Norfolk Broads Hire Boat Crashes

Norfolk Broads hire boat crashes is a subject that many attempt to avoid for one reason or another. However, the subject is a very real phenomenon on the Norfolk Broads and one I pull no punches in discussing.

I am the administrator of a Norfolk Broads Forumblogclassifieds site and producer of nearly 200 videos all heavily promoting the Norfolk Broads. If I do not portray the Norfolk Broads as I have found it over a period of nearly 6 years, then I would be doing all readers a great injustice.

Living on a boat on the Broads for literally years in succession I must confess that the hire boat industry has been an enormous negative in my liveaboard experience. That is truly quite a claim and one may initially feel it is harsh but the reality of the large hire boat industry is harsh. It is very harsh indeed and to myself and many other private boaters it has been a huge burden to bear.

The major issue is the level of damage that is caused by Norfolk Broads hire boat crashes and the attitude of many of the hire boaters and above all else the hire boat companies.

So let me tell you my story about Norfolk Broads boat hire boat crashes and I will share my experiences with readers and offer what I believe to be valid solutions that desperately need to be implemented.

I would just like to begin by saying that I don’t have it against hire boats at all. I think it’s a wonderful idea and I think many great memories are made by people taking holidays on hire boats on the Norfolk Broads. The fact that this article directly refers to Norfolk Broads hire boat crashes does not mean that every boat hirer is a liability. Neither does it imply that all hire boat companies are the same. Many are very professional, ethical and complement the waterways. However, some companies are destroying the Norfolk Broads.

What I don’t like is some of the larger hire boat companies because I think they are denying responsibility for their hire craft. I believe they are passing a lot of conditions onto the private boat owners. I believe the industry could be potentially fatal in some circumstances.

Firstly, I think there are far too many hire boats.

Secondly, I believe the hire boats are too big for the Norfolk Broads.

Thirdly, the people going out in the boats don’t get enough tuition. If they’re lucky they’ll have ten minutes tuition.

Finally, I believe the true amount of Norfolk Broads hire boat crashes is ignored and brushed under the carpet.

In many cases, hirers can take out a 45-foot boat weighing 6 tonnes or thereabouts. It’s like handing the keys to a 40-plus tonne articulated truck to some who just passed there driving test.

Sometimes I will go along the rivers narrow waterways and I will pass a 45-foot boat with a child under the age of 10 skippering whilst the parents are drinking on the deck. It is at times just ridiculous.

In my first year, I did get a lot of damage from Norfolk Broads hire boat crashes. I had damage by a Herbert WoodsRichardsons and Barnes Brinkcraft boats. Particularly Richardsons boats as they have by far the largest fleet.

Barnes Brinkcraft were very obnoxious to deal with, Herbert Woods was surprisingly pleasant and Richardson’s boat whacks just began to go up day by day.

In every single incident, the hire boats failed to stop even when being called out to moor up.

On one occasion I had a Barnes Brincraft moor up when my mast was lowered and about to be raised. I felt a boat bump my stern and when I went out to investigate I could see my entire mast had gone through the siding stern doors {which were open} and travel right through their cabin.

On another occasion whilst moored up at Wroxham a Richardsons boat came along and nearly ripped my pulpit clean off. When I confronted the hirers and asked them what on Earth they were doing? The elderly bloke on the boat came out and to my complete surprise physically threatened me despite just smashing into my boat. My only conclusion I could form was that he was heavily intoxicated.

Unfortunately, the list of impacts just went on and on and so too did the abuse from boat hirers. on many occasions, they were intoxicated, aggressive and in every single case, they have never taken responsibility for their actions.

There are several reasons for this but there is one reason above all else that stands out and it is called, ‘Collision Damage Waiver’. This is the source of most of the problems with hire boats on the Norfolk Broads and if this C.D.W. policy was scrapped it is commonly believed that boat collisions would be dramatically reduced.

The larger companies of the hire boat industry could never afford to have insurance to cover accidental damage to their boats because it is so rife. They may have third party insurance to cover them legally but their customers all pay a hefty collision damage waiver which pays for the damage to the hire boats regardless of whether they have a bang or not. Effectively boat hirers are paying for other boat hirers damage.

What this means is the boat hire companies are effectively self-insured.

Paying a collision damage waiver when hiring a boat means that if the hirers smash the boat up then they will not be billed for the damage.

This immediately creates a scenario whereby the boat hirers are not responsible for the actual boat they are helming.

Therefore when they smash into the side of another boat which happens all day long, they do not care and flee the scene usually shouting abuse at private boaters.

This problem could be stopped overnight by making boat hirers pay a deposit which they lose if they cause any damage. That way the skipper of the boat would take care not to hit anything and the rest of the crew would be outside fending off which they should be doing anyway.

However, the hire boat industry is not interested and insists on putting profit before safety.

