The Clocks go Back

All over the northern hemisphere the clocks change tonight and we all experience collective jet lag for a day or three until the body clock gets back into synchronicity. Then it’s Halloween and then (in England) Bonfire night and before you know it it will be Christmas (except in Scotland, where it’s been cancelled by the wee lassie with the pursed lips and her team). The local shops (those that are still in business) are aleady garlanded and, I have no doubt, teams of Elves are churning out expensive “Holly and Ivy” , or Reinder and Robin face masks, so that we can all look even more ridiculous – paricularly when we wear that “Christmas” pullover 1 that has ben cowering in the drawer sinc last Boxing Day. 2

In the meantime there’s been a little progress in the boat shed. She’s now on the trailer. After much thought, suitable lengths of wood were scrounged from the surroundings, lots of bricks were piled on top of each other and levers applied to stout parts of the boat. She was lifted and pushed siddeways. The trailer was inched past and she was pushed sideways the other way and lowered onto the bare trailer. Then came the task of soting out bits of the trailer that were meant to take the load and adjusting them to evenly distibute the weight.

I’d fogotten to put an eye in the bow to seccure her. With som trepidation, I drilled a 1 inch hole across the boat, immediately behind the Utilie stem post. The a hole (longitudinally this time) through the post. The threaded stem of an eye bolt was pushed into the hole and a nut pursuaded to screw onto the stem. The hole was then filld with epoxy and it all looked as goods as new…….Will it stand the strain when hauling her onto the trailer? Time will tell.

Now it was time to get on with other stuff

Like Fairing the deck.

Putting the filler on was easy – it’s the rubbing it all off again that takes the time. Luckily (?) the weather had turned cold and you will notice that the elegant Swallow Yachts woolly hat has made a reappearance (and the scruffy overalls). It was so parky a couple of days that I lit the woodburning stove. Or, at least I tried to light it. It puffed smoke furiously into the shed. ‘The chimney must be cold’ I thought and suffed a buring piece of paper up it. That didn’t work. ‘The damper must be stuck’ I thought. Yes- stuck open.

So it’s not the damper. There’s only one thing for it, take the chimney apart.

Yep! It’s the chimney.

Now we can keep warm. I expect the weather will get warmer too.


  1. Pullover = jumper
  2. Boxing Day = St Stevens Day

Last Song of Summer

Despite the thunder and lightning at the end of August, summer has conducted a fighting retreat and September has been a glorious month. The local harvest has been safely gathered in, basking in warm sunshine. Nonetheless, the evening twilight comes earlier and is increasingly chilly to remind us of what’s coming. The leaves are turning on the trees and rattle (yes, rattle, not rustle) in the stroner breezes.

To the sound of mice running around the insulation in the cow boatshed roof, the boat building has continued. To be honest, it’s getting a bit tedious. All the big stuff has been done, it looks like a boat and she’s itching to get in the water (or I’m itching to get her in the water). I’ve even got a name for her……..

But there’s lots and lots of details to be completed. And, as the Owners Agent will be delighted to tell you, I’m not a completer finisher.1 So this bit of the build is proving difficult for me and I’m always finding things to do that do not include boat building.

The gunnels down the side of the boat (at the join between hull and deck) are to be made of hardwood, about 70 mm wide and 10mm thick. The timber that I had was 3 m long, but each gunnel is over 3.5 m, This meant that scarf joints were required.  These are joints where the ends of  two pieces of wood to be joined are cut at the same shallow angle and then the resultant faces glued together to make one long piece of straight timber.

I don’t have the skill to make such joints by eye, so made up a jig that would hold each piece of timber at a constant angle to the saw blade. The Mark 2 version worked surprisingly well.

The Mark 1 Scarf joint jig – trying to cut both pieces of wood at the same time.

The decks have been glued to the hull, so some compartments have now been sealed permanently (I did vacuum and wipe them clean before gluing the deck on and counted my tools to make sure I hadn’t left any behind). The decks have some awkward camber angles and I was a little at a loss about how to clamp them in place whilst the epoxy set. In the end I used stainless steel wood screws to hold them down.  There is a danger with this technique as the effects of temperature changes might make such screws emerge from the deck over time so I crossed my fingers when screwing them in, hoping that I could get them out2. To my surprise (and delight) I was able to extract most of the screws after the epoxy had set. Those that I couldn’t extract usually hid themselves as the screw heads shearied off.

I’m now reinforcing the edge of the deck around the cockpit and forward hatch, fixing some hardwood edging around the centreboard base, making up a grating for the bilge well and upper and lower supports for the mast.

