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Budget Boating Review

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Day One:

Day one of the Captain's Blog is below...

First of all I took a short break on San Selino, and in my opinion this is the best fitted out and most comfortable boat in this class – when compared to the likes of Magic, Gold, Bronze and Clear Gem – all the same boat style and length and all sleep the same number of people. You can see a few photo's of the boat below.

So the question had come to my mind what would it be like having one of the cheapest boats that one can hire on the Norfolk Broads? Would you really have to make do without and would one find things internally very dated and a large gap between the budget end of the market and the prestige cruisers and high prices they attract?

After careful thought I choose San Selino – a 4 night short break from Richardson’s Boating Holidays and with hire charges starting at £226.00 it certainly was the budget end of the scale – it also would mean starting the break on 4th March, the second earliest I have had a boat in terms of the time of year.

After a good journey up from London I arrived at Richardson’s Stalham boatyard and after a quick ‘check in’ was soon putting my gear on the boat. A most helpful chap then came aboard and talked me through where the various things were – gas bottles, gas tap, heating and so on. Since it was early in the year not all of their boats were in the water – and noticed many of the Acle fleet still up at Stalham. I asked if I might be able to look on board some of the other boats, and this was arranged – although one ‘Contessa’ was in the shed, we had a walk about the yard and a good natter about all things boating.

I was impressed just how much work goes on in the winter months when you consider they have over 300 boats and they all will be taken out the water, serviced, deep cleaned and often be painted in part or whole – what an enormous task that is – As it was with San Selino her hull seemed to have had a fresh lick of pant and everything inside was gleaming.

Having then walked into Stalham to pop into Tesco and stock up it was back to the boat and off along the river. I was not sure just how far I would be able to get before sunset, so had three destinations to mind – Ludham, St. Benet’s or Womack Dyke.

After the most amazing cruise over Barton Broad and down the River Ant with the clear winter light, still waters and wildlife which seemed surprised that boaters were once again about – I was treated to some magnificent scenes. Seriously, if you have the weather on your side this early season cruising over miles and miles of empty rivers with just Swans and Geese, amazing blue sky and a large winter sun make this very special indeed.

I saw one boat moored near How Hill, and another at Ludham Bridge – but that was it the only two hire boats I passed – and having got as far as Ludham Bridge with good light I carried on, once on the Bure and past St. Benet’s I decided I could make Womack Dyke before sunset – but was now being treated to the light going from a soft mellow yellow to a soft pink as I turned onto the River Thurne – still no boats, and calm waters reflecting the sky and this wonderful light.

I made the formal Broads Authority moorings by about 5:15pm just as the sun was setting – and after mooring and making a cup of coffee came out and just sat watching the sun set, and the birds making some amazing shows over the sky – even the Crows (or perhaps Rooks) going form a very loud chorus to calming down – it felt as if everything was turning down and getting ready to switch off – the water was still, the air was – the final rays of light over the horizon – it was great to be part of and witness.

As far as the boat, once I had unpacked I can see why these old bath tubs despite being pretty uninspiring to look at, work well internally. Three full height wardrobes, large drawers, many shelves, wash basins in each cabin – it had a snug feel about things and with the Espacher warm air heating was indeed cosy and warm – I prefer these to other types because one can also use the Airtronic cabin control set the heat to be what you want – neither too much or too little.

I’ll talk more about the boat tomorrow, but the first night moored up all cosy inside on a still stretch of water without anyone else to bother you and make noise was lovely. I had also treated myself to what Tesco have brought out to rival Marks & Spencer’s ‘Dine in for £10’ range – and the chicken, roast potatoes, red wine and Belgian chocolate tart certainly was the best food I had had on a boat – and was a doddle to do in the oven.

It may have only been just over 4 months since I was last afloat, but it meant the world to be again – just the freedom, the peace and being away from it all is good tonic for the soul and despite the shorter days, I knew that Tuesday was due to be a mild day with a good amount of sunshine – I wanted to be up before sunrise to film the same so it was an early night and the sleep came well aided by the red wine.






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Hello Robin,

A good report as always and going by your pictures a very tidy boat especially for the price you paid.

I look forwards to the rest of the story.



