A Boat in the Backyard


He had a big dream. He never let go of the vision.

He got others to join. They worked as a team.

Day by day. Week by week. Year by year, by year, by year…..

one task at a time.

The big dream fuelled the doing of it.

It never got in the way of the doing of it.

Then one day – it was done.

Council permit was needed. Neighbours expressed some concerns. Consensus was reached. Privacy screens erected – pot bound,well established trees to be exact. Donated by a friend who owned a wholesale nursery. She sat, in our backyard,  a work in progress. Viewable from our kitchen window. Not your usual kitchen window view, a friend was fond of saying. When the children arrived they did not see our backyard without The Boat in it until they were in their teens. She eventually spanned the length of the house with the bow sprit peeking out past one end. Measurements were taken to make sure it could be moved out when she was ready. There would be room to spare apparently. Maybe six inches …

It started with a dream. The boat building, that is. One man’s dream. He talked about it with his wife, brothers and their partners. They were young. Open to making dreams come true. They  agreed it was a good dream. This gave it substance. Permission to proceed. A partnership was formed. Nothing formal. Just family shaking hands.

So started the journey. It was to last twenty five years. From dream to launch. Plans were discussed. And purchased. Professional plans for non-professionals. She was to be a ketch rig over fifty feet long. Made of ferro-cement. Who had ever heard of such a thing! Does cement even float? We were assured it would. And it would be durable. Do-able too by lay people. People who had not ever built such a thing before. People who had built all kinds of other things before of course.  So not entirely novices to construction. It was not to be a fast boat. She was going to be built for safe and comfortable family sailing. Wide at the beam in nautical terms. Not unlike some of us human beings!

A place to build it was needed. The only reasonable and cost-free option was our backyard. It was big enough.



Saturdays became Boat Building Days.  First, we had to move the hills hoist (clothesline for the non-Aussies). It was in the way. Some trees needed to be removed. They were in the way too. That upset me more. I apologised and tearfully explained to the trees. And kept away while the deed was done.

Next came the Scrieve Table. A large plywood affair onto which we traced life sized outlines of the boat’s ribs. Which were then curved along the plan into shape, welded, strung up on the support framework. She was beginning to take shape. It actually looked like a boat at last.





Eight layers  of chicken wire were painstakingly tied on with wire. The Three O’Clock Syndrome quickly became a Saturday tradition. Tools were downed. Drinks were too. The mindless task of tying chicken wire layer upon layer took its toll.  English literally translated into Finnish erupted forth. It was an impossible conglomeration of nonsense. Hoots of laughter echoed around the yard. It was the only time, our neighbours told us, we were noisy on boat building days. They had been worried about the noise factor of machines and increase in traffic for nothing!

Once the chicken wire was complete it was time for the cement. It was a carefully measured mix hand trowelled on inside and outside the hull. A major undertaking with the assistance of a  professional crew to supervise and do the finishing touches. She was then wrapped in plastic. An elaborate pump/pool system kept her wet for long enough so it would cure well and without fractures. The finish was, and remains, perfect.



Then came years of internal fittings and fixtures. A seemingly endless stream of things that go into boats. We discovered  any item with the word marine attached to it also had a price tag equivalent to the size of The Boat. Often it was cheaper and of a better quality to make our own. It was to take several years before a suitable marine engine was found. A marinised truck diesel engine from Melbourne was bought and fitted. Batteries were needed too. Big ones, so they said. Bigger is always better. Well, not this time. As it turned out smaller was MUCH better. The refrain of “Did you read the instructions?” often echoed as groans of frustration and despair were heard when something did not work as it should. Still does. Some people are slow learners.




Two major hurdles took years to resolve. A suitable mooring was needed. She was just too big for most moorings. Those that weren’t, were too big in price for our purses. We needed a mooring that wouldn’t cost ours and our children’s future life savings. Port Adelaide provided a temporary solution. From there she was later moved to The Small Yacht Club near the power station and Torrens Island Markets


The other hurdle was much more challenging. It tested our collective patience. We needed a trailer that was large enough to move the boat from our yard to the moorings. It turned out that there was only one in all of Australia. Based in Queensland it only made the trip to South Australia when a full load was available both ways. We just had to wait. And wait. And wait. And wait some more. Eventually it arrived.



My what a day that was. When The Boat left our yard. Announcement about the date was kept under wraps. We didn’t want hordes of people  descending on our cul-de-sac. Nerves were stretched tight. Faces serious. Measurements taken. Damn! The Boat could not be turned and driven out on the trailer as planned. Meter boxes were in the way. Last minute changes. The crane was configured for a Lift Over The House. OMG !!!!  Clear the yard. Clear the house. Clear the street of the hordes that had descended after all. Chinese whispers had spread the word very efficiently far and wide.




Forever etched in my mind is the image of our beautiful 28 ton, 52 foot 9 inch yacht  girded by industrial strength slings swinging in the air above the roof of our house. Just at this moment my father chose to call from interstate. He wanted to know how it was going. I quipped “Can’t talk now. The boat is over the roof of our home!” and shoved the cell phone into my mother-in-law’s hand with instructions to talk to him.

A police car rounded the corner. Please not now !!! I walked over to ask if I could help. They were just curious, they said, when they saw a boat in mid air.  Fair enough, I thought. I probably would be too. It went off without a hitch of course. Experts were in charge. They knew what they were doing. And did it well. Our house remained intact. The driveway was crunched into rubble. We knew it would be injured, just not how much.





