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Best Boat To Buy On The Norfolk Broads

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Miles
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Best Boat To Buy On The Norfolk Broads

Post by Miles »

Hampton safari.jpeg
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Best Boat To Buy On The Norfolk Broads.

So you found yourself on the Norfolk Broads and now you are at the time where you're considering buying your own boat.

A lot of people that I come across on the Norfolk Broads have been coming here for literally decades but there are also hundreds of people who are here for the first time.

For those people who have discovered the Norfolk Broads on a sunny day and have no idea on how to buy a boat? Listen up! As there are a few pitfalls you really need to know about before you cross that threshold to buying your own boat.

On that note, I am going to assume people reading this article have absolutely no knowledge of the Norfolk Broads whatsoever and that way we basically cater for everybody who's thinking about buying a boat.
wroxham bridge.jpeg
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The very first thing that people really need to know about is that Norfolk Broads has a lot of bridges and the vast majority of them are very low indeed.

It is an easy mistake to overlook the bridges on the Norfolk Broads. Simply because when people come to Norfolk and look for the waterways by road, technically speaking they have great difficulty finding it because the county is so flat. The only way you can really see the Broads is to actually be in a boat itself.

Although there are some higher bridges in Great Yarmouth and Norwich (mainly Postwick), the vast majority of the bridges are still very low bridges.

So in order to travel across the Norfolk Broads, you have to be able to travel through several low bridges.
Let me give you an example, let's imagine you were travelling from Stalham to Reedham. On the way there you will go through six bridges just to get to Reedham.

The first thing to consider when buying any boat on the Norfolk Broads is just how many bridges can this boat get under.

My personal recommendation is that the boat should at the very least be able to get under Wroxham Bridge during low tide.

If you have a boat which can get under Wroxham Bridge? you're pretty much going to be safe everywhere else on the Broads. It may be a bit tight at Potter Heigham but on a spring tide and the right conditions, you should be able to get through it to the best of my knowledge.

The reason why it is essential to travel through all these bridges on the Norfolk Broads is quite simply down to one major fact and that is the best locations on the Broads are all through Bridges and that's a fact.

Even Wroxham, which people regard as the capital of the Norfolk Broads, which I totally disagree with by the way, is in fact, probably one of the nicest stretches of river. Once you go through Wroxham Bridge, you have got an absolutely fantastic journey all the way to Coltishall and beyond. Years ago until the big flood of 1913, that River Bure was navigable all the way up until Aylsham. Sadly, it is no longer the case.

If somebody considers buying a boat which will not get through Wroxham Bridge, then immediately you're faced with concerns about getting through other bridges like Ludham Bridge and if you can't get through that one? believe me you're going to have a lot of trouble. At the end of the day you're not going to be able to access the famous Barton Broad and you're missing out on half the Broads.

There are also very low bridges in Norwich city. In fact, there are so many bridges in Norwich City that I've lost count of them.
Low bridges in Beccles too and yet again the best part is from Beccles up to Geldeston. If you can't get under that low bridge? ...you've missed out on the best bit.

My personal recommendation is if your boat that you're looking at has an air draft of 7/8 feet or above? then really you are cutting off your nose to spite your face.
There's going to be a lot of the Broads that you just quite simply won't be able to see. If you are able to get under any low bridge during spring tide? you will probably be stuck there until the water recedes and believe me in the winter time this can take weeks.

Now you're aware of the many low bridges on the Broads, and probably wondering why people didn't tell you about them before when trying to sell a boat to you.
Suddenly folks now begin to realise that half the boats for sale on the Norfolk Broads are actually not suitable for the Norfolk Broads in any shape or form whatsoever.
As one travels up the River Bure through Horning and into Wroxham, there are some lovely riverside properties. Most have these magnificent boats outside with their flying bridges. Although as impressive as these vessels are, they can't actually really go anywhere on the Norfolk Broads without any great difficulties or restrictions.

