Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Don’t Look Back – Too Often.

Yea - sometimes I wear a tie - now that I don't have to
Its better, I find, not to look back too often. What is ahead is infinitely more interesting that what has been
done. One time each year however, Susan and I like to review progress and share aspirations – she for her art, garden and potager, me for the boat, writing and my guitar playing. And then there is the joint stuff – house renovation projects, trips and voyages. The discussion, which we refer to as the ‘shareholders’ meeting usually takes place at this time of year in front of a log fire with a special heart-warming dinner and a bottle of better than average plonk. So, this year our meeting will be on Saturday evening on my return from Jersey where I am undertaking a writing project at the moment.

With the meeting in mind, I found myself reviewing my boating year the other day. How was 2013 as a boating year? Well pretty good considering I didn’t have a boat on the water.

Winter last year was exceptionally long – at times it felt as if spring would never arrive. But then in May the weather improved and Mother Nature made a dash for summer. Without a sailing boat, the two man sit-on-top kayak was the way to get afloat – and I have to admit it provided a lot of fun – paddling up creeks and into waters hidden from and denied to larger deeper drafted vessels, harvesting wild Samphire and cockles from mud banks inaccessible to everyone else. Something good about paddling too – getting the winter chill out of the old bones and sinew.

But then, toward summer I was invited to sail La Passagere – a heavy old wooden gaff ketch. We even took the mayor of Plouer out for a sail and showed him bits of his parish he had rarely seen.

Full summer, and I had the opportunity to crew a Moody 33 from Plouer to St Valerie en Caux – a delivery trip – a forty hour, 200 mile voyage north through the Channel Islands and the infamous Alderney Race, out into the English Chanel and then East, passing Cherbourg, Caen, Le Havre, the mouth of the Seine, Dieppe, and on to our destination, arriving at dawn, a half hour before ETA.

Autumn, and I managed to crew a friend’s newly bought Cornish Shrimper, an unexpected bonus. He’d bought her to renovate and discovered that she was in very good order and there was no reason not to launch.

Late autumn completed the circle – I was back with the canoe and foraging for wild fruit along the estuary shores, pretty good for a guy living through a boat famine.

Memories such as these led me to digging out log books from even earlier voyages aboard my old sloop Seaward Lady a  24ft Macwester Rowan Crown and later aboard Susan of the Seas a twin engined Channel Islands 22. Glancing through the books over a glass of wine by the fire is certainly an instructive, if not always an enjoyable, occasion. In truth it’s a history of highs and lows - dates, times, distances, courses and compass headings – data that serves as a reminder of the successful and not so successful trips. Logbook data has its obvious uses at sea while on passage but  it’s often the comments made in the margins that are the most telling. ‘Skipper has close family connection to Captain Bligh’ was one that made me wince.  Another salt-stained almost illegible comment contained the words ‘skipper’and ‘pollark’ I think that’s what it said anyway. Surprisingly enough, I also came across a poem of sorts –

We were out one day down Carteret way
The waves were high and rollin’
Bail out! Sue hollered
But she needn’t have bothered
The bucket had a hole in.’

But enough of looking back! A free copy of the local tide tables landed on my doormat this morning and the shortest day of the year is already passed – sure signs that its time to get back to the boatyard.

For other aspects of this frugal life please read Frugal Living in France


Monday, 23 December 2013

One Step Forward

One step forward, two steps back – not quite but it sometimes feels like that. I was at the boatyard
yesterday feeling pleased that I now have the boat under cover, that I now have a twelve Volt circuit and that I’m now working on the final sanding of the gel coat (P 3000) more like a rub down with chamois leather than a sand paper. That was before I got into conversation with the owner of the boatyard – he’s a great guy, always there with helpful advice and support. Well today he pointed out something I had not noticed.

This boat has been modified. Originally she would have had either an inboard engine or an outboard hung off the stern. A previous owner had moved the rudder further aft and hung it off the transom in order to create space for an outboard well. To my eyes and those of others more expert than me, this was a good idea. The greater distance between rudder and keel should make for better manoeuvrability, and an outboard in a well gives you all the benefits of an inboard engine with the advantages of being able to lift her out and take her away for storage, maintenance or repair.

