Owning your own brings great fishing flexibility but demands time, effort and money.
First find out what type of boat handles the sea well around your stretch of coast. Then find somebody who is selling a suitable boat second hand. It’s important to go for the best choice of boat for your specific purposes. So bear in mind how far offshore you want to go, what sort of sea conditions and depths you want to fish in, and what your budget is.
Most anglers enjoy the freedom of being skipper of their own boat. But don’t underestimate the amount of work, planning and maintenance required to run a boat for safe and comfortable fishing.
Self skippering gives you independence. With a small boat and a trailer it’s easy to move between fishing spots and reap rewards such as this fine flush of rays.
If you are going to use a trailer and store the boat in your drive, this will restrict the size of boat you can have. Smaller boats are ideal for estuary and close inshore angling but if you want to go further offshore you will have to consider a boat in the 20-30ft (6-9m) class. These larger vessels generally require permanent moorings.
Look for a second hand boat parked outside marinas or in people’s driveways. If you see a boat with dirty sun-bleached covers, and weeds and dried leaves around a flattyred trailer – it’s a good bet. Second hand boats command low prices so you can save thousands of pounds by making a sensible offer to the right person. Get an idea of prices by looking and asking around marinas and boatyards, and checking appropriate publications.
Make it seaworthy
The chances are you’ll have to do some reconstruction work on used boats. Any sign of rot in old wooden boats could weaken the structure. Consequently wooden boats demand a lot of care and maintenance.
But with today’s glass-fibre construction even the most worn out of hulls can be converted into something as good as new. By careful grinding back (using full protective mask, ear and eye protection) and adding a few layers of resin and glass, anyone with average DIY ability and some guidance can rebuild a glass-fibre boat. Materials can be bought cheaply from factories, and they’re easy to use..
It’s better to spend time rather than money when buying a boat. Even new ones are not always built as strongly as they should be. Don’t be dazzled by a dream boat – always get a second opinion and ideally a test ride. Boats must be capable of handling rough conditions. It’s sensible to work out what will be required before embarking on a small boat venture.
By rebuilding an old hull, you become completely familiar with your boat’s construction. You can lay the boat out precisely according to your needs and if anything goes wrong you should be able to locate the problem easily.
There are two basic hull types to consider when choosing your boat – the displacement and the planing. Take into consideration all the demands you are likely to make on the vessel.
Displacement hull These are often heavy, particularly the wooden ones. They are designed to push water out of the way as they travel forward. Displacement hulls usually ride gently at anchor in an unpleasant sea.
Because they can only travel at a slow speed of around seven knots, a low powered outboard or a small inboard diesel takes you fishing all day on a whiff of fuel. Planing hull This type of hull comes in two designs. The tri-hull design, such as the bluntended dory, tends to slam in short seas and provides an uncomfortable ride.
The deep vee design has a longer V-shaped snout which slices through the waves, and a flat section behind to lift the hull on to the plane. Sometimes this section has ledges or keels running along it to provide a better grip between hull and sea. Some boats combine both designs.
Planing hulls are fast and require high revving inboard motors or powerful, thirsty outboards. The rewards on the water can be spectacular, but boats in this league also require expensive navigational computers and powerful nshfinders to make them effective.
Whatever boat you use it must be safe, with non-slip flooring and high sides to prevent anybody falling overboard.
Inboard engines take up quite a lot of space on the sort of boats that most people take offshore – namely 15-20 footers (4.5-6m).
Modern outboards are lighter, don’t get in the way and provide more power. It is relatively easy to match the propeller and the degree of engine tilt according to the weight of the boat. As a guide to horsepower, the maximum is 5hp per foot of boat.
It’s important to have complete familiarity with your engine – you may depend on it in dangerous conditions.
Some outboards are available with separate oil tanks and injection systems rather than using old-fashioned premixed fuel. Some of these engines have been known to seize up when the oil system has failed. Most old hands stick to the tried and tested methods and are suspicious of devices that might fail in the middle of a tide race, at the precise moment when it’s time to clear off to safety.
Buoyancy tanks are essential in fast boats because the risk of hitting something hard is greater. Position them in special sealed locations around the boat, or sandwich them in the hull.
Store all loose equipment securely so that it doesn’t get thrown into a jumbled pile when the boat starts bouncing over the waves.
Safety is of prime importance at sea – a wrong move can cost lives. However, as you gain experience, it gets easier to read the sea’s moods, and to find the fish. That’s when you start to experience the real pleasure of having your own boat. It’s just that you must realise beforehand that it is going to involve a lot of hard work.