Page published 30 January 2024

Go to Top Tuesday 16 January - Heaters Fitted

Singing the Blues seen on her new mooring.

It was last November when we Moved Mooring. Recently, friends had sent Diana a short clip taken on their phone in portrait orientation. I've cropped it into landscape mode. It shows our boat as we had left it last November.

The move had been made as we needed to be prepared for freezing conditions in the coming winter. There's varying advice to be found about how to winterise a boat. As we wanted to keep our boat available to use throughout the year, our plan was to keep the boat warm with a couple of low wattage tubular heaters aboard, the kind often sold to keep greenhouses frost free. That's why we had wanted to move to a mooring where there was shore power available. We certainly wanted to avoid taking some of the more extreme measures, such as bringing the boat ashore and draining its water tank and all the associated pipework.

However, we still hadn't actually bought the heaters. Then, late last week, the forecast warned of severe weather over much of the country from which Norfolk was not expected to escape, so a pair of two feet long heaters, each rated at 80 watt, were ordered.

As part of the plan for getting them on board we opted to lunch at the nearby Rising Sun. After our meal I drove to our mooring, arriving at Singing the Blues ahead of Diana, who had chosen to walk the half mile to the boat. On arrival I discovered that our shore power lead would not reach from the supply post to the socket mounted in our aft well. By the time Diana arrived I had turned the boat to face downstream. It was a simple matter. I just cast of the bows and let the current take her round. As she came round I hauled on the aft line to bring her where the bows had been and tied her up again.

Once aboard we both looked around the boat. There were new stains on the worktop above the fridge that suggested we had had more water leaks. I also discovered that I had not turned off and removed the keys that isolate the batteries when we left the boat in November. As soon as we connected connected the shore power the Sterling charger kicked into action. It's one thing I had not investigated and had been wondering what was need to be done for it to operate.

It was a slight relief that the charger started by itself as I have no idea how much drain had been put on the batteries for the last two months. Everything may have been switched off, but I'm not sure that's the complete story. For example, we know the bilge pump by-passes the isolator. Given that we've had some of the wettest months on record who knows whether or how many times it had been running and for how long!

Cupboard under the sink

One heater under the galley sink.

Cupboard under the basin

The other under the shower basin.

The heaters were placed so they were as close to the water pipes as possible. It was only after I got home that I found the heater instructions opened out to reveal further instructions that said that they must be fitted to run horizontally. It was also when we discovered that we were also meant to supply our own meter for the electricity used.

Those two bits of news prompted us to decide to return to the boat at the weekend. As things weren't going to warm up appreciably till after the weekend it was also the excuse we needed both to stop using shore power and check how well the Webasto heater would keep us warm when on board.

Go to Top Friday 19 January - A Twilight Start


It was just after 16:30 and the sun had already set when we arrived at Anchor Moorings. Singing the Blues is the third boat from the camera.


With the first collection of bags loaded through the aft door, I photograph Singing the Blues now with the stern pointing upstream. You can just make out the yellow shore power cable running across the bank from her stern.

We were only planning to spend one night aboard. Diana had booked a table at The Recruiting Sergeant at Horstead for 18:00, so we weren't planning to stay on our mooring, but to move upstream to moor overnight just below Coltishall Lock. Having got our various belongings and provisions packed away on board we attempted to start the engine.

Being a forty five year old diesel it was one of those where you can turn the starter key in either direction. Given the conditions we opted for the pre-heat starter. As trained by the folk at Moonfleet Marine I lifted the engine cover and waited for the smoke to emerge from the small tank on the engine, before turning the switch to its furthest position to crank the motor. I think it was the fourth or fifth attempt, with a few pauses between attempts before the engine finally started. Then we turned the knob that set the Webasto heater running. It was about 17:00 and quite dark when we cast off to make our way upstream.

The journey was, shall we say, "interesting". We were lucky that there was reasonable moonlight available. We have two hand held headlamps on board that came with the boat. They are stowed in a cubby hole beside the table in the saloon and a pair of external sockets either side of the top of the bow door. We haven't tested either the sockets or the lamps. My experience with night sailing is that it's best not to use lights if you want your night vision to develop its best capability. However, I did begin to wonder if that still applied when you are operating inside a cabin with glass to look through and reflections you see.

Search light socket

One of the external sockets seen before...

Search light socket

...the installation of the new dipstick brackets.

