Page updated 22 November 2023
I hadn't been expecting it but Diana had looked at our diaries and the weather forecast towards the end of the week and decided the time was right to test the sleeping facilities aboard Singing the Blues. So it was that we arrived at the boat at lunchtime on Sunday and spent the next two nights on board.
Before we set out we also learnt that there will be a river bank mooring available to us. Apparently it's already vacant but needs some work done on the quay heading before we can use it.
This report will largely be limited to photograph captions, but as with our Anniversary Cruise there are gaps in the photographic record, so I will had some further details as they are needed.
If you've been following some of the earlier reports of our adventures aboard Singing the Blues you'll notice that this is the first time you've seen the recently acquired mudweight freshly painted.
It's just after 13:05 and we leave the dyke at Anchor Moorings. The weather was not as good as had been forecast when the trip was planned.
Some ten minutes later we cruise through Belaugh. Diana's always liked the look of the first house you see on the left. The Maps I have indicate that it is "10 The Street", but I'm sure the locals know it by a more interesting name.
Once again the boats moored at Belaugh Boatyard have changed. The green boat I commented on last time we passed is covered again and an equally unusual blue hulled launch is now breasted up against it.
It's no longer a surprise to find the first boat you spot after departing Coltishall is a Hampton Safari. This is Lady J (Registration: 249F). The HSBC member records indicate her mooring is in Wroxham.
Our instrument panel is definitely showing its age, but after all our engine and electric woes, I keep a close eye on the gauges. We've now been running for almost 20 minutes and the oil pressure has dropped to it's usual level, while the temperature hasn't yet reached its normal 70-74°C. That may be because the engine has been running at precious little more than tick-over. Depending on the state of the river that will typically give us a speed over ground of just of 3mph. The ammeter shows the battery is being charged too!
You might almost think this is the same bird that we saw last time we were out, but there are many herons to see on the Broads. This one is a mile or two down river from Belaugh.
It's 13:54 and we're just downstream of Caen Meadow and it's beach where many of the swimmers were, the day we moved Singing the Blues to her mooring. I still think of this part of the river as Amazonian. It's the way the vegetation completely obscures the banks that does it. You'll also notice that while the newly painted mudweight is aboard it has not yet been secured to the boat!
Between the rail and road bridges in Wroxham, there are always plenty of boats moored. The one on the left, is "Ra" a solar powered craft that the Broads Authority used to have based on Barton Broad, not Ranworth as I had originally remembered, when this page was first published. In those days it was wintered in Wroxham. The Broads Authority later moved it to Whittlingham, on the Yare. However, the BA web site now reports it operating from Hoveton Riverside Park, taking passengers upstream towards Coltishall and through Bridge Broad.
It's 14:20 and we're through the road bridge in Wroxham. The boat whose stern you see in the centre of the picture is where we were moored moments earlier. We had stopped in the hope we could obtain fuel there. Before we set out I had checked the dip stick in our diesel tank. Being metal and the fuel being clear it was difficult to read but I reckoned there was at least eight inches showing on the stick. It was time, we felt, to fill up. On asking at the yard, however, were told we'd need to return on Monday, as there's no one to serve diesel on a Sunday.
Half an hour later we're between Wroxham and Salhouse Broads. I hurriedly snap a passing Hampton Safari. It's a blurry shot but it's sufficient to remind me that the writing above the saloon window indicates its on hire from Maycraft, Potter Heigham. While virtually all Safaris were originally in hire fleets there are very few left in them. I know of one still on hire from Richardson's at Stalham. This is only the second I know of that's still a hire boat.
It's now 15:08 and we've passed Salhouse Broad and I'm surprised to find an empty reach ahead. It would have been like this at the beginning of last month!
Another five minutes down the river and another left hand bend ahead. That's more the sight I expect to see, a "picnic boat" overtaking one of the large double-decker trip boats with another day boat behind.
Just before 15:30 we reach the first chalets on the outskirts of Horning. A number of sail boats are head as a MkII Safari, Misty, overtakes us.
There are moorings aplenty as you approach the right-angled bend and the landmark pub The Swan Inn.
Misty makes the turs ahead of us. You may recall we had lunch at the Swan Inn on our Anniversary Cruise, but we're too late for lunch this time. Instead, Diana had prepared sandwiches which we'd already eaten.
Given the relatively small number of boats we had seen compared with a couple of weeks earlier, I was surprised to see the moorings nearly full at Cockshoot Dyke, which you pass about 200yds past the last of the riverside buildings at Horning.
The weather had began to improve after leaving Horning. We turned onto the River Ant at about 16:25 and five minutes later the sun came out.
Although the Ant had seemed empty as we turned into the river, the moorings south of Ludham Bridge were as packed as ever. .
