Practical projects and PG Tips

In his latest column, published in the May 2015 issue of PBO, Dave Selby finds that a yacht club work day provides an opportunity to drink limitless cups of tea while converting a Sailfish into an ornamental planter.

No event brings people better than the annual sailing club work day… except for that AGM every five years where some meddlesome moderniser proposes to increase bar prices.

These are days to stand up and be counted. And there I was too, feeling none too bright on a crisp Sunday in March at the brutal hour of 10 o’clock… in the morning!

That was a revelation in itself, cos not only were the grounds teeming with volunteers, I never realised it got light that early on a Sunday. That called for a cup of tea, so we divided into two teams – tea makers and tea drinkers – and tackled the main job of the day: noting the names of those who hadn’t turned up.

Over the years I’ve heard all manner of lame excuses, such as a clash with a golden wedding anniversary. Frankly, it just doesn’t wash. They should have thought about that 50 years ago.

Don’t these lightweights understand the meaning of the word ‘commitment’?

Fortunately, Maldon Yacht Club has a really great bunch of committed members, although reporting restrictions apply.

The work day is also a great opportunity to show your managerial prowess, and like any other sailing club MYC is full of natural born leaders. I too fancied myself suited to something in an executive capacity, but when gang master Pauline politely explained that wasn’t going to happen I had a cup of tea and then asked for something involving goggles and ear defenders.

I even offered to wear a reflective tabard, but the idea of me in control of a power tool was rejected on the grounds of the health and safety of everyone else in the grounds.

After another cup of tea I was getting desperate and asked if I could go to the loo. That was a breakthrough, cos it was the first time that morning I’d been trusted to do anything by myself.

My self-esteem soared until, after further exploration of my unique skill set, someone suggested breaking rocks. Fortunately, no one could find the club nail clippers.

Finally I was assigned to ‘death row’, which turned out to be the best job of all. Death row is that section of the dinghy park where members who haven’t been seen for years – or ‘absconders’ – abandon their boats and tenders once they’ve loaded them with the contents of their garden shed, then fill them with water.

The problem was that many of the dinghy plots had expanded as part of a creeping land grab by homesteaders who fancied an allotment with a sea view.

Our task was to move the dinghies, hack back the undergrowth, re-home the rare species, mark off the plots and replace them.

It was only after we’d removed the complex web of lashings, rope and strapping, peeled back the frayed tarps and bailed out the boats that we discovered another security measure. If the trailer wheels weren’t seized or flat, they’d been removed for safekeeping to their owners’ garden sheds.

After each exhumation we had a cup of tea and held an inquest to name each fugitive, form a posse and elect a lynch mob.

It was satisfying work, and by the end of it we’d bonded into a band of cut-throat, bloodthirsty vigilantes and sat down with a cuppa to draw up a hit list and discuss how to make a noose.

Concrete bunny

When we looked up we noticed the club and grounds had been transformed. The lawn was mown, the clubhouse had been pressure-washed, benches painted and even the concrete bunny in the flowerbed in an old dinghy had received a fresh lick of paint.

And Commodore Pat and her galley team had prepared a feast for all the volunteers. The only thing that let the place down was my Sailfish, her winter cover shredded, the cockpit full of water and one trailer tyre flat.

It was a race against time to sort my boat before the angry mob scoffed all the sandwiches and learned how to make a noose.

As the pack closed in around me I feared the worst, but it was even worse than that. There was no noose, but one leaned threateningly on a vicious hoe, another wielded an evil sickle.

I was about to ask if they would at least put a sack over my head before despatching me when Pat stepped forward, grasping a concrete bunny by the ears like a mediæval mace, and said: ‘Dave, your Sailfish has a great cockpit.’

She paused, as if to broach an unspeakable subject, then added: ‘I think we can win Maldon in Bloom this year if you let us plant it up.’