Getting used to the darkness was one thing. What neither of us had reckoned on was an iced up gas locker lid. That's on the small aft deck and is where all our mooring pins and rhond anchors are stored. I was first ashore with a line, leaving Diana to retrieve a couple of anchors from the locker. The trouble was she found that the small ring that acts as a handle and allows you to lift the lid was buried in ice in the depression in which the ring sits when not in use. There was also re-frozen snow around the edges of the lid so it was also impossible to grab it by its edges to attempt to lift it.

We swapped places and I had a go, eventually finding a spatula in the galley that was thin enough to scrape out the snow from the gap and strong enough to prize open the lid. That allowed us to secure the boat. By now it was 17:50 and we wrapped up warm for the few minutes walk to the pub.

We had an enjoyable meal with speedy service. We had been warned when we booked it that they'd want the table free for 20:00. They needn't have worried we were back at the boat by then where we found we had a good 4G signal and used BBC Sounds to listen to the radio before listening to music stored on my phone.

We'd also taken three games with us but didn't get round to playing with them. The trouble was we weren't really comfortable. The Webasto heater was struggling to get us acceptably warm. After ninety minutes or so we fired up the oven in the galley and that, together with the Webasto and each of us wearing an extra jumper, did enough to keep us warm, until we went to bed a little after 22:00.

Go to Top Saturday 20 January - Waking at Horstead

Coltishall Lock

There had been no sign of a thaw overnight. I had waited until the dog walkers were out of the way before taking my first photo of the day.

I got up at eight and soon after took my first photo of the day. Tucked under our quilt we had an excellent warm sleep. More honestly, only I did! Diana had strained her back a few days earlier and she had a night interrupted with bouts of pain. We set the heater going. At least we turned the knob, but after appearing to fire up the LED in the control knob started flashing in a particular pattern and then it shut down. We tried again, for the same thing to happen. The 4G signal allowed me to confirm that low voltage was the problem.

We started the engine running. It fired up instantly with none of the difficulties experienced the previous evening. Immediately our meter rose from something over eight volts to over twelve, then over the course of the morning, it climbed slowly to above thirteen.

We had always been concerned about our rather elderly fridge, it being the type than runs silently, but permanently, consuming battery power all the time it is turned on. That worry was supposed to have been relieved by installing two new batteries to replace the one domestic battery on board when we bought the boat.

However, we hadn't been running the fridge overnight, but Diana had had her phone on charge and while we had breakfast we did a few tests and found that, while turning on the fridge made almost no difference to the voltage, putting a phone on charge showed a reduction that, overnight, could easily have dropped the battery to as low as 8 volts. It leaves me concerned that having failed to turn off the isolators back in November may have done some damage. It will be interesting to see if there's any indications of problems next time we are aboard.

The gas locker

The gas locker as I left it after managing to prize it open last night. I ran one of the mooring lines under the edge so I wouldn't have difficulties when it came to stowing the rhond anchors again.

Gas Locker Lifting Ring

The locker handle is clearly not ideal in freezing conditions. The depression in which the ring sits seems designed to hold water that will, inevitably, freeze when cold enough and prevent the ring from being raised.

We ran the engine and Webasto for a while, initially keeping the engine cover off, which was noisy but did add to the heat in the cabin. When it came to breakfast we stopped the engine, so we could get the cushions in place and have somewhere to sit.

Go to Top Passing Coltishall

View Downstream from our overnight mooring

It was after we'd had breakfast, while taking pictures of the aft deck, that I took this view downstream.

After we had had our breakfast we were considering the rest of the day. It's around five miles from Horstead to Wroxham so, even allowing for the sections with a 3mph speed limit it wouldn't take more than an hour and a half to get there from our overnight mooring. The debate was whether to moor on the river there and use the opportunity to visit Norfolk Marine. I had in mind buying some mooring rings. It would mean that we didn't have to share the mooring post with the neighbouring boat. The alternative idea was to drop our mudweight in the bay in Bridge Broad as we had done during our Mid October Cruise. In the end we decided to make up our mind once we got there and it was around 10:00 before we cast off.

Mooring at Horstead Mill Park

I took a last photo of our mooring as I went ashore to cast off.

One of my mistakes in packing for the trip was to leave my tablet behind. I normally use that to run software that records the track of our cruises. The track includes accurate timings of exactly where we are at every point on the cruise. When writing up these logs of our cruises I then use the EXIF data in the photographs to locate the images precisely. Although I had my main camera with me on the way to Wroxham, I was switching between my phone's camera and the tracking software. At some point after passing Coltishall Common I must have tapped on the wrong option and lost the detailed tracking. When I saved the file it was to discover a straight line from there to Wroxham so I deleted the file as having no value.

Anglers in a small boat ahead

Half a mile downstream we encountered the first of several small boats with anglers aboard.

