Saturday, 29 March 2014

Cockpit Well for a Westerly

original well, ugly but functional - or so I thought
I’m hoping to get a fresh start on the boat next week. In recent weeks I have had to abandon planned and sequenced work in favour of a more opportunist approach, doing what I can, when I can, working round the professionals I engaged to remodel the cockpit and engine well. For new readers I should explain that, I bought this boat as a ‘modified’ Westerly Nomad. These boats came with inboard and outboard options. This one however, had been modified at some point to create an outboard well in the cockpit. At the time, I was quite enthusiastic about the modification because it seemed to offer me the best of all worlds, an outboard which could perform like an inboard. I don’t like to see outboards strapped on the stern of boats, I find them ugly. What is more, I have had cavitation problems with almost every strapped on outboard I have encountered. They simply don’t bite deep enough and as a result, in anything of a sea, the prop is spinning in air as much as water. The other advantage, is that it is much easier and cheaper to maintain an outboard than an inboard. You can take it to engineers rather than having them come to you and out of season you can store it at home.

great hole in the boat - frightening!
Well, that was my thinking and I still stand by it but unfortunately, having bought the boat, it soon became clear that the well had been badly constructed – in fact it was downright dangerous. It first came to my attention that all was not well when I discovered two sea cocks, presumably water intakes and outtakes for an earlier inboard engine. These seacocks were still attached to rubber hoses that seemed to go nowhere. An engineer soon discovered that their purpose had been modified and now they were supposed to serve as cockpit drains, but the cockpit had been cut in half by the new outboard well. We then discovered that to drain water past the well, holes had been cut into the plywood walls. The bare plywood was now delaminating and the strength of the box was degraded. On further examination we discovered that the GRP sheathing on the plywood was megre and poorly attached in places. In fact it was so bad that under the boat large patches of it could be broken off simply by getting your finger nails under it. The guy who modified the boat had simply tried to stick GRP mat over old antifouling.

finished well - waiting for final gel coat
I read all I could about GRP and was about to attempt a rebuild myself when my old boss got in touch and asked me to undertake a twenty day project for him. It was a tempting offer, the money would pay for a new bathroom in the house, it would be a significant contribution to the renovation of my barn, and there would be plenty left over for a weekend in Paris with Susan. The downside of course, was that it would take me away from the boat. So I called in the professionals to undertake the work on the boat and used a little of the money to pay for it.

The work involved a lot of grinding cutting and glassing in so even though my Jersey project is now completed, I have had to work around the professionals to make sure I’m not making dust when they require a dust free environment. Despite these problems however, I have to admit that the work these guys have done is absolutely outstanding. They have turned a practical but ugly modification into something that looks as if it had been part of the original design, building a beautiful sloping half deck around the well and creating a cockpit that drains water into the well invisibly.

There is an interesting relationship between time, money and skill which fascinates me and I’m still exploring it. In this case if I had done the boatwork myself, there would have been no labour costs but it would have taken at least three times as long and the result would not have been so aesthetically pleasing. The route I took was to undertake a different (non boat) project that took less time and earned significantly more than needed for the boat, and then I used some of that income to finance the boat modification. The outcome was a better job done on the boat and less effort for me. All things should be done in moderation however, I mean, I wouldn’t want to use this argument as a reason for going back to working full-time for the man – oh no I’m far too busy for that – or at least I will be when I get this boat on the water!