Sunday, 14 December 2014

Life of a Boat Builder Part Five

Now into my third year of my apprenticeship at the boatyard and the jobs that I was getting to do were getting more and more interesting. This was especially true of one job the boatyard was given to do and which I was left to get on with guidance from the Master Boat builder. The job was to make a new solid spruce mast for a Broads Racing Yacht after it had been collision with another yacht during a yacht race when it brought down its mast as well as the other yacht's mast at the same time.

The job was all the more different as the owner wanted to put the rig back to the original rig from its modern rig. That is to say back to its original Gaff with Topsail rig. The only problem with this was there were not plans of the rig, just an old photo of the boat. This photo was a 10" x 8" black and white. So the master boat builder and myself then had to work out a way of scaling up the rig to its full scale and then get a solid spruce pole to make the new rig in one piece.

Looking round the UK gave us no results, so we had to look further afield and in the end the owner found a spruce pole in Canada and had it imported to the UK and delivered to the boatyard. This proved a fun exercise as it could not be delivered directly to the boatyard as the boatyard is not on the road and had to be launched into the river and floated down the river to the boatyard where it was hauled out and lifted on to blocks ready to dry out after been in the river.

Once it was dried out it was de-barked with a drawknife, then long job of squaring the log to the correct size and shape before then rotating it round and round put more and more flats on it until it was then a complete round mast with a taper was made. Then it was ready to fit all the mast fittings to the mast such as the hounds for the lower shrouds and the running backstays and the shroud ring for the cap shrouds and the forestay, also the eye bolts for the throat and peak halyards. At the same time making the bottom of the mast the correct shape and size to fit in the tabernacle and the hole through the mast to fit the tabernacle pin into and the two bolts to fit the balance weights on to make raising and lowering the mast easier for shooting the low bridges on the Broads,especially when taking part in the three rivers race.

Once the mast was made then it was time to make the boats' new boom and gaff and bowsprit and the same method was used to scale up the lengths of these from the photograph. Once they were all made then came the long hours of varnishing all these new mast and spars until there 10 coats of varnish on all the spars.

Then came the day that the mast was raised for the first time and the standing rigging was measured up and made and then the running rigging was made. Once that was done then the rig was set up ready to have the new sails bend on to the spars for the first time.

This was done when the owner came down to the boatyard along with a TV film crew from Anglia TV. The Sails were bend on to the spars and the boat was made ready to go for its first sail with this new rig. The boat set off from the boatyard and set off down the River Thurne to Thurne mouth. At this time the owner and my boss and TV presenter and a couple of the owners friends took the boat for a sail down the river to show her off and take some footage of the boat and its new rig for the evening slot on the About Anglia that evening.

The boats'name was Maidie

She as since had a new carbon fibre mast  put in her but the owner still has the rig I made while I was an apprentice all those years ago.

During the same year as making Maidie new mast I spent my weekends and holidays racing on yacht owners boats and learning how to sail a number of different yachts, sailing dinghies and half deckers,

So while I was not sailing these boats and yachts I was in the boatyard repairing them. This is how I spent my next two years of my apprenticeship at my first boatyard. So it was a mixture of Working on the boatyards' hirer fleet of launches and motor cruisers and half deckers. Repairing boatyard clients' motorboats and yachts and sailing at the weekends throughout the year either on other peoples' boats or my own.

Life of a boat builder Part Four

The Spring came around and like waking from a long sleep the river came back to life. As the days got long and the weather started to warm up and stay drier fro longer it was possible to start painting and varnishing the hire fleet. This was a bit of a hugging act, getting the boats painted and varnished and doing any small repairs that could not be done when the boat were not dry enough during the winter. The main problem at this time of year is not appearing to have enough hours in the day to get all the work done, but it always got done some how. The best lesson I learn during my early years of working for this company was how to mix different oil stains to get the right colour match to varnish boats and also how to mix up different types of filler using paint and chalk and how to make paint not leave and dry edge when hand painting a 30+ft boat by yourself in temperatures which would otherwise cause this to happen.

So as the spring moved on the calm of the winter was a thing of the past and the speed of the boatyard got back into full swing. So as the days moved on to weeks it was a madhouse of varnishing painting and launching the fleet of boats as quickly as they were finished and then refitting the boats and recommissioning the engines in the motor cruisers and the motor launches. Then re-rigging the half deckers. Then getting them ready for the first hirers of the year, this was normally the Easter weekend each year.

At the same time as this was going on, there was the boatyard clients boats to get ready at the same time. Some of them wanting their boats at the same time as the hirer fleet, However, there were not so many of them, which was a blessing as being a small boatyard not was not always easy to fit them all in at the same time. More often than normal, many of the owners wanted their boats in for Spring Bank Holiday so we had a bit of a breathing space between getting the hirer fleet re-commissioned and getting the clients boats done after we got our boats afloat and commissioned.