The boatyard owner had been intrigued by the arrangement and he had clambered around the boat to get a better look. In particular he wondered how the cockpit had been modified to keep her self-draining.

In his search he discovered an over-complicated arrangement whereby water landing in the cockpit was drained either side of the well to the stern of the boat to drain out through the drains which had existed before the well had been constructed. So far so good, unfortunately the well had been constructed of wood and fibre-glassed over and the cockpit water was able to run either side of the well by means of holes drilled through the well walls. It would have been better simply to drain the water into the well.  As it stands however, the arrangement has enabled moisture to penetrate the fibreglass shell and there is evidence of rotten wood around these holes.

It’s not the end of the world but at some point the well walls will have to be rebuilt. The situation isn’t critical, the current arrangement is still good for a few years and I could launch and enjoy her this season at least. Problem is – I don’t want to launch anything but an excellent sea boat. It is as if, we have come to a point where I no-longer own this boat – there is so much of me tied up to her that  she now calls the shots - she owns me. So, it seems I have another job to add to my list.

Maybe I should feel down and despondent but no. For some reason, I feel fine about it. The more you work on a boat, the more problems and challenges you overcome, the more confident you feel. Ok it’s a piece of work and an expense I hadn’t expected but  its part of the adventure so – bring it on! At times like this its good to remember that Joshua Slocum (the first man to sail around the world single handed) pointed out that when he had re-built ‘Spray’ for his voyage there were probably only two planks he didn’t have to replace. Well, if its good enough for him…… At the end of the day I'll get there even if I have to drag her to the water single handed!

Meanwhile for more news from this neck of the woods please visit my other blog at Frugal Living in France


Monday, 16 December 2013

Costs of Renewing an Old Boat

I took a major financial decision this week, one that may have major implications for my frugal philosophy.  I think it was the right move but only time (or less of it) may tell. Let me set the scene, the weather here is deteriorating, we haven’t had any snow yet but we have had severe frosts with night-time temperatures as low as minus 4 degrees C, plenty of wind and some rain. I’ve been working on setting up the twelve volt electrical system for the boat, sitting at home by the log-burner to read up on the subject each evening, and trying to apply the theory each day. For wet days I have transferred a good deal of removable wood to the attic where I can paint, varnish or oil it in comfort but there is a limit to the amount of work I can do in this way – at some point I’ll run out of wood to treat. Meanwhile my boat is exposed to the elements and, if last year is any guide, it may still be cold and snowy in April.

I need to get ahead but much of the work is weather dependent and two jobs in particular have been bugging me. One is the renewal / repair of the hatches and the other job is the installation of a 240 volt AC circuit for use in port and for charging the 12 Volt batteries – the best advice I have been able to obtain suggests I should leave this job to a professional. A badly installed 12 Volt DC system in a boat won’t kill you (although it might start a fire) but. a badly installed 240 Volt AC system will both kill and fry you. As for the hatches, well I’ve taken them off to work on them at home – but the boat is open to the heavens and to potential thieves. We get very little crime here and most of it is ‘opportunistic’ rather than planned but I can’t imagine a stronger invitation to an opportunistic thief than a boat without hatches.  

I was thinking about these issues when the phone rang and I received a request to undertake a project on behalf of my old employer (the States of Jersey).  It’s an interesting project and it will give me the opportunity of mixing with old friends and colleagues again. It will take time however, and although I can do much of the work from home, it will still have an impact on how much time I can devote to the boat.

My original idea on coming out of mainstream employment was to exchange time for money – i.e. I didn’t expect to have a great deal of money BUT I would have time. Well, there was one gross error in my calculations – I never planned to have to spend at least four times longer on any job that a professional. Its all new to me - these guys do it everyday. In effect, it’s an uneven exchange; I could earn enough in a quarter of the time I would spend working on the boat to have a professional undertake the boat work for me.

So here is my financial decision. I undertake the project, which will take between 15 and 20 days to complete and I use some of the income to pay for the additional cost of rolling my boat into a hangar where I can work on her whatever the weather, and then I use a little bit more of my unexpected income to have the 240 Volts AC system installed by a professional. Is that a cop-out? Have I sold-out on my ideals? Have I visited the same cross-roads where Robert Johnson made his famous pact? Who knows? Looks like I need to get my old suit dry-cleaned though.

