SIF Norfolk Broads Cruiser
On 21st September, the SIF acquired a 37ft Connoisseur six berth Norfolk Broads Cruiser that had originally been built in March 1979 for the broads hire fleet industry.
Initially, this was run by staff from RAF Coltishall until the station closed in 2006. In 2005, as part of the closure of the base, the future of this valuable facility was very much in doubt, particularly as one year earlier, RAF Coltishall’s neighbouring Station RAF Neatishead also closed, although Neatishead survived as a Remote Site, manned by a small number of RAF ICT technicians. Warrant Officer Steve Lay-Flurrie, the Unit Adjutant of the newly formed Remote Unit, keen to retain this valuable asset, set about raising funds and a business case to save the craft from being lost for good.
The case proved successful and in February 2006, the administration for the cruiser was transferred to Neatishead. At this point, it wasn’t clear if the small Unit could make the venture work, as most if not all the Unit members at the time had never seen a boat of this size and nature, let alone looked after one. Determined the venture would be successful, a committee was put together and in less than six weeks and the craft was up and running in time for the 2006 summer season. Needless to say, there was a steep learning curve, with minor repairs and ongoing servicing required before she could be used. The 2006 season saw the craft being used on the broads on a regular basis, but much more was needed to enhance this asset. So, during the winter period leading up to the 2007 season, a major publicity campaign took place, with the intent of reaching as many Units as possible to highlight the availability of this unique facility. In response, bookings came in from far and wide with growing interest from all three services. It was therefore no surprise that 2007 was a hugely successful year and as a result, the 2008 season was fully booked by the end of 2007. Job done you might think, but the increase in the craft’s use had a devastating downside that saw this ageing lady of the water develop major mechanical issues on a regular basis leading to a high number of callouts. During the 2008 season, it became a full time role to keep her going with Unit personnel, led by the WO giving a lot of time at evenings and weekends to undertake on the spot repairs.
It was clear that this could not continue, so in July 2008 WO Lay-Flurrie again set about raising a case to save the facility from being lost and this time, with the help of OC FDS at RAF Marham, was successful in raising £21k of which £17k was granted from SIF Central fund to enable a major refurbishment programme. After a month of careful planning, on 1st November 2008, WO Lay-Flurrie with the help of two members of the committee commenced the cruisers overhaul. Once started, the project was planned to take place in two phases with the first by the Marine Engineers at Boulter Marina in Horning, under the direction of their chief engineer, who would replace all the old mechanical parts, including the hydraulics, prop shaft, gears, roof mechanism and engine, with work due to finish by the end of January 2009. The second phase was undertaken by the project team themselves. This involved overhauling the interior of the craft, re-wiring the electrics throughout, replacing the domestic power and refurbishing the upholstery with the help of a local interior design company from Norwich.
The aim was to complete the refurbishment and have the cruiser back in the water by the end of March, ready for the 2009 summer season. As with all major refurbishments, initially things didn’t go to plan with more work being found that needed attention as the project progressed. Over the five-month period, the WO himself spent many hours using his spare time working alongside the Marine Engineers to keep the labour costs down and later in the second phase, the remaining members of the team also worked hard to keep the project on time and on budget. Finally, on 9th April 2009, the refurbishment of the cruiser was complete at a total cost of £21,033, just one day before the first customer was due to take the craft out on its first booking of the season. Five months on, while the cruiser may still be a 1979 vessel from the outside, she has had almost everything replaced and is essentially a new craft inside.
The vessel, named ‘Corkey Too’ is situated in the heart of the Norfolk Broads and between 2009 and 2012, has been a very popular facility, used by military personnel from all three services, providing much needed rest and holiday opportunities for all in a part of the UK that is one of the finest and largest inland waterways.
However, the story does not stop there. The craft has been well used over the years and a further update was required by the end of the 2011 season. An opportunity to prepare and present a replacement bid to SIF Central funds was submitted by WO Lay-Flurrie who’s dedication to this asset has seen him through highs and lows and to cut a very long story short, has once again successfully been granted a significant grant to replace ‘Corkey Too’ and in July 2012 saw the ‘Berth’ of a new craft called ‘White Lady’, a much classier craft by far known as a Sovereign 34, also a six berth craft, which has now taken to the water for the first time on 3rd August 2012. WO Lay-Flurrie in confident that SIF now has an extremely attractive and unique facility on one of the most beautiful areas of the British Isles, which is provided in the true traditions of SIF. As for Corkey Too, well this old lady has been very well looked after and her future has not been decided and may well be part of the RAF in the future – in spirit at least.
How to Book
This facility is only available to military personnel. Once you have decided when you wish to book please contact either SAC French or SAC Ryman (Military: 95922 3308), who will process your information and will Email you back with a preliminary confirmation, the following information should be included in you Email.
• Name and Rank
• Contact Details (Including Mobile No.)
• Dates for Cruise
• Norfolk Broads Official Tourist Information
• Broads Authority
• Enjoy the Broads
• Horning (Norfolk)
• The Ferry Inn Pub (Horning)
Image: © Unconcerned, www.stockfreeimages.com