Sailing adventure on minimal outlay.

Month: November 2014

Shoestring project dinghy 5

Just a few more bits and pieces done over the past week. The repaired center board is now painted and looking serviceable, so that can be put back in place the next time I feel like crawling about underneath a boat in the rain.


Ready for action I reckon.

Also have started bending those Iroko strips that my mate Rich the joiner ran up for me in return for a bit of wiring work. Bartering with other skilled trades is a great way to get a job done quickly, cheaply, and correctly I find. He has made me up four shaped lengths of hardwood to replace the rotten old rubbish that I had to chisel out from the fibreglass right at the start. These pieces are important, not only as they combine to form the rubbing strakes in this case, but also because the jib sheet tracks and the bow fittings screw down into them. Although they are now a close fit in the deck moulding, they have to be bent considerably to follow the contours of the hull. I didn’t want to risk doing this without steaming them a bit as its quite a pronounced curve for such a thin piece of Iroko.


Free timber steaming chamber. Soil pipe and rags + borrowed wallpaper stripper.


Goes a bit wonky with the heat after a bit though, so best not use it for plumbing again.

So, I borrowed a wallpaper steamer from my cousin and made a temporary steam box from a section of soil pipe rescued from a building site skip. I took off the hand held steam head and put the open pipe from the steamer up the end of the soil pipe. I then placed all four lengths that I needed to bend into the soil pipe and sealed up the openings with rags. The steamer was then filled and left running for around 1.5 hours ( I was advised to estimate 1 hour steaming for each inch of timber thickness). While this was going on I was busy making sure I had enough clamps, straps, and props to hold all my strips in place on the hull (I still didn’t) and made a rough former on the ground for the rubbing strakes from old car wheels.


Shape not critical for these two bits.


These two pieces have to be quite accurate though.

When I figured they had sweated for long  enough, I took out each strip one at a time (leaving the others in the steamer to stay subtle) and clamped them into place using the dinghy itself as a former for the two critical ones. They bent easily to shape and will now stay there for a few days until I’ve got time to move onto the next stage. Simple.


Owing to a period of frantic money earning brought about by the unexpected death of my latest crap old van, I may not have a lot of time for updates for a while. Having to dash out, find, and buy a suitable work vehicle irrespective of budget is a surefire way of putting all boaty thoughts from my mind for a few days. Running awful old vehicles is a price I’m prepared to pay normally, as it’s another way of releasing enough cash to sort the boat out (part of the shoestring lifestyle I seem to have adopted). Sometimes, like today, this attitude does turn around to bite me on the arse though. As soon as I have restored order to my bank balance I will of course be back on the case.


Here’s a photo of some poor sods house about to fall down a cliff along with 20000 tons of red dirt. Well, puts things in perspective for me a bit.


Shoestring project dinghy 4

Winter has arrived in rural Devon. I can tell, there’s a foot of water lying in most of the lanes leading to civilization, and no black, german, 4x4s adorned with mountain bikes are left around to ford through it at 70 miles an hour. This is bad news for the amateur boat restorer. Rain ruins epoxy, paint, and varnish comprehensively. It’s also too cold now for anything to dry out from its current sodden state before the next inevitable band of low pressure systems sweep across us. In short, that’s probably it now for outdoor painting. Luckily, I managed to slap on a coat of “Norfolk Green” before autumn buggered off.


Like a big shiny pea.

A quick word on brush painting. I used to do a bit of spray painting on old vehicles. In a dry, dust free environment nothing beats the finish possible with a spray gun and a degree of practice. If you have the facilities to paint a project boat in a dry shed then this is the way to get the best results. However, paint is a bit poisonous. You need to have a proper air fed mask as well as the compressor, spray gun, airlines, and dryer/ regulator. Suddenly the equipment you require is costing far more than the boat is worth. Not a viable option then really. You can though, achieve a very good finish using only a quality 3 inch paint brush, a can of thinners, and some clean rags. This is the option I take every time now, as boats live in a totally different environment to cars and are subject to a lot more knocking about anyway. After a  year of having chunks taken out of Macavitys gleaming blue paint by flying, tide driven, tree branches or abandoned shopping trolleys, I’m a lot less precious about it than I was.


Started too early. Too cold for paint=nasty saggy runs. Decided to wait a couple of hours before moving over to other side.

