Ten reasons I hate my boat

Tim O’Brien imagined a life of ease, messing about on his boat at weekends, but after yet another wet summer he says owning a cruiser is like standing under a cold shower tearing up €50 notes

When I think of the 35-foot, non-ocean going, cabin-cruiser that has shared a third of my life, my heart should soar. The vision should be of meandering, unspoilt and gentle, lazy rivers through fields of green. The Derrycarne is a six-berth, cruiser with galley and a protected aft deck and large wheelhouse big enough for entertaining six or more people. It should be wonderful. Here are ten reasons to hate it.

1 The weather

On a sunny day the river can be magical, and being moored in a peaceful corner of a lake can be pure heaven. On a dull, grey day when you can’t see 20 foot ahead let alone the navigation markers, when the rain is coming sideways at you and the wind is blowing you off what little course you can discern, when the crew is sniping at you, it is actually pure hell.

2 The navigation


When the water levels are low you can get a sudden whack as the boat hits rock, raising images of the Titanic. I've seen boats perched up on rocks and one boater, recently of this parish, maintained she ran so hard aground that Waterways Ireland had to raise the level of the river to get her boat free.

3 The Peace

And then there is the solitude. Solitude is great but you can find yourself alone on a Saturday night listening to Failte Isteach, and wondering how did it all come to this? When they start playing requests on the radio for someone “92-years-young” in Cricklewood, the lonliness would have you gnaw at your own leg, just to know you were still alive.

4 Sharing

Friends are good to have on board, but if they want the boat and not you, the answer should be “no”. I’ll never forget the borrower who ignored the quiet need of a diesel engine for diesel, before she ran out mid-stream. I’ve suffered engine damage, fire and lost keys sharing the Derrycarne.

5 Evening sunsets and romantic dinners

Of course the Derrycarne is no stranger to the quaint glow of candle light. But it may have been better if the electrics were reliable.

6 The freedom to wander

I’m not musical or mechanical but I can now tell by the beat of an engine the approach of the sickening series of shudders which are the preamble to silence. Too often I have got as far as Lough Eidin in the wilds of Co Roscommon as dusk fell in a rising wind, only to find myself powerless and being blown steadily off the navigation towards the rocks. When this happened on the sylvan Boyle river the insurers headed the claim as: “Boat hits tree”.

7 Reliability

Was it childhood faith this year when I set out from Roscommon for Terryglass, Co Tipperary? Did I love it when the starter had to be refurbished, when the batteries boiled and the isolation switches melted? When I got as far as Dromod in Co Leitrim – about 20 miles or four hours crusing I could no longer resist the lure of a nice warm train, the running of which I could delegate to others.

8 The money

Owning a boat is rougly comparable to standing under a cold shower tearing up €50 notes. I know wealthy people who think nothing of making thousands in the city all week, and spending their weekends up to their oxters in scrubbing brushes and environmentally friendly cleaners in what must of course be an ultimately losing battle with mildew.

9 The leaks

Do I love Derrycarne for the sound of water splashing nearby as I sleep, or as Yeats put it, hearing “lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore”. Or is it the grief of waking up to the sound of incessant rain, wondering if the damp bedclothes meant the roof leaked in the night, of if the boat had actually, this time, sunk.

10 Did I mention the weather?

When I think about it there's hardly been a decent day on the water this year. So finally, I have just three little words: Boat for sale. And this time I mean it. Honest. It is just the hope of the sunny day that kept me going. That ideal day in idyllic surrounds which the late John Weaving and Gerrit van Gelderen respectively botanist and broadcaster, described as "a habitat without equal"....Sigh.