Page published 5 October 2023
The weather was nothing like it had been on our shakedown cruise on Saturday, but Diana had planned our first trip from our new mooring for this date. Who can blame her! September 12 is her birthday and our anniversary.
I asked Diana to take the helm so I could take this view, from the stern of Singing the Blues, just after we left our mooring.
We set off just before 09:45. The sky was thick with cloud, but there were some gaps. Our plan was to lunch at Horning, which the first journey planner I found reckoned was some 2¾ hours away. If you've followed the report of our journey to Coltishall you'll know that the first major landmark on our way is the village of Belaugh.
As we approach the village, some ten minutes after setting out, we see a cruiser moored at the village staithe. Then Diana spots a heron on the bank and I change the zoom level and swing the camera a little to find it.
Rounding a bend, and with the camera zoomed, in we get a first glimpse of the buildings of Belaugh.
As we approach Belaugh a heron can be seen on the bank just off our bow.
Turning the corner we can make out more of the buildings in the village, hidden in the trees is the church, while on the river bank there's a couple of masts of yachts just visible at the local boatyard. Belaugh's boatyard has a particular interest for us as it was the place where Phil started his Moonfleet Marine started business back in the 1980s. These days it seems to specialise in servicing traditional craft, particularly "River Cruisers" the local class of yachts, designed for racing on the Norfolk Broads.
Ahead lie boats moored at the Belaugh's boatyard.
There's a variety of types of craft at Belaugh's boatyard.
We still turn to Moonfleet Marine when we have a problem with our boat. We know they are familiar with Hampton Safaris, although that may not mean much in reality, as there were a good number of builders and boat owners do have a habit of messing with their boats and, after fifty years no two are ever going to be the same. So it would seem a reasonable idea to visit the yard and get a feel for the place.
Travelling onwards we encounter our first boat coming towards us. Almost inevitably it is another Safari. I've not taken a note of all the Safaris based at Anchor Moorings, but my memory says they number around seven.
Aisling, a Hampton Safari MkII, passes us making its way towards Coltishall
The first sign that you are close to Wroxham are the well kept grounds of "Fairfields". It is, perhaps a little reminiscent of "Burefield" a house on the outskirts of Horning with its hexagonal summerhouse on the river's edge and splendid two storey boathouse. It turns out that we were lucky to catch it in full sun. It was the last time we were to see it on this cruise.
The grounds of "Fairfields" include a splendid boathouse and summer house.
Once level with the riverside buildings you catch a brief glimpse of the house itself.
The geese seem to be a permanent fixture by these shallows. How could anyone think that Norfolk is flat?
A little more than a hundred yards beyond Fairfields is an area where Greylag geese seem to be a permanent fixture, although there are other water fowl found in the mix from time to time. Shortly after that you encounter "Castle Staithe", a Broads Authority 24hr mooring and then pass the two areas where we found the locals at play in the river last week. After that you embark on a heavily treed great winding loop that takes you away from the outskirts of Wroxham before swinging round to reach Bridge Broad and the 300 metres of the Hoveton Viaduct Moorings just upstream of Wroxham Bridge
On Saturday we had taken the river route and avoided taking the turn into Bridge Broad so, today, we opted to go through the Broad. As we arrived at the other entrance there was just one boat ahead of us on the Hoveton Viaduct moorings.
We emerge from Bridge Broad to find just one boat mooring opposite, so different from Saturday afternoon, when the moorings had been nearly full.
Making a right turn we pass under high tension power cables and then the rail bridge from which the moorings get their name. As we pass through we pass a couple of the four-seat pedlo swans we had seen in use on Saturday.
Through Hoveton Viaduct you can see the bridge over the entrance to the commercialised part of Bridge Broad.
The basin above Wroxham Bridge is busy with moored boats throughout the summer months.
Once through the viaduct, it's another 150 yards before you reach Wroxham Bridge. It's an area that is crammed with moored boats throughout the summer. Although, the area closest to the bridge, where there are day boats for hire, can be a little emptier than the way we found it. In the height of summer and when the sun is shining all the day boats are gone!
Wroxham Bridge from the upstream side is trickier to navigate because of the sharp turn immediately before reaching it.
The approach to the bridge is tricky. The dog leg in the river immediately before the bridge makes it impossible to see what may be attempting to come through from the other side. But that's not the only worry! The underside of the bridge slopes, so while you may get under the opening, you may not have enough clearance to make it out on the downstream side. You need to know your own air draft and trust the height boards by the bridge. Today, the clearance shown was 6'6" and I had no concerns about passing through as that was the same height it had shown last Saturday.
It's 10:51 as we pass under Wroxham Bridge. The next 200 yards is one of the busiest areas of the whole Broads, stuffed full of boatyards, hiring cruisers and day boats.
Diana takes the helm for a while. I take a shot of the view astern from the forward well showing the host of private moorings on the Wroxham side of the river.
