We’ve had a fairly full-on transition from winter to spring this year having re-built the engine and stripped the headlining of grotty old paint (probably something nasty from a DIY store that looked like a good idea to a previous owner). I re-made the hand-rails, re-varnished the curtain pelmets with 7 coats of Epifanes and re-carpeted the floor. All of this brought us very close to the deadline for the first major outing of the year to the annual Freeman southern Broads meeting at Beccles. It was a close call, but we were ready in time but had to join the fleet a day late as a third of the crew had to finish school.
With a slack water Yarmouth at 10:30, it made sense to get to the boat at Ranworth the night before and make an early start. We almost left on time but had bright, if a little breezy run down to the confluence of the Bure and the Yare. It’s quite interesting to see boats mis-judging slack water and flooring it to Breydon Water, only to find themselves punching the tide.
We were easily able to pass under both Yarmouth bridges with mast and screen up and then proceeded to cross Breydon Water. Around half way across I remembered it might be a good idea to let the recently re-built engine stretch it’s legs and as there was no speed limit, opened her up to near full throttle until reaching the speed limit at Burgh Castle. I was marginally concerned about what I thought were excessive exhaust fumes however on closer observation, it turned out to be steam which was increased by having a calorifier plumbed in allowing the cooling water temperature to rise post engine, but before the exhaust injection point. We managed just a shade under 8mph at around 2500rpm. (I’ll never get used to measuring speed on a boat in miles per hour, it just seems wrong).
The sun came out to play and the passage south to Beccles was beautiful and surprisingly devoid of other vessels. The south is always quieter, but we only encountered perhaps eight boats making passage between St Olaves and Beccles, most of which were sailing boats. We did encounter a few sailing dinghies racing at Beccles, but we won’t count those.
Arriving at Beccles we were greeted by a diverse selection of Freemans and found ourselves to be the only 22 MK II at the gathering. It was lovely to be welcomed by some familiar faces from last year’s Salhouse meet as we settled in to a weekend of sunshine at the Beccles Yacht Station.
Beccles Yacht Station is a premium mooring offering a basin with water, electric hook-up, waste disposal and a toilet and shower block. Our charge for two nights came to something like £24 plus a couple of pounds for electricity which uses a card system exclusive to them (normal BA cards don’t work). The men’s toilets did remind me of the smell of Colchester Zoo and didn’t come across as very clean. I decided on a flannel wash on board rather than use the showers. The staff were pleasant. One thing to be aware of when mooring stern-to on a small boat is the overhang of the quay. When the tide is out, you boat can easily drift under the overhang and then take a beating when the tide rises. One of the other vessels lost their flagstaff that way. Our solution was to hurl the mudweight as far as possible from the bows to help keep the boat off. Big fenders won’t help much either as they will fall between the piling corrugations.
Beccles is a lovely little town. We grabbed an essential Full English breakfast on the Sunday at the Kings Head Hotel (Wetherspoons) which serve until midday which was reasonable value for money. I was quite surprised to see a couple of ‘old boys’ on their third pints at 10am however ! It was also quite amusing to eavesdrop on a few live-aboards discussing their various bodges and dodgy mooring locations interspersed with conspiracy theories undoubtedly extracted from social media.
On the walk back to the Yacht Station we discovered this great little ‘pop art’ ice cream shop at the corner of the old market near the bus stops.
I wandered up to Morrisons to the east of the yacht station, perhaps 15 minutes walk, with a jerry can to top up the fuel tanks.
On the subject of fuel, I was truly surprised how much our fuel economy had improved from before the engine re-build. Our last Ranworth to Beccles trip used around 35 litres and this time we used a shade under 20 ! If you ever needed an excuse to sort out your engine, you have one now. Technical stuff to follow: I think the flange between our carburettor and inlet manifold was badly warped by previous over-tightening against a relatively soft spacer. This resulted in a major air leak with the engine almost sounding like it had a turbo last season. To compensate for the leak, much more fuel had to be drawn in and thus the fuel efficiency was terrible. We’re now using a shade over 2l per hour at around 1200rpm cruising speed
After the weekend of the meet, we didn’t realise that most of the fleet were sticking together and had planned to watch the power boat racing on Outlton Broad. Instead, we pursued our plan of pushing on for Norwich. I think this was a good move as the weather started to become rather grey and dreary for most of the week.