Broad Ambition - The River Blogs - Part 8
A New Year
Shiela and I had spent Christmas with my dad which had gone better than expected, myself having undertaken to cook the Christmas lunch which went down a treat. For the New Year however we would be spending it on Broad Ambition.
Because I had procrastinated about this for some time, we had lost the window of getting a cheap rail fare, and so reluctantly we had to take the coach. This is not too bad if the traffic is running well and as we left London things were looking good – our coach only making a stop at Stratford and Thetford before Norwich (it then goes on to Lowestoft) and for £25.00 for the pair of us for a single ticket it was good value.
We arrived in Norwich; walked the short distance from the Coach Station to a large Sainsbury’s and did our shop – Shiela being in charge of essential food items, myself perusing the drinks aisle. We loaded our trolley up and must have looked rather strange with two wheeled suitcases and a shopping trolley wandering around Sainsbury’s but it worked out well as a quick call to Goldstar Taxi’s and we were collected and off to Stalham (£19.00 was the fare) which I think is not bad considering Wroxham Taxis have charged £18.00 from Stalham to Wroxham in the past.
Dropped off at the Wet Shed it was time to get our skates on, it would be dark a little after 4:00pm this time of year and I wanted to get Broad Ambition out of the Wet Shed in the light since things in their are now very tight with a collection of long and short boats facing each other.
We watered the boat, I checked through things and within 20 minutes of arrival we were slipping our berth. Shiela on the stern myself on the bow edged Broad Ambition out and spun her to face the exit with just inches to spare at either end – it would make so much more sense if all the shorter craft were moored opposite the longer craft so one had more space to manoeuvre – but none the less all was well and we left into the failing light of the day, our destination undecided.
Shiela was unpacking and stowing the food (and making the berth) what a help it is to have this all done for you as you cruise along! By the time we were approaching Barton Broad two things were in my mind 1) was it worth carrying on in the dark to somewhere like Ludham Bridge and 2) Storm Frank was covering the western side of the country and overnight and into the next day would head east so a sheltered mooring would be ideal – Paddy’s Lane popped into my mind and so the call was made.
Shiela donned her life jacket and we came into moor making a first class, first attempt and in moments were alongside and tied. We have become a good team with her being ‘my bow lady’. Engine off the last of the light faded and the wind was getting a bit stiffer so time to fire up the heating and crack open a can of coke for her, some red wine for me and a snack of cheese, crackers and grapes before we figured out what we might like for dinner.
After our meal (Spaghetti Bolognese) cooked by Shiela and filmed and err ‘assisted’ by myself – the wind was now gusting strongly, the boat being pushed against the bank and all types of creaking noises coming from the leafless trees around us – I went out with the torch and doubled up our mooring lines and re-checked everything, from how well fastened the canopy was to the velcro and press studs to adjusting our fenders – it would be an interesting evening for sure.
This was not a trip where we had to be up super earlier and doing a bunch of miles, so after a lazy start and some breakie we went for a walk along the moorings – the wind was now really very strong – my weather App indicated sustained winds of 25 MPH and gusts of 36 MPH. I then decided what Broad Ambition could do with is a small ‘in/out’ weather station, so things like temperature, humidity and wind speed could be known at the given location. Shall have to look into this as I have a large weather station at home and find it very interesting recording my local weather and seasonal patterns.
I spoke to Shiela and went through what we would be doing to leave the mooring and that Barton Broad would likely be choppy. With things discussed we departed the mooring and a short cruise away we entered the large expanse of Barton Broad – the wind was high, but the waves were small – what a disappointment! That said, it was dry and mild and we were heading for Wroxham for we could buy some bits we forgot in Norwich the day before, and perhaps stay for a meal tonight.
The river Ant was charming as ever it is, but extensive tree works had been carried out – a real boon at How Hill making this narrow stretch wider for the forthcoming season. Although the wind was strong, we navigated with ease and soon were through Ludham Bridge without incident. I send a message to Orca advising of the height and about this time decided it would be better to head for Potter Heigham – closer by, and we could get what we needed in Lathams not Roys.
During our trip we passed a couple of hire boats from Faircraft Loynes – the only yard hiring at this time of year, they may have booked some time in advance and was good to see them enjoying the quietness of the rivers, and the mild weather we were having! The river Bure, like the Ant was calmer than the wind suggested it would be, perhaps it was the direction of the wind that caused the waters to not be churned up too much, but by the time we reached the mouth of the river Thurne things had got a bit more interesting to say the least. Gusting winds were now blowing right up the Thurne and the waves were now noticeable and pushing us along – so to speak.