Now the deck is in place, I can tackle the awkward gunnel around the transom but the bend required here is too much for one thickness, so I will have to resort to laminating it. Here’s a selection of pictures:

Adding the lip around the forehatch
Another view of the foredeck
The bilge grating
The lower mast support block (note – that’s a piece of drain pipe……)
The transom gunnel taking shape

There’s still lots to do before I can take her to be painted – getting her on the trailer will be a big challenge for she is now heavier than I can lift on my own…..


  1. A long time ago, when team building was the management buzz word 3, I had to complete a survey of my management traits. I discovered I was a “plant”4 and wasn’t very pleased about it.
  2. A bit like Boris when he signed the “Leave the EU” treaty although I don’t have to break international law when not boat building.
  3. It probably still is (or would be if you workers were allowed to meet f2f).
  4. It turned out that a plant was (is?) s someone who is full of ideas: I was moderately pleased about that until I read the next bit of the description “some of a “plants” ideas might be useful if given to a completer finisher to execute but most were usually judged to be too ‘off the wall’5 to be any good”.
  5. Naturally, it was an American course.

Bye Bye Summer

It’s a wet, chill afternoon in late August. Lightning bolts have lit the sky and thunder has rolled around the Chiltern Hills. The epoxy is taking ages to set and I suppose I should light the stove. But the boat is too close to it and the epoxy is soft – it’s best not to move her. I know –  I’ll write the blog, it’s been a while.  Many thanks to all you who have expressed support (if not sympathy!).  And please accept my deepest apologies, I’ve been forgetting to approve your comments. 1

Martyjn – the now not so new owner of Riff Raff – sent a photo of her from somewhere in Holland and said it was a good job that I’d thought about the waterline and the ballast tanks. It was but I fear my solution to the problem may have been a little cavalier – there were gaps and holes in insulation I used2 so she may not floaton an even keel when the tanks are fully loaded.

The retired anaesthetist thought I was being artistic in the build of the boat – I’m too sure why

Patmf likes the idea of a boat builder making his own tools – well, Pat, if you read on there’ll another one on display in this edition.

But, as usual, I digress, although less tangentially than usual.

I’ve checked. Blog time3 is still set in July, so it’s overdue for an update. Sadly, very little seems to have happened in the month. I’ve fitted the stem post. I’ve coated the main forward locker with white coloured epoxy – at least it might now be possible to see stuff in it. I’ve bought a pair of bronze rowlocks (very posh). A samson post has been fitted just ahead of the locker. The engine mounts have been glued in place. I’ve trial fitted the bulwarks and attempted to make two scarf joints. I’ve discovered that bending the bulwark timber round the transom is impossible…..

That’s it. I’ve also replaced my 8 yearold  obsolete laptop with a new one. WWW no longer stands for world wide wait but why does getting the files from the old one, and getting it to remember all those passwords take so long?) . And I’ve attemptd to assist the cabin boy5 with his A level Maths……..

So, I suppose, you might like to know the detail. I think I’ve some photos.

The stem post was provided to me with the flat pack of plywood – machined out of (I assume) Utilie hardwood. I had already trial fitted it when I put in place the keel strips7 and also prepared a flat bed of epoxy on the prow so that the stem post would line up with the center line of the boat. All I had to do was mix up some epoxy, line everything up and push the stem post into place….

The laser level was brought out of the cupboard…

The laser level was fired up – but the batteries were flat. A trip to the local garage supplied new ones. The boat wasn’t level but I found a setting on the laser that allowed me to align the laser with the centre line none the less. The bottom end of the stem post had been shaped to match the hardwood at the foot of the stem and required careful positioning to make the join almost perfect. But how to hold it in place whilst the epoxy set? The weight of the post caused it to slip slowly downwards dispite the efforts of a G clamp over the top. Eventually I hit on the idea of glueing a small strip of plywood across the inside face of the post using an instant glue.8 This allowed the post to hang on the plywood bow in the right place and the G clamp then completed the fix. The epoxy was mixed up, slathered into place and, eight hours later the stem was complete.

Then followed the samson post. “Get a large square section of utilie and epoxy it to the forward side of the forward bulkhead” I was told. How large? “Large enough.” The biggest length I had was about 40mm x 30mm. So two were glued together and then sawn square. The laser pointer came into play again to place the post vertically on the bulkhead and it was epoxied into place. Then I spotted the obvious fault. OOPs, I hadn’t take equal amounts either side of the seam, so the Samson post has an obvious off centre join – but at least it’s lined across the boat, rather than fore and aft.9

The motor slide mounts in the well at the stern were postioned using a simple jig which had been “laser cut”10 somewhere in Scotland. These mounts have to be reasonably aligned so that the motor can slide up and down out of and into the water as required. After a little jiggling about and more instant glue, the jig was held in position and the utilie mounts were glued into place.

