Uncle Charlie's Budget
uncle Charlie is the undoubted expert on
He didn't gain his expertise
at any university but from a lifetime's experience.
While the rest of us worry
about the financial crisis, for Uncle Charlie, whose personal finances
have always been in a state of collapse, it spells opportunity.
Unfortunately I can't mention
all of Uncle Charlie's economic tactics, for legal reasons but there
a much we all can learn from him.
"Sailors, with their built in sense of order,
service and discipline, should really be running the world."
"There's nothing like messing about in
boats for forming character." According to Uncle Charlie.
Though there are those who
reckon that Uncle Charlie's character is more in need of re-forming.
Charlie's budget boating began
with a classic dinghy which he and his two school pals rescued from the
mud of the local creek.
Their safety equipment
consisted of three galvanised buckets and a pump with a very shiny
He later realised that one of
the secrets to budget boating was to sail on other peoples boats.
So he joined the local yacht
In addition to the fun and
excitement of sailing, the teenage Charlie became aware of its
potential for creating different lifestyle options.
Through sailing he began to
create new friendships, sailors often form a strong camaraderie around
their activity and besides the club bar sold cheap beer.
And then there was Gladys.
Apart from her ample teenage
charms Gladys had access to her fathers classic clinker built wooden
For many, boating is a means
of escape from the problems of life, a way to renew their creativity
and maintain a fresh perspective.
For Uncle Charlie and Gladys
it was more a means of escape from her father's tight lipped
"There is nothing as
satisfying as saving a lovely old sailboat to sail another day."
Slurred Charlie, to his pals on his stag night down at the yacht club.
But his 'ultimate sacrifice'
might also have had something to do with the imminent arrival of a new
crew member, Cousin Doris.
After attending Doris' birth
he was heard to say, "This learning to sail can be bloody scary at
But as he and Auntie Gladys
are still together after all these years and several additions to the
crew I guess he would also admit that budget boating can be pretty
rewarding as well.
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Keep it Small and Simple.
The secret to budget boating according
to Uncle Charlie is to; "Keep it simple and keep it small, boyo, just
like your Auntie Gladys." He would say, having a quick look around to
make sure auntie Gladys wasn't listening.
Not that there was anything
small or simple about Auntie Gladys, she wasn't very tall but she was
quite beamy. And there was nothing simple about the way she controlled
the purse strings.
"The cost of maintaining and
mooring your boat will grow exponentially with the size of the boat."
"And you can have an awful lot
o'fun on a little boat, it just take a bit of organising."
In later years when Charlie
and Gladys had produced their full 'crew' early morning strollers
stop to admire their 25 ft wooden cruiser tied up to the harbor wall.
Then be amused as first Uncle
Charlie would appear, closely followed by Ulysses, a large, hairy
of dubious pedigree.
The dog would be put ashore go lolloping off like
a hare with his ears flung back screech to a halt by an interesting
bollard, sniff, pee, bound back stop sniff pee again.
Then Auntie Gladys would
emerge, beneath one of her big hats looking like a bag full of scatter
cushions in her 'going ashore dress'.
She would then begin her
morning make up ritual just as Ulysses flopped back on board causing
her to spend the day with one eyebrow penciled in a quizzical arch.
Ulysses would be chased
forward, to make room and help trim the boat as Cousin Kevin the twins,
Nancy and Peggy and a sleepy eyed teenage cousin Doris appeared from
Then all would arrange themselves around the cockpit
like starlings on a telegraph line.
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Budget Boating in a
Being a great one for a bargain Uncle
Charlie loves recessions.
By the middle of any down turn
in the economy their back yard would have a couple of 'classic'
bargains awaiting 'restoration' before the upturn brought in eager
It was rare that any of his
'bargains' had ever been advertised for sale, they were usually
through networking, uncle Charlie could still teach Twitter a thing or
two about that.
And there was the added befit
that most of his 'networking' could be done at the yacht club bar.
Being a traditionalist
Charlie's 'restorationâ' usually entailed liberal coatings of tar
cement, canvas and paint, lead tingles and the judicious application of
Auntie Gladys' hand soap to any suspect seams.
Mind you his love of a bargain
could be off set by the opportunities that the good times allowed him
to exercise his thespian talents.
"Ah, proper little classic
this," He would declaim to his audience of dewy eyed, would be ocean
wanderers dreaming of tropical islands.
"Can't bear to part with her.
She was built to take you anywhere," He'd confide with a hint
moisture in his eye, and taking care not to slap her 20ft sheer too
I bought my own first little
cruiser from Uncle Charlie.
"Special price just for you
lad, wouldn't let her go to just anybody."
No, anybody else would have
sued after launching her in a frothy wake which smelt strangely like
Auntie Gladys' bathroom.
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"Budget boating is all about planning."
He was wont to observe.
He was a great on for making
plans was Uncle Charlie.
"You gotta plan your
maintenance program for the winter so you can get the most fun out o'
her during the summer.
And never pay anyone else to look after your
boat, if you do it yourself at least you know what's been done."
Something I'm always quick to
remind him of every time he has offered to work on my boats.
He has even been known to set
to work on several five year plans.
Unfortunately, Uncle Charlie's
plans, usually written on beer mats tended to get lost so most of the
winter would be taken up with drawing up and modifying new plans.
But somehow he was always back
on the water by spring.
It probably helped that Uncle
Charlie's old boats were usually sturdily built, just like Auntie
They usually had oversized
masts, booms, chain-plates and the like. And lots of sails of various
size, shape and vintage all acquired piecemeal.
The winter is also the time
when Uncle Charlie begins planning the next season's cruises.
"Right next year we are going
to do that Atlantic crossing" He'd claim getting out the charts.
Eventually though, the master
plan would have to be modified to allow for at least two trips ashore
per day for Ulysses to have a sniff etc.
And it would have to take in a beach or two so
the twins could play in the sand.
Navigation was made trickier
by Cousin Doris' precious development and skimpy bikinis.
Sailing anywhere close to the
dinghy course could play havoc with the boy's handicaps.
On the other hand it did mean
plenty of willing hands when it came to tying up.
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Budget Boating with a
"Budget boating is all about involving
the family, especially when it comes to winter maintenance."
to Uncle Charlie.
"They're never too young to use a paint brush." He'd growl.
No one was quite sure how
Cousin Kevin got that orange deck paint in his hair.
But his school pals hailed him
as being the first punk in his class when he turned up one spring with
a bright stripe.
Involving his family into his
budget boating plans was why he renamed their best loved boat Panope.
She had previously been called
"Paradise Regained" by an owner who had bought her as a refuge from
Unfortunately he'd had to sell her as part of the divorce
Panope was one of the Nereids,
the sea nymphs of Greek mythology, and according to legend they were
often accompanied by Poseidon.
While Uncle Chaelie didn't
openly liken himself to Poseidon he did refer to his 'crew' as the
Nereids, even cousin Kevin with his punk hair and sticky out ears.
And as for Holidays, the
family did once try an alternative to budget boating by taking a budget
a package holiday.
But by the end of two weeks
stuck on a crowded beach all agreed that budget boating was more fun.
Even Doris had to admit that
emptying the porta poty was preferable to sitting in an airport lounge
for hours awaiting a delayed flight.
Even as I write there is
another generation of Nereids being introduced to the joys of budget
boating by 'Granddad' Charlie.
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