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Going Boatless – Not Us

We have often pondered the thought of what it must be like not to have a boat. After all, many people have never set foot in a boat, much less owned one. Those that would perhaps like to are often of the opinion that it would simply be beyond their means to do so. A small boat need not cost a lot and it certainly does not require a lot of costly maintenance. A small boat is all one really needs to get out on the local lake, river or ocean inlet. Obtaining a boat, if you do not already have one and if this is the path you choose, should not be a constraint.

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Sad and neglected boats at the back of boatyards

If you are on a tight or non-existent budget, go to any bigger boatyard or marina and wander around the last row – the ‘bone yard’. Or peer into people’s back yards, keep your eyes open as you pass down the road in areas near the sea, or just look online. You will inevitably come across a sad and forgotten, but lovely boat. More often than not, the look is due to neglect, rather than breakage. A little effort, some paint, oil, grease, wax, and new cordage, and away you go. It is often the case that a set of perfectly good sails are stored and taking up space in an attic nearby. All you need to do is find the owner or someone entitled to sell or even give her to you. Based on her looks and her history, the price should be right; if not, just keep looking.

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Promising boats we have seen wandering about.

In my most humble opinion, a boat is alive. It can and will speak to you. I had this happen to me again recently. We were working on our own boat, with whom we have a very close relationship. I happened to glance over her stern when a lovely thirty-odd-foot-long double ended sloop on the hard caught my eye. My, she looked forlorn, so I went over to meet her. Her dock lines drooped sadly overboard through her chocks. The ropes had inch and a half long barnacles on them. The varnish had peeled off her toe rail and she was covered in dirt, but her hull and decks looked sound. She had been sitting there for five years according to the yard manager.

She spoke to me, she got inside my head. She knew I was committed, but she wanted to go back out sailing, to be one with nature, and to find someone to care for her and love her. So, if by chance I have touched a nerve or your heart strings, please, please go out and find her. Give her and yourself a chance to capture the essence of boating.

On another occasion, I quite literally stumbled across a small 12-foot dinghy. She had been left abandoned some 15 years earlier and lay upside down on a rocky beach. Her gunwales were worn through, her hull was holed, and she had weeds and lichen growing all over her. The more I looked her over, the more compelled I was to bring her home; and bring her home I did. We power-washed her inside and out. Next, we cut out all of the damaged fibreglass and put what was left in a shed to dry out.

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An abandoned and wrecked dinghy “before” and “After”

Wood and epoxy are both relatively easy to work with. In either case the preparation is the biggest chore. It took a week to sand every inch down to clean material. After that we laid out the glass matting covering up the holes. We built up the new walls until she was sound and finished by fairing out all the irregularities, dings and scratches. We even added a little foredeck. A couple of coats of appropriate paint later and she now looks better than new.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons we have learned in the process of fixing up our own boats is that if we make a mistake, it does not really matter. If it bothers us, we can fix it, or if we so choose, we may just live with it. After all, it is our boat, and we have only to answer to ourselves. They are all beautiful in their own right; especially when carrying us out on the water.

No, we will hopefully never be boatless, and nor should anyone. There are simply too many vessels of all sizes and descriptions out there merely needing some TLC (tender loving care). So, sally forth and find them; for there is one thing that is certain, there is a boat out there waiting for you right now.


Joy of sailingCoastal Boating (Reg. in Ireland No. 443222) is a division of Knowledge Clinic Ltd.
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