New Year, New Dreams, New Boats

So I guess I should start by saying a big boat buildy Happy New Year to you all and thanks for reading for so long!

I was contemplating a long and sentimental New Year post for Facebook but then I remembered how long it’s been since I posted on here so I figured I’d treat ya all. Bloggin’ on the water is no easy task, first I didn’t have any power, now I’ve got the power but my 1980’s brick of a laptop has decided it’s not a fan of the damp and has given up the ghost so just coz I love you all so much I’ve done a stealth mission to the boatyard and kidnapped the works laptop for an evening. You lucky bastards ey.

My facebook post was going to go a little something like this:

I’ve finally passed my motorcycle test and much to my mother’s disappoint have found another way to die. I now ride a 1980’s V Twin Honda CX500. My mother is still pushing knitting as a hobby. I can’t touch the floor, I hate stopping at traffic lights, I can’t put 2 bags of coal on the back unless I strap ballast to my feet coz I’m not heavy enough to stop it from trying to do wheelies at inopportune moments,  I have to get off to wheel it into parking spaces and heaven forbid I ever park on a camber coz I have to flag down strangers to help me get it upright (only made this mistake once and a very obliging Indian window cleaner with limited English laughed at me for 10 minutes and then gave me a push) but despite all this I’m loving every minute. My faithful steed is nick named Butch so that she can be the muscle and I can be the Sundance kid. Together we’ve explored the Peak District, Devon, Essex and had many a terrifying breakdown on motorways. My lovely big sister also gave birth to another handsome dribbly little ball of chub so there has been many a trip to Devon to see the most delightful boys on the planet. It’s been a terrifying initiation into the world above 70MPH but I think I’ve earnt my stripes and will soon be riding with the clubs again. I still own my little bike, I couldn’t face getting rid of her, we’ve been through too much so instead I donated her to one of the fellow motorcycle women of the internet and she’s being well looked after not far from here.  Earlier in the year me n the little pup travelled to the Isle of White by invitation to the Royal Yacht Squadron, we rode over to Wales for Camp VC, regularly meandered through London in the pissing rain searching for extra work, quoting for jobs and visiting biker cafes. In terms of motorcycle madness it’s been a pretty hectic year, clocking up miles, seeing the country and enjoying the freedom away from Slurrey (Surrey).

In other more relevant news I sold my beast of a boat and gave up life in the car park and 7 days a week boat building. I got quite a bit of stick from people about this. Things like “but if you put the time in she’ll be worth so much more and the profit will be so much better” “oh don’t be young n stupid, you’ll regret selling it, it’s such a great opportunity, just knuckle down and get it done”. Everybody loves a bit Mansplaining ey. Well needless to say I was right and they were wrong. It’s far too easy to tell people how you’d live their life. I’m 27 and I just didn’t want to spend my time and money doing exactly the same thing 7 days a week. I doubled my money on the big boat and bought myself a very civilised little Freeman 26. She’s made of plastic and nothing goes rotten, she needs a bit of work, the bathroom and shower are more of a decorative feature than actual facilities, but this is all stuff I’m going to enjoy doing as and when I please. It’s been amazing to just enjoy the Thames and be a bit boat proud. I’m sure this will sound incredibly lame but I get quite a lot of pleasure from sweeping the leaves off in the autumn, boating to breakfast after a long night in the pub, beating my rugs off over the side (never did manage to learn how to Hoover a rug) and generally having somewhere to call home that isn’t a building site in a car park.  I’ve got myself a cushy little garden mooring 4 doors up from work thanks to what has to be the kindest couple in the world. They saw a lot of my posts on facebook about the trouble I was having on the cut over winter and offered the end of their garden for the worst part of the year. That’s the only reason I’m managing to write this now. Without it I’d be back to stealing electric in cafes n pubs, collecting twigs from hedges and shouting at dick eds in plastic speed boats racing round islands and trashing my boat in the process. They know who they are so THANKS (the couple, not the speedy cunts)!

Life in the boat yard has been pretty manic this year too. Pour yourselves a glass of wine coz I think anyone reading this should help me to celebrate my 5th year of boatbuilding!!!

