I’ve been obsessed with boats since I sailed a small yacht on the paddling pool in my home town of Whitby!   Unlike many of my fellow Yorkshire townsfolk, my family has no connections with the fishing industry.  But over the years I have reported on so many tragic offshore accidents that my respect for the sea is greater than my boyhood dream of sailing off into the sunset.

I will never forget making a routine call to the coastguards to be told a power boat had sunk off Whitby (while watching the Round Britain Power Boat Race) and that one my friends had been rescued.

At the helm of an ocean going yacht

I have taken the helm of an ocean going yacht, though only on the River Orwell.  Tide and time were against us, so having sailed past enormous container ships loading and unloading at Felixstowe Docks, we had to turn and head back to the moorings.

Earlier I had tried dinghy sailing (on inland water) and had to be rescued when an oar broke twenty yards off Portinscale Marina and the Mirror Dinghy, with the sail still furled, blew away from the channel into the River Derwent.  I hopped overboard with the painter and began swimming back to the marina with boat in tow.  The marina rescue boat spotted what was going on and took over the recovery.

nb Coypu, moored in the Midlands

All this may explain why I ended up owning a relatively safe narrowboat, Coypu, back in the 90’s.   Coypu was a 37 foot steel “Springer” a range of cheaply built boats introduced by an engineer who wanted to extend inland waterway boating to the masses.   The steel was thinner than traditionally built narrowboats and the trim less glamorous.   Critics said they wouldn’t last – rust would be their downfall but Coypu was ancient when I bought her and so far as I know is still going strong now.

About 17 years ago Coypu was sold and replaced with Zig Zag, a 53 foot semi-traditional boat and we have spent many happy weeks cruising the canals and rivers of the UK’s amazing waterway network.  Sadly Zig Zag was sold in 2022 and boating days are over.

From those who don’t know, you can travel from Bristol to York without touching the sea but it does take a little longer than the train!

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