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Thank you - and yes I am blooming pleased that I am not afloat now with all this wind, rain and snow going on. Having said that, the boat was very snug at night so much so I was actually surprised to wake up on the Tuesday and see frost everywhere outside.

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Hi Robin

Look forward to watching more and hearing your review - nice idea to look at the budget angle.

I too booked one of their cheapest 37ft bathtubs for this season because at the price (at band A) it seemed madness not to! I also had a dream where I pictured myself on an orange bathtub! This may all sound a little odd, until you remember I am a rather strange chap! I went for a subdued orange in the Gold Gem variety as the Amber's are VERY orange!

I think you are right, they are good value, infact pound for pound probably better value than their new stuff, but that is fun that is also compulsory for the holidays where budget allows it!

Look forward to the rest of the tale/review



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Great tale Robin, many thanks for sharing with us. Excellent service from Richos too. :clap

Glad you have discovered the delights of out of season cruising – you can’t beat it! Look forward to Part 2.


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Day Two:

Day two of the Captain's Blog is below...

Having previously looked at the weather forecast I knew that Tuesday 5th March would be the best day – mild, with clear sky and sunshine forecast for much of the day. With this in mind I had an early night on Monday and rose about 4:45am on the Tuesday.

It was cold to begin onboard, but once the engine was going, warm air heating on things were just toasty – this is why I also like out of the way moorings or being on your own because naturally there is no one to disturb – not that today would be a problem as there were nobody about for miles anyway.

After a shower and a coffee I was ready to brave the cold morning and it was very icing outside – I used the bucket and some hot water to melt the ice on the decks and I was on the frozen ground just as dawn broke – it was magical – to my right the moon was still out, yet to left the glow of the sun on the horizon had already begun – but it was not just the light that was putting on a great show, the birds were too. Despite the fact I was using a cheap tripod and a compact stills camera the resultant footage came out very well, and after I had captured what I had planned on getting I strolled along the bank stopping every few yards to watch and listen.

I have no idea what bird was making what sound all I knew was it sounded very special and as if I was crashing on a party that usually few are up to be part of and witness. Almost as quickly as it had come, once the sun was rising the mist burning off so it lost the magical element and became ‘just another morning’.

Back on the boat I made a simple breakfast and then needed to get about filming the review of the boat – that part was simple but I had also planned on making a ‘how to guide’ on mooring, departing a mooring and general boat handling – with nothing else about it was an ideal time to do this. I had a camera on the bank, one at the helm and another on the boat facing the bank all was set – I left the mooring, and then the cocking about begun – a simple ‘3 point turn’ became a 4 or 5 point turn – then usually easy as you like mooring took three attempts and then I was still not happy – was it the cameras making me mess up or just wanting to get it absolutely right – I am not sure but frustrated and annoyed I put them all way and got on with my day.

And so it was down to Womack Water – to get water – only the first issue was that about 20 feet our from the quay it was all frozen – virtually nothing, a few millimetres thick, but none the less I took it very slowly putting the boat into gear for a moment then back into neutral. I executed a frankly perfect stern mooring – that of course only the local ducks saw – just my luck. Then I found the water hose had not been put out for the season - I thought I may use Herbert Woods facilities as I was going to pop into Lathams at Potter Heigham anyway.

Now the previous night one of the saloon light bulbs had blown which was not the end of the world but it was the single one in the centre and had been using it singularly and since it had gone the other two being ‘offset’ meant a lot of shadow was cast or one had to use both – I pondered calling Richardson’s and then decided I would. Well I called and it in what seemed like under 20 minutes but certainly not more than half an hour a very friendly engineer had arrived with new bulb – good service!

New bulb fitted – and urm no light still. Ahh I explained, not to worry this is the jinx of my bad luck – so it turned out the circuit board on the read of the fitting had gone – but n worry he had a spare fitment on the van, only the new lights while identical as far as bulb was concerned the manufacturer in their infinite wisdom had decided to make the new light fittings very slightly smaller than the previously version. This meant that the cut out in the roof lining was too large for the new light fitting to go in – but put an Englishman in a shed (or in this case a van) and he will come up with a solution that Heath Robinson would have been proud off. Self tapping screws and a terminal block later the new fitment was in the holder of the old fitment and we had light – he also went to the trouble of exchanging all 4 batteries because the voltage was ‘a little on the low side of happy’.

