As the kids are getting older, I am finding myself wanting to treasure all the time I can get with them. Lewis is now 9 years old and Leah is 6, time really is flashing by before my eyes. It’s not going to be long before my kids won’t want their “quality time” with us, their cuddles and closeness, instead favouring to go out with friends instead. So I now need to make the most of the holidays and adventures we have left with them, make the most of time we have where we can all be cooped up together and enjoy each other’s company before its gone.
We also have other factors for needing to get away, a significant one being we run our own family business, it’s demanding and we don’t get “down-time”, 52 operating weeks a year and we don’t even get a week off (holiday or not – more about that later!). With this in mind my husband and I came up with a fantastic holiday plan, one where we can be isolated and make the most of time spent together as a family.
Meet our home for 7 nights!
Yep, you got it, we’re going to be living on a boat for a week. Myself, hubby and 2 kids a week of slowly travelling around the Norfolk Broads, board games, building Lego, making slime, working on school workbooks and just generally spending time – together! We couldn’t wait!
Now don’t get me wrong, when we first broached the subject of going on a boat for a week I really didn’t “see the point”. I couldn’t work out how we’d survive keeping the kids cooped up for such an amount of time a day, keep them entertained and stop Leah and I from throwing up (the joys of travel/sea sickness).
I also didn’t think I’d cope with such a “different holiday”, the thought of a boating holiday didn’t appeal to me whatsoever. But I was so wrong to be worried, I actually can’t work out now who had more fun, me or the kids!
Booking our holiday was simple, we browsed through a range of boats and deals with Waterways Holidays they gave a great selection from all the main boating companies within the Norfolk Broads from Herbert Woods based at Potter Heigham to Barnes Brinkcraft at Wroxham and many more. Using this search facility we found available boats for our chosen week, and narrowed our selection down by the different internal layouts of the boats (I wanted to make sure we had a boat where the kids could sit at the front deck so I could ensure they were insight and safe whilst travelling and there were adequate sleeping arrangements on the boat). Using this we found Sunlight, which we hired through Herbert Woods.
We were ready for the holiday!
The day of our holiday arrived, with the car packed and ready to set off we faced a 4 hour drive (200+ miles) to our destination. Check in was at 4pm, so we ensured we had enough time to travel, stop for lunch, pick up various groceries in the area and arrive at Potter Heigham in time. After setting off at 9.30am, we arrived at 4.10pm. We signed in, collected our life jackets before being shown to our home for the week (shown above!).
From here we were given a tour of our boat, shown various aspects of maintenance to keep us comfortable for the week. We were shown how to fill the on board water tank for the sinks, toilet and shower, engine maintenance oil top up, water coolant and filter for the engine, using the leisure battery, starting the engine etc.
Then came the important part, did we actually know how to drive a boat? My husband knew all the tricks of the river from holidaying in the area as a child, plus his dad also owns a canal boat, so for him this was a piece of cake.
For me it was different, I’d briefly steered my Father In Law’s boat (with little success – I crashed into a lock) so I was very nervous with the thought of driving a boat. So I asked for some tips and to be shown all the driving equipment.
Instantly I was put at ease because it wasn’t that difficult… or at least it didn’t sound difficult. First up we drive, sorry “cruise” on the right hand said of the river (where as in the UK we drive on the left of the road), there are 2 gears to the boat; forward and reverse, and lastly although the boat is steered physically from the front of the boat its engine and propellers are at the rear of the boat, meaning the boat makes wider turns powered from the back. This made things really interesting for parking, sorry “mooring” up later!
As mentioned earlier our boat was named Sunlight, it features a front of boat steering position, single floor level throughout, split siding canopy over the livingroom area, LCD TV/DVD in the livingroom, warm air heating throughout.
The boat can also sleep up to 5 people in the bedrooms, there’s a double bed and single bed sharing one room at the rear of the boat with a separate room middle of the boat with 2 single beds which can also join to make a double. The livingroom can also host an additional 3 people on the pull out sofa/adjustable sofa. A bit of a squeeze but can be done.
As this was our first boating holiday we didn’t fully know what to expect, but we wanted to make sure we had a boat that was going to be adequate enough for us all as a family of 4. First of all i noticed is that the boat is much bigger than i expected, easily twice as wide as a canal boat, each bedroom had its own door and somehow there were 2, yes 2 bathrooms!! The kitchen, yes OK, you couldn’t go tossing pancakes in it (I wasn’t going to be cooking gourmet meals in it either) was tiny, but it served us well. I was on holiday, eating out at least once/twice a day is a firm rule for our holidays anyway! And the lounge was perfectly sized for 4-6 people with a fold away table for allowing of extra space. It was comfortable and suited us perfectly. This was to be our home for the week, we loved it!
Soon after we were left to it, left to unpack our car and shown were we could leave it parked for the week. One thing I really liked about the Herbert Woods boat yard was that it really does have a good car parking facility on site in a spacious car park, we knew we wouldn’t have any problems with parking and returning to our car at the end of the holiday.
We soon went for our maiden voyage.
Now, the rules of the rivers on the Norfolk Broads meant there were strict speed limits over every stretch of the water. The maximum you could travel at any one time was 6mph, reducing to 5mph in twistier rivers and 3mph in areas were boats were parked (sorry, moored!) up.
As it was nearing 6pm when we left the boatyard we knew we couldn’t get far on our first night. Another rule of the waters is that hired boats could only travel from dawn until dusk (and is some locations from 8am to 8pm), not only that it was my first night on holiday, I wanted a pub dinner. So after a recommendation of a lovely pub, The Bridge Inn in Acle, about 5 miles away we knew where we wanted to go.
It took us about an hour and half to get to our first destination for our first night, moored up (with help from a lovely gentleman in the beer garden because I was too busy flipping out through parking a not so friendly water car and being too much of a novice) then set to the rum and coke’s (i’m on water after all, the drink of sailors etc) and some some lovely pub grub.
If you ever get the chance to holiday on the Norfolk Broads with kids I thoroughly recommend making this stop a must. Not only is the food great, but there is a play ground for the kids, a mini arcade, pool table in the garden and you can even do some fishing from your boat too. A perfect first night!
Come back soon for Day 2.