Clive Marsh explains why large wooden traditional cruisers such as the 43ft Silver Jubilee class are his and his wife’s favourite holiday charter vessels…


Every few years my wife, Brenda, and I hire a boat on the Norfolk Broads for a rest and some good walks.

Over the years we’ve hired many types of boats from traditional Broads sailing cruisers to modern, comfortable motor cruisers but our favourite for the last four occasions has been the Silver Jubilee class, large wooden traditional cruisers built in the late 1960s to early 1970s by Martham Boats.

These fine vessels are 43ft long with an 11ft beam and are constructed of mahogany onto oak frames. With an amidships bridge there is accommodation forward and aft with two heads and a shower.

The Silver Jubilee 1 model has nine berths and is very comfortable for just the two of us. We have one end of the boat each and meet on the central bridge deck for the occasional conference.

I have always admired large traditional motor cruisers and hiring one fully maintained is a sensible option for people with limited time to spend on maintenance.

Article continues below…

Wide side decks

One particularly useful feature of these boats is their wide side decks. A circuit of the deck is over 100ft and this is useful for exercise when not ashore.

It is also useful for laying out and bringing the fore and aft mooring ropes to the central bridge deck so that when coming alongside it’s easy to take the ropes and step ashore for tying up (be careful not to tread on ropes on deck since they act like rollers).

I usually find it easier to manage the boat single-handed this way than it is to co-ordinate a crew. My wife is more than competent to motor or sail a boat but prefers to be uninterrupted when enjoying her embroidery and stitching.

A traditional wooden Broads cruiser – the 1950s Fine Wind

This suits me because I enjoy messing about in boats and the good thing about a 43-footer is there’s plenty of room for both of us not to get in each other’s way. Gone are the days when we used to enjoy scrambling about in a 22ft lift top.

I have never actually owned a wooden boat apart from a little Merlin Rocket. I don’t have the skills or time to maintain them. But I like them and this is where Martham Boats comes into play by offering me a selection of classic wooden motor or sailing cruisers and day boats.

Their sailboats tend to be gaff rigged and this is a great way to learn how to rig and sail a gaffer. The reed-lined river banks provide a soft landing for when things get a bit tight. But sailors sometimes need a rest and this is when I hire a traditional Broads cruiser.

Vintage Broads cruiser on the River Yare. Photo: John Keates/Alamy

Northern Broads

Martham Boats are situated on the Northern Broads which just happens to be my favourite part of the Broads network. They are separated from the rest of the Broads by the low and famous Potter Higham Bridge.

Bigger boats will need a favourable tide to get under this bridge and also a pilot. This means the Northern Broads are not too busy for much of the time. Of course, this works both ways but when I hire the Silver Jubilee for just four days I don’t bother to go south – even though the windscreen and bridge side screens do lower to reduce air draught.

When I arrive at the boatyard the first thing I notice is how relaxed I feel. I lose all sense of time. The staff have looked after everything and all I have to do is relax and enjoy the surroundings.

Both Hickling Broad and Horsey Mere are places of great interest and much wildlife. You might see marsh harriers, cranes, swallowtails, bitterns, kingfishers, warblers, barn owls, otters, deer, swallowtail butterflies and Norfolk hawker dragonflies to name a few, and the Silver Jubilee provides a good stable platform for painting and photography.

Coarse fishing when in season is second to none. Martham Boats will also supply a sailing dinghy and a ladder to safely get into it and I always tow a dinghy for use as a tender when mooring alongside gets a bit tight for a 43ft boat.

A typical mud weight used for anchoring on the Broads

Mud weights

Broads boats don’t have anchors but use mud weights which cause less damage to the ground. They sink into the mud and provide good enough holding in most conditions.

The Silver Jubilee is a big boat and therefore has a fairly heavy mud weight so you’ll need to be sure you can pull it up before lowering it. I usually break it out of the mud with a little reverse gear movement before hauling up.

I don’t need a winch but a long handled brush is useful to clean mud off the weight before bringing it on board.

Below decks is traditionally styled, comfortable accommodation with much varnished wood to give the cabins a warm feel. She’s heated by warm air Webasto heating. There is 6ft of headroom and more in the central cockpit.

The nine berths include three doubles and three singles. She has a shower and two flush toilets including one en-suite to the master cabin aft. Overall she is well equipped with the usual domestic appliances needed for a short stay afloat including TV, fridge, stove, USB and car auxiliary charger ports and a separate galley.

Access to the engine is by lifting a hatch in the central cockpit. It’s a marinised diesel engine and requires no significant attention apart from occasionally clearing any weed from a filter. You’ll be shown how to do this and also given other instructions on collection if needed. I’ve never needed to refuel.

One of the great benefits of the Northern Broads is the ability to reach the Norfolk beach easily. Simply tie up at Horsey Mere and walk across the road to the beach where you may be lucky and find some lounging seals.

Look from a distance so as not to disturb them of course. After a swim and on the way back call in at the Lord Nelson for a pint. Then return to your little home afloat.

This may all sound somewhat pedestrian for the more energetic readers but there is no reason why you can’t tow along your own racing dinghy and simply use the cruiser as a comfortable mobile home base for sailing, I often do this. These boats are an ideal mobile cabin for those who like to do a spot of angling.

Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the rough and tumble of sailing in the open sea and as Kenneth Grahame’s Ratty said ‘’There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats’’.

There are a number of boatyards on the Broads who’ll hire the perfect traditional boat to take a well earned break and listen to the Wind in the Willows.

Plenty of space below on the Silver Jubilee 1

Silver Jubilee 1 specifications

Type: Motor cruiser
Length: 43ft (13.11m)
Beam: 11ft (3.36m)
Headroom: 6ft (1.83m)
Berth configuration: 3 doubles and 3 singles
Helm: Raised driving position amidships
Construction: Mahogany on oak frame
Builder: Martham Boats

Why not subscribe today?

This feature appeared in the September 2023 edition of Practical Boat Owner. For more articles like this, including DIY, money-saving advice, great boat projects, expert tips and ways to improve your boat’s performance, take out a magazine subscription to Britain’s best-selling boating magazine.

Subscribe, or make a gift for someone else, and you’ll always save at least 30% compared to newsstand prices.

See the latest PBO subscription deals on