Chatting with Marcus and Freya from the Grayhound has been inspiring and surprising. Their boat, or probably one should say ship, looks like it fell through a hole in time straight from the 18th century. It is, however, a new build and meets the most stringent requirements for UK registered global passenger travel.
While some vessels might take advantage of the lack of strictness that might be given them by resorting to “maritime heritage,” the Grayhound is built with only the most elementary of technology above deck, but is high tech below. Watertight bulkeheads, stability calculations, 12 tonnes of lead ballast, all necessary requirements for category zero. To my surprise, this was not the most expensive thing to do either. While they do not calculate their own costs, they have a build cost of 300,000 GBP over one year. They were able to fund this by selling their own small boats, a house and taking on 18 months of paid cruises. As Marcus says, if the vessel isn’t earning money, it’s costing money. And they cannot afford that.
Strangely enough for me, the bilges were to be dusted, not pumped. Expectations are that wooden boats are, if not wet, at least damp. That need not be the case. The most mind numbing job on a wooden boat build is probably caulking, but that is what keeps her dry. So it is not the job for a rank amateur, unpopular as it is.
A strange inversion of approaches. An old boat style built new to the highest standards, no flag of convenience, the most iritating job carried out by the skipper: and for it they have a low cost vessel that is paid for already and is carrying on supplying home and livelihood for the whole family, with paying passengers and 6-weekly cargo voyages to Brittany. That sounds future proof to me.
Perhaps this is a perfect example of how we can move forward, with simple living, with economics that are sustainable, with old technologies married to new, with safety a priority but without making everything banal. Neither flags of convenience nor hard hats on deck are necessary and sometimes the most important job is the most annoying.