Canal Boat - - This Month - WORDS & PIC­TURES BY HARRY PUR­CHASE

Most peo­ple have had one or two boats, but here’s some­one who’s had a whole string of them

Some peo­ple have had one or two boats in their life, but Harry has had a whole string of them – and all dif­fer­ent types. Here’s his story, from his first boat, through sail­ing in Aus­tralia and the Caribbean, to now en­joy­ing gen­tle cruises on the Wey Nav­i­ga­tion

In 1928, my dad was a tug skip­per, tow­ing six barges loaded with Port­land stone for the con­struc­tion of Chiswick road bridge. In 1936, aged four, he taught me to scull – not two oars, there was a slot in the tran­som and the oar scribed a fig­ure of eight. This was at Mort­lake on the ti­dal Thames. In later life, (in 1946 and aged 14), I sculled from Lech­lade to West­min­ster with the Sea Cadets.

My first real boat was a wartime in­flat­able yel­low dinghy res­cue kit for downed air­men. Bought at a gov­ern­ment sur­plus store for a fiver, it had a red tri­an­gu­lar sail. I would sail up to Rich­mond on Thames on the flood tide, and then wait for the ebb tide – six hours each way. It caused my mother con­sid­er­able dis­tress as dark­ness fell and I hadn’t re­turned. Panic en­sued and the river po­lice were called.

In 1977, I bought a Free­man 24, named Gor­dana by a pre­vi­ous owner. It was a typ­i­cal river cruiser and had a marinised 1.8 BMC en­gine, which were usu­ally fit­ted to black Lon­don cabs.

Then came a Fair­line Mi­rage with twin Volvo en­gines. I took my son and five of his school chums (all aged 15) on an ex­tended cruise to Lech­lade. Was this wise? Af­ter one or two glasses at lunch and me in si­esta mode, I awoke to find trees and the river bank hurtling past and a glee­ful group of boys putting the en­gines through their paces! We ex­ceeded the speed limit by some con­sid­er­able mar­gin.

Then I bought a Sealine Sen­a­tor 29. It was one of the early de­signs and was dif­fi­cult to con­trol at slow speeds. Oc­ca­sion­ally bits would fall off, mainly in


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