Today I put the boat up for sale. “Oh, a boat? Lucky you!” but this isn’t the tale of a wealthy (hold that thought) person’s plaything that you might be thinking. Please bear with me while I take a few moments to tell the story.
Rewind three years and you’d find Nicola and I whiling away many a weekend hour dragging the kids to Christchurch park or Poole quay so that we could walk along the water’s edge imagining that we owned one of the many boats that were moored or cruised past serenely. We pictured ourselves with everything from a small dinghy (“No Way” suggested Nicola, not being confident on the water) to great big Sunseekers (You’ve got to dream right?). After many months of this “research” we determined that, if we were to be lucky enough to buy a boat, at Nicola’s request, it would be something you “Sit In” not “Sit On”.
Given this inadvertent approval my marine vehicle coveting escalated significantly from here, occasional boat magazine purchases became at least two regular subscriptions (actually more, but I’m in denial). Many a family evening went by, children watching TV (or electronic device of some kind) with my head buried in a magazine or boat sale website, occasionally surfacing with the statement “We could get a [insert boat type] for just [more than we could afford]” probably far more often than was acceptable to those forced to listen.
So, one fateful day, I received a bonus at work, not a life changing or mortgage settling amount but a bit more than just paying off the overdraft. It sat tentatively in the savings account, mocking me…. The very next time I mentioned a boat in front of the family they announced in unison “Dad, will you just stop talking about boats and buy one!”. I paused for a moment and then grinned, who am I to argue with my loved ones!? The hunt was on. We narrowed our search, “Budget = small”, “Size = Sit in-able” and within a few days we realised how little we knew about boats, boating, mooring (swinging, pontoon, dry), engines (inboards, outboards), drives (sterndrives, don’t get me started drives), propellers (single, twin) , anti-foul (eroding, copper), the list went on. “Completely out of our depth” was a fitting and very accurate term. We looked at a few boats, nodding and smiling as the various brokers talked incomprehensibly at us, often not really understanding much more than the name of the boat, speaking of names, on one memorable occasion we even viewed a boat called “Foo Foo”, I kid you not!
One weekend we took a drive down to Parkstone Bay Marina and, with our confidence through the floor, gingerly wandered around looking lost until we were shepherded to the sale rack by friendly staff (Thanks Henry!). An amazingly down to earth and friendly broker appeared and showed us around, making us feel completely at home making it OK for us to know nothing at all and for me to have “Just one more question” (I imagine I was the butt of a few jokes with that statement Claire).
A few viewings later and we met “Happy Days”. She (boats are all female btw) was a beautiful 1998 Regal 242, just in budget, everything we could possibly have dreamed of and, in May, the process of purchase began. This of course meant we encountered even more things we knew nothing about; marine survey, engine check, sea trial. Petrified and exhilarated we completed the sale on June 1st and paid for a year of berthing (dry) and our first “on boat” training (RYA PB II), not forgetting insurance, Sea Start, life jackets, VHF radio, flares, extra fenders, etc, etc, etc.
As luck would have it, immediately the weather turned and was wet and seriously windy. Our training was postponed several weeks in a row, as our intrepid trainer insisted he wanted us to learn in challenging conditions but not so challenging to put us off boating for life. We waited (impatiently) and after a few false starts, the training began. The two days of training were amazing, we learnt so much and all managed to successfully pilot, navigate, tie knots, identify buoys(and cardinals), park (bumpily), refuel (ouch), save a man overboard (A buoy with a face drawn on called “Bob”) without casualty. RYA Powerboat II certificate in the bag! (Thanks Will)
The weather improved and petrified, we set out on our own. Supported by the amazing staff at Parkstone Bay Marina helping us with another never ending series of “Just one more” questions and guiding us through the process of launch and return, we set off on a series of adventures.
Two years flew past, every weekend keeping a close eye on the tide tables (very important), wind predictions on Wind Guru (yes, it’s a thing) and at every opportunity we were down at the marina and out on the water. It would take a better wordsmith than I to adequately describe the incredible experiences we had exploring the immediate coastline and Poole harbour. We spent many days simply bobbing about in Studland bay with our toes in the water even right into October! We explored Swanage bay and dived off the back into the water. One day we pushed on down the Jurassic coast a little more until I (yep, was all me) managed to snag a lobster pot line and jeopardise the day (let alone the safety of all aboard). With a significant amount of luck, we escaped the predicament unscathed, although I did cut myself a bit, but to say we were shaken is an understatement. In silence, we piloted home and I all but crashed into the pontoon. A large vodka was prescribed. Regardless of mishaps, every excursion was amazing, fun, fearful, educational, blissful. We even stayed out all night, falling asleep on deck and waking up with dew on our faces. That is a memory that just gets better and better with age, a truly amazing experience.
I’ll admit that I lay awake more often than I would like, worrying about the sanity of costs; berthing, fuel, insurance, fuel, servicing, fuel, did I mention fuel?! (Boats often measure fuel consumption in litres per minute or gallons per hour) but I’ll tell you now, the sensation of passing the Sandbanks chain ferry, ten knot marker buoy and gently pressing the throttle forward until she rises up on the water to a steady plane, glancing over your shoulder to admire the wake always made me say “I don’t care what it costs”. Every. Single. Time. We should all have something like that in our lives.
The indescribable sensation of freedom and relaxation as you step off the land onto a boat is incomparable to anything I’ve ever experienced. Our perception of the world has changed forever, boating vocabulary slips into daily conversations, even the sound of a boat horn makes us smile with understanding; one for starboard, two for port, three for astern, five for “what the hell are you doing” (yes really). We are going to miss you every day Happy Days but for now you need to thrill another family. We’ll be back to boating just as soon as I can find the fuel money.
Back at the beginning of this post, I mentioned wealth. Am I a rich man? Not by any stretch of the imagination! Am I wealthy? Well, one definition of the word states “a plentiful supply of a particular desirable thing” and if you consider memories of blissful, exciting, petrifying and unique nautical adventures shared with my family (and dog) as desirable things, then yes, I truly am a wealthy man.
Special heartfelt thanks go to all the staff at Parkstone Bay Marina but very specifically Claire, Lewis, Andy, Mark, Will and Henry. Without you we may never have made it to boat ownership and certainly would not have enjoyed our time nearly as much. We’ll be back if you’ll have us!