The blog will now be devoted not to boat building but to my 82-year-old Vertue, Sally II, now undergoing a well needed refit at Johnson & Loftus in Ullapool (and gliding...)

Tuesday, 10 January 2012


First of all, welcome and happy New Year to my 37 (loyal but deluded) "followers", which makes me sound like the leader of some sort of sect, albeit one with fewer sectarians than Heinz once had varieties. Thank you for your support and if I had one wish for this blog in 2012, it is for more of you to post comments under the posts. There's no censorship involved and criticism is welcomed as much as applause.

Second (or is that secondly?) a gratuitous photo of girls opening a boat show, an event aimed at attracting hordes of Visa-card wielding males to ExCel in Docklands to buy more plastic boats (of which more later...)

Meanwhile, the Woodfish faering seems to have stalled after an email from the chap suggested that a problem with buying a house in France might delay things. That came as a bit of a relief, as another project seems to have cropped up in the meantime, and I can look forward to the faering, possibly, later in the year, which suits me fine. More time to find top quality larch for the wide strakes.

The weather, also, is horrible and although I have built boats through many horrible winters in the past, this one is just too horrible at the moment for words (although horrid is a good one to describe the remorseless wind and rain we have been getting for the past three months).

I had thought of escaping the gloom for the lights of London's boat show, until I remembered how horrid that was too, the last time I went. And this year sounds little better, albeit smaller. But it will still be wall-to-wall clothing stands offering bargains on garish oilskins; a hall totally devoted to Sunseeker (about whom I will not have a bad word spoken as my godson crafts the Jacuzzi surrounds for the Super Predator ExTreme Ultima) and the Guinness bar. The only bright spot in all this glitzy gloom is the Classic Boat stand, where Dan Houston and his team dispense common wooden sense, while youngsters brave life and limb to climb HMS Victory's mast.

I have it on good authority that the 'Elf and Safety people were insisting on parachutes, life harnesses and full metal jackets at one stage before allowing the little dears to go aloft. But our Dan (whose daredevil young sons embody the spirit of dering-do so lacking in today's iPod youth) managed to stamp on that, and the insistence that those responsible adults ushering the youth of today upwards would need to produce full disclosure of the kind designed to deter perverts and criminals.

So I decided to stay at home and ponder what 2012 might bring, eat the rest of the mince pies, read the pile of books left over from 2011, notably an excellent one by Adam Nicholson on Trafalgar, and meditate basically on life in general and boats in particular.

There's talk too of this being the last London show at ExCel. From its debut, when over 200,000 came, numbers have plummeted to around half, which does not surprise me a bit. Expensive to attend, and enter, halls stuffed with pile em high sell em cheap stalls, much of which is cheaper on the internet, a dearth of wooden boats - in fact boats with any appeal at all - and all in a hall that looks like a Zeppelin hangar from the outside and a Turkish bazaar inside.

So, maybe next year when I may have a better reason to go, if I can persuade Classic Boat to host a stand full of readers' home-built boats, many of which will have sprung from the board of Iain Oughtred, no doubt. It will have to be a mix of plywood and traditional, and one idea that came to mind would be to sit side by side an example each of one of Iain's boats, in timber and plywood and finally thrash out the advantages and disadvantages of both. It would be a project very close to my heart as, over the past year or so, I have softened somewhat my views on plywood. Somewhat...


  1. Hi Adrian, Happy New Year from the mild almost balmy south coast. The daffies are nearly out!
    Couldn't agree more about the London Boat Show, I only go to the Southampton Boat Show if I can get free tickets and I live there. There is a growing corner at Southampton where a few small traditional builders struggle against the tide and they seem to be making a little headway so maybe there is hope, and its great to see Matt Newland buck the trend.
    I've subscribed to Classic Boat for quite a number of years and I've always enjoyed your column as it has its feet firmly planted in the muck of your cow,pig,chicken,boat-shed. I must say though that since the new publishers took over and the format changed it seems to have lost some of its authenticity and become much more aspirational. Its a bit like a nautical version of the Hampshire Magazine which plops through our letter box, unbidden, unread, pointless, and seemingly just a platform for adverts. Full of frightfully nice people with pots of dosh who've heard there might be a financial crisis going on somewhere. If I could be bothered I'd write to Dan & Co. but I expect I'm just not in their demograph.

    Anyway thought I'd just chip in seeing as you asked, keep up the good work and say hello to Perkins for me. Epoxy-ply forever.

  2. Stick with Classic Boat: they need readers like you and, more to the point, ones prepared to write letters, which is the only way they can truly judge whether what they are doing is acceptable.