At Barton House we see White Moth moored, an Edwardian Wherry Yacht built as a private pleasure boat and later let to holiday makers
On the fringes of the commercial area is Barton House. In 1960 the owners began building a 3½" gauge steam railway line in their back garden and later a second 7¼" gauge line. More recently it seems the venue has become the base for the Wherry Yacht Charter charity. As we passed we saw White Moth, the boat we had seen just outside Horning last Saturday on the way to our mooring and this time I got a photo showing her stern, so different to that of old trading wherries, such as Albion.
Once through the busy commercial area things calm down a little. On the Hoveton side there are a number of dykes lined with riverside homes of varying quality. While on the Wroxham side there are a few very grand mansions set back from the river some 150 yards, most of which have impressive boathouses opening on to extensive quay headed pools in their grounds that allow access to the river. Beyond them the properties slowly become rather less grand, many being operated as holiday lets.
These are some of the more impressive properties on the Hoveton bank. While impressive they don't match the grandeur of the first few Wroxham bank mansions.
The track of our journey between Wroxham and Horning. Having passed through Bridge Broad, we then passed through Wroxham, Salhouse and Black Horse Broad before mooring at Horning for lunch.
A cruiser we followed all the way to Horning, seen here shortly after we picked it up, after leaving Wroxham Broad.
I'm not sure why but for some reason, most likely the slowly deteriorating weather, I didn't take any photographs of any of the broads we passed through before we stopped for lunch at Horning, but I did take a few more pictures as we made our way down river, intending to share them with family members on our Whatsapp group.
One of several large trip boats that operate out of Wroxham, seen here returning to its base. We passed it as we approached Salhouse Broad.
I do know why I took the photo of the trip boat. Before she retired Diana used to sit on the tribunal panels that heard appeals by claimants against their assessment for Personal Independence Payments. There was an annual social gathering for those involved. Judges, doctors, and others would attend with their partners. Diana was one of those assessing social care needs. One year the event was held on board the Vintage Broadsman.
The co-ordinator of the event was taking guitar lessons and invited his tutor's band, "Stone Pony" to come along and provide the music. Those in the know will recognise that name as having strong blues connections so, being a blues player, I took my harmonicas along and sat in jamming with the band. That led, the following year, to my band Bar Room Blues being booked to play at the group's Christmas lunch.
Diana takes the helm again while I take take it easy on the seat over the engine.
We pass in and out of Salhouse Broad, partly because I want to take a closer look at the venue often used by the Hampton Safari Boat Club to hold their annual meet. The club's web site indicates that more than twenty of the boats of our type will turn up to socialise and share tips about issues with their boat.
Diana takes another turn on the helm, as we catch up with the cruiser again that we lost ground to during our detour through Salhouse Broad. Eventually, I return to to the helm and take a photo of Diana to share with the family. She's proudly wearing the badge that was attached to our granddaughter's birthday card.
The sky has been growing ever gloomier and eventually the rain starts as we turn into the dyke to take a tour around Black Horse Broad. We're followed round the broad by a couple of very similar cruisers, one of which looks as if it plans to drop its mudweight, but we continue round the broad and exit through the dyke. We take an interest in the various riverside properties along this stretch of the river as there are number on the market before mooring outside the Swan Inn at 12:20, the perfect time to place an order for lunch, or so we think.
Once in the Swan, the question we're greeted with is, "Have you booked"?. We haven't. While we had planned to lunch in Horning, whether to dine at the Swan Inn, the New Inn or the Ferry Inn had been left undecided until our arrival. We would have to wait till one o'clock for a table, we were told. We decided to wait rather than return to the boat and get a lot wetter while moving and mooring elsewhere. It gave us a chance to sip a little wine and gave me a chance to take some photos from the boat.
A dark cloud hangs over the river, the view upstream from our mooring outside The Swan Inn.
Swinging the camera round you see we are immediately outside the front door of the Swan. A perfect setting, had there been perfect weather.
Swinging the camera again we see the view downstream from our mooring.
We return to the pub at 13:00 and are shown to a table. We order drinks and then our food. We both opt for their Hunter's Chicken Schnitzel which the menu says will be "topped with a BBQ & tomato sauce, crispy bacon and melted Cheddar, served with triple-cooked chips". We are eating before 13:15 which means we didn't regret the wait in the boat.
I only remember to take a photo of the food, to share with the family after I've taken a few bites.
At least we won't get too wet when we return to the boat as it's not far to walk!
A phone call with birthday wishes from her son interrupts dessert, so it's time for another photo for the family album.
By the time we have finished lunch it has stopped raining and we decide to take a walk along Lower Street. In part, that is to remind ourselves of where we once went with Diana's sister for a drink and where we had watched the start of the Three Rivers Race with friends aboard their boat. But I also wanted to show Diana where some of the houses were that are on my "Long List" of places to consider moving to, once we have an offer on our place.