For the purposes of this article, what I'm going to do is completely eradicate any boat on the Norfolk Broads that has an air draft of over 7/8 feet.
At the end of the day, it's pointless buying one. The only real exceptions to this are if you are on the Southern Broads and you're likely to be going out to sea in this vessel.
Anybody who is familiar with the Southern Broads will be familiar with the very large boats that are in the Brundle area. Some boats are 50 feet and above in length with enormous flying bridges. This is fine if you're going out to sea, otherwise, it won't be long till you come to a standstill because you quite simply can't get through many bridges. So then you have to go through the man-made canal section to avoid St. Olaves but then arriving in Beccles you will not be able to go any further. Basically, you can go from Beccles to Brundle to the outskirts of Norwich City and that's it.
Bearing in mind there are 120 miles of a navigable river, it is a pointless exercise buying a boat that won't go anywhere, especially on the northern rivers as these are the most scenic and beautiful.
Now that we have eliminated all the oversized boats, what we are now dealing with is the boats with an air draught of 7/8 feet or less.

The second subject, which people fall for all the time when they buy a boat on the Norfolk Broads is buying a boat with a petrol engine.

I think the only exception to this really is if somebody is buying a boat that has a petrol outboard.
Using a petrol outboard at the end of the day, I can't see it being a major issue because you can obviously bring your own petrol in your in your petrol tanks etc. However, if you have a petrol inboard on your boat? that is a very different story indeed because keeping that topped up with petrol might turn out to be a bit of a chore.

Again, there are exceptions. If you have one of these old Ford Anglia engines? then it's no problem filling up with jerry cans, however, if you make the foolish mistake of buying a V8 twin petrol engine on the Norfolk Broads, then I can tell you now you're going to have enormous problems keeping this topped up with petrol. Also you're going to have problems selling it because nobody will want to touch such a large petrol engine on the Broads.
You can buy diesel on the Norfolk Broads no problem. You are you going to find it extremely difficult to find somewhere that will fill you up with petrol.

If you have a petrol boat with a big V8 engine? I can tell you now to come from somewhere like Wroxham back to Stalham is going to cost you about £40 in petrol. In comparison, making a journey from Stalham to Beccles with a BMC 1500 diesel, you can probably do it in about 15 litres of diesel which is going to be about £15 .

There are two things to look out for, one the height of the boat (the air draught)very important keep it below 7/8 feet. Secondly, do not buy a boat with a petrol engine unless it is an outboard.

The third matter to consider is are you going to be staying on this boat or is it just a day boat?
If it is going to be a vessel that you are likely to be spending more than two or three days on at a given time? that I would suggest considering something like an ex hire boat. I refer to the flat bottom dodgem types, we call bath tubs on the Norfolk Broads.
The reason why these suit people is because at the end of the day they are like floating caravans. You will have every convenience you can possibly want on there from showers, toilet, domestic size cooker and even log burners etc. Essential to have heating if you're going be there on the winter.
Although these are pretty ugly at the end of the day, they are purpose-built. They do sell well and the odd thing is even though they're ugly ducklings they sell all day long. They hold their price and this is even with ex-hire boats which have been bashed around for decades.

Understandably these boats are not everybody's cup of tea because they are drab and boring.

Speaking to people who sell boats on the Norfolk Broads I can confirm that in the summer of 2021 boat sales were up by at least 20% .
freeman.jpg
So if you don't fancy an old bashed up hire boat? even though they are quite practical, then really somebody should looking at something a little bit more classical. It's at this point now that we start to slip into what have turned out to be very popular boats particularly on the Norfolk Broads for 4 to 5 decades...
The Freemans.
The Freemans mark 1 to mark 3 etc. They are enormously popular boats and have a cult following. My understanding is that they were actually made by a caravan manufacturer and that is why they have similar characteristics in their appearance. Especially with the mark1, mark 2 & mark 3.
You can still buy the boat parts for these today from Sheridan Marine. Interior parts inside like wardrobes etc can be physically unscrewed and removed just like they can with caravans.
Although most of these boats are now 50 years old plus, they are beautiful boats.
On a nice sunny day when you see one moored up at How Hill with the canopy down, showing that beautiful varnished bulkhead.
They are a blingy and attractive boat. I would pay particular attention to the Freemans and if you can get one with the diesel engine then you're laughing.

