Stuart’s Boating Holiday Easter Adventure
Day 1 – Saturday 30th March 2013
Having travelled up early yesterday (Good Friday) to take advantage of the bank holiday for a trip on the Bure Valley Railway, and staying ‘no frills’ in the Travelodge at Norwich Central. We also took the time to drive to most of the ports of call we had previously visited on the boat – Horning, Acle, Potter Heigham, Womack (Ludham) and Ludham Bridge. It is surprising how close they all are to each other by car, or perhaps, how far apart they are at 4mph!
We woke up to snow! We consoled ourselves with a Little Chef breakfast on the road between Norwich and Acle and watched the snow fall ever faster. However, by the time we’d finished, the snow had all but stopped. So, paperwork filled out, we pulled the car up alongside the boat. We were given the OK to load up, so this was it – the start of Broads holiday number 4!
The handover was quite painless. All the necessary areas of ‘need to know’ were demonstrated – all looked straightforward, so off we set. Knowing that we needed the canopy down for Ludham Bridge, and as the sun was shining, we lowered it before we left the yard. It was very pleasant at first, but boy, crossing Barton was fresh, if not beautiful!
I love the Ant, such a beautiful and serene river, with plenty to please the eyes. It was not long before we passed How Hill, and soon we were approaching Ludham Bridge. Once through, we moored up and were glad to raise the canopy and whack the heating on!
Off we set again, and headed on down to Acle where we planned to overnight. The wind had picked up, but would favour an easy mooring at Acle, so, once moored up we had the obligatory cuppa while we watched in amazement at the ensuing arrival of “new to boating” pilots and the fun the wind was having with their boats!
We then headed off with the kids – 2ps in abundance – to the Bridge Inn. We hadn’t planned on eating out, but we enquired about a table. Whilst they were clearly very busy – no room to barely stand at the bar, they slotted us in, and, in fact, we were only waiting for 10 minutes at the most when they called our name and seated us in the restaurant. The food, whilst not going to set the world on fire for originality, was plentiful, well presented and, most importantly, very tasty!
A quick toilet stop en route back to the boat, and we settled down for the night in thermals, PJ’s, sleeping bags, blankets and duvets. Given the forecast, we’d planned ahead to keep warm!
Day 2 – Easter Sunday 31st March
The layout of Mercury is very good actually, with the ability to make use of more space at the front (unlike a bathtub) meaning there were two casual seating areas – one in the centre cockpit area, which could see the whole family sit and enjoy canopy down cruising in the sun, and another at the rear in the galley to be used by someone escaping the engine noise to read etc.
There are 3 permanent cabins – two single berths at the bow (which, with the application of an insert can become a very spacious double, a compact single immediately in front of the centre cockpit (which we used as a store for suitcases etc). Opposite this single was the forward head, including sink and shower.
Then, immediately behind the cockpit is the double cabin, which again is compact, but at 5’10” I could stretch out fully as the bed encroaches under a shelf in the galley area. I slept OK in here, but my wife did not – notably due to my snoring, so after one more shot at sharing, I was banished to the pull out double in the galley!
There is a second head opposite the double cabin, and the aft of the boat is set as a kitchen diner come double cabin with TV!
So, after being very snug and warm – I think my better half got too hot at one point – we awoke, before the kids for a change. As it was after 7, and as someone else had already fired up their engine, I set about starting ours. Heating on, I set about a fry-up. You cannot beat a cooked breakfast on a boat, even the kids had a fry-up this morning!
Given the tides, we set off fairly briskly for Great Yarmouth. I had hoped to do the trip to GY yesterday in one hit, but did not want to risk not getting a mooring. We were likely to have the tide against us for the last bit of the Bure as we approached GY, so it meant we would be able to moor up facing the right direction. We made good time actually – I’d installed a Broads Cruising app on my android phone, which tracked your progress like sat-nav and displayed your speed. This is very handy when going against the tide!
