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...)

Thursday 3 February 2011

Guess What we Found in the Coal Store

What is it about old boats found in barns (or Bugattis for that matter)? You get wind of a boat that's been left mothballed since the 1980s, or as once happened to me, a Thames skiff in a woodshed that hadn't seen the light of day for over 100 years, and a shiver of anticipation runs down your spine. You anticipate discovering a  time-capsule, preserved to perfection, save for a few cobwebs and a bird's nest. Scrape back the chicken poo, and there she is. Wet a finger, rub away the dust and the deep brown of Honduras mahogany appears. What a moment. More likely you will return home disappointed.

Well, it wasn't quite like that, but having got wind of a 40-year-old Flying Fifteen lying in a coal store for 20 years or so and the familiar excitement came over me. I didn't dare hope for anything but a tired old wreck when the double doors creaked open (or the tomb of Tutankhamen). To cut a long story short, this is what we found...

At first it looked like we had wasted our journey. The decks were bare, the Treadmaster peeling and the transom split. She looked like she had been painted a dark red, and rust streaks dripped from her keel. Her gear and sails lay as they had been left, after sailing her last race back in the 1980s.

I shone a torch inside, and poked about a bit, and the more I poked, the sounder she looked. Maybe she would scrub up fine, given a month or so of hard labour. The hull was good, the mast was good, and the sails had some life in them. But no sign of the boom. And that paint job would have to go.

I stepped back into the gloom and found a spot in the corner of the shed from where I could take a photo of her side on. And this is what I saw in the screen...

A cold moulded Flying Fifteen, the top veneer running fore and aft, all seams tight and the rich glow of a mahogany stained and varnished hull, not red paint. That just about clinched it.

She'll take hours of work, I'll find all sorts of nasty things no doubt, but the joy of seeing her back on the water in all her varnished glory will be exquisite. Do I need another boat? No. Can I afford the time, and money to restore her? No. Am I going to? You bet, if the owner is willing to part with her.

Keep you posted...


  1. I have no idea what a flying fifteen is but it looks like a fun and maybe wet sail. Does it have a spinaker?
    Also it looks like a doable job. I hope you like varnishing. What about a teak deck instead of this plastic thing?

  2. Did you note her number, Adrian? It should be carved inside somewhere.

    My Dad bought no 530, Pampero, after getting fed up capsizing the Heron that my brother and I had managed to acquire (I know they're difficult to capsize, but father was a latecomer to sailing and went out with friends who didn't understand the finer points about where to sit). Pampero has been restored, I believe, and is in the Lake District.

    Our sailing on these things was in the mid sixties and the Brither will remember a lot of the boats, as he has total recall, thanks to a sober lifestyle.

    I seem to think that after the first few hulls built by Uffa Fox the older boats came from Chippendale or Tormentor, the former being fuller in the forward sections. Pampero was a Chippendale and the top veneer was diagonal.

    I recently posted video footage of the Argyll 15s going through the Dorus Mhor, it's on They're very good little boats now, after the sail plan was modified from the original, a result of, I think, Uffa and the Chookyembro getting a swim.