Sheaves, pins, bindings and cheeks

So it proves as hard as ever to spend time down at the boat and what little time I do spend there seems to be taken up with clearing the latest storm debris or propping up the lean-to that is a bit lean-too-much. Chester took great delight in discovering a couple of plump little field mice nesting in the anchor chain box as I moved various bits of boat from the leaky shed to the new, less leaky bowshed. Despite this lack of progress on the fabric of the boat I’m feeling more organised down there and have been working my way steadily through the process of making blocks. Traditional blocks for a yacht of Flamingo’s age are readily available from several sources. They are miniature works of art, and consequently are prohibitively expensive. Faced with a cost of about £1700 for 15 blocks I resolved to make my own. No one seemed to be able to supply the various components in the exact size I wanted so it really has been a ‘from scratch’ mission.

These Davey & Co blocks would set you back about £115 for the single and £140 for the double!

I decided to use Delrin (a very dense, acetal plastic) for the sheaves, stainless steel for the bindings and pins, and luckily father had some lengths of Iroko, poor mans teak, going spare for the cheeks.

For the sheaves, the method was saw the rod to lengths, face them off on the lathe and then, with a purpose made profile chisel cut the groove. A little sanding bobbin from an old Dremmel came in handy to sand out the tooling marks.

The bindings are 20mm x 3mm stainless steel flat, bent around a former in a jig made from scrap angle iron. As you can see it took a few test runs to get them to come out an even length. More test runs were needed to get the cold forging of the bends right. I tried hot forging it but ran into the classic problem of, too much YouTube watching (thanks Torbjorn, not enough experience or skill. No matter how much I pounded and swore at the hot metal nothing would persuade it to form the shape I wanted and the roar of the gas forge lends a sense of urgency, almost panic to the whole process! Cold forging, though louder and harder work was infinitely more controllable, at least in my amateurish hands.

Eventually batch producing parts came to an end and it was time to assemble and finish the first one as a ‘hot’ prototype, ‘hot’ meaning if it worked out and I was pleased with the result, I’d use it, if not, I could excuse myself on the basis that it was ‘only a prototype’.

The pin is peened over one end to stop it working it’s way through and then held in place with the penny that will be screwed on. The stainless steel bindings are cold forged at the bend enabling it to move on the shackle more easily and thicken the material where it will get most wear. The pennies are a batch of 1930 (year of her build) ones I bought online, the original blocks had the monarch’s head facing out but I rather like the idea of Britannia facing out, trident and shield in hand gazing out to sea.

Every now and then I am joined briefly in the workshop by one of my offspring with their usual inquiry; ‘wotcha doin’ dad? (shades of Leo Goolden here with his “hey Pete, what are you doing”) My answer is usually, making a jig, or making something to help make the jig. This invariably causes raised eyebrows and the comment; “What… you’re making a thing, to make another thing, that isn’t even the thing you’re actually making….?” exit stage left, shaking head at sad old man covered in sawdust.

I’m so misunderstood… sobs quietly into dusty rag…..

Of course, all the jig making and batch production experience means I can now reproduce lots more blocks to the same design, though given the time it all takes I doubt I’ll be setting up the Flamingo Block Emporium any time soon!

Getting organised in the new Bowshed.

After reinforcing the downhill side of the Bowshed where the legs are longer, therefore a bit more flexible and storm Bella had taken her toll, I installed some shelving and a workbench. Moved the rudder and companion way steps from the damp leaky lean to and swapped the slightly too short aluminium ladder for a slightly too long wooden one. The new one is ex GPO (giving a clue to its age) and weighs so much I can barely lift it. As such it is a completely impractical tool, so far better to conscript it to a life of stationary service at the stern.

That’s it, looking forward to sunny lockdown free days filled with the sounds of progress……. 🙂

The Year of the Flamingo

It scarcely seems possible that it’s been nearly two years since Flamingo last felt the tread of my work boots on her swept teak deck. A quick glance at previous posts sadly reveals this to be true and I’m slightly ashamed of her abandonment. She has waited patiently in the orchard, her tarp frayed at the edges, hull and deck gently greening as the weeks, months and years go by. Of course there are myriad excuses that I won’t bore you with but the chief drain on my time these days is our new home, a 1960’s gem of a house on the edge of the Ashdown Forest. It needs a lot of work, inside and out, hence the time drain.

But now the old tarp is off and the new Bowshed shelter is well under way with help from Toby and Luke. We camped out for a weekend and, alongside lots of campfire chatting, cooking and star gazing we got quite a lot done.

Triangulation in progress

The following weekend saw another camp out, this time with an old college buddy too, slightly more fuel was needed in the form of pale ale, and the mornings hangover meant Sunday sloe picking (and boy was it slow picking) was about as strenuous an activity as we could deal with. Despite this slight handicap the three of us managed to get half the tarp cover on and battened down. I say tarp, in reality it’s a large graphic banner that was about to be thrown away from work. I have taken pity on my neighbours and put the vivid blue and green Ashes Cricket graphics on the inside. Recycling an old set made me wonder if it’s possible to link work and boat restoration….

Client: “So, tell me again why we’re using teak gratings as a background for the new Sports News Studio?”

Me: “Well………”

Client: “and lovely though they are, I’m wondering if the shiny bronze cleats and natural hemp rope are quite the thing for holding up our new Touch screen?”

Perhaps not… if only we still had the rights to The America’s Cup…. that would be a far easier sell!

Our lovely house came with a car port that has now been transformed into my first ever actual workshop! This necessitated the building of a workbench which was very satisfying, and prompted Rupert (aforementioned college buddy) to pass on a little lathe that he got for free but never used. With a shiny new Record chuck I tried my hand a wood turning for the first time in many years. Quite pleased with the result! A small Yew bowl and a knock down caulking mallet.

The drawback of boat building in an orchard is any piece of scrap wood left on the ground for more than a week seems to become a home for wildlife.

hopefully the owner of this sweet little nest (Field mouse?) will be able to cunningly fashion another one after I cleared away the scrap bit of wood that was the roof.

Stoic on her stands, starved of affection, attention and not to mention, a diet high in alpha and beta carotenoid pigments, including canthaxanthin, (huh?) Flamingo has sadly suffered from the neglect of the last couple of years. I was shocked last weekend, to see a new patch of rot on her rubbing strake, nothing that can’t be remedied but it did make me realise how important this new shelter is. So, before the winter sets in and in between apple pressing, meadow mowing, and landscape gardening (oh and holding down a job) I need to carve out some more time to get on with some actual boat renovation and make this the Year of the Flamingo!

Yummy Shrimpy type thing rich in carotty whatsits

Floors, Feathers and Figureheads

I found this post squirreled away in my drafts from last year (!) and so before smashing out another brilliant episode 🙂 I thought I’d publish it….

Feathered friends

Finally this little brood have flown the nest and the shed is available for use again, not that I really minded my scruffy little squatters, in fact I’m flattered they felt it was safe enough to raise a family here despite the mowing and banging.  Of course this means I have no excuse for avoiding tidying up in there…. Come on Mrs B, surely you can squeeze out another clutch before the summer ends!