Once moored up we brewed up and chilled for a bit, before heading off to the pier where the kids could offload some more 2ps! It was very pleasant actually, surprisingly busy for Easter Sunday. Having had a big breakfast we decided that doughnuts would suffice for lunch! Once back at the boat, we spent the time people watching. The rangers had to shout at a couple of boats to stop them trying to cross Breydon against the tide!
We had our first meal aboard – very tasty salmon fillets with potatoes and veg – yum! With the kids all tucked up, we turned in for the night. To make slack water passage, we’d need to be off by 9 at the latest, so wanted to be fresh for that!
Day 3 – Easter Monday 1st April
No fry-up this morning as we want to get cruising fairly sharpish with the tide. With the bridge height gauges showing in excess of 10’ we would not need to lower the canopy, a relief in this weather. So I cranked up the old girl after the usual checks (the boat, not the wife) and got the heating on while the engine had a chance to warm up.
One of the larger boats was setting off really early – 7am – but hadn’t given enough thought for the tide which was on its last knockings of going out. With the bow rope still tied to shore, round swung the stern! A rude awakening for the family in the boat next door methinks! So, the boat with its stern in the channel, stern rope in the water and bow rope tighter than the skin on a snare drum… all in a days work for the rangers no doubt, but they don’t start till 8am! Still, the family on the boat seemed to get it altogether eventually, but the boat was like that for a good 20 minutes!
Once we’d had our wheatybangs and cuppa, the rangers had opened up, so we told them we were waiting for slack water. “You can head off now” they suggested, so we did, with their grateful assistance to cast off, using the now gentle tide to ease the stern from the quay, a short blast to stern so were are in the main channel, and off we go.
This was my first time navigating Breydon Water. But, having read the advice in the boat folder it was a breeze. Keep within the arrows under the bridges, pass the yellow marker before turning, right of the lift-bridge main channel, and keep between the markers – green to the right, red to the left. The crossing was quite smooth actually and uneventful. We made sure we passed all the green markers before we turned off towards Reedham. In contrast to the amount of revs required going against the tide yesterday, we needed much less welly to maintain 5mph with the tide in our favour.
The Yare is a little less inspiring than the Ant, I must say. However, Reedham is a very nice location, and we were able to get moorings at the first stretch of free moorings just after the bridge. We arrived at about 11:15, having left Great Yarmouth at about 8:45. Time for another brew before we take the kids off to Pettitts. It is quite a pleasant walk from the moorings to Pettitts, especially as the sun was shining – it was still bitterly cold though.
We spent a good 3 hours at the park, and headed back to the boat via Cupcakes for a cream tea. Sadly, they hadn’t made any scones, so we made do with chocolate cake instead! On the way back as we passed the bridge it was open, and we got to see it close from the boat. After dinner we put the kids to bed for 7, and the wife and I settled down to watch Jonathan Creek – which I fell asleep through!
Day 4 – Tuesday 2nd April
My wife reported that she thought she slept better without me by her side – let’s hope this does not continue after the holiday!! We plan to cruise all the way upriver to Norwich YS today, so after the usual checks (having been aroused from slumber by two boats leaving the moorings early) I set about another fry-up.
Off we set then, in glorious sunshine (no cloud meant it was bitterly cold mind) and on our way to Norwich. The river seems a little more pleasant this side of Reedham. Again, unfortunately we were going to run against the tide, but I kept a watchful eye on the speed as indicated by the app on my phone. Not much traffic up here, we must have passed three boats in total.
The kids were kept entertained with magazines my wife had been saving up for them, and I had loaded some of their favourite movies onto mine and my wife’s Playbooks, so they were not stuck for entertainment.
Once under the by-pass viaduct, we moored up temporarily to don hats, scarves and coats, switch off the heating and lower the canopy for the next set of bridges we would encounter as we approached the yacht station. There is a lot of riverside regeneration going on here, so at the moment it looks a little grim. Fortunately, it is much more visually pleasing as you finally pass under the final two bridges.
