‘Sorry Dave, there’s no room for your boat in your shed. This area’s always been used for drinking tea: it’s the way of the waterfront...’

A problem halved is a problem shed…

Welcome to a boat shed which presents its own conundrum: the aperture of the doors is smaller than the classic boat within…

Follow the link below to hear Dave’s latest podcast of his ‘Mad about the boat’ column from the September 2014 Practical Boat Owner magazine.

The issue is out in the shops tomorrow, Thursday 14 August, 2014.

Click here to download the latest podcast

Strange, isn’t it, how before you own a boat the thing you want most in life is a boat. Then, the moment you own a boat, you find the thing you want most in life is a shed to store your boat and all its bits.

Me, I’m luckier than most. I don’t want to fill you with unnecessary envy, for although I’m pretty sure my 18ft Sailfish is smaller than your boat, I’m also pretty certain my boat shed is bigger than yours. It’s 60ft by 20ft, steeped in local history, and issues straight on to a slipway into the River Blackwater. Not only that, when I took it over it even had a boat in it.

And that was the problem. In the cool, dusty gloom at the back there slumbered a wonderful romantic relic, a 1934 Deben four-tonner that had been there since time immemorial. Extensive investigations revealed that it had languished there some time between ‘years’, ‘ages’ and ‘forever’, or thereabouts.

It’s the way of the waterfront, for vagueness and memory loss – along with a superstition about receiving payment by cheque – is a long-standing local tradition among artisans of Maldon.

Nevertheless, Coral II had an owner, and I was relieved to find just the one, because quite often old boats in Maldon have a rather complex ownership structure – not so much fractional ownership, but factional, or even fictional – unless of course the boat owes rent or berthing fees, in which case no one owns it.

Coral II‘s owner was the retiring shipwright who was giving up the shed I was taking on. At a stroke, it appeared, I could become a man of substance, perhaps even of standing in the local community, with a shed complete with its own mummified classic boat. I was sorely tempted as the cool, dark conditions had preserved her wonderfully in suspended animation.

Negotiations over the boat started tentatively, as I first mentioned I wasn’t really interested and the shipwright countered by saying he’d suddenly formed a deep sentimental attachment to the boat and wasn’t really interested in selling it.

In the end we decided, out of the kindness of our hearts, to do one another a big favour and a sum was decided on that we both agreed was daylight robbery.

A minor sticking point

We were just about to shake on it when I took one more look at the boat at the back of the shed, then turned round to look at the doors at the front. I presumed that as the boat had got into the shed it could also be got out, but the aperture didn’t look big enough.

Sure enough, when I measured I realised there was a minor sticking point – a major one, actually – for the only way to get the boat out was to cut the cabin top off and saw the boat down the middle.

Negotiations stalled while I made enquiries and learned that at some time in the past, shortly after Coral II had been interred, the boat shed had been divided in two down the middle with a
breeze-block wall: the only trouble was that the doors that were large enough to extract the boat were now on the other side of the wall.

No one I asked knew how this had happened, but they were certain it was someone else’s fault. It’s the way of the waterfront.

Much as the idea of owning my own boat museum appealed, the whole idea of the shed in the first place was to store my Sailfish and all her bits over winter, while I worked industriously buffing, improving and fettling her and producing definitive and authoritative how-not-to articles for PBO.

Then the sticking point became unstuck when the landlord mysteriously agreed to enlarge the doors. I spent weeks removing years of sawdust as deep as a snowdrift halfway up Everest to reveal a fine little boat, along with a mast and all manner of fittings.

It was really quite magical, but I decided to sell the boat and found a retired army major who took her on and mobilised an army of shipwrights who in no time put all the sawdust back, installed a kettle and drank tea.

In the meantime, friends also discovered I had a shed and started putting things in it: just for a week or two, they all said.

Now every time I open the shed door it’s a revelation. As well as assorted dinghies, tenders, fenders, sails and masts, a Corribee and another small wooden yacht have materialised, and most recently a motorbike. Always though, there’s a coven-like circle of check-shirted tea drinkers who stop talking the moment I appear.

All this means there’s no space for my Sailfish, which has to over-winter on the hard. I’m just wondering what would happen if the doors mysteriously became smaller than the objects in it.

Stranger things have happened in Maldon.

Follow this link to find all of Dave’s podcasts

Cartoon credit: Claudia Myatt