Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Umm, don't look very boat like to me.

Well, where to begin. I now have the wood for the oars and I would have begun to make them by now had I not been a bit distracted by our new acquisition and project which is a van. A very big white van, an LDV 2.5L, long wheel base crew cab Convoy. Until recently it used to belong to the M.O.D who cared for it well and so it has a good service history.

A van is incredibly useful for a boat builder and this one even has a tow hitch, fantastic! The van itself is not sophisticated and is pretty agricultural to drive, which I really like. Now, the van thing is soon to be a camper van thing. Rae and I are planning on converting it so we can spend next year wondering around the UK and maybe even venture into Europe.

Next year is our year of exploration. This is all beginning with a five week trip to India at the end of January. We are off to a place called Auroville which describes itself as a Universal City in the Making in Southern India when we come back we plan to convert the van and basically travel for a while, do as much sailing as possible, an ocean passage would be good, anybody need a couple of crew around about next June? As well as this we will be available to assist you with any boat building, maintenance and repair work etc.... just let us know as we have a van and so can bring our tools to you!

Oh yep, and I will be beginning to make the oars this week, life is good!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Autumn Project

Rae and Malcolm rowing in Salcombe harbour in May this year.

The oars I made for Defiant of Lyme Regis last year.

Defiant on her mooring

Rae and I had a lovely row on Monday in Defiant of Lyme Regis at Conyer. The sky was overcast the water was calm and the tide was very high, 6m. We were both very pleased to see that our rowing boat is still looking in very good condition, her bottom remains free from weed and barnacles, the topsides are still shiny as is the interior.

At this point I feel I must sing the praises of Varnol Danish oil, forget varnishing, it is a real pain and takes ages to get a really good finish, see my previous posts. In contrast Varnol is very easy to use. It is easily possible to apply eight-ten coats in one day. What is more it is a natural product and works out cheaper than any varnish equivalent. Being a natural product Varnol also smells wonderful, I have not met anyone who does not like the smell, it is similar to the effect that stock holm tar has on people, another of my favourite smells. I should mention here that I have no business connection with the manufacturer or vendors of this product, I just simply love it. Oh, yep, and another thing, when it comes to the maintenance of Varnol it is extremely easy and yes you guessed it, quick.

As an aside, I will admit that properly applied varnish is a wonder to behold and yes, if you own a classic yacht then varnish will probably be necessary and it has to be said that traditional varnish also smells great and there is a huge satisfaction in doing a skilled top quality varnishing job.

So back to rowing, it was great, we took turns and then we rowed together, Rae with one oar in the forward rowing position and me with the other amid ships. We trimmed the boat by shoving the box containing the anchor, chain and warp aft. It was great being on the water on an autumnal day.

That day brought back memories of my childhood, I grew-up in Leigh-on Sea, Essex. I was a land scout and did a seamanship badge which meant that I spent a very happy winter gaining the skills to get this badge with the sea scouts who were based in Leigh old town just along from the Smack Inn. It was great, I learnt to row in a wooden whaler. It was a very cold winter and we rowed in the snow, fantastic! I also learned to scull, a skill I have forgotten which I am attempting to learn again.

The oars I made last year are flat bladed, 9' long and are very heavy being made of pine. During the Spring when we rowed with Malcolm Darch, he thought I should make two pairs of spooned oars out of Sitka Spruce, very god strength to weight ratio. During our row on Monday Rae and I discussed this and agreed this is a good project for the Autumn.

So yesterday I went about tracking down a supplier of Sitka Spruce. Umh, not as easy as I thought. In the end I managed to track some down at the Boat Building Academy in Lyme Regis which is great as I get to see the guys down there who I have not seen since I left the Academy last Christmas and importantly I get to have one of Wendy's bacon sarnies!

So, all being well I get to start making my oars by the middle of November. Can't wait!