The photo of the first angler's we encountered also shows the rhond anchors we had used overnight. Those used to 20 ton steel narrowboats may be surprised by how little is needed to hold the typical GRP craft found on the Broads. I did move the anchors on to semi-circular bench below later in the cruise but did not return them to the gas locker until we reached Wroxham.

The Rising Sun

We were approaching the Rising Sun by 10:11. The weather was dry all day. We happened to pass the pub in one of the during one of a number of sunny intervals.

Coltishall Common

A minute or later we were passing the Broads Authority moorings at Coltishall Common, which geese and gulls had decided to occupy.

Moored boats at Anchor Moorings

A few minutes later, at 10:16, we'd reached Anchor Moorings and the sun had gone. Our place is out of sight just around the bend ahead in this picture.

Houses on Anchor Street

At 10:19 the sun was shining again as we reached the entrance to the dyke where are old mooring had been.

Dyke into Anchor Moorings

It seems we would have had to break through the ice had we still been in our old mooring in the dyke.

Go to Top Onwards to Wroxham

It was in the next section of this cruise where I took far fewer photos as I was already suspicious that something had gone amiss with the tracking software. Of the three I did take the first appears to be of the mouth of what my Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 map says is "Doctor's Cut". One of my hopes for winter cruises on this stretch of river is that, with the trees bare of leaves, we'd be able to see more of the tributaries and dykes that are supposed to be in the area but are invisible in summer. The second image is easy to locate. It's on the stretch of river that follows a direct line between St Peter's Church, Belaugh, and St Mary the Virgin, Wroxham. The last is of a fallen tree which I am pretty sure I can locate to a couple of bends upriver of the upstream entrance of Bridge Broad.

An unidentified dyke

This is one of a number of tributaries of the Bure that Ordnance Survey say are in the area on the west bank of the river. We passed it at 10:44.

St Peter's Church Belaugh

This is much easier to identify! Ahead, on the skyline, is St Peter's Church, Belaugh and was taken at 11:08.

Fallen Tree. Navigation Hazard

It's 11:14. As what I thought was a newly fallen tree came into view I grabbed my phone. I remember having trouble switching to camera mode, by which time it no longer appeared to block half the river. By the time I took the image, I recognised it as one that had been marked long ago with a yellow stick. It is still growing and in summer is in leaf which disguises where the river bank is, hence my failure to recognise it.

Go to Top At Bridge Broad

As we approached Wroxham we took the decision to delay the purchase of mooring rings and made our way into Bridge Broad. Ahead we saw a dinghy with anglers aboard, but beyond that we could see that the bay that was our planned destination was icebound, so spin round and drop our mudweight in the shallow bay between the two entrances to the Broad.

Map showing ice bound area

Shaded in yellow are the areas of the broad that we found ice bound. The blue track shows where we left the Broad.

We'd been running the Webasto throughout the journey. Together with the heat of the engine and the sunny periods we were no longer complaining about the cabin temperature. The stove is lit and we boil the kettle to make a mug of tea. While it brewed I confirmed the failure of the tracking software on the phone and decided that, on the return journey, the phone would become dedicated to tracking our route and any further photos would be taken with my main camera. (You may notice those that follow are in 3:2 ratio not the 16:9 of those taken with my phone.)

Iced on Bridge Broad

In swinging about in the breeze, we'd already broken up some of the ice behind us.

The Locker lifting ring

It was definitely warmer outside. By this time, 11:53, I found the ring on the gas locker was easy to lift. In doing so I cleared little water that remained.

Back in the cabin and looking at the images I had just taken I discovered I must have adjusted the time wrong when attempting to return the camera to GMT after Summer Time ended. Strangely, I needed to advance the time an hour to be correct. We spent about an hour on the Broad before deciding that we would have move up river and have lunch at Castle Staithe. That way there should be plenty of daylight left while we emptied the boat and packed the car. The anglers had already left when we retrieved the mudweight and began the thirty minute trip up river.

Ice on Bridge Broad

There was the remains what would have been much more ice along the edge of the Broad forward of us.

Go to Top The Start of the Return

Ice on Bridge Broad

As we left Bridge Broad to enter the Bure we could see that the ice was quite extensive where we had planned to go.

As we emerged from Bridge Broad and turned upstream only two boats were to be seen on the moorings opposite. One a Broads Authority work boat and another a yacht we'd seen before, that sported a pair of outboards and and a pair of other small craft. Both we'd seen before in near identical positions. What was new were the number of anglers along the moorings. Indeed, with the exception of a couple of day boats out from Wroxham Launch Hire, one of which held anglers, the only boats on the move that we saw during whole trip were dinghies and canoes each of which held one or two anglers.

