Messing about

When the weather is fine, you know it’s a sign, for messing about on the river’ (Josh MacRea)

Is it just me or do most of us find ways to spend more money? A recent set of events which on the face of it saved me money have in fact led me down the road of spending more. I will explain.

A kind friend recently gifted me a boat trailer he did not require. Brand new and fully adjustable, the excellent trailer was surplus to his requirements so in return for some small jobs I had carried out for him he passed the gleaming trailer to me. Some of you may recall my own elderly and frankly dangerously rusty trailer was cut up for scrap some years ago. Since then I have relied on borrowing a trailer when moving my boat. As I habitually plonk my old boat on Lough Conn at the start of each season and leave it there until October the lack of a trailer was not a huge issue. Anyway, loading up my excruciatingly heavy 19 footer is a two man job so my mate and I do this job together with his trailer. It all worked out fine and the lack of a boat transporter was not something that caused me to lose sleep. With retirement looming and more time to fish (hopefully) just over the horizon moving my boat to other loughs will probably feature more in coming years so my new trailer will be a huge advantage.

My new trailer is a fine piece of engineering, equipped as it is with all the bells and whistles. What has got me thinking though is the neat arrangement which allows for full adjustment of the main parts to accommodate a wide range of different boat sizes. Those little cogs inside my head whizzed around and came up with an idea. An expensive idea (aren’t they always). My faithful if rather tatty looking 19 footer is too heavy to handle on to a trailer on my own. What if I bought a small boat solely for use on the coarse lakes in Roscommon, Leitrim and Cavan? Let me expand.

There are a few lakes in those counties which have small slipways where a man could drop in a boat then motor off to wet a line in waters which are rarely if ever fished. As all my coarse fishing is a solitary effort I would need a relatively light and easily handled craft and since the loughs I am thinking about are pretty small and sheltered the boat would not need to be especially big. I had thought about this plan a few seasons ago but the combined cost of a boat and trailer made it prohibitively expensive back then. Now, with the trailer in my possession I only need to find a boat. I will be very clear here – any boat, no matter what size or condition it is in, has the potential my experience to become a money pit. On my limited budget I need to be oh so careful about what sort of craft I do eventually purchase.

Taking my 19 footer off the Conn at the end of last season. She is just too big for my planned coarse fishing trips

I have already commenced saving towards buying a wee boat and at the same time been looking at what is on the market. For anyone who has never purchased a boat let me tell you it is not for the faint of heart. The secondhand car market has less pitfalls than boating ads. Prices vary widely and while bargains are certainly out there so are unseaworthy tubs and rip off merchants. Buyer beware does not even begin to cover it! I have messed about in boats for most of my life but even I am very wary when looking for a boat. The best idea is of course to buy new but that is just to expensive for me to consider so I will swim with the sharks and search for a pre-owned craft. I’ve  narrowed down my criteria to a reasonably tight specification.

  1. Weight. As I will be launching and retrieving the boat on my own it must be lightweight.
  2. Construction. Fibreglass for preference, plastic at a push. Not timber or metal and not an inflatable. The reason for ruling out metal is the high cost of aluminium boats. Timber is too heavy.
  3. Power. I am planning on using my 6hp Honda engine and this is on the big side for small boats. I have an old 4hp lying around and could fix it up for use on the small boat if necessary. The design and strength of the back board will be crucial and may require modification/ strengthening.
  4. Dimensions/layout.  A maximum of 14 feet but more likely 12 feet in length. Beamy in design for stability. This craft will be used for coarse fishing and possibly a bit of trolling for pike so rod holders and space for all my gear are serious considerations.
  5. Seating. Happy enough with just a single seat. A lot will depend on the design of the boat and if the seats are spaced properly. In small craft seats are not just for sitting on, they are necessary to stiffen the structure.
  6. Rowlocks. I have see some small boats which either lack rowlocks completely or sport the flimsiest ones imaginable. Good rowlocks are a must for me.
  7. Extras. As I have an engine and trailer I don’t want to buy either of these. This will narrow the field considerably as most boats come as a package of boat/engine/trailer.
  8. Colour. Not too fussy but a dull shade such as green or brown would be best. Marine paint is horribly expensive so I would prefer not to have to do a paint job.
  9. Price. A few hundred Euro. I will hang on until I find what I want at a price I am willing to pay. There is no need to rush into this and pay top dollar.

Of course buying the boat is just the beginning of an ongoing drain on resources. Depending on its condition there will be work required and money to be spent.

