Starter boats re-visited.

The one thousand pound boat.

The one thousand pound boat transatlantic.

Blog time : it’s early March 2020 and a few days short of my 62nd birthday.  For my birthday i almost bought an old racing dinghy, the one i’d always wanted, although i think i might be too old and slow to drive it : my actual plan was to have been to convert it to a modern ‘extreme’ lugger and set it up for the Everglades challenge.  As it worked out the owner rejected my offer and i suspect the Merlin Rocket owners association would have declared a Fatwa on me and had me lynched !

Instead…..i got a much more useful wet-vac so that i can wash and clean all the carpet stuck to the inside of WABI”’ ; and my very first sewing machine called ‘Fritz’.  However, this post isn’t about any of that, rather it’s a return to the starter boat/budget boat series of posts and a total re-write of the one post i never finished : ‘The one thousand pound boat’.   In that series of posts i took the single idea of budget and messed around with it ; first, halving the actual budget i had ( £5,000) and then halving that again but eventually rounding that down until i got to the princely sum of one thousand pounds.  Yes, i know, half of half of £5,000 doesn’t make one thousand….but you get the idea ?

In the actual post , never finished, i went looking for a basic starter boat for around the one thousand pound mark……but with a twist : the twist in the tale is that the boat had to be potentially capable of a transatlantic crossing (after a refit) as well, and the reason i tried that thought experiment was because i’d heard that it had been done by an old mate of mine.    That story kind-of starts in the Caribbean and works backwards to a muddy river on the UK’s south coast so……

One sunny day in Antigua…..just another shitty day in paradise !

It must have been April 1994 and i was preparing for my first Antigua week as skipper of a tired old ex Whitbread boat , in truth i should have walked off the boat months before and i really don’t know why i stayed with the boat until i’d brought her back to the UK and thrown my kit bag ashore : however, that’s another sea story for a different day.

That evening in English harbour, Antigua, i seem to remember that i was sewing a patch onto one of our old headsails up on deck, glad to be away from the guests for a while.  As i was working on the sail i noticed a couple of guys in a beat-up looking inflatable rowing towards the boat and i assumed that they were heading for the dock : instead of passing us they came up alongside and i recognised the bloke rowing as someone i knew from the sailing industry back home.  I invited them aboard and as we had ‘guests’ aboard we sat on deck while he quickly explained their problem…that him and the lad with him had flown out from the UK to quickly refit and sail an older Swan yacht in Antigua week : the problem being that the boat had been ripped apart internally after a drugs seizure and subsequent auction of the boat itself.

In brief , my mate’s problem was that the boat was uninhabitable that night and they were in a fix for a bunk for the night.  As i said, we had guests aboard but we were able to rustle up enough spare cushions for them and they bedded down in the winch pit for the night ; to be honest i thought they were both exhausted from the long flight and what must have been a dispiriting arrival to their boat.  In the morning…..a quick cuppa and they were gone.

That was just about the last i saw of them, i had a hectic and ultimately awful Antigua week and soon after that we stocked up and cleared out for the voyage home. Not so long time later we docked in the Azores for a few nights and then it was a few days and nights and we were home : i threw my kit bag on the dock and walked away from the boat, the industry and that life.  For me, what happened next, at least for the next couple of years, is a bit of a blank ; i settled in to being a small cog in the big and ugly machine that is the NHS and i pretty much left big boats behind.


I pick up the story several years later, not long after the story i told recently in the post ‘E’ is for Egret : by that time i’d left big boats behind, i was thoroughly back into hiking, i’d just discovered sea-kayaks and canoes and i was slowly formulating an idea, that of going off cruising/exploring in a small boat that was capable of doing everything that maxi-yachts can’t do.  That particular idea eventually became real in the shape of a half built Wharram , it wasn’t particularly successful in itself but it led the way into the kind of thing i do now.  At some point during those years i was talking to another old sailing friend about putting together a project with a very cheap old boat, as low cost as i could find ; well, my friend told me about a bloke that we both knew….my friend in the Antigua story…and that he’d put a boat on the water for a thousand pounds and sailed it to the Caribbean.  He didn’t know anything else about the story, we both knew who it was and i knew from knowing him that it would have just like him as he’s got a shed full of boat bits and tools, and the necasary skills with which to do that.

In terms of the story that’s as far as i can take it because i left the area soon after that and forgot about it for several years, only coming back to it when i started this blog and i was playing around with the same idea as a thought exercise once more.

The second part of the post came about because i started to take the idea seriously and went about finding the boat , hull or project to start with.

To be continued.

s-l1600 (3)

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