Part 1: How it all started!
I've fished like many of us since I was old enough to hold a rod - maybe 5 years old. I remember standing on Boscombe pier with my Dad in the cold and rain, no bites and whilst Dad was keen to go home to bed, I’d always ask for just 5 more mins! Once I was old enough to fish on my own it was on the Stour at Muscliffe with Dad, catching roach, pike, perch and chub. As I got older and more independent I joined Christchurch Angling Club (CAC) and widened my horizons to the lakes in and around Ringwood. I learned my craft fishing the rivers in Dorset however and feel blessed to have been taught by my dad to fish ‘proper’... trotting a stick float in a river. If I had to pick one type of freshwater fishing - this would be it - a centrepin, a stick float and a pint of white maggots. I match-fished for a few years with good success but soon found the constant competitive edge a bit wearing, so moved onto Carp fishing. The combination of massive, hard fighting fish and the added bonus of sleeping away from home and the adventure of camping was irresistible to a 16 year old!
I was properly ‘hooked’ on carping for several years and as I progressed into full time adult work, it was normal for me to finish work, drive to the lake, set up - fish all night, up at 6am, pack up and back into work for 7.30. I’d do this 3 nights a week before going home for a shower and fresh food before spending all weekend at the lake. Back in the 90’s a 30lb carp was the holy grail and a truly massive fish. I was fortunate enough to catch a couple of these beasts with my best going 38lb 2oz…. Today that's run of the mill in many lakes - back then it was a fish of a lifetime.
So fast forward to what I’d guess is 1998 and it was Carp fishing that got me back into Sea Fishing. Myself and several mates had started to make an annual pilgrimage to France for the HUGE carp that it was renowned for. It was a proper adventure too - a transit van, 4 blokes, a mountain of tackle, nice weather, big carp and loads of beer! Perfect! One year we had a drop out and Neil Cooke who then owned Bournemouth Fishing Lodge ( a mate of mine as I worked in the Lodge from 12 years old to maybe 18) suggested a stand in to fill the trip. A guy joined the group called James Parker. James and I hit it off straight away and we spent every night that trip in France drinking beer on the bank into the early hours talking all things fish and fishing…. He was nuts about fishing as I was! On the last night we started talking about how we started fishing and I mentioned I actually started as a Sea Angler….. James mentioned that he had a small fishing boat back at home in the UK and that when we got back we should do a trip. I didn't need asking twice!
A few weeks after getting back from France, James took me out of Christchurch, having launched at Wick on his little 13’ yellow open Shetland… it didn't have a proper name but James called it the Yellow Peril! This was my return to Sea Angling and in a heartbeat I dropped all things freshwater. After several trips in shore with James and having caught some good rays and other fish I fancied a boat of my own. As we all know this was the start of a very slippery slope!
I was searching Boatsandoutboards.com daily but in all honestly didn't have a clue what I was looking at, and whilst on a very meagre salary the thought of spending thousands on a boat was terrifying! James called one day and said his mate had a little cabin boat for sale. We went over to take a look - in Oakdale I seem to recall. She looked great - but what did I know! We bought her and went 50/50 on the cost. I was still living at home at the time so ‘Tara’ lived at James’ house in Southbourne. At 16’ long with a 30hp 2 Stroke Outboard she felt like a min-charter boat to a complete novice like me having only been on open boats in the past! James and I fished all over the place in that little boat in some pretty shitty weather! We also caught some great fish! Double figure bass, Undulates to 18lb, Small Eyed to 13lb, Congers over 50lb, Huss to 12lb, 4lb Bream. We fished up to about 8 miles out but that little boat was proof that time on the sea is just as important as fancy rigs or bait!
After a couple of years I was earning better, and the lure of a bigger, better and faster boat was too much! I had now started an office based job in front of a PC all day and I’ll admit to being addicted to Boatsandoutboards.com and Findafishingboat.com…. I dreamt constantly of a bigger boat. At this time I was in Bournemouth Fishing Lodge and picked up a flyer for a website called Phantom-Fisher.co.uk this was a website and more importantly a forum for boat fisherman in Poole. At this time Facebook, Instagram etc didnt exist and so a forum for people to talk fishing and boats on the internet was some kind of heaven! Phantom-fisher didnt last long though and as it closed down many of the member were homeless on the internet. At this time I was introduced to (and I’m sorry I’ll forget a few names!) Peter Russell Snr and Jnr, Martin Burt, Bob Fuller, Bob Horne (RIP) Paul Dore…. These guys belonged to PBSBAC, and I joined straight away and threw myself into the club and joined the committee to help. It was apparent that in these new modern times we needed an online presence, and thus PBSBAC.co.uk was born under the tech guidance of Paul Dore (if I remember correctly!?) This proved to be an amazing resource to tap into anything you could possibly need. Want to know how to wire in a twin battery set up? Ask the question and the members would advise!
