Messing About In Boats
edited and published by Bob Hicks
(click here for subscription information)

Reviewed by John Welsford

It was very close to 11 years ago that I first came across Messing About in Boats. I'd fallen off a ladder and rather badly injured myself so had a great deal of lying down to do. My Wife Denny used to bring me a big pile of reading every few hours and I must have read the covers off pretty well everything I had in the house, including the very small print ! Hidden away amongst the other titbits in the "On the Waterfront" section of WoodenBoat were contact details for all sorts of organizations and publications. There were newsletters, home published books, clubs and collectors, the occasional catalogue, and, Messing About in Boats from a guy in Wenham which I guessed to be somewhere up the right hand side of the map of the USA.

I wrote to a lot of these people, I got replies from some, Sam Devlin sent a catalogue, I got a years magazines from Bob! I can tell him honestly that the mail every second week brought several hours of relief from having to lie there and look at the ceiling. Several hours in which my mind could roam the inlets and bays of the Atlantic coast, leaving a very sore and restricted body behind for the time being. Several hours in which I was not alone in my bed but could spend a while with someone in their workshop, a welcome relief from the extreme boredom of my convalescence.

Messing About in Boats was just my style, ordinary people, people I could relate to , stories of exploration in simple boats, voyages made to new destinations, tales of woe and misfortune when bad weather struck a tiny craft and the occupant had to walk a waterlogged boat home along the shore, building projects that succeeded in the face of severe lack of resources and skills, victories and losses, handy hints, Bolgers wonderful design proposals soaked up a lot of time( I must have built a dozen in my mind) and even today that file box of magazines has tags on all of the articles and is regularly referred to.

Even the ads were worth a browse, dinghies and plans, sources of materials and information, boats for sale and the tools with which to build , all were read and read again. I will forever be grateful for the escape that those simply produced magazines afforded me, and I have contributed some of my own work over the years so that others might read of what I am up to in return.

I've become much more involved with recreational boating and boatbuilding over the years, and am now contributing regularly to several magazines. It is with real pleasure that I have undertaken to supply Bob with regular copy for MAIB; to enjoy him you don't have to be in the same circumstances that I was in when I first met Bob Hicks and his twice a month escape and information machine, but if you are I really hope that it helps you as much as it did me.

John Welsford.