An example of this is a hire boat company such as Richardsons which has coming up to 400 boats on the waterways. it is evident that profit is the priority and that there is no consideration at all for other boaters simply because of the sheer amount of boats they are prepared to overcrowd the waterways with.

When is enough, enough? The fleets just get larger along with the actual hire boats themselves.

In many cases, the hire boats are just too big for the waterways and don’t even go under most of the bridges. Anybody can hire the boats, there are no regulations enforced with drinking alcohol and no responsibility for their vessels once they leave the boatyards.

I once chatted to a man at Sutton Staithe who had refused to take his hire boat out of Richardsons because he was so worried about hitting something. He told me that he was told not to worry about hitting anything by Richardson’s staff.

There should be restrictions on the size of hire craft and there should also be restrictions on the number of hire boats a company can have on the Norfolk Broads.

Over the past six years, I have met hundreds of people on the Norfolk Broads. A large percentage of these people were boat hirers. Many of these people are excellent helmsman and have been coming to the Norfolk Broads for decades. Their ability to skipper a boat puts many private boat owners to shame. 

That is the strange balance that exists on these waterways and that is why readers need to realise that I am not anti hire boaters. The real problem stems from the hire boat companies and unfortunately ultimately filters out of some hire boat customers.

The video below was published roughly a year and a half after I had been on the rivers full time. At the time of publishing this article, the video had approximately 20,000 views with a 50/50 like to dislike ratio.

What I have witnessed with this video is that on the rare occasion that I do get somebody reacting negatively to it, there are two reasons why this is taking place.

The first reason is they have taken the video out of context and have interpreted the video as an invalidation of boat hirers.

The second reason I have discovered is that the people who become agitated and aggressive are the people who do just as described in this video. They crash into boats and flee without stopping. I discovered this because when you politely confront someone who has just collided with your craft, their initial reaction is to be obnoxious and stroppy. It has happened more times than I can remember.

At the end of the day, if a boat hirer becomes belligerent over a video or from damaging another boat, then that reaction comes from them and is caused by them for a reason. If they have done nothing wrong, then there should be no reaction at all.

The hire boat industry has changed drastically over the years. I refer to long before I came to the Norfolk Broads.

It is my understanding that there were, in fact, many more hire boats years ago, possibly around 3,000 compared to today’s amount of 1,000.

The reality of the situation is that the boats were a lot smaller and were wooden. The boats now are significantly larger and made from G.R.P. (fibreglass). Some hire boats can accommodate 12 crew.

It is inevitable that the hire boat industry will change again.

When you consider that the cost of hiring a hire boat for just a week in the high season is similar to the cost of renting a boat mooring for a whole year, it is no surprise that many will choose to enter the private boat market. This does not mean buying a boat necessarily as one could buy into a boat syndicate scheme. Timeshare for the Broads if you like.

In addition, the boating industry both private and hire is ultimately going to be forced to confront its carbon footprint. Whether global warming is a man-made scam or whether climate change is totally normal is irrelevant at the end of the day. What is relevant is that governments will be putting the pressure on boating from a red diesel perspective to enforcing these old smokey engines are cleaned up or scrapped.

Boat engines don’t have particulate filters like car diesel engines and that is not going to go unnoticed.

Hire boat companies and private boaters will be forced to either have their boat engine modified or converted to electric motors as the main source of propulsion. The hire boat industry would not be able to implement this level of change to hundreds of hire boats. The only way they could survive this inevitable change would be to diminish their fleets and pass the cost of conversions over to their customers. That will never work as the boats cost so much money to hire now anyway.

So how long have we all got?

This is anybody’s guess. However, judging by the levels of governmental pressure that is being introduced to forcefully clean up diesel engine road vehicles, it must be on the horizon.

So what’s the solution to hire boat problems now?

The differences listed below that could be made to the hire boat industry on the Norfolk Broads are changes that could be introduced overnight. the end results would mean that every single boater on the rivers would ultimately benefit.

  • Scrap the collision damage waiver and introduce a deposit scheme. This would encourage boat hirers to take more responsibility and exercise more care and caution with the vessel they are hiring.
  • Stop renting dinghies to already oversized hire craft. These 45-foot boats can not turn and traverse the waterways without the dinghies they are towing striking other boats.
  • Ban alcohol consumption to those who are helming the vessels, private and hirers. Australia and the USA enforce this law just like that relating to drinking and driving in cars.
  • Hire boat companies with over 100/200/300 hire boats means the boat companies will not have the time to give their customers proper tuition. Customers that need tuition on mooring the boat, reversing the boat, Broads Byelaws and what to do in the event of collisions should not be allowed to leave the boatyard till they know these subjects inside out.

These simple cost-effective measures would make enormous changes to what really happens on the Norfolk Broads. The waterways would be safer for everyone.

When you exist in a mindset where profit comes before safety then somebody somewhere will always suffer.

The solution is to confront the issue with facts and figures and just apply some common sense, manners and to take responsibility.