It was only after getting the boat into the shed that I spotted the little oval nameplate on the transom. Frank Knights Boat Builders Ipswich. Frank died in 2008 aged 91, but he is at my shoulder as I work on the boat he built all those years ago. And it's pretty daunting to know that I am breathing life back into a boat that has lasted so long, and built so effortlessly well.
The planking is mahogany, the good stuff, with a few almost unnoticeable scarphs in otherwise full-length planking. It's all copper riveted, with rose head nails at the hood ends. When I broke out the steamed timbers I was impressed to find, where needed, perfect little teak wedges so they lay on the planks fair. So many other touches spoke of a boat built by a master, from the closeness of the seams to the beading along the thwarts and gunwales.
How did a boat like this get up here? Who knows, but she certainly had little use and the varnish was all original, which made the task of stripping it off all the easier. Unfortunately at some point someone had ladled a stickier, tinted coating on top which could not be burnt, but had to b scraped off. I wish people would think before they did that. Somewhere down the line someone is going to have to scrape it all off.
When Frank retired, he closed the business citing, as one of the reasons, the difficulty of getting people to spend the money needed to keep old (clinker) boats up to scratch. And I fully sympathise.
Owners seem to be losing the knowledge of what it takes to maintain a clinker boat, preferring to bodge and make-do until it's too late. Whereas a little bit of TLC every year is the answer.