Cash on Delivery

A sailor’s tale:

Image: Yachting Monthly, May 1998 issue.

Yachting Monthly, May 1998 issue.

Mention of my father in an earlier post reminded me of a yacht I owned twenty five years ago. It was a Folkboat, a modest enough vessel as yachts go, but beautifully built of tight-seamed carvel mahogany resplendent in varnish from truck to waterline. People used to ask how I ever found time to sail it, believing it must be hell to keep all that varnish up to standard. I used to tell them it was not the acres of varnish that took time to maintain, it was the fiddly bits, the mahogany handrails, portlight bezels and edge beadings, and lots of yachts have that sort of trim even if built of things other than wood.

When glassfibre was invented boatbuilders rapidly took up the new material and became plastics manufacturers instead, while their customers grasped thankfully at the delusion that GRP was virtually maintenance-free. Note that word virtually. Turns out it covered a host of sins from fading colours and stress cracks to the dreaded boat pox (or osmosis, to give its proper name). I never found it took much longer to varnish my wooden topsides than others took to polish their plastic ones, but still the battle has been largely lost. Nearly all yachts are built of plastic these days; even I have partly succumbed to its shiny lure.

Back in the day, however, when my yacht was based in North Wales my father used to sail as crew with me on weekend expeditions around the Irish Sea. We had great times together, cruising hither and yon, never a cross word between us, and I remember those times and my father with the greatest fondness and respect. He made it well into his eighties but inevitably succumbed to the grim reaper some years ago, and it is in his memory that I re-publish here the story of our last sail together before dad hung up his peaked cap and retired to spend winters with mum in the sunshine abroad. The article is reproduced with the kind encouragement of Kieran Flatt, editor of the Yachting Monthly magazine where it first appeared in the May 1998 issue. It tells of when we were storm bound in the port of Dartmouth and of the wonderful last sail we enjoyed whilst delivering the yacht to its new owner after I sold her. I hope you enjoy it. And thanks, Dad, for everything.

To read Cash on Delivery in your browser click the link or the Yachting Monthly cover image above:

To download a PDF version of Cash on Delivery CLICK HERE, and save the PDF document that appears.

The conflict between devotees of modern plastic and old fashioned wooden boat construction appears as a minor theme in Sunset over Salhouse Broad. At the risk of offending a great many of my potential readers I allowed one character, who was not a boating man, grumpily to express his opinion of boating magazines and modern yachts (…best described as a clanging metal mast standing atop an expanse of blindingly white plastic with decorative bits of wood stuck about it here and there – Enoch Shackleton, the Very Different Detective). I suppose that is the penalty of accepting the time honoured advice that writers should “write what you know”. Maybe I should have focused on the murder and mayhem instead of character-building realism, but contrary to Enoch’s grumpy remarks in Sunset over Salhouse Broad, Yachting Monthly is a great magazine and I hope to write more for them someday. That’s not me in the cover picture, by the way.

UPDATE: Since writing this article Sunset over Salhouse Broad has been revised and re-titled Just One Mistake. The old links should still take you to the right place, though.

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