Mr and Mrs Blackbird hatch family number two
On the level

The fecundity of blackbirds aside, I decided, what with the frames going in, that I should check the boat for level. She is only resting on baulks of timber set on paving slabs which in turn rest on the bare earth, and I thought there may have been some settling over the years. A water level seemed the easiest and most cost effective method so we made one and set about measuring. Now, science and I have never been happy bedfellows, my old Chemistry teacher never referred to me by name just ‘the laziest boy in the school’ and Physics remained a dark mysterious world to me for my entire school life. That said, I thought a water level was going to be fairly simple and the hard bit would be the actual levelling. How wrong I was! The idea of a water level is that water…. finds its own level…. hence the name… anyway, the water should always be level meaning that with one end of the hose at the stem and one at the stern I could check the scribed waterline was running true. “Nope” called Tilly from the bow, “it’s way too low.” I poured a bit more in my end, “Nope, still too low.” “Has it moved at all” I asked. “It’s lower” she called back. Was there a hint of merriment in her voice? Surely she couldn’t be mocking her dear old dad, who she loves and respects…? Much toing and froing ensued with water adding and pouring away and more and more mocking. Eventually we brought the two ends together and, it turns out sometimes finding its own level is a bit too much like hard work for water so it just hangs about wherever…

As soon as I wrote, toing and froing I thought that can’t be right, so I googled and found this on the Macmillan dictionary website.

The spelling of toing and froing causes problems for native- and non-native speakers alike, because it feels odd to put –ing after ‘o’, unless the sound you’re trying to create is ‘oi’ (as in the onomatopoeia ‘boing‘). Often people spell it ‘to-ing and fro-ing‘ to make the distinction clear, yet we have no trouble understanding I’m going now, and feel no desire to hyphenate it. So where to and fro are being used as verbs, like go, there’s no need for hyphens, and as odd as it may look toing and froing is perfectly acceptable.

Lackadaisical water and annoyingly pleased child

This rambling explanation is not a feeble attempt to justify why I went and bought a laser level…. honestly!

Tools for life?

My wife often mocks (hang on I’m sensing a theme here) my belief that things really should last longer than they do. There’s a lot of interest in the idea of a circular economy, where goods are designed not with built in obsolescence but  with repair, reuse, recycle in mind however, most industries have a long way to go.  When it comes to tools though, I thought that if you choose a good brand and buy the best you can afford you should be ok and with hand tools that have no moving parts, well really, what can go wrong?

This can. All the brass hoops on my chisels have split! Now the nice man at Robert Sorby sales tells me they are just there for decoration really, serve no practical function and aren’t under any pressure or stress….. which begs the question why they split. I wonder if he has ever used a chisel? Anyway he sent through some replacements free of charge, but the point is the chisels are sold as high quality, traditionally made tools and should use good quality materials then, with care, they should last a lifetime, several lifetimes. But if you import cheap brass hoops with no knowledge of how they’re made, this is the result. Can you tell I’m a bit grumpy about this?

disappointed of Tunbridge Wells

Four oak floors in position ready to be fitted

starting to look like progress

Last but not least, I spotted these handsome fellows… a new figurehead perhaps?

a new figure head for Flamingo?

So that was an old post from last year. There was little progress on Flamingo until a few weeks ago but hopefully your appetites are whetted for the next exciting installment….

P.S. if you were wondering why a pavlova at the top… there’s no reason other than Tilly has become a past master at creating them so I thought I’d bask in some reflected glory.

Eschewing Steel, Frog spawn and Spring.

After the disappointment of the badly welded steel floors I’ve decided to make new wooden floors. The mixture of steel, oak and saltwater was a recipe for corrosion anyway and I have never been keen on the through-the-hull bolts that held the whole lot together. That’s my excuse anyway, and it has nothing to do with the fact that constructing wooden floors means more time spent in father’s cosy work shop with its steady supply of tea, biscuits and soup and less time out in a chilly, damp orchard… nothing whatsoever…

Off cuts of oak ready to made into floors

‘Impoverished’ boat restorers get their supplies from wherever they can find them. This oak, some of which will be used for floors, some of which is probably only good for the fire, came from raised bed off cuts, an old friend (thanks Rupert) and Wealden Oak.

Where the keel bolts have compressed the Elm keelson over years of tightening, the timber has become compressed and more and more steel washers have been used to pack them out. Together, #1 Son and I squatted in the bowels of the boat and chiselled out the old timber to let in some new Oak blocks. Good to sit and chat whilst working together, despite the pins and needles.

Bolt blocks
letting blocks into the keelson for the keel bolts


Meanwhile disaster struck in the workshop. The trusty bandsaw guide mechanism snapped. Calls to the supplier proved fruitless, the part is no longer stocked and no, we can’t suggest an alternative. Faced with buying a new bandsaw, inspiration struck and cousin Kerry (modelmaker extraordinaire) was called into action,

and that which was broken became whole…

Nesting birds

Away from boat building spring is in full swing, the never ending mowing marathon has started again, hampered slightly by the presence of a blackbird’s nest in the mower shed. I was so excited to see the eggs a few weeks ago but worried my regular intrusions might put Mrs B off her incubating duties. Luckily she just hunkered down and carried on and subsequent visits showed 4 healthy looking chicks!


Frog spawn

Tilly spotted this in the woods by the pond. Confused frog who thought the damp moss was water, or do some frogs or toads spawn on the ground? If so how do the tadpoles survive? Who knows… anyway we put some in the pond and left some where it was. We’ll see what happens.


and of course there is always homework… today’s project is brought to you by the word ‘tessellation’ Tilly decided this was a homework for the two of us (plus cousin Crissy) so many thin slices of hazel were cut and stuck in an semi-regular tessellation (with a bit of artistic license for the limitations of a natural material that gets smaller along it’s length).



Inspiration comes from many sources, whether it’s someone’s comment on this blog, a beautiful old photograph of a classic, or a YouTube video of someone’s project. Here’s a selection of a few things that have inspired me recently.

Watch any of Leo Sampson Goolden’s posts about his restoration of Tally Ho and you can’t fail to be inspired by his enthusiasm in the face of the massive project he’s taken on.

Joshua Slocum’s round the world voyage in his homemade boat ‘Spray’ is the stuff off legend and it’s easy to forget what an achievement it was until you see how small and basic Spray was.


There is a wealth of information and talent out there and so much of it is free. Susan P Fino restores old nautical themed photographs and generously posts them on Facebook for us all to enjoy.

Restored photo
…and you thought modern Americas Cup yachts were extreme!

love these old images from the days of working sail.


Well , I started writing this about 3 months ago so I suppose I should publish it. Hopefully there won’t be so long before the next riveting update. 🙂


So much has happened since I last updated this site and it is hard to know where to start. It has been a summer of highs and lows and very little work on the boat. If you’ve logged on eager for spit and sawdust, tales of finely honed blades whisking wafer thin shavings from fine timber you’re going to be disappointed, but I hope you’ll indulge me as I spill a few of the aches, the pains, the losses and gains and the joys on to these pages.

Aches and Pains

My mother died unexpectedly after a short but beastly illness (when is cancer ever otherwise?) and her going has left a void that I’m reminded of daily. I think of her when I see larch trees, or an old fishing boat, or taste a particularly good apple. I think of her when I drive to work and I think of her on my return, I hear her voice agreeing that the sunrise really is beautiful today, or that there can be nothing more sweet than a blackbird’s song in the twilight. She has coloured my view of the world my whole life, and my actions are filtered through memories of her. Those memories are not sad though, more an acknowledgement of her passing and of how much she meant. An acceptance that everything fades and even the most stalwart succumb. During her illness I carved that sign for the woods I’d been promising her for months and after she was gone I filled her Shepherd’s Hut with her books on gardening, woodland, and fruit growing. It’s a place to sit and contemplate, as it was always intended to be, though sadly mum never got to sit there.

I fixed the water pump that is nearly as old as me and connected it to the pond in the top field. Though she’ll never use it to draw water for the greenhouse I know mum would be pleased that it’s still going strong.

