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

19 November 2014

Learning the ropes with AQUILA

Heather was towed to Stalham with our new motorised tow boat ~ AQUILA OF PORTSMOUTH. Aquila is a Latin word for eagle, or possibly meaning 'to borrow' in Spanish. She is a seaworthy after cockpit harbour launch, built by Smallcraft, Portsmouth along traditional lines. Added to this, Aquila is a robust vessel, with a powerful engine for the purpose of towing. There is also a small cabin and windscreen to shield people from bad weather. The two boats complement each other well.

Things can easily go wrong, when towing a cranky ageing vessel, when time is limited. We firstly tried pulling the houseboat astern, with three lines. This is handy when skirting the sharp and narrow dykes around Hoveton and Wroxham. On the open river, coupled with strong winds and the sheer weight of the boat and lack of sizable keel or rudder, she slides and sways around in quite an un stately manner. Just down stream, a drogue (a floating type of anchor, designed to keep the boat in line) out from Heather's stern. This was a vintage car tyre, daubed with white paint, previously used as a fender.

The trouble is the drag hinders progress and the crew can't easily step from one boat to the other, for food and drink especially. In the past, when towing with this method, somebody on the house roof has even had to pass food parcels attached to the end of the quant (punt) pole to the crew on the motor boat ahead. The whole process of towing an old houseboat is very comical when you think about it, although it is a tried and tested operation. There are some excellent Victorian photographs published in Broadland books, showing fine steam launches, towing cabin houseboats behind with one hawser line.

When we reached Salhouse, we decided to tow abreast ~ that is alongside of each other. Aquila's starboard was to Heather's port side, with the 1950's entrance doorway convenient. With lines running diagonally between the two boats, we made way dreamily down the Bure, then joined the River Ant up to Ludham Bridge, unhitching at Horning public Staithe. It was decided to move Heather through separately, by hauling the boat carefully though the angular bridge, with the help of 6 kindly local visitors. The boats were held off the Ludham bank momentarily, lines re~configured and then we set off, arriving at Poor's Staithe, Stalham, just before closing time.

We have had some practise towing. It is seven years this week since we towed the houseboat from Stalham to Hoveton. She was strapped alongside a handsome looking motor cabin cruiser called ULLYSES. Unfortunately, after struggling from Horning on the last leg of the journey, the mighty horizontal Yanmar engine, gave its last gasp and expired with a loud clunk close to Salhouse in darkness. After the smoke had cleared, frantic efforts were made to reach the bank with a heavy drop weight ~ anchor. The boats glided into some trees and we had no alternative, but to walk back to Wroxham and pick up an aluminium dory tender, returning to pull the motley fleet up river to Wroxham Broad Island. The tow was separated and both boats ferried up river to the King's Head Moorings.


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