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 8 April 2019


Sally's 82-year refit concluded this morning at 7.30, when she was slipped back into the waters of Loch Broom. She's had a survey, a keel bolt dropped (pristine and singing like new after 20 years) topsides primed, filled and painted, coachroof glassed, antifouled, new shaft bearing, mast revarnished. And a lot more besides. Not a sign of a seam, thanks to Mr Elkins and his men in 1937, headed by the legendary Reg Yebbseley (who died just a few months after I bought her way back in the lat 1990s.)

The weather helped, with a smattering a good day, punctuated by the usual West Coast stuff. Enough good days to allow everything to be done, with a few days to spare. Oh, and the rudder was rebuilt, tiller repaired and stuffing box refurbished.

I also raked the mast forward a touch, not to improve balance, but simply for aesthetics. She's always had a boldly raked mast, which I have often thought was a bit too bold.

After a month out of the water she leaked not a drop, the little 1GM 10 started third push and full marks Messrs Johnson and Loftus for a totally trouble free experience. If the yard was on Trip Advisor I'd give them 11/10.

Monday 18 February 2019

Danger! Before you Scrape off your old Antifouling.

No, not the toxins or the dust (wear a mask and goggles or scrape upwind) but the danger you might pose to other people if you are of a malicious temperament.
After buying a scraper tool from a well know retailer  on line, I had an email from the sales team asking for my passport. 

I will say that again, ... asking to see my passport. 

It appears that anyone buying a paint scraper must prove they are over 16,  and thus not prone to go on a raging, hormone-fuelled teenage rampage, armed with a... scraper. 

I could not believe it. Ah, but it was true. No passport; no scraper. No amount of pleading. Did I sound like a 16-year old hoodlum? Clearly yes (which was a bit of a boost to my 60+-year-old ego). 

In the end I sent them a photo of my passport, and received my scraper. 

OK, it's the law, not the company. However, to date I have not heard of anyone being threatened, or injured maliciously by a paint scraper (which could, I admit, validate the passport requirement). 

The blades, by the way, would not have cut a hard cheese and, if anyone is planning to use them to scrape a boat, save your money. I believe, in fact, the blades themselves were made of cheese, Chinese cheddar. 

I imagine it would have been the same if I had ordered a screw driver, no doubt to stab myself in the eye, self harm or even, god forbid, extract a screw.

Friday 15 February 2019

New Title, New Start

I hope I won't lose too many followers, all of whom I am grateful to for, er following. Boat building may have ceased but life, and sailing (and gliding - more of that later) goes on.

With more (too much) time now on my hands, attention turned at last to long suffering Sally, my 82-year-old Vertue which has been putting up with my neglect for a few years now. Finally the other day, after a couple of weeks away over Christmas, she decided she had had enough, and when I fired up the little Yanmar, decided to seize her propeller shaft.

She was clearly telling me something, viz: "I want to go ashore and get some proper TLC."

Which is why as I write she is sitting on the hard at Johnson & Loftus yard in Ullapool, with 20 years of antifouling in dust around her, and another 10 years scraping to go.

The bearing has also been removed (white metal) and as luck would have it,  a standard Westerly cutlass bearing should fit the housing.

The mast is out too, and I have to say it has done well despite being exposed to Highland weather for nearly ten years since it was last out. But then I did lay on about 30 coats of varnish, having primed it with a two part International clear finish.

I am in two minds whether to take the rest of the antifouling off, or just consolidate. Either way I have bought 5 litres of Strippit; a Bosch scraper and some chemical called trisodium phosphate, one of which should do the trick. It would certainly be nice to see all that pitch pine again, before covering it in underwater primer.

With so much of Sally under the water, it really does pay to have the smoothest possible hull.

Tuesday 5 February 2019

Last Post

While posting yesterday I had a look, for the first time in a while, at all the comments over the years. I did not realise how many there were, and all but a few complimentary.

So to all those who posted comments, I have now read them all, and thank you for taking the time, and apologies for not replying.

