Captain's Table

Mark Austen

2016.10.20 - Sail Now, Fettle Later

The saying above is one made by Dylan Winters of Keep Turning Left fame and one he champions at every possible moment. In essence he is saying that you should buy the boat you can afford now and go sailing and not spend time mending or putting a boat right and go sailing later. He recently gave a talk at the Scottish Boat Show about sailing on a budget where this theme was reiterated.

I disagree.

It is probably acceptable to say this if you have the money to buy a boat in sailing condition but if you do not, what then?

And what if you do have money but cannot afford a boat suitable for the type of sailing available to you?

I'm a case in point. I could have afforded a small dinghy but it would have to be something over 10' long as I'm not as spry as I used to be and I want to sail in comfort. Let's say I could buy a Wayfarer at a good price and at my age sailing a Wayfarer single handed would be pushing it. I'd only be able to sail up and down the river for about 3 miles as the power cables would prevent me from going further. So, a smaller boat perhaps? Then I'm limited to 9 miles of river before the bridges prevent further progress and a lot less comfort. Now I need a boat with a short mast to get under the power cables and a mast that I can easily lower and raise to get under the bridges.

That really limits my options. Looking around on the Internet for suitable boat that meet just these two requirements to say nothing of the comfort requirement shows me that I'll need to spend around £2,000 and then getting the mast down would not be easy.

Guess what? I can't afford that.

So, instead I did exactly the opposite, fettle now, sail later.

I bought the boat I could afford that could be made to fit my requirements but needed repair and over the last 17 months I have been fettling away making that repair and building a boat that I want, not one that limits my options.

And the end is in sight. I've got to the stage where fittings are starting to be put in place. The hinges and latches on the lockers, for example. I'll soon be installing the main sheet bullseye and cleat as they need a backing pad under the deck and what better way to hold the backing pad in place while the sealant cures than to fit the items that need it?

The result will be the boat I want as well as one I could afford but that outlay has been spread over 17 months so far and probably over 24 months by the time I'm sailing her.

Now that I can afford.

So Sail now, fettle latter if you can afford it, otherwise fettle now, sail later.