The harbourmaster’s Dad


“A Rival is she?” The harbourmaster stood and looked as Samsara, dried out against the scrubbing posts at Felixstowe Ferry and proudly showing off a clean bottom.

(If you have been following this blog, you may have seen the picture of “The Infestation” of goose barnacles which appeared out of nowhere).

I had just scraped off the last one and was going round the topsides with a rag and a bottle of hull cleaner, so I was feeling a certain pride of ownership already – but there’s nothing like a compliment from a harbourmaster to put things in perspective. Harbourmasters have seen it all and you could tell that this one had seen it all and shaken his head over most of it.

I had waved to him on the river as he chugged past in his ancient workboat with “Harbour Master” flying from the ensign staff. This was the vessel, I learned later from the sign on his ancient office, that was available for sightseeing trips – and ash scattering by arrangement.

“Good boats, Rivals” he continued. “Nice wide side decks for getting around – and look at that keel… good skeg too – strong.”

Then he added: “As my old Dad used to say “They go a long way and they take a long time to get there.”

Well, yes, I suppose so. Nobody has ever claimed the Rival is a fast boat and – it may be a product of my return to the design in retirement, but I don’t mind that any more. Thirty years ago, when I took Largo across the Atlantic in the OSTAR, I had ironic T-shirts printed with the legend: “Largo: Broad and Slow” (I looked up the musical term in a dictionary).

Now I realise that if you have a fast boat, all you want is a faster boat. You’re constantly up-grading the gear – not because there’s anything wrong with it, but because the man on the stand at the Boat Show says it’ll give you an extra half a knot.

So, I have been able to forget the harbourmaster’s father’s views and concentrate on Samsara’s other virtues – of which, we agreed, there are many.

…not forgetting, the extra half a knot that comers from not towing a bottomful of barnacles.