Sailing adventure on minimal outlay.

Month: February 2015

Shoestring project dinghy 8 – Launch Day!


Looking ready at last. Sun even came out for a few minutes.

Finally, after four months of grabbing the few fleeting sunny weekends available at this dismal time of year, the shoestring project dinghy is ready for launch. A bit later than I had hoped due to some particularly freezing weather followed by an evil virus, but it is now done. Just in time for some icy February pottering on the Exe, which is very handy as I was beginning to bore myself rigid with all these posts about sanding and painting. A wee bit of modification was necessary to adapt my old road trailer to suit this new craft as I built it to fit my cousins Kestrel originally. Didn’t take long though and I won’t go into any tedious detail (god knows there’s been far to much of that on here lately). Suffice to say she fits all nice and snug, ready for her first splash of saltwater for what must be a good four years.


Remove old caravan chassis from under shabby old Kestrel….


…and insert gently under new shoestring dinghy’s shiny bottom.

I also noticed when she was up on the trailer that there was no facility to fit any oars. Can’t believe I’d overlooked such an important safety feature as having an alternative means of propulsion in place. Didn’t take more than a couple of hours to knock up a couple of hardwood spacer pieces from offcuts of rubbing strake to mount the rowlocks. Will through bolt them to the side decks once the varnish has dried.


Rowlock mounts. Essential on any dinghy. Rowlocks pinched from my old tender.

So what did all this end up costing? I don’t count my labour, as time is the thing you always have to sacrifice in lew of cash expenditure. If I had a big pile of disposable income sitting in a bank account somewhere I definitely wouldn’t be restoring old boats in order to get some freedom out on the water. Oh, no. I would just go and buy one ready to use. However, in common with most people paying off a mortgage these days, most of my earnings are already spoken for. This is my way of showing what can be achieved by putting a bit of effort in and missing out on a handful of nights down the pub, a big telly, or a few take away meals.


  • Paint (if I hadn’t any dregs left) £100
  • Epoxy filler (if a new pack had to be bought) £25.
  • Glass fibre cloth and resin for transom £25.
  • Hardwood strip for rubbing strakes (if not bartered for) £50.
  • Odd plywood pieces for transom repairs etc (if not recovered from a skip) £20.
  • Brass screws to fix rubbing strakes £5.
  • Original bare hull purchase £20.
  • Scrap mirror dinghy to provide sailing rig, rudder and marine ply £50.
  • Sandpaper, thinners, disposables £10.

Total cost of restoration including original purchase price £305. Would be £150 less if I hadn’t bothered with new rubbing strakes or hull paint. This is what it would have cost if starting from scratch with no materials of any kind in stock. As I had loads of half used tins of paint, filler and old fibreglass kits cluttering up my workshop, I took the opportunity to use them all up on this, which meant the whole thing only cost me about £75. What I’ve ended up with is a really strong, beamy dinghy which will be great for my winter estuary sailing and won’t offend the eyes of the other members of Cockwood harbour. Yes, I could have just left the hull patchy with filler and saved a bit more cash and time but, I have to admit, there is a pride of ownership factor involved here too.

The old girl slid back into her natural element like a well oiled fish. Not a hint of any water leaking in, so we took her for a quick sail out in the estuary.

The old girl slid back into her natural element like a well oiled fish. Not a hint of any water leaking in, so we took her out under the bridge for a quick sail in the estuary.

Obviously there are plenty of old sailing dinghy projects around for sale now at seemingly bargain prices however (I’ll take this opportunity to say again) if it’s a fibreglass one it will never, ever rot. This is possibly the best time of year for grabbing an unwanted boat project and just looking at ebay tonight, I can see plenty of crazy, grp bargains that could easily be turned around in time for summer. If you want to do something badly enough, there’s usually a way.




No photos!!!!

It probably hasn’t escaped your notice that all my photos have gone from this site. This is due to a monumental cock up on my part. I’m slowly finding them all again and putting them back, but it’s going to take ages so the site’s going to look a bit shit for a while. Sorry, I am an idiot.

New camera!

Finally, I have invested in a better camera. I thought I would treat myself after Christmas while the sales were on and all last years, clearly dreadfully outdated models, were being flogged off at huge discounts. So I’ve got myself a dinky little Nikon waterproof model which I hope to be able to mount on the boat in order to provide a bit of film footage this year. It’s not as focused as a Gopro camera so I don’t know how good the results will be, but as with everything I do, there were some financial restrictions. I toyed with getting a Panasonic digicam, as there were some good bargains around, but ultimately I decided that it would have to be waterproof to live with me for very long. So I settled for this little yellow beauty, £69.99 from pc world.

Boom mount in development stage.

Boom mount in development stage.

