Wednesday 16 July 2008

Other small boats

As repeatedly mentioned in this blog Onawind Blue doesn’t have much company on the water. There are the fishing boats that rumble or chug, throwing up fine bow waves and carving impatient lines to harbour, the tankers plying predetermined grooves that scare us silly and the weekend smatterings of pleasure yachts, sail and power, from 50 footers down to jet skis. Then there are the class boats that train for a few hours on Saturdays, the Lasers, 420s, Hobie Cats, Patins and Optimists, though I can count them on my fingers and toes. But comparable boats are so sparse as to be non-existent.

It appears there was a time in Spain, probably about 20 years ago when there was a fleeting vogue for small GRP day boats, several people have told me they used to own one including my friend Vitalstatistix—though he now poses as the complete lubber. You can still see some of those small boats abandoned around harbours and beaches. I’m fascinated by the state of decay that many of them reach before they are cleared away—while staying at Port l’Estany on my recent trip there were at least three boats languishing under the water.

The Catalan coast seems to be divided into two halves as regards conservation and interest in maritime activities. In the part to the south of Barcelona, where OB and I sail, priority is given to the tourist industry and the shore is the province of bathers while boat ownership is regarded as a statement of wealth. Neither factors are conducive to healthy fleets of small boats and what’s left is a hotchpotch collection of patched up boats, many patiently gathering weed and waiting for attention and a few others, still prosaically used to sling the odd line of a weekend.

A home-made canoe built to an unknown design with the little-used plastic mesh/fibreglass mat construction.

A tired GRP boat rests its belly on the sea bed.

A small rowing boat illustrating what happens if you don’t sand down old coats of paint before applying fresh ones.

A chubby wooden tub with one stumpy oar.

Something interesting under tarp.

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