Sailing adventure on minimal outlay.

Month: October 2014

Shoestring project dinghy 2.

We have had a couple of warm bright days here with no rain to speak of. This is quite rare for this time of year so I’ve made good use of it, getting a coat of paint on each morning before work so it can cure properly before the dew sets in at night. I spent an evening with the orbital sander getting the rough old paint off and grinding back the filler to a satisfactory clean finish. I find that if painting outdoors there isn’t much point in going for the normal levels of prep. I used 60 grit discs on the sander and went over the corners and fine edges carefully by hand. This leaves it pretty rough but the swirl marks wont show through the three thick layers of single pack enamel I’m going to apply. The idea is to get it painted quick before the weather turns or I’ll be waiting for a window until spring. The whole surface to be painted was then brushed off, blown over, and wiped down with solvent on a rag.


Beg, borrow, or steal a decent sander if you value your sanity.

Ruthless sanding out of the original dings with a flap disc in a four inch grinder meant no flaky, damaged gel coat or mud soaked laminate to mess up filler adhesion. There were no areas that needed repair with fibreglass so that’s speeded things up nicely. Now for a good layer of grey International Pre kote. Again, I had a tin of this left over from an earlier project which I can stretch to cover this hull twice by mixing in any dregs of paint left in tins on the shelf of the same type. This will make it a rather odd colour but its only a base coat and will be flatted back anyway before the final gloss coat goes on. The important thing is to get it on in the dry and make sure the next coat/ coats go on within the time window stated on the can.


Clearly I didn’t notice all those precariously dangling brown leaves when I started this as I was in a big rush. Idiot.

Nice warm morning meant a nice even coat of muddy blue undercoat went on like a dream. Left it for 24 hours to harden off, then flatted the thing back lightly with a folded 60 grit sanding disc in my palm. That removed the bugs and fallen leaves that had stuck fast to the paint over night. Like I said, no point in being fussy when painting outdoors. However you may notice I moved the hull out from under the tree for the next coat so at least I’d only have the bugs to sand off next time.


Getting rid of old half used tins of paint before they become dried up and useless.



Nicely cured and ready for a splash of colour.

Lots of hard, boring work involved with painting a boat and its a real surprise to me every time how big an area there is to do. Apparently this is a common misconception and results in people rushing into their local chandlery in a right old lather, needing an extra tin to finish a coat. It takes a lot of paint. Even this tiny hull has consumed nearly four litres in total. This would have been my biggest expense on this project if I hadn’t had so many half used tins kicking about. For single pack yacht enamel and primer it’s roughly £25 a litre. That’s £100 just on cosmetics! Clearly I’m getting too vain, should’ve just left her as she stood after filler. Oh well.

Current shoestring project dinghy.

I’m a bit of a sucker for a bargain, I just can’t resist it. So when I saw that this old fibreglass dinghy hull on ebay was only going to make £20 I slipped in a sneaky bid. Ok, so it had no mast or sails and I would have to interrupt a fairly busy period of work to go and get it, but £20. Well, it might prove very useful one day.


A bargain? Well, we shall see.


Nice rear. Wood looks shot though.

So, it seems that day has arrived. Macavity is due to come out of the water next week for her annual winter renovation session, and I’m going to have nothing to get out on the river with. Also it would make a good basis to demonstrate on my blog what can be achieved with very little outlay if you use a bit of ingenuity. I’ve always loved the look of Charles Stocks’ old boat “Shoal Waters”. I’ve got an idea in my head that I might be able to make a kind of mini open gaff cutter with this hull using an old Mirror dinghy rig salvaged from a previous pile of auction junk. This may well be a terrible idea and end in disaster but if I resist the urge to buy anything new and just use up odd bits kicking about in the shed, I can’t lose much. Cosmetically she is bound to end up looking a bit rough but so long as she sails well enough I don’t really care.


Rotten wood and plenty of holes. What do you expect for £20? Take heart shoestring sailors, for she will be beautiful.

Right then, first job is to chisel out the remains of all the old rotten wood that once formed the rubbing strakes and their retainers. Then grind out all the soft, damaged fibreglass from the various dinks and gouges (god only knows what happened to this poor boat prior to it appearing on ebay last winter), next blow and wash out these newly opened holes with some solvent.  I used panel wipe here but I don’t think it’s really going to make a whole lot of difference. Paint thinners, meths or even a bit of petrol on a rag will degrease the area. When the solvent had evaporated and it looked like the rain was going to hold off for a day, I filled in the holes with a well mixed splat of epoxy filler. International watertight in this case as I had some for Macavity.

Need to spread the filler over quite a large area whilst mixing in order to drive out the air bubbles.

Need to spread the filler over quite a large area whilst mixing in order to drive out the air bubbles.


Don’t buy mixing pallets. An old cereal packet, shiny side up makes a great free substitute. Keep any thick flexible plastic you come across to make up shaped spreaders when necessary. It all helps.


This hole went right through. Especially after a bit of ruthless angle grinding.

Another reason for not taking too much time over cosmetics in this case is because I want this dinghy to be ready for action at the first glimpse of winter sunshine. I don’t intend to trailer her anywhere, she will just have to live in the mud in Cockwood harbour until needed. It’s inevitable that she will get knocked about a bit over the winter so there’s no sense in getting all fussy about appearance now.


Filled, sanded and ready for a splash of primer. Weather looks like it might hold for a couple of days so maybe tomorrow….

First things first.

Hello to you dear reader, welcome to my little website about boats and suchlike. I’m afraid I’m no real authority on the subject, I can offer only the insight gained of my stubborn reluctance to be denied my fair share of sea time. I want to share the benefit of my experiences over the past twelve years to anyone who feels the need to be on the water but doesn’t think they have the funds. This is going to involve a bit of time travel to start with in order to truly start at the beginning, but I think its best to properly set the scene. If I was to simply dive in with my current boat situation, it would miss out on some important background failures that have shaped the way I see things now.

I was happy for a long while throwing myself into the waves with my mates and blasting along on an inexpensive but shapely stick. Quite frankly I would go back to it in an instant if I could. However times change, we all get older and I’ve knackered my chances of being able to do anything but get in other folks way out there. This did not please me and I eventually decided to look at other avenues of watery entertainment.  With the enthusiastic company of an old school friend (lets call him Mr B for now) I had a fleeting affair with windsurfing on a freezing Welsh lake and some dinghy sailing on the Exe estuary. Immediately it was clear to me that windsurfing was going to be even more painful to my mangled shoulder than surfing and that dinghy sailing was absolutely fantastic. A small sailing boat, it seemed, was the passport to a whole new world of travel and adventure.


Just look at how happy and relaxed this young lady is, out enjoying a healthy pastime in our beautiful British countryside.

But wait, you can’t just lob a dinghy in the back of your v dub and charge off to sea. There must be courses, qualifications, lifebouys, vhf radios, radars, cannons, parrots, etc. Besides, sailing is the exclusive preserve of the stocks trader and pastel jumper enthusiast isn’t it? I had nobody with any experience to ask and at that time I had no idea what an internet was or what it was for. The thing is, lack of knowledge has never stopped anyone from expressing firmly held opinions and soon I was getting the benefit of this from all angles. “You’ll need at least two grand to get any dinghy worth sailing” or “You’ll end up working so hard to pay for it that you’ll never get the chance to use it”  was the sort of helpful advise offered. “A boat! Just a hole in the sea into which you pour money” was another absolute favourite. But I REALLY missed my time on the water and, being a practical sort of chap, I thought it must be possible to buy a cheap project and do the thing up. So I started looking…..