In this month’s Confession, we hear how one Fletcher owner tried boldly towing like no man has towed before
Last year I achieved a childhood dream and bought my first boat, a 14ft Fletcher Arrow type sportsboat. On a black trailer, the red and white livery, white leather racing seats, and general ‘Starsky & Hutch/General Lee’ appearance amused me and many onlookers.
Full of self-praise but safety concerns, I soon bought an engine, lifejackets, ropes and fenders, an anchor and boathook, fuel tank and spare. I also had a large C shaped bracing plate of 4mm steel fabricated to secure the split transom and hold my engine.
I bought a bargain white car with a tow-bar, which looked like the spaceship from ‘Battlestar Galactica’ as I headed west for our first flight. Captain’s log, stardate: the school holidays.
Arriving in Barmouth, north west Wales, it was indeed as if the boating universe was out in force. Half of Birmingham and its offspring on a half-term break lined the quaysides and virtually blocked out the sun.
Yachts were coming in as RIBs and PWCs were going out. The jetty and slipway were facing a space race, and the assistant harbourmaster was under pressure. In order to permit my first launching, he needed to check the vessel and validate its suitability and my sensibility.
Today though ‘The Force’ was not with me. With his head under the rear seats he called out about, “bilges, bungholes and bungs” but I had difficulty understanding his Welsh accent and nodded in agreement to whatever he asked me.
As the craft had been much loved by its former owner, his mates had seen fit to christen it with a couple of decal stickers. The first was the letter ‘W’ and next to it the sign for an anchor.
Put them together and you can imagine the maelstrom I was tossed in whilst trying to explain to
a haughty insurance clerk why my boat was called, “W…, Wa, Waa…Wha…tever!”
“I’m afraid we can’t insure the vessel if it doesn’t have a name sir,” came the reply as I watched the springtide drop and my hopes ebb away.
Still the harbourmaster cast out a lifeline and granted me permission to have a ‘water test’ without insurance.
Well, within lightspeed the boat was afloat and abaft was my bag. In Neptune I trusted so left my camera, monocular, mobile phone, wallet and registration documents in the bag on the sole whilst driving off to park. However, half-term meant a half-mile drive to find empty spaces.
With wetsuit and flotation jacket on, I rushed back to the harbour where my boat had been in the water for over half an hour. The weight of the engine and steel plate had sent the boat down and having no bung in the bunghole meant seawater was now gushing into the boat.
My gadgets were drowned and my uninsured boat at risk of becoming a wreck. My dream had become a nightmare and my ship abandoned me.
I quickly stripped the outboard off and laid it on the slipway as children crabbed away. Pulling the half-sunk tub back high onto the slipway, I then ran to get the car and trailer rigged up for recovery.
After traffic jams and tantrums I was in position, but the falling tide left the now nearly drained boat close to being high and dry. The queue of Midlanders waiting to launch or retrieve their craft rose, along with 50 or so spectators.
Meanwhile, I was the space cadet who single-handedly refloated the boat, reversed the trailer, seated the ‘V’ hull, attached the necessaries then began to drive up the slipway. With apologetic haste I pulled away up the slope and soon felt the full weight of the new seawater still in the hull.
“It would drain out soon enough,” I thought but the car stalled… three times. With a final foot-to-the floor acceleration the trailer flipped off the ball-hitch and the car-to-trailer safety lanyard came crashing down through my hatchback’s rear window.
“What’s he doing dad?” came one of many queries from the Brummies. “I dunno son, and
I don’t think he knows!” What a ‘W…!’
The author of every confession we print wins the original Stephen Shaw cartoon artwork (above) and an Icom IC-M23 Buoyant VHF Marine Transceiver handheld VHF radio worth £165.
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