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Saturday, 20 September 2014

Boat Show!

Yesterday I dragged Jim kicking and screaming to the Boat Show in Southampton.

Well, ok, I lie. Actually my wife got me two tickets to the boat show for my birthday so I could take Jim with me.

I picked Jim up from his house at a totally reasonable 10:30 and got down to Southampton around 11. Knowing what the traffic is like between Portmouth and Southampton, that time in the morning was probably the earliest we could get there without being stuck in traffic. As it was, there was a bit of traffic leading up to the show. We were cheeky and parked in the IKEA car park, not far from the show entrance. Thoroughly reasonable prices there as long as you don't stay over 7 hours.

The boat show was great. It's nice to see some small yachts exhibited. You don't tend to see boats under 20ft in the magazines, so its interesting to see what's available. The downside is my phone battery has decided over the past week to lose all its capacity, so I couldn't take many pictures. I did want to take a picture of the interior of one. It was a bit Laurence Lewellyn-Bowen: looked nice but totally impractical.

We had a look at a few big boats, but there were a few design issues that struck me. The first is that there's a trend to put a double berth under the cockpit, but no-one could sleep in that bed while the boat is being sailed because you'd have the constant noise of footsteps above your head. The second is that to save space, the ladders into the cabin are unbelievably steep, with very little in the way of hand holds. Of course a spartan interior looks very nice and works ok on a hard standing at a show, but a bet it's bloody tricky when the boat is moving out at sea.

As a nod to this I noticed small windows into the cockpit from the rear berth. Just big enough to pass a cup of coffee through. Because you'd have a job carrying it up those damn steep stairs!

Here's Jim trying out one of the big boats:

Jim, those trees are a bit close, I think you've run aground mate!

There were other design disasters to be seen on other boats. One boat featured a steering wheel so big it was the width of the cockpit, which meant you had to walk on the gunwhales to get round it. Not only that, but it's huge circumference meant the designers had to put a channel in the floor to accommodate it! Not a masterpiece of design that one! Another was a cockpit plith/table that was so wide even with the table folded, that you could hardly get past it. It was a bit better that the stupid big steering wheel though in that you could (just, by shuffling sideways) get past it without having to get out of the cockpit.

Another design trend I didn't see much of the last time I went to the boat show are the "super dinghy" day boats. The yachts in the 20ft range that have massive, open-stern cockpits and a teeny-tiny cabin somewhere up front. I take it these sailing rocket-ships are the sailing equivalent of the track-day cars like the KTM Crossbow and the Aerial Atom. Totally impractical for anything other than going fast.

Around lunchtime the Sun came out, proving the forecasts of showers incorrect and left me carrying a coat and a brolly around all day. But it helped improve the boat show experience. I doubt it would have felt so good with constant drizzle.

On the Marina pontoons we met Ben and his Practical Boat Owner Magazine project boat Hantu Biru, which has been restored to and impressive standard. Its a Snapdragon, so Nicky, you may like to know PBO are putting the project articles together into a book, especially  if your son Daniel does get that cheap one in Southampton. Ben let us actually get on board Hantu Biru to have a look at her close up. All I can say is the standard of finish is very impressive. The topsides are painted in two-pack paint and it looks just like a new gel coat.

Ben chatting to the er, crowds.
Ben actually recognised me from this blog, which was a shock. Its the first time anyone has actually recognised me from here. So, Hi Ben, welcome to the very exclusive Skint Sailor readership!

On the other side of the pontoon from Hantu Biru was a big square-rigged ship called the Phoenix.
Jim, having spent time helping to restore HMS Gannet, like old boats, so we went aboard and had a nosey.

I do like old sailing boats. They have a specific smell to them. Here I am at the wheel:

Mark, I think we've run aground, those buildings are extremely clo...
Sorry, I've done that one already.
Phoenix is a lovely boat, but all that wood needs constant maintenance. Not for me.

You'll notice that in the picture above I'm sporting my new "Sprite 2" baseball cap. Me and Jim pushed the boat out (figuratively) and bought personalised caps with our boat's names on. Ours for a tenner at the show and you can watch them use the clever computer controlled machines to do the embroidery and put the names on the caps.

I finally realised what the time was around 5pm, so we started to head back to the car. We spent 6 hours there and still didn't see everything. It was great day out.

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