Motor slide mounts held in position by laser cut plywood jig

I sense that I’m in the home straight. Only the gunwales to fix in place, and then the deck and the rowlocks and a grid to cover the bilge well, the fairing of the top plank and the deck and the painting…

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The gunwale, that strip of wood that runs along the ede of the deck and plank three needed to be over 4.5 metres long. My timber was only three and a bit. This called for a scarf joint – a long diagonal joint in the timber. I knew I’ve never cut that unaided by hand so; it called for another jig. You’ll have to wait to discover how it worked out.


  1. There done it. You can see them all now going back to the beginning of the project.
  2. See previous post “Imagination and Bloody Mindedness” for the full story
  3. This is a derivation of Terry Pratchet’s L space where all libraries are interconnected in space and time and you enter a library and lose all awareness of time and space. AS was outlined in both dimensions. Blog time was fully explained in a previous post but that itslf is now lost in the past. In summary blog time is time past, when the author last put finers to keys.4
  4. The new computer and the old remote kybaord are  kybord  are not getting on too well. Somhow letters kep eing missed. It’s as if there’s Brmuda trianleof some sort, covering an area of the keyboard bounded (and including) etgvxs where, every now aain, ky presses are not rcognised. I think it might be related to coffee spill a week or so ago…..
  5. Well he was when he helped me  launch Vagabond several years ago. H’s now a 17 yar old, who is taller than me. 6
  6. Not difficult
  7. See an earlier post “Real Rough Carpentry”
  8. Where would I have been without instant glue and accelerators? With more skin on my fingers.
  9. This was entirely by chance.
  10. High tech precision stuff.

Lockers and lids revisited.

I’m sory to go on about this, but lockers are important on a boat. All that stuff that you need to have to hand in case of merency: lifejackets, fenders, ropes, anchors, sandwhiches, beer 1 has to go somewhere, preferably in a place that doesn’t get wet and won’t fall over the side. So lockers with lids are IMPORTANT.

The designer had (after some pushing) let me have a pair of lockers with lids, one on on each side at the forward end of the cockpit. I’d agreed to provide the design for the lids without really considering too much about it. I thought a lid would be a flap in the deck, hinged on the outboard side, with a vertical inboard edge that matched the side of the cockpit.

At some point it occurred to me that the deck has a transverse curved camber, so the locker lids need to match this curve. Each lid would need an end piece to follow the curve shape and hold the lid to the camber. If I made these ends, and then held them in position (glued to outboard side of the plywood cockpit side), I could then glue them to the underside of the deck when it was fitted to the hull. Once the glue was dry, I could cut out the locker lids and they would hold the curve of the deck.

Well, that’s the plan. So I set to work making these false sides and the ends of the locker lids, whcih I duly glued to the outboard sides of the cockpit side panels. I had to create a straight ede for the hinge line and recognise that, at some point, gutters would need to be glued in place to stop the locker filling with water.

\the straight edge for the hunge line being glued in position. You can also see the side panels for the lid being epoxied in place too.

I sat back, in the aft corner of the cockpit, satisfied with my idea and the way it was progressing, and anticipating a gentle sail in some quiet waterway.3 I was looking at the place of the lockers and imagining getting ready to go alongside, with the locker lid open….

I woke with a start – with the locker lid open there was a large chunk out of the deck and that longitudinal bulkhead that forms the side of the cockpit. This might seriously damage the structure at a point of high load (sail, centreboard and wave bending stuff). Not only that, but I had the suspicion that the deck plan hereabouts was an inward curve.

The deck was placed in postion, the position of the locker lid was marked out on it and the cockpit side.


Never mind structural integrity, the shape of the deck rather b*****s things up.

I looks as if I’ll hae to revert to just having an oblong hatch within the deck that conforms with the locker rectangualr plan. At least it will still need to have ends that are shaped to match the camber, so they can stay in place and the time spent on them may not be wasted.

I wonder what desing impossiblity will present next week?


