Ever since I was a small child I have had a fascination with building things, or making them better—boats, cars and motorcycles have all come and gone in this manner. Some started as good basic raw material, others as well formed objects that simply needed fine tuning and affection.
And like many of us who love to sail, my ultimate dream has been to build a boat capable of going just about anywhere imagination can take me. And to my great good fortune, for the last few years I have had a partner in life (and sail) who shares that dream—so now there’s no excuse for either of us not to dream by day. So now, children grown, businesses sold, and the deposit paid, our coin is down the well.
So we now hope to distil a lifetime of sailing experience into creating a boat for two (plus occasional friends and family) that will be as safe and comfortable in the tropics as in the high latitudes we are more accustomed to. In my case 15 years as a sailing instructor and professional charter skipper and wildlife researcher, in Louise’s four years aboard our existing boat, plus a female eye for details I would undoubtedly overlook or dismiss—wrongly—as unimportant.
During my working career I skippered vessels as diverse as a sailing trawler, 72ft sail training ketch and for the last nine years a 39ft cutter. All have helped to inform our view of what will suit us. And like most sensible people we have cultivated a magpie eye for filching good ideas, so we believe that our new home will be both original and new. But as the old saying goes, all that means is that the parts that are original are not new, and the parts that are new are not original. And maybe that’s no bad thing—the sea doesn’t change and evolution, not revolution, probably makes most sense.
But what we both agree on is buy well, buy once and keep it simple. Anyone who has ever worked on even a modestly complicated charter boat knows that cheap and weak gear never lasts, always breaks at the wrong time, and that to opt for less than the best always results in a life of endless drudgery fixing/making/mending. And whilst that ability to repair is vital, constant practice doesn’t just make perfect, it can also ruin an otherwise pleasantly challenging pastime. We’d rather be cruising!
So we have taken the plunge, and our new boat has just begun to take shape. And, no, we’re not building her ourselves—we’ve both worked long and hard to get this far, and we want to get going—the clock doesn’t go backwards. But we have had the luxury of working with an Agent and Builder who are broadly sympathetic to our needs (and occasional demands!). Our choice of boat is (to some) unusual, and maybe wouldn’t be your choice either, but we hope you’ll nonetheless find it of interest to follow our trials and tribulations as ONVI 435 No 104 takes shape in the Alubat factory in Les Sables D’Olonne, France.
Over the next months we’ll be writing a regular update right up until she’s launched, and beyond. And we hope our travails may help inform you if this is your dream, too, maybe even inspire you, but never—hopefully—bore you.