Making the Most of a Minimal Budget. Contact me at: or on Twitter: @skintsailor

My Boaty History

I started life with a fascination for water. At an early age I was attracted to the canals in my home town. Find a few bits of wood and my mates and I were lashing them together to make a raft. A chunk of polystyrene or a plastic drum offered even more buoyancy and made a better raft. 

At 14 I badgered my father to hire a narrowboat. I say badgered, but I think being ex-Navy he liked the idea of hiring one from a firm called Wayfarer Narrow boats at Portland Basin. So in the long hot summer drought of 1976 we went narrow boating along the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals. An unreliable engine and restricted cruising thanks to the shortage of water meant we didn't get very far, but we enjoyed it so much we went back and hired the boat again the next year.

Then my father bought a 20ft centre cockpit cabin cruiser. I distinctly remember being dragged along to boat auctions around the North West and Cheshire trying to bag a bargain, but eventually he got a Europa 2+2 similar to this one (ours had a brown hull):

This we used for a couple of years travelling the canal network even cruising through he inky black water of Birmingham to get to the IWA festival in 1978 at Titford Pools before he bought a Dawncraft 25 as a hull ready for fitting out.

Then there were a couple of years as I watched him fit out Nuestra Barca as she became known, including trips to the Earl's Court Boat show. My father fitted her out as a very well equipped canal and river cruiser, so I learnt about navigation lights and anchors on top of outboards and marine systems. As an aside, I bought a Swiss army knife at the boat show around this time that I still have and use regularly. A teenager buying a knife? These days I wouldn't be able to buy one and probably get arrested.

During one of our boat show visits my father also bought me a Kayel Canadian Canoe kit that I built. It looked amazing when completed and varnished. One of the best things I've ever made. It's just sad that I didn't appreciate it more at the time and make more use of it. But transporting a 16ft canoe when you don't have a car isn't easy.

Here is Nuestra Barca in all her greenness, I believe she's since been renamed Sweat Pea for obvious reasons!

The longest trip I did in her was from Manchester to Rugby with my brother and his wife.
Here we are in the cockpit along with my mother and my nephew:

Fast forward a few decades through marriage, a move to Oxford and then divorce before I had the chance to get back into boating. However I did make a few trips by bike along the canals, or paid visits to the sea, especially the Solent during this time. That magnetic attraction to water was still there.

Canal cruising had moved on and thanks to all the rules and regulations, just keeping a boat on the water was going to cost thousands per year on top of the purchase cost of the boat. Too rich for my blood thank you very much.

So I bought myself a powerboat:

A couple of years throwing lots of money at it in fuel costs taught me it might not have been a wise buy. But it made me get my VHF short range certificate and I learnt about tides and the sea.

It was sold to fund my wedding to my second wife.

So another few years and a move to the South Coast followed. That's what you get for marrying a Pompey girl. They hate being away from the sea.

One of the wife's work colleague's had a partner that had a yacht, but didn't have a crew. As girl's do they decided that I'd be able to get my boaty fix by crewing for Jim.

And so back in 2010 I started crewing for Jim and we hit it off straight away, thanks to the fact we have a very similar sense of humour and a love of boats.

I liked this sailing lark. I think I'm at an age where I don't want the hustle, bustle and hassle of a powerboat, I just want to glide along by sail.

So I started to look for a cheap boat. A very cheap boat. In 2013 I sold some stuff and had round £550 to spend on a boat, insurance and mooring.

Then in July of 2013 Pam (who I'm forever indebted to for doing this) posted an advert on Havant Freegle (a site where people offer things they want to get rid of for free) offering a small sailing boat:

[HavantFreegle] OFFERED: Small sailing boat, Emsworth

To:   07/31/13 at 8:20 PM

19' Seawych sailing cruiser.  Ready to sail.  On the water in Emsworth.

I saw the advert 2 hours after it was posted, which is an absolute age in the world of free stuff groups. I swear that there are groups of people camping on the groups waiting for people to post and then jumping in within seconds. 2 Hours is a long time and I didn't know if someone else had got in before me, but Pam replied straight away and said the boat was still available.

I went to see the boat after work during the week. All I can remember about that that visit was being bowled over by how good Sprite looked, Pam apologising about how bad she was and me keep saying I don't care, it's a free boat!

Pam also had along shaft 4hp engine which she didn't want to give away. I knew how much I could afford, so I offered my budget and she accepted. I arranged to pick Sprite up the foillowing weekend as the tide was right to move her round to Langstone: high tides in the morning to get from Emsworth down Chichester harbour and an evening high tide to get her into Langstone harbour.

So started the latest phase of my boaty history, as documented here.

On Saturday the 3rd of August 2013 I took charge of Sprite 2 for the first time, with Jim this time as my crew.

This is Sprite 2 on her mooring at the bottom of Pam's garden on the morning we picked her up:

To read the story of me picking up Sprite 2 Click here. Although reading my musings from the start of the blog, being boatless, bidding and not winning various boats I think would resonate with a lot of boat hunters.

I enjoy every minute of owning Sprite 2, I'm down on the boat most weekends sailing, or tinkering, or even just chilling and watching the world go by. Boaty bliss!

I estimate after 3 years of ownership I'm maybe half way through fettling her up to a decent standard.

But whatever happens, I will document it here.