    I know that their hearts are in the right place and that once things settle down there will be more of the kind of features ordinary folk enjoy, and hopefully a little more down to earth boat building.

    Personally I would like to see a Readers' Boats section, devoted to the best traditionally-built (of course) boats, although I would accept good Perkinsian versions, though I doubt any would match the beauty of finish and line he manages to achieve in his draughty workshop just down the hill (or brae as they say up here)from where I type this.

  3. The only ‘Boat Show’ worth bothering with these days is at Beal Park (8th to 10 June).

    It’s not totally plastic free but at least there isn’t the same desperate hard selling.

  4. Happy New Year Adrian,
    Don't soften your views on plywood too much; an occasional rant is one of the things that keep all 37 of us turning up.
    My daughter Em [12,5] would like me to point out that she has an iPod but also crossed the IJsselmeer in her Optimist last year.
    Cheers, from a wet and windy Holland,

  5. Happy new year
    Totally agree about the London boat show. Much better when you can see that they float! Thanks for kind comments about Al...he would rather be doing what you're doing...if only there was regular good money!

  6. Damn your eyes, Ade! Here I am feeling all guilty and remorseful about building in plywood and epoxy and feeling the need to get back to a more purely wooden life and it's all your fault!
    (that first line is pilfered from a Richard Thompson song - always wanted to use it...)

  7. There y'go I've just made it 38.

    I of course only have 24.................

  8. And all the best to you for 2012 Adrian.

    Was in Southampton with the Brother when the boat show was on and didn't feel motivated to attend.

    We're all mad following each other around, maybe we'll eventually come full circle and all be following each other's blogs.

    By the way Port-Na-Storm you've got 25 now. Now I'm just going to check and see who's missing, maybe need to get the new Caledonian Press Gang out .....

  9. I'm with Port-Na-Storm on the content of Classic Boat. Too many perfect restorations at professional yards of boats many of which are frankly beyond aspiration. A Readers Boats section would help but the reason I enjoy this site is the confessions of rain on (almost dry) varnish, the picture of Sally on her legs on a shingle beach awaiting antifouling or the stories about the Landrover and the need to park up high enough for a rolling start on a cold morning.

    That to me is "authenticity". Those stories and pictures are part of the business of building and owning and looking after boats. Now that I think of it I would welcome fewer photos of Adrian's finished faerings in favour of some detail and discussion of the shed itself, the sawdust on the floor, the extension leads draped from the ceiling, the racks of tools and empty varnish containers.

    I can almost smell it.....

  10. On re reading my comment of last night it sounds as if I am not interested in pictures of your finished boats. That's not so and I don't mean to suggest that your blog is not already full of interesting peripheral stuff Adrian. Quite the opposite. Perhaps I'm just suffering from a passing bout of shed envy.

    I'm certainly suffering from frustration in getting these messages out. Am I the only one who finds it difficult to deal with Google's system. Yesterday I lost several between typing the message and hitting the publish button.

    Bah Humbug etc.

  11. Any comments are good. Ten so far and counting. At least there are people reading this stuff, and I see that my followers have jumped to 40.

    As for shed envy, you would not have wanted to be anywhere near my shed these last few weeks. It's all very well getting romantic about wooden boat building, but the reality is rather different. Give me a warm office, with a coffee machine a sodding great Apple Mac and colleagues with a sense of humour any day. Sorry to dispel the myth, but that's what six weeks of unremitting wind and rain does to one's mind.

    And the bl**dy Land bl***dy Rover is playing up.

    Actually I'm only saying that to make you feel better. It's all bliss and contentment at the cow shed.

  12. I'd say that there's room for Classic Boat to do whatever its owners want. We readers don't own it, the writers don't own it and even the editor and staff don't own it, even though their livelihoods rely on its success.

    Nope, it's the owners who actually call the shots - the owners and the middle-managers who can persuade them they have a plan.

    What I think is a great relief these days, compared with the early 1990s and before, is that if one paper publication doesn't entirely please, there are so many other media that can deliver some of what we we're looking for.

    I'm thinking of the weblogs in particular, and this is just one example. Yes, they may be low budget and not always wholly professional, but they do offer tremendous variety, they're full of real-world experiences and ideas largely unblemished by commercial considerations, and they have bags of opinion and personality, just like a good old fashioned magazine column.

    I'm not saying don't buy and read magazines - I continue to do that myself - but I think we're lucky to have such a wide range of reading now. Let CB do what it wants.