Virginia and I together with her parents hired a boat from Richardsons in Acle to do a one week cruise on the Norfolk Broads in late May. The helpful people at the now closed Horizon boatyard gave us a crash course in handling the boat then sent us on our way. The professionals made it all look easy from steering the boat to mooring it - but such skills need longer than a week to acquire.
Our boat Golden Horizon 2 wasn't as glamorous or as big as some of the boats we met but served us. It was quite noisy inside as when the water pump ran, or when water was slapping not lapping against the keel as at our first stop St Benet's Abbey, or when torrential rain beat down as it did during our holiday. The good weather only came when we had finished our cruise! The either frigid or scalding showers on the boat made noises like a dentist's drills. It was eerie and wrong when the boat wasn't noisy.
We only used the mudweight once on the cruise when we stern moored - the weight was too heavy for me to lift alone. The stern mooring ropes were meant to be left lying along the sides of the boat, once we didn't do this and panic ensued when we moored. Each day started with checking the engine - the crew took out the dipstick to check the oil level then couldn't find where to put it back. Each day we also topped up with drinking water, the first time took ages as we didn't notice it coming out the overflow! The inverter used to power the TV could be used to recharge phones and iPads, but nothing more powerful. The boat had a new gas oven but it was little more than a camp stove.
The Norfolk Broads are a very beautiful and serene landscape, especially when you cruise along reed lined avenues of water at walking pace. It's flat yes but you get huge expanses of sky. We saw grebes and magical blue kingfishers and nesting swans and herons - ducks clambered all over the boat as it suited them. Drainage pumps of different eras were scattered around like the remains of dinosaurs.
We wandered to a few places as tourists. There wasn't a lot to see at St Benet's Abbey itself. Toad Hole Cottage was worth a look as a look into the past. We got a mug from Sutton Pottery and chatted to the genial potter there. We almost saw a candle making place at Stokesby but it had moved! The Tea Rooms did a great cheese and onion toastie though.
The holiday was rather stressful as a whole. There was stress about finding moorings. There was stress about maintaining the boat like keeping the drinking water topped up. There was big stress manoeuvring the boat. Forward is fun enough with the delay before turning the wheel does anything combined with the wind and tide affecting where you go. I found reversing nigh impossible with not being able to see where the boat was going combined with the crew panicking about hitting things like other boats. There were those skilled at handling such boats, who knew how to use the fact a boat is very different to a car. You can pivot a boat on a spot which you can't with a car.
Most of the people we met were very helpful, aiding us by taking our mooring lines and tying up for us making it look like second nature. A few of the people we encountered in boats were not so welcome. The lot who didn't appreciate to moor a boat you need a space at least as large as the boat you're trying to moor. The couple on a sailing yacht who crashed into boats as they tacked from side to side without caring or apologising.
At the moment I don't feel like having another Broads cruise holiday.