While all this was going on there was normally a new build being built either a fishing boat, a launch or sometimes a new dinghy, it really depended on what was being asked to be built that year. So as apprentice boat builder you would move from job to job, So that you could learn as much as possible and get to learn as much about the different parts of being a traditional boat builder so it was exciting times learning new skills every day.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Finally finished painting the bilges and now back to the planking

The aft end of the boat showing the inspection hatch to clear the prop if it get fouled up

The same area with a fresh coat of grey bilge paint
The main area of the bilge before its given a fresh coat of bilge paint
Now what a different it makes to the whole area
 A view from the Starboard side
 A view of the back before it was painted.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Painting the bilges and other jobs

Starting to paint the bilges out of the Coble while waiting for the wood to be cut for the new planking

Slow, but rewarding job to see the bilges looking clean with a fresh coat of paint
 Starting to sand the lod planks after they have been cleaned of the old paint.
 Showing a section where the sander as made a start and a piece to the right that yet to be sanded down.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Work on the inside of the Yorkshire Coble

Finally got the bottom of the boat cleaned of all the rubbish and now it needs a good cleaning down with degreaser before the bilges can be painted again.
View looking aft  

View looking forward

The first of the new floorboards being fitted to the main area of the floor
 New floor taking shape

The bottom of the boat as not just one Echosounder transducer, but three and not one of them is connected to a head unit.   
 Odd block on bottom of boat ????

Friday, 28 November 2014

photos of the work ahead on the repairs to a Yorkshire Coble

A little spot of rotten plank at the end of a plank up against the transom.

Wear patches in need of renewing as they are worn out and damaged
 They were originally put on to protect the plank ends when hauling pots over the sides of the boat

Here they are removed and before the holes are filled with plugs and epoxy glue.

Old engine U/S so have to sort out engine beds and fuel system and electrics 

 A lot of work at this end of the boat as well

This end as well
 Building the workshop over the boat.

This week working on a Yorkshire Coble, which needs some major repairs to its planking on both the sport and starboard sides.

This week working on a Yorkshire Coble, which needs some major repairs to its planking on both the sport and starboard sides.

The first photo is a need for a new bilge plank which was spilt along its length 

The second plank was one on the starboard quarter which was rotten through a rubbing skate not bedded on well and the wrong top angle which made the water lay against the hull and not away from it.  

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The first of the new planks going in the bow.

Having waited a couple of days for the planks to cool off and take the shape it was time to fit the plank in place.

Making a work bench out of a old board  and with the aid of a couple of G Cramps made a vice to hold the plank in while I final shaped the plank to fit.
 First dry fitting of the front end of the plank to get it fitting well into the rebake on the stem.

Having fitted the front end into the rebate on the stem it was time to cut the back end 

Finally dry fitted and now ready to paint the plank and put the rest of the fixing in and get on with the next plank

An inside shot to show how small the space to work in on the inside of the boat up forward. 

Life of a Boat Builder Part Three

The end of the first year came to a close with all the boats outside the boatyard sheds all tucked up under their covers outside and made safe. In those days they were just left to dry out naturally with the hatches on the boat left just open and so they would keep the air flowing through them. Unlike these days where owners put heaters and dehumidifiers in them. The client's boats got the same treatment as the yard's boats in that the boats were cleaned inside and outside and the insides were washed down and cleaned out and all the floorboards and other loose items were stacked up so there was air flowing around the boat and not closed up.

Then as Christmas was upon us the boatyard closed down for the Christmas break and did not reopen until the New Year. Then it was at this time the boatyard owner would start to get booking for the hire fleet and at the same time get a launching date for any new build we had on the stocks.

So at this time the boatyard was starting to get into high gear with deadlines to meet. Because of the way the boats were either stacked up in the shed or what was needed to be repaired or replaced work would start on these boats first.

Some boats would need new planks, others would need pieces letting in were it was localised damage, where as others just needed a coat of paint or varnish to sort them out. So the next few months were spent repairing all manner of planking be it clinker or carvel. Repairing wooden cabin roofs, making new windscreens, laying new decks with limo or canvas and paint. So the work was varied and interesting and showed me how many of the old boats we looked after were done and the methods used to do these jobs before modern materials took there place.

Some of the jobs were not so nice as, some involved getting under boats and removing antifouling off the bottom of boats where it had got too much on and started to fall off. This was as specially true when you had to do this outside in the winter, when the cold winter winds were blowing off the North Sea and you had to rap up like a teddy bear to keep warm. However, on other days when it was sunny  it was not so bad and a bit of fresh air was always a pleasant change from working in the workshop or the shed rubbing down cabin sides or boat hulls.

Life of a Boat Builder Part Two

The first Autumn at the boatyard was a shock to the system, The boatyard had a fleet of hirer boats ranging from small dinghies, half deckers motor launches and six motor cruisers.

