Was there ever such a lovely medium for boat building as wood? Certainly it’s heavy, it flexes and requires an inordinate amount of upkeep, maintenance and money, but if you’re not destined for the front of the fleet and enjoy working on a boat as much (or more!) as using it, then sailing a piece of furniture at a more sedentary pace can be as enjoyable as crossing the finish line first; wood still has its place in the sunshine.
I was weaned on wood. Whatever the class – Mirror, Wayfarer, Osprey, Int Canoe – whenever there was a wood option my family took it. Yes, occasionally we dabbled in plastic, but that was only because there was no other option. Plastic worked, but wood warmed the soul.
I have now reached the stage in my life where dangling from a trapeze and capsizing into the chilly embrace of frigid, murky water is quickly losing its appeal. With age comes wisdom, or at least a modicum of common sense, and now that I am in my 50s with a son wanting to sail something that won’t constantly force him to swim, I’m looking for a compromise between performance and stability.
As a youth and a dyed-in-the-wool dinghy sailor, I always viewed Flying Fifteens as vessels suited solely for the aged.
Obviously, with that afore-mentioned ‘age bringing wisdom’ coming to fruition, I realize now that Flying Fifteens have a wonderfully broad scope to them: hike for all you’re worth, like in a dinghy, and they’ll reward you by flying; sit comfortably and enjoy a languid ride with little or no effort, and they’ll still get you where you want to go, only at half the speed. Horses for courses. Well, I’m not too old to have lost my competitive juices totally so I like the idea of hiking hard to help get a good result, and I also like the idea of sailing a boat in which my little one actually wants to accompany me; something that won’t capsize (or at least won’t easily capsize!). Oh, and I want it in wood.
What better choice can there be than an old Flying Fifteen?
But while it may be easy to accept the fact that an old woodie will not be competitive, finding an old boat that is not a crumbling disaster is less so. Family and work commitments (and, if I’m honest, ability) do not easily allow time and space for renovating, which limits me even more when it comes to available boats – I need to find a ride that is in decent condition. It doesn’t have to be perfect because I’m a dab hand at the cosmetic stuff, but it has to be sound, and I know that there are a number of unused and underused potential flower planters that, with a bit of TLC, could be a pretty-albeit-slow addition to any fleet.
So I am sending out this ‘call to arms’ to all you owners of wooden boats, or friends of owners of wooden boats, who don’t fancy yet another winter of stripping, sanding and varnishing and instead would like to see your grand old ladies receive lavish attention and nautical cosmetic surgery from someone else. For my part I undertake to turn your boat into the marine equivalent of a southern California divorcee – all primped, preened and dressed to kill although no longer as sprightly as she used to be, her gleaming outer shell masking the age beneath!
Please send me details and pictures of your old relic (your boat, not your wife!) to [email protected] so I can start down the path to an aching, blistered body, cluttered garage and irritated spouse!