Motor cruising the vintage way

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It’s a tranquil afternoon in Beccles and a line of smart moorings are tantalisingly empty...

In the centre is a single moored motor cruiser. Its name is Manxman and it is an exercise in elegance. It’s the craft of vintage Broads posters, made from smart wood and with its flag rippling in the breeze. Aboard is a gentleman wearing a classic Breton cap accompanied by his two collies. He explains that his is the last wooden motor cruiser to have been built by Herbert Woods. It is number six of six and was created in a time when showers on board were considered the height of luxury and bow thrusters were unheard of.

Vintage craft moored
Vintage cruisers moored at Beccles

Just as the sun begins to break through the clouds another boat chugs into sight, this one is newly varnished and decorated in floral bunting. Soon it is followed by another and another until the moorings are filled with a collection of shiny teak and smiling faces.

The informal gathering are all vintage motor cruiser enthusiasts and each vessel has a story to tell. Some are end of line models from boat hirers who are still going strong today, others are the flagship boats of their type. One couple has come all the way from Spain to show their cruiser while another couple is sporting polo shirts with the name of their boat emblazoned across them. There are small wooden tender boats and ‘ship-dogs’ wearing their life jackets.

The assembled group attract interest from the passing public and it’s not hard to see why. The motor cruiser has enjoyed unrivalled popularity within the Broads, making the river systems accessible to everybody. From able seamen to the most ardent landlubber, the motor cruiser can be swiftly understood with the help of a good face-to-face tutorial, meaning that those who have never taken to the water before can be navigating the Broads solo in a matter of hours. For parties of one to as many as eight, they come in every size and style, from the original wooden vessels which are so coveted by enthusiasts to the sleekest modern vessels built today.

Judith M Martham
A classic cruiser by Martham Boats

The vintage enthusiasts discuss their love of the antique cruiser, harking back to times of boaters and punt sticks, petticoats and picnic hampers, all the while their successors passing by with colourful hire logos lacquering their fibreglass sides. As holidaymakers and locals alike join in praise of these icons of the Broads, it becomes clear that it is because the motor cruiser is the boat of the people and offers the ability to enjoy the Broads regardless of age, mobility or experience. The humble motor cruiser allows anybody who comes to the Broads to be a part of it, and that is why they are so loved.

There is a motor cruiser for every occasion, these are a few of a great wealth of options, check out the Visit the Broads website for plenty more …

For vintage motor cruisers: Little Ships Water Rail, Martham Boats TumblehomeHerbert Woods Spark of Light

For couples cruising: Hoseasons Brinks Topliner, Norfolk Broads Direct Fair Princess, Posh Boats Whisper

For accessibility: The Waveney Stardust, The Nancy Oldfield Trust, The Southern Comfort

For day trips:  Wayford Marine Ltd Jumbo, Ferry Marina Skipper, Simpsons Boat Yard Picnic Boat, Waveney River Centre

For luxury cruising: Serenity Charter, Richardson’s Boating Holidays Moonraker, Norfolk Broads Direct Fair Empress

For an hour cruising or a whole holiday: Barnes Brinkcraft Brinklet, Herbert Wood Florida Light, Broads Tours electric day boat

For a larger group: Hoseasons Fairway, The Broads Boating Company Rockland, Broom Boating Holidays Broom Explorer

For bringing along your pets: Herbert Woods Bright Light, Richardson’s Moon Adventure, Hoseasons Brinks Serenade