For some, the autumn may be the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness; for the marine industry it’s one of aching legs and chatting. In other words, it’s boat show time.

The aching legs are inevitable, but the quality of the chatting varies enormously, according to whether one has something interesting to chat about.

A few months ago, I was looking forward to the now just-past Southampton Boat Show with some trepidation – we had been spoiled for two years by having our project boat in the marina, and enjoying some really interesting conversations with readers on board.

With Hantu Biru having moved to waters new, our snug base and topic of discussion had gone in a single stroke.

Until, that is, Dave Selby hatched his plan to sail Marlin around from Maldon to Southampton in a two-pronged effort to promote budget small-boat sailing and to raise awareness and funds for GAIN, the Guillain-Barré and Associated Inflammatory Neuropathies charity.

Dave’s stand at the show was certainly unique, with Marlin and Phil Brook’s Hurley 20 Ciao Bella adding realism to the show or lowering the tone, depending on your point of view and the depth of your pocket.

Dave’s morning talks on getting afloat for less never failed to draw a crowd, and we were kept pleasantly busy talking to PBO readers and sailing newcomers about the trials and tribulations of getting on the water for a few hundred pounds.

The message was simple: you don’t have to spend a fortune to go sailing.

A selection of photos showed boats for sale or which had been purchased for as little as £63; Silky Marine gave regular demonstrations of how even quite tired gelcoat can shine with cutting compound and polish, and East Dorset Sailing Club talked to would-be sailors about mooring options which don’t break the bank.

The South Coast can be a horrendously expensive place to keep a boat, but in reality there are moorings available comparatively cheaply, if you know where to look.

The message might be simple, but not everyone appreciated it. We were criticised for potentially having a negative impact on new boat sales, for encouraging people to sail in old, ‘dangerous’ boats, and for suggesting that people sail with inadequate training.

Taking those one at a time, the first is a nonsense. People buying old boats do it for one or both of two reasons: they like sailing and maintaining old boats, or they can’t afford a new one. Neither of these groups will buy new, but the latter might if they become more affluent.

As any sailor knows, once the salt gets into your veins it’s impossible to give it up, so it’s in the long-term interest of boatbuilders to get people afloat whatever their budget.

To address the second point, there is no reason that a well-maintained old boat should be dangerous. Glassfibre is so far proving embarrassingly indestructible – next month we’ll be publishing a report on the pan-European discussions on how to dispose of it – so you’re highly unlikely to find a boat with a dangerous hull. If it is, it’ll be obvious by the gaping holes.

That leaves bulkhead bonding, keelbolts, rigging, spars, chainplates, deck gear and the engine to check, all of which a surveyor should be able to do for you.

Finally, training. In a guest appearance on Dave’s stand, Sam Llewellyn suggested that there were two ways to learn: get some tuition or go out and make mistakes. But whether you take all the courses or go out on the water on a keel and a prayer, new sailors are well advised to choose sheltered waters for their first adventures. Running aground on a harbour shoal is far preferable to striking an offlying rock near a headland.

Mistakes make the best lessons, but out of respect for the sea, try to make intelligent ones.

Fair winds,
David Pugh

David Pugh, PBO editor

David Pugh, PBO editor

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Here’s a full list of the November 2016 issue’s contents:

Daring voyages in everyday boats: Production vessels from the chilly Arctic to the balmy Caribbean

PBO Tested – Handheld VHFs: Which offers best value?

PBO Tested – EasyTec boat tent: Invaluable for winter boat maintenance?

PBO Tested – Cockpit tent design: Is the Habitent Sirocco a snug fit for the editor’s Contessa 26?

Motor-sailing: Using sail and power for best speed on passage

Project Boat 2: Truing and gluing the stem, stern and keel

Building a dinghy: Valuable lessons learned in the course of a DIY wooden boat construction project

Solid fuel heating: A reader installs a wood heater in his boat

Shifting stuck studs: Removing a sheared-off exhaust elbow bolt

PBO Tested – Using KiwiGrip: Non-slip paint assessed after a season’s abuse

Scotland’s stunning Western Isles: A cruise in uncommonly calm conditions

Scotland’s Boat Show preview: Attractions to look out for at the show

PBO Boat Test – Corvette 32/320: A tidy 2004 example is taken out on the water

The Herbert Woods story: 90 years of Broads boatbuilding

Saga of the sliders: A reader copes with sail slider failure

Marvellous Martinique: The perfect blend of cosmopolitan French culture and laid-back Caribbean island life

ARC Channel Islands round-up: The inaugural ARC Channel Islands event

Flooded while ashore: Despite being laid up in a boatyard, a reader’s boat is found to be full of water

Medical emergencies: Averting clinical disasters afloat

Reinforcing an access hatch: PLUS more reader projects and tips

Ways of dealing with fogged-up instruments: Hints and tips from the PBO Sketchbook


Waiting for the tide: The editor’s welcome to this month’s PBO – sign up for PBO’s free monthly e-newsletter at:

‘Mad about the Boat’ columnist Dave Selby: Hooked, line and sinker

Columnist Sam Llewellyn: A job for Leatherman

Monthly musings from Andrew Simpson: Broad horizons

PBO products and services: Books and plans from the PBO Shop

News: Yacht sinks during grounding recovery, Pat Manley obituary… and more

Regional news: Northern Boat Show set for expansion, plastic clean-up mission… and more

Readers’ letters: Your views

Ask the experts: Class B AIS usage, choosing mainsail cars, and more reader queries answered

New gear: PBO looks at the latest marine products