The red book

Ev­ery project boat needs a to-do list, but which is the best list to make a start with?

Practical Boat Owner - - Sam Llewellyn - Sam Llewellyn

The first time I stepped onto the project boat as owner, I had with me a lit­tle red note­book. I am look­ing at it now. The first list is none too de­tailed, partly be­cause the whole works was deep un­der filth af­ter a five-year so­journ in a He­bridean boat­yard. The list sug­gested that the re­quire­ments were new sails, re­pairs to the en­gine, a new spray­hood, a new stove, a new head, and plenty of mis­cel­lanea in the way of skin fit­tings, hoses and per­haps a touch of wiring here and there.

There fol­lowed a list of phone num­bers of peo­ple who would be help­ful in ac­quir­ing these things. Look­ing back into the num­bers, I can­not now re­mem­ber who any of them were, ex­cept for the en­gi­neer. The next list is of weather fore­casts for the first week I spent on the boat in the yard, dodg­ing drips from the faulty hatch seals. It makes soggy read­ing. The next list is even worse, men­tion­ing cabin sole, rot­ten; wiring, ditto; cut­less gland, an­tique; pro­pel­ler, cor­roded; and en­gine in­stal­la­tion – done by some­body with slight ex­pe­ri­ence of do­mes­tic plumb­ing but a stranger to ma­rine prac­tice.

The list af­ter that deals with the in­stal­la­tion of a new en­gine and the flog­ging of the old one to a fork­lift op­er­a­tor. Next come sup­pli­ers of pro­pel­lers, whose prices var­ied from a thou­sand quid on the south coast of Eng­land to a quar­ter of that on the east coast of Scot­land.

The next few lists are gritty ob­jects. We are in the land of tinned wire, stain­less Ju­bilee clips, sink sea­cocks, screws of all shapes and sizes, and (for rea­sons I can­not now re­call, but per­haps break­fast) eggs. In fact this phase re­calls very few mem­o­ries, as the yard was now in per­pet­ual twi­light through which rum­bled tour coaches from whose win­dows hun­dreds of Chi­nese tourists peered into the driz­zle where their guide­books said the moun­tains should have been. Fur­ther­more I was spend­ing per­haps too much time in the pub.

The tourists re­turned to Bei­jing. I re­turned to the boat. The lists changed in na­ture, re­flect­ing a new pol­icy of prac­ti­cal econ­omy. The sails and the spray­hood would do another sea­son or two, and as for the head, this was a boat, not the Ritz.

The lists now fea­tured miles of hal­yard and out­haul and con­trol line, and a new topping lift on the mizzen, and an au­to­matic bilge pump to stop the boat fill­ing up with He­bridean down­pour the sec­ond I turned my back.

Rif­fle more pages and the lists are down to the small stuff, in­fested with an orgy of ticks. We need a nut for the wheel, tick, and a tank­ful of fuel with bug killer, tick, and the stuff­ing box needs at­ten­tion, tick, and so does the catch for the fore­hatch, and the do­mes­tic bat­tery needs mea­sur­ing so we can make the tray. There is to be a new Ko­bra an­chor, and a gastight gas locker with a drain out­board, and the stove is an an­tique but has been re­stored by the only man in Bri­tain li­censed to do it, tick, tick, tick. The so­lar pan­els are on, screwed down and con­nected up and ticked, two small ones in­stead of one big one, one to port, one to star­board, so there will al­ways be one in full sun never mind what tack we are on. Six months ago the idea of be­ing on any tack at all would have been a wild fan­tasy. Now it was so close it was get­ting hard to sleep at night, and the pages of the red book were cov­ered in fin­ger­prints in Epi­fanes Rapid­clear and cream In­ter­deck and blue an­tifoul­ing.

Some of the last lists are of things that can be got rid of, for in­stance 10 x 13A plugs in the sa­loon in case you want to dry your hair while arc weld­ing, while mak­ing meringues, while watch­ing TV and boil­ing six elec­tric ket­tles while on shore power, and never mind if the lights of the town go dim.

And fi­nally, there on a page by it­self is the sin­gle word WHISKY, for use dur­ing the cer­e­monies of re­launch.

So here we are, safely round Ard­na­mur­chan and an­chored in the charm­ing har­bour of Coll, just to the west of Mull. The sun is still out, and there is still some of the whisky left, and here is the red note­book. If any­one still smokes they can use one of those ruddy lists to light their cigar.

‘We are in the land of tinned wire, Ju­bilee clips, sea­cocks and screws of all shapes and sizes’

■ See this month’s Cruis­ing Notes on page 96 for a handy web­site where you can list all the jobs that need do­ing on your boat and set your­self re­minders to get­ting around to do­ing them.

Lists, lists and more lists to do

Flot­sam and jet­sam Sam Llewellyn writes nau­ti­cal thrillers and ed­its The Ma­rine Quar­terly. He is cur­rently patch­ing up a 30ft ketch

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