A reflection on buying a Boat. (part 1 – the choosing)

So, the idea to purchase a boat came about mostly from idle chat with my Parents during lock-down, but I guess it was an inevitability really. I’ve been sailing one thing or another from a very early age, and have always loved the sea, and water in general. I’m sure a proper “Background” post will appear sooner or later…

Living less than 3 miles from the Solent was either a catalyst, or perhaps a symptom of the same genetic disorder, but it seems necessary to own a boat now. In retrospect, I’m amazed it took so long.

Anyway, we decided to start looking at boats…

I knew from experience of my parents Mirror dinghies that I wanted something a bit more robust – 4mm ply may be fine for a featherweight racer, but the first time I borrowed one, I put a foot through the bottom. Either rot, or my weight, or a combination. So I wanted GRP, and a reasonably robust hull. Having two young-ish children (5 and 10 at time of writing) we would probably be sailing from, or to, beaches on a reasonably regular basis. I also suspected that a mirror was a tad small for a family of four!

Another reason to go for glass not ply was to reduce the level of maintenance. We want to sail, not constantly be working on a boat. Don’t get me wrong, I know boats need looking after, but I don’t like painting, nor did I relish the need to do the sort of repairs my heavy-footedness had caused on the borrowed mirror some years ago.

So, I started to try and work out what my purchase criteria would be.

She needed to be big enough to serve a family of four. and occasional guests, maybe.

Small enough to be single-handed. Although this was to be a family venture, my wife works long hours for the NHS, and so is often away at times I find myself entertaining the children, particularly through the Covid Lockdown. And I am under no illusions as to how much practical assistance I would be able to rely on from the kids. I am also the only member of the family with anything much in the way of sailing skills or experience.

Big enough to be safe in the open sea. (obviously with suitable respect paid), and with suitable safety features.

And on the flip side, small enough that we could manage her – launching, recovery, storing, towing. If it was too much hassle, she could easily join the multitude of sad, neglected, unused boats in the driveways and gardens of the world.

Stable and comfortable – the wife and kids would lose interest very rapidly if it was too miserable, or scary, but also enough of a boat to satisfy my need for “proper sailing”.

A motor was considered to be a necessity as well, for those days when things just went wrong, and the kids (or the wife!) had enough and we needed to get home NOW. I thought that it needed to be something which was perfectly accessible and usable, permanently mounted, rather than needing to be lifted off for sailing, and on for motoring (with the inherent stowage need in between). Oars or paddles would be needed too, both for reliability and fun!

She would need to be a shallow enough draught to launch and use on the very shallow sloped slipways of the Hamble, our “local” river. This would also tie in nicely with the kids requirement to visit beaches, and my boyhood love of pottering about in shallow rivers and creeks, “exploring”, no doubt inspired by the works of Arthur Ransome. I have also recently introduced the Swallows and the Amazon Pirates to my daughter (10), admittedly in the hope of encouraging enthusiasm for adventure in general, and sailing in particular!

She would, ideally, need to fit on the driveway, and fall under the chargeable size and horsepower for our “home port”.

So, in conclusion, we needed, a big, heavy, small, light, comfortable, serious, boat. I know boats are supposed to be a compromise, but that’s a tad ridiculous. Research beckoned.

Fortunately, I was far from the first (nor I suspect will I be the last) to reach this particular set of compromises. As it turns out, a gent by the name of John Watkinson had solved it in the 60’s, before I was born.

Now knew what type of boat I was looking for, ish. Originally I was looking for a Drascombe Dabber, but struggled to find one in geographical range and budget.

But the more I read up on them, the more I was satisfied that they, or their larger sisters, the Lugger, would meet our needs. Interestingly, a call to my Dad revealed that he had come to a similar conclusion separately!

The lugger seemed a bit more common, accounting for over 2,000 of over 5,000 Drascombe boats reportedly built over the last 50 or so years. and more were advertised.

I managed to locate a lugger, via the owners association website, which was both within budget, and close to home. (In fact, less than 5 miles as the crow flies, but because of the various bodies of water in the way, a 70 mile round trip! – I know, we should have bought a boat!) and an arrangement was made for a suitably “Socially Distanced” visit – basically, we agreed the boat would be left in the front drive, and we would have a look.

Upon arrival, and starting to look over her, it rapidly became clear that while she was a perfectly serviceable boat, she was more of a project than “we” really wanted to take on. I have a liking for “Pretty”, and that she was not. I was advised in words of one syllable to regretfully decline the purchase. A phone call to the owner revealed him to be fully understanding, and he said he had even identified a certain reticence on the part of my wife, and so was expecting it!

But… Feedback on size, and other “feature” from both wife and children was positive, and I was given authorisation to look elsewhere for a more suitable purchase.

Of course, I had identified the next “possibilities” in my research, which had included lots of internet searches, talking to a range of owners, and joining both the aforementioned owners Association, and an excellent Drascombe Facebook page, to which I have become a fairly voluminous contributor!

The next choice, “Superfluous” was stretch of both budget and mileage, but looked to be much more suitable…

I think I may finish here, and start another page later.