On the final approach to the moorings we spotted a bowling alley, so after taking the kids around the cathedral, we went bowling for a quick game followed by slumming it at Pizza Hut! Kids loved it anyway.
We turned in early again, as it was an early start in order to catch the tide across Breydon on our epic return journey to the north! I’d downloaded Jonathan Creek onto my laptop, and we attempted to watch it again, but I started to doze off again and the battery drained so we’ll have to go for third time lucky with Alan Davies!
Day 5 – Wednesday 3rd April (Our Son’s 7th Birthday)
Once we’d passed all the low bridges we stopped off at the free 24HR moorings just after the viaduct to put the canopy back up and turn on the heating! By which time one excited little boy was awake and opening his presents we’d brought with us (we let him open all his big presents on the Friday before we left) which took all of five minutes.
This trip back towards Breydon was with the tide, so we burned a lot less fuel this time, making sure to keep within the speed limits.
It was quiet on the river again, we passed a few boats moored up at the various free moorings, but none of the moorings were remotely busy. Even at Norwich, whilst it got a bit busy during the day, most boats had cleared off come 5pm. I guess there are either less yards this side of Breydon, or the southern rivers are less popular.
Anyhow, we got to Breydon about half an hour after slack water passage time, which was good – but boy was it choppy! There was a BA small boat and a bigger one on patrol at the southern rivers end of Breydon. Once in the main channel I cranked up the revs a bit and enjoyed the choppyness of the water. We were passed by one boat, a private craft, but other than that (maybe an anxious moment going under the bridges with the canopy up) it was remarkably uneventful. We stopped off at the yacht station for water, and a loo break for me, while the wife made up sandwiches for a quick lunch. We were gone within 20 minutes. Once back into clear river waters, my wife took the helm as she wanted to give it a go. She took to it very quickly and she took us up to Acle bridge where I took over to moor. Given that we left Norwich at about 6:45, and arrived in Acle at 2:30, with a 20 mins break at Great Yarmouth, I think we were just about 15 mins or so off my 8 hour cruising estimate!
I’d topped up our food rations at Norwich, so we would not need to eat dinner ashore again this holiday. Whilst it is nice to eat out, it can destroy your budget!
Once we’d brewed up and chilled for a bit, we set about relieving our kids of the rest of their 2ps, which proved difficult – seeing as they kept winning them back! In the end, my son still had some left to use next year! Back to the boat for a nice lamb leg steak meal while we watch the activity on the river.
I actually think we managed to watch Jonathan Creek all the way through here too, which was a result. An early turn in again, but no real urgency to get up in the morning, so a nice lie in methinks…
Day 6 – Thursday 4th April
Didn’t really have much of a lie in this morning, not due to any other reason than we woke up early! Again we were awake before the kids. I coaxed the engine to life so as to turn on the heating, and turned the engine back off again after about 10 mins. Once we’d warmed through a bit I stowed away my bed, brewed up then set about a fry-up.
Kids had got up by now and had their cereal then got dressed, while the wife and I did a toilet tag team run and disposed of the rubbish. I then topped up the water tank and we were ready for the off.
Today was a return to familiar territory – Womack staithe for a cream tea. I cast us off then my wife took the helm as she seems to have got the appetite for it now! There was little traffic on the Bure again (it was about half nine I think) and was a very pleasant cruise if a little breezy.
Once we approached Womack Dyke I took over as it is very narrow. Needless to say, aside from one or two cruisers leaving it was clear. There were plenty of free moorings at the staithe, and I made a rather nice job of stern mooring – cool, calm and controlled it was – even if I say so myself.
Yep, you guessed it, we brewed up and sat down to enjoy the view and people watch. It really is very peaceful here. The moorings gradually filled up, but were never full, even so one or two boats came into the basin and turned back again…
Drinks drunk, we set off into the village, I had to queue for a bit at the local store to change up a £50 as the post office counter was shut. Once sorted we headed for the tea room for a cream tea. The couple running it are from our neck of the woods, albeit the other side of the Thames to us. They took over the place March 2012 having moved from Essex, it’s nice to see them sticking at it.
