I was bitten by the bug at a very tender age. What began with envious looks whenever I happened to pass the waterside quickly advanced to all manner of junior deception and skulduggery as I attempted to ‘charm’ my way into boat shows. The chance for a closer look at other peoples’ boats inspired me to build my own and before long I had expropriated the family balcony and set to work.
The geraniums’ loss – as I sawed and fixed so they faded and died – was my gain and thanks, in no small part, to my mother’s remarkable tolerance my new 1.73 metre ocean thoroughbred came together without tipping our family life too far out of balance. My materials were simple: 15 x 30 mm spruce slats with a skin of raw cotton cloth. The cloth was stitched by my aunt at my grandfather’s garment factory, which usually specialised in rugged work clothing, drenched in a linseed oil varnish until there was no chance of even the tiniest droplet of water squeezing through and then painted in a military-style olive drab.
Although I could carry the finished craft with one hand, my bicycle trailer became the preferred (much less tedious) option for longer expeditions such as the time I towed my creation to the Hamburg Harbour Police to have her certified as seaworthy. It cost me four Marks, but my boat was formally approved and I had the official – stamped – paperwork to prove it.