Meanwhile - for more on Frugal Living in France follow this link


Sunday, 8 December 2013

Seaward's Christmas List

Here’s a blog post with a difference, written in the hope that Susan will read it – and act upon it. For years I am told, I have been difficult to buy presents for – especially at Christmas. A couple of years ago, we were affluent enough to purchase pretty much what we wanted without need to wait for Birthdays or Christmas. Now, our self-imposed frugal lifestyle means that luxuries have to be saved for. I quite like this idea of deferred gratification – the anticipation of waiting and wondering whether the right people have got the message which of course has to be subtly delivered - like a whisper in the ear.

When it comes to Simple Sailing and Low Cost Cruising, it can be particularly difficult. The stuff you really want is pretty obscure, and you can’t always trust partners to buy exactly what you’ re hoping for – lets face it guys, how many of us would dare to purchase the right shade of lipstick or nail varnish for our partners, confident that we have made the right choice. Well it’s the same for them with boating equipment. For example, to your partner a fish finder is a fish finder – Ah yes! But is it a Raymarine  or a Garmin? The other aspect of having to wait and hope rather than simply buy, is that you have time to choose carefully so, to you, the choice between  Raymarine and Garmin is crucially important.

Now while working on this boat I have tried all sorts of ways to keep costs down – DIY and low tech approaches are a given but one thing I have learned is that there is no saving in low quality. The most effective cost saving approach is to purchase carefully and well – going for the best quality you can afford – it’ll work better and last longer.

Now I’m hoping that these items will help keep me safe on the boat, and at home give me a better handle on the weather, and then of course, - a good read for the holiday period. So Susan, hoping you read this and maybe click a few links?

For The Boat - emergency dry bags

Outdoor Products 3-Pack Ultimate Dry Sack (USA Readers)

ocean pack dry sack (UK Readers)

For the Home - a weather station

Brand New Howard Miller - Howard Miller Shore Station - Clock, Barometer, and Thermometer "Home/Office - Clocks & Barometers" (USA Readers)

Howard Miller 625-249 Shore Station Weather & Maritime Wall Clock By (UK Readers)

And a good book to read! One of the first single hander's who found simplicity is the key to happy cruising

Voyages of a Simple Sailor (USA Readers)

Voyages of a Simple Sailor (UK Readers)

Plus, don't forget, if you're interested in other aspects of Living in France please visit the other Blogspot:

Frugal Living in France


Sunday, 1 December 2013

Classic Boats

Take a look at this beautiful classic sailing boat that turned up in my home port last week. I love her
traditional long deep keel, beautiful overhangs and wooden top- sides. She probably quite fast, an excellent take-you-anywhere sea boat – a cruiser for serious cruising, and she seems to be in remarkably good condition. Apparently a lot has been spent on her. Just look at that gleaming hull.

Now, you can’t do this, but what if you took a much closer look? What if, like me you could put your nose right up against her and look along the length of the hull? Then you would see countless hairline cracks in the gel-coat, visible only along the hull. Look straight at it and you won’t spot a thing. Truth is, there is something awfully and expensively wrong – the gel coat is crazed like a piece of Raku pottery and the only cure seems to be to take it all off and re-coat.

So here she is today partially stripped. Stripping is the easy bit – re-coating fairing and painting is going to take time and expertise. Good luck to her owner and his bank balance.

And, for those of you busy sanding and renovating a GRP hull, well here’s what she will look like if you sand too far. Interestingly, the gel-coat on this boat seems to be remarkably thin. The older boats like the one I’m working on have much greater depth.

Meanwhile here is another boat that turned up at about the same time. She’s a Westerly 22, a slightly older cousin of the vessel I am currently trying to renovate. She’s a funny looking old tub designed by Commander  Rayner  who went on to set up the Westerly Boat Company which produced one of the most popular sailing yachts of all time – the Westerly Centaur, there are plenty of these here.

As for this Westerly 22, believe it or not, examples of this diminutive sloop have crossed the Atlantic. Some say that with her turned-up nose she looked like a banana. Rayner preferred to describe them as ‘Whalebacks’. They were built like tanks and some say they sail like tanks also.

