The Beginning and End of Our First Boat
As boys we were always dreaming of owning our own boat. My two friends Terry, Melvin and I would spend hours drooling over the small the cabin cruisers and sailing boats that lay on the mud banks of the Rhymney River, which was a half a hours walk from our homes in Splott. During school holidays and sunny weekends, we would go to the river to swim. The river was very tidal with a high rise and fall. When the tide was in, the river was quite wide and flowed fairly fast. When the tide was out, the width of the river was greatly reduced, but still wide enough and deep enough for swimming, but there was an added attraction.
When the tide was out, it’s steep banks were coated in a thick layer of mud, which made a great slide down into the water. We used to spend hours skylarking in the mud and hopefully washing off most of it before we got dressed to go back home, but the main attraction of the river were the boats.
One evening, Melvin came rushing around to my remote control boat house, very excited. He had a newspaper, in his hand with a ring around an advertisement. He had found a boat that he thought we could buy. The advertisement described it as a 16 foot Shetland Skiff, with engine, sail and oars and the price was £18. Melvin was at that time employed as an apprentice electrician on the ships in Cardiff docks and he had savings of 11 pounds, which he was willing to contribute, if Terry and I could find the rest.
I was just newly married and living “in rooms” with my mother and father. My income from the furniture factory was totally absorbed by hire purchase on the small amount of furniture we had just bought, and our cost of living. I had no savings whatsoever. However, we went to see Terry, and he said he could provide 5 pounds of the balance, I was embarrassed about not being able to contribute so I decided to ask my father if he could help me with a loan of the other 2 pounds, I was delighted when he said he would, but he said it was much against his better judgement. Once that was established we rushed to the telephone box to ring the vendor. We were anxious not to let the opportunity slip through our fingers, so we rang the number every hour, that evening, until finally, at nine o’clock the vendor replied. We then learned to our dismay that the boat was berthed on the river at Briton Ferry. This was a complication as Briton Ferry was about 30 miles along the coast from Cardiff. We said we would ring him back as soon as we had discussed the possibilities amongst ourselves. By now we were so embroiled in the prospect of owning a boat, that this mere detail of distance was not going to stop us.
We decided, we would get up early next morning it being a Saturday, and we would take the train to Briton Ferry, as early as possible, to arrive by midday. This would then give us all afternoon and evening to motor or sail the boat back to Cardiff docks. We rang the vendor back and told him of our arrangements, and agreed to meet him at midday, where the boat was berthed. I had to borrow money for the train fare, but we decided to only buy one-way tickets, as we were going to sail back to Cardiff.
The next morning we set off in high spirits, it was a nice day, as we left Cardiff. By midday, we had actually found our way to the boat. We met the vendor and paid him, after inspecting the boat and its equipment. He took great care in describing how we should repair the sheer pin on the propeller, which would break, if the propeller hit anything solid. He gave us a spare copper pin, for such an emergency.