It is good to see new wood going in after nearly a month of preparation. Six planks are being replaced together with nine ribs, five more than appeared to be needed at first examination. John Hill had warned me from the start that he would not give an estimate on cost for rot repairs, you can see why. The extent of the spread is obvious from the picture, far more than was obvious at the start.
Internal fittings and paint have hidden the true picture. Lockers cover part of the area and the hull is painted in the main cabin. Rot must have started to spread some years ago but only became obvious in the last year. In hindsight more frequent examination of hidden areas would have been desirable. (Note to self!). I am fearful of poking the port side planking, but it will have to be done.
The owners of another boat in the shed contacted me to empathise with my problem. Their boat is a composite with ply deck and wooden superstructure. It looks nice but the joint between the glass fibre hull and deck is often a source of trouble. On this boat the gunwhale is glassed in, water has leaked through the deck and has, as the co-owner wrote to me, turned the gunwhale to “mush”.
Wooden boats may have their maintenance issues but can nearly always be repaired, “there’s plenty of wood in the forest” a fellow Honeybee owner told me! I felt cheered by this comment, by the progress which has been made and sadly by greater problems seen on the other boat.
We have started talking money! I have closed my eyes and am thinking of The Kyles of Bute on a balmy autumn day!
This notice is placed over the door to John Hill’s workshop, I’ll try to bear it in mind when the bills start to roll in.
Last week Crunluath made a tricky short voyage from Largs Yacht Haven to Fairlie Quay Little over a mile but far enough when the starboard side is peppered with holes and there is no side deck from cockpit to cabin front. I left it to the professionals and sat at home biting my nails until I had a one word text in reply to an earlier message,Yes, it said.
Now the planking has dried the extent of the rot is plain to see, it looks like six planks need replacing, plus two part bulkheads and the starboard side deck. It is all a bit sobering, there might have been a catastrophic failure at sea and the extent of the rot was surprising, far wider than was obvious until internal joinery had been removed. It’s all repairable but it is going to take a few weeks and a lot of skilled boatbuilding.
After a few years of ownership it’s time to simplify, especially in electrics and instrumentation. A rethink in the plumbing department is also overdue, the original underfloor water tank has succumbed to rust at the welds and much of the pipework is past its best. I have a hugh pile of boat bits at home to sort through and more than a few to be recycled or thrown out.
I am hoping for a mild autumn and winter with a bit of sailing and a good deal of marine painting and decorating.
One of the distractions of parking your boat at a posh marina is that you get to see some very fancy cars and even fancier boats. The wealthy are seldom renowned for their sense of humour but occasionally they come up with a winner, one such tickled my funny bone a season or so ago. A seriously powerful motor boat edged cautiously out past my berth, I was impressed by the helms-person’s caution and consideration and he went up seriously in my estimation when I realised he had a power boat instructor on the flybridge and they spent some time practising docking manoeuvres before heading out. With several hundreds of horses under the bonnet it was the mark of a sensible power boater, a rare species in my experience. What really got me was the name chosen for this blatant symbol of opulence.
Crunluath has a serious case of rot, a leaking deck has rotted the ribs and planking below the chain-plates, a sad week of probing and prodding led me to the conclusion that it was time to bring in the professionals. We are heading to the big Nato shed at Fairlie for a bit of TLC and a serious bit of damage to the savings portfolio. John S Hill is to carry out the work, John and his team have carried out some impressive work on Scottish Islands Class boats amongst other and John has the impeccable credentials of having been trained by Silvers and worked for McGruers. I was immediately impressed by his down to earth attitude and obvious love of boats and sailing. “He’s very expensive”, said a fellow Honeybee owner. Quite likely but we haven’t discussed the dirty business of money yet and as Jaguar Cars always said, “No one ever regrets buying quality”. I need to leave an asset to my kids not a liability, besides which Crunluath isn’t just a boat any more, she’s part of my life and deserves the best I can do. This is a dangerous attitude to adopt, I’ll try to keep it under control. Sorry Kids!
It’s been a long winter and there’s more to go yet but I have at last got my web site up to date with details of all the Honey Bees I know about.
