Having now established our new sailing base on the river Exe, we had a few things to do. Firstly, it seemed lady luck was trying to help us along for once and had persuaded Andy (the owner of our rented swing mooring) that he didn’t really need two mooring on the Exe; he asked me if I wanted to buy one. He was asking a very reasonable sum for his mooring and the organization that looks after the administration side of these things at our end (L.E.M.A),  were very helpful with the transfer.  This required a bit of form filling and a jolly on the moorings boat to check location. Then I had to find some more money. Not a lot of money, but it was Christmas time and traditionally a slack period for all the building trades. Luckily I still had my lovely, restored wooden Jack Holt dinghy at the time…. so I sold that.

 

It seemed like we were going to get more serious use out of Macavity from now on, so I thought some effort should be spent on making her cabin a bit more comfortable. Until now it had been simply scraped, sanded, painted and filled with old sleeping bags. Also there was a bit of an issue with the toilet cubicle that wasn’t there. Originally Macavity would have had a built in toilet cubicle at the forepeak. This would have provided important structural strength, connecting the deck above to the interior mouldings and hull. One of her previous owners obviously decided that this was a mistake on behalf of the designers and cut it all out, thus leaving the foredeck, well…. a bit bouncy. Some more bits of old piano mahogany and ply panels cut to make up the new walls soon sorted that out. The mahogany was cut into thick battens and then shaped with planes and a disc sander to fit the curved profile of the cabin top. These pieces were then glued up to the cabin top with marine adhesive and screwed through from above for good measure. This, along with a pair of upright posts, provided a kind of frame for the ply panels to fix onto, thus completing the cubicle walls.

 

Forepeak toilet cubicle reinstated to provide vital support for the deck above.

Forepeak toilet cubicle reinstated to provide vital support for the deck above.

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Frame of hardwood batten bolted together then glued and screwed to the deck above.

Another issue that needed sorting was that the cabin top had been pulled up from the side decks slightly by over enthusiastic tensioning of the rigging at some point. This had led to a small crack both sides below the shrouds that was letting in rain water, causing me worry and making my sleeping bags unpleasantly moist. This repair would fit in nicely with what I had planned for that ugly pig of a mast support beam which was now broken off after an ambitious bit of windy sailing in August. West systems epoxy repairs to deck first, then cut off remains of fibreglass mast support beam, then make lovely hard wood box beam to replace it. I’ve covered this work elsewhere on the site (“Make your own stuff”) so I won’t repeat myself. I will  add, I thought it a good plan to connect the  shroud plates to some internal bottle tensioners bolted down onto the internal bulkheads to stop the cabin sides being put under undue strain and the same thing happening again.

Small dinghy tensioners connect the shroud plates outside to the interior bulkheads to beef things up a bit.

Small dinghy tensioners connect the shroud plates outside to the interior bulkheads to beef things up a bit.

A better cooking arrangement was next on the list. I don’t want to appear too much of a luddite, but I really don’t trust gas in a boat. The old calor hob we had inherited had blown out in use on a number of occasions, filling the boat with L.P.G. Also it was a horrible, heavy, rusty piece of crap that took up far too much room. I figured I could create a fair amount of work surface by simply getting rid of it, putting in a big low shelf, and using a single meths burner. Now, I looked at the spirit stoves sold for boat use and, although they looked amazing, I couldn’t justify the cost. I’ve used my old Trangia meths camping stoves all over Europe for creating all manner of culinary delights, why couldn’t I adapt one for use in the boat?

Shelf at sensible height for food preperation with large fiddles all around to catch any wayward sausages.

Shelf at sensible height for food preparation with large fiddles all around to catch any wayward sausages. Cork mat to the right for putting hot pans on or chopping stuff.

Single meths burner is quite good enough for my style of sailing fodder.

Single meths burner is quite good enough for my style of sailing fodder. All pans and associated tools live at the back behind the taller fiddle.

Well I can tell you, it’s a great success. The new shelf has reinforced the structure of the galley (which provides part of the structural integrity of the hull), created a good food prep area, and provided a base for mounting the Trangia. The Trangia has proven simple and reliable with no tendancy whatsoever to blow out or try to blow me up. Meths is cheap, easy to find and lasts ages, and the best thing of all is that I’ve shed a good 20kg of unwanted weight by ditching the rusty stove with its associated bottles and pipes.  A chance encounter with a scrapped fireplace surround on a site in Taunton yielded enough oak planking to make up new cockpit seats. These seats were strong enough to properly hinge the new cockpit locker lids I had made from ply the previous year, it was all starting to come together now.

