Build a boat

"The only way I could afford a boat in 1970 was to build one”, says lifelong boater Robert Paget. Luckily for us, he filmed it all too.

"The whole project was based on enthusiasm to explore the waterways, and with the woodworking skills of a 20 year old who had made one coffee table at school. I intended to film it on my Russian Quartz fixed focus Standard 8mm camera and Russian SLR at the same time, and had thought it would be easy.

It turned out to be a steep learning curve, but I did succeed.

My father built a steel trailer, literally in one weekend, once he realised it was going to float. A work colleague assisted with the welding, using new steel box section, indespension units and second hand mini rims (10inch). I built a trailer plate and lights from scrap timber plus lamps and 7-core cable.

A labour of love

The hull was built upside down on blocks set into my parents' lawn. Luckily, the highways department were building Cainscross roundabout at the time, and workers barrowed down an additional cement mix just before 5pm one Friday. This enabled me to construct and level the plinths, and to fix some offcuts of Dexion in the ground, and which would support a temporary cover over the boat as work proceeded.

Scrap corrugated tin and sacking held back the snow during a very cold winter and there were moments of doubt. Sunday afternoons cutting and gluing timber listening to the Navy Lark on the radio certainly helped, and once the hull was turned over, I was able to complete the cabin complete with Oroglas windows in less than a month.

The 7.5 HP 2 stroke Mercury outboard was supplied by Pete Barton of Chelmay Marine in Cheltenham, who gave invaluable advice.

We called her Wild Rose

The final cost was about £100 for the hull and paintwork, £187 for the outboard, £75 for remote control and deck fittings and another £75 for a second-hand grill, ropes and Elsan toilet plus foam for beds and material from Gloucester market. We called her Wild Rose, after the album by Edward MacDowell.

The first boating season was short, but I made a folding canopy the following spring and fitted a headlamp powered by a Blue Star car battery contained in an old wooden munition box. Interior lighting was from a Camping Gaz lantern and small 12v bulkhead lamp.

Sold for £150

A 7inch 12v Sony B&W TV followed as the ultimate accessory in year three, together with a Raleigh Stowaway folding bicycle to use when weekending single-handed across the Leeds & Liverpool. I still have the bike.

I got married and moved to Churchdown, Gloucester in 1981 with Wild Rose staying in mum and dad’s garden. I sold her for £150 in the mid 1980s and know that she was used on the River Dart and later on the canal system where I once photographed her above Bratch Locks, looking rather sad and tiny. Later, we fitted out a fairly cheap 40ft narrowboat, using a couple of brass strips on the threshold that were offcuts from Wild Rose.”

See more of Robert’s films on YouTube.

Last date edited: 20 February 2015

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