Experimenting With Energy
Second-year on the Broads meant for the first time in my life I was forced to consider how to produce energy. Quite pathetic really when one considers that I had lived a life previously having been used to limitless power served on a plate.
Now, if I could not make power, I was to go without and that sucks.
The above wind generator is a Savonius turbine. For my purposes, it was to fail miserably and I will explain why.
Firstly, a Savonius turbine requires the physical force of the wind to push the turbine around. Too slow and it fails to deliver, too fast and it stops powering to avoid over generating.
There may be a situation where these types of turbines are effective, however, I don’t know where that could be.
The reason they fail to deliver effectively is that they are not shaped like a wing. If they were then the wind passing would create drag and therefore would operate far more efficiently.
So don’t buy one unless it is an aerofoil fan blade as you will be wasting your money and time. The problem is they cost the price of a decent outboard.
My second year on the Broads meant I was getting the hang of this game and that came from other people as well as experience..
Different Gas Types
My boat came with Camping Gaz cylinders and these must be the biggest rip off of all time…totally scandalous.
These portable gas cookers are really very convenient. However, they are lethal. On two occasions I had to throw these cookers out of boat whilst they had caught on fire…I kid you not.
The problem comes from a little metal lever that is used to clamp the gas cylinder in place and engage with the cooker. If you attempt to press this metal lever down whilst the temperature dial is not closed properly, then the bracket which engages and locks the gas cylinder gets bent.
The effect of this metal being misshaped is that the device no longer engages the gas cylinder completely.
The next time you fire the cooker up it will work but then also ignite the gas now leaking out of the top of the cylinder. This can not be turned off by the dial and you are faced with a fireball as pressurised gas is ignited and forced out of the cylinder.
Your only option is to take the whole burning unit and throw it off the boat which I am sure you can appreciate is an action requiring instant attention.
Breakdown On Rivers
Leaving Beccles after my first winter I was about to experience my first engine breakdown.
Travelling across Bredon Water I noticed my engine temperature was higher than normal.
120 miles of navigable waterways on the Norfolk Broads and the one and only place you don’t want to have a breakdown is Breydon Water.
My learning curve was about to straighten out and go vertically.
I had managed to get across Breydon Water whilst my engine’s temperature crept up. Turning into the ebbing River Bure I was faced with a decision.
Do I attempt to moor up at low tide at Great Yarmouth by myself with the river flowing like rapids? The only way this is going to happen is if I can grab the safety ladder as the mooring heading is now about 8 feet above. That may be possible but I had my mast down which was hanging off the stern of my sailboat. This would mean the mast would be excessively damaged and probably ruined. Not to mention all the navigation lights are on the top of my mast.
My only option was to get up the River Bure and find a safer and calmer area to make an emergency stop.
I limped up to the very first wooden marker. This was a large wooden post driven into the river bed to stop boats running aground. It was on my starboard side and I got a bow rope over it.
I immediately turned the engine off and let it cool. That was my second time through Great Yarmouth and the second time that I had found myself in a situation.
The problem turned out to be the thermostat housing. It was corroded, pitted and above all else leaking.
Fortunately for me, I had an old car inner tube with me, which a friend had recommended carrying as an emergency gasket. I fitted this and went on my way.
Half an hour later it was to fail again. At least this time I was able to stop immediately. The problem was the thermostat housing was uneven and it needed to be filed. Just like a cylinder head needs to be skimmed when a head gasket blows.
I had to stop and change the gasket about 5/6 times in order to get back to Stalham. At this location, I would be able to get parts delivered. I required a new thermostat housing and cork gaskets. It is remarkable that such a bulletproof engine can fail because of a small piece of cork.
It’s A Dog’s Life
I was feeling the pressure a bit as nobody likes to breakdown, however, my little Jack Russell crew member was as relaxed as could be. Little things like this help in times of stress.
New Parts Arrive
Replacement engine spares were delivered and in no time at all the BMC 1500 diesel was running again. I made sure I had spare cork gaskets now. I realised that if you spend a couple of pounds and keep some spares, it might just save you and your boat. That might sound a bit dramatic but it is quite simply a fact.
Solving My Energy Crisis
The solar panel above is 100 watts. Personally I would describe my first time using solar panels as like finding the arc of the covenant.
Just how effective these simple devices are is awe-inspiring.
I could now wake up every morning with fully charged batteries before I had even had my first bacon sandwich.
This was a major improvement, in fact, it was a quantum leap in producing energy. I was converted.
More Power Means More Toys
Now I had renewable energy I was able to start experimenting with refrigeration. I had to keep my beers cold somehow. The bilges had been my beer cooler up until now.