I hope she’ll stick around. As these boats age there are less of them to be found in the UK and they certainly are a rarity in France. It would be good to think that when I launch next year, my Nomad will be part of a larger fleet of classic Westerlies.

PS: If you want to read more about my neck of the woods and life here please visit: Frugal Living in France


Monday, 25 November 2013

Boat Hatches

Sometimes it’s good to take a break from sanding, polishing and cleaning. Sometimes it’s good just to stand back and reflect on what you are doing, look at progress so far and improvements you have made. If you have an ice cold Belgian beer in your hand, you can actually become inspired!

It happened to me a couple of weeks ago and I’m still excited by it even though further thought and research
now leads me to believe that it wasn’t my idea at all. Rather it was the blossoming of the seed of an idea I discovered in a book several years ago (more of that later).

Anyhow, to you it may seem a small thing – but to me – not the most creative of people - it was like a shining light hovering above the road to Damascus.

There I was standing back looking at my work to date and wondering what to do about the wooden cabin hatch – truth is, it has rot, it has delaminated and it needs repair or replacement. I had already decided to replace it but not until spring. Use the old one to see me through winter. I had also decided that the new hatch should look planked (even if the planks merely hide plywood beneath).

That afternoon though, my eye was caught not by the rotting main hatch but by the equally ugly plastic box that pretends to be a fore hatch. I love this boat I am renovating but I am constantly aware that she was designed by Rayner – a naval officer who put functionality way in front of aesthetics. So the fore hatch works, it does its job – but why didn’t Rayner build it in the same style and material as the main hatch? Probably because the idea never entered his head.

Now, am I restoring this old boat, in which case things would be put back as the designer originally intended,
or am I doing something else - up-grading her maybe?  In which case I am free to make changes and, in this case, I think the change will be an improvement.

So, if replacing or covering plastic hatches with planked wood wasn’t an original idea of mine, where did it come from? Well there is a very good book that I bought several years ago which has proved to be a constant source of ideas and inspiration. It’s called ‘Smart DIY Boat Ideas by a guy called
Bruce Bingham. It’s full of suggestions and fully illustrated with pen and ink drawings. For me, the value of the book is the ideas he has for internal change. It’s relatively easy to stroll around a boatyard or marina and come away with several good ideas for the outside of a boat – but its harder to get views inside – so this is where his book scores. As well as ideas for covering significant areas of GRP with wood, he also explains a very effective method for obtaining measurements within boat cabins where every line seems to be a curve. I tried his method on a previous boat in it worked like a dream.

So, a sunny afternoon, a bottle of beer, and I have now doubled the amount of hatch-work I have to do! I know she’ll look so much better. Will she be faster or safer as a result of the additional effort?  No, but she’ll look prettier to me and she’ll be more ‘personalised’. Can’t imagine anyone else will notice – but I’ll know I have done right by the old girl.

You can get Bruce Bingham’s book here:

Smart D.I.Y. Boat Ideas (UK Readers)

Finally, a number of people have requested more information on my other activities mainly about downsizing, living frugally and setting up a homestead in France - This blog isn't about that and I don't want to dilute its contents, so here is another site which deals with all that stuff:

Frugal Living in France


Monday, 18 November 2013

The Ideal Boat

One of the most difficult aspects of buying and renovating a small boat is choosing the boat to work on. Three factors make for the difficulty:

all boat design is a compromise – a boat good for this may be useless for something else – so you have be clear about what you want your boat to do;

the boats you inspect will differ in the amount of work needed to bring them back to serviceable use – and you will need to be able to diagnose the treatment before you spend your money;

the cost of renovation will be greatly affected by your own skill or lack of it.

For me the first of these problems was the most difficult.
While marine architects are happy to design
boats for particular purposes, builders need a volume of sales so they try to market craft as being all things to all people. To get the right shortlist of boats for you, it’s important that you can compare hundreds of boats and know which ones might be worthy of consideration.  By way of extreme examples, an old trawler might make an excellent motor cruiser but she wouldn't get far up most UK canals. A 19ft sailing cruiser might be great fun – but would be unlikely to offer comfortable accommodation to four adults and a dog for extended cruising – despite what the builders and brokers may say.

