By Nick Ward.
It seems like only yesterday that we were basking in the warmth of that hottest of summers way back in 1976. I remember the works manager at Fairey Marine, where I was just finishing my boatbuilding apprenticeship, asking everybody to start at 5am and finish at 13.30 just to avoid the heat. It worked well, and we all had the afternoon off to enjoy the rest of the day.
The great summer of this year has seen boat owners using their boats to the full. Cowes Week was, it seems, low on entries but great on sailing. The weather was almost perfect, with windy and light conditions, tricky tides and loads of sunny sailing. I was asked to help drive the Cowes Week launches for seven, 11 ½-hour days, taking crews out to their dayboats on moorings in Cowes harbour.
Manoeuvring small boats in a very busy harbour with 12 passengers aboard is fun and requires some degree of skill. The pressure is on to deliver the empty boat to the pickup – whether that’s a dayboat bouncing on an outer harbour mooring, or a pontoon full of dayboat sailors late for the start. Not getting too close to the Red Funnel ferry and keeping fuel tanks topped up is always at the forefront of the driver’s mind.
Obtaining the right qualifications now needed to operate these launches is not cheap at £1,000, but it is good fun and the organisers are always looking for new drivers.
The hot weather had a downside for the traditional boats, particularly those out of the water. The dry weather and the sun can open up a wooden planked boat to the extent that letters could be posted through the planking. Owners live with the worry of whether the boat, when launched again, will ‘take up’ – the process by which the planks, when immersed in water, swell to the original size and make the boat watertight.
I have some experience of this and when the boat in question was launched, she was like the inside of a colander. I know you can’t beat a frightened man and a bucket, but she still took two weeks to become watertight.
The brokerage here has been surprisingly busy, but the market itself could have been described as quiet.
* Waypoint Yacht Brokers has one office covering the whole Island and can be reached on 07900 191 326 if you are looking to find your boat a new owner.