We arrived at Potter Heigham, one privateer moored and us having to moor – I’d prefer the port side so I can easily get off to help Shiela, and also see exactly where the bank is. Whatever we did, the wind would not be in our favour and would be pushing us ‘off the bank’. Some of Herbert Woods fleet was moored on the left bank, meaning things were narrower than usual and Potter Heigham Bridge ahead of us (6ft 6” clearance) made me nervous about being pushed towards it. I wanted to turn now rather than when we came to depart, so I nosed into Herbert Woods basin – backed out and made a turn, almost complete the wind decided to interject in proceedings and push the stern back around. We were facing the right way now, but being pushed sideways towards the boats moored along the bank. Quick thinking kicked the stern around and backed away to mid-channel whereupon the wind again had its own idea on where we would end up.
I let the wind win, and we once more were turned so our bow faced the bridge – I’ll have a second round with the wind upon our departure – for now we need to get alongside, and just then a couple walking along offered us a hand. Taking our bow rope it took all this chaps strength to hold it in and get around the post. I brought the stern in and got off and then found how heavy Broad Ambition is to pull in against a 20MPH odd side wind. Least we are secure now and both our lines are taught, the boat being held off the bank by about a foot.
We walked to Lathams, whereupon I was both really unhappy and happy at once – they had some jumpers – 2 for a tenner – thing is, only days earlier I had bought the identical jumpers for £20.00 each! I bought two and will take one of the higher priced ones back as I have the receipt and tags still on it. We got what we needed and then headed for the burger van – burger for me, hot dog for Shiela and then walked back to the boat.
Once onboard I talked to Shiela about what we needed to do. I knew the moment any line was let go the boat would drift away and certainly Shiela would not be able to hold it so she would stay on the boat. I undid the bow line, allowing two turns on the post and her on deck to keep it in, then I let the stern go and got onboard myself. The wind took the stern away at an alarming rate. Shiela let the bow line go and we backed out then just as I brought the stern around, the boat would be pushed back to the moored boats – it was tough going, I don’t want to hit another boat or be ‘pinned’ to them by the wind broadside, equally, I don’t want to go too far the other way and go into the bank we had departed from. The wind was having its own way again.
Time for another plan. Back to the bank, bow line back on a post Shiela on deck the wind pushing us away as I gave just gentle revs with full starboard wheel and brought the stern round while Shiela held the bow spring, the boat was being pushed away all the time from the bank, so this manoeuvre was actually easier than I thought it might have been and should have done this first time around! Now we were thankfully facing the right way - with stern to the bridge and not being pushed towards the moored boats. Phew!
At this point I decided Ranworth would be a good destination for the night – madness right? With all this wind, but we would have water, power and a pub for dinner. By the time we were at the mouth of the river Thurne the wind gusts were now so strong the canopy was being pulled and pushed with the wooden bows that support it being pulled from their sockets. Only the velcro around the sides of the wheelhouse and screens were keeping it in place. The sash sides were being pushed and pulled and the whole boat was being rocked – this was the strongest winds I’ve cruised in on the Broads and while it was one thing underway, mooring was a real concern to me.
We arrived at Malthouse Broad, the wind now right on our bow – and lighter here – I noticed a Freeman leave the staithe, and Orca was now only the second boat moored there. They were moored ‘down the side’ of the staithe side on, and so it would be ideal for us to come in to moor there too and not contend with silly side winds trying to moor stern on. We drifted in and I could relax, perhaps it was the trees but it was so much calmer here.
Come the evening I met up with Alan and Dave from Orca, and we all went into the Maltsters for a meal – and much conversation meant it was 11:30pm and we were the only souls in their still, it was clear we were being ‘eyed out’ of the place silently, we took the hint and got our coats to walk into a downpour. Back onboard Broad Ambition and a change of cabin was required. The double berth was wet soaked – the window had a leak – a blob of silicone would cure it, for now I used some Vaseline and a bowl on the mattress. Shiela and I now in the forward v-berths settled down for the evening.
