How did we get here?

Beautiful Summer evenings spent sailing out of Oysterhaven, catching mackerel, visiting Kinsale, pottering around in dinghies, falling asleep to the gentle sound of the waves on the shore. Holiday memories from 50 years ago and still vivid.

Fast forward to now and not a lot of sailing in the interim.  I always loved the sea and enjoyed sailing but life seemed to always get in the way in the form of work, family, hobbies like music and motorbikes.  I occasionally sailed with friends, always enjoyed it and determined to do more of it, but it just never really happened.

Until a good friend (I’m looking at you Brendan!) suggested, on my mentioning I might need office space outside the house, “sure, why don’t you buy a boat!”… and that’s how it all started!

Due to a change in circumstances, I needed office space but wasn’t keen on paying rent, so this suggestion intrigued me.  My good friend said the right boat would work for sailing, as an office, as a social space. This option had never crossed my mind and initially seemed totally crazy, but as the idea percolated, it started to make sense. Most importantly, it started to make sense to my wife as well!

To my uneducated mind, boats were for rich people and totally out of my reach, until I visited Apollo Duck and saw the wide range of prices.  We visited a few boats and crossed them off the list.  My main criteria had more to do with the internal space and headroom than the sailability of the vessel, so many a fine boat didn’t make the cut.

A Westerly Longbow up in Carrickfergus caught my attention.  It was close to the right price, if we could haggle it down a bit, and the condition didn’t look too bad.  A recent surveyors report on it was positive. So I headed north to check it out, returning home mildly optimistic.  A second visit with more experienced eyes than mine and my wife’s confirmed it seemed to be a good boat if we could get it at the right price. An offer followed and was accepted, so, gulp, we were on our way to owning a boat!

13 July 2021 was the collection date and my wife drove four of us up to Carrickfergus midst the remains of bonfires from the previous night.  Off we set from Carrickfergus to Greystones, my first proper sailing voyage in adulthood and sailing my own boat.  It felt strange but somehow right.

We continued through the night after a stop in Ardglass for food and pints, thanks to the hospitality of the golf club and had a memorable (motor)sail south, at one time accompanied by a pod of dolphins, made visible by the clear skies and starry night.

Dawn saw us approaching Dublin Bay. The wind picked up and we sailed across the Bay making about 8 knots.  We eventually pulled into our berth in Greystones after 24 hours, tired, happy and hungry. The smell of sausages coming from the galley never felt so enticing!

So, we had a boat (and office)! Hooked up to shorepower and using my phone’s hotspot I had power and internet, so I started using my new office and it worked!  It was novel initially of course, but as I settled in, I really enjoyed working in that environment. Breaks meant coming up for air and having a stroll around the marina. Lunch was a sandwich in the cockpit taking in the sights and sounds of the marina and commuting to my office was a joy.

There are two types of work I do on the boat: work that earns money, and work that costs money, so I then started on the latter.  The boat was in a tired state but structurally very sound.  I would start on the outside and slowly make my way to the interior (Westerly droop, anyone?).

The wood in the cockpit had to go, it was beyond repair, so I replaced all the cockpit seating with new iroko seating.  I spent a long time scraping years of varnish off the teak handrails, then sanding smooth and cleaning and sealing.  I sanded back the anti-slip areas and repainted them in what was close to the Westerly blue.  I repaired the electric windlass with the help of friends and did a large number of other jobs, which just seemed to keep coming!

Eventually the exterior was as complete as I wanted and it was time to start on the interior: Electrics, plumbing, headlining, upholstery, and whatever else I might unearth along the way.

Fate has a way of intervening, doesn’t it? Before I had started the interior I was walking down the slipway to the pontoons when I heard a call, “Barry, you should have a look at this as a project!”.  There was the marina manager tying up a boat in the For Sale position under the marina office.  It was a big beamy boat, shabby on the outside, but inside was a vastly different story!  It was totally rewired, replumbed, reupholstered, rebuilt and looked fantastic.  I learned it was a Fastnet 34.

My wife came down to view it and we had a discussion!  On the one hand was the boat we had and the work which still needed to be done, which was not going to be cheap, even doing most of it myself; and on the other hand was a boat with all of that work done already.  The exterior was shabby but really just needed cleaning.

The story with the Fastnet was it had spent the previous 3-4 years in a berth in the marina and it just hadn’t been used at all.  The previous 5 years or so it had spent on the hard in the owners workshop being restored.  He was a metal fabricator and engineer who clearly knew what he was doing and he had a reputation for being methodical and fastidious in his work.  It showed.

He was selling due to lack of use, marina fees being the way they are!  We put in an offer, which was accepted and suddenly I was known as ‘Two Boat Barry’ around the marina.

The Westerly promptly went up for sale and after a while sold to a new owner who is continuing the good work.

So we now have a fantastic Fastnet 34, which is a great office and sailboat and hangout space for my daughter and friends. And yes, I have sailed her!  Not as much as I would have liked but there’s plenty of time.  I had to get a repair job done on the rudder as the nylon bushing at the top of the shaft had slipped down and the wheel became way too tight to turn.  I also got a stackpack, sprayhood and cockpit tent made and that along with a diesel heater has made for a very comfortable winter working on the boat. 

Along with this, I completed the VHF radio course, and the Yachtmaster Coastal and Offshore classroom based course last winter.  I have completed the Day Skipper practical and have applied for the ICC.  Now I need to put all this into practice!

Chartering a yacht in the Med next year is the goal. 2 years ago that would have been the craziest pipedream, now it might be a reality. Our new motto is ‘if not now, when?

Barry McCabe

Image: Barry’s Fastnet 34 ROARING WATER by