Wide by canal standards, Ludham Bridge is is not considered low by Broads standards. It's the first bridge many encounter after hiring their cruiser for the week and the haunt of YouTube's "Jonnytreehouse" who attends most Saturdays during the summer and videos the many incidents that occur here.
It's 16:35 as we pass under Ludham bridge and see to the left, the notices announcing Broads Authority 24 Hour Moorings. Perhaps, surprisingly, they are named the "Horning Marshes" moorings! Ludham does not appear in their name.
There are almost as many moorings on the right bank above Ludham Bridge as there are on the left, a total length of around 250m.
This zoomed-in image of the approach to How Hill, almost completely hides the moorings there and makes the mill appear quite close to the House when it is some 500m further away. The moorings, some 50% more than those found at Ludham Bridge are almost completely hidden by the twists in the river.
A couple of weeks earlier and the moorings at How Hill, which stretch as far again as can be seen here, were almost completely full.
It's just after 17:20 as we reach the start of some 300m of riverside property. I think it some of the prettiest on the Broads. Although some of it is let for holiday accommodation, unlike much of that in Wroxham or Horning it doesn't shout holiday makers at you.
"Shoals Piece" is a splendid thatched house and just beyond it is the parish staithe which provides a short length of moorings with just enough room for two boats. It was the site of an emergency stop by us, but more of that later.
After the village staithe comes the timber framed "Shoals Cottage", another beautifully kept house.
Hidden by trees and set back on the river is "Little Fen". The SeaHawk seen by the hedge on the lawns is movable landmark that doesn't seem to move much these days. In the distance is "Ice house", which after some significant refurbishment a few years ago does appear to be a holiday let these days.
We reach Barton Broad at 17:30. Diana had planned that we eat at the White Horse, the pub at Neatishead, so aim for Limekiln Dyke that takes us to the village staithe.
Limekiln dyke is a progressively narrowing channel which near the head of navigation has barely enough room in which to turn. I begin to worry that there may not be space left for us, and while I would have loved to have dropped the mudweight over the bows for the night, I still hadn't spliced it to the line I had brought for the purpose.
We cruised past the staithe at Neatishead and thought we'd seen a space. We were able to turn and take the last place by the water point. An excellent meal was served promptly at the White Horse. I was surprised to find we had an acceptable 4G signal on my phone so used it as a hotspot and watched "Countryfile" on my tablet, before playing the game "Ingenious" that we had bought when we had a share in the narrowboat Adderbury back in 2015.
We took advantage of the water point that we were moored alongside and were one of the last boats to leave the following morning. Before our departure, at around 09:05, I spent time doing an exceptionally poor looking but functional job of splicing the blue line I had brought onto the mudweight.
Unlike Irstead, at Neatishead the houses are set well back from the river and all you see are well kept lawns, boats and boat houses. The dyke is shallow and, at this time of year filled with dead leaves. It turned out I was right to be concerned about the possibility of the engine becoming overheated. At some point as we passed along the dyke I realised that I had not taken any photographs of where we had spent the night.
The plan for the day was to make our way to south Walsham Broad where we could drop the newly spliced mudweight and have lunch. We crossed Barton without incident with just one other boat ahead of us that turned to go north towards Stalham.
It was just after 09:30 when I took a photograph of the wonderful "Ice house" cottage and then noticed we had a problem.
Immediately after taking the photo of the "Ice House" at Irstead I spotted that the engine temperature was rising. Diana confirmed there was steam, not water, coming from the exhaust. With incredible luck there was just one boat at the village staithe, and I was able to head for the remaining space. As we approached the skipper of the neighbouring boat offered to help us moor, but I declined and managed things myself. Nevertheless I was grateful for the offer as it would make asking for assistance if it turned out I did need it rather easier.
I was now used to the routine. The cushions came off the saloon settee, followed by the boards covering the engine. I unscrewed the cap to the water inlet pipe and retrieved the filter mesh. Sure enough it was clogged sufficiently to dramatically cut flow. It turned out help wasn't needed. The filter was cleared, cleaned and replaced. We were on our way again in under five minutes.
However, as happened when we first suffered an overheating engine upstream of Wroxham, while returning to our mooring on our Anniversary Cruise, I got distracted from taking photographs and it was only as we reached Ant Mouth that I began to record our passage again.
It was 10:40 when we reached Ant Mouth. There had been no further incidents and the engine behaved perfectly thereafter. We followed the boat we saw crossing our path and turned downstream on reaching the Bure.
It's only 300yds along the Bure before you make the turn south to South Walsham, down Fleet Dyke. The reach is filled with the St Benet's Abbey moorings and I remembered to take another photo just before we made the turn.