Almost empty Hoveton Vialduct moorings

Just two boats were to be seen, in a brief sunny interval, on the Broads Authority's Hoveton Viaduct Moorings. For the first time, in our experience, they were outnumbered several-fold by anglers.

One thing I had hoped to capture on the trip were some pictures of the ice. My problems with the tracking software had stopped me taking any on the way down river, but I was better prepared on the return. What had intrigued me was that the sheets of ice on the banks of the river indicated that river levels had dropped by two or three inches since the ice formed. I had expected ice melt to have raised river levels a little.

Ice on river bank

While some ice floats on the water, the ice sheets on the bank are at least a couple of inches higher.

Ice on river bank

In some cases the ice sheets on the bank seemed higher than others.

Uprooted birch trees

One thing harder to judge was whether those uprooted trees seen had been freshly toppled.

Angler's dinghy

This was just one of perhaps as many as ten small boats we encountered with anglers aboard.

Reed lined bank

One feature of some stretches of the river that I had hardly noticed over the summer were reed lined banks. In summer they are just another shade of green, but in winter their light colour stands out starkly.

Go to Top Castle Staithe

Moored at Castle Staithe

It took just under 30 minutes to travel to Castle Staithe. This image makes me increasingly aware of the desirability of being able to adjust the height of the fenders with ease.

Back in the summer I had decided that most of the places at which we moor, there is quay heading and it would be better if I slung most of the fenders horizontally. I felt it looked neater and provided more reliable protection to the hull. I then realised that rather than above strake I should sling them below as, most of the time, the moorings we used were sufficiently high to need the protection they offer quite low.

Although I don't mention it in My Log I made those adjustments on the starboard side, on the morning of 18 October, while on the Hoveton Viaduct Moorings. However, I didn't have enough line to complete the job on the port side. At the time I felt that didn't matter to much as, at Anchor Moorings, we moored with starboard to the bank. However that has changed as, at least when frost is expected, we will have to moor facing downstream in order to connect to shore power.

On top of that, I'm still wondering about the need for all the fenders that came with the boat. Photographs taken when she was with previous owners, suggest that at one point her home mooring may have been stern on, as a pair of the balloon fenders were hung on the transom. Also, while I recognise the need for a bow fender on canal boats, I'm less clear about the need for one on the Broads unless, for some reason, it's needed for an owner's home mooring. In our case, though, it does disguise the bow plate, presumably fitted in the days when Singing the Blues was in a hire fleet, when holidaymakers might have made a habit of ramming quay heading.

Castle Staithe Notice

Not everyone will have noticed that the top panel on all BA mooring signs include a post code, name and national grid reference to help direct emergency services or boatyard staff to anyone in trouble.

Park benches at Castle Staithe

At this time of year, apart from dog walkers passing through to the neighbouring Caen Meadow, it seems this small park is largely unused.


At 13:50, as we were about to set off after our simple sandwich lunch, an hour after arriving, it came to me that I hadn't taken photos of much of the wildlife on this trip. We had seen a couple of pairs of swans, one with a couple of cygnets, on the way downstream and quite a number of cormorants.

Track of boat

As we were about to depart Castle Staithe I recall looking at my phone and discovering a dialogue with an option to append the next track to the existing one, hence the end and start flags on our track. The 360° loop we made just after setting off was because, initially, I had overshot the place to get the best angle for the next photograph.

Ice over the shallows

The red buoys just upstream of Castle Staither warn you off what may look to some like an inviting area to moor. Nearby signs warn of shallow water. This time instead of crowds of geese the area is almost free of birds but does still have extensive ice.

Go to Top Works on the River

Between Castle Staithe and Belaugh, and beyond, there are signs of the extensive work that the Broads Authority is undertaking on what it refers to as the "Upper Bure". There's a Planning Committee Report available on the BA site that is worth reading if you want to know more about the story behind the photographs I took.

Cut back tree growth

All last summer we were very aware how much the trees on most of the river banks upstream of Wroxham were completely hidden by low branches hanging from riverside trees.

A pair of swans

A pair of swans approach us as we make our way towards Belaugh.

Cut back tree growth

In some places along the bank you notice neatly laid trimmings from the tips of branches, rather than the sawn ends of trunks and larger branches.

A large liveaboard cruiser

We gave a cheery wave to the resident who was fishing off the stern of his boat when we came downstream, but there was no one to be seen as we passed by on our return.

The cruiser Liberator

One of the images of J613 to be found on Craig Slawson's database in the days after she was lengthened.

