The lap of luxury
PUBLISHED: 09:20 03 June 2013 | UPDATED: 09:20 03 June 2013
The sun rises above the reeds and a line of light sparkles across shimmering water, illuminating a gleaming white boat. Above, birds wheel and call. As a magical morning light floods in from the east we are the only humans in a vast landscape of rippling marsh, meadow and river.
The tide is streaming out towards Breydon Water as we wake at one of the most isolated staithes on the Broads. From the outside we are a lonely, if sleek and shiny, speck huddled close to the riverbank beneath the vast Norfolk sky. But inside our boat there is an astonishing sense of spaciousness too. Light pours in through glazed hatches and wrap-around windows, and the open-plan saloon is both large and luxurious. The furnishings and finishings are more boutique hotel than boat.
This morning, the kettle is just coming to the boil in a beautifully-equipped galley, on the maiden voyage of Captain Horatio, an immensely sophisticated cruiser which is one of the four new vessels designed and built by Broom Boats of Brundall to re-launch its hire boat business.
Last night we were rocked to sleep at Polkey’s Mill, on a windswept, tideswept stretch of the River Yare, between Berney Arms and Reedham. Now shafts of sunshine are illuminating the cluster of deserted historic mills and the only sounds are birdsong and the gurgle of lapping water. The previous day we had cruised from an overnight mooring at pretty Coldham Hall, stopped at Hardley Mill for a fry-up brunch aboard, and then motored past the picturesque waterfront at Reedham and on to Somerleyton, where we tied up for a couple of hours’ sight-seeing.
Today we could cruise through Breydon Water and Oulton Broad towards Beccles, or back up the Yare and then the river Chet to Loddon, or to Rockland St Mary or Surlingham, or even via Whitlingham and into Norwich.
We were just away for the weekend, but on a longer trip the whole of the northern Broads would open up to us too, from the floating sophistication of Captain Horatio.
Broom has 115 years’ experience of designing and building luxurious boats – and it shows. Its four new boats are both beautiful and beautifully practical. The spacious and chic saloon comes complete with a commanding cockpit area, cushioned couches and a polished natural wood floor and, when night shuts out the views to the watery world glimmering outside, a flat screen television and entertainment system. The main bedroom, or forward cabin as we landlubbers are learning to call it, has a stunning raised and curved island bed built into the carpeted room, with an impressive amount of storage around and below. The gleaming wash room (or heads) includes teak seating in the shower enclosure.
The summer season had not yet started and we were grateful for the efficient heating. In the summer we could have lifted the hatches in the cabin and slept under the stars, or opened the whole back of the saloon on to an outside dining area and teak bathing platform. There are so many clever touches which put this cruiser comfortably in a class of its own, like the upholstered outside seat with a back which can pivot to face towards saloon or the water; the teak sunbathing sections and seat, high at the front of the boat; the extra double bed stowed beneath the saloon seating.
Even early on a breezy, bracing morning, it is a joy to take breakfast outside, high on our deck, surrounded by lovely, lonely landscape, and look forward to another day of going with the flow and floating through lapping water in the lap of luxury.
Broom Boats has been building beautiful craft at Brundall for 115 years. It was one of the first boat builders to expand into hire cruisers and once had a fleet of 60 hire boats. Now, after a gap of eight years, it is launching four brand new Broom holiday hire boats. Captain Horatio is one of two Broom 35 Coupes, sleeping up to four. It is joined on the water by two Broom 30 Coupes, with the suitably Norfolk names of Cavell and Delia, sleeping two.
Broom Boats Limited, Riverside, Brundall, NR13 5PX; 01603 712334; www.broomboats.com
• Broom was at the forefront of holiday hire boats on the Broads, and also pioneered the switch from sail to motor cruisers, and then from wood to fibreglass construction.
• Charles John Broom launched his business in Brundall in 1898, building “beautifully crafted sailing cruisers for gentlemen” as well as maintaining and mooring boats for wealthy clients.
• In 1912, Broom was among the first to begin a hire fleet, offering boating holidays to a wider audience. Attendants helped sail the boat and do the chores.
• During world war two the skilled craftsmen of Brooms worked on Admiralty contracts, and much of the hire fleet was used as accommodation for the forces or, mounted with machine guns for river patrols, escaping the fate of other hire boats which became floating obstructions to stop seaplanes landing on the Broads.
• Comedians Ernie Wise and Dick Emery were among the celebrities who owned a Broom boat.