I’ve been told that the secret of becoming a really good charterboat skipper is to sink a boat early on in your career. The logic behind this advice, apparently, being that it is similar to when you first learn to drive. They say you've got to have one accident - everybody does - so the sooner you get it over with, the sooner your life can run smoothly.
Colin Bond In 'Serious' Mode!Colin Bond, now skipper of the Skerry Belle, here in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, had his first trip aboard ship at eight years old - and he sank his first craft when he was just fifteen. He had saved up for a long time. By accumulating every penny from paper rounds, gifts from family and friends at birthdays and Christmas, he eventually had enough to buy a seventeen-foot cabin day-boat, with a Seagull outboard, from a place just a few sea miles away. He set off confidently, in an attempt to bring it back to Southend, and was aboard as it sank just off the Maplin Sands.
Undeterred, Colin waited until the tide went out, temporarily patched it up and managed, on a wing and a prayer, to sail into a safe harbour. Properly repaired and generally sorted out, it kept going for a couple of years when he was able to sell it at a profit and, with the financial assistance of his father, he bought a real 36ft fishing boat which he used at the weekends to take a few friends out fishing for the day.
A year later, in 1974, this vessel, too, was sold - at a profit – and the sale enabled our budding skipper to purchase the 'Arius,' a 'proper' ex-charter boat out of Bradwell. He set off on a career change, a new direction in life and the beginning of an obsession with boats which has lasted a life-time and is likely to continue.
There was a year long true romance with a brand new steel boat - the 'Donna Marie' - followed by a steamy affair with a long established charter boat - 'British Angler' - a forty two footer and eventually, in 1984, true commitment to the 'Dawnbreaker.'
According to Colin, all boats have a personality of their own and should be treated with consideration. There's an old West Country fable about 'telling the bees' which warns of dire consequences if news of family events - births, weddings, deaths and so on - are not told to the hives. The bees will pack their bags and move house, or so local superstition has it, and the outcome could mean bankruptcy for the apiarist.
Charterboat skippers in our area, and probably elsewhere, have a similar philosophy. If it becomes necessary to change the name of the boat, she should always be told about it beforehand and an explanation offered as to why the name is to be altered and what her new one will be. I didn't like to ask but I really hope that all this information is delivered in a sotto voce intonation, during the hours of darkness. There could be a real danger of passers by phoning the Samaritans, or the local Mental Health Authority to report a demented skipper on the loose if they behave like this in broad daylight.
'We say 'Goodnight' to the boat after each trip but first we thank the engine for performing as it should and getting us home safely,’ said Colin. ‘Always respect the boat and it will look after you.'
Clearly, Colin enjoyed many meaningful conversations with the Dawnbreaker over the eight years of their relationship for his angling parties had a remarkable degree of success. He gave me a list: 23½lb roker, 62lb tope, 16lb bass, 30lb cod, 21lb smoothound. 'And, a few years ago, we had 1,000lbs of cod aboard in one trip. She was a very lucky boat,' said Colin. 'And enormously popular because of her size and width.' Well, that's a comfort. There's hope for me, yet.
Skerry BelleThe purchase of the Skerry Belle, his present concubine, was a dream realised. 'One of the finest boats there is,' Colin waxed, lyrically - out of earshot of Dawnbreaker, of course. 'She's a traditional wooden craft, built on the south Coast in the '50's. They don't make 'em like that any more.'
Licensed for twelve anglers, the Skerry is a pretty boat. In the summer her skipper sets out garden furniture on deck and serves tea from a seemingly bottomless pot - the punters provide their own cucumber sandwiches and Gentleman's Relish. He is at his happiest when anglers catch fish and his parties are so popular that it's quite difficult to book the Skerry at short notice.
Five years ago, Colin was blessed with a son, Reece and there was no doubt in his mind where paternal priorities lay. No thought of signing up his pride and joy for Eton or Harrow. He is, as I write, looking out for a suitable boat for his miniature, potential skipper. We’re all hoping that the boy sinks his first craft in shallow water and has inherited his father’s ability to hold conversations with inanimate objects.
If you want to book a trip on the Skerry – contact Colin on 0850 384774