The art of practical boat moanership

Top of the moaning to you all. ‘Mustn’t grumble’ isn’t a recognised adage round here.

In his latest column, published in the Summer 2015 issue of Practical Boat Owner magazine, Dave Selby shares ‘the art of practical boat moanership.’

Sometimes I surprise myself, because just occasionally – not often – something goes right. I’m not talking about actual sailing, ‘cos although I have survived on several occasions I’ve never had a day on the water totally free of recrimination, self-doubt, guilt, fear, shame or a pontoon- bashing cock-up. In fact, that was a good day.

Most of the same, apart from the pontoon bashing, applies on land: for while there’s no doubt my Sailfish is practically a boat, I’m not really a very practical boat owner. I’m more of a Practical Boat Moaner, which strikes me as a good name for a magazine as it spells out the bottom-line fundamental truth of boat moanership, a field in which I consider myself virtually professional, if not an outright Olympic contender.

For a start, as everyone knows, B.O.A.T stands for Bring On Another Thousand. Admittedly, it’s difficult to spend a grand on anything as modest as a Sailfish, but I’ve managed to, frequently and regularly, pretty much on a monthly basis.

Most of all though, I hate boat maintenance. Nevertheless, over the last year I’ve been making a concerted effort. Firstly, I got my winter boat cover on early, in late March, which means it didn’t shred until early April, which in my time frame is about the time it’s supposed to come off. Job done.

Then, like you’re supposed to, I sat down to make a ‘to do’ list but I couldn’t find the comprehensive article in PBO that explains how. Another job done. In fact, when I had a look at my boat, she looked fine to me, so I compiled a ‘to-don’t’ list, which was very satisfying.

That was until local shipwright Adi, who runs the local boatyard’s care in the community programme for delinquent boat owners, took me aside and gave me an inspiring motivational pep talk, which was very depressing.

Turns out I had loads to do if I was to get on the water in time for the Maldon Town Regatta in September. Daily, for a whole day, I turned up in the boatyard and asked Adi what to do. He walked round my boat, pointing, tsking and tutting and sucking through his teeth, until my eyes glazed over and my mind went a bit foggy.

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I think the gist of it was ‘pull your finger out.’ Feeling depressingly motivated, I decided to varnish the coachroof grab rails. They didn’t actually need doing, but as I had an old shred of sandpaper and didn’t fancy lying under the boat to do the stuff that actually needed doing, I set to with a relish bordering on vigour.

After what seemed like seconds I got a bit bored and joined the queue of the clueless for Adi’s wise counsel. I grabbed a ticket from the dispenser outside his workshop and eventually, when my number came up, was ushered in.

After I showed him my hands to prove I’d been doing manual labour, he nodded and said: ‘I wouldn’t bother varnishing today, there’s too much moisture in the air and it looks like rain’.

My heart soared, but just when I thought I’d got off he instructed me to buy some exotically-priced brown splodgy-flex to fill in under the grab rails before the rain came.

My shoulders sagged as I trudged to the chandlery, but my spirits rose again when I discovered they’d run out of brown. With a skip in my step I reported back to Adi, who said: ‘No, go back and look again: you’ll find the brown in among the white or black. What happens is that shirkers like you go to the chandlery, pick something up, get distracted talking to all the other slackers, forget what they’ve gone in for, then put it back on the wrong shelf. Try again.’ Damn it, Adi was right.

Craven and cowed, I crawled back on my knees to his workshop with the splodge, which turned out to be the right colour but fortunately was entirely the wrong stuff. My fault. I returned it with a heavy heart, but was almost euphoric moments later to find they really had run out of the right stuff. Joy. They even gave me a refund. Double joy.

I skipped back to Adi’s workshop for further instruction, hoping I’d exhausted his patience and ingenuity. And then it started to rain, just like he said it would.

‘What shall I do now?’ I said, with an expression of irrepressible eagerness. Adi saw through me, sighed, shook his head wearily and said: ‘Go home, Dave, and have a cup of tea’.

And so came to a close the cheapest and most productive day I’ve ever spent working on my boat. In fact, I don’t really know what I was moaning about. I’m obviously a lot more practical than I thought.