Monday, 26 August 2013

Boat Renovation and Intermediate Technology

So, the cockpit interior is painted and the combings are polished. I’m pleased with the results and surprised by the amount of time the job took. I could have done better though. What would I have done differently? Well International Paints produce three shades of white. One is very pure – a hint of blue in it I think. The white I chose was called Mediterranean White    - it is a softer colour – but there is another called Ivory – slightly creamier and I think it would have blended better with the original gelcoat which I’m hoping not to have to paint. Hindsight is a great thing but there is still a great deal to do so it is important I push on while the weather is still reasonably good.

There has to be time for reflection and planning however, and so that is my excuse for not doing too much this coming week. In truth I have been invited to crew a boat delivery trip (Toinoux, a Moody 33) from my home port Plouer Sur Rance to St Valerie en Caux in Normandy – quite a complicated voyage of about 180 sea miles. I don’t know how we’ll do it yet but almost certainly we will head north for Guernsey and then West along the English Channel trying to stay out of the busy shipping lanes and also to avoid the inshore fishing fleets and the cargo traffic entering and leaving Le Havre, Cherbourg, Caen, and the Seine estuary. The first part of the trip may be the most challenging as we have the highest tides (and strongest tidal streams) in northern Europe right outside our front door – all the way up to Guernsey. There is a kind of shortcut through the Alderney race but the timing has to be right otherwise you bounce around a good deal even on a calm day.

I’m hoping the trip will be fun and that it will provide time for me to move my thinking along about the boat restoration and reflecting on what I have learned so far. One important lesson is that simple sailing and low cost cruising cannot be achieved by the use of inferior materials or fittings. If it isn’t marine grade don’t use it. The real saving is in labour charges – do everything you can yourself even if it takes four times as long as a professional (and it probably will!).

Something I have discovered to my advantage however is that these older 1960 GRP boats were built in remarkably traditional ways. I’m reminded of the world’s first iron bridge built and still standing in the UK midlands. Iron at that time was the new wonder material but its properties were not fully understood or exploited – as a result the bridge was heavily constructed using standard woodworking joints. So it seems to be with this old Westerly Nomad, there are few significant internal mouldings, everything can be unscrewed broken down and taken home for working on in a more sheltered environment. It wouldn’t be too difficult to reconfigure the accommodation if I could think of a better, more convenient, arrangement. 

One thing I am sure of since looking at The Unlikely Boat Builder Blog is that I don’t like all these dark heavily varnished Teak bulkheads. I’m tempted to paint them all in a flat white matt and edge them with a paler varnished wood like John has done. Take a look at his site I think you’ll agree that’s the way to go.