Monday, 12 October 2009

painting the pretty 11 footer

Well, the time arrived to turn the boat over and paint her hull. Once turned over my first job was to plane flats on to the bilge runners ready to take the brass rubbing strips. The hull was then given a thorough rub down using first 180 grit and then 240 grit sandpaper.

The hull was painted with two coats of primer, two coats of undercoat, two coats of top coat. The brass bilge runners were cut to size, shaped, drilled and then fastened using silicon bronze screws. The sole boards were throughly sanded and then given several coats of luscious varnol. We then opened up the tent and wheeled the boat out into the sun and turned her over on the trailer. The warm October sun made the varnish sparkle and the paint gleam and all was well in the world of boats.

Needless to say the client is very happy and the boat, well, she is pretty drop dead gorgeous, but then I am biased of course.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009


Well, building the tent was fun! I have to say it was very satisfying making a room within a room which was relatively dust free enabling me to varnish without layers of dust forming on my meticulously prepared surface. I think the results kinda speak for themselves.

I must thank Rae, my uncomplaining and incredibly supportive partner, she is always there to help with erecting finishing tents, turning boats over, varnishing, painting, planking and roving etc....

Yep, you guessed it, now the varnishing is completed Rae kindly helped me turn the boat over this afternoon, thank you hun.

Friday, 11 September 2009

The sailing adventure that never was

The plan was a good one, to leave at 05.00 Friday morning, sail to Brightlingsea, rest-up and then race in the Colne smack and sailing barge match on Saturday. I joined the rest of the crew on board The Essex Smack Gracie on Thursday evening.

When I pulled up in the car park at the Shipwright Arms at Hollowshore I was surprised to see large black clouds in the sky which were moving pretty fast. This I found surprising as there was a big area of high pressure over the UK. Surely High pressure equals good weather and light winds? So, out the car I get. I meet Ron in the boatyard, he takes me over to where Gracie is rafted-up alongside the Alberta, a very fine and fast Essex Smack. I stow my gear on board Gracie and we head for the pub for a pint of shipwrecked. The skipper, Tony and the other crew member Arthur join us and we have a pleasant evening talking boats.

The alarm on my phone wakes us all at 04.30 Friday morning. Tony the skipper says "sorry lads its too windy we are not going." It is the right decision, Friday mornings shipping forecast confirmed we were right not to go. The wind does not let-up and the trip from Hollowshore to Brightlingsea would have been a very wet affair with the wind coming from the NE it would be a beat all the way there. So back to bed we go. On waking we talk, about boats of course, drink tea and coffee and Ron makes a splendid cooked breakfast. All in all a very pleasant time.

I have included some photos from Friday morning. The top photo is the newly restored smack, Emma, below this is Arthur's project, a Maurice Griffiths Lone Gull, beneath this is Ron's project, the Smack Valkyrie II and finally a view from the main hatch looking aft on Gracie.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Repairing Oars

I am currently varnishing the interior of the pretty 11 footer. This is a satisfying job and I enjoy watching the deepening shine develop on the application of each subsequent coat. 

In between rubbing down and varnishing I have been repairing the boats oars. As you can see these were in a poor state of repair. The blades were literally falling apart and the varnish was flaking badly. 

The blade sections have been carefully removed, cleaned and glued back together, the varnish has been stripped and the oars have been sanded and are now ready for varnishing.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Crewing on the 100 year old Essex Smack Gracie

Yesterday I was fortunate to be able to crew on Tony Ryan's Smack Gracie which took part in the Swale match race. Gracie is a wonderful and powerful Smack. This was the first gaff rigged vessel I have sailed on and I was bemused by the number of ropes there are to hoist and set the sails. 

At the start the wind was a force 4 and soon freshened to a force 6. The course was 23 nautical miles. Unfortunately due to gear failure and an injured crew member the decision was made to drop sail off Whitstable and motor back to Harty Ferry where we dropped anchor for three hours whilst we waited for the tide to return in order to return to the Gracie's mooring at Hollow Shore. We were not the only small ship to suffer gear failure. Several barges and smacks had lost their top masts during the race and one smack's gaff jaws had broken. 