It’s not a good tale, another one has been found in a poor state, Sanday, owned by the same family for thirty years has been seen at Inverness in a poor state of repair. It must be heartbreaking to see her adrift after years of love and glorious memories of years of wonderful sailing.
Crunluath could easily have headed that way, a bad case of rot has been found, fortunately not too late to be repaired and work is underway to get afloat again this year. I should have replaced a section of deck a couple of years or more ago before the fungus spores infected other timbers, it’s a difficult job but repairable.
Neither me nor the boat is getting any younger and all Honey Bees are approaching or have already passed their half century. They were not built to last this long! (maybe their owners were not either!) It is a tribute to the attractiveness of the design that they have survived and in some cases thrived. No doubt Seillean will be trundling up to Largs on her low loader in another couple of months, fresh from a winter cosseted in a shed. I had hoped to get Crunluath under cover this year but the rot beat me to it and it was a rushed job to get her out of the water and the mast removed before it fell down. In hindsight I should have just removed the mast and left her rig-less afloat but good decisions are seldom taken in panic. When you can see daylight through the hull at a chainplate a certain urgency does enter into the decision making process.
I am feeling a bit more optimistic about the new season now that planning for the repairs is progressing. Memories of a sail last season in the tail end of hurricane Katia are still fresh in the mind, several boats in the west of Scotland did not survive that gale and a few more succommed to gales of exceptional feriocity earlier in 2011.
“Worse thing happen at sea”, my granny used to intone in times of stress… too damn right grandma!
We all have ambitions, desires, wishes and cloud cuckoo plans but sometimes the simplest of pleasures are the best.
I once accidentally entered a trans-Atlantic sailing race, well actually I expressed an interest but then found my boat on a list of probable entrants. To be honest I did give it some thought before the reality of getting a forty plus year old wooden boat and a sixty something crew ready for such a voyage eventually hit home and I made my excuses and backed out!
Last weekend Crunluath made a shorter trip across the Hunterston channel to Millport, capital city of Great Cumbrae, it’s a jolly little place I visit frequently. On Sunday the purpose was to get a good view of seals. That’s nothing special to regular sailors but it’s a big deal if you a kid.
It was a great day for sailing, three to four south-westerly, sunny and warm, a regular summer’s day, less than an hour from our berth but for me proof that I still have a working boat, something I was beginning to doubt.
We saw our seals, bananaring on the rocks and singing their mournful songs. We hung around for a while, keeping our distance but getting close enough for a good view and a few photos.
On the way home we passed a very large log floating south on the tide, a helpful fellow boater reported it to the Coastguard but there was no follow up. A fast motor boat missed it by a few yards.
Off the Scottish National Sailing Centre the sea cadet’s brig was moored, we played the Pirates of the Caribbean theme tune to suit the view.
Back at the berth a DSC all ships warning startled us, we didn’t follow it up but wondered if another fast motor boat had hit the tree trunk.
Returning home I watched a wild Round the Island race on Countryfile; exciting certainly, enjoyable definitely, memorable absolutely, but not half as good as showing your grandchildren wild seals basking on a rock from a boat you spent a lifetime working for.
ps. Here’s a wonderful tale which made me laugh out loud to myself after writing my blog. It’s from Ewan Kennedy’s Scottish Boating blog http://scottishboating.blogspot.com/2011/07/tale-of-seagull-frying-machine.html?utm_source=BP_recent
After four days sailing in less water than it takes to drown a pint I was beginning to get used to life in the shallow lane. I had already got my east coast stripes back by running aground in the Walton Backwaters and had got lost in the faceless shores of the Wallet channel where every buoy looks identical. An ancient Garmin which neither of us quite remembered how to use had so engrossed the skipper and distracted me that we suddenly realised that visibility had reduced to half what it was ten minutes ago and we were well off course. We got back to basics, sailed to the nearest can and read the label… now we knew where we were. A quick look at the chart and a peek through the hand held compass and we were back on track. How so unlike our own dear Clyde where the course marks are 1000 feet high!
