Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A Stroll Around the Boatyard

Weather has been so good recently I took time out to stroll around the boatyard and was pleasantly
surprised to note that I now seem to have the shiniest boat around, even though she is cloaked in fine dust from gel coat sanding and polishing.

Anyway here is an interesting boat that I came across. Her owner brought her up on the top of the tide careened and antifouled her.

She’s interesting in that I guess she reflects the passion (often misplaced or misapplied) that us boating folks seem to develop. For many of us sailing is only half the story. The other half is about boat ownership – and not just any old boat. In my case it’s a passion for an old Westerly Nomad – not the prettiest or fastest of boats, not even the best design that her architect came up with, but when I’ve finished with her, she’ll certainly turn heads, even if only because she looks so unusually retro.

In the case of the boat in the picture, it seems that some guy in Normandy wanted a South Seas trading schooner and, because he couldn’t find one for sale in France, he decided to commission a naval architect to design and build one for him.  Well into the build he noticed that the architect had stipulated aluminium masts, this didn’t fit with the owner’s sense of aesthetics or his wish to have an ‘authentic’ design. He wanted wooden masts but the architect insisted the additional weight would unbalance the vessel – and so at enormous expense, the owner insisted on carbon fibre masts sheathed in wood. Wooden masts taper and so the dimensions of the wood cladding strips had to be drawn, measured and cut using the latest high-tec computer CAD/CAM equipment. So, she now looks like she has wooden masts but despite this, everyone who looks at her feels she looks ‘odd’ in some way – not quite seaworthy. Maybe if the masts had really been wood, the hull dimensions would have been different. To the best of my knowledge she hasn’t left the estuary since she was brought here. I might be wrong of course but that, at least, is the word on the river.

Meanwhile, here is another boat which showed up here recently. I’m not sure how seaworthy she is either but she looks like a lot of fun (in sheltered waters). I think our US cousins would describe her as a ‘Shanty Boat’. Plenty of space and accommodation, great for river exploration, but take a liferaft and don’t lose sight of land!


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Wooden Boat Hatches, Oil or Varnish?

One of my recent posts proved to be quite controversial, regular readers will recall I have been renovating the hatches on this old boat – and I covered them in strips of a teak-like wood (oily and red). Between each strip I had rubber compound caulking. Now the controversial bit was what came next – varnish, oil or nothing at all?

French friends suggested nothing at all, the oily wood can look after itself and it eventually matures to a silver-grey. Well, yes I’ve done this with the green oak bits of the house I am renovating, but for a boat? Well I always think grey weathered teak make a boat look uncared for, so, oil or varnish? Well, much of what I read suggested oily woods don’t like varnish, the natural oil make adhesion difficult. Then I read an independent article in Classic Boat magazine about oil produced by International Paints but I misnamed it – called it ‘Woodcoat’ when in fact it is called ‘Woodskin’. I had used it on other parts of the boat so decided to use it on the hatches as well. So far so good – except a number of readers suggested that it would not be as good as varnish.

Well its done now and I guess time will tell. Practical Boat Owner Magazine, about a year ago, suggested that you can varnish over Woodskin, so this may be a solution if I need to use it. The main criticism seems to have been that a hatch laying flat and facing the sky is more exposed than other wooden elements of a boat and that only varnish with strong UV protection will do the job. So far I am pleased with the results but here is a word of warning for anyone considering using the same process. Oil soaks into wood but not into rubber caulking. As a result I found that whereas the Woodskin was dry to the touch within a few hours of application on the wood, it stayed wet and sticky on the rubber for several weeks. In fact I think it would still be sticky had I not wiped and cleaned the rubber strips with white spirit.

Meanwhile, as I have been sanding and polishing Gel coat, another boat only 100 yards away has been getting a make-over too. This beached and abandoned fishing boat drew the attention of a local artist ‘Cadeon’ who said he wanted somehow to capture the spirit of her youth --- He’s done a pretty good job don’t you think?