Filling the water butt every weekend was how we earned our pocket money back in the ‘good old’ days…. that and keeping the compost emptied, the rubbish burnt (yes I know, but we didn’t know about global warming then) feeding the chickens, collecting the eggs, letting the geese out, getting chased by the geese, oh yes, and getting in a couple of barrow loads of wood for the Rayburn…. kids today, don’t know they’re born!

They say death, divorce and moving house are the three most stressful things in life…. so, not content with just one out of three, and fingers crossed divorce is not on the horizon, we moved house, and despite swearing in the past, to never, ever move ourselves again… we decided to eschew the tea guzzling, box humping services of the removal firm we last moved with, and do it ourselves, one laborious van load after another! Next time we’re definitely, definitely, no really… definitely, not moving ourselves.

Losses and Gains

There was a little time for making, though not all of it related to ‘the big project’.

The stitching on my Leatherman sheath finally lost its battle with gravity, but the speedy stitcher was pressed into service for the first time and proved easily up to the task. Youngest son had a ‘beach’ party so of course we had to make a surf board. I discovered the blacksmith (who I’ve praised in previous posts) had not been particularly careful about replicating the profile of the steel frames for Flamingo when repairing them. Annoying given how expensive his services were and though I managed to heat and bend one into shape on a makeshift anvil, the first blow of the hammer on the next one saw it practically fall apart! Better to find out now than mid ocean I suppose, but I now have to mark up templates for each one and take them back to be repaired properly.

The Joys

We took a much needed break and joined friends for a sailing trip in France where much Rosé was earned (those Atlantic swells are tiresome!) and consumed. There was time for reflection at Weir Cottage with some home brewed cider. The absence of the second glass of cider is a reflection of my wife’s rather more discerning palette.


August saw the family embark on a fantastic Canoe trip across Scotland along the Great Glen. Armed with tents, stoves, waterproofs and a lifetime’s supply of snacks (consumed in three days flat) ten hardy comrades paddled and portaged and poohed in a hole, cooked on a campfire, surfed waves and swam in Loch Lochy, we marvelled at mirrored Lochs in the sunset, trembled at crashing waves and high winds the next day, we drank water from mountain streams, explored castles and shipwrecks, lathered ourselves in anti midge creams, potions and lotions and generally had a wet and wonderful time!

Despite the wet July, with Weir Cottage on the market, the summer saw a lot of mowing activity and the big power scythe had to be pressed into service to tame the long grass in the orchard. Wet summers, curious dogs and nervous frogs, this beauty had a narrow escape! The frog, not Chester…. though of course he is beautiful in his own special, hairy, Highland, slightly smelly way.

We welcomed a new member of the family. Indy is a Spankie, the product of an unplanned union between a Yorkshire Terrier (Yorkie) and a Springer Spaniel! We’ve no idea what she’ll turn out like  but she’s absolutely gorgeous.


So a mixed summer, hopefully there will be more boat restoration to report on soon, ’til then keep your blades sharp and your eyes on the dream.


So suddenly it’s spring and whole garden is a riot of blossom, and birds feverishly nest building.

the garden is blooming

The bank, vestigial remains of the millpond’s retaining dam is covered in milkmaids this year, as is the orchard and I’ve decided not to mow under the fruit trees until autumn thus releasing about two hours a week from mowing servitude to spend on boat building! In truth, I’m going to need every hour I can get as I have provisionally signed up for a sailing event next August! It’s the Old Gaffers Association 55th Anniversary and there is a regatta in Cowes on the Isle Of Wight. It is an improbable time frame but not impossible…..maybe. 🙂

A Shepherd’s Hut has arrived

The apple blossom in the top orchard is beautiful, notice the crab apple beyond the Shepherd’s Hut…. a Shepherd’s Hut!? I hear you exclaim, yes, mother has splashed out on a little wheeled retreat to retreat to or to simply sit and contemplate whatever it is mothers sit and contemplate when they’re not pruning, planting, watering and weeding. It took several hours of sweaty labour to get it from the road to its resting place as it weighs about 1.5 tons!

a trusty old bottle jack helped the levelling task

Another few hours of fossicking about underneath the chassis with an old bottle jack that, remembering the cobwebby, cedarwood garage of my childhood, I realised is older than me and still going strong, and the hut is level (ish)

Deer protection on some new fruit trees.

For some reason despite the plentiful supply of grazing, the local deer seem rather partial to young fruit tree bark. Something to do with the high sugar content I think. A bit of work with some old sheep wire and they are hopefully safe from the depredations of the rascally ruminants.


Crikey! I hear you mutter, I though this blog was about boatbuilding not a bucolic ramble through an East Sussex Orchard! Ok, so the warm spring weather and some time off over Easter meant some actual honest to goodness boat restoration got done! Here is (hopefully) the last laminated frame under construction.

the ‘last’ laminated frame underway

Having lovingly honed all my edged tools it was almost painful to plane the glue soaked wood, ‘poxy resin takes the edge off a blade very quickly!

Blunting my freshly sharpened plane on ‘poxy resin

I’ve long been a convert to the church of hardpoint saws, they last so long if you take care to avoid nails and screws and they are so sharp and so (relatively) cheap it seemed nonsensical to spend time hand sharpening a traditional saw. That was until I bought an old carpenters tool box at a car boot sale. £12 bought me a nice old box with quite a few old tools still in it. I felt almost embarrassed to be walking away with such riches for so little, but the seller seemed more than happy. Anyway, remembering that one of the saws was a fairly coarse one, and that in a recent spell of displacement activity I had sharpened it, I got it out and ripped (quite literally) through this sawn frame to trim it down to the correct thickness. I’m now an evangelical convert to the church of the traditional sawyer and next time I’m faced with a tricky task on the boat I shall procrastinate and spend some time sharpening the other two saws (one fine, one medium)

It’s a real pleasure owning a traditional tool chest, I probably spend too much time working out the best order to store the tools and it’s almost impossible to pick up once it’s full, (in fact I’ve adapted an old wheelbarrow to transport it from the house to the boat to save my back) but there’s something about it, I feel some sort of connection to all the carpenters who’ve used similar chests, or even this very one. It has also made me more fussy about what tools I put in it. I’m using the William Morris test, it either has to be beautiful, or useful, otherwise it is consigned to the ‘junk’ tool bag. I’ve become so fond of it I’ve even sanded off the more obvious paint splatters (whilst carefully preserving it’s patina of age and authenticity of course) and given it a coat of wax!

Ripping down a sawn frame with a proper saw.

Planing the sawn frame is sooo much nicer than fighting through the glue of the laminated one.

The sunshine and warm weather has meant more time up at the boat and this little job patching in a hole in the keelson was satisfactorily knocked off the to do list.

preparing to fill in a rotten bit of keel

Glued and screwed

Next on the list is getting hold of some Polysulphide Bedding Compound to bed the frames in without breaking the bank, and working out how to repair some of the oversize bolt holes. I’m thinking some sort of router jig…..roll on Summer!


Very little work on Flamingo has been done since my last post 😦 it’s a common thread running through this blog…  Looking back, instead of woodworking, boatbuilding and tool making there has been lots of displacement activity like parties, picnics, sailing and such. …. surprisingly few rhino though…. I’ve always maintained, no blog is really complete with a couple of these leathery skinned, quadrupeds so here are some rhino to redress the balance.

Putting the Rhino to bed with a last snack.
Putting the Rhino to bed with a last snack.

These two handsome beasts are being cared for as part of an endangered species breeding progamme at Manor Wildlife Park in Wales where we went for a half term holiday. Tilly even got to put Sudocrem on their sore bits!

Along with trips to Wales there have been lovely autumn walks

beautiful sunny autumn walk

Gathering wood for the winter.

Splitting logs is so satisfying

Making baseball bats for ‘The Purge’ Halloween costume.