The Walton Backwaters are sadly no longer quite so secret with a busy marina where the Swallows had once splached ashore from Horsey Island but a splendid reception awaited us with a good meal, a great barbecue area and a helpful marina manager all making it an enjoyable stay.
A grounding and a nav malfunction later saw us at Heybridge Basin where the Dutch were in command of locking, Lelystad’s best sailors were on hand to pack us into the lock, the Ship Inn provided a fine pint or three and a decent meal. A unique experience for me was going to Tesco by dinghy and walking in with a lifejacket on carrying a petrol can which I managed to hide in my rucksack before I got jumped on by security!
The cream of the trip was seeing Nixi, a Honey Bee I feared may have been lost, at Heybridge. In the same ownership for the past twenty two years, she looked in fine fettle with the blue ensign of the Royal Harwich on her stern. I enjoyed a welcome mug of tea and a nostalgic break on her in the basin.
Our return north was invigorating with a freshening force five SSE and a falling tide blasting us back to Shotley in a little over five hours, our lightweight Pegasus felt like a dinghy and behaving like one when a momentary loss of concentration resulted in a gybe pinning the skipper to starboard before I made it out of the cabin.
We ended our week with a superb meal at Woolverston Marina, precursored by two fine pints at Adnams at the Butt and Oyster and epiloged by some fine wine aboard a 36ft Southerly whose owner took pity on a couple of old salts who looked in need of some decent booze.
Most of my readers will be too young to remember this but I have Triffid in the heads compartment, my boat has an alien life form!
Basically it’s wet rot spreading from the deck leak, it has already attacked the beam shelf, now it’s heading south.
It’s time for radical surgery! Better out than in.
I have already sawn out part of the deck beam and have temporarily cured the deck leak but remedial action is needed so I am planning some new deck work this autumn.
And this was supposed to be about sailing, but its mostly about repairing, that’s the way it goes with wooden boats, like it or loathe it! I am planning a temporary solution and strengthening to the deck beam so that I can get some sailing in this year but it is only temporary, a permanent solution will have to be found.
Tomorrow I head south and east for an entirely different kind of sailing off the east coast of Suffolk and Essex. Looking at the charts I was a bit startled by the depths. On the Clyde I get worried when the echo shows ten metres, it must be time to tack. Off Suffolk ten metres is all you get. It’s forty years since I was last there, I need to adjust! As a fellow berth holder at Largs said last week, “I tack when I can step ashore”. It’s a bit of a culture shock but as my skipper is just back from France with a car load of wine I am sure I will adjust.
A combination of holidays, visitors, general household maintenance crud, weather and more weather; has kept me from Crunluath for over four weeks. I only had a day to assess water ingress after the launch and then had to trust my workmanship and the state of the boat batteries to keep the Clyde out of the boat. The trusty little Rutland 503 wind generator has done its job and bilge water level is normal, house batteries are up to charge but the starter battery has taken a hit, lets hope it has recovered from a booster charge today and input from the 503 which is now switched to both battery banks. When I left it was setting up a steady howl, normally it’s a pretty quiet little beast. My mast head wireless wind speed indicator has lost touch with its base station so I could only guess the gusts were around force seven.
More mileage in the yachting press is devoted to battery maintenance than perhaps any other topic and it is a source of some anxiety for the wooden boat owner. Of course I could always plug into the marina mains supply but why pay for power when you can make your own? (My brother-in-law always claims us Yorkshire men are like the Scots, but not so generous)
The Clyde is not often short of wind but recent days have seen some very high wind speeds for the time of year so even a tiny power source like the smaller Rutland model is whacking out quite a few watts. The extreme winds haves taken a toll on some boating areas in Scotland as Ewan Kennedy shows in his Scottish Boating Blog .
Inside the boat most of the weather has been kept on the outside but rain has found its way in through the ventilators and the usual leak sources. The rot found last year has reoccurred to a limited extent and there will have to be more remedial work this season but it has not spread widely. Good ventilation helps of course even if the rain does sometimes get in through the mushroom vents. The main ingress area, a deck leak seems to have been sealed but a close eye will have to be kept on the problem.
