A mixed bag

Since the new year its been a bit of famine and feast so, as so often happens, you don’t want to write and then don’t have time to write. The Katydid restoration project went on hold just before Christmas (for the normal economic reasons affecting most people this year) and for a while not much else came along. With luck, the Katydid project may re-start and I may well still be involved with it, but it could be a while coming…

So, instead of working full time on a keel-up restoration of an antique Fife I have been working as an itinerant freelance boat-builder doing, well, all sorts of things.

The ‘keel up’ restoration of Katydid got just as far as shaping up the new keel.

The oak (enough for a new backbone) came in the long wheelbase Damhead van from Harry Simpson at Mackay’s Boatyard, Arbroath. There was no room for organic mushrooms on that trip!

After kicking my heels for a while in the new year I got in ‘the egg’ and went looking for work. Posters in sailing clubs, visits to local boatyards (not many of those) and phone calls to less than local boatyards yielded, initially, the usual story. The notable exception was Steve Kelvin in Grangemouth who gave me a week’s trial, then gave me some work and since has continued to give me freelance work since I first drove into his yard in early March. Why did I not go straight there after I finished training? Well, by his own admission, Steve is too busy to do marketing – and you won’t find him anywhere on the web. I was sort of aware of Kelvin Marine as somewhere where some people (i.e Chris Hall) took their boats for the winter. In fact, Kelvin Marine do storage and craneage up to 20 tons (those slings are heavy I can tell you), interior fitout, engines & sterngear, hull repairs ( in wood, glass and steel) and just about anything else. Anyway, I’ve been doing all sorts of things there and learning all sorts of new skills of the sort that I could never learn at the BBA.

Some of the projects will get stories in due course but for now just look at the crane. No wimpy travel hoist in THIS yard.

This ex-pilot boat weighed in right at the 20 ton lifting limit. Twin CAT engines and a lengthy restoration (by the owner) awaits. We (i.e. Steve) may get to do some work on the engines at some point.

Alongside a core working week at Grangemouth my adverts in clubs and efforts to talk to people started to yield results with a trickle or local boats needing repairs and assistance. Folkboats are more or less the most common wooden yachts in this area and being 50+ years old most of them seem to need a bit of work at times.

The restoration of Scimitar, with which I am helping the owner, John, is progressing and will offer all sorts of challenges. Dave Blatchford from Buckler’s Hard came up to assist in reviewing the programme of work and we had an interesting day during which the scope of operations expanded to include the removal and re-bedding of the ballast keel! Current work on the boatskin includes scarfing in (lots) of plank segments to recover from aggressive chainplate boltholes, numerous graving pieces replacing numerous tingles and replacement of dubious and not quite so dubious sections of sheer strake.

I’m working alongside John rather than for John so work and teaching get rather mixed up. I’m not experienced enough to teach anyone but am happy to show John what I have learnt so far and he seems to pick it up and work effectively alongside me. Scimitar is the most Nordic of the folkboats that I am working on and is a big project. I suspect that John (and his numerous friends who help out) will write ‘Zen and the art of boat restoration’ when we all get finished and re-launch her.

Marine Carpenters get to fix toe rails and rubbing strakes. Everyone know that as a fact. Well, here is my first. Merlin is not a Nordic Folkboat, she’s not even an International Folkboat (whatever one of those is) she’s a Freshwater Folkboat. She was built on Windermere and is carvel (of course) splined (in pretty good condition) and just needing a few repairs before the (mid to late start) season. After an argument with one of the notorious port-edgar pontoons in an autumn gale she needs new section of toe-rail, rubbing strake and a few other bits and bobs. Here is the new toe rail – just clamped up…

The third Folkboat that I am working on is a Cowes built clinker boat with a raised coachroof. Border Maid (no picture yet) needs a new wooden mast. Although Collars would be glad to oblige Ken and I will build one from Douglas Fir between us, to the class specification of course.

The fourth Folkboat in this piece, is NOT one I am working on. It is resting in the old dock at Grangemouth. It is different in that it is close planked (no splines, no caulking) It is 50 or so years old, built in East Germany and took up in a couple of days after a couple of years ashore. How did they do it? Anyway, if you want it (Woodnut is the name) you need to talk to Nicola – who owns it (and one or two other boats as well).

After working all these Folkboats I have sometimes thought that it would be rather fun to own (and race) one. To work, for me, it would have to have the short nordic coachroof and no guard rails. Any offers?

To finish, for now, here is Twinkle, Lorne’s Twinkle 12 and the latest visitor to my workshop. She is in for quite a bit of work as she has had a few hard winters sitting in the breeze round the back of Seapan. New garboards, keel repairs, a new apron, centre board case repairs, quite a number of timbers…. Anyway, in due course she will look lovely again but right now she looks as if she has a very bad hangover…

Oh, the real reason why I’m writing this post is that I have pulled a muscle in my hand and can’t work properly with hand tools. I can’t even go racing on Henceforth. Who would want to be self-employed when things like this can happen? Back to real work next week I hope…

One comment

  1. Having just done the initial ! weeks woodworking course at BBA I found your blog and this site inspirational. I love the Peapod and will follow your career with great interest – looking for clues guidence and ideas. Thankyou for bothering to write it all down.

    David Barker

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