Baseball bat making on the pole lathe

Harvesting apples

Apples ready to go to be pressed

In amongst this veritable cornucopia of displacement activity there have been a few, a very few boat relevant jobs. I finally managed to gather together all my bladed tools to take to father’s workshop to use his water cooled grindstone. All chisels, planes, spoke shaves etc need their bevel regrinding at some point and mine had been crying out for some attention for far too long.

Smoothing plane dismantled for de-rusting, sharpening and cleaning

Once I started sharpening I realised just how the damp atmosphere down in our misty little frost pocket has rusted my tools, so both planes were stripped down cleaned up and put back together. I spent hours sharpening and fettling and there’s still all the carving chisels to do!

It was lovely to be in a proper workshop with all the right tools in all the right places like a One Republic lyric.

Knocking out the bronze bolts that hold the steel floors in was harder than I thought as they seem to have been bonded in with some super sticky gloop. Consequently I got a bit impatient and over enthusiastic with a hammer rather than a more forgiving mallet…. the result was a whole set of bolts with crushed threads. Very poor!


Bronze bolts sadly misshapen after my over eager bashing

Luckily my father’s godfather Kenneth was thoughtful enough in 1959 to give him a set of BSW taps and dies… perhaps not with this exact job in mind but nevertheless, a wise, thoughtful and exemplary godfather.

Taps and Die
Kenneth’s gift.

Cunning bolt holder

So with a bit of cutting fluid and a lot of care the threads were re-cut and the day saved. Helped along by this little gift that, in my absence, like a little workshop pixie, father made to assist better gripping.

side view of bolt gripping gizmo

I said it before and I’ll doubtless bang on about it until I get my own workshop…. it’s so good having all the tools and a proper space to work in.

No Autumn would be complete without a trip to ‘the Ladybird tree’. These tiny little bugs hunker down for the winter in the cracks and crevices of an old tree in the woods near us and always signify the start of winter for me.

the Ladybird tree

A trip to Bristol and a walk around the harbour was inspirational.


A pilot cutter underway at Underfalls Yard Bristol

As was a visit to Iron Wharf in Faversham

A lovely lady waiting to be rescued

Lengthening shadows and golden hues

So that was Autumn and now we’re through the festive season, out the other side and looking forward to spring, but with a house move in the pipeline I doubt the pace of work on Flamingo will be any faster, but she’s safe enough under her tarp until the days are longer and outside work more inviting…


The summer seems to have slipped away in a haze of holidays and lawn mowing, but without much progress on Flamingo, and now, as we sink slowly into what Keats may have called the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, but in our dark little valley is a time of mould and mildewed futility, I am slightly regretting the lost time. Still, the weekend saw me tackle a job that has been on my mind for a while, namely the engine. It is an almost new Beta Marine 14 that has spent the last two years languishing in the shed and before that a year or so in Peter Gregson’s ( cellar. I was concerned that the damp and cold of yet another winter without starting would be having a detrimental effect. A quick query to ybw Forum and an email to Beta Marine reinforced this fear and I quickly knocked up a frame for it to stand on. Apparently turning it over by hand once or twice a month will be enough to keep it lubricated and moving freely.

Rustic, but functional.

Then, realising that no matter how much gym time I put in, lifting 90kg of engine on my own was not going to happen I made a sturdy goal post out of the timber salvaged from the doomed boat shelter and using an ebay purchased chain hoist, hauled the beast into the air.

I really need a bigger shed

Obviously I carefully measured the distance, calculated the stretch in the rope, the height of the cross beam, the access for the frame and got it dead right. OK I guessed it all and luckily it worked… just.

With only a couple of links left, the engine was just high enough to slide the frame under!

With the engine safely stored the right way up I tried turning it over by pulling the fan belt, no joy, using a spanner, still no joy. Back to email and ybw Forum for more advice (I really am a novice when it comes to engines) and the consensus is good compression is stopping me. “Simply” remove or loosen the injectors…. so next weekend if I get a chance I’ll see if I can discover the whereabouts of the injectors…

Upright, safe, but uncooperative.

After a week resting the right way up the issue has solved itself! I can now, with only a modicum of difficulty, turn the engine over. Back to working with something I understand, wood.

Having bought some more timber from Wealden Oak  a great timber yard where there are mountains of off cuts that languish, valueless until someone like me turns up, whereupon, after a quick look up and down to assess the cut of my jib/size of my wallet and the barest hint of measuring, the proprietor declared; “£40”. I ‘d like to say I haggled him down mercilessly like a Berber in a Moroccan Carpet shop, but I probably just looked confused and a little resigned.  He looked me up and down again and, perhaps noticing my frayed collar and dire need of a hair cut, randomly tapped his calculator again and said, “my mistake, £30”.

Back at the workshop I cut out the remaining sections of frames, then it was back to the boat to remove more screws from the old frames. They look in reasonable condition and though I might feel happier replacing them with new ones, the cost of bronze screws might be prohibitive!

there are 100+ screws in various states that probably should be replaced…£££! not forgetting the 60+ Bronze coach bolts! 😦

Meanwhile the Oxalic Acid I bought to remove some stains from the cabin trunk has been put to a different use; lighting this kitchen table. It will always be a knotty pine table but after scraping off the accumulated stains of colouring pens, curry, red wine and oil, and a couple of treatments of acid it lost its ‘orange’ hue.

the kitchen table mid treatment

So not a very boat busy summer really, time seems to have compressed it into the blink of an eye, the mornings are dark now on my way to work and the evenings dark on my way back. Looking on the bright side the sky was alight with a sliver of moon and millions of stars this morning, lack of light pollution yet another advantage of living out here in the sticks. Hopefully now the garden is making less demands on my time I’ll get more done. Of course, though there is always something higher up the list of priorities, not all of it is unwelcome…like some actual sailing!

A lovely weekend on Moonshine Blues


Distractions come thick and fast, half term has been and gone but not without some progress being made.

Washboards fitted

Unsightly holes left by the door hinges

Fillets of teak glued in.

Planed and sanded flush.

Screw holes filled with teak grain plugs
Screw holes filled with teak grain plugs


Regular readers (oh alright who am I kidding, reader), may remember this picture from a previous post.

Lost its head
the sad demise of the first tool I ever made…. back in 1981

I broke my old mallet a while ago and to split a piece of Oak to make a the head of a replacement it I needed a…. well a mallet…..with what shall I hit it dear Liza dear Liza? Luckily as a man who firmly believes you can’t have too many tools, I have another rather cumbersome mallet that is great for hitting things really hard but a bit weighty and awkward for lighter tasks.

An off cut from the Oak Barn, split with mallet and hatchet

Next step make the lump square, then octagonal. At this stage it reminded me of a croquet mallet and I decided to leave it that shape.

Roughing the lump of oak into an octagon

There is a limit to how much time I want to spend planing a knotty bit of oak so a quick trip to father’s workshop saw it sawn to a more even shape and sanded on the disc sander. Next a handle; an old broken spade handle provided the raw material and after a lot of work with the spokeshave I had a lovely ash handle. It’s actually very therapeutic with a sharp blade and clear idea of the shape you want, repetitive but really satisfying.

Hole drilled and handle roughed out.

A small saw cut in the end of the handle and an oak wedge to fix it in place, more spoke shaving and hefting it to feel how it handled, (pun!) and job done.

Handle and Head united

The spokeshave on the right has a rounded sole, it’s fiddly to get the blade just right with only very crude adjustment but once it is set up it’s a great little tool.

A lick of tung oil, (another one!) and here’s the finished article.

