Nov 222000

Messing around in boats has always held much attraction for me. After owning and enjoying several power boats I had come to a stage where I was boatless – a sorry state of affairs to say the least – and I resolved to return to the water as soon as possible.

In the following couple of years of arm-chair boating, additions to the family resulted in severe budgetary constraints. The typical power-boat weekend always ended up costing an arm and a leg petrol money and the time spent hitching up the boat, towing down to the Vaal, launching and retrieving didn’t leave much time enjoying oneself on the water. Besides, the Vaal, downstream from Three Rivers to Loch Vaal and the Barrage, becomes a very busy place to be on weekends. NO thanks, I have enough traffic and congestion on the N3 into the office each day. I was looking for somewhere a little quieter and something that didn’t result in heavy running and maintenance costs.

The answer – a sailing boat. So the search began in earnest. The following criteria guided the search:

  • The whole family had to be able to sail together in relative comfort, two adults and two children, 3 and 5.
  • I didn’t want to have to rob a bank to finance the venture. I had saved up about 8 grand and wasn’t prepared to spend much more than this.

I have no real interest in racing. Cruising around and exploring new places is what does it for me. First decision – what water to use? Based in Johannesburg, there are only two pieces of water worth considering – Hartebeespoort Dam and the Vaal Dam. Each involve an hours drive by car, and Hartie’s popularity with the weekend tourists decided the matter – the Vaal it would be. Having decided on Deneysville as my base, I started scouring the ads, boat shops and web-sites for a craft.

A friend offered to let me try out his Sonnet, a 4m sailing dinghy. It sounded good and the first couple of times, setting out in light winds, had me thinking that this was maybe a good idea. It fell way way below my payment threshold and there seemed to be enough space for everyone to squeeze in. I was almost convinced and decided to take her out for one more sail before putting down the cash. Now may be a good time to mention that I had never sailed anything bigger than a ‘Windsurfer’ before. This was my third trip out, single-handed ‘nog-al’ and I was feeling mighty comfortable and in control. The squall that capsized me at least provided some chuckles for a group on a passing keeler. “Came out of nowhere did she ?” was all the help I got from them. It took me the better part of an hour to convince my craft to stay upright and return to shore. This was plenty enough time to decide that a sailing dinghy might be a little wet for the kiddies (let alone myself).

So, the search continued. I finally found a possible. She was standing on the hard and her owners were willing to part with her for R13000,00 including VAT. Now I’ve made it a policy never to rush into giving my money away, so it took three months before I was sure and finally made an offer – my original budgeted amount of course. To my surprise, after a bit of haggling, I was the proud owner of of a 20′ Vivacity called Batwing (gotta change that name ASAP) fully kitted out with 3 jibs, genoa, main sail and spinnaker – ready to sail. [Here’s what I got for my money]

Sure, she’s not the dream Shearwater 45 but who can wait that long. I’m on the water for less than 10k and enjoying every minute of it. Batwing should probably rather be called FatThing ’cause I suspect she’ll never do much more than 5 knots, but hey, for cruising around and spending a weekend out on the water, she’s perfect. The kids love it, the wife is still being convinced and man, it would sure be scary to risk the life savings learning on some R 1 million boat. I still dream about the Shearwater 45 and the wide oceans I’ll cross someday, but until then I’m having more fun than a barrel full ‘o monkeys.

Here’s what I got for my money:

  • 20′ Vivacity – Bilge keeler, 4 berth sailing yacht.
  • Running lights, cabin lighting.
  • Bidata depth-sounder and log.
  • Full suite of sails – No1 Jib, No2 Jib, Storm Jib, Genoa, Spinnaker, Main Sail
  • 5HP outboard motor.
  • Porta-Potty.
  • All standing and running rigging.

While she was out of the water I did:

  • Anti-fouling.
  • Added stanchions and life-lines (don’t want those kiddies falling overboard)

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