The blog will now be devoted not to boat building but to my 82-year-old Vertue, Sally II, now undergoing a well needed refit at Johnson & Loftus in Ullapool (and gliding...)

Monday, 21 January 2013

Back to work

Time for an update, now there's no excuse (Christmas; New Year) to keep away from the workshop. What you would see if you ventured north beyond the safety of Inverness and up over the Dirrie Mhor to Ullapool would be a shed full of boats: a mahogany dinghy; my With runabout, and a classic motor bike: 1991 Honda VFR750F, plus bit of Sula, the Shetland boat: rudder, mast etc.

The exquisite Frank Knights-built mahogany dinghy came my way recently for restoration. It was going to simply be a question of re-timbering and back in the water, but it was clear this was a cut above the rest, so I set about stripping the hull down to bare wood again.

Thing is, once you start there is no going back. And there's no easy way, is there? John suggested caustic soda and washing up liquid. Is that wise? I'll keep using a scraper and hot air gun as it helps to dry the planking while you scrape. Forget Nitromors. Stupidly expensive and almost totally useless.

Instead of replacing the two sections of split planking with hard to find mahogany (or larch, which would stand out), I will employ a technique learnt from Dick Johnson, boat builder and formerly editor of Yachting World. The splits must be bone dry. Epoxy and mahogany dust mixed produce a mahogany-like material that when varnished is almost impossible to tell apart from the mahogany itself, and will be every bit as strong too. It's a technique I used on the Thames skiff with great success.

Also in hand will soon be the replacing of the top section of Lobie II's mast, which plummeted deckwards during last summer's circumnavigation (of the UK). That'll be tricky. The mast came out alongside the pier yesterday, and was strapped to a makeshift trailer for the journey up the glen.

The mast, of spruce, built by Moody's on the Hamble is a work of art, glued, I fear, with Aerolite or similar. A scarph had given way, I suspect under compression from the shrouds which may have been overtightened. The trick will be to build back the strength.

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