Squizzle Duck - A sailboat 40 years in the making

As a boy in the 1970's I used to hang about down by our local lake in the middle of Lincoln city in the UK, and it was the kind of place that a young boy loved. On its south banks it had a railway shunting yard, full of goods trains and trucks clanking and moving around the place. On its east banks it had barges and grain storage buildings, with boats coming and going, and lots of men busy in their work. The north side had the road passing by with garages full of shiny cars for sale, and the electric depot humming away all day. Finally on the west side was a lifting bridge that would open and close for the boats as they came and went from the pool. By the side of this bridge was a wooden hut in which the town's grumpiest old man sat. His job was to put chains across the road and lift the bridge when ever a boat wanted to pass. God forbid if you were to ever touch the chain while it was across the road, as he would shout across the river at us "leave that bloody chain alone you young uns!" once the bridge was lowered again he would shuffle across to remove his precious chains and say to us "and don't be getting up to no mischief in them shunting yards, You hear!" I bet he was a riot at parties.

Now the Brayford pool, as that's its name, had a sort of boat ranking. If your boat was in anyway decent then it would be allowed to berth on the north side, but if it was shabby of run down then it went on the south side with the wrecks. On one day once bored with trains I was looking at the boats on the south side, and there dragged up on the shore was a very run down pram dinghy. After giving it a good look over I pondered if it would float, but I never even got near to trying because a voice beside me said "you can ave her if you can fix her Boy" I turned round and a stout looking chap was standing beside me looking over me and the boat. He was joined by a second man who explained that it needed patches and tar on the bottom that is beyond me I thought, but WOW! A boat! From that moment on it all got took out of my hands, and the boat was loaded onto an old flatbed truck. Off we went in the truck back to my house with my new boat on the back. Have you noticed how the mind kind of blanks off the bad moments in your life, well it wasn't just me turning up in a strangers truck that Dad (Roy) reacted strangely to but having an old rotten boat dumped on the front lawn that kind of did It for him, and I cant remember what he said to me but I'm sure you can guess as much as me. Now in hindsight I now realise that these men saw it as an ideal opportunity to get rid of a pile of junk for free, but back then to me it was a gift from heaven. It was hurriedly moved from Mums nicely mown front lawn, to the back yard for further evaluation. Now at the time my sister was courting with a chap called Mark, and he was a bit of a boat man. Talk went back and fourth between Dad and Mark about glue and sawdust, brass screws, and bits of ply.

I hadn't any idea what was being said but it all sounded very exciting to me. Dad's side of the family is a long line of carpenters and furniture makers, and although Dad was not a carpenter himself, he was very good at it and he taught me so much while fixing that boat. It seemed to take ages to fix it, but I got up one day and there it was in all its glory, Dad had repainted in yellow and blue. On its bow it carried the name "Glub Tub", and my boat was ready to launch. It was taken back down to the Brayford on the top of a neighbour's car, and there it spent its life tied to the rear of an old friend's cruiser. I spent hours and hours in that boat, but in the end it was asked to be removed from the pool so major improvements could be made to the Brayford in the name of tourism. I sadly sold it as my pocket money didn't amount to the mooring fee that the newly refurbished Brayford demanded, and it was replaced with an inflatable boat I could carry down from our house to the Brayford. Everything changed from that point on, the shunting yard shut. The grain got sent by road, and the lifting bridge was replaced with a new road and flyover, and all the old boats disappeared from the south side as well as the grumpy old man in his hut. That inflatable never did feel the same some how. No it was the end of an era, and I was growing up as well. The one thing that went through my mind all the time while fixing that old dinghy with Dad was "one day I will build my own boat"

Roll on forty years!!

A lot can happen in forty years as I'm sure many of you are aware, and things sure did change. I became another in the long line of woodworkers in the Fisk family, I got married to Jayne, we had three children, Dad passed away, and now I'm working for the local authority as a joiner. I was sat with my wife watching TV one day, and a man was on it making a boat. "I always wanted to build a boat" I exclaimed out of nowhere to my now surprised wife, "so why not build one" she replied straight back at me , and Squizzle Duck was destined to become. I started building a nice Polish sailing dinghy
for me to use and was surprised how easy a boat really was to build.

In fact it was the mast and Gaff rigging that took the longest to make for me, and quite a while on the sewing machine making a sail for it. It was one day while I was stood looking at the boat it struck me that no way would any more than two fit in this boat, and as I now had a family then maybe it should fit more than two. It was around this point that I stumbled across Shorty's excellent site PDRacer.com while looking for a family friendly boat and it struck me that as it was a family orientated site/boat, such a big boat inside for its size, and I was hooked.

I consulted my youngest daughter Ffion to see if she was interested in helping make a boat. "OK "she replied in her normal casual Ffion manner. It's funny how history ends up repeating itself, so now I'm the one working with my child on a boat. Materials were bought, begged, and put to use from every possible source, and over the freezing cold winter of 2010/11.

Ffion and I went 3D on the 13th February. Shorty confirmed our build as #526. Now the saying goes "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink" well you can get a Ffion to the boat but you can't make her build. Bless her, just like any 12 year old throughout the world her attention span is limited, and progress has been slow from both of us, but it's been a journey for us both as well. It still makes me chuckle at Shorty's build for two weekends and sail on the third program, not in this house Shorty:. The hull itself is one with end air boxes for the greatest room and an outboard dagger board to give even more room in the middle. Its bottom is made from exterior grade ply wood 3/8th inch thick and ribs/rails running along the bottom for added strength, so we have no worries of damaging the bottom with anyone walking on it. The sides are of 1/4 inch ply reinforced inside with 3/4 inch rails, which also make a good place to sit the seats on. The front air box has been turned into a water proof locker for storage, and will have wide comfortable seats with backs. So now we have a fully built hull and painting has begun in earnest in readiness for the fast approaching summer, and I have visions of lazy days sailing down our local rivers with some of the family on board.

All of this leads to an idea with my wife and I of owning a bigger boat that we can stay in and have holidays in, but I can't see the PDRacer not featuring some place in our days out. A final addition to the PDR is one of Shorty's great hull plates, the first one in the UK I understand from the man himself, and a great way of putting something back for all the hard work he has done over the years for this site and PDR. Where does Squizzle duck come from you might wonder? Well throughout most of its construction under the tree, it became a hiding place for the local grey Squirrel while it was covered with the tarpaulin to keep itself from the winter weather; and Squizzle is Ffions nickname for a squirrel.

Julian and Ffion, Hull #526