Oak seat planks have greyed a bit with a years exposure to the elements but will look great again with a light sand and some teak oil.

Oak seat planks have greyed a bit with a years exposure to the elements but will look great again with a light sand and some teak oil.

Also crammed in a double action bilge pump under the starboard cockpit locker.

Also crammed a double action bilge pump into the starboard cockpit locker. Plumbed down to the center keel bilge using 22mm copper plumbing offcuts from another building site. Waste not, want not.

All the original interior woodwork was of exceptional quality in these early Westerlies and so hadn’t suffered the ravages of 50 years of abuse too badly. It did all look a bit dull and stained though, so I bought a couple of tins of the trusty Epifanes varnish and set to work. It really only took a morning sanding down with 80 grit to get off the worst of the accumulated crap before finishing off carefully with 120 grit along the grain. Vacuumed up the dust before wiping it all down with panel wipe and brushing on a coat (or two in the worst places) on a hot spring day. The difference in the way the cabin felt afterwards was simply amazing…. and it smelt all new and varnishy too.

A lick of varnish really brought the 50 year old woodwork back to life.

A lick of varnish really brought the 50 year old woodwork back to life. Hidden surfaces of sliding drawers coated with a mix of melted beeswax and boiled linseed oil.

As I mentioned in a previous page on Macavities upgrades, I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that she was a bit undercanvased. In fact in light winds it was pretty tricky to get her moving faster forwards than sideways at all. I accept that all the sails that came with her were utterly and completely worn out, but the mainsail wasn’t even remotely sail shaped anymore. Having got some heart stopping quotes on replacement costs from various sail makers, I reluctantly accepted I was going to have to keep my eyes on the web for some good second hand stuff to try. It was another two years before the nasty Autumn storms of 2013 sadly wrecked a good many boats on their moorings and injected a glut of masts, booms, fittings and sails onto the auction sites. Every cloud has a silver lining, as the saying goes,  and for me this was riches indeed. I got a longer boom, a crisp working jib (genuine W25!), and a big, red, battened main sail complete with hanks and slab reefing.  This was looking very promising indeed and the whole lot only cost me around £150. I know, another £150. This is all relative though, if I was going to improve the boat and improve my sailing so I could safely venture further, I was going to have to invest something into it. £100 was about the price of a tank of fuel in my van at that time so it didn’t seem too bad.

New mainsail with first reef taken in for a bit of a test run.

New mainsail with first reef taken in for a bit of a test run.

No reefs here... but no wind either, hence poor shape.

No reefs here… but no wind either, hence poor shape. Just sat at anchor checking out the mast from the dinghy.

Having laid the boom and main out on the lawn, I marked out where I thought the cheek blocks should go for the slab reefing. Having read up on it a bit, it seemed quite straightforward, and it was. I used stainless rivet nuts and a blob of sealant/ adhesive to attach the cheek blocks to the side of the boom so as to give a good pull aft as well as down. It was simply a case of what looked right, and it seems to be fine. I attached two old tufnol cleats forward at the mast end to take the end of the reefing lines. The gooseneck fitting needed a bit of modification and I thought it wise to modify all the new bits rather than mess up the original items in case this whole idea turned out to be a failure. At least then I could simply revert back to the original boom and mainsail easily. The mainsheet attachment points on both boom and boat looked like they would work ok for now so I left them alone. I made up a set of battens from a pile of old ones that came with the boat and laced some wool tell tales into the ends in expectation of Macavity’s much improved flying performance.

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A small increase in sail area has really made a difference in light winds (no battens fitted here). She will actually move now.

Lastly, the boot top had been difficult to keep clean over the past couple of years, mainly because it had been painted in using ordinary white polyurethane (well how was I to know?). It was also a bit low, so it seemed a good opportunity to sand it back and remark it. A couple of coats of epoxy primer and a couple of coats of “International Interspeed Ultra” saw it looking crisp again. (Incidentally, this Interspeed Ultra is absolutely the best antifouling I have used to date. No sea creature has gone anywhere near it, well worth the extra pennies as I seem to be using half the amount.) Before we dragged her back to Retreat boatyard for craning in, we even had time to rig up some twee little curtains. Nice.