  1. None of which is included in the “sail away” pricebut without which it is almost impossible to make the boat work or stop. 2
  2. I’d omitted an anchor from the list
  3. She’s getting quite boat shaped now and it’s easy to slip into these daydreams

Imagination and Bloody mindedness

Welcome back and thank you all for the comments. Please keep them coming in as I need the inspiration.  I’ve discovered that building a boat is a combination of craft skill (for want of a better description), imagination and bloody mindedness. The last of these is most important.  When I was assisting the designer with the specification of this “little” boat, I said that I wanted lockers in the sides of the cockpit. In my experience, there’s never enough locker space in a boat – for the fenders, the ropes, the anchors and all the other stuff that’s needed to take a boat from the “sailaway”1 condition to one that you can actually use.

The designer kindly left three locker spaces in the plan – I said, full of confidence and DoomBar2, ‘Don’t worry about the locker lids, I’ll take care of them’. I’m still thinking about it – the inventiveness (see above) is somewhat lacking – my initial idea involved cutting away a significant chunk of deck and of the longitudinal bulkhead ,as well as some tricky “preassembly” of the sides of the locker lids before the deck was glued on top.  The bloody mindedness came into play when I continued to fiddle about to make my idea work, even though I realised it was totally impractica. After several days work, the main lockers were “put on hold” and I’ve contented myself with a couple of self draining “letter boxes” on each side of the cockpit.3

Don’t hold your breath for the solution.

So, it’s mid August, the Owners Agent wants to know how much progress has been made. After all, as she points out, the project is already 3 months late. She reminds me that my voyage round Britain in Vagabond took 3 years, not the one promised and she doesn’t want this bloody boat to take up so much of my time.

At least she’s upright4.

Upright – with the deck “mocked up”

I managed to do that all by myself, although she did get stuck on her side for a few minutes – I’d forgotten how low the ceiling was in the workshop. Now she’s had the cockpit floors fitted. The aft floor covers a buoyancy tank and the forward floor covers the water ballast tank. This is one tank on each side of the centreboard case; these are connected by a pipe at the forward end to keep the water levels the same.

The ballast tanks and bilge well

They are filled and emptied through the bilge well, just aft of the centreboard case. Just before I glued down the forward floor, I was imagining filling the ballast tanks. I’d pull out the plugs between the well and the tanks and then open the plug(s)5 in the bottom of the well. In theory, water would flood into the well and thence into each tank until the water level in the tanks was the same as outside the boat…..It just so happens that, for this water ballast system to work properly, both tanks must be full to the brim. If they are not, water will slosh down hill when the boat heels – Herald of Free Enterprise here we come 6. I phoned the Designer – ‘Oh yes’, he said. ‘ The waterline is a couple of inches below the cockpit floor – I meant to have told you to glue some foam to the underside of that floor’…….

The Foam under the floor

So, a little imagination averted a potential disaster. The builders scrap lying around the cowsheds provided the necessary insulation foam and the floor was glued in place.7 The anticipated capsize test will tell me if there’s the same amount of foam in each tank 8….

That brings us to the end of July – when the Owners agent and I made a long anticipated visit to Fife to reunite with the shaman, herbalist and author of the family.9

To my surprise we were allowed into Scotland (and out again) without let or hindrance. I had my new passport at the ready.10


  1. This is the advertised condition of a sail boat to give a prospective customer the idea that the boat is good value and that he/she can afford it. Unlike many advertising phrases, it means exactly what it says.
  2. A rather tasty “artisanal” brew, once limited to Cornwall but now spreading
  3. So at least I can store handy supplies of liquid (see note 1), sandwiches and other essential supplies, and still leave room for the hand bearing compass and the binoculars.
  4. The boat that is.
  5. This reminded me that these plugs are in my imagination only, as I had forgotten to fit them
  6. A cross Channel car ferry that sank several years ago because water sloshed from one side to another.
  7. I almost expect to have to take this floor up again next winter, after the capsize test8
  8. Part of the acceptance trials, the full extent of which are yet to be determined – I expect the Owners Agent will have much to say on the subject.
  10. It’s an awful Blue colour – the first outward sign that Brexit is finally here……

Three Weeks behind the mask

No, I’m not talking about an extended tour of UK High Street as lockdown is eased. It’s fairing time! What an incredibly messy job. It reminded me of the slightly eccentric chap who taught me real physics at the tender age of 16 (me, not him). He gave us all a handout telling us how to rejuvenate old cycle lamp batteries – those things with a zinc case, containing some noxious black powder with a long carbon rod stuck in the middle of the powder. The carbon rod made the positive terminal and the case the negative one and some sort of chemical reaction between the powder and the case produced the volts and some meagre amps. The cycle lamp (dim at the best of times) would get fainter and fainter until is became a dull red low. “Instructions for Rejuventation” it read. “Pull the top off and remove the carbon rod. Shake the powder out onto a sheet of paper and stir it about. Repack it and the carbon rod back in the case and glue the top back on. It will give you another few weeks. IT MAKES A TERRIBLE MESS. DO IT AT HOME, NOT AT SCHOOL”. I didn’t attempt it in either location, so still don’t know if it would work 1

But, as usual, I digress.