Once again I felt like I should be apologising to the chap, yet he would have none of it and this sort of service and attention continues to make me feel that anyone who considers Richardson’s to be the poor man’s choice or that their service is not up to par needs to reconsider their views. They may be cheaper, their classic boats may not be the most easy on the eye in terms of colour, but their service is excellent and their value second to none.

Departing Womack Water the ice had gone and the sun was out – indeed it was past being just mild it was approaching being warm – for the beginning of March! Once on the River Thurne I was soon passing the eccentric and quant riverside bungalows and before long the Broads Authority 24hr moorings came into view – but a new sign had been erected next to the bridge that crosses the inlet to Herbert Woods yard ‘No turning beyond this point’ – well sorry but I can’t moor at the moorings and not turn beyond this point – but I get the logic – to try and stop people turning too close to the bridge and wind and tide conspiring to bring them broadside onto the bridge though I wonder why the sign needed to be place quite where it was.

The moorings have been ‘refurbished’ and now have electric hook up and several new posts – what troubled me was the fact the new bench that was put in memory of the late Graham Cook – ace bridge pilot – was no longer outside the pilots office and indeed I could see no trace of where it may have gone. I hope it was just put away for winter and not otherwise gone for good!

So it was to Lathams to get one of the most basic things I had forgotten – washing up liquid and kitchen towel. But they had some offers on and well, you know – I could not help myself and so left with a large bag and over the road to look at Waterside Marine Sales offerings – I am not sure why some of the boats which look the most tidy seem to be priced very keenly, yet some of the boats which appear to have been painted in Dulux emulsion and goodness knows what mechanical gremlins await were priced over what I think they were worth. One day I thought...One day.

Herbert Woods fleet looked gleaming in the sunshine, and after a burger from the burger van (once tried never again for me personally) it was back over the bridge to the boat. Once on board it was now actually warm enough to slide back the sunshine roof and with some good tunes on and miles of empty rivers time to leave and head for the River Bure and Ranworth.

I arrived at Ranworth to find the staithe empty – a first for me – and went about topping up the water tanks – with Malthouse Broad behind you, the water hose to your left has to be about the slowest of any on the system and over half an hour later finally the water tanks were full. Mind you, I used the time to film some lovely scenes from the staithe of the local ducks and gulls - it appeared that they were feeling the first glimmers of Spring after such a horrid time of it of late, this mild weather and sunshine was most welcome (I had no idea then how much the weather would once again change).

Time to leave and so I had decided that tonight I would moor once again on the River Ant – at my now favourite ‘wild mooring’ – so down to the River Bure and along to the mouth of the River Ant where upon I noticed a lot of – well stuff – floating about and as I turned on to the Ant, it got thicker and thicker – a mix of what seemed to be as if someone had emptied a very large amount of grass cuttings in the river – but this was not just grass, it was Reeds and the odd chunk of wood too – and then I noticed the diggers which have been removing old pilings – and it seems anything else organic and pretty and profiling the banks to be perfect muddy table tops – I am sure this is all very worth it in the long run and Scientists have studied and know all of what they are doing, but on the ground right now it looks bloody awful – a shame too some mature trees have had the chop as well. With that got through, and Ludham Bridge navigated it was onward up the River Ant.

Past Turf Fen Mill and How Hill looking lovely as ever, and then finally my overnight mooring – or was it, no I thought – wait a moment – yes that was it – about turn and there it indeed was, nestled between two trees a perfectly made up bank and as if made for the 37ft of San Selino to fit into.

Once moored up – I had some time before dusk and so did my usual – boat clean up – and it was looking very nice and so sat on the roof watching the sun set with a beer comparing this scene to that which I would be used to in London. No, you can’t compare them – I am lucky I can come to this magical wetland / playground – call it what you will. This is what getting away from it all is about.


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The Videos are very good, :clap

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The Videos are very good, :clap

Aren't they just, Brian?

I've only now found time to watch them both and I'm very impressed! More like a commercial production than an amateur one! :clap:clap:clap

Bring on the next, please, Robin!