New Mallet

My children will bear testament as to how strangely excited and proud I am of this simple tool, some people might think 4 or 5 hours making something you can buy at your local DIY merchant for £6 is a foolish way to spend your time, but I’m not so sure. I spend my days designing studio sets for television, these transient structures only function is to look good, it really doesn’t matter how it is made, or what it’s made of, as long as it looks ok on camera and lasts a season. Getting from drawing board (Mac) to workshop, to studio, is a long, drawn out, torturous process of budget constraints, high level sign off, massaging senior egos and compromising the concept. By contrast the only design that went into this was subliminal, the materials are reused, there is no budget and its form is almost entirely dictated by its function. So I think this probably is a worthwhile use of my time and hopefully this one will last as long as its predecessor (33 years)


Sandboats, Washboards, Wildlife and Steam.

Spring brings longer, lighter, sunnier days, perfect for boat restorers…. also perfect for the garden to burst into life requiring boat restorers to spend rather a lot of their time mowing, strimming, clipping and digging instead of sanding, scraping, sawing and scarfing. Perfect too, for the sweet siren call of a day at the seaside to take precedence over Daddy’s shipwreck.

A different kind of Boatbuilding

A school sandcastle competition (none of that book learning rubbish at The Wells School) saw us building the traditional RR sand boat. Not that we’re competitive but, as the boys like to remind me. “if we’re in it we win it” We didn’t hang around, Canute like, to see the tide come in but with seashell styling like that, surely it would be unsinkable?

Building on the beach
Boat Building on the beach

Traditional RR sand boat. Cowabunga!
Traditional RR sand boat. Cowabunga!

Nature’s Bounty

The garden, woods and meadow really are bursting with new growth, some things I’ve never noticed before, like these flowers on a Spruce. It’s absolutely laden with them!

Spruce trees laden with flowers
Spruce trees laden with flowers

With a cornucopia of fresh food bursting from the ground you have to wonder why the mice in the shed felt it worthwhile eating the lid of this Tung Oil Tin….

There are some very hungry mice with very strange appetites
There are some very hungry mice with very strange appetites

and it’s not like there is a shortage of hedges and trees down here, but if you leave anything in one place for a few minutes someone has either eaten it, or moved in! There are birds nests in camping chairs in the barn, a very large mouse (we say ‘large mouse’ because we don’t like to use the R word) has taken up residence in the anchor chain box, there are moths in the awning, a queen wasp starting her paper home by the bilge pump and a very unwelcome guest in the shape of a large hornet who burst out angrily as I whipped the cover off! Not to mention an enterprising wren (?) who has turned this heaving line into a mossy des res.

a heaving line being put to a rather different use
a heaving line being put to a rather different use

Some visitors are more welcome than others. This pretty Brimstone moth looked beautiful against the woodwork.

A pretty visitor

A slow-worm in the nearby compost is pretty too but in a slightly creepy way…

the compost heap provides a nice warm refuge for these slightly creepy legless lizards
the compost heap provides a nice warm refuge for these slightly creepy legless lizards

Back to the Boat

While I’m marvelling at nature’s bounty, someone has been busy in the workshop. Father’s washboards are on board and ready to fit. Very smart!

Father's washboards ready for fitting.
Father’s washboards ready for fitting.

Before the washboards can be fitted I have to fit these battens or runners. The previous owner had cut the originals off and hung some rather shoddy doors instead of washboards. tsk! tsk! So unseamanlike…. 🙂 My workmate fits neatly on the cockpit floor so I can avoid too much up and downage on the ladder. For those of you imagining a colleague or friend supine on the deck, by work mate I mean one of those portable work benches so beloved of the DIY enthusiast. It’s tempting to just sit in the sun soaking up the atmosphere and imagining I’m riding at anchor in some idyllic bay, the lap of the waves, the clink of a beer glass… of course there’s no time for that, in the life of a busy boat restorer…. obviously!

Washboard runners ready to fit
Washboard runners ready to fit

Teak seems to blunt the plane fairly swiftly, requiring frequent trips to the sharpening station. I know some purists might say using a guide is cheating….. but it does make achieving a nice consistent bevel much easier. I make sure my whetstone is a wet stone (the water lubricates and prevents clogging) by keeping it in a tupperware filled with water.

Keeping the blade honed
Keeping the blade honed

Meanwhile, outside the cosy cockpit….

pottering about by the keel I decided to investigate (for investigate, read stab) this dodgy looking timber…. the knife slid deep into  the wood worryingly easily. Not quite like a hot axe through butter but definitely not right.

should it be this easy to stick a knife in?
should it be this easy to stick a knife in?

Soon chunks of rotten wood (it looks like Elm) were being scraped/falling out. I fetched a chisel and mallet and set about chopping it out properly. It only seems to extend about a foot (that’s 304.8mm Toby) laterally and about 3 inches (76.2mm) deep, but I’ll probably cut out more just to be sure.

mmmm this doesn’t look good

The last frame I laminated took a little persuading to get the laminates to bend around the jig so a home made steamer had to be made…. at home….. thus neatly explaining the term…. anyway moving on.

Simply take, a bit of old drain pipe, an old kettle with no spout, a paraffin stove, a bit of scrap ply and a small child, preferably your own but if not, do ask the owners permission. People can be very odd about bloodshed and bruising when it comes to their little darlings. It’s a lesson learned I say, and after all they’ve got nine more fingers… unless they’ve visited my workshop before… in which case they should know better, and…

Tilly helping make a steamer
Tilly helping make a steamer

Steel pipe would have been better as the plastic developed quite a droop before the oak was sufficiently ‘cooked’ but it worked.

The Steaming in progress
The Steaming in progress

It’s a bit distracting being  surrounded by all this burgeoning plant and animal life, but I’m looking forward to next weekend and shaving a couple of millimetres off the Wash boards to fit them and maybe scavenging for the last bits of oak I need to finish the frames…. maybe some more soaking up the sun and picturing Flamingo finished who knows 🙂

Keel Bolts, Cupcakes, Crystals and Kant

So it has been a while since I put pen to paper, (or finger to keyboard), and updated this blog. No excuse really, just life getting in the way and lack of funds…. who knew glue could be so expensive!? Anyway, there has finally been some progress, prompted in part, by my eldest who apparently looks forward to his father’s, loosely boat restoration based ramblings and has commented on the dry spell.

Glue purchased, laminating jig thoroughly tested, preparation table prepared, sunny day….. there really were no more excuses.

Cling film to stop the glue bonding to the jig
Cling film to stop the glue bonding to the jig

All ready for gluing
All ready for gluing

It was quite hard to find any information about how much filler powder to use and consequently the first mixture was a bit thick.

Glued up and clamped up
Glued up and clamped up

Quite tricky getting enough pressure to create the shape but not so much as to force all the glue out. It was so cold that I didn’t dare un-clamp it the next day, so it languishes in this state ’til next weekend.

Meanwhile, despite working in TV, I didn’t have “one I prepared earlier” with which to show you the next step, so I looked at my ‘to do’ list and thought I’d attempt a keel bolt extraction. Like a tooth extraction, I have not been eagerly anticipating this job. It has hung in the back of my mind like a bad smell in the back of a fridge. You know you should investigate it but really don’t want to find that ‘way past it’s use by’ product. All the advice I have gleaned from forums and websites says inspect your keel bolts regularly. However much of a pain it might be, it’s not going to be as painful as the keel falling off in the middle of a storm, or a smiling joint allowing water ingress and the inevitable rot.

Flamingo is up on blocks, and if I’d thought this far ahead I’d have made them higher. Instead I had to dig a couple of holes in order to drive the bolts out from inside the boat.

Holes dug to receive the keel bolts
Holes dug to receive the keel bolts

Undo the nut, drive the bolt out..... simples!
Undo the nut, drive the bolt out….. simples!