Monday 4 February 2019

Farewell Viking Boats

With the workshop now resounding to the cries of turkeys, rather than the cacophony of nails and band saws, Viking Boats is now officially defunct after over 15 years.

It was never a reliable means to make a living, but kept the wolves from the door, and its owner busy in the dark winter days when most of the 25 or so boats were built.

Off to Lake Geneva
I can't say I miss those dawn starts, chipping ice off the chisels - well, you know what I mean. In the early years the cold never bothered me. The activity soon warmed you up, although visitors would invariably ask: "How can you work in the cold like this".

Well, no more. It is 8am on a freezing morning, and I am typing this in my pyjamas.

So, to all my clients, who have to the man and woman been totally trusting and a delight to work with, thank you. I have not had a single bad debt in all that time. Payments have often arrived before the work was done, which meant it was spent by the time it was done, leaving me almost always in arrears and in the red.

Also now on Lake Geneva, here at Beale Park
 Boat building will never make you a fortune, unless you start with a fortune as some fortunately have. But among the lawyers, estate agents, accountants and office workers, building a wooden boat carries enormous cachet. You are considered amongst the lucky elite, to be working with your hands, no matter how far from reality and romance that can be on a bitter morning in January with a recalcitrant strake refusing to yield to gentle persuasion.

Owners became friends, some of whom stayed with us before, during and after taking their boat home. As far as I know none have sunk, or sprung unquenchable leaks, but I must admit that some could have been built better. There's always room for improvement, and being largely self taught, I did enjoy finding new, sometimes unconventional ways to do things, some of which worked well, others not so, leading to a reversion to the old, trusted ways.

My favourite: a faering in solid larch, with copper fastenings and oak frames
 However, although old and trusted ways are often the best ways, that is not always the case, so I would urge budding boat buildiers to trust their own instincts. The old and trusted ways may simply have become ingrained habits, and after taking apart many old wooden boats, you often find old and trusted ways have in fact contributed to the deterioration you find deep inside the structure.

And if you do need a mentor, someone to keep you honest, then I can highly recommend my own, personal guru, Tom Whitfield in Australia. We have never met, and may never meet, but his encouragement has been beyond compare.

And to the late John Leather, wherever you are, when you told me that boat building would be a thankless and unrewarding business, you were not far wrong. But I urge anyone keen to try their hand, to go for it, whatever the rewards or thanks. The satisfaction of seeing a boat you built is all the thanks and reward anyone needs.

Tuesday 17 April 2018

Nearly There

October last year was it? The last post? It must have been a long, cold winter (it was) and with snowdrifts above the windowsills at one point.

 Now spring is in the air and the Arctic Tern is about to fly south to Lake Geneva where she will cut a very strange figure. What will the Genevans make of a Norwegian/Scottish, Scandinavian/Shetland type boat among all those Rivas?

And coming along nicely is a loch fishing boat for the Isle of Mull, due out on 1 May, after which I intend to take a break for a few weeks to work on Sally.

Besides which, our tenure at the Old Dairy Parlour is coming to an end in 9 months. The end of an era, indeed, after nearly 18 years in which over 20 new boats have emerged from the dusty depths, some of them quite good, I have to say.

What I will do is anyone's guess. It depends on whether I can find a place to work, and I have a few ideas. But surely there can be no better place than where I am, for which thanks are due to my wonderful landlady, sometime pig farmer, turkey breeder, sheep raiser, cattle farmer, chainsaw wielder, wall builder and crofter extraordinary, Lucy Beattie

Tuesday 31 October 2017

Arctic Tern

Too busy to blog; here's a few shots of the Arctic Tern taking shape in the old cowshed at Leckmelm for the last month or so. I believe this is designer Iain Oughtred's favourite, and I can see why.

For the curious, the details are: larch keelson, laminated Vendia stems, oak keel, daggerboard, not c/b. The fit out has yet to be decided, whether to go for a traditional joggled framing or laminated frames, or even a combination of the two.

Collars and Jeckells will make the lug rig.