Bayside Boatshop
By Ross Lillistone
(inspiration from Phil Bolger)

The Skipper

Mike Rowe stood in the companionway of his small cat-yawl holding a mug of black coffee, which was now half-cold due to his habitual day-dreaming. He was at last starting to relax after the mental and actual turmoil of the preceding days. It seemed to him that the only place he could really unwind was on the water, and the current conditions were his favourite. A light north-easter was moving his keel-sharpie steadily past Earlando Resort and he was anticipating with satisfaction the first mental milestone of his outing – Gloucester Island.

Mike, who was approaching middle age with at least some grace, had calculated a speed over the ground of 4.63 knots since departure four hours earlier. He was also a habitual calculator. At this rate they should reach the rendezvous with his friend Ian by one pm the next afternoon, allowing for the present favourable ebb tide.

Although Mike’s coffee was now cold and unfinished, it had provided him with satisfaction beyond measure, just by having been prepared in the tiny cabin while the boat steered herself. How many times he had dreamt of such activity he could not have told anyone; but although long in the gestation, the situation had been as sweet as he had anticipated.

The other activity he had particularly enjoyed was lighting the kerosene navigation lights. These had come from a supplier in Canada many years before (he also habitually bought gear before it was needed, as though it would bring a cherished project to fruition ahead of time!) and promised to be a worthwhile investment as long as the contents of the reservoirs could be prevented from permeating the vessel. To this end, the skipper had stored the filled lights in a plastic nappy bucket. This he had chosen because of its robust construction and close-fitting lid. It normally resided in the aft free-flooding well, where kero spills could be washed away with seawater. They were more reliable than the corroded wiring of his mate’s GRP sloop – electricity had its place, but that place was not on a small boat.

Just after eight pm, Mike went below to rest. Had anyone else been present he would have justified his action on the grounds of tiredness – but as he was alone he could indulge himself for the real reason, which was that he loved to feel the little yawl steer herself. The feeling was heightened enormously when he went below. The wind was forecast to veer, so any unnoticed course change should be towards open water. A medium sized, spherical compass was mounted through the main bulkhead, so he could monitor headings from the bunks as well as from the cockpit. Danger of collision was his only concern, but during construction he had stuffed crumpled aluminium foil inside the hollow wooden masts to act as radar reflectors.

The hypnotic sound of water against the 6mm plywood planking lulled him into a short, relaxing sleep, but the novelty of this trip soon saw him back in his favourite position in the companionway. What had always puzzled him was why so few people followed the cheap and simple route to boating pleasure? Mike’s boat had cost him only a few thousand dollars, and six months part-time labour – yet she was built of the best materials and had an effectively unlimited life expectancy. His friend’s glass boat had been much more expensive (even second-hand) but gave little extra other than internal room. On the other hand, it was in need of major work to treat osmosis, and was a real handful on a trailer. To each his own – but Mike Rowe felt happy in the knowledge that his boat was simple to maintain, and that her total cost including trailer was less than the expense that Ian had incurred upgrading his vehicle to tow the second-hand GRP boat. The little wooden boat had no standing rigging, no sail battens, no stainless fittings, no winches – yet she was a true open water vessel. Self-righting, positive buoyancy, two full-sized bunks, dedicated storage hold – all very shipshape in her brush painted finish.

Mike Rowe’s advice to those who came to see his boat? : -
• Start building, even if it is smaller than the project of which you dream;
• Use high quality timber, adhesives, paint and tools;
• Keep up the momentum of the project – letting the job remain idle for even a few days makes it much more difficult to continue;
• Never leave anything in the construction which you don’t feel good about – no bad timber, no bad glue mixes, no bad joints etc;
• Seal all surfaces and joints;
• Follow the application instructions for the painting system religiously;
• Resist the urge to varnish;
• Keep it simple.