I don’t know about you, but every year I seem to think the previous 12 months has gone faster than ever, but this last one has seemingly moved at blistering pace by comparison to any other. Yet that’s not how it seemed it would be in February and March 2020. I remember heading down to London in February for a regular monthly trip and I noticed how many people seemed to be wearing face coverings and surgical gloves on the Tube network and in the streets. With concern for the future, it got me thinking…was Covid about to make all our lives utterly miserable?
In March, lockdown became as real for us in the UK, as it was for millions around the globe. Even though we could see what was happening across this planet, we couldn’t quite appreciate how our lives were about to change. Then, in what seemed so sudden, our lives were no longer ours, at least not in the way they once were. We were faced with new rules and restrictions, hoppers began panic buying, lots of people were ‘in it for themselves’ and it was hard to believe what was happening. So, what did we do? Well my eldest son and I bought a tired old boat, well a Skiff to be precise as a sanity project!
It’s a dinghy, but it’s not small, or slow and it became our ‘lifeboat’, something to keep us busy during lockdown, something to give us a new focus, to take our mind off what was happening around the world, if only for a few hours a day at least. If we needed to lose ourselves, this would be perfect. We could remove all the components, piece by piece, catalogue them, spend time searching for brand new replacement parts and order them so they were ready to affix when everything else was done. Besides the blocks, cam cleats, thimble rings, P clips and Progrip we’d need new rope, carbon fibre lacquer, foil bags, covers, tillers and a new spinnaker sock, we’d probably also need to repair the gelcoat too. If you’re unfamiliar with gelcoat, it’s a polyester resin that is sprayed, painted or rolled over fibreglass, and it stinks to high heaven, but when you love spending time and energy improving neglected boats, it surprising how you get used to it.
Our plan was to complete the perfect restoration but that was going to take time and money. Fortunately ‘time’ wasn’t going to be that big of an issue, not then at least. As for the ‘money’ we had to be careful not to spend more than the boat would eventually be worth, but when a boat’s involved, we felt we could justify it, as my wife would no doubt testify!
So, as you can guess, we went ahead and bought this tired RS800 race dinghy. When we picked it up (before the first lockdown), it was sitting in a front garden, next to a builder’s skip of all places. Unfortunately (for the boat – not for us), the homeowner was having work done on his house and the builder wasn’t too bothered about his aim! This boat needed a new home, and it needed one fast. After a little bit of negotiation (thanks to the builder) we agreed a price, hitched it up and brought it home.
The next day, as we started to strip it back to its bare hull, we really began to see the true extent of its neglected state. The hull had received several really poor repairs where the gelcoat colour hadn’t been matched to the original; nuts, bolts and screws were mismatched too, and it looked like it would never benefit from the treatment we planned. But after spending close to 800-man hours on it, by the time late summer 2020 had arrived we’d finished all the repairs, the polishing and the re-rigging and we were able to take ‘Renegade’ sailing for the very first time. It’s a challenging boat to sail, especially for me, but every time I climb onboard I can’t help remember just how bad it once was.
Whilst we’ll never forget the terrible things Covid has done to the lives of countless others, we were fortunate and very grateful to be able to ‘escape’ from that madness for a short while at least. Now in February 2021, the end of lockdown seems to be in sight, and we can at least allow ourselves some optimism about what the future holds, hopefully more sailing of ‘Renegade’ to start with.
As for the second launch to have its roots in that first lockdown. Well that was the prepping our latest website, which just like ‘Renegade’ was overdue some TLC (www.genesisdm.co.uk).