitute for the starboard nav light that wasn’t working. So we were able to start off before dawn. We also used a torch on the stern as we thought that light wasn’t working either - turned out we just hadn’t found where the switch was for that light. It wasn't anywhere near the other nav light switches. I love pre-dawn starts, with the gentle mist rising off the river.




Breydon Water was quiet and calm. We took it easy crossing, again not pushing the engine. Graham lowered the mast as a precaution, and we took the roof down, but we were able to get under the bridges without taking the windscreen down.






It was another beautifully sunny morning, and we very much enjoyed our morning cruise. The water level did look very high though, no sign of the usual muddy banks on the lower Bure. Not a good omen for getting under Potter Heigham as we’d hoped.


On the way up, shortly before we got to Stracey Arms, we passed a family gathered on top of a flybridge cruiser. The mother had a large parrot perched on her arm. That’s the second pet bird we spotted on this holiday. A boat moored at Beccles had a bird (parakeet?) in a cage on top of their cruiser. It was quite amusing, making all sorts of whistling noises, including the McDonald’s trademark whistle.

We stopped briefly on the BA moorings at Stokesby, only long enough for Seren to stretch her legs and have a comfort break and for Harry and I to visit the shop to buy cake and home-made chocolates.



We continued up the Bure


and then turned up the Ant


we made our way to Richardson’s.


If we had any chance of getting under Potter Heigham bridge in the next day of so, I wanted to be sure that we had enough food on board, as Latham’s is a bit limited food wise (though not tat-wise). I checked with Richardson’s reception to check that we were okay to stay there a few hours. They were fine with that, and there was no charge (that’s a lot better than Barnes Brinkcraft – who charged us £7 just to stay a couple of hours). First, we had lunch on board (cheese, sourdough, salad, oatcakes), as it was already fairly late, then Harry and I went up to Tesco’s. After we’d done that, it was getting on for 4pm and we set off for the destination that had been our reason for heading up the river Ant – I wanted to get into Wood End Staithe. The idea was to get to as many inaccessible places as possible whilst on Water Rail, as she’s a fairly compact boat.

On our way to Wood End I received a text from Neil who was on syndicate boat Lightning, to let us know there was currently space for a small ‘un on Gay’s Staithe.

Approaching the creek that leads off Barton Broad to Wood End.


We did get into Wood End, though it was a bit of a tight squeeze to turn, and we did manage to moor up.


We set out to take Seren for a walk. Near the staithe we found the remains of what looked like a small wherry.


Our walk with Seren took us along the lanes that lead to Catfield and back. We only went as far as the end of Fen Lane before we noticed that it was getting on for 5.30pm, so we turned back.

When we returned to the boat, we realised that there was a really strong smell of methane about the place. The whole creek seemed to be thickly covered with blue-green algae, which we’ve read deoxygenates the water – so tends to kill off other vegetation, so maybe that’s why it smelt of methane.


Anyway, we decided it wouldn’t be a healthy place to stay overnight, so I texted Neil to ask if there was still space in Gay’s Staithe. He thought there was, although he and his wife had gone off to The White Horse by then.

So, that’s how we ended up squeezing into a small Water Rail sized space at Gay’s Staithe rather late in the day. It wasn’t easy to get into either, as I hadn’t quite got the hang of how Water Rail handles – especially not in reverse. It took quite a lot of gentle manoeuvring before we got into the desired spot and, at one point, Harry had to flatten himself against the boat when we got rather too close to the trees opposite the moorings.

I was far too tired to start making the meal that I’d planned for this evening, so we ended up just having some spinach and ricotta tortellini for supper. Shortly after we’d finished, I heard Neil call out hello, so I nipped around to Lightning and had a lovely chat with him and his wife before I had to call an early night.

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43 minutes ago, Turnoar said:


Lovely photos!

I’m fairly sure the wreck at Wood End is not a broads boat but possibly a sea going boat originating from the med, anyone happen to know?




Ooo, that’s interesting. Would love to know more. 

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24 minutes ago, Broads01 said:

Thanks for writing up, Helen, always an enjoyable read. I've only been up to Wood End Staithe once and my perception at the time was all the moorings were private. Can you describe where your spot was in relation to coming in from Barton Broad?

Coming up river, having passed through Irstead, take the starboard passage around the Island. As you start to emerge again past the Island to the wider Broad there’s a small channel on you starboard side that leads through trees to Wood End. It’s not marked in any way (no yellow post).

Once through the trees the Staithe is on your starboard side. There’s only room for one boat, no longer than about 38’. I think Moonlight Shadow might squeeze in, but only just.

There’s a ‘Captain’s Blog’ from a few years back where Robin took a hire boat down towards Wood End. I don’t think he actually moored up there though, and I can’t remember which episode it was. 