The art of fairing 2 involves mixing up lots of fine powder with lots epoxy resin, smearing it across a surface and then sanding it off again leaving, one hopes, a super smooth surface without defects or lumps that, when painted with gloss paint will look fantastic. This way plywood pieces that did not quite align as they should have 3, finger joints that make two seven foot planks into one 14 feet long 4 and glass fibre tapes that reinforce the joints 5 (not to mention the spills of epoxy and the inadvertent saw cuts) are all hidden from view.  It was (a) quite hard work and (b) made an awful mess, with white dust everywhere.

Bearing in mind the last part of the instructions for rejuvenation (see above) I didn’t do this at home. The boat was upside down on the trailer so it could be pushed out through the doors of the boat shed and do it outside, weather permitting. Thus, lots of plastic particles were released to the atmosphere…

There were four stage to the process

Stage 1 Making the tools

I soon realised that my little 50mm x 100 mm 6 wooden sanding block was not going to be up to the task. The electrical orbital sander would be effective on smaller areas but the dust would be beyond  the capacity of the inbuilt collection filter and I really needed something that would sand the filler flat over long stretches and sand it over the curved surfaces at the bow. This called for some serious inventing.

First of all an improved dust collection for the orbital sander. Some duct tape 7 and a convenient piece of tubing made an effective coupling to the Vacuum Overhead Dust Extraction System.8

Then I needed some larger sanding blocks. The first one, for long flat surfaces, was easily made up using a piece of 18 mm ply wood and a few screws and a long strip of 80 grit sand paper. A couple of handles (more plywood) and there it was.

Now, how was I going to be able to sand round convex shapes? I needed something springy. I tried a saw blade but it was too stiff. I had some 1mm thick ply from years ago and cut that into two 75 mm wide strips, which I laid along a thicker bit of ply to act as a base. The strips were held off the ply base by blocks at each end and only fastened to one end.

Sand paper was then laid along the strips and fastened at each end. When the whole lot was pressed over a convex shape, the strips slid over each other and at the loose end, forming a uniform curve support for the sandpaper. So we now had a fixed flat sander and a variable curve sander. Off we went.

Stage 2 Mixing the fairing compound

I’d been used to mixing generous amounts of epoxy and a hard filler to make joins and fillets. Now I needed to mix large amounts of epoxy and a much finer filler. It was a bit like mixing flour and milk to make scones. You had the liquid (the epoxy) and the flour (the filler) and it took skill and patience to mix them together to get a uniform and useful constituency. Not too stiff, other wise it’s a B****r to spread. Not too soft, otherwise is runs all over the place when put on sloping surfaces. But just right, like Goldilock’s porridge.

Stage 3 Spreading the porridge

This was like plastering a wall. I need one of those things that plasters use to hold the sloppy plaster in one hand so that they can scoop it up onto the float and then on to the wall in one fluid movement without spilling a drop. I think they call them a Hawk.

Another piece of scrap ply was fitted with a handle and the plasterers float was found at the back of the shed in the box marked “it might come in useful”.

The Hawk (not to be confused with a dinghy of the same name)

But, alas, the fluid motion had never been very fluid and was now positively creaky. I learned to limit my ambitions and do on about half a square yard at a time.

Eventually the bottom was covered with the stuff, as was the transom.

Stage 4 The fairing

To my surprise and delight both sanding tools worked quite well. Despite VODES, sanding dust flew all around, on my shirt, in my hair and up my nose. Here’s where the mask came in. VODES was successful in controlling the dust from the orbital sander and the collection bag rapidly became full.

I forgot stage 5

Repeat Stages 2 – 4 until satisfied.

It took three weeks.

Oh Yes, Stage 5. Clean the last of the dust off with tack rags and get sticky hands

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20200710_150345-1.jpg
Stahe 5 – Tack Cloths to wipe off the dust

Next week, the boat gets turned the right way up9 and gains a cockpit floor, a ballast tank and a bouyancy tank.


