A warm, friendly Heather welcome

We are delighted to share Heather, an historic boat, artistic refuge and home for over a century, laying on the ancient Broads Waterways of Norfolk.

It is our aim to preserve the distinctive character of Heather, enabling future generations to enjoy her charms. We welcome you to explore the houseboat and bountiful riverside beyond...

Andrew, Timothy and Christopher

7 February 2014

Fending off

Natural rope fenders, Royall's Yard

Plastic moulded fender with modified sock and the renewed half pear shaped fender strake
(on the right)

Classsic canvas fender using a dog dummy, ideal for small craft

Rustic tyre fenders on wherry MAUD

To prevent damage when rubbing against quays, other vessels and objects, fenders are suspended in place to protect the sides of boats. Most fenders are today made of moulded plastic or rubber. Until recently, natural woven coir or hemp rope, or kapok wrapped in canvas were the norm. Wood, carpet and a variety of other materials are also put to use. Fenders are essential, if rather mundane equipment used on board. However, woe betide a boat having fenders dangling from the sides when underway ~ marine etiquette prescribed that fenders should be unshipped ~ stowed inside when cruising.

Heather has her own special built in fenders. In 2006, while the boat was laying in a dormant state at Stalham, the rubbing strakes on one side scraped along the quay heading. A hole was made which enticed some smart mice to embark and set up home fleetingly! Fortunately no real damage was done and small fury creatures are no longer found in residence.

The rubbing strakes were found to be in seriously poor condition. Pieces of oak, from at least the 1920's remained around the bows and stern. Small sections of soft deal wood, putty and even vinyl made up the rest. A major phase of restoration took place at Royall's boat house in 2011. Over 18 metres of strong iroko hardwood replaced the decrepit strakes around the entire top sides of the hull.

During the overhaul, archive pictures came to light which show an additional, half pear shaped lip, standing proud of the central, flat faced rubbing strake, along the cabin. This had been removed during repairs undertaken in the 1990's. The curious extra lip is similar to robust fenders fixed on some life boats. One theory at the time suggested that Heather was a life boat in a former life. Brand new extra fender lip strakes were fashioned and attached to the straight, mid ship sections during Royall's restoration.

When coming to berth at a mooring, a pair of chubby white plastic fenders with socks, are tied onto stakes on the land. Unusually, there are very few fastenings on board to attach fenders. Plastic fenders are excellent in most cases, except when used against some surfaces, especially painted wooden hulls. We have slipped some modified fabric socks over the top, made from an old fleece coat. Proper fenders and socks can be purchased from all good chandlers like Jeckells or Aquafax.

Canvas fenders were probably used with Heather in the past. The hard wearing cotton canvas cloth has the advantage of causing minimal wear and looks very traditional. When it turns very dirty and worn, they can easily be refreshed by coats of good paint, even matching the boat's livery. Remarkably, these are still tailor made by Jeckells at Hoveton. A more economical option can be found at Chunky's Pet Shop, by Wroxham Bridge. They stock cylindrical dummies, designed as dog training aids. These are available in a natural green canvas or red polyester finish. A buff coloured lanyard, spliced through the brass eye completes the classic look. The rope was obtained from GR Hurst ~ Ropes Direct, Catfield, who have a wonderful range of competitively priced ropes, cord and other goods.

Rope work fenders really look the part and they don't deflate, as plastic can. They are still individually made in the UK, however most are shipped from Asia. The fenders are put to excellent use on some of Royall's charming personal fleet of boats. Last but not least, old rubber tyres are probably the most universal and cheapest fender around. However, they are disliked for their aesthetics in some quarters. Wherry MAUD has a set, with very helpful holes drilled inside the walls, so that the water can drain out. Miniature tyres, hung from the quays, can be useful buffers in Broadland. Some people like to daub them in white paint, or indeed any colour under the sun.

Timothy, Andrew and Chris

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King's Head Staithe, Hoveton, pictured from Wroxham public Parish Staithe