Now, there is a book that I wish I had known about before I began my search. I’d like to think that I would still have chosen my Westerly Nomad – but I also think that I would have arrived at my decision much quicker, and with less road miles under my belt in the search process.

Anyway, for anyone embarking on this process, and already committed to a sailboat of no more than 26ft, as opposed to a motor vessel, here is the first weapon in your armory – you’ll recover its cost in time and petrol which could be wasted visiting inappropriate designs.

The Book is called:  The Sailors Book of Small Cruising Sailboats, by Steve Henkel.

You can get it here:

The Sailor's Book of Small Cruising Sailboats: Reviews and Comparisons of 360 Boats Under 26 Feet (USA Readers)
The Sailor's Book of Small Cruising Sailboats: Reviews and Comparisons of 360 Boats Under 26 Feet
(UK Readers)


Monday, 11 November 2013

Sailing a Cornish Shrimper

Regular readers will know that the purpose of these pages is to explore the possibilities of getting on the water for less money. My own endeavours towards this goal have been centred in the renovation of a 1960s GRP sailing cruiser – a Westerly Nomad. Its taking a lot of time, much more than I envisaged, but there again ‘time’ is something I’ve got. Money, I have less of it.

Before I focused on the Westerly Nomad I had been very interested in Cornish Shrimpers. In the end I gave
up the search. Shrimpers are very expensive to purchase new and they keep their second hand prices. They are very attractive boats, tan sails and somewhat ‘retro’ looking, but with a reputation for seaworthiness and a reasonable turn of speed. A friend bought one recently – she had been lying neglected for several years in a local marina and looked pretty bad. He made a reasonable offer based on what a similar boat in good condition could command – minus the costs he might incur in bringing her back to good order. His offer was accepted and he hitched the boat to the car and drove her home. Fortunately it was a short journey.

The following day was spent replacing hub bearings on the trailer and then he began to work through the inventory of fittings, gear and equipment. The more he inspected the happier he became. In fact by the end of the day, despite stains and dirt, the faded colour on the hull and decks and cobwebs on the engine, he decided all her problems were cosmetic. She could be launched and sailed immediately. All this is a rather long-winded way of saying that I spent a couple of days last week, rigging, launching, sailing and recovering a Cornish Shrimper.

Rigging and raising the mast took a morning. Much of the time was spent reading the handbook and finding the relevant parts in the jumble of gear. Next time, we could get that time down to less than one hour. Launching, using the Shrimper’s break-back trailer took ten minutes. The inboard engine fired first time and we were away. The wind on the estuary was light force two at best, but with all sail set the Shrimper performed well, slight heal, hint of weather helm, enough power to tack without effort and a feeling that she was a bigger boat than the mere 19ft hull length. The cockpit was spacious for the two of us (and we aren't small guys!). The angle of heal barely changed with both of us sitting to leeward. She certainly felt like a real boat – not a dinghy.

The following day we set out in a force three which increased to a four that was pushing a five on our return. Under these conditions she behaved as impeccably as before. Across the wind with all sail set she was over-pressed but the angle of heal wasn’t alarming and the weather-helm was handleable. With reef in her, she maintained the same speed and tramped along without a care in the world. Sailing the Shrimper was safe, satisfying and exciting. The downside was the diminutive size of the cabin. A one-burner stove, sleeping accommodation for two, with a centerboard casing between you and not much else – it is possible to purchase a cockpit tent however, and this would make a huge difference to comfort if you wanted to use her as a weekender.

With her lifting centerboard, retractable rudder and shallow draft, recovering the Shrimper was easy and
quick. She sits low on the trailer too so I’d have no worries about taking her on reasonably long trips for a change of cruising scenery now and again. All in all, this boat would fit the bill in most aspects of ‘simple sailing low cost cruising’ except her second hand price which is usually quite high.

The one I sailed was bought for a very low price because of her apparent condition which turned out to be much better than expected. So how much work /money will be required to bring her back to excellent condition? Well, to date, the price of a set of hub bearings for the trailer. Later there will be one or two shackles and bolts to replace. These will cost pence. The Shrimper, despite her high price is fitted with galvanised fittings (in keeping with her traditional looks). Galvanised parts are usually half the price of stainless steel. Finally the mast and bowsprit need stripping cleaning and re-varnishing – the cost of a bottle of Oxalic Acid and a tin of varnish. . It’s comforting to know that cheap boats are there to be found if you look long and hard enough AND sometimes maybe sometimes they won’t need as much restoration as you might imagine.