The lust for a bigger boat was growing daily and having been out one evening to be taught the Alderney ring anchor method by (then chairman) Martin Burt on this amazing Warrior 195 called ‘Maverick’ I had decided that whilst a 195 was out of my league I did want a Warrior 165. Trouble was, so did everyone else and having emptied the piggy bank I had no more than 11k to spend. I looked in vain for months, every decent boat I found was sold, all others where shit heaps. Paul Dore rang me one morning to inform me of one that had just come to the market in Eastney Marina, Hayling Island, so Bob Fuller and I popped down the very next Saturday to take a look. It was here I learnt a very sage lesson about buying boats! She was beautiful - shiny and not a scratch on the hull. Clean and tidy she looked a bargain for 11k. The sea trail went great, although the engine alarm did sound as we approached the slipway back home… however it was too late, i was smitten, and whilst the engine looked a little tatty and out of sync with the rest of the boat this was the boat I dreamed of. £11k was a deposit for a house back then, but we did the deal and soon she was sat on the drive back at home. I’d met my wife Rachael by this time and we had our own house in Verwood and I was proud as punch. A new wife, a new house and a posh new boat!
A couple of months after buying BW, we didnt the annual club trail-away trip to the Shambles - the engine started playing up on the way back. I felt sick. I managed to get it back to the slip but the engine was very poorly. I was skint after buying the boat, and the call from the workshop that evening nearly made me vomit;
‘The engine is shagged mate - total write-off the block is cracked’
I did actually cry. Rach my wife was ace and after a couple of days we re-mortgaged and bought a brand new 60hp Mariner 4 Stroke.
I had more great memories on BW. Some of my best were really pushing the limits of a 16’ boat and going mid-channel wrecking on her. We had to carry 4 x 25l of petrol. 1 to get there, 1 for the days drifting and running about, 1 to get back and 1 for reserve. 100l of Petrol on a 16’ boat is a lot! 25 miles offshore in a 16’ boat was both scary and exciting! One trip we caught so many cod that I couldn't get BW on the plane… we had to come back at displacement speed - the extra 25L saved our bacon that day! One another trip we started the day in beautiful sunshine, and it stayed all day - flat calm, not a ripple. On the way back a ‘pea-souper’ descended and I helmed 25 miles home on the edge of my nerves with no radar and only the MK1 eyeball for guidance.
Again, after a few years that familiar itch many of us know, started again - bigger, faster, better?! I looked at a lot of options but struggled to get away from the Warrior brand, so sold BW and bought a Warrior 175. Whilst only 1’ bigger the actual physical size difference was massive - she was wider, longer, taller… self draining deck, integral fuel tank….. A real step up from the 165. I should have learnt a lesson from the 165 right? Well, ‘Out of the Blue’ had a Honda 130hp engine with a 5 year warranty and only 150 hours on the clock. Safe as houses right?
We had been on another trail-away to Portsmouth as a club for the Tope off the Nab Tower and on the way back after another great day of fishing, the Honda started to ‘miss’ slightly…. You all know that feeling when your pride and joy starts to miss-behave…. It was a sickeningly familiar feeling from a few years ago. If I recall correctly I had Gorden Moore with me that day.
Back home, I started a long drawn out process involving several engineers and lots of more wasted money. You know the saying ‘owning a boat is like taking a cold shower whilst tearing up £20 notes’ well this was that.
‘Maybe its the HT leads?’ Change them - nope
‘Maybe its the Fuel filter?’ Change that - nope
‘Maybe it’s the Injectors?’ Change them - nope
After several hundred wasted pounds, I was poking around at the end of my whit and noticed that the oil was emulsified?! Surely the first thing you’d check? I took it straight to Honda who confirmed that Yes - once again the head was cracked. I felt sick again. Amazingly - whilst out of the 5 year warranty, due to the low hours on the engine they decided to honour the warranty and the engine was replaced FOC. I’d lost faith once again in that boat after all that.
About this time Rachael and I had moved out to Shaftesbury from Bournemouth to settle down and start a family, and trailering a 17’ boat through the narrow, muddy country lanes started to become wearing pretty quickly. Once again the nagging feeling started again and I began to contemplate a bigger (faster!?) boat that could be moored and avoid the tedious 25 mile trail to a slipway. Another chapter was about to begin!