Friday, 11 May 2012

Buying a Boat

Two things I learned crawling over the beautiful Cape Cutter the other day. First, I am naturally drawn to traditional looking craft. Second, I’m a potential sucker for them. There is a real danger that I could end up buying a completely unsuitable boat because I have become so smitten with her looks that I forget to consider her qualities (or lack of them). There are two particular dangers here. One is that I purchase a beautiful craft which is unsuitable to my needs; the other issue is that in considering her beauty I may fail to appreciate how much work will be required to bring her back to an effective sailing standard. I could easily fall victim to either failing – or worse I could end up with an unsuitable boat, too far gone to repair.

So, here is a strategy. I have to accept that, when buying a boat, logic can sometimes fly out of the window. Sometimes a boat simply speaks to you; something about her tells you that she is the one for you. At that point the trap is set.

From that point onwards, in my eyes, the boat has no faults. Peeling paint and spongy wood is no longer a sign of rot, rather it is part of her ageless charm. The musty smell inside the cabin is nothing more than a sign that she has been unloved for a while, that she is crying out for attention and the patched hull merely shows that she has a ‘history’ – here is a boat that has been places. Rose coloured spectacles or are they binoculars?

At this point I will need a critical friend, someone who will see the boat in more realistic terms, someone who will ask a few serious questions and challenge my ideas. The person I take with me doesn’t have to be an expert – soft wood is soft wood, rust is rust, all he or she needs to do is look carefully and pose the question – ‘that is rust isn’t it?’ ‘Is the rudder supposed to be there on the ground?’ ‘Is that trailer really road worthy? The tyres look bald’. ‘I thought you were looking for a motor vessel – this is a sailing boat. Do you know how to sail?’

This friend doesn’t have to be confrontational and some of the comments may be na├»ve but one or two questions will hit the spot and make me think before I commit to an unfortunate purchase. I of course will be free to listen to the questions or dismiss them but if I can’t give a satisfactory answer then I should think long and hard before committing to purchase. After all, there is nothing worse than someone saying ‘I told you so’. 

Chances are though that the friend will have to be patient, understanding and pretty thick skinned. Walking away from a potential relationship ( even with a boat) can be painful and people who try to offer support often find themselves bearing the brunt of resentment.