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great blog

each of the boats in the same class as

san selino have there own merits

you have mentioned magic gem

which i have booked for september

magic gem has a en suite to the rear cabin which is perfect

for my elderly mother with disabilitys....easy access to toilet ect

also has two toilets and showers and a microwave

san selino only has the one toilet and shower...not en suite

and no microwave ....so each to there own

looking forwards to day three...keep it up :grin:

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Sadly the weather changed - so no more 'pretty shots' in day three and four - more grey and dull - but none the less nice - am editing these so should be done in the next day or two.

Thank you for the compliments. All this is filmed on a compact camera that can shoot in movies in HD. I can't bring much decent gear because I come to the Broads via Train and Bus so have to carry it all myself. I'm pleased with the results, I can't promise future Captain's Blogs will be as nice but time will tell. I hope to have another boat in April from Richardson's (what it is and when I go I've not pinned down) but will be a live event going over Breydon Water, and into Norwich - so if I cock up you can all see that happen in real time!

@chipmorton: I am not aware that Magic Gem has a Microwave as it is a 12v boat - but then I was not aware San Selino had a DVD player but did. In fact I would have booked Magic Gem for a 5 night break, however one of my colleagues at work booked time off when it would have been available for a 5 night break, so had to change the dates and boat to San Selino and have a 4 night break instead.

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Day Three:

Watch Day Three Captain's Blog Below...

On the Tuesday evening I found myself indulging somewhat in some rather nice Chilean red wine whilst at the same time having a chat in the Norfolk Broads Forum’s weekly ‘Tuesday Night Chat’ in the chat room. This is where technology can be wonderful – me moored up in on the River Ant and yet joining in a good banter online with others.

So morning came of the third day and I found while my tastes may like the wine, my head was feeling rather fragile – I therefore did not rise too early and my plans for the day were going to be rather sedate – cruise down the Ant to Ludham Bridge, take on water – then head up the Bure to Wroxham for lunch.

And so having departed for Ludham Bridge it was once again a lovely day, cooler than of late and with more cloud but none the less it was good to be on the water – and I arrived at Ludham to find another boat at the moorings taking on water themselves. Now despite it being the third day, these forward steer boats always leave me a little anxious when coming into a mooring – not because of what the rear of the boat is doing, more how shallow or sharp an approach to make which is something with other boats I find easy, but with a ‘bath tub’ seem to get right through luck rather than judgement.

To avoid any messy scenes I moored several boat lengths away and waited for the other boat to depart having topped up their tanks with water. They dutifully left and pulled the boat forward closer to Ludham Bridge on the ropes. Time for me to take their place in front of one of Nancy Oldfield Trust’s boats. The mooring could have been better, but once tied up I proceeded to make a right hash of things – I walked over to the hose (which is on a ‘fire hose reel’ at this location) and taking the end walked off with it, confident it would pay out behind me. It did, until I was almost at the bank where a kink abruptly stopped the reel and me – I almost went over on my backside!

I thought I’d got away with looking too silly and change of plan, unreel some hose then take the hose to the boats water filler – it is on the offside of this class but once in the hole back ashore and turn the tap on. Simples. I wait and I wait, I listen to the hose – sure I can hear the flow of water – but as time past I was still waiting and thought I surely would not have used up this much water? I check the overfill but no water was coming out, back on the boat round to the filler hole and find there is NO water coming out the hose.

I now am feeling most foolish and bearing in mind that people are taking some interest in proceedings, pretend that I have indeed filled the tanks, deposit my £1 in the collection box and reel the hose back in – upon which water begins to gush from it all over me! Time to make a swift departure and now head to Ranworth to top up – thinking rightly as it turned out, that water availability at Wroxham would be hard to get for the boatyards being full of their own boats since so few were on hire at this time of year.

A quick ‘pit stop’ was made at Ranworth Staithe – the right hand of the two hoses seeming a faster filler that the one of the left, and so once topped up it was time to depart and heard off to Wroxham.

Passing through Horning – looking lovely – but decided to not stop this time around and carry on – also I was feeling decidedly hungry having not had breakfast and wanting to have Fish & Chips for lunch.

I popped onto Wroxham and Salhouse Broads briefly, and then as I came into Wroxham itself the boatyards were indeed full up – but the moorings outside the Hotel and Café were free. Good then I will moor at the Café there as I have on the last three occasions I’ve visited Wroxham. Only this time, rather than moor up – pop off to do what you need and return to pay your dues, a lady came out wanting £10.00 – regardless of if I was there for an hour or overnight – thus this became the single most expansive mooring I’ve had to date.

