Buying one was completely out of the question, even a small one was outside my income bracket, so after some research, I sent off for the plans of an “Eventide” issued by the Yachting Monthly, and designed by Maurice Griffith. She was a bilge keeler (ie two small keels enabling the boat to dry out upright) and well within the capacity of the amateur to build. The plans arrived and I got stuck in immediately, ordering the various types of timber, including the half inch marine plywood. Having removed a rather ramshackle wooden garage I laid the foundations in my back garden.
The building was relatively easy but very time consuming. Many a time I worked all night, had breakfast and then set to on the construction. The framework was first assembled followed by the half inch skin, fastened with gunmetal screws and glue. For ease of building, the hull was built upside down, but before turning it over it was glass fibred up to the water line.
I lay alongside for a couple of days storing and generally getting the boat, now named “El Lobo” (The Wolf), ready for sea - an exciting period. Soon I found myself proceeding down the Ship Canal to Eastham where I lay overnight before moving into the sea lock. I will never forget the lock gates opening and seeing the River Mersey, the way to the sea, in front of me. Accompanied by a couple of friends, one of whom was building the same class of boat, we enjoyed an easy passage in perfect weather to Rhyl in North Wales, where I had a mooring.
From there I cruised to “far away” places like the Isle of Man and later to the Scilly Isles, coming home via Ireland - a wonderful trip.
I had a friend who ran a small transport business and he solved the tricky question of how to move and transport the boat to her launching site at Weston Point docks. He sent a crane and a lorry to the house, lifted the boat from her building site, loaded her on to the lorry and transported her to the docks, all for ten pounds which he gave to the driver!
I designed and fitted out the inside and installed a ten horse power motor. The whole operation took me about two years, but at the end of it I had what, at the time, was my dream boat; strongly built and perfectly sea worthy.
But things did not always work out as planned! On one occasion (unfortunately on my wife’s first introduction to passage making) we set out from Rhyl on a day out in superb weather. Approaching the Great Orme Head, the wind started to increase from the east and by late afternoon had reached near gale force. It was low water at Rhyl so heading back there was out of the question. The Menai Straits looked very uninviting with that wind direction so I decided to head for the River Mersey, an area I was familiar with. By now the wind had risen to gale force and my wife and three children huddled down below were naturally wondering what was going on. I, of course, was soaked to the skin, cold and hungry and my aim was to battle up the river to a mooring off Tranmere. But a better solution came into view in the shape of a ship heading for the bar light. We were crossing ahead of her, not very far off, so I signalled her with the ensign, and mercifully she rounded up and I flopped alongside her lee side, and explained my predicament to the Pilot, who suggested that I put my family aboard. The idea was for me to stay alongside long enough to reef down, whereupon I could ride out the gale, but the Captain, an elderly German, insisted that I should also come aboard as the weather was too bad, and the boat would be towed astern. Not one to argue, and welcoming the break, I agreed and after seeing the boat safely made fast with my strongest mooring line and being towed astern, I joined my family and enjoyed a good meal. There were spare cabins aboard and my wife and I thankfully turned in after seeing the family settled down. Next morning we awoke to find the ship anchored in the River Mersey on a fine, flat calm Summer’s morning. So after breakfast I decided to take my boat to a mooring at Tranmere and then the really good news was given to me; the ship was bound for Irlam, up the Manchester Ship Canal and would drop my wife and family off at Latchford Locks, some three miles from our home.
I thought this would be the end of the saga but the papers got hold of the story and a totally distorted picture was painted, stating that “we were lost in Liverpool Bay”, which was far from the truth. I later rang the paper to complain about the report but they said they were simply reporting what they had been told about the incident!