ME & MY BOATS
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