This week i was down at the yard one evening when i happened to bump into Chris the boss who was slinging the next boat due to go down the slip. Chris was just back from an early season sail with some of his university students : his main job being a university lecturer at the maritime college. It was that kind of evening when neither of us were in a rush to get stuff done so, like the old seadogs we pretend to be, we had a good ‘gam’ about stuff that we were doing.
We both come at our sailing from completely different backgrounds and experiences of boats : mine being very much ‘IOR’ but also with a few years knocking around a boatyard. Chris probably has even more ocean miles that i do, is definitely as experienced a long distance sailor and is far better a boatman and all round fixer of boat problems.
For some reason we got to talking about simple boat designs and came around to ‘Bolger-boxes‘, we don’t have any of the late Phil Bolger’s designs in the yard although we had been talking about simple-but-functional boats which lots of the craft in the yard are…..rather than the pretty and the conventional. Chris actually knew of a Bolger design that he was very enthusiastic about but one which doesn’t feature in my book of Bolger‘s designs….one that he thought might interest me. I’ll come back to the actual boat in a moment…the thrust of our conversation being along the lines of the difficulty of finding larger boats (than mine) that are offshore capable and will lie upright in a creek or on the beach. Chris, like me, is a great believer in being able to do that, in fact it has been Chris’s knowledge of the west-country rivers that has opened up many of the great little shallow anchorages to me and WABI”’
The ‘Bolger-box‘ that Chris mentioned by the way is a cat-yawl design called ‘Romp’ and it’s one i’d never heard of nor ever knowingly seen a picture of : there aren’t even that many photographs of the design on the internet. Here’s the boat (below) that our man was talking about, and yes it’s one that could get my enthusiasm running and yes, it’s definitely an oddball one.
Firstly, i can exactly imagine this one sitting comfortably on the firm sand/mud of Ruan creek , or anywhere else for that matter, i can easily imagine taking her across to France and then parking her on the mud far up one of the Brittanny rivers and i bet she would be a comfortable boat to live aboard and voyage with. I don’t reckon she would be a good upwind boat in the channel as, if anything, she looks like a little barge…..in fact i want to go very ‘left-field’ here and suggest that she might even be better with leeboards just like a real barge.
As with the boats that Chris and me were talking about this one holds the same practical and functional appeal as my little boat does. Aside from a couple of mentions in Bolger related websites i haven’t found out much more yet about the design or the few that have been built.
Today, that one wasn’t really what i came to talk about as this post is ‘one for the weekend‘, that is , the series in which i highlight boats that are on the market through Ebay and which i think are worth a look at.
About a year ago my own decision making about boats was almost exactly hanging between ‘proper’ offshore and ocean going boats , classic cruiser-racers say and the much more specialised boats geared towards shallow draft and drying out. It should be pretty obvious which way i have gone with that now but a year ago i was on the verge of buying this boat just before my knee became a real problem.
This is the actual boat we went to see down at Portland marina/boatyard and spent the morning aboard having a very thorough examination of. She was already on the brokerage at a fair price although the owner really wanted to get rid of her and at that stage had put her up for auction on Ebay…..which was when i picked up on her. I covered the boat briefly once before, for those that don’t remember it’s a ‘Javelin’ half tonner to the older IOR rule and had been a competitive racer briefly and then a very capable cruiser-racer. I was very tempted to make an offer on the Javelin as i thought her crude race boat interior would be easily converted into a much more comfortable boat for a couple and to be honest, this is the kind of boat that i grew up with in the ISORA circuit.
I thought then, and still think now, that the Javelin would have been a competent and fairly quick cruiser-racer for genuine offshore cruising although the compromise would have been her inability to dry out easily and i think i would have been nervous about trying to dry her out on beaching legs.
What actually happened here is that my knee needed a more urgent rebuild and i couldn’t take the Javelin project any further at that time. I happen to think that she would have made a very capable cruiser almost along the same lines as Free-Range sailing’s ‘Mirrool’…the limitation with the Javelin being the 5 foot draft.
The first reason i am highlighting the Javelin half-tonner again today is that i still happen to believe a 30 foot ,early GRP boat would make an excellent long term cruising boat for a young couple….again just like Troy and Pascale’s ‘Mirrool’. The Javelin is slightly more extreme a boat with her fin keel rather than the semi-long keel and i suspect both a bit quicker and a bit wetter a sailing boat in a breeze upwind.
The second reason i am highlighting the Javelin today is that there is one for sale/Auction on Ebay right now and it’s a boat that i have actually seen out sailing. Its a slightly strange coincidence but when i was passing Lymington one evening on the ‘Inanda’ trip there was an evening race in that end of the Solent and the Javelin was one of the boats that came past me…..i was a bit too busy dodging weekend racing yachties to get photographs.
Anyway, here she is and a very low starting cost. When she came past me her sails looked good and flat , she looked very balanced and well behaved too. I had a quick look through the sale details, obviously the 2 Javelin’s are very different boats, the one i saw had a very new looking engine but would have needed new sails and an interior rebuild….the current one on Ebay has very nice looking sails, very high quality deck gear and a conventional looking cruiser-racer interior…..the downside if anything might be the old engine although i haven’t seen it so can’t comment on that.
