The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders

Lines in the Sand

by Alistair Wasey


I have the great good fortune to rent floorspace in a shed that nestles snugly into rolling undulations of the Cheshire countryside and through the open door flows the scents of the spring and an endless susurration of birdsong and soughing breeze. Old Tom's crop has broken the ground in the field adjacent and is springing bravely skyward. The occasional drone of a passing barge on the canal only twenty yards down the slope completes a somnolent quiet broken only by a distant train.

click to enlarge

One can just make out the edges of some of the fibreglass/epoxy repairs that were required. Also visible are the defects I got in the finish while painting the boat in very hot weather.

(click images to enlarge)

As many of you will no doubt have gathered from the glut of book reviews the winter off season has been somewhat protracted for me, but the onset of spring (however wintry it can be!) has awakened me from my winter hibernation. Things have been quiet in the workshop while waiting for the epoxy to thaw out and I've devoted the majority of my time there in the last few weeks to going through the remaining detritus of last year's projects (and kicking more than one out of the door) and laying in store a new stock of wrecks and second rate oars to play with over the long summer vacation from University.

This summer bodes well. Tied in the rafters is a forty-odd foot rowing boat that has been there for over a year and half while I gained the experience and confidence to rebuild it. In common with many of my boats this is bereft of the first ten of it's feet (these being lodged in the adjacent rafters). However, as this craft is at least 15 feet longer than my other boats and designed to carry a third of a tonne of people, the standards both of materials and workmanship need to be somewhat higher than my habitual glassfibre-and-epoxy bodge (which has been used to great success for many years) and will see my first experiments with carbon fibre. I have been reliably informed by those in the know that this is not a particularly difficult job, the hardest bits being to line up the two sections of the boat accurately, and to provide a really smooth final surface. I'll let you know how I get on...

The Black Pig was one of last year's projects and involved a significant rebuild of parts of the "stateroom" - where the rower sits - as well as a complete repaint to black. I have been reassured that the name is a literary reference and not a comment on my workmanship!
click to enlarge

At the other end of the scale is my toy: a short, fat single sculling boat built to restricted design rules dating from about the 1960s. Although considerably wider and more heavily built than an ordinary fine rowing boat, this boat belies it's stocky build with a suprisingly lumbar-friendly weight. Although superficially scruffy, close inspection yielded a boat in suprisingly good condition, although the usual years of poorly applied varnish and water damage showed in places. Most annoyingly I found evidence of woodworm in one spot in the keel which means that the boat is banished from the (wooden!) boatshed until the woodworm can be successfully dealt with. I'm debating soaking the keel in something like Jeyes Fluid which will kill just about anything it comes into contact with, but at the expense of staining the attractive wooden keel. Either way, I have a few more days before returning to University to get a protective layer of varnish on it before slinging it to the far side of the forecourt wrapped in a plastic sheet to take its chances in the weather. She bodes well to be a fun boat for the summer. Her girth and hull form should make her an able and easily driven small-load carrier, while her stocky build and volume should make her a dry boat should I wish to explore some open water in her. I'm intrigued to know whether any Duckworks readers have any suggestions on how to deal with woodworm. If I find any particularly successful ideas I'll pass them on here.

click to enlarge
Jobs for a lazy summer. Swift Willow wants the kind of work that doesn't really need doing but one enjoys simply for the sake of messing about with boats.

Meanwhile, Dad's boat will be having another trip to the chickenshed. On her trip home from the Lakes, Swift Willow got a touch of sunburn and her paint bubbled in a couple of places. I'm pretty confident that this was varnish underneath the paint letting go, but either way it wants investigating and repairing. At the time I also ordered 10 feet of a product called Keelband from Classic Marine. They were out of stock, but as sod's law would have it, the keelband turned up shortly after I left home for University and has been kicking around the garage ever since. As regular readers of the column will remember from my article on the subject I had to make do with aluminium carpet grip, which certainly did the job but was less robust than one might wish for. So that needs replacing and then she could probably do with an extra layer of varnish... and I could do with neatening up the edges where my masking left something to be desired last summer and...

Ah well, first things first. Another 8 weeks' work at University to (hopefully) pass my first year and then the summer stretches long and busy...

Take care all.

Alistair Wasey