Three men (and a dog) in a boat show
by Gavin Atkin

After some years of failing to make it, this year I finally managed to get to Boats on Show, a relaxed Thames-side exhibition of commercially built small craft, and of home-builts. Naturally, I took a shed-load of photos, of which the following are just a few.
Let's start with the three men. The first one I would like to introduce is Bill Serjeant, one of the select band of true nature's gentlemen, and a chap who built a modified version of the Swallow Boatworks Storm Petrel ( for solo cruising. Anyway, the little boat has an open flat cockpit unencumbered by a centreboard, and clearly designed for sleeping. Bill has a great website by the way:

Bill Serjeant's
Micro Cruiser

The second I met was Derek Munnion. Derek has done something that many of us have quietly speculated about, and made a great success of it. His Sharpy is a sailing canoe with a small rig, and a retractable lead-ballasted keel. Despite its small sail, the little canoe sails pretty well - and gives the lie to frequently-repeated argument that relying on ballast rather than hull form for stability in small sailboats leads to failure.

Derek Munnion's sailing canoe

The third man I encountered down by the Thames was Colin Jones, an astonishing chap who builds boats in what he calls 'rough-and-ready style' with children and teenagers here and in Rumania and has created a charity called 'All in the Same Boat' to make sure he can carry on with his work, which involves creating the boats with the youngsters and leaving the boats in the hands of a responsible adult.

For those who think Mr. Jones is a charity
worth supporting. He's at:
Rownhans Lane,
SO1 68AP,

He's very much the back-yard builder, with a definite low-budget slant to his work. Here's a skiff of the type he developed for Rumania:

Here's a 14ft light dory that a group of late-teens were building during the show.
Here's one some kids he has worked with prepared earlier - and I must say I've seen rougher building than this (this isn't Colin at the oars by the way).

This dory has a number of interesting features including twin stub keels that bolt onto the bottom of the boat - yes he breaks all the rules and sails this thing with a 35sq ft plastic tarpaulin sail copied from an Optimist rig. It goes pretty well upwind, he says, but is very quick downwind. Colin is the man nearest the bows, as it happens.
I think the rudder he made for this boat is notable for two things, first for its graceful form and clever construction.

And second for his use of plumbing fittings in place of gudgeons and pintles:
In the title of this blurb I promised you a dog, and here he is, standing nonchalantly on his owner's submarine. Well - it made me smile.

The Dinghy Cruising Association ( had a number of interesting craft at its stall in addition to Bill's little cruiser. First I should show you this striking little sharpie.

Also, anybody would fall for this little dinghy with a bamboo mast, which was also on the DCA stand. Though I gather it is very heavy for it's size, it's cute enough to take home for an ornament.

There were some invited entries for the Watercraft Magazine Amateur Boatbuilding Awards. I won't show you all of them, but the following were my favourites.

This is Paul Bentley's Faering, which won the competition.

This Thames Whiff by David Jones came second.

But for me the star of the competition was probably this well-used 20-year old boat. It sailed well, and its owner tirelessly piloted an untold number of visitors around the lake. I gather the design can still be obtained from Practical Boat Owner magazine - go to their website's copy facility and search for the name 'Aston'.


Finally, just before leaving the show for home, I found
myself reflecting on how cuteness can come in simple packages.

And in very complicated ones. Just think about this laminated tiller for a moment... This one is from Hoad Sailboats, and I gather they are about to launch a new website.