One of my personal favorites and I really do think this is a great contender is the Hampton Safari range.
Like the Freemans there are different versions of these and I believe they were made locally.
These are absolutely fantastic boats for one stroke two people.
You have the luxury of being able to tackle most of the bridges on the Norfolk Broads and if you have a sliding roof? What more could you possibly want?
These boats are perfect and in many ways I wish all the hire boats were restricted to this size.
windboats.jpg
I've seen these Hamptons go anywhere from £6,000 to £25,000(for a really good one).
There are some other boats in this range. One of them is the Elysian , also you have got the Windboats(ferrocrete), Sea Masters, Bounty, which I think was similar to the Elysian.
Birchwood.jpg
There are Birchwoods, Sealine, Fjord, Shetlands but you've got to make sure that you can get under the Bridges. Does the windscreen fold down?
I would not recommend buying Viking boats. I don't recommend the Viking boats for two reasons, one they have a very narrow gunwhale which looks extremely difficult to walk down. Two, they seem to be very top-heavy. On seeing people on top of these boats they really do rock over a lot and they look extremely dangerous from a stability perspective. I think they're pretty much made for the canals and I would avoid those all cost.
The Birchwood is a nice size boat but I see a lot of them have a fixed canopy and windscreen which will really prevent you from going anywhere of any interest.

If you concentrate your interests on buying a boat within those ranges? Then you're going to have a boat which will go through most the bridges and you will have a boat which you can always sell in the future. These boats sell all day long.

The only alternative to these is to buy a sailboat. A sailboat really at the end of the day doesn't appeal to a lot of people because they are hindered by the many bridges. You have got to be dedicated to keep lowering a mast. On that note a purposely built Norfolk Broads sailing boat is the only sensible option.
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Re: Best Boat To Buy On The Norfolk Broads

Post by Miles »

But if you need a bigger boat?
:D
How about an Aquafibre 42?
They hold their value and will go under Wroxham Bridge. As for Potter Heigham....I really don't know if they will go through but wouldn't surprise me if they do
Bridge pilot is the best dude to ask
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Re: Best Boat To Buy On The Norfolk Broads

Post by Graham »

Really blinding post Miles. So many people jump in without doing research, and many regrets soon follow. :roll:
I don't think I have ever seen a list of compatible boats anywhere.
This post and the 'Common Questions Googled About Norfolk Broads' Are worth their weight for people considering ....


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Re: Best Boat To Buy On The Norfolk Broads

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Re: Best Boat To Buy On The Norfolk Broads

Post by CATFISH »

hampton 25 safari, with a sail, be your ideal boat then. ;)
those hamptons command a high price, but be prepared to spend money freely, there's some real botched up old dogs out there.
decades of neglect and abuse sure take its toll.


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Re: Best Boat To Buy On The Norfolk Broads

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The only thing I don't like about boats Ike that though...is riding inside with the engine.


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Re: Best Boat To Buy On The Norfolk Broads

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Miles wrote: March 1st, 2022, 11:54 pm The only thing I don't like about boats Ike that though...is riding inside with the engine.
I know what you mean, they can be noisy, often compounded by worn/collapsed motor mounts and neglected center bearings on the drive shaft. many have leaking windows too, no always apparent from the inside as water ingress from those large windows run behind interior paneling to the bilge, but eventually rotting from the insides.
I'v yet to see one that didn't look like it was wired by stevie wonder when drunk.

it's my opinion and there will be others, but most of these boats were not built as live aboards, therefor were not in many cases expected to be used in anything except the summer season.

I know for a fact many have severe condensation problems if lived on all year round, even with heating, ventilation, dehumidifiers, and all manner of attempts to eradicate it, but never completely succeeding.
4" of water in the bilges and heat generated by a couple of permanent occupants is never going to end well, condensation wise.
I dare say it can all be made to work out fine, however it pays to start with a well maintained craft and should you find one, it's going to be expensive and it will need continued good maintenance,
it certainly helps to know as much as possible before throwing coin at something you think is your dream boat,,, often realising you just took over anothers nightmare.
I know of at least one poor fellow who spent his life savings on the supposed boat of his dreams,, images of sunny days cruising with his wife were soon shatered by the reality that at least another 17 k was required to bring the craft to a usable condition.

it's a hard lesson to learn,
my advice never trust a salesman, they will say whatever they need to to secure a sale.


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Re: Best Boat To Buy On The Norfolk Broads

Post by Miles »

it's a hard lesson to learn,
my advice never trust a salesman, they will say whatever they need to to secure a sale
A survey is essential, however, people don't listen.
Most boats have problems and like you said, liquid ingress is almost guaranteed and covert until the damage is done....and what damage it does is staggering.
Some of these ex-hire boats have chipboard bulkheads... that'll do it. :roll:
In most cases, I'd say you are taking on another's nightmare.


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