I am intrigued by this boat whose registration number is J613. It's general appearance is exactly what you would expect of a wide beam canal boat. We haven't seen it before, but it's hard to believe it arrived from below Wroxham Bridge recently, given the high water levels we've had since October. The Boats of the Norfolk Broads database suggests that, along with a number of other "Barnes Foster 30"s, she was lengthened to 45ft in the early 1980s. Those rebuilt appear to have had a number of different superstructures fitted, with that fitted to J613 having a particularly high roof line.

She's been rebuilt again since then, losing the high roof line and lots of its glass. Taken together with the fact she now sports the of a multi-fuel stove amidships, you can also bet she is now fitted out as a well insulated year-round live-aboard craft.

Of course, for me, part of the intrigue about this boat is that, given our experience in the current freezing conditions, I have begun to wonder what it would take to give Singing the Blues true all‐weather capability.

Work Boats

Back in October I took photographs of the work boats near Little Switzerland on both the Outward and Return legs. Now the boats display a sign saying it is dredging work they are undertaking.

work Boats

Now we know that the pipe we had seen in October is not to empty material into the river but to take dredged material arriving on work boats and pump it to a temporary 20,000 square metre drying area being constructed on farmer's land well away from the river.

Go to Top Belaugh

Belaugh Boatyard

The boatyard seems to look busier than ever, with more old‐style wooden boats than we've seen previously.

Belaugh Boatyard

Perhaps a better view of the wooden craft at the yard.


There's ice to be seen in the private dyke reached shortly after rounding the 90° bend by Belaugh Staithe. There's a nearby barn conversion on the market that comes with a mooring in the dyke, hence the interest in it.

Work Boats

Immediately after leaving the 3mph speed limit through Belaugh is another work boat. This one will also be supplying spoil to go to the site by the work boats seen earlier.

Go to Top The Final Leg

Ice on the river bank

I was glad that the ice that we'd seen on setting out yesterday was still there on our return when I was better prepared to photograph it.

Chinese Water Deer

Is this a Chinese Water Deer?

Once beyond the village of Belaugh and its 3mph speed limit, you pass what I take to be a water extraction point on the river. It's at the beginning of a set of bends that, on a map, appear to mark out three sides of a rectangle. Just past that structure is a shallow bay. It still had the covering of ice that I had seen on our departure yesterday.

Although better prepared I still only managed one short of the ice just after we had passed it, so the camera was pointing just about due north. It wasn't until I set to work deciding which photos from this trip to include when I realise I'd taken a picture of more than ice!

With contrast increased a little and some sharpening added to the image it comes much easier to see what is there. It seems to be about the size on a Muntjac and not appreciably larger. From the set of the ears I believe what we see is a Chinese Water Deer. I'd love a

River Bank Ice

Another bay that still held ice. You might also notice, on the table, a couple of games that we'd taken with us, and my phone, now reliably tracking our route.

Banks of reed

While the rustle of reed swaying in the breeze can be a wonderfully calming noise to hear, it's disadvantage for those in a low boat like ours is that you can't see much of what is beyond.

Go to Top On Our Mooring


Once back on our mooring I remembered to stop the tracking software. It's a shame it doesn't record the full excursion. It misses out the upstream part that we did on Friday night and the downstream run on Saturday morning to Bridge Broad, where the start is shown on this map.

On our mooring

We approached our mooring upstream. My plan was to repeat the manoeuvre I made on Tuesday — pushing the bows out and letting the current take the boat round. However, I hadn't allowed for the upstream wind this time and the turn was more of a struggle, requiring Diana to throw a line ashore from the stern.

If the aim of the trip was to test the performance of the heater, then it was a success. It certainly tested it, but in the current conditions the heater lost. Unfortunately, we didn't have a thermometer with us so haven't any figures that provide evidence of how much it was able to raise the cabin temperature. But we recognise that it was fighting against the odds.

I guess we have to recognise that Singing the Blues was built as a summer holiday hire boat almost fifty years ago. The cabin windows are single glazed. There is no insulation fitted to either the hull, gunwales or cabin sides and it is highly unlikely that we would find any in the roof. In short, it is as well insulated as a thin cotton tent. On top of that safety regulations, designed to ensure the risk of gas explosions or carbon monoxide poisoning are minimised, require non-closing ventilators to be installed in each cabin. The sliding roof over the saloon also has signs to port and starboard describing any gaps around the closed sunroof as a ventilation space that should not be blocked so, overall the boat holds heat as well as a kitchen colander holds water.

Coming Soon – The report of the following week's shopping trip to Wroxham when the temperatures were almost 10° warmer.

Go to Top