Monday, 4 November 2013

Cracks and Blisters on GRP Boats

GRP gel-coat can be brittle and it gets more brittle with age. It also gains a ‘patina’ over the years and unlike
antique furniture, most of us boatowners don’t appreciate it. We like white – pristine white (on the white bits at least) hence the need to sand, compound and generally cut back to a layer of gel that hasn’t been exposed to the elements. It’s a pain to do but the rewards are obvious. There is a useful bi-product of all this effort too! When you’ve finished you can truly say that you know this boat, inch for inch better than anyone – better even that the builder who pulled her from the mold all those years ago.

Now, I started this project by saying that I didn't mind if the result of my efforts was less than pristine new show-room condition. She’s a old boat after all and I can live with the notion that she will show signs of her age here and there so long as she looks ‘cared for’ and seaworthy. The  problems is that the sanding and polishing process brings you within thirty inches of the hull and you soon develop an eye for those little blemishes that could be sorted with just another twenty minutes elbow grease.

There are some imperfections that have to be dealt with however. I’m talking here about cracks. Scratches I
can live with, providing I can understand how they happened and be sure that they aren't likely to compromise the integrity of the gel-coat – cracks however are another matter.

How do I define the difference? Well, for me, scratches are what you get on gel coat when, for example, people climb aboard and bring a few grains of sand with them on their shoes. They climb from the cockpit onto the deck in a certain way and over the years the gel coat takes a bit of a hammering. I sand back as far as I can and live with what I can’t eradicate. The scratches are old and reflect the life this old tub has enjoyed.

Cracks however, are deeper; they go through the gel coat and might be large enough to allow water ingress. They have to be sorted and the solution is a bit frightening because in order to fill the cracks with GRP putty you have to widen them with a chisel. In effect, initially at lease the ‘cure’ can look worse than the problem. Once the crack is widened and V shaped you have a chance of squeezing in the putty. Problem is it shrinks as it cures therefore you always have to apply it so that it is slightly proud of its surroundings and then when cured you have to sand it back – all the time hoping that you have a half decent colour match. You have to be careful in mixing the putty with the hardener also. The mixing has to be thorough; otherwise you can get an uneven set and, with a proportion of putty to hardener sometimes as little as 100 to 1,  it is very easy to add too much hardener – then the putty overheats and hardens off too quickly.

Crazing is a different matter. Some boats have it so bad they look like broken eggs! Personally, I’d stay away from them and seek another boat to work on. In localised areas however, the trick is to attack the problem while it is ‘cosmetic’, before it can begin to affect the integrity of the vessel.  The best advice on a repair seems to be to sand the surface heavily and roll on two coats of epoxy primer followed by two coats of two-part linear polyurethane. The epoxy fills and seals the cracks, and the polyurethane restores the colour and gloss. A paint free solution would be to grind away most of the crazed gelcoat and replace it with a fresh application of colour-matching gel coat paste.
Before you attempt any repair on cracked or crazed gel-coat however, you have to understand the root cause of the problem and fix it. No amount of filling, sanding, painting and polishing will provide a sustainable solution if the underlying cause has not been dealt with. Look at each problem area carefully with new eyes and try to work out what has happened and why.
Localized crazing is almost always due to flexing of the underlying laminate. So before  pasting over the cracks, you must stiffen the affected area before you can successfully repair the crazing.  Star shaped cracks around a fitting often suggest that the fitting itself has put too much strain on the fibreglass in that location. The strain may have been caused by a fastening being over tightened thus crushing the fibreglass core and cracking the gelcoat around the object. Alternatively, the star shaped crack may have been caused by too much pressure being put on the fitting itself, in which case you may need to fit a larger backing pad to distribute the strain over a larger area.
Star crazed cracks in elsewhere – the side of the hull or the fore-deck for example may have been caused by impact, a hard knock against a pontoon or lock wall, maybe someone dropping the anchor on deck. These are less worrisome as hopefully the cause was a one-off event not to be repeated.
Finally you may find little dings, blisters or holes in the gel coat here and there. Nine times out of ten they are a manufacturing fault. A void or small space in the core which was originally gel-coated over. There is little strength in gel coat and so over time, the gel coat will fall off to reveal the ‘bubble’ underneath. Fill it, sand it and forget it. It shouldn't be too important.
To date I've been lucky – on this project I have encountered nothing worse than blisters and scratches. So far so good!
Finally, for those who like information presented in a simple,concise way with plenty of illustrations - here is an excellent book I have come across.
Sailboat Refinishing (International Marine Sailboat Library) (USA)
Sailboat Refinishing (International Marine Sailboat Library) (UK)