Not related but this is where i fetched up that evening.
One for the project shed then.
Back to the boatyard then and two sailors having a good gam about boats. Something i have often said here on the blog is that up until about 20 years ago i had a very narrow view of boats and an equally limited ‘type’ experience. I was a bit like a stick of rock (except fatter) ….if you’d sliced me across the middle you would have found the letters ‘IOR’ running right through the middle !. It wasn’t until i left professional sailing behind completely that i discovered that there were ‘other’ boats out there and that some of them were far more functional craft than the race dinosaurs that i sailed.
Chris, as i have said, has a much more broad base of past experience than i do and he has sailed far more different kinds of boats than i have….at one point i was enthusing about a ‘Freedom’ design in the yard …..and he immediately told me about a passage that he’d recently done in one and how good that one was off the wind.
While we were chatting away i noticed the alloy mast of an obviously small boat on the other side of the reed-beds just around the next bend in the river and clearly coming upriver on the evening tide.
Chris said that it was a group of lads who had rescued an old and basic sailing boat and were enthusiastically trying to get it sailing again. More enthusiasm and less cash was the impression i got from Chris….and good for them too. There are so many small potentially viable project boats out there that just need a lot of enthusiasm, some work and some money, not much….that would make great little boats at low cost.
Chris used two expressions that were so memorable that i’m going to repeat them here : ‘run what you brung’ which is a bikers expression , basically meaning sail with what you have and don’t waste time wishing you had something better, second : “Its all valid“…in terms of boats…..the boat might not be pretty or a great marque but it can still give you as much adventure as you can handle. I was once a kind of boat snob but today i see where Chris is going with that idea : that it doesn’t really matter what you own, it’s the adventure, and i think the process of learning that’s important.
I really admire that kind of approach as it reminds me of my first boat, a very bad East German Folkboat and then the boat that an old ‘Whitbread‘ mate of mine and his brother owned between them …a rough secondhand Achilles 24. Both boats were very secondhand ,rough and worth very little, and both of them taught us stacks about the basics of going to sea in small craft We can then both then trace our sailing stories up to a kind of pinnacle that took us right round the world under sail via the great capes and in the longest fully crewed yacht race that existed back then. Most of us in that crew came from a background of sailing small and not-great boats and anyone that was useful had some key skill to offer that they’d had to learn from running those boats.
Some time during that race i had to splice up big rope to wire halyards and i only knew how to do that because i’d had to learn that technique for my folkboat….likewise when we blew the head out of the blast reacher it was Sam who hand sewed the head ring back in place because he’d learnt that aboard his Achilles. As i remember it he watched me splice and i helped him with the sail……a couple of years later and i was doing a similar sail repair myself just from having it seen done once : in medicine we have an expression “see one, do one, teach one” !
So, i’m going to make a point here. I honestly think that not having a big budget for a new boat and/or taking on a project boat at some point in our sailing lives (preferably early on) makes us much better sailors ultimately. That’s because we have to do what countless generations of sailors (not yachtsmen) have had to do and that is improvise : make and mend is the sailors expression. I might be slightly weird but i happen to think that having a not great boat early on also teaches a lot about basic seamanship especially if that little boat has to be sailed nearly everywhere.
So, here is the point of the pointy end today….
Right now on Ebay there are several viable project boats coming and going, here is just one of them and exactly the kind of thing i would be looking for if i was just coming into the game with a few hundred pounds in my pocket and maybe the chance to put a few hundred more into the boat. It certainly doesn’t have to be THE boat, in fact it’s probably better if the first one is on the rough side : then you won’t worry too much about learning the basic skills on it.
Lets say you were a young sailor who was looking for their first boat, or maybe someone who was on a very tight budget but wanted to go cruising. A project boat like this could teach you every stage of getting a boat on the water if you just decided to do as much of it as you could yourself. Learning how to do a simple GRP repair or just sorting the mast out and stepping it with maybe a mate to help….it can be done… or maybe building a basic electrical system out of a 12 volt battery, a PV panel and some wiring. It’s all useful stuff for the day you really have to repair something in the southern ocean or out on a long cruise where there are no marinas and boatyards.
Ok, so the Listang isn’t the prettiest of boats and it’s pretty far down the project slope except that it’s got a hull/deck , keel and mast, some sails and gear. Right now it’s only one of 3 or 4 just on Ebay and of course they appear and disappear every week. This week there is a complete hull for £50…you couldn’t build a new hull for that….or how about a Sadler 25 that’s been sat in a field for 5 years ?…..there is one on the site right now.
I reckon that if you could get that little boat on the water with very little hard cash spent but with some hours work done and basic skills learnt ….that you would know far more about boats and your little boat specifically than the wealthy but incompetent couple on their brand new 40 footer with all the toys and a still wet day-skipper certificate.