I’m not sure quite why, but I started to wonder what makes a boat classic. This is perhaps a silly thing to do after so many years working in and around classic boats, but the specialist magazines seem to equate “classic” to either old or exclusive, which somehow doesn’t satisfy. I was also struck by how little seems to have changed since Classic Boat issue 1 appeared in 1987. Surely classic can’t mean static?

Yachtsman and Author Tom Cunliffe makes the case for "real" Boating

Boating has always made great recreation because it satisfies body, mind and spirit in equal proportions. Few other sports or pastimes can claim as much.

Enjoying the water will always be to some extent physical. The energetic might opt for the complete workout of sailing a dinghy in a stiff breeze or a session shovelling coal for a steam boiler, but even a gentle row down-river in a sweet-lined skiff raises the heart-beat a notch or two. There is also a clearly defined intellectual component, whether it be wrestling with a navigation problem, interpreting a weather forecast, or deciding how to make a tricky building joint. In these respects, boating remains unchanged by today’s technology, but the more subtle elements have been largely set aside by mainstream development. The time-honoured maxim, ‘If it looks right, it is right’, is often no longer true. Before powerful engines and yacht rating rules arrived, boats were designed first and foremost to move well through the water and make as little fuss about it as possible. Scant compromise was allowed for fancy, irrelevant accommodations and the results were often works of art.

Before starting the series of articles on traditional rigs and rigging, I'm going to start by addressing the issue of boat ownership itself. In doing so, I will have to touch on some areas where angels fear to tread, so foolishly let me begin.

I am sure you will have heard of the “Peter Principle”, whereby people in an organisation hold their current position by dint of their performance in previous jobs, and so rise to the level of their incompetence. MacPhail’s variant, derived from years experience of running a chandlery, states that:

“Most people own a boat larger than they need or want”

How to adjust your tackle

Adjusting your tackle                          download this article

Blocks and tackles, this time, and I might as well be honest about it. There is not a lot of MacPhail in this article, and a good deal of other people, so I’d like to start by acknowledging my main sources, which are useful in their own right.