The run down Fleet Dyke was without incident, as was deciding where on the Broad we should drop the mudweight. It was pretty well in the middle about 100yds from any shore. I disengaged drive and, as we slowed, stepped into the front well and dropped the mudweight over the bow allowing it to drag on the bottom to bring the boat to a halt.
After that it was just a matter of seeing which way we would turn in what little wind there was. There were a couple of other boats moored on the broad. One was roughly where the we had photographed the ice cream boat plying its trade the last time we had been on the Broad. That was in 2020, when we were celebrating Our Anniversary.
I launched the "BBC Sounds" app on my phone and we listened to Radio 4 played through the Bluetooth speaker our son had given us last year as a present. We just watched the world go by, discussing the advantages or otherwise of moving to South Walsham once our house was sold, watched the ever changing view from the saloon as the boat swung to and fro in the gentle breeze.
Eventually, after we had had our lunch, it came time to depart. We were intending to travel to Wroxham Broad and then spend our second night there before returning to Anchor Moorings the next day. I turned the key. The engine turned but it didn't fire. We tried time and again.
After about a dozen attempts, with some gaps, during one of which we called Moonfleet Marine to see what ideas they might have to kick the engine into life. Kathy consulted colleagues and called us back. The outcome was that we'd be better off seeing if Marine-Tech could help us. I had found the name and phone number via Google. The yard was within sight, 100yds away. I recall, from studying Blake's catalogues in the 1960s, that it used to be Bondon's. I recall their fleet included boats very similar, if not the same as, Hampton's predecessor to the Safari 25, the mahogany-built "On Safari" class.
A phone call was made. Yes they would help but their rescue boat was currently engaged in bringing a customer's boat from Acle. It could take some time. The only idea I had was to lift the mud weight, then throw it in the general direction of the yard, haul it aboard, and in doing so move the boat a little closer to the shore and Marine-Tech's yard.
I tried it! It might have worked if I had been able to get the mudweight out of the mud quickly enough not to kill any momentum I had achieved while hauling is forward to where the mudweight had landed.
By incredible luck, after my first try, a nearby cruiser, similar to ours in that it had a forward well with someone in it, was also leaving the broad. It was close enough that I was able to hail them and have them hear. I requested a tow to the edge of the Broad. They were happy to try. Within five minutes we were breasted up, with ropes fore and aft, and travelled side by side till I was able to jump ashore and moor our boat.
The Marine-Tech guy works on our engine.
More good fortune! While Marine-Tech may not have had a tow boat available, they did have an engineer ready to work on our boat right away. It didn't take him too long to identify air in the fuel line as the cause of the problem and in less than thirty minutes we were ready to go go except that, by that time, we had decided we might as well get re-fuelled as we had planned yesterday in Wroxham. While we were about it and as we had no idea when our waste tank had last been pumped out, we had that done as well.
The diesel cost us £1.70 a litre, some 10p more than it cost at most roadside filling stations at the time, but that kind of premium is to be expected at a boatyard. Given how much fuel went into the tank to fill it, we had to conclude that the basic problem in getting the engine to restart after lunch was that we had run out of fuel.
By the time we left the yard it was around 16:00. As we carried on up Fleet Dyke I was left pondering whether it would have been wise to have had the facility to fit a fuel sensor added to the tank when we ordered it.
Kathy had explained that the new tank would have the outlets for the heater and engine mounted on the top of the tank rather than near the bottom as with the original. Pipes would reach down to near the bottom, thus allowing space for any sediment or contaminates to settle far enough from the bottom of the pipes that the sludge wouldn't get sucked into the engine or heater.
One thing was clear though. My ability to read the fuel level on the metal dipstick attached to the fuel cap was in severe doubt. Maybe, in the days when boats were allowed to use tax-exempt "Red Diesel", it was easy to see the level of the artificially coloured fuel, but with the clear diesel used these days the dipstick wasn't working for me. A solution needs to be found!
After South Walsham I still didn't take photos of the journey to Wroxham Broad. As much as anything this was down to the failing light, and there being nothing much new to be seen. As far as I could tell we dropped our mudweight next to the buoy the Wherry Solace, had used when we saw on our Shakedown Cruise. Solace was gone, presumably ashore somewhere for winter.
Diana proved that a traditional Sunday Lunch was possible on board, even though it was Monday evening, when we had it.
Tuesday morning offered sunny periods and after leaving Wroxham Broad I managed to take this view as we passed through the suburban stretches of the river before we reached the commercial area and bridge.
The final picture I took on our cruise shows our approach to Wroxham Bridge. The headroom height board shows 6'6" and we clear that without worry. One of these days I'll attempt to see how much higher river levels would have to be to prevent us passing through the bridge.