Man who built boat in garden takes his bow at last

IT’S taken patience and skill for Winston Walker to build an ocean-going boat in his garden – not to mention nearly 10 years of hard graft.

The nautical enthusiast began the labour of love in 2004 when he was in his 30s and now, aged 48, his project is finally finished.

He started building the five-berth cruiser simply because ‘it’s just something I wanted to do’.

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Although he doesn’t like to say how much it cost to build the 13ft high creation, a figure of £5,000 has been talked about and the finished value is considerably more.

Earlier this week he proudly launched the boat into the water for the first time.

The builder, from Ainley Top, Huddersfield, has plenty of experience in constructing houses but it is the first time he has dipped his toe into the boat-building water.

Mr Walker said: “I have loved boats all of my life, and I’m so used to building other things that I thought, ‘why not a boat?’

“I have worked on it every single weekend and now all of my hard work has paid off.

“I never thought about the whole finished job. It was a big project so I concentrated on each little bit at a time.

“I’ve been out there in the winds and the rain; nothing has stopped me because I love it so much and I’ve looked forward to the day it’s finally on the water.”

The boat, named Norma after his mother, who also lives in Huddersfield, is a blue-water cruiser capable of travelling hundreds of miles at a stretch.

With a top speed of nine knots, the home-build has all the good looks of a professionally-made boat and can pick up a respectable speed.

The boat finally set sail at Viking Marina, Goole, after it was transported from his garden near the M62 at Huddersfield.

With supportive neighbours looking on, a huge crane carefully winched the 30ft long, 5.5 tonne boat more than 50ft into the air before gently depositing it on to a low loader.

But it’s taken a lot of hard work to finally get it there.

He began work in 2004 after seeing a self-built boat in Watercraft magazine. After sending off several hundred pounds to American boat designers Glen L Marine, he received blueprints with detailed instructions on how to build a boat from scratch.

Then he sat down and read a great deal about boat building skills and tips.

Anyone considering following his example should think long and hard, he says.

“I did have a few years thinking about it first. One question you have got to ask yourself is ‘do you want a boat or do you want to build a boat?’ If it’s the former then just go and buy one.

“For me it’s just a great woodworking hobby. I am a building contractor and a bricklayer by trade and my father was a joiner.

“A lot of the work (building a boat) could be described as tedious; you have got to stay patient as some things take forever. In fact all of it took forever.”

Although his ocean cruiser is ready for action Mr Walker 
does not have any immediate plans to go on the sea – as he 
has yet to study navigation and so on.

At the moment he will be sticking to the canal network.

“In truth it’s a floating caravan and just somewhere to go for the weekend,” he says.

He’s proud of the boat’s interior, which boasts two double beds and one single, a shower, toilet, sink and a gas oven and three-burner hob.

While he did all of the leg-work himself, he could not have finally seen his boat successfully afloat without the help of friends from Rodley Boat Centre in Leeds.

He said: “They have been marvellous with their advice and they helped to crane the engine, which was a key moment.

“I was convinced I was going to see that day, because when I set my mind to something I always see it through.”

But even at the last moment, Mr Walker came up against 
some difficulties as he had to negotiate getting Norma out of its spot next to his home and down the M62 with the helping hand of Beverley Transport Services (BTS).

“I even had to check with the police to make sure the boat would go through the motorway bridges” he said.

Paul Douglas, from BTS, said: “I have seen them as good as this, but they are few and far between.

“Nine times out of 10 they are expensive botches.

“A lot of people think they can do it and just don’t realise the amount of skill and persistence that’s involved. The majority are a mess.

“It’s good to see a nice one like this. It really is a gem.”