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.