It was 2005 and I had been five years nearly without a boat which was far too long especially for a sailor living by the sea. It was time for action and no more excuses about being too busy with work, or not having the spare cash. So we come to the question, "just what exactly am I looking for?". The wish list was drawn up containing everything that I would really like my new boat to be. Unfortunately in the way that these sorts of things tend to go it very quickly became obvious that the sort of boat I was looking for did not exist. Whatever I brought was going to have to be a compromise, but from passed experience compromise ultimately leads to disappointment. Nothing for it I will just have to reduce my expectations and resign myself to the fact that what I’m really looking for just has not been built yet. Any boat has to be better than no boat at all – well maybe not.
Right, down to basics forget the wish list and concentrate on what I really need.
- To keep my new boat near to home and hence avoid expensive marina fees it will have to be no more than 30 feet LOA with the ability to take the ground.
- It must have accommodation for four and a cockpit big enough to allow four people to sail without being cramped.
- It must be a good sea boat with the ability to sail well and be safe no matter what the weather throws at us, in short something capable of crossing an ocean should we choose to.
- It must have a shallow enough draft to explore our favourite places, such as the upper reaches of those delightful West Country Rivers. (This last one causes a problem).
The four points above were the bare minimum and given my probably unfounded dislike for bilge keel yachts my choices were going to be limited indeed. Still no matter on with the search, books magazines and the internet searched through relentlessly for weeks. Boat yards and brokers were visited; countless miles were driven and gallons of diesel burned, but all to no avail. Then it happened, out of the blue, as these things do.
On a wet winter evening sat at home, strangely with little to do for a change, I stumbled across a drawing of an Atalanta whilst surfing the web. There in front of me was the answer. A quick search an a few websites later I was sure.
Initially I had discounted wooden boats from my search, a shame I know, but having had previous experience of the effort and cost involved with the maintenance of an aging wooden boat that was a road down which I had no desire to travel again. But in front of me on the screen was a boat which seemed to tick the boxes, twin lift keels, self righting, large centre cockpit and four berths, sails which can be handled without the need to go on deck and to top it off it can be towed behind a 4 x 4. So what if it’s made of wood, I read on.
Further research found that this was no ordinary wooden boat, made from 3mm laminates of Agba, hot moulded under pressure so extremely impervious to rot due to the adhesive penetrating the laminates; a strong and light construction method evolving from the manufacture of aircraft. A 26 foot wooden yacht and only 2 ton all up, wow. It all seemed too good to be true and considering that these fine, if different looking boats were now around 50 years old the chances of finding a good one would surely be slim
To my surprise I found the Atalanta Owners Association and they had a list of boats for sale. A few phone calls, a good few hundred miles and a couple of false starts later I find myself standing in the back garden of a house on the south coast looking at a fine example of a Fairey Atalanta. I’m hooked, well and truly caught in the headlights of desire; everything about it just made sense, well what would you expect from the combined talents of Uffa Fox and Alan Vines, the search was over and the deal was done. We now had an Atalanta in our lives.