It's been a very long time indeed since I last sailed a boat. I spent a weekend at Brownsea Island in the Scouts learning how to sail a Topper – a tiny one-person boat – and my main memories of that are being cold and wet, lots of faffing about with ropes and knots, and having to remember to keep my head down when the boom swung around. It was very much not the beginning of a lifelong love affair with sailing.
Getting into sailing is the sort of thing that requires a serious investment of time and money, especially if you want to sail your own boat rather than hiring one. Beyond the expense of buying a boat (I've just looked into it and could probably just about afford a tiny floating death trap, or an inflatable paddle board) as well as the best life jacket and having somewhere to put it, there's all the upkeep and stuff to learn including, yes, lots of knots, not to mention the possibility of a serious head injury if you're not paying attention when the wind changes.
That said, I can't help but be a little tempted by the IZIBoat, which very much appears to be a sailing boat for people who can't be doing with the hassle of owning a proper sailing boat. Developed in the South Pacific by François Tissier, a self-educated architect and entrepreneur, sailor, traveller and former competitor, it's a small catamaran that neatly eliminates two of the main barriers to boat ownership.
Firstly, you don't need a whole load of space to store it when you're not on the water. It packs down to 500 x 62cm and weighs 152kg, making it easy to transport (you can even get a bike trailer for it if you live within cycling distance of a body of water), and according to the manufacturers its 'plug & sail' system means it can be assembled in just 15 minutes, as this timelapse illustrates:
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And secondly, it does away with the whole complicated business of actually sailing; rather than tug at assorted ropes to move the sails around and catch the wind, you steer it with a joystick, and because you're seated in what's rather grandly referred to as a cockpit (more of a four-person stretched canvas recliner), the odds of getting smacked in the head by the boom (it's the big heavy bar at the bottom of the mainsail) are greatly reduced.
Naturally this isn't a yacht for hanging about on and enjoying cocktails; it's a streamlined sailing machine that's all about getting into the water as quickly as possible and speeding across the waves easily. The manufacturers suggest that it's suitable for families and children, adding that its exceptional stability makes it equally suitable for the elderly and disabled. I'm not quite so sure about its assertion that anyone from age 3 to 99 can sail it safely, mind.
If you're keen to get your hands on a hybrid boat that combines the stability of a catamaran, the ease of transport of a windsurfer and the handling of a car, you may just about be able to order one in time for the summer. The IZIBoat's manufactured in France, so who knows how long delivery to the UK might take, with prices starting at 10,750€ before tax. Get all the details at IZIBoat.