Buying a boat on the Norfolk Broads led to me discovering my first liveaboard boat completely by chance in the spring of 2014.
What follows now is my own personal description of that liveaboard journey through the chronologically ordered photos that I randomly took and was able to save online.
Buy A Boat In Norfolk
Leaving Sussex with the company of my father, we took a slow drive up to Norfolk whilst trying to explore more of a coastal route.
I had no intentions at all of buying a boat at this stage.
We were coming to Norfolk to see a sailboat my father liked that was for sale on the Norfolk Broads.
I had been to Norfolk previously but I had never seen the Norfolk Broads. In fact, I had always thought they were canals.
Finding The Boat To Buy
Trying to follow and explore the Norfolk Broads by road is really whilst quite impossible. Norfolk is about as flat a landscape as they come and I am often amazed how it still remains above sea levels.
So trying to find boatyards with boat projects simply for buying a boat proved to be quite a difficult process. After a good few, we stumbled across Richardson’s boatyard in Stalham on the north Broads.
The images above are exactly as I found my first project. All I can say is that there was something about this boat that talked to me.
It said to me that it could go somewhere and that shouted out adventure to me.
That was music to my ears.
I put in a sneaky bid and bought it.
This is where my liveaboard adventures began.
Is It Best To Buy A Boat Out Of The Water?
My initial thoughts were to get the boat out of the water and give her a new paint job. About thirty minutes away by the river was a DIY boatyard called, ‘Wayford Bridge’. It involved travelling along the River Ant in the direction of Dilham and also the derelict North Walsham & Dilham Canal.
Preparing Now The Boat Has Been Bought
I went back to Sussex to load up my trailer with tools. My intentions were to spend the next couple of months restoring at least the hull of the boat. In fact, I was not even considering going liveaboard at this stage as I planned on making some money selling the boat. My desire to move on to the boat came later when the boat was finally launched. Right now, I was loading up my gear, my tools and my Jack Russell, ‘Stellar’ and we’re going on a working holiday on the Norfolk Broads.
The New Boat Crew
The very first time my dog went on this boat was when we took it up the river to the boatyard. I had never seen a dog so excited. She stood beside the boat as she knew already how enthusiastic I was about the project. I had no experience of dogs on boats and this was about to be one of boatings greatest surprises…dogs absolutely love boats and that is a fact.
Normal For Norfolk
Norfolk is very different from many other counties in England and this is apparent from the moment you arrive.
The first impressions are just how flat the county is, hills are few and far between.
In many areas, it would be difficult to determine what decade you were in if it wasn’t for the vehicles seen on the roads.
Boat Restoring Starts
After buying a boat, my first job was to do the antifouling. I had bought the boat blind and without a survey. I wanted to know exactly what the hull was like so in certain areas I took the antifouling right back to the fibreglass. If there was any osmosis I was going to deal with it.
Many people have an incorrect view on antifouling boats and I believe it stems from boatyards who get paid for antifouling boats.
The common misconception is that antifoul primer is only necessary on fresh surfaces. This, in my opinion, is total rubbish and allows boatyards to charge for antifouling without doing the job correctly.
There is a tendency to jet wash hulls and then simply add fresh antifoul to that substrate. That surface which has been underwater all the time and exposed to all the slime, oil, diesel, petrol and other pollutants in the water.
If there was any surface that required a primer, it would most certainly be a boat hull.
The idea of putting any antifoul on to such a corrupted surface without any primer is ludicrous.
The most important part of any floating vessel is the part you don’t see a lot of and that is the hull. Anybody can slap some paint on a brush but the effectiveness of the paint is formed from the preparations.
Learning Fast About Painting Boats
I worked my way around the hull very methodically. When I found the odd osmosis blister, I would be able to pop it with my fingers only to discover a fluid that resembles vinegar. This is the acidic solution that is created through the chemical process of water reacting with the chemicals in resin.
There is no GRP boat that won’t experience some form of osmosis. It is believed to start the day a new boat leaves the factory where it was made.
It is formed in the inevitable voids that are created when the boat is manufactured through the process of layer upon layer of fibreglass and resin.
Using Epoxy On Boat Keels
The bilge keels on this Bruce Roberts yacht are solid metal plates. The original builder, who I will come back to later decided to have them installed. He knew the boat was coming to the Norfolk Broads and that being shallow waters could be a bit risky for a single keel in case of running aground.
A wise choice as I have run aground several times.
The bilge keels needed grinding up to clean the metal. They were then covered in epoxy and had fibreglass cloth added. This was to reinforce the resin. Without fibreglass resin is like mud bricks without straw added.
I used West System which turned out to be ridiculously expensive. Its purpose was to seal the metal from corrosion.
It proved to be very effective. Maybe it’s true when they say, you get what you pay for.
Boat Work Is Dirty Work
Working under a boat is dirty work. It looks great in the end but getting there is the real test. Apart from getting filthy, the weather tends to rule. It often dictates what can get done. Inside or outside? Too wet? Too hot?
Consistently moving forward is the only recommended modus operandi to getting the job done.
Restoring Boats Is Painful Work Too
Injuries were commonplace too. One thing I would always insist on having in any boat is a first aid kit, and a very well equipped one at that.
This particular boat was very peculiar indeed. It was originally built for a millionaire. It had been designed as a high-speed launch to ferry the wealthy boat owner across the English Channel.
It had two enormous engines, two showers, two berths and a cooker featuring a spit roast.
It was fantastically eccentric.
Making Progress With The Boat Works
After about two months of hard work, loads of beers and countless BBQs, the boat was nearing completion.
I had an amazing time and got to meet some truly colourful characters. The weather had been great and I got to spend a lot of time with my father.
My father went ahead with buying a boat too and he bought the sailboat he came up here to see. Now he was going to have that Leisure 23SL taken out as well. It was going to be antifouled so my father could use it on the Norfolk Broads. He had managed to find a mooring literally next door in a private dyke called, ‘Knobbs Loke’.
Boats Mean Quality Family Time
This is my father stocking up on some bits and pieces from the local hardware store in the tiny village of Stalham. This was the sort of store where you could go and buy a dozen screws and bolts like buying loose sweets in an old fashioned sweet shop.
Buying The Boat Iddly Diddly
‘Iddly Diddly’ is a Leisure 23SL. Volvo Penta MD5A diesel inboard with a sail drive. Leisure 23s are well known for having plenty of headroom for a boat no longer than 23 feet.
Buying a boat was my father’s pride and joy and he thought my mother would hate the boat, however, she came to like it more than he did.
This boat had a fresh antifoul in Dover White and had the sail drive rubber boot stuck on. She was delivered with the mast down so we erected that using the Volvo estate.
In no time at all Iddly Diddly was ready to go in the river again.
Summer Was Almost Here
The summer of 2014 was knocking on the door. It had also been dry enough to work on both boats most of the time. Two months had now passed since buying a boat and then lifted out of the water. I had achieved a lot and my own skills had been augmented. Life was good and the excitement of getting back in the Norfolk Broads was very real. A new adventure was coming.
When It Rains Boat Work Stops
The odd day it did pour down and boat work came to a stop. This created an excellent opportunity to go and explore the local and surrounding areas. The real Norfolk is not on the tourist map. This county has a rich and ancient history and the only way to uncover it is to get out in a car. Over the following years, I was to discover the most unlikely places from Roman ruins to seals basking on the beach at Horsey.
Its Boating Showtime!
Finally, after what I can only describe as the greatest working summer holiday ever, it was time to start my boating adventure on the Norfolk Broads.