A blog about sailing a John Welsford
'Navigator' yawl around Plymouth Sound
in South-west England
Hi everyone and welcome to my new blog. My name is Steve and I am the lucky owner of a John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. I built her over three years with the help of my father, father-in-law and two children. She was launched in August 2007 at Queen Anne's Battery marina in the Barbican area of Plymouth. This blog is a record of our voyages together around SW England. Arwen has an associated YouTube channel so visit www.youTube.com/c/plymouthwelshboy to find our most recent cruises together.
been reading a great article in the ‘Guardian’ by Katrina Onstad about what has
happened to the concept of a weekend and it resonates. It has made me think, as
I approach retirement in a few weeks’ time, about all the missed opportunities
and how there is so, so much I need to put right. Better late than never I
guess would be the slogan.
As a kid,
just like Katrina, my weekends were unstructured. I spent a disproportionate
amount of time doing nature diaries, walking country lanes, seeking out birds’
nests, lizards, newts and ladybirds. I bought back mice, one legged seagulls,
hurt hedgehogs, and once, even an escaped ferret. My parents were very
tolerant. Not many people would have put up with a one-legged seagull visiting
her kitchen and perching lopsidedly on top of the electric cooker, but mum
did.I’d ride my bike, roam the estate
with friends and go down the playpark. We built a den out of an inverted
abandoned septic tank on the building site. Great fun crawling on our bellies
down a tiny hole beneath to squirm our way through the circular porthole into
its cavernous interior. By ten I had walked, on my own, or with two friends,
the Glyders, Carneddau, Crib Goch and the Snowdon horseshoe. What were my
parents thinking? It would be child neglect now and parental diminished responsibility!!I loved gardening. My grandad taught me how
to plant onions with carrots to avoid carrot fly plagues; how to cheat at
growing supersized marrows by drilling into their storks and inserting a thread
of wool back to a dish of sugar solution. Osmosis, apparently!! It seemed to
work!I loved to draw and paint and was
pretty good. I was imaginative, creative and able to occupy myself.
happened? How did my weekend passions honed over years of childhood disappear? How
has it become so ironic that the last time I walked on Dartmoor, properly
walked on Dartmoor, was at least ten years ago? How have I ended up hating gardening,
seeing it as a chore at weekends, tugging away on my precious down time?
of people working more than 48 hrs per week has risen according to Katrina and
a TUC report, by 15% from 2010 to 2015. She calls it ‘Burnout Britain’. So too
has the shape of employment with 1 in 10 people now on temporary contracts or self-employed
with all the difficulties that brings.Most
families rely on dual incomes to even begin to meet the bills and rising costs.
As a teacher
completing his 34th year in the profession, I have worked an average
55 hr week from day one. A total of 73000 hrs or so. Some basic maths shows
that I’ve worked in excess of 20,000 hrs over the top of a 40-hr week; some 12
additional years’ unpaid overtime. Ah, but we get the long holidays. True but
basic maths shows that if I reduce that to 4 weeks per year, I’ve still worked
an extra four years overtime unpaid.
But it isn’t
the hours. Comes with the territory, although should it? I guess I had a choice
– I chose the profession. (But then when I chose it, it was radically different).
Anyway, it was the impact of my career choices. On my kids.
dad and holiday time dad – two different entities they call it. Others call it ‘monsoonal
parenting’. Those evenings when me and the missus juggled tea and homework and
a family game so that we could each create time to do our three hrs preparation
for the following day. Our weekends reduced to housework, gardening
maintenance, food shopping – all because we hadn’t had time to do them during the
week; a quick stroll or bike ride out of fitness necessity, if we were lucky. We
lived for our holidays’ and travelled extensively during them. That’s when all
our parenting came to the fore and our family became nuclear again. Our kids
adapted. They say it taught them to be self-reliant and resilient; they
understood. Ironic, I spent most of my working life worrying more about other parents’
kids than perhaps I did my own. Even when our kids left home and went
successfully to university, our weekends changed little. We were exhausted from
the week. Saturday’s pass in a stupor – shopping, housework, vegged out on the
sofa. Sunday morning’s – a surge of activity, bike ride, brisk walk, coffee and
the Sunday papers and then Sunday afternoon…..the dragging oneself to the
kitchen table to do the four hours work needed to give yourself even the
remotest fighting chance for the following week. I can’t talk about other
professions and Sunday afternoon’s but any UK teacher reading this will so
understand that fear, dread, the tightening knot n your stomach as the Sunday morning
drags on. You can’t enjoy a Sunday morning….because you know what follows!