I’ve gotten a couple pay rises under my belt and seem to have graduated from apprentice to an actual useful and respected member of the team which feels pretty darn good. I’ve gotten a bit fat which although is mildly irritating I also know the reason behind it and it’s awfully satisfying. Going back 3 years I lost 3 stone in my first couple months of work because I was running round like a headless chicken trying to keep up with deadlines and trying 10 different methods before I found one that worked. Nowadays I tend to amble about and as long as there’s a G clamp and claw hammer close by then I know I can fix it. Unless it’s made of metal and then I slink off n hope someone else will deal with it. Planking hulls is still my favourite bit, nothing quite like crawling about in the slipway and making things float, I think it’s safe to say that this is now considered to be my speciality.

The boss man did go through a faze late last year of seemingly trying to train me up to lay decks. Which looking back I did enjoy but fuck me, at the time it was horrible. There is no way to hide a mistake on a deck. Everything has to be perfect, I’m not really a “perfect” kind of a person, every aspect of life and my mental process is based around being functional and whilst I appreciate, even love, the lines that create a boat I found it insanely difficult to translate that into the skill required to lay what is essentially a functional, yet beautiful carpet made out of thousands of pounds worth of high end timber.  As the boss said, it’s the same as planking a hull but you’ve only got one curve. Bollocks. Not the same at all.

When I’m planking a hull I’m moving constantly. Up, down, spinning around. You’re always trying to be in the next spot. Laying a deck not so much. The strain on ya knees and wrists is torture at times. Bearing in mind we don’t steam our decks. If we lay a side deck we do every plank bar the covering board at the same time so that we can use the length and spring in the grain to push each plank as naturally as possible into a swept position. When I plank a hull I use all of my upper body, my legs, my shoulders, even my head sometimes, the whole works is necessary to manipulate the wood to the shape I need it to be but with decks all you have is ya wrists whilst ya push ya body onto ya knees.  As a consequence I’ve torn every tendon in my right hand, I have to use drills upside down to distribute the torque over the less damaged bits of my wrist and to top it all off my knees are now so calloused they scare me every time I’m naked. It has been a lot of fun though and I must say the end result of my first deck is something I will be proud of for many years to come and despite everything I just said I look forward to doing the next one. 







My failure to count is now coming back to haunt me as well. After laying my first deck in roughly 2 weeks on a 36ft boat, we now have another two to lay on much more prestigious jobs. I’m excited to be a part of it but when 26 grand’s worth of the finest Teak arrives on a pallet and I’m told to machine it for each deck I get a little nervous. Me n my boss have a bit of a love hate relationship going on. Sorry boss, you know it and I know it and now the internet does too. BUT despite the arguments I can’t thank the man enough for his patience with me and my totally dysfunctional mind when it comes to numbers. He has tried every which way to help me understand how to calculate the wood needed for a deck and machine it confidently.  How the fuck do you half an 1” 1/4 and an 1/8 then minus the width of a saw blade?? If i don’t get that shit right then ya’ll gunna have sandpaper thin decks. Its not like I can ask a calculator is it. I can’t even ask a human coz I don’t know how to say it properly. We do all our work with the old fashioned 2ft wooden rules that fold down to 6 inches. My translation of this when asking my boss how to figure out how much we need goes something like this:  “so its as wide as half my first hinge and is as thick as two of my rules but the saw blade is an 1/8 and we need a smooth face so maybe another rules thickness for machining. You ok with that as a final thickness n width?” ya cant blame the man shouting at me sometimes and I can’t thank him enough for trying in so many different ways to explain it. He says hes a rubbish teacher but he’s the best one I’ve ever had and I think my work over the past 3 years is proof of that.

Despite the 2 week interlude that was deck laying there have been countless (see what I did there) amounts of hulls and transoms fixed, repaired and re made.


Anyway I will stop rambling on about things that probably make absolutely no sense to anyone but me and my stupid anti numerical brain. I’ve got one last bit to trow out to you lot though in the hope that maybe you can lend some advice of maybe even some ideas.


I’ve never stayed anywhere in my adult life for as long as I’ve stayed in Surrey and I’ve also never hated anywhere as much as I hate Surrey but alas I do have the dream job and although I love every minute of it I am beginning to get fidgety feet. Anyone who knows me well will know I’m not a big sleeper and spend most of my nights dreaming up ridiculous ideas. My latest one, which doesn’t seem to be disappearing, is as follows.