Warmer Weather Begins To Return
The winter had been a challenge. One I enjoyed for simply that reason. I was not diminished by the winter as it had enhanced my endurance. However, wearing just shorts for three months is much more up my street and now it was on the horizon.
Hire Boat Damage Starts Again
My excitement about the new boating season was short-lived, unfortunately.
I was hit and hit hard. Not once but twice. My father’s sailboat took a thump as well. In fact, he was hit so hard on the River Bure that he was nearly knocked into the water. The tiller even hit him and left him bruised.
Unfortunately, the summer continued as it had started out. Difficult for some to read I am sure, however, it is important to include these events as they were excessive.
I knew by now that the southern rivers were going to be quieter. I decided to have a run to Norwich which was a journey I had yet to do.
The summer had been a very wet one and I had itchy feet. I had deliberately left Norwich this long as I had heard negative stories from a boating perspective.
Boat Safety Test
Before I went anywhere I had to have my boat safety certificate updated as it lasts for only four years.
Boat Safety Fails
My boat failed its boat safety exam on two very small issues.
Firstly, the engine bay needed to be dammed off in case of oil spillages. Bit odd when you consider a sailboat heels.
Secondly, my offshore power cable needed the wires clamped going into the command socket. So if they had not been on the boat, it would not have been a fail.
Both quickly sorted and I was on my way again.
Norwich Rivers Are Awesome
I had put going off to Norwich for so long because I had been given negative information about boating there.
It was true that there were some undesirables in and around the city, however, the journey there was exquisite.
Heading out through Breydon Water towards Norwich the rivers opened up into a fast-flowing river. The scenery was similar yet so different as well.
Large seals appeared by my boat on a misty morning and then disappeared, only to reappear on the port side.
Birds of prey are never too far away on the Norfolk Broads. On the southern rivers, they are in abundance.
I was truly impressed by the River Yare and really enjoyed my river journey.
My luck though was about to change once again for the worst.
I Snag An Old Mud Weight
I was disembarking a mooring called Whitlingham Broad which is directly out of the city. Whilst reversing I heard the most horrendous knocking and my engine stopped immediately. Something had got around my propeller.
It was the end of October and the rivers were cold. Whatever was snagged around my propeller would involve me getting in the water and trying to get it off.
I took the icy plunge and was able to feel the propeller and there was some heavy object on it and some rope. I could not put my head under the water as the cold water kept making me gasp, it was freezing. I managed to feel around under the boat and eventually removed this rope and then finally this heavy object.
It was some strange round metal mud weight. It had been lost on the river bed with the synthetic rope floating up above it, waiting for some unsuspecting boat to come along.
When I started the engine the boat simply didn’t want to move.
I needed to locate a careening hard to get under the boat but even in this large tidal area none existed. A nearby rowing club allowed me to try their slipway which I couldn’t get on to sadly. Just as well actually as when they learned, I was a liveaboard, they really didn’t want to be helpful.
I got someone to tow me a little while down the river to a place called Commissioners Cut. There I managed to find a bank. I moored up stern on and when the tide dropped I was just able to access the propeller.
Boat Propeller Destroyed
I was able to remove the propeller before the tide came in. It was destroyed.
I sent it off to a specialist to be repaired and then a week later chased it up to see what was the situation.
There was no response at all until after 10 days I started to get auto emails stating the company was closed for holidays. I managed to get hold of the company on the phone who told me it was beyond repair. They were totally dishonest and even kept the damaged propeller for scrap value.
I ordered a new propeller and waited for delivery.
During this time I was hassled by an overzealous Broads Authority Ranger who even had the audacity to issue me with a ticket. Despite my boat being totally disabled at this time.
I knew something was not right here and I started reading up on the Broads Byelaws. There I discovered Byelaw 72. I instantly discovered that I was totally within my legal rights to be moored up where I was whilst getting my boat repaired.
This incident found its way onto a low-level forum and I was subjected to the most appalling tirade of liveaboard prejudice.
It was disgusting and it was because of this experience that I started this Norfolk Broads Forum.
The rest they say is history.
I repaired the boat and decided to leave the area. The ranger had conducted himself illegally and I knew it. I was able to get the Broads Authority solicitor and monitoring officer to publicly state this in the following freedom of information request. You can follow it by clicking here, Byelaw 72.
That all topped off with online bigotry from notorious forum members meant I was now leaving the area knowing I had some matters to personally handle.
The truth is the only thing that will penetrate armour plating and I was going to get to the bottom of it.
Despite the dark side to this Norfolk Broads encounter, I had triumphed very successfully over a catastrophic boating incident. I was feeling strong and proud. Time for some more boating. Away from idiots, that was to be a must. A prerequisite that I was to insist upon from now on.
Upper River Bure
Oddly enough, there was still plenty of rivers to explore. The top end of the River Bure was no exception.
