Friday, 4 September 2009


Mine is a very little boat. Her name is Poppy and she is of a type called Scaffie. For seven months of the year I keep Poppy on a mooring at Lympstone on the River Exe. This is her fourth year in commission and she has already given me more fun than I deserve. She is one of the smallest boats on the moorings, her overall length being a mere fourteen feet and nine inches, but for me and to fulfil all my dreams and to serve all my purposes she is big enough.

For some forty years I had owned and loved somewhat bigger day boats and when I found this last love, thinking I might be past love, I did not expect to love her half so well as I had loved Bärbel or Lorna or Squab I or Squab II, but in no time at all the little minx had stolen my heart and in the words of the song, ‘I loved her as I never loved before.’

This wonderful boat was designed by the late John Watkinson, the designer of the legendary Drascombe Lugger. He had been a naval officer and there is a touch of romance and panache about every boat he designed. In the dim and distant past I went to the Boat Show and saw the Drascombe Lugger for the first time at the stand of Kelly and Hall, boatbuilders of Newton Ferrers. Like many other people I was enchanted by the design. I loved the tan sails and the piratical rake and the promise that she would ‘jog along under jib and mizzen’. I imagined her jogging through immense shoals of mackerel off Exmouth while I did some serious fishing. Without further ado I commissioned the building of a boat that was the first such on the Exe and which served me well for many years.

When I bought my first Lugger, Squab, I was still in my twenties and my growing family sailed with me. When, however, I decided to buy the Scaffie, Poppy, I was in my sixties and all my chicks had flown and my wife had long since declared that her sailing days were done. It was clear to me that I wouldn’t be needing a big boat. In any case when it come to boats and boating I have always thought small. What I want and need is a small boat in which to potter about the Exe and, on increasingly rare occasions, to sail me through coastal waters on a fairweather day. My boat has to be small enough for me to be able to slide her off the estuary mudbanks whenever Iput her aground. She has to be a rowing boat as well as a sailing boat because it is my delight to row across the calm flood tides. She has to have a simple sail plan because I am a bear of little brain who has always fumbled and confused sheets and halyards. She has to be supplied with a small outboard motor to rush me home whenever I become cold or hungry, weary or queasy.

It was with personal, practical and less than heroic considerations such as these that I went shopping for my boat.

Tomorrow: Something on Peeler Crabs

1 comment:

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