Grays Fish & Chips however was lovely – not so cheap, the Grays Whopper does not include a drink and comes in at £8.95 but does include bread and butter, large portion of fish and mushy peas. I have to say the quality was excellent both in terms of the fish being freshly cooked to order and eh chips, chips and fresh not soggy and warmed up.

I then popped into Roys – noticing that they have include now three sets of automatic doors just to get into the place if one approaches’ to the ‘McDonalds’ entrance. I got another bottle of red wine, some sweets and a few other bits to make a nice meal on board later in the evening, then back to the boat and away. I was pleased to get away actually having got so used to the peace and quiet, the noise of Wroxham, people, cars and so on was a shock to the system.

I decided a good mooring would be Cockshoot Dyke not far from Horning, and so made for this – but it was just as I got to Salhouse Broad 5 (later found out to be 6) Fineway Day Boats were out in precession and doing some fine weaving, though full of children having a great time and behaving well all in life jackets and keeping to the speed limit, compared to some of the Broads Direct day boats rushing back to base going too fast but it certainly made for interesting cursing making my way past the boats and then meeting a small fishing dinghy and large ‘Broom’ boat coming the opposite way.

It was then a very quiet and pleasant cruise back towards Horning and found Cockshoot Dyke to be my own – this is a lovely inlet that you can follow a boardwalk to views over Cockshoot Broad – there is even a small hide to watch the birds from over the broad which has been closed to craft for many years and is akin to ‘how the broads once would have been’ – full of natural wildlife, clear waters and plants. Beautiful.

Despite the fact it was not much past 3:00pm I was feeling rather like taking a nap, perhaps the wine, perhaps the large portion of Fish & Chips earlier – but you know that is what makes solo boating so lovely – one can decide what to do when one wants without a care, and so I did indeed have a nap and woke later as the sun was setting. I’m lucky to be able to do this I thought and sat in the front well feeling very content with life.

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Thanks for a Good tale,I think you capture what the Broads is all about,but please don't tell everyone how nice it is in winter otherwise we wont be able to moor anywhere! :naughty:

And before I bought Bobella I hired from a few times Richos and can only endorse what you say about the good set up they run


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Day 4:

Watch day 4 Captain's Blog below...

It seems that the ducks at Cockshoot Dyke are especially loud and tame – much the same as at Womack Water – and so it was they who woke me and appeared very keen on any food going, and as is always the way you feed one and the whole neighbourhood turn up.

Today looked gloomy and felt cooler than of late and there was talk that in the coming days rain and snow would return – quite a difference to the mild sunny weather that had graced me earlier in the week. Because today was my last full day I planned on doing less and would over night at Sutton Staithe where I could pop into the Sutton Staithe Hotel for dinner and take my time packing things away and cleaning the boat. With that in mind how would I spend today?

Well first off it was out of the dyke and on the Bure towards Horning – this is such a pretty stretch of river and despite the quietness of place, the public staithe still had two boats – then a further two outside the Swan – the most boats I had seen so far together. There was room to moor but I just cruised slowly along and turned outside Horning Sailing Club. Everything looked as if ‘on pause’ waiting for the season to begin proper, and I could just imagine in the summer people out enjoying the Swan’s beer garden by the river and the New Inn full of boats at its moorings – but for now the locals had the place to themselves.

Returning past Cockshoot Dyke it was onwards down the Bure – past the turning for Ranworth I did not see another boat moving, and then onward still passing the mouth of the River Ant and I knew that the ruins of St. Benet’s Abbey would soon be in view – I was doing a silly bit to camera when I decided I actually must moor here and go and explore the ruins and so I made a quick turn and came into moor. It has been many many years since I have been here – perhaps when I was about 12 – and with the recent work completed and scaffolding gone, what better time to explore.

Something rather touching began to happen the moment I walked away from the river – the bird song (I am not sure what of) was all around, the wind was constant but not to high and while cool it was not too cold – it felt desolate yet comforting all the same. Upon entering the old Mill within the Abbey’s former gatehouse the air was still – the wind had gone and the echo’s caused by the ruin of the mill further added to the atmosphere. It was as if someone had turned down the lights, closed the door and all was still. It felt very serene, and I felt myself wanting to just stay there and think and absorb this place and the feelings.