Up, not too early neither too late. Spoke to Alan and shortly after was called for breakfast – once that was had, I set to trying to figure out what caused the cabin window leak. I took the entire glass out and cleaned all along the drainage gully and ensured the drain holes were clear, then poured in water and sure enough a ‘pin hole’ of a leak was apparent in both corners of the window where some sealant had been. Simple fix but not something you can do on New Year’s Eve. Orca departed and it was not too long after that we were underway ourselves.
It was a truly amazing day, not a cloud in the sky, little wind and frankly silly mild temperatures for the time of year. We decided to just ‘cruise about’ and at the top of Ranworth Dam turned left for Horning.
We went down to Salhouse Broad and turned to come back, passing River Song on our return with greetings exchanged we were going to Cockshoot Broad moorings, where I could prepare the boat. Dressing lines out, windows cleaned and our funky LED coloured lights looking pretty cool – Broad Ambition was looking a treat. I had been in touch with Orca, they ended up at Womack Water and had given up working on GMT and seemed to now be running on ‘Norfolk Time’. We would cruise in company to the New Inn but arrive at dusk.
Sure enough Orca eventually arrived and we set off together along the river. I absolutely hate mooring outside the New Inn, never have I moored here without a right fuss being made and this time was no exception – only there was now the added bonus of it being practically dark. The wind was beam on and had words with the current and they had both agreed to go the same way – this meant the moment we came in stern on, our bow was ‘taken’. It took 2 men, one lady and a Rascal to tame Broad Ambition’s bow to stay straight. Mud Weight down, lines tied I could relax but now Orca had to do the same and she was a lightweight planning hull with a nice dose of wheelhouse as a sail. As it happened, the wind and current were kind and sort of gently deposited Orca to our starboard side the other end of the moorings – but they were secure and everyone could rest easy.
Shiela and I cooked up some Barbecue Chicken and rice and some more Spaghetti Bolognese and invited Alan and Dave onboard for a meal – we watched some of my recorded videos taken from live streams when Broad Ambition had been to Southwold, not to mention a few old blog videos. Much was said, many laughs were had and it was a really good evening. Time to head off to the pub, it was absolutely packed, but with a good vibe and we eventually got a table inside (after initially freezing poor Shiela half to death on the patio area). At about 5 minutes to midnight, Alan and I left to get on the boats and at midnight we let off our horns – and I rang Broad Ambitions ‘ships bell’ to ring in the New Year! It felt really special, and fireworks all around the village went off in unison. Back to the pub to see Shiela and give her the first kiss of 2016.
We were the last to leave the moorings outside the New Inn – our boat having a thick layer of ice over it that the Tupperware boats around us had not, ha! I thought, that is what a cosy boat inside is all about. Ice cleared, dressing lines and lights down it was time to head off ourselves – we would not be going home until tomorrow, so we headed for Sutton Staithe and the hotel. We arrived about 1:30pm to deserted moorings and popped into the hotel for lunch, only they had finished serving early today so booked in for an evening meal.
Come 7:30pm we were back again – the only people eating as it turned out – and to a disappointing meal. I’ve always had a great meal here, but tonight the chips had been overdone, then left to go luke warm, the salad was just lettuce and cucumber and Shiela’s fish was a few minutes too long in the deep fryer. Still, it was cosy inside and filled a hole having nothing on board to eat but would have been nicer if it was up to the usual standard I’ve come to expect from the place.
Back on the boat it was time to settle down with a DVD, some cheese and nibbles and generally take life easy. Today had been a short and easy day compared to the others, and it was nice to not have had to do too much cruising and have an early night.
We had purposely stayed an extra day as I felt sure having a pump pt and getting fuel would be doable on the 2nd, but not a bit of it. Sutton Staithe was closed and no notice of when may be open again (at the site or online) – and that was the story wherever else we tried, other than Boulters in Horning but they closed early and we would not have got there from Sutton before they closed. Shiela made a good call – let’s get the boat back to the Wet Shed now, and spend the rest of the day in Norwich, and so we were soon back in the Wet Shed and doing the usual clean through of the boat with a cab booked to take us into Norwich – just as thousands of others descended into the city as a match was taking place – let’s just say the traffic was not smooth!
We had a meal, did some shopping and then waited for out coach back to London, content we had been lucky to be afloat at this time of year and although for Shiela it was not always the most interesting of times, we both had a good time and had some great company from Alan and Dave from Orca during our travels. I look forward to many more memories and good times to share during 2016, but for now ‘that’s all folks’.