December is not normally a time to go boating, although while motoring down the river the other day, a day when it was not raining, there was surprisingly quite a bit of activity.
The sailing schools never seem to stop teaching to new sailors of all ages. Young people dressed in full cold weather kit, some with no gloves, enjoying the delights of sailing dinghies up the Medina in temperatures reaching a dizzying three degrees. I was showing a boat to a potential purchaser and had to clear the ice from the seats in my launch.
It just shows that when you have a passion, not much stops the real enthusiast from doing what they love to do most. These days, boats have warm-air heating and the clothing is so highly technical the sailing season can be extended; it is only the windy winter months that put paid to a quiet lunchtime in Newtown Creek. Having said that, I have never passed Osborne Bay without ever seeing at least one boat lying to anchor.
Some of the boats look sad at this time of year. Not laid up in the traditional way, just left from the last time they were used. Sails are left on and are attacked by the wind and ultra violet rays of the sun. On the other hand, some owners bring out the winter covers. These are fabulous things, some designed to protect the important bits like the winches, cockpit teakwork and the ropes. Other owners go the whole hog and cover the entire boat, leaving just enough space each end for the all-essential air to pass through the boat so as not to encourage the rot-inducing spores.
I am a great advocate of the boat cover. They are not cheap and certainly not easy to make, but in the long term save a lot of time and expense on maintenance and keep the decks and ropes free from the dreaded green algae that seems to eat into every fibre and crevice. A well-covered boat will keep its value longer and consequently be more attractive to a new owner when the time comes to pass her on.
Christmas is coming and the time when the famous question is asked, what do you want for Christmas? Something for the boat? Always a tricky question as memories – and, indeed the stack of leaflets still littering the desk from the Southampton Boat Show – linger on. I need a new fridge, a warm air heater, a solar panel, a new engine, an instrument panel and of course one of those new gadgets that fits under the chart table and enables you to charge your phone with no wires, to name only the first few things on the list. The trouble with boating, is that most items start at a high price and go up in increments of £500. I shall be very pleased with a new Medina Mariners burgee from my wife.
Winters are long and I always seem to collect a project: last winter a little gaffer appeared in a very sorry state and left looking almost brand new. This winter I have taken on a much larger project, 34ft of classic plastic, just fitted into the workshop and is now undergoing a full makeover. This boat was built in the 1970s and has not been touched in a few years, so a start from the basic hull is required. Four days and a full skip later, there is nothing left in the hull apart from the engine: even the seacocks came out.
Quite daunting, but a clean start and a sketch should have the new bulkheads fitted in no time. The decks were in a sorry state, the teak ply that was laid fore and aft was at the end of its life so that’s in the skip and the old GRP sub surface is being prepared before the new deck goes on.
Bringing the best of the older boats back to life is just the best pastime!