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

I posted this story in the very early days of starting to blog. For many of you it will be a new story.

Steps for Peace

One step at a time makes even the seemingly impossible possible.

21 thoughts on “Boat in the Backyard

  1. Wow ! How special for your family. Beautiful job well done.
    My Dad built a 21 ft. cabin curser in our carport years ago. Nothing this fancy but provided years of fun on the water. He also rebuilt several airplanes in our garage at different locations in Texas and Mississippi. You always find a way when you want something bad enough.

  2. OH WOW OH WOW OH WOW Raili , So pleased you gave us this update of your AMAZING Achievement
    And I was enthralled with every detail of the progress you described and SO loved the pictures, And I know how nervous you must have been when the boat hung over your home. No wonder it attracted the attention of the police..
    We all stood in our back garden when a huge crane lifted a large Jacuzzi out door hot bath over their house into their back garden in the Summer..

    Wonderful pictures and Your sister was Brave to go to the top mast and take the photo too… 🙂

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