I’ve now restored and refinished five dinghy projects and one Westerly 25. Through a bit of research and a lot of trial and error, I think I now know how to brush paint a hull reasonably well for minimal cost. Preparation is always important. No loose, flaky old paint or gel coat. Well sanded, filled surface, properly cleaned of all dust and grease with brush, airline, and solvent. Prime bare substrate with the product recommended by the manufacturer of your chosen paint system (International toplac in this case). Chose your day wisely. Don’t try to rush on with the job if it looks like its going to be a freezing cold day or a blazing hot one. Definitely not worth starting if it looks like it may rain or if it’s late and there will be a dew fall on all your hard work. Of course, if you’re not fussy and just want to get the thing all one colour then crack on. Seems a waste of good money though, probably be a better/ cheaper option to just use a standard, tough, one coat type poly- like a workshop floor paint.


Can’t deter those bloody suicidal flies though.

I start painting at one end on one side and progress all the way around, thus always working away from the wet edge. Keeping a wet edge is really important. The next brushload of paint will blend into a wet edge seamlessly and there will be no line visible when it’s cured. If you work on random patches, the paint will cure before you get back around to that section of the hull again, and the new brushload of paint will end up running or hanging in “curtains” where it overlaps. I load up my brush from the pot (usually sat in a saucepan of boiled water to reduce viscosity in cooler weather) and brush it over an area of about a foot square. Long but quick brush strokes are required, horizontaly at first until all paint is off the brush, and then diagonally, then finish off vertically. The aim is to evenly spread the paint applied quickly, over as much surface area as it will stretch too, before loading the brush again. I always spread the paint until the colour below is just showing through on the edges, then tip off vertically before moving on.


Started in top corner, brushed out until colour beneath shows through on edges, reload brush and move on.


Keep wet edge as small as possible to avoid racing with the drying paint.

I had some nasty runs appear on the side I started at with the project dinghy final gloss coat. It was too early in the morning and the hull was too cold. The paint simply chilled and congealed on contact making it impossible to spread properly. It was also too cold for it to cure quickly and so started to sag under its own weight. I stopped after completing the port side and waited a couple of hours. By the time I went back to the other side, the sun was shining, the air temperature was up, and I could get a lovely finish. Everything else was the same. Temperature is critical.



Painting at or above the recommended temperatures means far less chance of saggy runs.

Obviously I could have got a much better result had I waited until spring to paint this old tub. The problem is that I want to get out on the estuary over the winter, and despite the fact that I could have simply plonked the thing into the harbour as it was, I still take a certain amount of pride in my boats. Not to excess, you understand, but enough to stop people thinking they’ve been abandoned.


Shoestring project dinghy 3

A couple of days have passed where it’s been too damn cold and wet to achieve anything outside on the hull, but I have managed to patch up the rotten old centre board. It was extracted reluctantly from its grave in the fibreglass casing and examined for defects.


Distinctly past its best I feel. But it has to be recovered, somehow.

As you can see it’s in a right old state. Its soaked up plenty of rainwater, swollen to the point where I had to hammer it out from below, and de-laminated around its edges due to rot. Its also got a small patch of rot at the top which is so bad I’m going to have to cut it out and glue a new piece in. Sounds like a lot of work but it wont take too long if I can remain indifferent to the cosmetic outcome in favour of strength and useability. Its also considerably less work than sourcing new marine ply and making a completely new board! This thing has been stored indoors for a couple of weeks to dry it out before work began.


Badly rotten edges.

Utter brutality is required again to remove all rotten edges of the board using the trusty flap wheel in grinder method. No sense in being gentle, get it all off the easiest way possible and see what you’re left with. The board has obviously lost some of its shape and surface area but it isn’t going to be noticeable in use. The trickier bit is going to be repairing the nasty rotten lump at the top edge. Luckily I can again thank the old mirror dinghy, which donated its rig and sails to this project, for providing me with some good pieces of useable marine ply. Namely, its dagger board and rudder.


Ground back to good, solid wood.

I can now measure out a square that takes in all the rotten wood of my new centre board (6inches by 4.5) and mark it out on the good marine ply. I carefully cut this square out, placed it over the rot, drew around it and cut inside the lines with a fine toothed saw or jigsaw. The new piece should now be a tight fit into the hole, after a bit of edge sanding, and can be glued in with a waterproof wood glue or epoxy and clamped. A couple of bronze tacks or screws might be a good idea too but I didn’t have any in the shed. I made sure to use a square and straight edge when marking out my lines or the pieces would never fit together properly.

2014-10-28 14.37.37

Drawing around my repair patch.



Had to drill corners in order to get the jigsaw blade through.


Sanded back edges with coarse grit disc on a flat block.


Patch glued and hammered into place, then clamped in workmate overnight. You can see how bad the rot was from the piece I cut out stood beside my mallet.

Not so shabby really. A good strong shoestring repair. Will seal the edges up with a bit of liquid epoxy and then slap some paint on the thing before refitting it.