I love my job, I love my bike and I love to travel. I can’t help but think that by 2021 I’d really like to set off round the world. A lone lady biker working her way round the edges our planet, building boats as I go and hopefully writing a book that won’t bore everyone to death. Although generally speaking I can’t even afford a trip to Nandos let alone a trip round the world.  Most people would say I should just feel lucky coz I’ve found a career that I love and their probably right but I’ve never been one to do as I’m told and as hard as I try I just can’t stop dreaming about it.  If I’m not going to get married, have babies and confine myself to a 2 up 2 down then why stay in one place?


Anyway I’d love to hear peoples thoughts. Is there other cool places round the world where I can do what I do?? Am I in fact just mad, I’m aware this is a very real possibility? Maybe I need the internet to tell me to sit still, calm my fidgets and be grateful, I know my mum would be pleased if ya did.


Over n out folks and again, thanks for reading and have a great New Year!!!




12 Replies to “New Year, New Dreams, New Boats”

  1. Inspirational stuff Abbey, the hull looks great 🙂 look forward to more posts about your adventures this year X

  2. Great blog buddy. Lovely to hear you’re getting on well. You’re such a brave lass!
    Loadsa love
    Anna xx

  3. Dave schofield says: Reply

    I loved reading about your life, I also have a freeman albeit a 23 but I love her to bits, and I’m also a biker, I’m envious of your way of living and also of your very skilled hands. All I can say is what ever the world has waiting for you I’m sure you’ll excell in everything that you do, good luck and keep safe on those roads.
    Dave x

  4. Jon-Lee Paul Butler says: Reply

    Happy New Year biker chick!
    At first, I thought you said you packed your job in and went on a mad lady’s biking tour.
    And then, you did comment on something of, exploring the world while fixing boats along the way.
    Ah Abs.
    Although, my first thought to mind is Venice. What better place than a beautiful city on water that relies on gondolas to travel around? Romance in the making, if be.
    You might be someone who doesn’t like being told what to do, and I’m someone who believes in someone’s dreams. Only that person themselves can make the dream come true, no matter what I say.

    That decking looked superb btw! Don’t ask me algebra, can just about do my 5x table.

    Whatever you choose to do in life, just make sure you keep to the path and let those close informed. Don’t just dash off on a wild goose chase in hope of finding somewhere.

    (Must be getting serious now, left 3 Xs)

  5. Stephen Kessler says: Reply

    If you’re looking for travel/work, why not look into Port Townsend, Washington USA. There is an active boatbuilding / Repair community there.

  6. Thank you Abbey. Great read and lovely to know your story

  7. Wonderful to have another blog from you.
    You’re new boat is so lovely; no leaks, a big comfy bed and a decent heater (the shower and toilet will come with time as you said!) Mainly though, I enjoyed finally being able to sail with you even though I almost threw up at the beginning as we went to get it hangover pub grub! Watching you jump about from boat to lock and back again I could tell you are 100% where you should be.

    Now, about the traveling business; too many people are shouting about the US for my liking! I’ll have to mission now to find you places either in Vietnam or Australia so you can come join me and we can go adventuring together!

    Keep up all that you are doing!

  8. Good to see you posting again, Good luck with all that valuable Teak

  9. Abbey, good luck with your travels. You will need to get it out of your system otherwise you will always think “What if”.
    But please finish my project before you go.
    Thanks Jeremy

  10. Graham Bearman says: Reply

    Happy New Boaty Year to you Abbey, your blogs remind me of my younger years messing about on boats on salty water. I am now in my 80’s and think it’s a bit silly to wish I was back there. I do follow a lot of you guys messing about on the Cut and sometimes think that would be a great way to live but my better half doesn’t like that idea as we live in Australia and she won’t pull up stumps. Keep up with your blogs they are very enjoyable!

  11. Hey Abbie,
    Louis here from Boat Renovation People, glad to read you’re doing well. I don’t blame you for taking a fibreglass interior, I don’t think we have the climate for wooden boats. Not unless you have every weekend free for the rest of time and a lot of money for materials. I love wooden interiors but for exernal use on something you live in grp all the way.

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