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Sorry to have missed you Helen we were out and about that same week as you only on the north though and we travelled all over but I didn’t see you at all.

whilst moored in Womack Dyke  3 rd boat from the end nearest Hunters on very sunny afternoon a cruiser came down so fast and out of control that he actually hit all 4 of the boats moored behind us 2 Hire 2 Private 

Lucky for us ! he gave the boat behind such a whack it pushed him out into the river thus avoiding hitting us by a few millimetres .

he carried on oblivious 




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1 minute ago, LizG said:

Lovely - when you next borrow WR you must take her up to New Mills in Norwich! And of course get her under Potter! 

That was my intention Liz, but when I mentioned it to the Harbour Master at the Yacht Station he said that several boats had got grounded up toward New Mills over the past months, so I thought I'd best not chance it. 

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Thursday 15th September

It was an early ‘ish start for us from Gay’s Staithe (we left around 7am) and were aiming for Potter Heigham, having called the pilot yesterday and been advised to get there around 10am. It was rather drizzly this morning.


Seren was happy though.


When we got to Potter H the pilot said we could just about get under the bridge but advised against it. I phoned Dave who, bless him, had said he didn’t mind if Water Rail got stuck above the bridge, and was quite prepared to pick us up Sunday so that we could get back to MK and then return us to Water Rail the following day. Mind you, by the time we dithered for 15 to 20 minutes or so the tide had risen quite dramatically, so that put getting under the bridge out of the frame anyway. Looking back, it would have been nice to get under, but I think we’d have been well and truly stuck north of the bridge for the rest of our trip.

Some Martham boats were being taken under. There was an alarming crunch when the last one went through (not pictured), so we were guessing the roof rails were a little to high for the bridge. 


We moved the boat back onto the BA moorings...


and did the obligatory visit to Latham’s (I stocked up on Christmas cards). After that we went to South Walsham and secured a mooring just north of the boatyard. They are lovely moorings. The main problem was that Seren kept colliding with the type of thistle that leaves huge burrs in her fur, that we then had to try and pick out. That's what's going on in the photos below.



I’d been in touch with Kate (kpnut) over the last few days. Frustratingly, we’d just missed each other at Stalham yesterday, as I hadn’t realised that Kate was on her home mooring at Richardson’s until after we’d left. Once we knew we had a spot, Kate confirmed she would come around to South Walsham by car by mid-afternoon.

Meanwhile, Harry got himself geared up for some paddle boarding again.



He went around the inner broad and found a large dead fish.



When Kate arrived we had a cuppa, then she, I and our two dogs set out for a walk. I don’t think we’d intended to do the longer circular walk from South Walsham, but we were so busy chatting we didn’t turn off the path from the Bure bank until we got to the path that leads toward Upton. Very much enjoyed the walk though, and I certainly needed the exercise! When I got back to the boat just after 6pm, Graham had set out in search for me, with my jacket, in case I was cold, bless him. He’d not long set out though, and had his mobile with him, which Harry called him as soon as I returned.

Supper this evening was roasted cauli with a sachet of a chickpea curry and rice.

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Friday 16th September

We had a few torrential showers overnight and I woke before 6 this morning with a drip onto my pillow just above my head. I put some kitchen towel in the spot, but the drip seemed to be getting worse, either that or I was more aware of it. So I got up, set a pan lined with kitchen towel under the drip, bundled myself up with warm clothes and went to sit in a picnic chair in the wheelhouse.

It was rather overcast this morning and was promising some strong ’ish winds, so we thought we’d head up the Ant to somewhere sheltered. The skies were very ‘interesting’ too, with some dark rain clouds and several rainbows. Just as we dropped our roof (as a precaution, since the river levels were pretty high) to get under Ludham Bridge we had another shower, and double rainbow.




Above the bridge the showers kept coming.


We struck lucky at Irstead, and secured the space next to the electric post. That’s one of the few luxuries Water Rail does offer – the chance to hook up to electric. Actually, it wasn’t cold today, despite all the showers.


Harry put his paddle board out to dry - but all it did was collect puddles.


Harry and I visited the church. I think it’s the third time I’ve visited the church, and each time I do I’m yet again struck at how many interesting features it has for such a tiny, village church. The medieval rood screen is just one feature out of many.


The Church is called St Michael's. They have a carving of St Michael wrestling with the devil above the door.


They had a book of condolence near the entrance.



I wouldn't like to go up this church tower!






When we came out, we visited the pottery stand and bought a pot.


The rest of the day was spent not doing very much at all. I spent half the afternoon catching up on NBN threads and email.




There was quite a reed cutting operation going on nearby down the dyke that's almost opposite the mooring. They were bringing the cut reeds back to the staithe and then loading them into a van.


As the drips were still dripping onto where my pillow had been last night, I abandoned Graham this evening and took the spare berth in the forward cabin instead. 