The River Bure was once a major part of the Norfolk Broads and trading wherries navigated all the way up to Aylsham. There was a series of locks adjacent to water mills which made it possible for trade wherries to carry their cargoes.
In 1912 there was a great flood. The flood affected many areas and it was claimed that the water level in Norwich was 15 feet higher than a normal tide level.
The flood destroyed many bridges. Buxton Lock on this upper stretch of the River Bure caused an even greater surge of water when it collapsed.
The end result was that any further up the river passed Coltishall was no longer navigable.
Coltishall was next on the list to visit.
The stretch of river between Wroxham and Coltishall is one of my favourite journeys on the Norfolk Broads. I find Wroxham very unappealing in many ways but Coltishall is really quite unusual and I always look forward to that journey.
Dog Still Loving Boating
At this time, we had been liveaboard for a good while. I raise that point because my dog was absolutely loving it. I must admit that knowing she was in her element added to my own pleasure. It wouldn’t have been the same without her.
Hoveton Pit Stop
One aspect to Wroxham /Hoveton that I don’t like is the elements of tourism overkill. The other point is that nearly all the shops are ‘Roys’. I find it resembles an uncomfortable vanity.
I had experienced some pretty hair raising boating up to now. I had gone through Great Yarmouth spinning like a nutter, overheated on Breydon Water and destroyed my propeller in Norwich.
I had heard good reports about a place called, ‘Loddon’ on the River Chet. This was off the River Yare on the southern rivers.
Back Over Breydon Water
Like the previous year, it was getting too cold to be standing outside on a sailboat cockpit. I had no desire to spend another winter in Beccles. Nothing wrong with Beccles apart from no moorings, no electricity, and water. This time around I wanted to be more comfortable.
Arriving In Loddon
The River Chet is not to be underestimated. Try and navigate it the wrong time and you are likely to run aground. This was to happen on more than one occasion. In fact, the basin at Loddon can get so low on a spring tide that boats will ground out. I was okay with three keels but a single keel yacht would get into trouble if the crew were unaware.
This is a valid point actually as the tidal range on the South Broads is nearly two metres in places. When you consider the North Broads is 4 to 6 inches, the disparity is enormous.
Stripping Project Boat
Knowing the winter was likely to be a long one, I bought a sailboat wreck from a boatyard adjacent to the village of Loddon. The boat was not worth restoring, so I decided to dismantle it for boat fittings. Oddly enough it had a very expensive boom and it was full of lights etc and these all ended up on my boat.
Boat Fittings Are Expensive
Boat parts are crazy overpriced. It was an early realisation that keeping the boat complete and working required me to try and repurpose anything marine that I came across.
Loddon was a nice place to moor up over the winter. I was able to move around from mooring to mooring which meant keeping in with Broads byelaws. Occasionally I would stay in a nearby boatyard too.
Not being one to pull any punches I feel obliged to write as accurately as I can recall. If the hire boats kept damaging my boat, I was going to write about it. The same applies to fishermen who were troublesome.
Without any shadow of a doubt, there have been three major problems with living on a boat on the Norfolk Broads. In order of severity, it would be the hire boats, the discrimination against liveaboards (especially online) and fishermen.
Every boater and fishermen know that when a boat is coming into moor the fishermen are to make way. They never want to and it’s always a hassle. Sometimes you get fishermen arguing that they don’t have to move as it’s a public staithe or even private land. It doesn’t matter if you are standing on your own property as this is the Norfolk Broads and fishermen are expected to keep the navigation channels clear. The amount of fishing lines I have taken is crazy. The number of fishermen failing to make way is criminal. I have even known a fellow boater to be pushed in the river by fishermen.
I recall a hire boat attempting to moor at Stalham Staithe once and they politely informed the three mature fishermen of their intentions. I heard one of the fishermen say he was refusing to move. I walked over to him and reminded him that he was obliged to move. They then packed up and went.
There is no point beating around the bush as these problems are real. If you are reading these articles and wanting to go liveaboard on a boat somewhere, you would be advised to take note of these points.
Petrol Generator Usage
I had always liked the idea of having a decent generator onboard. They are pretty costly if you want one that is very quiet, yet powerful to run most power tools. There are a few points to consider.
Firstly, you must take into account, other people. Very often you are not going to be able to run one within close proximity of other boaters. For example, I ran my batteries flat at Stalham Staithe once. It was midday and I told the boat behind me that I had a flat battery and was going to run the generator for five minutes to get my boat started. According to my now dead friend who was sat in a stealth camper nearby, the chap constantly grimaced behind my back every time I went into the cabin.
Secondly, despite other people, you won’t want to listen to a noisy two-stroke generator, so buy a silent suitcase 4 stroke type.
