There are blogs written by those who are complete experts at designing, building and repairing their own boats with no other help than a forbearing partner and a seemingly infinite amount of time. I am not one of these.
In 2006, I bought a boat. It was the boat I had wanted for most of my life but never had the opportunity to own before. It took a little time to confirm what was right with it . . . and a little longer to find out all that was wrong with it. Fortunately, what was right outshone what was wrong.
That first season was good fun. We sailed a lot, even making a passage to Fowey and back. Unfortunately, there were some problems and I began to think of ways to fix them – and then ways to improve her, and so my ambition grew – (”What is possible? We are not trying to restore a classic boat to its original state. It’s not a wooden boat. Let’s see what modern materials can achieve”). One thing was for sure: whatever I wanted done on the boat would be way beyond my then knowledge and still current skills. So I began to look for someone to help me.
Specifically, I wanted someone who would listen to what I wanted to do . . . and would recognise when I was being unrealistic and say so – and be prepared to come up with an alternative. Over the years, I have learnt how independent boat owners are . . . and how proud of their boats, sometimes excessively so. It takes a diplomat to handle them.
During that summer, following an unfortunate incident with a crossed battery cable, we were in Plymouth Yacht Haven sorting it out. While trying to hide my embarrassment at the earlier mistake, I was explaining to Pete from Marine Systems what I wanted to do with Blue Mistress. He said, pointing to the Hangar across from the marina, ‘why don’t you try DickyB over there’.
A while later, Richard Banks sat in the cabin and looked around while I told him what I was wanting to do and how far back we would have to go before we could move forward – and there was no way of my affording the work in one leap.
I liked him immediately. He caught on to what I was saying, cut through the c**p and we began to work out what might be needed to start the project off. (Yes, I know I was a potential client so you would expect him to be enthusiastic, but there are ways and ways of handling clients – I liked his style).
And so the relationship with Dicky B Marine began. There have been three periods in the Hangar at Mount Batten. Each time, Blue Mistress has been returned to the water greatly improved. On the last occasion, she was a new boat.
Throughout, Richard has been excellent. I often arrived unannounced and, despite other work on other boats, been enthusiastically shown what had been done and what was proposed. If I was in the way, he and everyone else had the courtesy to keep it till I left! I took pictures of everything. I have sent strings of emails and attachments with ideas and changes. Believe me, it’s not the boat, it’s the owner!
It’s a team, of course. In this, our last session, Robin Leach’s skilled carpentry and work below decks have been especially appreciated – I haven’t forgotten the twenty locker lids laid out to paint.
He also made the smart new tiller, one that no longer catches the lazarette locker lids.
At the same time, the stainless steel fittings were made in their workshop by Dave Willey. Andy Wilson worked on her too. That was another reason for choosing this firm. They have several strings to their bow.
In a little under three years, we have gone from this:
The Folksong hull was originally built for the DIY market. Blue Mistress was launched in 1988. She has changed owners two or three times since. Each one had their own ideas. Everyone brings their own personality to a boat. I don’t suppose any two people would agree on what the “correct” solution should be.
Well, this owner is older with a demanding day job, and with not so many tides ahead of him. He has enjoyed sharing the boat with the surprisingly large number of people who have worked on her. (In a recession that can’t be a bad thing).
And he’s not finished yet. Over the next few years her intends to enjoy Blue Mistress, work on her and sail her as much as possible.