Joined: Mar 2016
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Back from a week on the Broads (first time), and thought I'd share my itinerary, observations and experiences so that forum readers may benefit. I know I gained a lot by reading the forum before leaving, so hope this is of use to someone.
Our party was 6 in total: myself, my wife and our 16mo baby boy, my brother and his two 4-year old daughters. Travelling with kids, especially ones that young, seemed a bit daunting, but we were fortunate not to have had any accidents, although changing dirty nappies in cramped cabins isn't my favourite memory of the holiday!
We had hired the Carribean Light 1 from Herbert Woods for a week, starting on Monday. Took the train to Acle and then had arranged a taxi to take us to the boatyard in Potter Heigham (about £20), which all went smoothly. Impressed with Herbert Woods, very efficient and straightforward company, would recommend. The Carribean Light was a bit worse for wear - I wouldn't think it has many seasons left in it. Especially in the heavy rain, the deck drain appeared to be clogged, which meant water would seep into the cabin, and in some of the more extreme rainfalls we had, leaks in the roof dripped down, annoyingly just above my berth. But it was pretty good value for money, I thought.
We had chosen the layout of the Carribean Light, as the separate deck area from the inside cabin meant that we could at times segregate ourselves from the kids when they got a bit hyperactive and yet still keep an eye on them, which was invaluable. If going without young kids, however, I would recommend going instead for one of the boat layouts with a retractable roof, as the space savings were pretty substantial.
First night, we headed down with the ebbing tide to Great Yarmouth yacht station. We stopped off to shelter from an abnormally heavy rainstorm in Stokesby, and thought it a very pleasant pub (the Ferry Inn, I think it was called) so we stayed for supper. Got to Great Yarmouth Yacht Station shortly before sunset and tied up - the Broads Authority chaps had knocked off for the day (finish at 8pm, apparently), so we tied ourselves up and settled in for the night. I had read the tide at GY could rise and fall by up to 6 feet, so we left plenty of slack on the lines, but I didn't realise that the stern line should have come from the far corner, rather than the side nearest the bank. While facing the flood tide, this wasn't so much of a problem, but in the middle of the night, when the tide began to ebb again, our boat would drift out a few feet into the river before being pushed back against the mooring by the current, resulting in a series of repetitive knocks which prevented all on board (except for the baby, who was as proverbial as they come) from getting a good nights sleep. Unable to sleep, I wandered down the quay at dawn, and saw how the others had tied on using the far stern line - copying them solved our problem, but we only had an hour or so to relax before we were off again, as slack water was early that morning, and I didn't want to be one of the horror stories.
Over the coming days, we made our way up and down the Yare to Norwich. Best shower of the whole trip was the one at Norwich Yacht Station, and it was free (daytime mooring cost us £5). Was very impressed with Reedham, the Broads Authority guys there were really helpful and enthusiastic (and free, which was unexpected). Not sure if it was the Yare, or simply the fact we were there early in the week, but there weren't very many other boats around, moorings were plentiful and available, and it was plain sailing - different story come the weekend up on the Northern Broads come the weekend, but more on that later.
One thing we noticed was that after a few days of eating pub suppers, pub lunches, and even the occasional pub breakfast, our bodies started craving healthy food. We had an ample supply of food on board (I had ordered a large tescos delivery to the boatyard prior to departure), but it was a hassle cooking for the family in the cramped galley. For future trips, I would recommend packing easy to prepare, healthy foods (e.g: salads), which could be supplemented with the occasional warm meal from a pub.
Travelling with the kids was great fun, although the two four-year olds required as many shore stops as possible so that they could run around and burn off some of their seemingly unlimited childhood energy. Even the 16mo one was repeatedly crawling from one end of the boat to the other to get some exercise.
We passed back up through Great Yarmouth on Friday morning, and spent the day in GY, visiting the beach and pier, generally keeping the kids entertained. Our plan had been to meet up with a second boat in Acle that evening, containing 9 friends and family. When we got to Acle, just outside the bridge inn, the rain was coming down something dreadful, and every single mooring was taken, leaving no space for one boat, let alone two. It was our first time all week seeing such crowding on the broads, and it took us by surprise, but we were stuck there, as we had agreed to meet some friends at the pub later that evening who were arriving into Acle train station, so we couldn't alter the plan at this point. We ended up mooring beyond the mooring posts, using our rond anchors to secure the lines, and the other boat double moored alongside us, which was a somewhat heath robinson arrangement, but at least we were together and celebrated that fact with a few drinks at the pub, which was now a 5 min walk away. I even remembered to take my torch to the pub so that I could find my way back after sunset.
The following day, we cast off pretty early and moored up at St Benets Abbey for breakfast. Wonderful spot, wasn't that crowded in the morning, although was getting more so by the time we left a couple of hours later. Headed down to Ranworth, and that's where the congestion became really apparent. We had to wait for the best part of an hour for a mooring to become available, and eventually two did at once, which was fortunate, as we were planning to ask everyone to shift along so that our second boat could tie up alongside us, but that was no longer necessary.
After exploring Ranworth (and the Malsters), we departed for the forum annual meet-up, which was fantastically welcoming, even though we had arrived a touch late, so missed the music. Thanks again to all of you if you read this, it was definitely one of the highlights of our trip.
The following morning, we headed out to Horning, and congestion on the Bure became a huge problem. Steering every which way to avoid other boats was hardly restful, and I was glad to make it to Horning for lunch. We departed in the afternoon and headed back to the Herbert Woods boatyard, and again, the congestion was pretty unpleasant. Some chap on the Thurne clearly had no idea how to steer, and it took plenty of self control to avoid swearing at him.
In summary, my recommendations:
-try to get most boating done early in the week when congestion is less.
-boat wise, you get what you pay for.
-the more moorings available on the broads, the better, I support any initiative which favours this.
-try to eat healthy food.
-don't hesitate to take the kids!
-None really! I had a fantastic week. Would recommend a week on the broads to anyone. I have a bit of landsickness today, 48 hours after returning, which I hope disappears, or I'm going to have to convince the missus that we need to live on a boat to settle my vertigo!
Although most of my photos are of the kids which I'd prefer not to share on a public forum, I have a couple of sunset ones which I'll try to post later on.
A special mention to the guy who I was talking to about everyone being so helpful, and he just smiled and declared it "NFN". I queried, and he explained "Normal For Norfolk". Loved it.
"He's fallen in the water!"