But what of
the teaching profession today? Was it me? A perfectionist, a compulsive
pathological need to do everything perfectly? A drive to give the best public
service possible? Some colleagues would shout out a resounding yes. But I think
that that isn’t all of the point or the truth of the matter.
There is a
new expectation in the profession, one I suspect has creeped into may public
service roles and probably the private sector as well. It is the norm to work a
55 hr + week; it is socially unacceptable if you don’t!
If you work
in school, nonstop, five hours teaching, a working lunch, an hour before school
starts and two hours after, then that would be a ten-hour day……a 55-hour
working week BFORE taking any work home each evening and at weekends. Surely that
is enough? Shouldn’t the teaching profession take steps to limit the hour’s
teachers work? Yes, we have a relatively sound pension and the holidays…..but
like other public services, the profession faces its severest recruitment
crisis ever. I always laugh when I get from people ‘oh you are a teacher – all those
holidays and pension lucky bugger!’ My reply as always is, ‘if it is so good,
retrain, come join us’.
We have to
throw training bursaries of £26,000 to recruit science graduates and many of
them train, teach for a couple of years and then leave, burnt out, exhausted,
destroyed, all creativity and joy sucked from them. Would it not be better to
use the money from recruitment drives, recruitment advertising and forced
academisation to actually do better teacher training and to improve class size,
teacher welfare and resourcing? Is that so hard for a government to achieve? Apparently
so because I can’t remember any government achieving that since around 1987!
attracted me to Katrina’s argument was her description of a typical weekend
now, based on the Victorian, Protestant based working week ethic our society
has. See if you recognise this………. we stuff a weekend full of getting our kids
to sports clubs, recreational activities and enrichment courses. Unstructured play
becomes something of the past!We fill
our weekends with what she terms ‘consumption and diversion’ – shopping for the
dopamine hit; binge viewing boxed sets – ‘decompressing mindlessly’ she calls
it. So many of us remain glued to smart phones and laptops, checking work
email, making sure, as she terms it, ‘we are making our employer know we are available
and working hard in precarious job security times’
I am sure, positive
in fact, that there are thousands of families who don’t recognise this weekend.
Who get out on the moors; go to the beach; have unstructured play in the
garden. But I also suspect, that many thousands recognise the description. It
feels ‘familiar’. Maybe it is a ‘British thing’.
For me. Retirement
brings an opportunity. To rekindle my love of gardening for joy’s own sake; to
take up drawing again; to do all those walks across Dartmoor; to geocache; set
up bird boxes in my woodland; put away Facebook forever and detoxify myself
from technology. I’ll blog and vlog occasionally, for they are hobbies. I will
take up new hobbies. I wonder if we have seen over the years the death of
hobbies? I used to collect stamps, build model boats, build full sized boats,
canoe, socialise with friends, fish, do photography, go camping, climbing, do
letterboxing. The highlight of my weekend has become a visit to a garden
centre, a cup of tea, a browse of the Sunday papers……what happened?
meantime, Katrina does offer hope. Her article attracted many critical
comments. But actually, she was right to raise the issue. To stop and make us
think about what we have lost; and what we have become at weekends; and what we
need to perhaps focus on regaining. I am told that the French work a shorter working
week; rarely take work home and have significantly higher productivity that we
do…..if this is true………..what are we doing to ourselves?
agree with everything Katrina said in her article.
But she made
me pause, reflect and think. And that was worth doing in itself. Thanks Katrina,
If you want
to read her article go online to the Guardian and search ‘Who killed the weekend?’
A welshman displaced to wonderful Plymouth in SW England; a novice sailor and boat builder with a passion for all things to do with the sea. My learning curve is vertical....but hey that's what makes life interesting isn't it! So follow my journey as I learn to sail Arwen,grappling with charts, tide tables and passage planning so that I can become 'a dinghy cruiser'
And by the way, just occasionally, little snippets about 'Stacey' our beloved 1968 motovespa super 125 scooter may feature along with odd insights into our family travels< but these will be kept to a minimum, I promise!
subscribe at www.youtube.com/c/plymouthwelshboy
The 'Navigator' is a 14' 9" yawl with a beam of 5' 10". she weighs in at 309 lbs and has a sail area of 136 sqft. She has a standing lug sail. She has side, centre and front thwarts and space for six although she is an ideal single hander. there are a huge number of potential locker spaces. For more details about the design of navigators go to www.jwboatdesigns.co.nz/plans/navigator/index.htm