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23 minutes ago, LizG said:

Umm? I didn't think there was a problem although we've always gone up on the tide. No problem with bridges at high tide unless it's raining! Angle coming back at Bishops bridge is a bit tricky if there are fishermen on the bank

I paddled boarded up there in August, no problems with depth or airdraft I needed 6-2”. :default_coat:

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Saturday 17th September

There was no sign of the rain letting up overnight, so it's just as well that we'd left pans in place to catch any drips.

Shortly after we got up Kate went past, giving us a beep as she did so. Good morning Kate!

Our priority today was to top up the fuel before making the journey down south tomorrow. We set out across Barton Broad, heading for Sutton Staithe.


There was an operation going on to replace some of the wooden posts on Barton with metal ones.


When we got to Sutton we found the boatyard was closed for the weekend. Once we’d turned around and were making our way out of Sutton (around 10am), I phoned Boulter’s and made an appointment to get fuel there for 12.30. We timed that almost perfectly. We got to Boulter’s at 12.35pm, without having had to hurry or break the speed limit on our journey down the Ant.

On our way back down the Ant we passed Moonlight Shadow and both crews waved madly. 


As it was still pretty windy and overcast, we thought a mooring on electric would be ideal, failing that, somewhere sheltered, so we headed back down the Bure.


We first tried for a mooring on the BA moorings at Acle, but there were no moorings apart from Broads Bank Moorings (or whatever they are called – I meant the moorings that used to be the Pedro’s moorings). Giving up on Acle, we headed back to Upton Dyke. The wind was really whipping across the dyke, so I was very nervous to see whether we would find a space at the end. The staithe was full. However, there was a space at Eastwood Whelpton and we had a very warm welcome when we moored up there. We and Water Rail were remembered from the Beccles Wooden Broads Cruiser Show back in August.



It was mid afternoon when we arrived, and only about 3.40pm when we went to the pub (the community owned White Horse). We visited the adjacent shop first and then whiled away the hour and a bit before they started serving food (at 5pm) with some drinks and reading a newspaper. We enjoyed our meals. I had warm roasted veg, grains and salad and grilled halloumi.

Shortly before sunset Harry and I took Seren for a run along the bank towards the main river. We were blessed with another beautiful sunset this evening. 



Another early evening, ready for an early start tomorrow.

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Sunday 18th September

Our aim today was to return back south, and moor up Water Rail at Dave’s friend’s house at Oulton Broad for 24 hours whilst we drove Harry back to MK.

I had checked the Aweigh App yesterday, whilst we were in The White Horse, and it had predicted the tide to be at least an hour earlier than the tide table I’d printed out pre-holiday. So we got up early and set off around 7am, shortly after dawn. Once we were on the river and I picked up some signal I checked again, only to find the Aweigh prediction had changed to nearer the original prediction. I slowed down! We did a lot of the journey at only about 4mph, or as slow as we could with the tide pushing us. When we did get to Gt Yarmouth, we found that slack water on the Bure was a little earlier than predicted, but when we turned at the yellow post, the tide was still flowing out of Breydon. That’s unusual! Normally, the tide turns up Breydon before it turns up the Bure. Still, the water levels and tides have been all over the place this week.

Breydon crossing was fine, not too choppy. The wind was from the north, so the choppiness was more side on than waves against us.


Whilst crossing we had some 11'ses. (Delicious Rollo rocky road from Stokesby pub shop). 


We stopped for short time for Seren to have a ‘comfort break’ at Burgh Castle, then continued on our way up the Waveney.


Shortly after Burgh Castle, Harry or Graham spotted a trickle of water welling up at the stern.


I called Dave (our hero!), but it was quite difficult describing how much of a trickle we were experiencing. Anyway, he said he’d meet us when we got to Oulton Broad, which he did. By that time, we were able to report that whatever water we were taking on was causing the bilge pump to do its thing every 25 minutes or so. Bless him, Dave promised to fix the problem before we returned tomorrow.


This evening we travelled back home.

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It was to do with the rudder stock. Just a failed very old previous repair. Nothing dramatic, the bilge pump was hardly breaking into a sweat :default_biggrin:

A few woodies have suffered with extra leaks this season caused by the wood drying out excessively in the heat of that beautiful summer. Water Rail is so dry you can see daylight through the transom planking joins and the cabin side joints, especially aft. Of course, the rain will soon swell everything above the waterline back up again but it's a bit draughty until that happens. 

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29 minutes ago, BrundallNavy said:

26-8 ft I think the delights were. 

Of the 12 not one was 24 feet as stated in the Blake's catalogue. Most were 27feet plus a bit but at least one was only 26 feet plus and one over 28feet. I have all the info at home having looked at the log books at the Norfolk archive above 10 years? I was told the 24 feet listing was to do with being a toll range??

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