Diane Shortland

Freelance Writer


Messing About on the River


I’ve fallen in love with boating on the Norfolk Broads. One weekend and I’m hooked. I’m here to convince you to give it a go – spend a few days just messing about on the river. How charming it is to have all your possessions on board a small boat that is home; just chugging along wherever life takes you. If you’re considering it, here are a few insider tips that might come in handy to know...


• At your two hour induction you will take in approximately 10% of what is being said, at which point you will look at each other and say ‘this boatyard looks a nice spot, shall we just stay here instead?’ Temptation will get the better of you though, and you’ll embark on your adventure squealing with delight. Shouts of horror and ‘Oh my God, how do you stop this thing again?’ and you’ll be away.


• You will chug along the river happy and relaxed. Sit on the back, front or roof and watch the river banks go by. Remember to leave one crew member to steer!


• You will wear pirate hats (even though it’s cheesy, maybe even because it’s cheesy) and entertain a blow-up parrot for the duration of your trip.


• Take a pack of cards, betting chips and a huge quantity of crisps and nibbles. You will drink, play games and be merry.


• However hot the day is, the night will be cold. I suggest selecting an accompanying non-duvet-hogging partner who isn’t of the ‘turn herself over and take all the duvet with her and then roll onto it so it somehow tucks itself around and under her in a fashion that secures it from ever being pulled back onto your side again’ variety. Naked legs are not the way to go for a good night’s sleep.


• Shower whilst on the move. Forget all notions of luxuriating under the invigorating heat of a deluxe power head. Water will trickle out following the pattern of: boiling hot for 30 seconds, perfect temperature for 30 seconds, cold for the remainder of your endurance, and will usually finish with a small tidal wave under the door - significant enough to flood the kitchen - whereby you will then parade half naked with a mop in hand whilst reassuring your most anxiety ridden crew member that you’re boat is not sinking and in fact all is well.


• Apologies now for lowering the tone, but try to plan your toileting around land stops. It’s £10 to empty your on-board loo and when the basin informs you the time is nigh, it’s not a pretty sight. Be warned!


• On your first night you will fail to find a mooring spot and have to tie your boat to a random tree stump in the wilds. You will light a flying lantern to christen your cruise but fail to read the instructions. Instead of elevating, it will plummet to the water. You will then panic that it’s still alight and spend the next 20 minutes trying to push it away from your boat without falling overboard.


• Prepare yourself for the inevitable holiday love-making of your fellow crew member couples. What can I say? Walls are thin and night on the river is quiet. Opt for earplugs or jovial encouragement.


• You will awake at 7am to the sound of a rumbling earthquake under your bunk. As you come to you’ll realise that it’s in fact the engine starting and that despite this ungodly hour, you are on the move again. The early barger catches the highly sought after mooring spot.


• Expect to, at least once, come across the most perfect looking pub on the riverside. You will make an unanimous decision to eat there, only to find there are no mooring spots left. You will moor up opposite said perfect pub, on the wrong side of the river with no bridges in sight.  Inevitably this will also be the moment you realise you’ve ran out of beer.


• You will embrace all of the above and have fun. In approximately four days you will return to the boatyard having had the time of your life and will immediately rebook to repeat the adventure next year.