If you thought buying a house was a tricky business, try buying a boat. Scheduling a marine survey around a suitable low tide, finding out whether the boat actually belongs to the guy who is selling it, finding workmen who not only are reliable and trustworthy but can also cope with the peculiarities of fitting out a home with curving walls made of steel it all got very complicated.
In the meantime there were people making helpful comments like: A boat is a big hole in the water into which you pour money and The two best days in a boat owner’s life are the day he buys the boat, and the day he sells it.
So I decided to take some time out to reconsider my options, and to look at some more boats.
I spent five days in the Isles of Scilly with Dave and Jane, on board their beautiful 1950’s motor cruiser, the Polaris (as in the pole star, not as in the nuclear submarine) pictured above. After a choppy crossing from St Mary’s we anchored in a sheltered bay just off Tresco, and I spent the next few days learning about the liveaboard lifestyle.
I started to appreciate just how much infrastructure is required to make a boat into a comfortable and self-sufficient home. As well as everything you’d have in a house electrics, plumbing, hot water and heating systems – you also need to generate your own power, purify your own water (or have huge water storage tanks) and have an enormous capacity for fuel. The Polaris has an impressive range of 9000 miles without needing to stop for refuelling.
Without a garden it’s tricky to be self-sufficient for food as well, but we supplemented our shore-bought supplies with shrimps, lobster and crab we caught ourselves – my favourite foods, and absolutely free, courtesy of the sea. Rick Stein, you can keep your exorbitantly over-priced seafood ours was fresher! Dave and Jane regularly barter their crab surplus for large quantities of French wine, so we lived well.
They had some fantastic tales to tell about their travels. They’d taken the Polaris on a cruise through the inland waterways of Europe, starting in the canals of France and making their way gradually down the Danube before popping out into the Black Sea. Looking at the map of their route really got my feet itching to travel again.
My wanderlust was further fuelled a couple of days after I returned to the mainland, when I went to see the Sammy Ley, an elegant yacht with living quarters beautifully fitted out in mahogany and brass. Her owners had spent the last 10 years sailing her around the world with their disabled son.
Have boat, will travel, it seems slight problem, though. I don’t know how to sail (looking up at the Sammy Ley’s huge mast set my knees a-knocking) and motor cruising is an expensive alternative – to refill the tanks on the Polaris costs between 1300 and 6000 (depending on where you go – it can be well worth making a detour of several hundred miles for cheaper diesel).The cost, and my tender green conscience, made me uncomfortable with the motor option.
So nothing is yet decided.
But in the meantime, I’m enjoying the summer. After my foray to the Scillies, I spent a few days in Devon (thanks to Fred and Fiona in Kingsbridge for their hospitality, and to Ben and Yasmine in Salcombe for the white-knuckle ride on their speedboat), then to Winchester (thanks to Rich and Nicola), Littlehampton (thanks, Geoff and Tanya) and Arundel (thanks, Andy & Emer).
Now I’m back in Leeds to spend time with my parents the top priority for now, since my father’s recent stroke. Boats and travel may have to wait a wee while.