Once loaded onto the trailer the truck took off for the boat yard at such a clip most people following had trouble keeping up. She was moved onto a mobile crane ready for launching.


A boat christening ceremony blessed Finnally  (as she had been named) and all who would sail in her.


Everything went into slow motion from then on. It was a stinking hot day. We were in an enclosed boat yard of tar and cement. Not even the whiff of a breeze. Slowly but surely she was gently lowered into the finger and released. Breaths were held. She stayed afloat ! With a hundred pairs of eyes watching, himself nervously took to the helm and gently reversed Finnally out to the middle of the Port River on her maiden voyage.



Finnally had grown up and left home. Mast and sail-less. They were to come later. We were to experience empty nest syndrome. Like any excited parents, we placed an announcement in the local paper –



The Tanska family are delighted to announce the successful berthing of


a graceful and beautiful 28 ton baby Boat launched on January 25.

Baby and owners ecstatic.

Thanks go to all berthing assistance, family and friends.

Special thanks to the SA Coast Guard on Australia Day.









My sister being fitted into the Bosun’s Chair…

ready for hoisting to the top of the tallest mast


Her view of the deck


One of the pleasures of sailing are the stunning sunsets at sea.

Gulf Sunset (9)


© Raili Tanska

6 Oct 2015

Photos from personal and family  albums

14 thoughts on “A Boat in the Backyard

  1. Oh it is so nice Raili, to read the whole story and see the pictures after hearing about the “boat” for such a long time.
    It surely was a labour of love and patience. Well done to everybody who were involved in making this dream come true. She looks MAGNIFICENT!!

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. Onya Raili and retired hubby (like me) … Been there and dun that (boat building) I still have me 62 foot cat, I have one hull on both sides of the driveway. I dream about sailing every time I drive past it, I love sailing; it’s a love/hate thing. The concert cutter we built lost its rudder in a storm, waves smashing over the cabin out of control sideways, with 2 children onboard and my wife, then we his something that punched a hole in the side and the bilge pump blocked… reef’s all around. Next day the Sun came out and we forgot all about it. I had a need for speed after that, Kicked back on the Cat doing 30 knots more my style.
    I’m very new at this; don’t know what a ‘ping-back is or half the stuff, it’s all goble-gook to me, but I’ll get there. I found your blog in ‘Aboriginal ‘ have know idea where my blog/page is or under what name?
    You have a lot of pages/stories… I like your style, simple and to the point; interesting about every day things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you – I get seasick so I don’t go out 😦
      Your blog comes up as Oraclesofeerwah. I found it as you sent me an email via my Home Page. A pingback is when you put a link to another site or one of your own posts into your text.
      The tags that you use when you publish a post is one way people find your blog if they are looking for something on a particular topic.
      Blogging is a whole new world! WP has lots of free tutorials and courses that are worthwhile doing. From you blog’s dashboard at the top, go to the Help tab and click on it. It will show a whole lot of links.
      I publish something every day – I rarely miss. My topics range from the very serious and spiritual to the funny. I’ve been blogging since July last year.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can’t believe it!!! I just found your comment… my comments are hidden away, I have never seen the ‘comments thing’ before… but I just found it and was surprised to find a coment by you, on your sisters place on the Tin Can Bay road. We used to go to Tin Can Bay quite often, sailing… we knew the people who had the fish and chip shop, he was a bit of a sailor.
        A few coincidences hey. what with ‘Songe lines’ building boats and Goomboorian… and I just looked at your post out of the blue and liked your style of writing. I’ll sign up to your blog, if you will be the first to sign up to mine.
        Lots of things don’t work on my page, like the ‘comments’ and other things. I’ll have to change the themes, but haven’t found one that suits yet. Most of them the writing is to narrow, I want it fill the whole page from margin to margin.
        I have a lot to say about this Story Hill… lots of words. I have no problem telling stories, my problem is stopping and finding the time.
        Oracle of Eerwah…
        ps you can see Eerwah from the highway but it looks different.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you – nice to have met you.
        My parents and sister lived just across the road a bit from that fish and chip shop! There is a side road called Pokela Rd on the left heading north. Mum and Dad chose their surname for that road. It leads to my parent’s old home up on the hill. If you drive up to the fork there is a wooden house on the right that is an unusual shape. My brother-in-law built that house.
        My parents are both dead and my sister has moved to Victoria so there are new owners in both houses.
        Just a bit about blogging. It’s important to find a theme that you’re happy with and reflects your style. I’ve been really happy with mine – it’s the Gateway Theme. I played around with the look of it quite a bit to get it what I was happy with. It’s also important to remember that your readers want a site that is user friendly and easy on the eye, easy to read. If not, it won’t attract traffic. Posts that are too long, too wordy, not broken into easy to read paragraphs etc will not appeal to many people. I recall reading somewhere that the recommended length for blog posts is generally around the 800 -1000 word mark. Having things that work is important too. It’s quite a bit of work to set it all up, but it’s worth the effort. You might find this helpful – http://www.wpbeginner.com/beginners-guide/14-tips-for-mastering-the-wordpress-visual-editor/
        There’s a lot of WP ‘how to stuff’ on YouTube for bloggers. WP Blogging University runs many free courses you can do in your own time – Blogging 101 is good for people starting out.
        Reading other people’s blogs and observing how they do stuff is good too – you get lots of useful ideas by doing that.
        Happy to follow you – your Story Hill interests me.


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