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Channel Islands 22

There are times when renovating an old boat can be a lonely business. Too few take on the challenge and
too few succeed. So to cheer myself up I spent some time with Davy and Natalie on their boat recently.

They live on the Island of Jersey but frequently visit my home port in France to stock up on wine, calvados etc – and also to gain a respite from the hustle of an Island only 45 square miles (at high tide) with 90,000+ inhabitants.

A few years ago Davy wanted to purchase a boat and spent a good deal of time looking at vessels he simply couldn't afford. A Channel Islands 22 would be ideal. Designed by Alan Buchannan specifically for these waters, she is a safe semi-displacement motor vessel, capable of some speed, with enough cabin and cockpit accommodation to make two people very comfortable. With, her cockpit tent she becomes almost luxurious.

Davy visited several but even the oldest were beyond his price – until he was invited to see one that had been for sale for several years. Problem with her, according to the broker, was that she was ridiculously slow.  Normally a CI22 will lift onto a plane at 7 knots but no-one had been able to get her to that speed so there had to be something seriously wrong.

Davy looked her over. She was dirty but sound. He also though he had discovered why she wouldn't lift and fly so he took a chance and made a very low offer – which was accepted.

First thing Davy did was to cut away two bilge keels that had been molded onto her hull by a previous owner. They were not part of the original design and Davy estimated that the drag they caused was the reason for the poor performance. He was right. Without those additional keels she flew!

Similar vessels
Next job was to attend to her cosmetically. Davy estimates that he spent 1000 hours sanding, polishing,
painting and varnishing. Natalie also contributed most of her out- of- work hours to the project. The boat is now in better condition that when she was new. There are hot and cold domestic water systems. The heads is now a ‘wet-room’ and the cabin is lined in thin exterior ply, routed, filled and varnished to look like individual planks. There is a 24 volt circuits for use in port where hook-ups are available and a 12Volt system for other times. Floors are carpeted and every window has an individual blind (bought from Mothercare rather than expensive Chandleries). At sea there is stowage for two folding bicycles and on the river, they sit on the cabin top ready for use. This isn't sailing as I know it – this is luxury.

Davy and Nat married last year and spent their honeymoon cruising Jersey, Guernsey, Sark and Herm islands. Initially they had a slight problem getting up to speed. Some guests had tied lines of cans to the stern of the boat (as is the custom in the UK with the bride and groom’s car ) – never seen it done on a boat before though).


Monday, 21 October 2013

Boat Electrics

Boat renovation requires you to think ahead and in some cases study ahead otherwise your project frequently becomes stalled by questions such as ‘what should I do next?’ and ‘how on earth do I do that?’ So for me, bedtime reading during this period of intensive  Gel-coat sanding has centered on trying to gain an understanding of 12 Volt electrical systems and methods of keeping juice in the wires when I’m not hooked up to a land-line on a pontoon.

I had kind of hoped to make a technological leap when I came to considering what my power needs might be. I already have a handheld GPS and VHF so I thought I might be able to go for a very simple system, maybe supported by an Apple I’pad  or something but the more I thought about how I wanted to use the boat and what that meant for power (in and out) the more complicated it seemed to become, especially for me who doesn't know the difference between an Amp, and a Volt.

I don’t claim to be a fast learner but I do know that if I’m told something three times (preferably in three different ways) then I have a chance of understanding and retaining the knowledge. Three books were particularly useful. You’ll find them listed below. Now I’m living in a country district in France so its hardly likely that I’m going to put my hands on these books in my local book store twelve miles away – so thank goodness for the internet and, for people in similar circumstances, the book titles below are links to a trusted supplier. If I were to purchase just one of these books it would be the 12 Volt Bible – but in truth I must confess I needed all three.