There was only one other table occupied when we arrived, but it was full when we left, so they are clearly doing something right. The cream tea was lovely, two scones no less!
We walked back to the staithe and bought some duck feed at the store, and let the kids feed the birds from the front of the boat while we, you guessed it, had another brew up. I stayed on deck with the kids, as they tend to lean over more than we’d like!
Once the ducks and terns were fed, we had to wait on deck to allow a duck to waddle past as it had spotted some stray feed on the fore deck, then we set off again and headed to Ranworth.
We needn’t have bothered mind, as it was full, and there were boats circling like vultures waiting for a slot – so we turned back and headed for the free moorings at St Benet’s, where we would stop for the night. The moorings were very busy with sailies mostly, but not full. It was a little tricky coming alongside with the strength of the wind, and I had to abandon my first attempt and try from another angle, which I managed – just! I took the kids up to the gatehouse and Abbey ruins, while my wife had some ‘her’ time with her Kindle.
Once the kids got tired of running about we headed back to the boat to chill and watch the world go by. At one point, later on in the evening, we thought we were going to be Billy no-mates, as it was just us.
Final Day – Friday 5th April
A lazy day today methinks – no rush, as we are heading up the Ant to overnight at How Hill, which is, at worst, an hour and a half gentle cruising away from here. Final chance for a fry-up too, as we will have an early start in the morning to get the boat back to the yard and make sure it is all clean and tidy – I’m not one for using and abusing, and like to leave things as I find them. So once we were all fed and watered we cast off and headed off briefly up the Bure before turning right into the Ant. It’s a narrow river in comparison to the other rivers, but this is one of its endearing features as it makes it quite an ‘intimate’ experience. We pass Ludham Bridge before we see the windmill of the How Hill Trust in the distance and know we are but one bend in the river from How Hill moorings. It is great here – a nature trail, Toad Hole Cottage, a trip on the Electric Eel and the vast green where you can relax just up from the moorings. So we see Toad Hole Cottage and take a trip on the nature trail, before a rest on the bench that overlooks the green and the moorings and watch the kids burn off some energy. We are staying here overnight, so just while away the hours as we spend our time watching the world go by at 4mph – lovely.
When we return the boat to the yard in the morning, despite the amount of cruising and use of the heating in the colder than normal weather – we still get a refund on the fuel deposit. It just goes to show – if you plan ahead, and take it easy, you can have a great holiday on a reasonable budget.
Can’t wait until next year now!
|Saturday 30th||Stalham 2pm||Acle 5pm||3 hours cruising||Overnight at Acle||Walk to village & pub|
|Sunday 31st||Acle 9am||Great Yarmouth 11.30am||2.5 Hours cruising||Overnight at Great Yarmouth||Walk into town/beachfront|
(Top up water)
|Great Yarmouth 9am||Reedham 11am||2 hours cruising||Overnight at Reedham||Pettitts Animal Adventure Park|
|Tuesday 2nd||Reedham 8am||Norwich 11.30am||3.5 hours cruising||Overnight at Norwich||Visit city & cathedral|
(Top up water)
|Norwich 9am||Acle 5pm||8 hours cruising||Overnight at Acle||River between Norwich and Reedham is wide so let kids do some driving|
|Thursday 4th||Acle 8am||Womack 9.30am||1.5 hours cruising||Wake to Ludham – cream tea!|
(Top up water)
|Womack 12.30pm||Ranworth 2.00pm||1.5 hours cruising||Overnight at Ranworth||Climb church tower, complete nature trail|
|Friday 5th||Ranworth 9am||St Benet’s 10am||1 hour cruising||Visit ruins|
|Friday 5th||St Benet’s 1pm||How Hill 2pm||1 hour cruising||Overnight at How Hill||Complete nature trail|
|Saturday 6th||Barton Turf 8am||Stalham 9am||Half hour cruising||Back to yard||Go home|