The 'wet' end of the bolt
The ‘wet’ end of the bolt appearing

The nuts came off remarkably easily, and using a lump of wood to prevent damaging the thread, the bolt was driven out reasonably quickly. With bated breath I clambered out of the hull to peer under the keel and see what condition it was in.

The sight that greeted me was of the shiny bronze shaft of a keel bolt looking as good as the day it was made, as my father might comment, ‘my cup runneth over’ or indeed, ‘let joy be unconfined!’

Shiny bronze bolt
Shiny bronze bolt

I was sorely tempted to simply drive it back up and leave it at that but remembering one of the worst areas for corrosion is the join between keel and hull I decided, for piece of mind, to take it right out.

500mm Bronze Keel Bolt
500mm Bronze Keel Bolt

A quick clean with parrafin, (thanks be to Brian) and here it is. Apparently the discolouration is nothing to worry about (thank you Vyv (engineer33)) and there is no pitting or thinning at all. I don’t know if these are original bolts or whether they are replacements. If original they have done fantastically well to survive 86 years in such a hostile environment. Driving out two more showed them to be in much the same pristine condition, so a job that could have ended in tears and the expense of bespoke made replacements has gone better than I could have hoped.

But where are the cupcakes and crystals?

I hear you ask…. or was it a random title chosen for it’s alliterative value with little or no basis in reality? Life intervenes in boat restorers dreams and crystals and cupcakes are just some of the distractions.

Breakfast Cupcakes
Luke’s Breakfast Cupcakes

Sadly I’d already eaten, but Luke made these delicious looking breakfast cupcakes; roll some bread flat, line a muffin tin with it, line that with bacon, crack in an egg and sprinkle with cheese. cook in the oven ’til it’s done. Top (hindsight) tip from Luke….. GREASE THE TINS!

Meanwhile, nearby ….. Tilly is growing crystals in a beautiful shade of blue, and Joe is sitting at the kitchen table writing an essay in which he argues whether God’s perfection is proof of his existence or proof that he only exists in our imagination…. eat yer heart out Kant.


Not wishing you to get the idea that all is sunshine and roses here, this worrying photo shows a large slice of lead peeling away from the keel! I’m hoping to find this is perfectly normal, like a snake sloughing away an old skin, but I fear that is just wishful thinking and this is more like the drooping ear of a dog who has done something so nasty on the carpet it’s going to ruin your day.

Worrying delaminating Lead Keel
Worrying delaminating Lead Keel

’til next time.

Wet Weekend for a Dry Run

It’s been blowing a hoolie all weekend with plenty of rain too, so it was a perfect opportunity to work under cover. The laminating jig is finally finished, and a dry run clamping the Oak laminates produced a reasonably satisfactory result, so no chance to use my, ‘the jig is up’ gag that I’ve been trying to shoe horn into this blog. 🙂

The curving ranks of little Clamp Clones awaiting my bidding
The curving ranks of little Clamp Clones awaiting my bidding

Clamp the template and push the clamps up to it.
Clamp the template and push the clamps up to it.

Laminates ready to clamp
Laminates ready to clamp

Softly softly catchee monkey
Softly softly catchee monkey

Some ominous creaking at this point.
Some ominous creaking at this point.

Home and dry!
Home and dry!

Socket Wrench and wing nut gripper.
Socket Wrench and wing nut gripper to ease the burden on my tired old fingers.

Of course the whole process will be fraught with difficulty once there is glue sloshing about all over it and the jig may not just be ‘up’ it may be stratospheric! 🙂

Goblins, Sawing, and Getting Jiggy

I sent a whole day sawing Oak last Friday, the noise grinds you down a bit but the smell is fantastic! Sawing great lumps of Oak into 5mm thick slats creates a startling amount of sawdust, very expensive sawdust, still I can’t see another way round it. The beast of a saw at my father’s workshop has a very sharp new blade with a 3mm kerf which means to get 70mm of laminated beam I need around 125mm to start with.

The startling amount of sawdust settled on an equally startling amount of wine storage, (father has his priorities well sorted) which meant about an hour of sweeping and vacuuming at the end of the day.

The Oak started the day like this….


Once it was all sawn, this is what I was left with…


I hadn’t really thought through the amount of wastage so it will be back to the sawmill at some point to get some more. Meanwhile I’ve ordered some mild steel angle cut into 50mm lengths, from the The Metal Store, some bolts washers and wing nuts it’s time to make the jig!

time passes…..

Snow falls and 9 year old daughters must be appeased with snow man making.

Snowman or Snowgoblin?
Snowman or Snowgoblin?

He came out a little more martial then we were expecting with his teasel trident and ice shield. He lasted almost a week, looking more like a small white duck towards the end but still clinging on to ‘life’.

Eldest son, (usefully training to be an engineer) was cajoled into getting his hands dirty filing off burrs, and then the slightly warmer, inside by the fire, but rather tedious marking out. Now if I can just persuade son #2 and #3 to study Navigation and Sail Making we could have the makings of a pretty good team!

Filing of the burrs with Toby
Filing off the burrs with Toby

Back to the leaky workshop and before drilling 84 holes in 28 bits of steel angle, first get the trusty old drill working. After several years of neglect sitting under a leak in the roof, its more rusty than trusty and the belt shredded within moments. New belt from Lenco Motors, a squirt of oil, and the removal of some spacers to get the belt to fit, soon had it up and running.

Trusty old Drill
Rusty but Trusty Old Drill

Next job, make a jig…. yes I’m making a jig to make clamps for a jig… to make frames for the boat. It does seem a bit of a long winded process as my wife sweetly pointed out.

The Drilling Jig in use
The Drilling Jig in use

The conversation went something like this;

“What are these bits you’re making, dearest heart?”

“They’re clamps, my own sweet darling”

“Why, wherever do they go on the boat, you clever man?”

“Well my love, they don’t actually go on the boat…. they are more like tools… to make bits… that do go on the boat…”

“What?! You mean you’re spending all this time and money making things that aren’t even part of the boat?!” (thinks; “Dear lord what have I done to deserve this nincompoop?”)

Meanwhile, back in the cold and damp, a happy day is spent drilling, next stage, wooden pads.

Clamps ready for the next stage
Clamps ready for the next stage

Some leftover Walnut worktop seems a bit extravagant for clamps but its too small for any other use so…

Leftover Walnut worktop cut into blocks and marked up ready for drilling
Leftover Walnut worktop cut into blocks and marked up ready for drilling

Screwed onto the steel angles
Screwed onto the steel angles

Rounded off and squared up...
Rounded off and squared up… does that make any sense at all?

The advantage of a bench disc sander is getting everything nice and square.

Finally! The finished clamps.
Finally! The finished clamps.

Next up, make the bed which might look something like this…

Drawing for the frame laminating jig
Drawing for the frame laminating jig

I’m sure this project is making very slow progress for anyone reading it, (don’t kid yourself man, there’s no one out there) but I’m starting to feel like things are moving forward. 🙂

Paraffin, Presents and goodbye Shipwreck

So here we are, a few days in to 2016 and I’d like to have something more momentous to report other than the strong winds, tail end of storm Dave, Eva or Frank or whoever, which ripped the tarpaulin off the frame requiring a morning spent wrestling it back on. But the fact is, for the last month there’s  been nothing more than some ineffectual pottering, inconsequential scraping, untimely stripping, and a morsel of polishing, in fact anything that puts off the moment of biting the bullet and actually starting to laminate frames. “It’s the weather.” I tell myself as another drip finds its way down my collar. “I need a workshop” I mutter as I squelch about in the mud. However, Christmas spending has depleted the workshop building pot to non existence so work will have to continue on a weather permitting basis.