  1. Do NOT attempt this with any modern battery – it could catch fire or explode!
  2. One of my readers has sent me an email, suggesting I’m an artist. I’m not sure where he gets this idea from…….
  3. Surprisingly few – only at bow and stern.
  4. So far, over 100 metres of the stuff.
  5. I’m sure you all have got the hang of converting metric to imperial by now
  6. Never travel without it, particularly to the Moon – it saved the guys on Apollo 13 7
  7. Assuming Apollos 11 and 12 didn’t take place in some unknown desert location
  8. Don’t get excited. It’s only a pond vacuum cleaner.
  9. Without all that hard work of leaning on the centre board – that comes later in life.

A little light metal work

Hey, I’m excited. I’ve had two like and one comment to the blog. Thanks for the like patmcf and the like and comments from saxisgood. Saxisgood is one of the most loyal of the readers1 and can be relied on to make comments. Thanks for you both – please keep it up. 2

Anyway, this has excited me so much that I’ve just had to burst into print but a few days after my last post.

In the last couple of days I’ve given up woodwork, gluing, filling , fairing etc3and have fallen back on an old favourite – metalwork.

And it concerns the centre board4 pivot.

The centre board is set in a slot in the bottom of the boat and is held loosely in the boat by a rod passing through a hole in the board. This rod is glued across the slot so that, as the board is pivoted about this rod, more (or less) of the board sticks out of the bottom of the boat. Now any self respecting engineer would know that this is guaranteed to make the board wobble. A better mechanical solution would be to have the rod stuck to the board and to pivot it by having a bearing surface at each end, running in bearings glued to the boat. But no, sail boats don’t follow this logic. The rod is fixed and the bearing surface is the hole in the centre board. It’s a very short bearing surface (25mm max) so is quite highly loaded and the board wobbles . Having a stainless steel rod passing through a wooden centre board won’t last long, so two stainless steel trunnions have to be glued into the centreboard.

The piece on the left is one “trunnion”

Here’s where the metal work comes in. I had to hand a piece of 3 mm stainless steel. Cutting these pieces out posed a problem. A hacksaw would take too long, the angle grinder would probably do it but would also take some time and make a lot of sparks. How about the jig saw – I had used one several years go to cut up two Triumph Herald rust buckets to make one slightly less rusty car which my son drove around for a year or so- so I knew they could cut thin metal – how about this stuff. I found some “special” blades for stainless steel, held the sheet firmly with a couple of G gramps, spread oil liberally along the cut line and, with the jig saw to as slow a cut sped as possible, got to work.

The noise was appalling, smoke and oil went everywhere but the special blade did the job – it took about 10 minutes to cut each shape. Then the corners had to rounded off and the burrs removed using the angle grinder and that was it.

All I have to do now is glue them in place and cover the board with glass fibre cloth ………

Wish me luck for next week.


  1. Now at the grand total of 3 in any one day – so much for making a living with this!
  2. The making comments, that is.
  3. Only temporarily, you understand.
  4. Just in case you don’t know what a centreboard is, it’s a large flat (or aerofoil) board that replaces a fixed keel in a proper yacht. Keels (and centre boards) stick out below the boat to provide some lateral grip in the water so that by clever resolution of forces at different angles lets the boat sail at an angle towards the wind, and it does it without the benefit of software – isn’t that clever?

Real, rough carpentry

Another two weeks has flashed past, it must be because we are comping out of lockdown and a social life is just hull up on the horizon. I’ve been getting into practice, partaking of the odd drink or two in other peoples gardens. But then the weather closed in again, so it’s been back to boat building.

We’ve made a bit of progress. The glass fibre cloth has been successfully fixed to the outside of plank one and the spectre of fairing is coming closer. Before undertaking this messy task, the boat needs to have vestigial keel and bilge keels fitted and the plywood centreboard case that sticks out of the hull needs a hardwood casing. All of these bits are necessary to provide some protection to the hull when (inevitably) the bottom strikes some hard stuff, either gently as the skipper deliberately parks her for a night so he can sleep on board above sea level or (more likely) he’s not been paying enough attention to navigation.

The glass fibre cloth in place on the bottm

Another delivery arrived – a few feet of Utilie.1 This is a lovely dark brown wood, usually with a smooth, close grain. I had elected to have standard sawn sizes, rather than bespoke sizes2 and the first thing to be done was to convert my hand held electric circular saw to some sort of bench saw.4

A large piece of rough plywood and some offcuts of roofing joists were soon cobbled into shape and there is was – a bench saw. As a sop to ‘ealth ‘n safety I fitted an earth leakage trip in the electric supply and placed the stop button near my foot.

To my great surprise, it worked quite well and I was able to trim the planks to the required sections without trimming bits off me……

Here I am fitting the protective bits around the centreboard case – the weather had warmed up for the day!

