Real Boating

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.

 

This approach has not died, although it now stands aside from the flood-tide of passing fashion. Boats are still built bearing no resemblance to houses or caravans, and their essential character is so different from everyday life that it is impossible not to be soothed by involvement with them. Such vessels can be relished for themselves rather than treated as mere vehicles for making fast passages. The outcome is quiet satisfaction, a sense of oneness with the natural world, and genuine value for sensible money.

The underlying movement to create timeless craft for those electing not to join the multitude has never faltered, although for some years its song was drowned by the strident publicity of industrial-scale boat building. Thankfully there are a number of individuals and organisations who are committed to carrying relevant traditional values into a new world. If you have even the stirrings of desire to find a better quality of life on the water, invest some time to discover what they are saying.