Categories: Travelogue

by chris


Participatining in this year’s 2024 Southern Broads Freeman meet and cruise was always going to be a disjointed affair for us. Most vessels made for the south on the Thursday before the Bank Holiday weekend however with my daughter being in school and me having to work, the earliest we could leave our Ranworth mooring was late on the Friday night to catch the early morning Saturday low tide or leave on the Saturday morning to catch the mid afternoon low water but arrive even later to the party than hoped for at Beccles.

The weather pretty much ruled out a through the night passage as a combination of darkness and rain would have made navigation highly unpleasant through to Yarmouth. We went for a Saturday Breydon crossing but mis-calculated the travel time from Ranwoth to Yarmouth having referenced a website which provided passage times but didn’t take into account tide! We arrived at Breydon an hour early which required a slow and arduous slog to St Olaves. Time was getting on but equally we needed to make dinner so pulled up at St Olaves free moorings with the miniature wind pump and set to cooking.

Arriving an hour early at Breydon Water cost us £16 in additional fuel, even without increasing the revs. It’s well worth getting the timings right !

The idea was to then push on to Beccles for the late evening but this was simply not going to work out with an anticipated arrival of around midnight and the potential overnight mooring charge for no benefit. Instead we left St Olaves around mid morning and arrived to the Beccles party mid afternoon.

The weather had been poor with much rain and wind, so we hadn’t missed much other than good conversation but it did clear up for a lovely Sunday evening.

It’s always nice to meet our ‘annual friends’ although on this occasion I hardly managed to share a sentance with some.

On Bank Holiday Monday, the majority of the fleet had booked to moor at Oulton Broad to watch the powerboat racing however we felt that a run in to Norwich via an overnight stop at Bramerton Common would offer more interest and did give me an opportunity to visit the Broads Authority head office to conduct some admin with a new Wanderer dinghy which has been added to the boat family.

We had a damp but enjoyable mooch around Norwich with my daughter’s essential stop for ‘Bubble Tea’ and my essential stop for street food in the market.

Having re-stocked on fuel and provisions, we made for the Surlingham Ferry Pub where the Freeman flotilla had arranged to meet. I think they were a tad over-stretched but did a great job of re-arranging the pub to accomodate everyone. Mine was fish & chips !

We had hoped to stop off on the next leg of our journey at Brooms in Brundall to undertake some laundry however a quick phone call revealled apologetically that the dryer had broken down. I think the Broads are becoming famous for broken down dryers (with the one in Beccles still being broken from last year). I have to say that Brooms were most pleasant and every interaction I’ve had with them over the years has been excellent.

This minor setback did however allow us to stay with the fleet which had initially intended to moor at Cantley however many owners had concerns that the water levels meant their fenders would rise over the quay headings. I was slightly relieved as the Reed Cutters pub looked in a terrible state of repair from the outside and had no appeal for me whatsoever in that state. Fortunately the consensus chose to try for a mooring and dinner at the Bell Pub in St Olaves. It was tight, but all of us got in to the mooring. We had to tie ropes in a manner as to hold us off a low section of quay which would have presented us with the same problem others would have had at Cantley.

Most of the other boat crews spent the evening in the Bell however our budget had largely been blown so we self-catered.

The following morning the entire fleet departed for the Breydon Water crossing under cloudy skies and proceeded up the Bure in partial convoy. A couple of the vessels had enough fun for the week and wanted to get home. We made for our home berth in Ranworth to fill up with water and then continued to Wroxham to enjoy a day ahead of watching the 3 Rivers Race.

The rain did it’s worst and we had to drop the canopy to get under Wroxham Bridge as the water levels were very high. I’m not comfortable mooring at Wroxham/Hoveton overnight as I’ve had several dubious experiences with people under chemical influence loitering around the boat in the early hours or possibly evaluating what might be good to steal if the boat were to be left. To this end we moored further upstream for the night and returned the following morning to undertake our laundry which is just the other side of Wroxham Old Bridge. This is a great laundrette and pride is taken in keeping the place clean and the machines in excellent condition.

Roys provided the provisions we needed for the remaining weekend of our trip and we did have an unplanned but very nicely presented lunch at ‘The Old Mill’. The food was very good and was more quality than quantity. This was fine by me as I’m not a big fan of ‘big portions equal great reviews’.

Given it was the day before the 3 Rivers Race and we wanted to find a good mooring to watch proceedings, we left with the hope of a mooring on the entrance to Cockshoot Dyke. We were very lucky and claimed a spot giving us the time to watch the entire race entry sail past before having to move on.

There is a small story to tell about the 3 Rivers Race, but that’s for another blog post.