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. 🙂