PETER FROST was on Salhouse Broad in May for Britain’s smallest but most fascinating and friendly boat show.
The knowledgeable man from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust at the helm of electric launch Damselfly gently put the bow of the boat into the wooded bank so the little girl in the prow could get a better picture of the great crested grebe and its chick on the nest.
Across the water, carried by the light breeze, were snatches of Holst’s Planet Suite from the brass band. Spread across the broad were canoes, electric launches, yachts and a dozen different craft all here as part of a cheerful celebration of green and sustainable – but not too serious – messing about in boats.
A sudden splash indicated where a laughing girl had fallen from her first attempt at the gentle art of paddle boarding. A passing electric day boat soon plucked her safely from the water.
I couldn’t help thinking how different it was from the razzamatazz of my last couple of boat show visits at London’s Excel and Southampton. No acres of shiny fibreglass here, no telephone number price tickets, no snooty salesladies with their silky rope barriers and their ‘By appointment only’ signs.
Here on Salhouse Broad there were just interesting boats with enthusiastic owners and builders only too keen to let you get aboard, get afloat and have a try and no shortage of visitors keen to have a go.
It could only happen in the Norfolk Broads. After all they have known all about green boating for centuries. Broads folk have been sailing boats, yachts and wherries built from local timber and powered by the wind, by oars or by quant poles since time immemorial.
The very shape and levels of these rivers and broads were created and maintained by harnessing the wind with mills and pumps that are still such an iconic part of the Broad’s landscape even today.
This year the Green Boat Show added Tourism to its title and a few exhibitors demonstrated how people are making more responsible choices when planning holidays and breaks.
On shore along with green holiday ideas there were domestic solar panels, electric vans, composting toilets, alpacas, and a score of other worthy ways to reduce your own personal environmental footprint. There was even a chance to make your own fruit smoothie using a bicycle pedal powered blender!
However it was down on the waterfront that I found the many craft that make the Green Boat show such a uniquely enjoyable event.
You could try canoes, kayaks and paddle boards. There were boats driven by paddle, pedal, oars, electric outboards and inboards and of course the greenest of power options – the wind. There were boats to buy, boats to hire and boats that were part of a green holiday package.
We spent most of our time out on the water in various boats and so it seemed did most of the other visitors and that’s what makes this little boat show such a wonderful and unusual day out.
Among the notable on show was Winsome a 17 foot, pedal powered launch that offers a fun, relaxing and eco-friendly way to explore rivers, canals, city docklands and estuaries.
The boat is moulded in double-skinned glass fibre for strength, stiffness and weight. The crew sit facing each other and pedal the boat via a central gearbox where nylon gears drive a 12” propeller at about 300 rpm.
Winsome’s (17 ft by 3 ft) hull is flat bottomed for stability and minimal wake. A reasonably active crew can easily cover 10 to 20 miles in a day, the manufacturers claim.
If you would like to try Winsome out for yourself or learn more about her – www.swallowboats.co.uk
David Williams 24 foot electric launch Terrapin has been a stalwart of the Green Boat Show and the indeed the entire sustainable boating movement for years.
Now I need to be careful how I say this as an electric boat enthusiast – but not all ‘silent’ electric boats are exactly – what’s the word? – silent.
In fact one or two I’ve tried couldn’t even be called quiet but David has spent time and skill making sure that Terrapin really is as near to silent boating as you can get.
Even a 5.5 knots with the 24 volt Lemco motor taking full power from the six 12 volt 95 amp hour batteries all you hear is the swoosh as the boat cleaves the water and that’s what green boating is all about.
Smallest electric boat at the show was Colin Carr’s Scamp. At just three metres (9 feet 9 inches) long her beam is just 44 inches. “Exactly half an inch narrower than the door of the shed she was built in” quipped Colin.
Broads based Colin has been boating for years and also spent time at sea as a marine engineer. Add to that a lifetime of model boat building and you can see the inspiration for this little gem of a boat.
In fact she was developed and designed using a radio controlled model just over a foot in length. Colin based the lines loosely on 1920’s slipper launches.
Her 24 volt motor is adapted from an electric outboard and two 24 volt 110 amp hour batteries offer two hours plus of cruising at up to 4 mph.
This report was produced for the now defunct magazine Canals, rivers and boats in 2012.