Never use one without a built-in voltage regulator. You can damage electronics as I was about to find out.
Finally, when it comes to output power wattage, be aware that many tools have a cranking power drain. If you have an 800-watt grinder it may draw more when you initially crank it up. This results in the generator tripping out all the time.
The above generator I had seemed to work okay until one day it began revving too high. This resulted in too higher voltage output making my expensive onboard built-in battery charger start smoking. It burnt out completely. I was so distraught.
Worst still, when I came to service the generator, I had a serious accident. The cover was off and the generator was running. I was about to adjust the throttle control. There was an alternator built around the engine. It had a concealed metal fan just like that of a car. Only a small portion of this metal fan was exposed. This became invisible when the engine was running. I inadvertently caught my thumb in it and found myself looking at the bone in my thumb. I was taken to the local doctors who advised me that I required a surgeon. I was then to spend the rest of the day in Norwich hospital. Luckily, I kept my thumb but it was scarred and I am reminded of this incident every time I try to undo a nut or screw with my left hand.
20 Miles To Norwich
Norwich was only four hours away so when the weather was good and I needed some supplies I would make the trip to the city.
I would never stay long. Just get what I needed and move on.
I was struggling to understand what had gone wrong with Norwich as it is the most unwelcoming place to moor up.
Nowadays, Wroxham is the heart of the Norfolk Broads. Although at one time, not so long ago it would have been the Port of Norwich. Even in the 1980s ships were still coming into Norwich.
Many will be surprised to learn that even Norwich is not the original heart of the Broads. It was indeed Venta Icenorum just a few miles away along the River Tas. This was the location of the Iceni tribe now famous in folklore for Boudica revolting against the Romans.
Norwich, in my opinion, should be attractive to international boaters with a world-class marina. It could share many attributes with Amsterdam. Instead, it is now a debunked port littered with ‘No Mooring!’ signs.
Ancient City Of Lost Potential
It is difficult and frustrating as a boater to see Norwich as it is. The rivers towards the city are stunning.
Once you pass a place called Commissioners Cut the riverbank starts to go downhill in appearance and desperately cries out for redevelopment.
Personally, I believe that the Whitlingham Broad holds the secret to Norwich regaining and celebrating its maritime past. This broad could easily be connected to the main river network. It could be a truly fantastic world-class marina. It may be a 45-minute walk from the city, however, it is only a 5-minute ride by dinghy into the city centre.
Until then it’s potential will not be realised.
Winter Draws To A Close
This time around the winter had been a lot more comfortable. It was still bitterly cold but having more facilities on board had been a quantum leap in boating comfort. Although this was now the second winter without heating and the novelty had worn off. We were going to get that sorted this season.
Painting The Leisure 23SL
I liked Loddon and it was very easy to keep cruising from mooring to mooring.
However, my dog had had a seizure onboard and dropped unconscious. In a moment of what I can only describe as a feeling of a total loss, I had managed to revive her by holding her under her rib cage and patting her back.
She was not too far off eighteen years old and it was inevitable that she was about to pass on.
Knowing what was coming I found it helped to keep busy. My father’s sailboat had spent the winter of its second-year on the Broads on dry land and it had to be prepared to go back in the water.
She was stored near the River Thurne and I travelled up there to fix her up.
I only had a few days to get her done so it was flat out for a good few days. The hull was primed, painted and antifouled. She is a good boat, ‘Iddly Diddly’, so economical and an absolutely trouble-free boat.
She was lifted back in and taken back to her mooring, ready for another season, which was on the horizon.
Also on the horizon was me having to say goodbye to my dog so I had to think where best to be.
My Longest Day
On returning to Loddon, the inevitable was to happen.
My friend for the best part of twenty years lost her ability to stand completely. She had lost so much weight and must have been in terrible pain. She looked at me in a way only a dog owner would know and it was a look to tell me she had had enough. I put her down that day and she was buried in a field behind a boatyard.
I don’t mind telling readers that it was my longest day and it was a huge loss to me.
The owner of a nearby boatyard was also the owner of the Berney Arms on Breydon Water. This is one of the most remote pubs in the British Isles. It was now derelict and had been vandalised and suffered three arson attempts.
I held a security licence so I went to guard the property for a couple of weeks. It was to do me good as I needed to recalibrate after losing my best pal.
730 Days Later
That’s right, 730 days had passed and it was now the end of my second year on the Broads.
It was time now to head back up the northern rivers and prepare for my third boating season. I was ready and wanted to go to another location or country now but making that happen is the real challenge.
It had been a year of challenging boating experiences, overcoming adversity and even online hostility.
The hardest part was the loss of my crew member and I can honestly say that boating without my dog was never to be the same ever again.