I bought mine with the intention of selling them on later --- in retrospect I think it’s a better idea to keep hold of my copies.

It would be impossible to cram all the information on 12 Volt boat systems into one blog post but here is a very brief synopsis of the logical steps in system design and the processes you need to go through to get yourself started.

Essentially you need to consider what kind of sailing you intend to do and list the electronic equipment you will require:

            Echo sounder or fish finder?
            VHF Radio?
            Navigation lights?
            Comapss light?
            Cabin Lights?
            Sound system?
            Electric bilge pump?
            Domestic water heater and pump?

The list can be as long or as short as you feel you need. To my list I added a bank of 12 Volt plugs so that I can always plug in additional equipment or recharge hand held stuff.

The next step is to calculate the ’power drain’ that these items will inflict on your batteries. Careful thought is required at this stage. The packaging and product information will give you and idea of how many amps a given piece of equipment will require when in use but you will have to determine how many hours you are likely to have it turned on for a given stretch of time. 12 Volt direct current also weakens according to the distance it has to travel from the power source to the equipment so you have to accommodate that in your calculation in order to get an idea of the amount of power you need to be able to store (one battery, two or more!). Thought also needs to be given to choice of batteries. Automotive (car) batteries can be less than idea – they are built to provide an enormous power hit over a brief period to start an. Boat equipment however, has a much smaller requirement but will expect power to be provided over a much longer period. A deep cycle battery is therefore more useful. Then thought has to be given as to how you will keep your batteries charged. One way is to use a 24 Volt landline from the pontoon – but at sea, can you keep the batteries topped up using you boat engine, or is solar or wind turbine power more appropriate to your needs? Some would argue that the best idea is to install both systems  so that you have an option of any given circumstance. Finally, you’ll need some mechanism to stop batteries charging when they are full – otherwise they may overheat. If you are considering a 24 volt recharge capability why not also think about dockside comfort and opt for a 24 volt domestic circuit for use while in port?

OK there is a great deal to think about and I’ll let you know how I get on – but if you’re considering tackling your boat’s electrics please remember 12 Volts are unlikely to kill you but a badly set up 12 Volt system can start fires. 24 Volt domestic electricity is always dangerous if it isn't correctly installed but close to water the dangers multiply enormously.

Here are those books I found most useful: 

Title:   The 12-Volt Bible for Boats (Second Edition)(USA Readers)
(UK Readers Click here)

Author: Miner Brotherton Revised by E Sherman      
Publisher: International Marine / Mc Graw Hill
ISBN    978-0-07-139233-4

This is a complete introduction to the 12 electrical system you are probably going to want to use on your boat. It explains how the system works and how to install maintain and troubleshoot problems. If you are installing your own system it offers the basic information and it should be your first port of call for most answers.

Title:    Understanding Boat Wiring (USA Readers)
Understanding Boat Wiring (UK Readers)
Author: John C Payne  
Publisher:  Sheridan House
ISBN       1-57409-163-8

The book is a very practical guide to planning and installing wiring on your boat. It establishes the standards to which you should be working, explains electrical principles, circuit protection and isolation, switchboards and panels, systems for earthing circuits.

Author: John C Payne  

Publisher: Sheridan House
ISBN  1-57409-162-X

Whereas the previous book dealt mainly with power distribution around your boat to drive the electrical systems and equipment on board, this book explains how to choose and install the sources of that power (the battery or batteries) and how to keep those storage cells charged and functioning. I would recommend that this book be read in conjunction with Understanding Boat Wiring (above).

Finally, thanks to significant correspondence from readers, it has become clear that many of us are working in remote locations and that the issue of sourcing materials equipment, tools and information is a central concern to us all. With this in mind you now find a new Page on this site : ‘Seaward’s Boatshed’.  As time goes by you will find here a growing list of all the books and tools I have used and found useful with links to trusted suppliers. In keeping with my own self imposed site policy explained on the ‘Homepage’ however, you’ll only find gear listed here that I have found to be reliable and useful. Other gear may be just as good but if I haven’t had first hand experience of it or if it has let me down – then I can’t recommend it and you won’t find it listed.