Nearly not quite budget boats.

Budget boats – roads not taken. (yet)

In this series of posts iv’e tried to give my perspective on budget sailboats through telling the story of my own boats – what my thoughts were, why i bought them, what i did with them and what happened to them : what i haven’t talked about are the many projects that iv’e thought about, often for hours on end, costed up even – even been to see the boat and then done nothing with that idea. In this post, i think it will be the last one for now i just want to talk about the one solution that iv’e always kept in mind and in a way is my absolutely bottom end solution for getting on the water.

When i sold my last cruising boat i thought about pulling nearly all of my available funds out of sailing and doing something different with that money and my time – after all iv’e sailed quite a lot of miles but there are lots of things that i haven’t done as an outdoorsman and some of those i could just about do before my mobility and strength declines with age. For a while iv’e been interested in recumbent trikes – 3 wheeled bicycles sometimes called ‘tadpoles’ ; i cycled a conventional touring bike in my 20’s and while it would be a very bad idea to ride a conventional cycle now a recumbent trike would get me back on the road……anyway and yes but.

One thing that kept me interested in sailing boats is the series of small craft events run by the Watertribe in the USA – the Everglades challenge is one , the Texas 200 is another : as i write this post one of my internet buddy’s is driving a boat in the Everglades challenge and that’s still one adventure i’d like to have. As some readers will know iv’e kicked around the idea for a similar event in Britain along our south west coast plus i spent some time over the winter working on similar projects for the central south coast and the east coast. Anyway….my plan for the EC and my own proposed event was to acquire a very cheap old racing dinghy and to quickly refit as my event boat – somewhat on the mad side but i was working with 2 very different racing dinghy classes ; the Merlin Rocket and the Osprey class. A few years back i actually bought an old wooden Osprey with a view to building the actual boat to do an Everglades Challenge with , got it home, but found that it was way beyond my skill to repair ; it eventually just started pulling apart as i worked on it.

Osprey dinghy – sadly beyond my skill to repair.

Just for interest’s sake i worked out that the Osprey would go in a 20 foot shipping container with a shorter mast – we were working with the concept of a standing lug rig , and i was then planning to ship the boat to Port Everglades (Florida USA) take part in the EC and then to cruise up the east coast of the USA to another part of the world that i’d like to explore ; the Chesapeake bay. That whole idea was much less based on the ‘thing’ itself and much more so about the sheer fun of putting together an adventure like that.

The Osprey i would have sailed with a crew – i had a young dinghy sailing instructor in mind, and the similar idea i had in mind with an old Merlin i would have sailed solo as it’s a smaller boat and i’m quite a heavy guy : i even discussed that with the secretary of the Merlin class association and who didn’t object to the idea of an older boat going out of class…..no threats of a lynching at least !. Just before the Pandemic happened i was hot on the trail of a cheap Merlin….and MSM i think but then ‘Covid and BS happened’ and the trail went cold…..then of course i slapped myself around a bit and started work on a proper boat.

An internet friend and industry professional sent me some pictures of the Osprey dinghy that he and his partner use as a budget cruising boat – he has also now got a Pathfinder dinghy , also below.

Osprey dinghy, National 12 rig, Photo by Gavin Print
Pathfinder Anenome, Gavin Print photo.

The Osprey dinghy as cruising boat is almost my point of Zen with cruising boats – a minimal cost in buying the boat, minimal time spent setting it up with a smaller rig and kitting it out as a cruiser, maybe but not necasarily a small outboard strapped on the back but more likely with a pair of oars. The boat and it’s trailer live at home on the drive and get worked on as needed under the shelter – the total time of work per year is probably a couple of days on the boat and another one on the trailer – the whole thing is towed behind a normal family car.

If you’re wondering about even smaller and simpler boats then i’d like to add that iv’e been a canoeist and sea-kayaker both but the open canoe now doesn’t work for me after a knee replacement and most sea kayaks do something horrible to my lower back – with a sailing dinghy of a certain size i can move around a lot more, carry more kit if i need to such as on expedition and even set up to cook and sleep in the boat or beach the boat and practice my shore side bushcraft at the waters edge.

In Ruan creek.

It’s an quiet autumn afternoon as i pull away from the visitors pontoon at Mylor marina and motor slowly north through the moorings, past Mylor creek and north towards the Restronguet river, beyond the moorings i turn off the motor and lazily turn in the tide as i stow lines and fenders away.

The tide has been flooding for several hours now and i can also feel a gentle breeze blowing up Carrick roads so it seems worth getting some sail on even if it only gets me around the corner past Feock and the useful anchorage at Channals creek – i might anchor there or on the opposite shore in the mouth of tiny Tolcarne creek. There’s just enough wind to sail properly though and the Liberty excels in light weather downwind so i carry on around the edge of the spit and east into the deeply wooded valley that leads past the King Harry ferry : the timing on the ferry is good so we slip past, around another bend in the river and make for where the Fal and Truro rivers join.

Iv’e got a good flooding tide now and still have a steerage breeze – it’s tracking up the deep valley so now it seems to be in the west ; anyway, hugging the northern shore of the creek for a couple of hundred yards we then curve around south east and make for the southern side of the river and the slightly deeper channel that runs east. I watch for my marks though and as a certain clump of trees appears i sheet in and pull the helm up to sheer across the tide back towards the opposite side and until i know i’m over the soft sandbank : i’m ready to anchor because i keep the Liberty’s main anchor in the cockpit and so just as we lose way i drop the hook over the side, let some chain out and we come to with the flood running past the boat.

It feels as though it’s going to be a clear cold night so as soon as iv’e dropped and bagged the sails i stow the sprit-boom and it’s bagged mains’l out to port and go fetch the Pansy stove chimney from it’s place beside the charcoal bucket ; it’s a moments work to unscrew the cap and screw in the chimney instead. In a few minutes work below iv’e partially loaded the Pansy stove, lit a charge of meths in the bottom pan and soon i can smell the distinctive charcoal smoke as it catches – the stove i know will get very hot very quickly so i put a filled kettle on top inside the fiddle rail i had welded to the stove’s top cover.

What wind there was has already died away , the last of the flood is trickling past the boat now and i have nothing to do until the kettle boils so i stand in the companionway enjoying the warmth from the stove and start thinking about dinner. I hear the first owl of the evening – a male Tawny owl hooting from further up the creek – iv’e often seen deer browsing along the shore up here too.

Suddenly, something catches my eye as the boat swings slightly, once and then again i see a flash of white which as i look turns out to be a paddle and then underneath it a sea kayak making up the creek on the southern side where i sailed in earlier. I watch as the paddler moves along the tree line, selects his landing spot and within a few minutes is unloading his craft and then pulling it up into the trees : not long after, coffee in hand, i catch a slightly different tang of woodsmoke and see a brief plume of smoke in the trees as the paddler makes his campfire -idly i wonder if he too is making his first brew and thinking about his dinner.

Ruan creek.

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