Under power

It was Kenneth Grahame who once said that “there is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats”. And he was right. Especially when the weather turns out to be unexpectedly perfect – which was what happened when I did my RYA Powerboat 2 course on the first weekend of October.

Sensibly, our sailing club provides plenty of safety boat cover for all the regular sailing events that it organises, and rightly requires that anyone who drives the club RIBs be qualified to at least RYA PB2 level. To make sure that there are enough people capable of providing that safety boat cover, they run PB2 courses over the winter season.

I decided to book myself on one back in the middle of summer, and was pleased to have managed to get on the first offering in October when I assumed it wouldn’t be too cold. However, I was still planning to wear a dry suit, gloves, woolly hat, etc, and take a thermos of hot soup with me.

How wrong could I be? In the end I did the whole two day course in shorts and a T shirt, with lots of sun block. It was the hottest October day since records began.

The course itself was fun; I’d actually done it about 15 years ago as part of my BSAC Advanced Diver qualification, but I’d lost the certificate, and wanted to refresh my skills properly anyway. The one stand-out recollection was that going fast in a RIB is easy; it’s the slow-speed precision manoeuvring that takes all the skill. And so it was.

In the end we spent about 75% of the time on the water, and probably 80% of that was spent learning to handle the RIB with precision. By the time we were finished we could pirouette around buoys, balancing the tide, wind and engine to keep the RIB within a few feet of the buoy at all times.

So now I just need to get out and start helping to provide some safety cover, and then I’ll plan to add VHF and First Aid courses at some point too.

Comprehensively messing about in a boat

I now have three coats of brilliant white deck paint on the floor of the Mirror cockpit, and in the forward “lockers”, which will hopefully make it easier to find things in there when we’re on the move. If I do say so myself, it looks quite smart. So much so that it shows up the state of the painted hull – but that is going to have to wait until the end of the season – I do want to get some sailing done this year!

The deck paint has turned out to be quite strange stuff; I think it’s some sort of enamel. It goes on well enough, but as it dries it goes slightly streaky. It’s only with the third coat that I feel I’ve finally got decent coverage.

The question now is do I need to make it non-slip too? Currently it’s a sort of glossy finish, which looks quite attractive. If I want to make it non-slip then I have to mix some glass beads (which are so small as to look almost like sand) into the paint that forms the final coat. At the moment I’m not convinced this will actually help much. When I was sailing it last year with the old non-slip deck coating I still slipped over a few times; the only apparent effect of non-slip coating was to make the resulting grazes on my knees that much worse.

Perhaps I’ll put one last coat of deck paint on late tonight, and ignore the non-slip thing, at least this time around.

Even more messing about in a boat

I got my two further coats of varnish on the Mirror today.

I must admit that despite my initial misgivings about the varnish, it’s turned out to be fabulous stuff. It goes on easily, and brushes out really well. Having now applied three coats, the finish is gorgeous. The only problem is that it not only shows off the beauty of the wood, but also all the imperfections. I can see where the wood has gone blotchy due to damp, as well as brush marks and runs in previous coats of varnish that were poorly applied. Part of me wishes I’d had the time to strip the whole boat right back to the bare wood, and start again – but of course that wasn’t practical at this time of the year.

Tomorrow I’ll see about getting the non-slip deck paint applied. Hopefully I can get the first (maybe only?) coat applied in the afternoon. If I need to apply more coats then I ought to be able to get two more coats done on Wednesday, and still get the boat back in the pound on Friday morning.

More messing about in a boat

Today I managed to sand down all the woodwork on the main boat, and get the first coat of marine varnish applied. It’s slightly strange stuff; it has a slightly pink tinge to it, but goes on completely clear, as you’d expect. It seems to be a very high VOC – the vapours that it gives off make my head spin! Still, it covers beautifully, and the little 750ml tin I have is apparently good for about 17 square meters – which is probably enough for 3 or 4 coats.

I’m currently planning on 3 coats on the main boat, which should leave me enough spare varnish to do the rudder, centerboard and a little patching on the mast & boom. At 15c I need about 12 hours between coats, and must recoat in less than 48 hours. I’m planning to put the next coat on first thing tomorrow morning, and the top coat last thing tomorrow evening.

Then I just need to repaint the non-slip coating onto the bottom of the cockpit – I’m hoping that a single coat of deck paint, combined with some non-slip pearls should do it, but I won’t really know until I try it. Hopefully I’ll get that done on Tuesday.

Which means that if everything goes to plan, I ought to be in a position to get the Mirror back down to the pound later in the week – perhaps Wednesday evening, but more likely Friday morning.

Hopefully in time to take her out on Friday evening…

Simply messing about in a boat

To quote Ratty, “There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” Which may be true, but to find out, one needs a working boat. And mine is definitely not working.

Unfortunately, like most wooden boats, Petit Rouge is in need of some maintenance after being laid up for the winter. Unfortunately in this case, when I started looking at some simple cracks in the anti-slip paint on the cockpit floor, the maintenance turned rapidly into renovation.

Water had got under the non-slip paint on the cockpit floor, and spread everywhere. As I stripped back the paint to allow the wood to dry out, I discovered that the taped seams that hold the hull to the front and back panels of the cockpit were lifting. Ultimately this would compromise the structure of the boat, so had to be fixed.

So I stripped back even more of the floor paint, and cut out the damaged sections of the seams, and then sanded back the wood to ensure that when I replaced the seams, they would make a good bond to the underlying wood.

Sadly this revealed that a lot of the varnish was also in a pretty poor condition; it didn’t so much sand off, as fall off. Not good.

So, rather than progress from maintenance to renovation to restoration, I’ve decided to do the minimum to get the boat back on the water now, so we can enjoy some sailing, and then aim to do something longer-term over the coming winter.

To that end, I’ve filled some gaps with a filler made from epoxy resin, and remade the taped seams with new glass fibre tape and epoxy resin. The next job is going to be to lightly sand all the interior of the boat, and apply at least one or two coats of varnish, and then to reapply the non-slip floor coating to the cockpit.

Hopefully we should have a temporarily repaired Petit Rouge back on the water by the end of the coming week. The only question is, how much work am I storing up for the winter?

Back on the water!

One of the consequences of getting through my cancer (well, so far anyway!) is that I’ve been trying to balance my life a little more in favour of me and my family.

When I was a child of about 10 or so I remember being able to comfortably single-hand the family Mirror dinghy (that my father built in our garage) around the Scottish lochs near where we lived at the time. I suspect in reality I wasn’t that good, and that the deeds have become magnified in my mind with the passage of time. And it was a very long time ago, so the magnification factor could be quite large. But that didn’t stop me from joining our local sailing club. Or (on impulse) acquiring a rather old, but well-looked after Mirror dinghy that had been laid up for the last year or two.

I’ve had a couple of test sails in it, both of which resulted in finding problems that required an immediate landing again. But this afternoon was the first real sail in anger; my middle daughter (who has been doing some sailing with the Sea Scouts and the youth section of the sailing club) took Petit Rouge a way up the river Hamble and back again. We spent about an hour on the water, and had a grand time in the light winds.

First outing of Petit Rouge

And while I’d not like to single hand her just yet, or take her out in high winds, I was surprised at just how much my memories of sailing came straight back. It was all a bit instinctive; pull this sheet in, let that sheet out, balance the trim of the dinghy by shifting my weight around … even when to tack, etc.

I think I’m going to enjoy getting back into sailing, but I really do wish that wetsuits were a little more flattering!