...or perhaps a smaller boat is the answer to the impractical boat owner’s storage problems

PBO columnist Dave Selby discusses boat sheds…

Sailors are essentially collectors.

At sea we collect anecdotes – mostly of the “there I was holed by a whale and taking on water fast and being driven on to a rocky lee shore at the base of a 200ft cliff in a Force 10 gale on Rutland Reservoir” variety.

On land we collect things. And that’s why although psychologists may understand human nature, they’re out of their depth when it comes to understanding the mind-set of the sailor.

Take the average man in the street – and I’m afraid it is most usually a man – who upon seeing a skip in the road will satisfy one of four basic urges, all of which take place in pyjamas between 2200 and 0300.

The first is to throw your own rubbish in the skip; the second is to take something out; the third category, of which I’m a prime example, is to take out some overlooked treasure, realise in the fullness of time that it’s rubbish, then throw it in the next skip that comes along.

And the fourth and most primeval is to relieve yourself against the side of the skip, because that’s what men are like when it’s dark and no-one’s looking.

All of these behaviours, apart from the last, lead to feelings of loss and regret.

Size conundrum

Sailors though, are both different and more so. For no matter how many times I’ve measured my 18ft Sailfish 18 I’ve never once managed to park it in the 60ft by 20ft boat shed which I rented and shared with chums for 13 years until the lease ran out last month.

It’s not that I’m particularly bad at reversing. The real problem is that a shed that size is only really big enough to accommodate the paraphernalia of a Mirror dinghy as long as you keep the spars, sails, sheets and anchor in your bedroom.

And all your nearly empty and nearly full cans, tubes and blister packs of essential stuff in your kitchen cabinets.

I’m no conspiracy theorist, but I blame the marine industry, for why does everything to do with sailing come in a can, tube or bottle that’s just a little bit too small for the job?

Squirrel mentality

As to what’s in the cans, bottles and tubes, I’m more than certain that marine chemists in full biological warfare outfits and working in underground bunkers have secretly developed a nerve agent that short-circuits our neural pathways and re-wires us as squirrels.

Based on the evidence of four men in a boat shed all staring at their own precious stores of date-expired rusty tins and wondering if the contents have really gone off, there can be no other explanation.

You see, I know from personal experience that there’s nothing wrong with a Pot Noodle with a pre-decimal price sticker, and the four of us have the same healthy scepticism about the so-called ‘use-by’ dates of marine products.

This, of course, presents more than one dilemma. If you open that old tin of varnish and find the centimetre at the bottom has gone hard, you’ll be filled with those feelings of loss and regret.

If, on the other hand, you open it and find it’s OK, you’ll be filled with feelings of regret and loss, because you’ve let air in and it may well go off when you re-seal it.

Support group strategy

As men our views on counselling and talking therapies are pretty much in line with our convictions about expiry dates, but nevertheless we gave it a go and went to the pub.

We formed a support group, talked through our anxieties and came up with a strategy which involved hiring a skip and the three of us prizing rusty cans from the fourth, and two of us holding him down while the third one tossed the can in the skip.

And thus we achieved closure. By midnight on the eve of the expiry of the lease, the boat shed was empty and the skip was full. By the following morning it was empty, leaving us with those familiar old feelings of loss and regret.

Dave Selby’s book, The Impractical Boat Owner: Tales and Trials from Years of Floundering Afloat, is available on Amazon.

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This feature appeared in the March 2022 edition of Practical Boat Owner. For more articles like this, including DIY, money-saving advice, great boat projects, expert tips and ways to improve your boat’s performance, take out a magazine subscription to Britain’s best-selling boating magazine.

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