Now, as with most consumer tat in this increasingly throwaway world, this was not the end of the story. Memory cards are extra, camera cases are extra, camera mounts are extra, tripods are extra, and so on. This is where the manufacturers really coin in the profits. The prices charged for this sort of  brittle plastic crap is unbelievable. Of course you can’t do much about the memory card issue, you just have to bite the bullet  and buy some (“of course the cheap ones really aren’t worth having sir, I would advise you get this high performance card. It’s only fifteen pounds”). The mounts, poles and tripods though can be fairly easily knocked up.

Ply square with hole for unc bolt fixed to bent 20mm conduit using saddles. Easy.

Ply square with hole for unc bolt fixed to bent 20mm conduit using saddles. Easy.

On most camera bodies there is a threaded hole in the bottom especially for attaching it to a tripod or mount. This hole is universally 1/4 inch UNC. If you go to your local agricultural engineers workshop, they will most likely give you a couple of 1/4 UNC bolts. You will need a few nuts to go on them while you’re there. Now, what I want is a means of securely mounting this camera to either the boom, the stern, the bows, or a ruddy great long pole. Luckily I know of a great modular system that will cover all these different mounting problems very well. It is the 20mm conduit system I use for commercial wiring. If you get hold of a single length of 20mm pvc conduit, some saddle mounts and a bending spring from a tame electrician, you can knock up a few different  mounts in no time.

Mk 1. stern mount.

Mk 1 stern mount. Too close.

Mk 2 stern mount. Too low.

Mk 2 stern mount. Too low.

Mk 3 stern mount. Just right.... but maybe a bit too floppy.

Mk 3 stern mount. Just right…. but maybe a bit too floppy.

I made the “U” shape mount first as an attempt at a boom attachment, but then realized it could also be used as a stern or bow mount as well. It won’t be far enough away to capture much when on the dinghy though, so I’ve also made up an extension pole using another off cut of conduit. This had to have a “set” bent into it using the bending spring again to gain a little camera height. The camera itself is held by its UNC bolt to a square of 10mm ply which has a couple of conduit saddles screwed to it. I drilled two holes in the ply to allow two mounting positions.

Having fitted the camera to the pole it seemed a bit floppy so I may have to remake this using galv steel conduit instead. It won’t be as lightweight obviously but that doesn’t really matter if its mounted on the stern, besides, it’ll give the jet skiers a harder poke when they get too close.

Cockwood harbour.

Cockwood village lies on the west side of the Exe estuary, roughly opposite Exmouth, between Starcross and Dawlish Warren. It has a fantastic little drying harbour which is completely peaceful and un-developed, mostly due to the ruddy great rail bridge that Mr I.K.Brunel thoughtlessly plopped down across the entrance in the 1840’s.  Before this act of industrial vandalism, the little harbour had experienced the same nationwide rise and fall in trade that all other shallow river ports suffered. Must have been perfectly suitable for the smaller boats of its day, able to take the ground to load or unload along the low harbour walls. Eventually though, shipping grew bigger, small cargoes grew less profitable and the railways took over most freight haulage, leaving little harbours like Cockwood to silt up and go derelict. A great shame.


Entrance to Cockwood harbour, viewed on approach via dinghy from the river Exe. Note handy rail bridge to test your skull density with.

Despite Isambard’s low rail bridge blocking the entrance to anything taller than medium sized motor boats, a small gang of dedicated folk formed the Cockwood Boat Club and they put a lot of effort into keeping the place organized. I keep my tender there for a very reasonable fee and love the fact that it’s so quiet. As the tide slowly shimmers in over the mud, you can sit with a pint from the excellent Anchor Inn and watch the waders retreat against the advancing fish. What  better way to kill a bit of time, waiting for enough water to row out. It can be a magical place on a quiet day.


A glassy tide gurgles under the bridge to lift the boats at high water.

There is a slight problem with theft from the harbour which is annoying. I’ve been a member for two years now but I’ve already lost a (virtually worthless) dinghy, two anchors and a few ropes. Sad fact is that people’s morals these days seem to reason,  if something isn’t locked away then it’s up for grabs. These thefts seem to take place at high season when the road along the harbour wall is busy with countless holidaymakers doing odd things. I’m guessing a sneaky thief would be very easy to spot in bleak mid winter when there’s generally nobody else around! You simply can’t lock up everything though so I’ve left nothing of value there since. I’ve been told that the harbour needs more moored boats in order to create currents which should keep the silt down. It really is a lovely spot so, as long as you don’t leave equipment on your open boat, it makes perfect sense…. and as I’ve already said, it is very cheap.


View inside from the pub’s picnic tables.


View inside from the walkway bench. Anchor Inn at rear left.