As these boats finished the season, they were taken to pieces bit by bit and cleaned from top to bottom. I mean what I say, every little part of the boat that could be removed was removed and washed by hand with washing up liquid and hosed down and then left to dry and then stacked up inside the boat for the winter. This was only done after the inside of the boat was washed down and cleaned until you could eat your dinner out of the bilges of the boat. They had to be that clean and the boss would have no of way.

He had to do it when he himself was an apprentice and he saw it has a good way of showing that if you kept the boat clean and well looked after the chances that the boat would rot from the inside out would be greatly reduced. It also gave you an understanding of the way the boats were constructed and any possible places that rot may start if it was not looked after this way.

This job was done to everyone of their fleet of boats no matter how large or small it was. The experience was one I will never forget and it is one that has paid dividends over the years.  Once this was done to all their fleet of boats the same was done to the company's client;s boats as well which we had at the boatyard for winter storage.

This job would last for about two to three weeks, then came a mixture of repairs to the fleet of boats or to the client's boats, or if we had a new build to do then, part of the workforce would do the fleet repairs and the other part would get to help with the new build, This could be a new fishing boat or a dinghy or in some cases a my motor launch.

So the first winter was an education in how wooden boats of different shapes and sizes were repaired and how this boatyard worked and the people who ran it.  

Life of a Boat Builder Part One

Over the past 37 years there has been a lot of changes in the way boats have been build and restored and the many different designs that have come and gone over these years.

When I started my apprenticeship back in 1977, I was apprenticed to an traditional wooden boat building company who only worked on wooden boats. They saw GRP as a sweat word and something to steer clear of.

During this time doing my apprenticeship on the Norfolk Broads I was able to see how designs of yachts and motorboats had evolved over the years. Some that had worked and others that had not, I remember one yacht that was built and was a prototype for a new at the time Broads half decker that had the one major problem that it nearly always sink itself when sailed downwind in a blow. The boat was built as a standing lugsail and the mast position right in the bow, although it was not Cat rigged. I I asked my boss at the time why it did this, he said the designer had been playing around with the mould positions and had brought the first mould a little more aft than in previous boat to increase its upwind performance , but had not foreseen that this was a tradeoff too far. On the other's in the class the mould was moved back forward and the other's did not sail themselves underwater when sailing down wind.

While doing my apprenticeship I got to learn a lot about working in cold damp places and using old methods to get the work done. Also the rule of measuring twice or even three times and cutting once and having this drummed into you from the start.  The boss was a firm and fair person, but at the same time would not put up with crap from anyone.

I remember the very first day I started working for him. I was a sunny August day, the 7th of August to be precise and I did not know what to expect. Would I be sweeping floor, making tea, in the end there was another apprentice who was just coming to the end of his apprenticeship with the owner and this apprentice took me under his wing and broke me into what was going to be my job.

The first job was holding the brass doll while he clinched the nails after had fitted a new plank in the dinghy he was repairing. So my first few weeks was taken up with working with this apprentice and learning the ropes so to speak.

By the end of September I was starting buy my tools that I going to use for the next 30+ years. I remember the tool man would come to the yard on a weekly or sometimes monthly basis and bring the tools that I had saved my wages to buy. A beech Mallet a set of wooden handle chisels and set of drill bits and No4 Smoothing Plane. So week by week I started to build up my toolbox and as I got more difficult work to do the more varied the tools became. The list is long and at the sametime I was building my tool collection up I was making myself a Toolbox to put them in. This job I was doing in my spare time after work.

Then the first autumn of my boat building career was upon me. This was going to be a shock to the system like no other.     

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Re-fixing the ends of the planks where the fixing have come loose with age or have broken and other jobs

Re-fixing the ends of the planks where the fixing have come loose with age or have broken

Using the small stream box to stream the short planks so that they can be twisted into shape
The of the planks to be streamed and cramped to the boat with the twist bend into it and now left to cool off.

The second plank having the same treatment and also left to cool off for a day or so and then worked on and fitted to the boat/

This side of the stem, the front of the planks were splined but it is need of sorting out as planks have moved off the stem.
 This photo shows that it was not splined all the way down the stem so as put stress on some areas and not others.

Getting to grips with putting in the new ribs singlehandedly and new planking made and ready to refit in bow

Getting to grips with putting in the new ribs singlehandedly with the aid of a roofing prop

After refitting the new ribs then the beaching leg backing pad was able to be refitted.
 Two of the three new planks cut and thicknessed and ready to go back to the boatyard and be streamed to shape

Using the small stream box for the short planks.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Productive day on Mai-Star II

The three planks on the starboard side that were causing a number of problems with leaking water passed the stem joint.

The main problem being that the fixings on the stem had given way and the ends of the planks were damaged by repeated attempts to refix the planks .

The three planks have all got scarf joints cut on them so it is just a matter of making up the new short lengths of planking and refixing them in place after the old fixing holes are plugged with wooden dowels 

The first two ribs refitted in place now have to nail them and the rove them.

The third rib in place and just got one left to do on that side in the cabin.

The electric circuit panel powered up and ready to fit the rest of the instrument wiring to it