I have to say I have been smitten by Smack sailing and look forward to future adventures on this and other traditional working boats. 

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Repairing the pretty 11 footer

The work on the boat is all but complete. The frames are now epoxied in place and these have been given a coat of epoxy to seal the wood. All that remains is to glue end grain plugs into the screw holes on top of the centre board capping piece and that will be job done. 

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Repairing the pretty 11 footer

Well, after a break of a few days I have begun to make and fit the new sapele floors. I was hoping that I could use the old floors as templates for the new ones. Unfortunately the old floors just are not up to template standard and so I have scribed these from scratch. It is an immensely satisfying feeling, taking a rough sawn piece of timber, planing it square and then cutting, scribing, fitting, shaping and gluing it into place. Yep, its a mighty fine thing to do.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Repairing a pretty 11ft rowing/sailing dinghy

I am currently repairing a dinghy for a client. The boat has five floors (or floor timbers) in it, these are structural members that run athwartships across the keel.  The function of the floors is to tie the two halves of the boat together. 

The construction of this boat is glued clinker plywood. At the ends of
three of the floors the plywood has delaminated, possibly due to being stood on whilst sailing, the plywood giving way when stress loaded to the none flexible floor. This problem has occurred to the ends of two of the floors on the starboard side, the floor amidships under the thwart and the next floor aft. On the port side the delamination has occurred to the floor immediately forward of the one running amidships. 

So, that is the problem, so how is it being fixed? Well the solution is this:

1. remove the offending floors;
2. epoxy the delaminated ply back together;
3. make some nice new floors out of sapele, these will extend elegantly up the side of the hull to just below the thwart riser, thus spreading the load and stiffening the hull too.

This weekend I have removed the floors and epoxy glued the delaminated plywood back together. I am just waiting on the wood to arrive and then I can make and fix the new floors. 

I am really enjoying repairing this boat. The best bit tod
ay was figuring out the best way to clamp the glued plywood together. The one under the thwart was easy, the one aft of this a bit more tricky, but its amazing what you can do with a few scraps of wood and a couple of bricks!

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Rowing Defiant of Lyme Regis in Devon

We spent two very enjoyable days last week rowing Defiant of Lyme Regis. On Thursday, my partner, Rae and my two children, Tom and Matt spent the day rowing from Dittisham to the mouth of the River Dart and back. This was the first proper row we have enjoyed. Defiant is a beautiful boat to row and we all enjoyed every minute. On reaching Dartmouth we moored to a pontoon and went and walked into town to buy ice cream. We then rowed to Dartmouth Castle where we picked-up a mooring and waited for the tide to turn. A tourist boat circled us and the skipper shouted out beautiful boat! This obviously was a fantastic compliment to be paid and it kinda made me, Rae and my children feel pretty proud.

On Friday we went and met the man responsible for producing Defiant's lines, Malcolm Darch, Shipwright and renowned model shipwright in Salcombe. Malcolm suggested we rowed Defiant with two sets of oars. I was amazed at how fast she went with little effort. Malcolm put this fact down to her deep wine glass shape in the transom and her weight, she is pretty heavy which means she carries her way well and once she is going she tracks beautifully in a straight line. I was surprised at how much room there is in this 13 footer.  There was plenty of room for three adults and two children, plus picnic, wet weather gear, fenders, anchor, chain and warp.  The day was spent cruising around Salcombe Estuary. We put ashore a couple of times and anchored in a beautiful bay for lunch. The water was crystal clear and the Children loved looking out for crabs and fish. They were a bit disappointed not to have seen any basking sharks.

After Defiant was safely back ashore Malcolm took us to his workshop and showed us the amazing models he makes. These models are exact replicas of the real thing and are exquisite objects. The workshop is an archive treasure trove of boat building and nautical history. This workshop is a gem and must be a fantastic place to work with its views over Salcombe harbour.