Reflecting on happy times with 'The Boat'

Shawl, my brother thinks, but I think it was Shoal, which makes more nautical sense.

Dad with The Boat.
Dad with The Boat.

The name of dad's boat, that is. Or, as we would always call it, 'The Boat'.

This time of year is a time we often think of the dear departed, and my late dad's boat was for years part of our childhood lives.

He had always built boats, generally canoes with wooden stringers and covered in canvas, because that was the way before fibreglass changed everything.

His magic ingredient was black Bostik. If a boat got holed, a patch of canvas with a few smears of Bostik would put things right. In these canoes we children would ride out over the waves into the sea, because what today would be seen as a health and safety risk was back then simply adventure and fun.

On one occasion in the 1960s dad took Shirley Tart, formerly of this parish and who sadly herself passed away on Christmas Day, for a trip down the River Severn in one of his canoes, and Shirley did a big write-up.

Then he decided to get more ambitious, which meant the advent of The Boat. It was a kit that he got from Bell Woodworking in Leicester and was a wooden sailing boat complete with cabin you could sleep in and with a length of 22ft, meaning it was truly seagoing.

I think everybody in the locality knew he was building a boat in his garden. The glue for the project was Aerolite, which came in two parts. One was the sticky gluey stuff, and the other was a thin spirit which had to be applied to one of the wooden surfaces separately as a hardener. The catch was that if you left it too long the hardener would evaporate before the join had been completed.

So as my dad did the many glueing jobs he was always in a race against time. This meant many a loud curse. That's why we think everybody for a considerable distance around knew he was building a boat.

Ideally we children would have helped him a lot more but being children there was playing to do. Building The Boat took him years, about five I think.

As it neared completion a reporter from the Star came along. In his write-up he said The Boat was called Seamen. In fact the model name of the boat was a Seamew.

The launch was at Shell Island. It has to be said that my mum wasn't quite as enthusiastic about The Boat as my dad. I think my dad said that when she slept in The Boat she dangled her arm over the side of the bed to check whether there was any rising water.

We did do some sailing but there were problems. It was too big. It had to have a big trailer and a big vehicle to tow it. Even putting up the mast, which was longer than the boat, was a palaver. And as it was very beamy, it couldn't be used on canals as it was too wide to fit in canal locks, although we did have some nice trips on the River Severn and up the Avon, which does have locks but they are wider.

After less use than it might have had it ended up at the bottom of the garden, carefully covered. When my dad died we recovered it and moored it at Stourport. Every time I went to it there was a significant amount of water in it. Being in denial, I reasoned it was rainwater, and made sure the boat was always covered with a tarpaulin. But the "rainwater" would always be there.

One day a chap came along to chat about our wooden boat. What glue was used, he asked. Aerolite, I said. Oh, he said. I heard that only lasted 25 years. By this time The Boat was a lot older. In fairness to Aerolite, I'd better say that I don't know if what he said was true. In any event, rather than give him any satisfaction, I replied: "I've had no problems."

In the last period of its life, The Boat was used as a children's playhouse in my niece's garden. Then she moved. I haven't asked what happened to it. I don't like to.

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