To the penurious nautical tradesperson, the notion of opening a boatel becomes increasingly attractive

RYA courses pretty much cover everything you need to know about life, but there’s one area of training they haven’t touched on, namely a practical sailing qualification in moaning about
the cost of everything.

The truth is there’s no need for any training in this area because all boat owners know this
by instinct. Sure, moaning involves no study, merely a lifetime of surly and diligent application; and that’s got to be worth a certificate.

You see, I’ve had a bit of a seachange, and not just from running boat jumble stalls where every
punter tries to rob me by offering mere pennies for my great-value, top-quality, sub-premium-grade bargain boat tat. It’s endlessly galling because some of my stuff actually works, like the rope, although it’s generally not recommended for marine use – the rope, for example – as most of it has come from a pound shop. What do you expect for two pounds?
I have to cover my overheads somehow!

What’s happened is I’ve gone to the other side and seen the light, because for quite a few
years now I’ve leased a 60ft by 20ft boat shed in Maldon. And that has been a baptism in the long-suffering hardships of the marine trades. I tell you, all you millionaire PBO readers
really don’t know what it’s like for us hard-working nautical tradesfolk who exist purely to
save you from yourselves. The ones who read those glossy classic wooden boat magazines
are even worse. And in seven years I’ve never made a penny.

Don’t take my word for it, just ask anyone in waterfront trades, whose business is your pleasure, and they’ll tell you the same. Yet, naturally, all the berth-holders near my shed are certain I’m making a fortune and running some cunningly fiendish tax scam. My ownership of a modest 18ft
Sailfish convinces them even more, as it’s obviously some kind of sophisticated smokescreen.

Well, it’s certainly baffled me. A Sailfish is certainly not sophisticated, although I will admit it puts out a smokescreen when my outboard’s running. So that’s me done and dusted, tarred with the same brush – the one you think is outrageously expensive – as all my marine trade brethren.

Well, this is how it is. There’s a line from The Eagles’ hit ‘Hotel California’ that sums up my
business model. It goes: ‘You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave’.
I don’t like boats leaving, and in my case I’m particularly keen that the boats at the
back of the shed never leave, because that would mean moving the two boats in front,
and that’s what’s known in trade jargon as ‘a right faff’ – in fact, ‘a right faffing faff’.

If something does actually leave, the boat that’s booked in to replace it the next day very
rarely arrives within a month: and of course, as they’re sailors, they don’t want to pay for that
month because it’s always someone else’s fault – theirs.

And now let’s look at the money. In fact, it would be nice to see some, but it’s not something I feel the need to discuss in too much detail. I run the same time-honoured two-tariff system adopted
throughout the Maldon waterfront.

Tariff A is: ‘not as much as you might think’.

Tariff B is: ‘you can afford it’.

By the way, these are estimates, not quotes. I don’t really think a customer needs to know more.

This soundness of this practice was demonstrated by a nameless artisan nowhere near here at all (I’m in Barbados as I write this) who once gave a quote, then presented the customer with an invoice for a rather enhanced sum.

Client queried it with project manager who queried disparity with artisan, who explained: ‘That’s
the vet bill for the cat’. As a marine trade professional it seems entirely reasonable to me: every boatyard needs a cat to stop rats and mice eating your sails. The customer didn’t see it that way.

All of which is why I’m thinking of opening a B&B. I got the idea from one of my tenants who, as he lived some way away, quite often kipped on the boat he was restoring in my shed.

Unfortunately he also made quick work of it and now keeps the boat in the water, which means he’s paying someone else. That got me thinking. If I bought four characterful old hulks I could
run my own Boat & Breakfast, or even a boatel or boatique hotel.

Then, a bit like the Hotel California, I could at least make sure the boats never leave. No more faffing.