With the weather coming from the west my berth is quite well sheltered and lack of sails on the boat have helped keep trouble to a minimum, marina staff were struggling to get a freed roller genoa under control as rain gave way to a hint of hail….it’s May for g..s’ sake! Only three weeks ago we were basking in cloudless sunny skies…on Skye!
Another lesson well learned was from Adrian Morgan who earlier urged me to get the boat afloat, wise words O’ Master!!
Launch day is always a bit fraught for the wooden boat owner. Will it float is the question, and for how long?
Tupperware boat owners of course know nothing of this; it’s drop in, drive off for them, assuming of course they closed the sea cocks.
This year was especially worrying with the newly replaced stuffing box being the prime cause of angst, not only had it been difficult to fix in place with access tricky with the engine in place but the stern tube had to be shortened to match the new stern bearing. An excess of Sikaflex seems to have done the trick but it will be a while before I feel confident that all is well.
My mind was distracted from this problem when the hoist driver and his mate chose an unusual way out of a blocked exit, if you can’t go round go over was their chosen method. It looked pretty alarming to see Crunluath take to the air to fly over a small powerboat but she flew with ease and not a scratch anywhere thanks to some fancy pilotage. Well flown Ian and John!
A few small weeps from the planks taking up and all was well, by the time I left the pump was only operating once an hour. If you have a wooden boat and don’t have a bilge monitor, get one, you’ll sleep easier!
A voice calling from a nearby boat as I made my way to my pontoon led to a delightful meeting with the son of a former owner of Crunluath. Gordon’s family owned her for 18 years competing in events around the Clyde and west coast of Scotland, coming on board again he was pleased to recognise many original parts and identify his old bunk! It was great to have this link with my boat’s past, it makes the cold winter days of work and the lost nights of sleep all seem worth while. I promised to keep her until we can celebrate her 50th year, hope I make it as well as the boat.
“On board the boat, it’s not sinking” I emailed to my offspring. “How’s it going”, hailed Gordon the following morning. “It’s not sinking”, I replied.
Flying, floating, not sinking. That’ll do me for the moment.
ps: A few days after writing this piece I noticed the name of the boat over which Crunluath is flying….Flying Boat!
Measure twice, cut once; never a better saying said as far as the old boat man is concerned. Trouble is we seldom remember it, and when we do we can still get it wrong.
My attempts to plug the hole in the stern post where the propellor shaft used to be have had more spanners thrown into their works than I can shake a spanner at.
Some of Adrian Morgan’s Ullapool weather seems to have worked its way south to hinder my attempts to fit a new stuffing box and replace the stern tube. A weather window appeared, ”I’m going Tuesday… no Wednesday… right definitely Thursday.” A phone call from a supplier of bronze screws rang the changes and Thursdays’ departure was rescheduled for after the post comes which means just before noon around rural Cumbria. Got there in the end, nut down over the engine grovelling in the bilges, cracked it!
Well no actually.
A right angled drill attachment enabled me to drill holes for the stuffing box into the stern post despite the space constraints, pity there was not enough wood to drill into! The leak which caused all this work in the first place probably caused this particular problem, two screws bit well but two were dodgy, never mind they can be fitted later I thought, either a wooden plug or if that is not possible then the dreaded epoxy resin will probably do a secure job.
So down the ladder and round to the blunt end to screw on the cutlass bearing, filling the gaps with sealant around the stern tube. Dropping the sealant gun from the top of the ladder didn’t help, it managed to break the top of the sealant tube with a consequent excess of sealant everywhere except in the relevant places. Still a minor problem and I could still use the excess usefully.
A premature halt came when the cutlass bearing stopped short of the stern post by some 8mm. The stern tube seemed to have grown since I removed it last year. I really had measured twice, indeed thrice, so why would it not fit?
Nothing had changed at the propeller end so it had to be the inside bearing. The new stuffing box looked pretty similar to its predecessor but the screw thread was shorter… about 8mm shorter!
I only thought of this whilst driving home. The stern tube will have to be shortened.
I’ll be measuring it more than once.
Worse things happen at sea. They certainly will if I do not get this right, this is a mission critical job.
I shall seek solace and inspiration from my guru, The Famous Grouse.