On a more positive note 25 litres of paraffin have found their way into my possession (thank you Brian!) and with this seemingly inexhaustible supply I fired up the old blow torch for some nice warm paint stripping.

Paraffin Blow Torch getting scarily hot
Paraffin Blow Torch getting scarily hot

It’s a bit of a fiddle getting it fired up and it’s heavier than a gas one but there is something satisfying about a tool that’s on its third generation and it certainly keeps you warm!

More paint stripping...
More paint stripping…

It took a couple of hours to get to this stage (below) and there is still many hours of picking, scratching, scraping and sanding to go to get all trace of paint off…. where are my boys when I need them?

Lesson learned here is never paint wood if you might ever want it unpainted!
Lesson learned here is never paint wood if you might ever want it unpainted!

In these dark winter days the interior of Flamingo’s cabin is dim at best. Luckily my lovely wife bought me this old brass lamp for Christmas, with half a dozen more like this I may even be able to read a chart in there….

Despite much rubbing, no boat building genie appeared...
Despite much rubbing, no boat building genie appeared…

The arrival of the paraffin lamp prompted the removal of the nasty lighting and wiring, legacy of a previous owner.

Shoddy cabling...
Shoddy cabling…

Lights and wiring stripped out
Lights and wiring stripped out and all looking much cleaner.

Realising the little lamp was not giving quite the output required for working, I filled up and fired up an old pressure lamp. It adds heat and light in about equal measure and if I had portholes and wash boards in, might have actually made Flamingo, dare I say….. cosy!

Faithful old pressure lamp kicking out the heat
Faithful old pressure lamp kicking out the heat

The extreme weather continued and days of rain culminated in the stream by the house rising about 1.5m in a few hours bringing it perilously close to the house. Remarkably an hour or so after the rain stopped the water level dropped back down to more normal winter levels. Still I think some sand bags might be a wise precaution.

This being the time of year for promises and plans I am adding another resolution to the ‘no alcohol during the week’ one that ‘we’ have decided on. I have shortened and prioritised the mahusive Schedule of Works from September last year, into a smaller, still daunting, but hopefully achievable list of jobs for 2016. I wont bore you with the details, but if I can complete it, I will have a watertight, seaworthy hull before the year is out and Tilly will no longer be able to refer to this project as ‘Daddy’s Shipwreck’.

’til next time…


The Tracks of her Years

Scraping and sanding the varnished cockpit coaming reveals repairs and reinforcements, witness to the passage of time and hard use of the past 85 years. Far from detracting from the look of the boat I rather like them, imaging the events in the past that led to these scars brings her history to life. Was it a storm straining on the cleat that split the teak, did the boom get dropped on it, or was it some clumsy oaf getting too enthusiastic with a winch handle?

Coaming Repairs
Coaming repairs bear witness to the past.

At the stern is a Tiller Comb, a long piece of timber with holes for pegs that are used to trap the tiller on a given tack, a kind of auto pilot if you like. It cleaned up rather well… #2 Son did sterling work with the hot air gun and scraper, well done Joe.


Tiller Comb and Cockpit Coaming all sanded and lovely.
Tiller Comb and Cockpit Coaming all sanded and lovely.

Sunday morning dawned frosty and blue and having treated ourselves to a sausage and egg onion bagel I left Tilly in the warm embrace of ‘USA’s Cutest Kittens’ or some such nonsense and ventured out for more sanding and musings on the tracks of Flamingo’s passing years. The muddy path to the field had tracks of a different kind, this part of East Sussex has a burgeoning population of deer and they are rather partial to apple trees, much to mother’s despair. Venison for Christmas?

Tracks of another kind show the orchard had some unwelcome visitors in the night
Tracks of another kind show the orchard had some unwelcome visitors in the night

The cold weather and the shorter days have prompted me to set up this beauty. A cast off from work, the lamp blasts the bench with light and a bonus warmth too! I think some sort of spigot clamp would work better than the tripod though, as it eats up a rather large amount of floor space.

Improved lighting in the workshop
Improved lighting in the workshop

Though it is lighter now, the old workshop is still gently rotting from the ground up, the pillar drill is slowly disappearing into the floor and the roof leaks seem to be breeding, so I’ve cleared a space around the shed by the boat to build a new one….


Meanwhile, in a much smarter workshop, the Bosun has been beavering away making some lovely teak washboards.

Flamingo washboards. 19 Oct 2015
Washboards nearly ready for fitting.

Can’t wait to get them fitted and give him his next project…… saloon table maybe? Teak grating for the cockpit….? Hand rails for the coach roof….


Late Post

I found this post from Spring lurking in my drafts… so here it is.

A beautiful sunny day and no school run = lots achieved on Flamingo. The mast step is finally finished and I scale the ladder with some trepidation partly due to the massive lump of English Oak on my shoulder and the wobbliness of the ladder but mainly because I have spent a considerable amount of time and effort to get to this stage and this will be the first time I see whether it fits. It doesn’t. The mismatched bolts it has to slide over, project from the keel at jaunty angles – mocking me. Undeterred, a bit of work with mallet and chisel and a bit of sweat and grazed knuckles… and it’s on! I have to admit to being slightly surprised. My woodworking skills are ok but copying the crumbling original with no square or flat surfaces to use as a datum there was always going to be a hefty dollop of crossed fingers and guesswork in the process.

The old mast step is a crumbling lump
The old mast step is a crumbling lump

Reversing my wobbly progress back down the ladder I applied a generous coat of linseed oil to the Oak. It was a little green when I bought it and sitting out in the sun, wind and rain is drying it a bit too quickly. Hopefully a good soaking of oil will help slow the seasoning down a little.

Having mixed up far too much thinned down linseed oil I cast my eye around for anything else that might also be suffering  from Mother Nature’s affections. The rudder, a huge laminated slab of teak was looking a little dry… its not now. 🙂

I spent some time last weekend making some trestles to store the spars. They were languishing under the boat exposed to the elements that the flash coat of varnish was fast losing the battle with. They are now more convenient to access and better supported to limit any unwanted bend in the mast. Lots of sanding and a large jar of thinned down oil later and the Mast, Boom, and Gaff are looking very nice and all tucked up under a roll of DPM to give them some protection. Whilst cursing nature’s effect on my wood, I am of course aware, that I’m working whilst standing in an orchard surrounded by apple blossom and primroses, bumble bees lumbering through the periwinkles, a ubiquitous robin chirping nearby and the rat tat tat tat of a woodpecker down by the stream. So I guess, given the entertainment she’s laid on, I’ll forgive her the depredations.

Primroses and Periwinkles in the spring sunshine
Primroses and Periwinkles in the spring sunshine


Last Days of Summer

Thursday dawned warm and sunny and my bonus four day weekend (one day all weekends will be made this way)  looked like being a fruitful one. Still putting off the making of frames, (my current excuse being I need more workshop space to lay out the laminates) I carried on stripping varnish and sanding the sides of the coachroof. I’ve invested in velcro backed rolls of sandpaper and what a difference! Gone the frustration of trying to clamp reluctant 80 grit into poorly designed clips that ping open at the slightest provocation. Substitute instead, a stack of pre cut sheets ready to be popped on in seconds. Of course the extra time sanding has had a negative effect on my back muscles but every silver lining has a cloud.

More sanding
More sanding

Some nasty black stuff has been used to fill the cracks...:(
Some nasty black stuff has been used to fill the cracks…:(

The thought occurs, as I curse the orbital sander marking a clattering trail of little dents into the deck, that some sort of rubber edged sander would be a good invention. Yes yes I know, It’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools but it is really hard to get right up to the edge without bashing the adjacent wood…. must try harder.