The protection for the centre board case used two pieces of 50 x 25 mm section, each just over a metre5 long. A trial fit showed that they needed to be bent to match the curve of the hull. Fortunately I found that the force need to bend them wasn’t that great provided I could devise a mean to apply it. In the end I settled for a loop of rope through the centre board case at one end and a weight at the other. As you can see from the video, I supplied the weight and then used G cramps and friction to hold them inplace whilst the epoxy set.

The two bilge keels needed bending too but there was no convenient centre board case to hand, so I temporarily screwed them in place from inside the hull. After the epoxy had set, I was able to remove the screws and fill the holes.

The keel strips were another matter. The yard had supplied three pieces of utilie, cut to shape to form the stem and the first two pieces of the keel, where the bend round the forefoot was through 90o on a tight radius. The next pieces of the keel (up to and aft of the centre board case) were to be made out of 35 x 40mm section. Cut to lenght, these pieces wouldn’t fit my steamer, so I scrounged a piece of sewer pipe from the builders yard and built a bigger one. Despite soaking the timber in water overnight, and steaming each piece for 6 hours, I could not entice them to bend and stay bent to conform to the required curve. In the end I cut the timbers into strips about 10 mm thick to laminate them into position. This worked really well, only needing a selection of building bricks6 at end to make the laminate conform to the keel. Four triangular blocks, 30mm think, formed a transition from the keel to centreboard case.

The electric “thicknesser” – or plane, as I prefer to call it – smoothed out irregulaties at the joins and it all looked rather professional.7

Rough carpentry done. Fairing can commence. But that will be in another episode.

Rough carpentry completed


1. Well, metres of the stuff which, I was assured, was from an FSC approved forest

2. At the time of ordering, I had only a rough idea of the sizes I would need, so couldn’t be specific3

3. It was more economical too.

4. I had been meaning to do this since I bought the thing about 20 years ago

5. Conversion for those on the west of the North Atlantic and for the brexiteers who still cling to the Empire.

6 The builders yard has a plentiful supply!

7. From a distance.

Deliveries Deliveries

I notice that it’s more than a fortnight 1 since the last post. MY faithfully follower (s) will have given up, Google will have lost me and Facebook – well I don’t think FB knows me – I’ll never be able to live on the proceeds of blogging.


Two weeks ago I ran out of glue 3 – well Epoxy to be precise. So I had a chat with the Bank Manager 4 and ordered some more. This time, as it seemed that summer had set in, I ordered the hardener part that likes higher temperatures. As one of my commentariat has pointed out (with a one word comment of “No” to my last post), the summer that the UK enjoyed in May has given way to a distinctly chilly and wet early June. So probably not a good idea. Anyway, the Epoxy duly arrived, together with a tub5 of smooth filler (required, I am reliably informed, for the fairing operation that will take the next month or so), and work resumed.

The next task was to cover the bottom of the boat with glassfibre cloth. The idea of this is to give the plywood some protection when the owner (or other users) run onto the hard stuff (sand or mud, I hope, not pointy rocks) either on purpose (to let off unruly crew) or through lack of attention (a sign of oncoming Alzheimers).

I viewed this operation with some trepidation. How would this cloth drape itself over this boat shape with out funny folds or ruckles? After a little cogitation, I convinced myself it would not be a problem – after all, wasn’t the hull made of pieces of wood that originally been flat? So, if I cut the cloth into pieces that reflected the original plywood panels it should be OK. But I find cloth is a b****r to handle and decided to cover the bottom four plywood sheets 6 with 6 pieces of cloth.

So I cut out the cloth into the right sized pieces. Then the trouble started – no matter how carefully I cut the cloth, once cut the cloth seemed determined to snag on every little lump on the hull and the warp and weft seemed to want to be parted 0 they unravelled at every opportunity. It took great care not to end up with a piece of the stuff that looked like a flag that had been flying for years in high winds. It (and me) were definitely frayed at the edges.

Finally suitable pieces were cut and arranged on the bottom – it seemed to work quite well when I tried it out “dry” – without epoxy. I also had to cut out matching pieces of Peel Ply. There then followed a period of epoxy mixing, spreading it on the hull and then, with trepidation, laying the cloth in place and smoothing it out. Start from the middle outwards, say the books. Well, it started off well but then the cloth moved and shrank and expanded and crinkled and ruckled and would not lay down.  Eventually each sheet was cajoled into place, overlapping at the joins and turning over the chine edge onto the second plank. The peel ply cloth was laid in place, smoothed out and the bubbles between it and the glass cloth were chased with a squeegy to the edges.