A nice O’Sullivan 14 footer but at €1,850 it is too expensive. It comes with a trailer and engine so is pretty good value but not what I am looking for.

I have one anchor but will need a second one. Coarse fishing from a boat requires a stable base so the boat is anchored at each end. Failure to do this allows the boat to swing and drag the float/leger, making it impossible to fish. I will probably have to add at least one cleat for a stern anchor. I will also make up a simple concrete anchor myself.

Hopefully the boat will come with a set of oars and rowlocks but if not I will have to acquire and fit a set.

Repairs may be required. I am looking in the cheap end of the market so I am happy to consider a boat which needs some TLC. On the other hand I am not looking for a major project. Spending six months and thousands of Euro rebuilding a vessel is not the sort of project I am willing to take on. I will know the right level of undertaking when I see it.

As expected, initial searches have revealed a cornucopia of options ranging from the sublime to the frankly dangerous. Some sellers are seeking huge sums for a boat I would never set foot in. There are some lovely boats too but they are far outside my price range. Already I have seen enough to suggest I will be able to source what I am wanting so it is now a case of saving my pennies up.

Possibly something like this

12 thoughts on “Messing about

  1. I have also wrestled with many of these issues and being a first time ‘boat owner’ has been really challenging- financially, technically and psychologically! The clubs I am in have boats but upon retirement (after 30 years with the council -true) I bought a boat and called her Bibio! Alas there has been little ‘sailing up the west coast’, but rather many hurdles around transport , maintenance, moorings, avoiding sinking due to rainwater and so forth. To quote another song lyric I was need deep in the big muddy but the fool kept keeping on! Investing in a new outboard has pushed the investment beyond turning back and yet at some level it definitely excites me to continue. My boat is quite unusual – it’s 12ft, fibreglass, broad beamed with a flat stable floor. It’s equipped with a range of lockers despite being an open boat. It has a canvas awning and it came with lots of useful bits and at a decent price. The downside is it is almost epically heavy! After a short first season getting to know it , last year was a non starter due to my son being not well. Stubbornly I have slowly carried out incremental improvements- new fixed rowlocks, painted outside and in and most recently made a bespoke heavyweight tarpaulin among other things. I say stubborn because I was advised to consider selling and buying something easier but for various reasons- financial and practical and because I am a stubborn b@#£ard – I am hopefully going to get Bibio back on the Loch in due course! I will not buy another boat in future unless we have a huge change in circumstances but I aim to try and enjoy the good bits and live with the less good bits for the foreseeable. Ricky Ross doesn’t have a boat I reckon! Good luck with your search. I admire your logical approach!


  2. I have spent a lifetime on and around small boats and still find it a challenge! Making the decision is so difficult to start with but, as you have found out, there is an ongoing internal discussion about pressing on or cutting your losses. If it is any consolation your decision to buy a new outboard was almost certainly a smart move. The world of secondhand boat engines defeats even the most experienced engineers. The modifications you mention all sound like the right ones so hopefully this season you will be able to get more enjoyment out of your boat and less hassle. At this stage of just planning on buying my new boat it all seems very logical and sensible, the problems arise when I actually start looking at boats and need to make compromises. Best of luck with ‘Bibio’ this year, here’s hoping you have many happy and fruitful days afloat.


  3. “Is it just me or do most of us find ways to spend more money?” No, not just you. The lawn mower has finally completely died and in the search for the replacement I’ve discovered In-Excess* sell fishing gear and there is a match rod I could buy which would update the fibre glass rod. Okay my indulgence will cost less than £30 but still, is it necessary?

    *In-Excess is a sort of ALDI/Lidl version of a garden centre, not sure if they’ve reached Ireland.

    The rod:


  4. No sign of ‘in-excess’ here (yet) which is probably a good thing. The temptations of modern society know no bounds from what I can see so I guess old fellas like us spending 30 quid on a fishing rod is not the greatest crime. I do wonder at fishers spending immense sums of tackle though. I could never justify €1,000 for a rod or a reel but some people do. Boats are a different matter though, they are all expensive, even the little ones. At the rate I am saving up it will be next year before I can afford a small boat but the freedom it will give me should make it worthwhile.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have been in the same position in that I wanted an easily transported boat to fish those inaccessible places . I opted for a Canadian canoe . The canoe I picked , a 17 ‘ aluminium , can easily be carried on a roof rack and after a few modifications , there are few places you cannot launch it . I have had great fun with it over, the past few seasons


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