Make your own stuff.
One of the most enjoyable ways of limiting the cost of sailing is to make some of your own equipment. In many instances I’ve been able to make up something I’ve needed using a bit of information gleaned from my old reference books or the internet, and some “scrap” material. I spend a lot of time working on building sites which gives me a bit of an advantage when it comes to scavenging, but if you keep your eyes open wherever you go, it’s amazing what sort of gems you can fish out of a skip. In a lot of cases people are far too busy to be bothered with trying to sell or re-home their redundant items, so freecycle, your local tip, boatyard skips, ebay, boatjumbles, or even just word of mouth can bring in some top results. Oh, and don’t squander those sailing pennies on stuff you don’t need either. £25 spent on a sextant and a set of old charts of the east coast is money down the drain for a westcountry sailor on a budget, it all adds up.
My cockpit seats are solid oak planks, sawn by hand from an old fire surround rescued from a skip. My large deck cleats are made from oak offcuts left over from a kitchen refit. Nearly all of my backing pads for deck hardware and interior bracing pieces are mahogany cut from a thrown out piano. The mooring I had in north Devon was one I made myself from a concrete filled lorry wheel with a length of old battleship anchor chain welded to it (the laying out of that is a story in itself). There is no earthly reason why the boat you’re resurrecting should be any weaker because she’s fitted with second hand or home made parts. In most cases I seem to have massively over engineered anything I’ve made simply for peace of mind. This is definitely not the way the consumer goods market normally works and so I have no doubt that my oak cleats, for example, will stand favourably against the equivalent sized market version. Simple hand tools and some patience can bring handsome results. Last summer I foolishly ignored an inshore waters strong wind warning because it seemed a nice day. The result was a broken mast support beam and my favourite mug got smashed. I got over the mug fairly quickly with a little help and support from my family and friends. The deck beam however, put an early end to last years sailing season. Tragedy.
The original westerly mast support (no compression post on these) was a nasty looking fiberglass “u” section stuck onto the cabin top at birth. I hated the look of it and was secretly glad when it broke off at both ends. When I’d ground off its remains from below I could see (I thought) a better way of doing the job using some good lengths of old Iroko rescued from a November 5th bonfire pile. Using a rip saw, I cut these old bits of conservatory timber down to roughly the right size, then offered them up to the underside of the cabin top to start marking them out to fit. It did take several attempts of marking the curve with a pencil, taking the timber to the workshop, and planing away the high spots. Eventually though, I got two beams that fitted across the space beneath the mast really well, with two upright posts made from the same material. I made sure they were held true and parallel before drawing around the outline of the new structure, removed them, drilled holes to accept bronze screws from above, and glued them in place (with sikaflex 2100 I think). I was sure to tighten all bolts and screws before the glue dried, then filled in the screw heads with watertight epoxy.
A dull description of an unexpected job I’m afraid, but only to highlight whats possible if you collect useful bits of good free material in advance.