I was pleased I was there alone, not just the fact I was on my own but that nobody else was about – no distractions, noises and so on – and after about half an hour I felt really very much different than I had when I arrived – from all go and pace to calm and relaxed. Now I am not overly religious or anything, but it was something special and if you have the time when no one is about I thoroughly recommend you too go there and just take some time to let things go and think a while in the stillness this site offers.

Coming back to the boat, I stopped and took a photo for a father and his son on a trip together on Magic Gem – I got the impression that the son had taken his father on holiday on the boat to get away from things and bond with each other again, they certainly were both good chaps. And so it was back to the boat where I thought to myself how lucky I was to be here, and how this really is a unique holiday/experience that one does not need the latest and greatest of boats to enjoy, and that to come out of season is really a very special time indeed without all the bustle of other boaters about.

I departed the moorings and for a bit of a cruise I headed towards Acle. Not the best of ideas as I realised there was not much point to head to Acle and half way there turned around and into an outgoing tide – my return trip felt like it took twice as long as going down. Just before I arrived at the mouth of the River Ant I suddenly spotted a large plank of wood in the water – at least 6 feet long – I had no time to avoid it, so put the boat in neutral. It hit the bow and bounced off – I waited to see it float past before I engaged gear as one certainly would not want that to get drawn under into the propeller.

Now on the River Ant it was nice to be on the gentle slow moving waters of this pretty river and past the diggers still doing their thing with the banks, Ludham Bridge soon came into view – and from there on to Sutton I did not see another boat. Barton Broad was still and the grey cloud blended with a slight mist to make it seem an even larger expanse of water than it is – onwards and upwards I continued.

Not too long later the trees seem to get more dense and Stalham is signposted along with Sutton – not too long then. Past the fork in the river, taking the right hand one and onwards to Sutton Broad. More akin to a wide river now, the wind had got up and the reeds fringing the banks were blowing about. And then in the distance the end of the public moorings came into view. Once moored up I noticed three other boats moored but the moorings seemed very different to when I was last there in April 2012 – when they were full.

And that was that, not much of a day in some respects, I could now take time packing up and cleaning the boat all ready for the hand back in the morning. It had been only a short break, but through glorious sunshine and now cooler more dull conditions had felt longer somehow – I had found that a boat that was far cheaper than many one could hire, was actually just as comfortable and warm as others and that whilst it may not be a good looking example of a boat, it was a lovely home for the 4 nights I was away.

The staff at Richardson’s were helpful and kind – from letting me look on others boats that were moored, to the welcome I had on return – I look forward to the next trip up to Norfolk it is such a lovely place, and to have the freedom of being able to go where you wish when you wish in a boat is like no other.

So, until next time thank you for coming along for the ride.

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Great story Robin,

You really get the detail in and set the scenes you describe.

I have never stopped at St Bennets abby, perhaps I should, they have lots of plans for the place which they seem to be getting on well with.

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Hi Robin,

Having not seen my boat since early October (ill health) it is only the forums and stories like yours that have been keeping me sane during the long winter months.

hope to be up there soon and have a story of my own to tell, keep up the good work.

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Pleased you enjoyed it - I am learning as I go and still plenty of places I have yet to visit, or include in a Blog - take Thurne Dyke as a blinding example. St. Benet's is a special place if nothing more for how it looks and sounds inside the old Mill part. I'm pleased at the results, during the course of a trip I've no real idea how they may turn out and I can go on a tad - thank goodness for editing lol.

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Hi Robin

Just want to say thanks to you and this blog that we are getting a second holiday on the broads this year.

We were down in April on Forth Bridge 1 from Bridgecraft and booked up for next April on Silver Elegance from Silverline as soon as we got home.

After watching this and seeing what we could get for not a lot of money we booked a Magic Gem for a week (27th Sept). We chose Magic over San Selino as the layout suited better as again it will be my 83 year old Mum, brother and myself

Mum had a great time back in April and is really looking forward to coming back again. Its so relaxing for her

So thank you Robin and keep up the great work


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