It was 14:45 by the time we return to the boat and cast off. Almost immediately we become aware of a problem. We had just managed to make it back to the boat as rain began to fall again to find that the windscreen wiper barely made a single sweep before grinding to a halt.
That's when we realised that, when mooring, we had failed to turn off the fridge. Our fridge, which came with the boat, is of the old type. It could run on gas, if all the pipework had not been removed in order to ease certification under the Boat Safety Scheme. It could also run on 240v electricity, if connected to shore power or we had an inverter on board. However, we just have a single domestic battery and we'd been warned that, unlike a modern compressor powered fridge, our used electricity constantly to heat the condenser and it did not respond to a thermostat cutting power when the cabinet reached its working temperature. It meant that we would drain our battery very quickly, so we had resolved that we would only ever have it turned on when we had the engine running.
There was no denying the battery was flat. I tried to turn on a cabin light. It lit, only to go out as soon as anything drawing more power was turned on, and that included the wiper motor. We had been continuing on our way downstream towards Ranworth Broad, which I had as a target before would turn for home. However, the lack of power persuaded us to abandon that idea and we turned for home before reaching the last of Horning's buildings.
Shortly before we reach Salhouse a Police boats passes us at what I reckon is almost twice the 4mph speed limit
We had always recognised that only being able to run the fridge when the engine was operating was likely to turn out not to be acceptable but hadn't got round to considering what the choices were when it came to a more modern fridge nor whether even they would be able to run reliably with a single domestic battery.
Our expectation was that our normal use of the boat would involve a journey of a couple of hours before mooring for the night. I hoped that would be sufficient time for the fridge to make working temperature and, with a filled fridge the contents would then keep the temperature down at an acceptable level overnight. Then, the next day, we would be travelling somewhere and able to turn the fridge on the power again.
During much of our journey back as far as Wroxham we were engrossed in conversations around this topic and I failed to take any photos to show our progress, expect when a police boat came past at, I'd guess, 7mph just before we reached Salhouse Broad, which is an area with a 4mph limit.
The Notices showing an interesting background to the staithe.
You may wonder why the last photograph in this report is of Belaugh Staithe. That's because we were forced to stop there. We had already stopped a mile or so earlier.
Things went wrong shortly after passing Fairfields. I realised that the temperature gauge was showing 110° when it had be fixed between 70-74°, depending on engine speed, throughout the day. Diana confirmed things weren't right. There was lots of smoke behind us, more accurately steam. Everything had gone so well on Saturday, during our move from Wayford to Coltishall that I thought our engine problems were all resolved. I immediately dropped engine revs, which were never more than 1,200rpm and looked for somewhere to stop.
We were beyond and buildings and moorings and on that part of the river that I have described as reminiscent of the Amazon. The banks were invisible, either hidden by the drooping branches of the many trees that lined the bank or were lost in huge banks of reed or sedge. It took five minutes before I spotted a gap where some stout tree trunks were visible to which we could tie ourselves temporarily.
After allowing the header tank to cool a little I removed the cap. It didn't spurt steam and as expected the header tank was dry. I wasn't sure if that indicated a simple leak in the cooling system or something more serious. It was around 16:45. I wasn't sure if we had a mobile phone signal or who to call when most boatyards would be on the point of packing up for the night. There was no option but to top up the header tank and try to proceed a little further.
We set off again a quarter of an hour later. The gauge dropped immediately settling on 60°, but over the next few minutes rose steadily to above 100°. By this time we were on the outskirts of Belaugh. We contemplated stopping on the village church moorings, but there was activity ahead. Someone was paddling a canoe across the river to the local staithe, where there was a hire boat moored. We took a chance and found that there was just enough length left for us upstream of him. We let the hireboat skipper and canoeist, who seemed to be a local, know of our difficulty and they both helped us moor. It was now 17:25.
Both seemed anxious to help. I waited for the engine to cool a little. This time there the header tank was still as good as full, so we didn't appear to have a serious leak, but clearly we were still overheating. The hireboat skipper was clearly pleased that he had paid attention at the briefing he had been given to him when they took over their boat. He suggested we check the cooling inlet filter. There was a certain amount of weed trapped there that we cleared out, but it was relatively loose and did not seem to be offering sufficient resistance to stop the engine being cooled.
After an hour being stationary we decided that we might as well make a further attempt to get home. We had waited longer for the engine to cool and it was a shorter distance to go than we had made in the hop to reach Belaugh.
And so we made it home. We called Moonfleet the following morning to discuss the two issues of the electric failure and the boiling engine. It was agreed that a new domestic battery would be required and they would come out to us the following Wednesday to investigate and fix the cooling failure. I called again the next day and asked that they bring a second battery as well. We're still thinking about a replacement fridge.