Duo’s creation ‘not for sail’

Athina May

At Melkbosstrand beach a man and boy carry a little wooden rowing boat down to the water. On shore, tears brim in Ester Hofmeyr’s eyes as she watches her men paddle out to sea in the boat they have spent two years building together.

“I was so emotional when they went out on the boat for the first time, I was crying. After seeing them work so hard late at night, it was a very nice feeling. Many times you’re busy and don’t find time to do something just for you, but they would work in the evening,” says Ester.

Meyburgh Hofmeyr started building the boat two years ago with his son, Francois, who was 10 at the time. Father and son spent their evenings together in the garage sawing wood and applying epoxy to waterproof their masterpiece.

The family have always enjoyed sailing and were members of a boat club when they lived in London. Back in Cape Town, after months of being on dry land, Meyburgh came home one day and announced to his family that he and his son would build a boat together.

“It was one of those bucket list things I thought about doing as a child. It’s good to do a project like this with your child instead of watching TV,” says Meyburgh.

Eager in the beginning, Francois was on board for the task ahead, but as months passed and the work load increased, his enthusiasm started to dwindle. But he persevered.

“A few weeks after my dad said we would build a boat, we went to Builders Warehouse and got the materials. We made paper models and drew plans, cutting from cardboard because we had never built a boat before.

“I had lots of chores. We had to move the boat to the back of the house, and we worked with epoxy, and every time the wind blew sand up, it would get stuck to the boat and we had to sand it down,” says the now 11-year-old Francois, holding his head in his hands as he recalls the work.

His mom explains that the little sailor would get frustrated with his father who would carefully think the plans through, while Francois would wait anxiously, saw in hand, ready to get building.

“I think his dad was trying to teach him that it doesn’t matter how long it takes to complete the project, as long as you finish it,” says Ester smiling at her son.

The family have taken the boat out twice so far and they only experienced a small leak, which was easily patched up. They tried catching fish, but apart from a baby shark, which was released back into the water, a seafood dinner still eludes them.

“It was hectic when we went out for the first time, but it was exciting. It’s easier to paddle in the river than the sea,” says Francois with the confidence of an old salt.

Asked whether they had named the boat, Ester says she’s partial to “Not for Sail”, while Meyburgh is mulling over calling it “Grace” or “Perseverance”.

“It’s important to know that you’re working towards something – an end product. I recommend other parents to do a project and don’t give up because of a lack of money or due to work. Never give up on your dream, it will work out in the end,” says Meyburgh.