We have lived for the majority of our married life near the sea (coast for readers in USA !).
Even when we have lived inland there has usually been a river within easy distance ... Thames ... Roding ... Lea ... Severn ... Ouse ... Itchen ... Yeo ... Taw ... Torridge ... and now the Thurne ... Bure ... Yare ... Ant ... Waveney ... and Wensum.
But the first time we got into boating for ourselves was after we had done a small favour for a family who were waiting for a bus (in Hayling Island) to start their journey home to Wimbledon after a Bank Holiday Weekend sailing their own boat on the Solent.
Realising they were waiting for a bus that didn't run on Bank Holidays, I offered them a lift to the nearest Railway Station. On the short journey the man told us about their Westerly Centaur and their weekend trip across to Seaview, a little place on the South East corner of the Isle of Wight. He asked if we sailed ... and unfortunately I had to say that we would love to be able to sail one day, nut couldn't afford it at the moment. Before we reached the Station he had not only offered us a day out with them on their next visit to their boat, but also the indefinite loan of a Sailing Dinghy that they were no longer using themselves - a "Gull", a plywood boat fully equipped and in great condition.
In a couple of weeks they came down, towing the Gull, delivered it to us and took us for our first experience of cross-Solent Sailing in their Centaur. We loved it, naturally ... and we had got the sailing bug !!
Our few attempts at sailing the Gull, with neither experience nor tuition ... and without experienced company ... were not a roaring success but rather than put us off, they encouraged us to want to do better !
When we later moved from Hayling Island to Winchester for the second time, the Gull had to be returned to its owner ... and for a number of years we were again 'without boat'.
We remained interested in getting back on the water if and when an opportunity arrived.
Many years later, when we moved to Ilfracombe with its lovely harbour and very affordable mooring fees, we were tempted ... but sensibly resisted the urge because of the probability of going aground (as inexperienced sailers) on the multitude of rocks that disappear from view, lurking just under the surface with each high-water, just at the Harbour entrance.
Incidentally, Ilfracombe has the distinction of being the place with the 2nd highest tidal rise-and-fall in the world ... beaten only by the Bay of Fundy in Canada's Nova Scotia.
After Ilfracombe we moved to Aldwick, on the South Coast in West Sussex, close to Chichester Harbour.
This seemed the ideal moment to "dip our toes in" ... while hoping not to get our feet wet !!
We bought a LEISURE 17, a small 4-berth sailing boat with an outboard motor - from a man who belonged to Cardiff Bay Yacht Club. It was in great shape ... until the day we met the previous owner who would help us take down the aluminium mast ready for transport by road to Emsworth (Chichester Harbour area). As we lowered the mast, with three of us men each holding a rope to steady the mast, the wash from an inconsiderate passing boat rocked the LEISURE 17, the previous owner lost his footing and the mast fell to the deck, snapping off at the base.
Her name, at least when we purchased, was "La-La" but this was quickly changed to "Bear Cub" and the boat was safely delivered to Paynes New Quay Boatyard where she stayed, moored to a pontoon / jetty - for some 2 years in which time we never sailed or motored her anywhere.
This was largely because we knew that we knew nothing - so we (self, son and daughter ) enrolled on and completed the RYA Day Skipper Course of Evening Classes at Chichester College.
I needn't have worried much about the snapped-off mast. After months of wondering how much the repair would cost, I arranged for someone recommended by Emsworth Harbour Chandlery to go to the boat, get the mast and re-attach (somehow) the broken foot.
A couple of weeks later the man phoned and said it was ready.
He had expertly welded the parts together, refitted the mast to the boat ... and charged me £25 !! If I knew who he was I would enthusiastically recommend him to others !
Then we sold "Bear Cub" ... to a man from ... Cardiff !!
Some time later we bought a SEAMASTER CAPTAIN - a 20 ft Motor Cabin Boat (4 berth) with ample headroom in the saloon / galley - and with a 35 HP moter formerly used by an Isle of Wight Inshore Lifeboat crew.
This was duly moored, after arriving by lorry from the Isle of Wight, once again at Paynes New Quay Boatyard, Emsworth.
She was called "Baroda". During one winter the starboard section of the front windscreen was smashed either by a bird-strike or by vandals.
Before selling "Baroda" I repaired the screen, but again we never went out on this boat. She was sold to a man who had inherited enough money to be able to buy and upgrade a boat in memory of his brother who had always hoped that they would own a boat together one day. He had booked a mooring for "Baroda" at Brighton Marina.
With my wife and our son, we next went to Marlow, to a lovely house with frontage to the River Thames and their own mooring ... to buy a smaller SEAMASTER, this time a SEAMASTER CUB (17 ft). She was called "Lots" and was the property, we understand, of an 82 year-old lady. She had gone to Spain for a holiday in the sun - and her son took the opportunity to sell the boat because he felt it would be better if she no longer took herself off twice a year, on her own, to Henley Regattas ! "Lots" had a single-cylinder YANMAR Diesel inboard engine but no proper cabin ... just a cuddy with small bench seats.
An apt description would be that she was a Thames Launch.
At the time we thought this would be easier to handle than a larger boat - but yet again we did not ever take her off her mooring, except to bring her ashore for winter !!
We sold her after a couple of years to a man who said he would renovate her for use on the Norfolk Broads.
Meanwhile, living at Aldwick with its beach, we were fortunate enough to be the chosen recipients of a MIRROR DINGHY through FREECYCLE ... already mentioned on another page.
It was in really good nick and our son quickly got afloat in it, both on the sea and on the very useful Westhampnett Lake on the outskirts of Chichester.
Our daughter had, by this time, become keen on sailing the MIRROR ... and to avoid sibling frustration turning into something worse, I bought a second MIRROR - and they were often sailed together.
While we had these, another FREECYCLE advert brought us (wait for it !) ... a CORACLE ! Never an ambition of ours, but a fascinating opportunity. It came from a lady who was beautifully spoken - until she said what she thought of the "*&^%! Wood Lice that had started eating away the Coracle's skin ! It had been made by the man who made Coracles for Prince Charles (she said !) ... and it remained in our garden until we passed it on to a new owner who promised to restore it to its former glory.
Meanwhile we bought a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) - new from LIDL ... and it became our second RIB. We had received one as part of the deal when we bought BEAR CUB in Wales - but had not passed it on when selling the boat.
Around this time, our daughter, not busy enough with her teaching career ( ! ) , decided to buy a FIREBALL Racing Dinghy ... to restore. We drove to deepest Thames-side Essex to tow it back to Sussex - and to be fair, Rachel did spend some time scraping carefully at the wood surfaces ready for re-varnishing ... but then became busy at School so the project foundered !
By this time, as you may have gathered, we owned, as a family:
- a Thames launch
- 2 RIBS
- a Coracle
- 2 MIRROR Dinghies, and
- a FIREBALL.
It could sound churlish to say that it was less than helpful of a visiting Tree Surgeon to drop branches of a large Eucalyptus Tree on to BOTH of the MIRRORS, because it did help us to reduce our collection of boats which were makiong the garden a bit crowded !
I reached agreeable terms with the Tree man ... something like ' forgetting his bill for the work !' and some time later both MIRRORS were donated to the then Chairman of ARUNDEL BOAT CLUB - a very keen and competent restorer of small craft and an enthusiastic rower on the Arun and elsewhere.
So, apart from the dismally unsuccessful attempts to sail the GULL - and the MIRRORS being sailed by son and daughter ... and occasionally by my wife, Joy, we had never used any of the boats that came into our custody ... UNTIL NOW !!
Moving from the South Coast - where, to be honest I was nervous of getting it wrong with Tide Times, Tide Heights, Currents, Winds, etc - to Norfolk where we now live nestled among the NORFOLK BROADS ... we decided finally that we must get a boat TO USE AND ENJOY !!
And last EASTER we did just that.
We bought "LADY LAUREN I", a BIRCHWOOD 22 4-berth cabin boat with an Inboard FORD WATERMOTA 30 HP engine.
Encouraged by the absence of Tides we managed in our first season to have around 12 days out on LADY LAUREN - each time accompanied by family members or friends. On one occasion we had a total of 9 aboard (including 3 children) and the boat felt rock solid. So far we have managed to make several trips to places like ACLE, THURNE, WOMACK WATER, RANWORTH BROAD, MALTHOUSE BROAD, HORNING, POTTER HEIGHAM, STOKESBY, St BENET'S ABBEY and LUDHAM.