The pulpit was getting in the way, so off it came. Does she look cleaner without it….?

Pulpit gone.
Pulpit gone.

Maybe a bit, but I wonder whether someone wrestling with the anchor or hanking on a foresail would be glad of its steely galvanised (and galvanising?) embrace, and more than happy to compromise Flamingo’s traditional lines for a bit of safety….. Well, we’re a long way off that point so I’ll not worry too much about it now. It’s many a mickle makes a muckle,  as like as not as makes no nevermind….

Pulpit pushed overboard
Pulpit pushed overboard

The whole site is getting a bit untidy so I spent some time clearing up, sorting out, and stacking the various bits of the interior and then covering them with a tarp.

A surprising amount of stuff when it's all collected
A surprising amount of stuff when it’s all collected

All wrapped up. Chester checks my handiwork. He's a bit sniffy about it but deems it OK
All wrapped up. Chester checks my handiwork. He’s a bit sniffy about it but is probably looking forward to all the mice it will shelter…

Lots of strangely shaped pieces are carefully stashed. These two bits are a puzzle.

Puzzle pieces
Puzzle pieces

I’ve labelled them and obviously while doing so fondly imagined I would remember more about their function….. I’m thinking PA (Port Aft) PM (Port Middle) but of what? I can’t for the life of me think where they’re from.

The leaky workshop continues its frustration, Father’s canvas Ditty Bag has to be dried out and its contents find a new home in a Whiskey tin (thanks Sarah)

It always seems a shame to throw away the tin...
It always seems a shame to throw away the tin…

So I didn't.
So I didn’t.

Meanwhile, Tilly discovered a Fairy shoemaker’s last, proof if it were needed that the little people are all around us…..

Tiny stone last for making tiny shoes upon. Fairies exist. Fact!
Tiny stone last for making tiny shoes upon. Fairies exist. Fact!

Turas math dhuibh.


There has been very little work over the last few weeks. Life has just got in the way. This weekend will be no different as #1 Son has flown the coop to University so we’re “popping up” to see him. Driving to Manchester with a post birthday party hangover will be stretching the phrase popping up but it will be good to see him in his new digs.

There are, of course, lots of little jobs that could be done in the few moments I have had, but I’m a master of procrastination so the workshop has remained untidied, the storage shed likewise, the grass and brambles grow unchecked while I –  make lists…

Lots of people ask me; “How’s the boat coming along?” and “Nearly finished?” or, “Is there much to do on it” It’s a bit like asking “How are you?”, no one really expects an answer, certainly not a seemingly never ending list of what needs doing…. gabbled out excitedly in some sort of nautical code language. As I talk I see their eyes glazing over and flick from side to side (is there any rescue from this boat bore?)

So for all those who feign interest, for the list makers and procrastinators, here is the ‘To Do’ list. It’s by no means exhaustive, though it will be exhausting.

The endless list
The endless list

I’ve found the trick is, to look at the list, and then add a new item, that way I can feel I’ve achieved something. 🙂 Otherwise I could feel overwhelmed, and lets face it no one likes too much whelm in their life do they?

Helping Hands

A week at home should have allowed for more progress on Flamingo but the weather was so awful it dampened my enthusiasm for outside work and even when I did grit my teeth and get out there it was difficult to see in the dim light below decks. Still there were a few bright moments and wonder of wonders, some helping hands!

Stripping and sanding varnish
Toby sanding the toe rail and Luke removing sealant from the cabin sides.

With some difficulty we removed the portholes so we could better sand and seal the cabin sides. I think at some point in her history the portholes were replaced with these rather too large ones with the result that the coach roof trim overlaps them.

The Portholes were fitted before the coaming.
The Portholes were fitted before the coach roof trim

It wasn’t a problem for the stern most ones but towards the bow where the coach roof tapers, the top screw was completely hidden. I decided to simply chisel out a small half round to access the screw, it was still a real struggle to get them off so the permanent solution will probably be to use the porthole as a template and reshape the trim around it. This will make it much easier to remove them in the future.

All eight portholes removed and labelled.
All eight portholes removed and labelled.

You can still buy these at for £379.81 which means the portholes would cost more than I paid for the whole boat! No wonder the previous owner was worried someone would buy her to break up and sell as parts.

As usual there were many distractions;

an afternoon rock climbing at

Climbing fun
Climbing fun

a day spent clearing brambles nettles and sycamore from the old chicken run.

Preparing for some new feathery friends
Preparing for some new feathery friends

and an afternoon making a new, smaller axe handle…

A new handle roughed out ready for finishing.
A new handle roughed out ready for finishing.

Note to self, don’t use a wooden mallet to drive an axe head on to the handle.

the sad demise of the first tool I ever made.... back in 1981
the sad demise of the first tool I ever made…. back in 1981

So now I’m back at work on a very quiet Bank Holiday Monday (hence having time to write this) and though we didn’t really achieve a huge amount, I feel progress is being made, the toe rail looks lovely all sanded back to its natural warm teak colour and now the portholes are out the cabin sides shouldn’t take too long to strip back. At least then it will look like things are changing, unlike my adding one or two more frame templates to the ever increasing pile…

Steel, Sisal, Tufnol and Bronze.

No, not a dubious firm of solicitors, nor the latest colours from Farrow and Ball. My kids would call them Resistant Materials, apparently they don’t do Woodwork and Metalwork any more, and I’ve not worked out what would constitute non resistant materials… surely everything resists to some degree?


So, steel. I picked up the floors from the blacksmith (MichaelHart) last weekend, not galvanised in case I need to make any adjustments. Hopefully the welding process hasn’t distorted the shape too much. Each floor was laid on the work table, drawn around and then the new flat steel pieces were welded on before cutting the old corroded parts away.  I think this method should  limit any movement… £170 seems quite a lot for a bit of welding but each piece had to be individually cut to size and angled to suit. Sand blasting and galvanising will be a further £130 if I can piggy back on a larger order. Its not cheap this boat business! Though maybe in the middle of an ocean, with a strong wind and a big swell, £300 to hold the boat together will seem like money well spent!

Newly repaired steel floors alongside the rudder metalwork
Newly repaired steel floors alongside the rudder metalwork

Templating frames is as tedious as ever but if I needed persuading how necessary it is, this ‘repair’ had to be removed to access the original frame and revealed just what a poor state some of the woodwork is in.

Frame repair showing signs of age
Frame repair showing signs of age


Nail sickness? Gulp!
Nail sickness? Gulp!



So seeking inspiration I decided to dismantle the winches (well why not?) and see if I could get them to run more smoothly. The shiny chromed, two speed winches on Moonshine Blues are a far cry from these tufnol and bronze relics and I think the smooth clickety clicking of those modern Lewmar ratchets might be a bit of a tall order. However once I had dismantled them (one screw!) cleaned the accumulated gunk of years of neglect, and despite one spring somersaulting gaily though the sunshine into the long grass, I got them back together and was pleasantly surprised to find they work slightly more smoothly! I quickly stepped away lest I was tempted to meddle some more and undo all the good work!

An old tufnol and bronze winch, dismantled ready for cleaning.
An old tufnol and bronze winch, dismantled ready for cleaning.

A bit of brasso and a glob of grease and they’ll be like new!


So on to Sisal… nothing to do with the boat, just a spot of Outdoor Darts with the extended family. Apparently compressed sisal is what dart boards are made of. Who knew?

I wonder if this is what mum had in mind when she planted the walnut trees all those years ago?

Outdoor Darts with offspring and their hangers on.
Outdoor Darts with offspring and their hangers on.


The restoration of a 1930's Gaff Cutter