……..I think not (in every case)
I was recently on Coltishall Common imagining our event in my minds eye and what will go where and all that sort of thing. I couldn’t fail to notice all the boats moored in their myrriad of colours, shapes and sizes. Very nearly all were hire boats with people coming in to the area for their holidays as cruising the Broads has lost none of its attractions even in the recession and this so far poor summer. This has to be good for the Norfolk economy and we should embrace all these people with a warm welcome. I know that at certain choke points and on key dates our waterways are congested and it temporarily takes some of the pleasure away from our own escape from reality but if we’re honest this is a small price to pay as these spots are soon passed and then tranquility is restored. Interestingly the same choke points existed in the days of the working boats only then they took the opportunity to greet friends and fellow skippers with a cheery wave and the odd shouted bit of banter laced in equal parts with humour, news and gossip as they passed one another.
The modern hire cruiser is something that the working wherrymen of old would probably have been very dismissive of in public. They loved their wooden craft and would refer to these modern craft as Tupperware boats or plastic pigs but I suspect that if they had the chance they would welcome the luxury, conveniences and practicality of these modern floating homes from home. I confess I have have never cruised the Broads in one of these large cruisers but I am a boat handler and have navigated other craft here and have taken equivalent boats on other waterways so I do feel able to pass comment. Recently I did a series of blogs in which I went on a mythical cruise from Stalham to Aylsham and chose a boat from Richardsons yard to do the journey in. As part of the research for that short series I had to establish what was available and the pros and cons of these boats. Other equally good boatyards are available but I chose to use Richardsons as one of the older established family run businesses on the Broads. I was impressed by the quality of boats available and the level to which they were equipped right down in some more modern examples to the fitting of bow thrusters – technology from commercial shipping finding its way in to the pleasure market and something that the wherrymen would have found extremely useful. Tupperware is a well designed and fit for purpose kitchen accessory; to call these Tupperware boats is not an insult it’s a compliment as they too are fit for the purpose of conveying holidaymakers reliably around the beautiful broads in comfort and safety.
I’m not going to comment on the prices of hiring a Richardsons boat, or any other for that matter, as I haven’t done any kind of scientific analysis or comparison. I will say however that it can be cheaper than you might think particularly if you can avoid peak season. As an aside many boat holidays in the UK are dependant on water conditions and often (although not this Summer) there are water shortages which closes whole stretches of otherwise navigable river and canal. You don’t get that on the Broads and the boats here are very stable and worthy of the challenges placed on them by a tidal environment and wide open stretches of water. If I have any criticism it is that they are perhaps a little light in a high wind but you know it is possible to moor up and explore away from the rivers.
The Broads do continue to have a lot of traditionally built wooden boats particularly the yachts and there are heritage fleets available to hire from. This is almost unique to the Broads and another aspect to the holiday experience. There is still boat building and maintainance taking place all around the region and some of the old skills remain although some are getting a little bit thin on the ground. I hope that the skills base remains and for this reason whilst I am far from dismissive of the modern cruiser I do like to see a balanced fleet. The boats that I have studied from Richardsons are all well built albeit in modern materials and the skill level in finishing these boats is high. I approve of that but am also glad to see the heritage boats being kept to keep the skill base here. Having said all that if you’re a holiday maker spending your hard earned money on your annual holidays then you want the best available and that is what you get from the likes of Richardsons and other similar yards.
Talking about wooden boats in my next blog I will be talking about a really interesting boat which is a bit of an enigma and she is also coming to see us in August.
I started at Coltishall and now I shall return there. On August 26th we will be holding our event and we would dearly love to see you and your boat there whether it be plastic, wooden, metal or whatever. The Albion and the Heather (see above)will be there and who knows perhaps other traditional built boats which we will welcome but lets see the full spread of what exists. At the end of the day they are all full of character although I readily admit some do have more than others. The event starts at 12 and continues till 5pm although both the Albion and the Heather will be arriving the day before. You don’t have to arrive by boat. Come by car or train to Hoveton and Wroxham Stations (Greater Anglia and Bure Valley) and then travel by 1959 coach in luxury to the event (a small charge will be made for this). Car parking courtesy of Roy’s of Wroxham is available in the car park opposite the Bure Valley Railway Station.
If you are the owner or the hirer of a boat you think may be of interest and you can get to Coltishall on or by August 26th please let us know.
Finally and with some sadness I have to report an unpleasant Broads experience that happened to me on Saturday just gone. I was working in Norwich on that day and as is my custom I had driven to Hoveton and Wroxham Station and gone in on the train. On my return as I crossed the river bridge by the Hotel Nelson there was what I can only call a dysfunctional family consisting of an adult male and female and a collected assortment of children ranging in age between probably 5 and about 12. This shower was watching the boats (Kayaks actually) passing underneath and the children egged on by the adults were having great sport spitting to see if they could hit the boats and their occupants below. Thankfully I think they missed but I was livid and just had to say something. For my trouble I got a mouthful of abuse mostly from the youngest child it has to be said. This kind of anti-social behaviour is, I am glad to report, rare in Norfolk and on the Broads in particular. However when it is encountered it must be immediately dealt with. On the upside it was clear to me that this rather threatening family group were clearly unused to people standing up to them – the look on their faces when I protested was a picture.