That’s the first part of the job down – now for lunch. When I get back, I should be able to lift the edges at the joins and carefully cut the sheets so that the overlaps are converted to lap joints. I should have plenty of time – I was using the slower setting hardener.

Wrong. It was all stuck irretrievably together. “It’s OK”, I thought “It looks fine – if necessary I’ll just cover it over with the smooth filler”.

So I fiddled about putting the rudder stock together and sanding the rudder blade into a sort of aerofoil section and then went home.

At home, there had been another delivery of Epoxy, hardener and smooth filler…..Who ordered that?


  1. In fact its  almost a month since I last put fingers to keys.
  2. Obviously both Google and FB know all about me (as well as everybody else)– I just pretend that they don’t.
  3. The Owners Agent is convinced that the boat is made of glue and nothing else.
  4. AKA The owners agent – this confirming her view about the composition of the boat (see note 3 above). If it were to be so, I point out to her that it would be even more expensive as, so far, the glue has cost £800!
  5. Think of a tub of popcorn that you used to buy at the cinema and multiply by 10 in all dimensions

Rollover Day!

Hello, dear reader. Are you sitting comfortably or are you in the queue of traffic dashing to Dorset, only to be deterred by the local Police?  It’s the “late spring ”Bank Holiday in Staying Alert England and still lockdown in the wee lassies Scottish Empire, and the other outlying parts of the UK. We’ve just had a week of warm and settled weather and, in typical fashion, the weather has broken for the holiday weekend.

The other day I arrived at the cow boat shed to report for work as usual, flung back the pair of sliding doors and was assailed by a cloud of angry bees. I beat a retreat to my inner tent 1 and then, when things had calmed down a bit , I went to find out what was going on. It seems that a small colony of white tailed bees have established themselves  in the cavity between the outside timber wall  and the inner Asbestos cement wall of the of the cow boat shed. They seem quite active, a dozen or so bees hard at work.

White tailed Bees at Work

I’d temporarily run out of things to do on the inside of the boat – all of the inside surfaces have been given a coat of epoxy. Those that are liable to flooding (the ballast tank and the capsize recovery tank) have been given several coats and have been given a snazzy blue gray colour.  I’ve even fitted a couple of fittings (the drain / flood bungs for the ballast tanks).

It was time for RollOver. Not the kind associated with the National Lottery 3– but one that turns the boat over so that I can work on her bottom. I needed some help so arranged for the Purser and the (ex) NDN 5 to provide me with some socially distanced hired muscle. Before they arrived, I had to remove the boat from the trailer and get that out of the way.

I had arrived at work that day by bike, forgetting that my task for the day would require the use of a jack. So, some improvisation was required. Fortunately, as regular readers will recall, the CBS 6 os part of an extensive graveyard7 of builders equipment part of which is a varied collection of bricks and lengths of timber. So I built towers of bricks, used levers and generally utilised late stone age technology and, at the cost of a few scraped knuckles and strained muscles, the boat was lifted high enough for the trailer to pass underneath and so out of the barn. The boat was lowered to the floor and then dragged sideways ready for ROLLOVER day.  We’d need the trailer tie downs for the morrow and some sort of softish support to rest the boat on.

The labourers arrived at the appointed hour and the camera was set rolling.  Pieces of softish insulation were put in position under the boat. The trailer tie downs were secured to one side of the boat and then passed underneath her and back to the hired muscle. I stood opposite them where the boat was at it’s widest and gave the command. I lifted, they pulled and before you could blink, she was standing on her side and the hired muscle held her there.  Between us we walked her towards the stove to give more space to let her down in and slowly we lowered her to the floor.

Roll Over

Job done and the muscle went home. She then needed lifting off the floor to make working on her easier for my back.

A day spent rubbing her down 8 with sandpaper and getting ready to glue and tape the joints between the planks and between the hull and the centre board. I need to buy some more Epoxy before starting that set of tasks.

In the meantime, enjoy your trip to Dorset and back.


  1. The physical one, made out of cheap white tarpaulins, not the metaphorical (mental) tent 2
  2. According to the owners agent, I’m in that most of the time
  3. This lottery, introduced in the time of John Majors premiership is (in my view) a voluntary tax, so I do not participate. 4
  4. It’s used by the lottery fund to pay for a lot of stuff that used to be met out of GeneralTaxation
  5. Next Door Neighbour
  6. cow boat shed
  7. I think he refers to it all as “stock”.
  8. This seems to be known as “faring” in the boat building trade. I think there’s a lot more to come become she is ready.