Percy Blandford is so wrapped up in my love of boating that I cannot let the moment go without mourning his passing.
At the school that I attended in London several of the teachers gave up the first week of the summer holidays to take boys on a kayak trip down the river Thames from Lechlade in Gloucestershire to Oxford. I remember those trips fondly and went each year and even went back after I left school to help out. Numbers were limited to 11 boys and we had a great time camping each night on the river bank.
My dad had bought me a folding kayak, an eleven foot affair that could be packed up when not in use into a large ruck sack. Many of the other kayaks I later found out had been built in school woodwork classes and were PBK designs, the PBK standing for Percy Blandford Kayak. I built several of these models myself and a growing interest lead to membership of the local canoe club where I got interested in competitive paddling and even had a trial for the British Olympic Slalom team.
I also wanted to get myself a 'proper' boat, something that I could put an engine on the back of and maybe even some sails. I went to the London Boat show, then held at Earls Court with my father each year and ogled the yachts but needless to say even the most modest boat was way outside my financial reach. There was only one way to go I would build on myself. I recall that the pages of Britain's Practical Boat Owner magazine provided much inspiration during those early years and forty years ago there were many small ads for boats that one could build for oneself. The design that caught my eye was the Lysander a small trailerable two berth cruiser sailing boat with bilge keels. She looked perfect and spent many hours dreaming of the trips I would take on her when she was finished. Sadly my hopes were dashed when I realized that I did not have the space to actually build the boat let along have the money for he materials. So I looked for another design and eventually settled upon a 12 foot runabout which like the Lysander was another of Percy Blandfords designs. This apart from the paint and varnish was built with some difficulty in the open at the back of our terraced house in London. I recall how proud I felt when I took all five of my family out for the maiden trip on the upper reaches of the Thames where we had a picnic lunch. Looking back now I shudder when I think of how rough the boat was, but I will never forget the trill of taking off in boat that I had built with my own hands. I've built quite a few boat since that time but each time I launch a boat I tip my hat silently to Percy Blandford who unknowingly has given me and many like me a lifelong love of boats.
Here is the obituary which appeared in Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper