Dabbling with Susie

- Gerald's page about renovating the boat he brought in 2010

Enlarging the crack to sound material

I had been thinking for some time of getting a trailable day boat for exploring new areas by boat The HSC club boats are not suitable for ad hoc private trips and are hard work if single handed. ‘Cateran’ (19 foot cruising yacht with retracting keel) has its uses for cruising by water if going from Paglesham and has proven her worth on the club cruise 2009, but could not be easily trailed, though many do without problems.

I was looking for a yawl-rigged boat specifically because of the versatility of the rig and being able to make for safety if caught out in heavy weather. Various open boats were on my options list, Enterprise, GP 14, Tideways 12 &14. These boats, whilst making decent cruise boats, were not yawls and may not have suited what I had in mind. The boat I had yearned for, the Devon Yawl, is at 16ft a heavy boat to handle alone, plus rigging it does take time and planning. Swallow boat designs offered what I was after with their Storm 15 & 17, but were out of my funding range.

So I thought of the Drascombe range of boats, not my first choice of boat, but when I thought about it, they offered a boat that whilst not a greyhound of the sea, is a redoubtable cruising boat, the whole range (apart from the Scuffle) have yawl rigs. I have found my boat the ‘Dabber‘, is at 15ft 6" about Wayfarer size, is simple to rig and easy to manhandle alone.

‘Susie’ was found in an advert on 'Boats&outboards' but she needed some care and renovation. The damage to ‘Susie’ comprised of a crack to the hull on the starboard side, a hole to the centreboard case and a split to the timber gunwale on the portside. The spars needed re-varnishing and the tiller needed a repair to make a better fit to the rudder stock. Here follows how I went about it.

The first priority was to get the hull watertight; Susie had a scrape down the starboard side on the edge of the chine which had gone through the hull exacerbated by being on the turn of the inner moulding. A repair from the outside would not be strong so it needed to be tackled from the inside. I cleaned up the damage with a sander, which quickly took away the material making the crack much bigger, enough to put my hand through; well at least I had found sound material to work on. This had to be bridged so that I could fill and fair from the outside.


 Enlarging the crack to sound material



Covering the hole with a former to repair from inside

So I made up a patch to stick on like a plaster out of glass fibre mat & epoxy, on a scrap of polythene and let it set.


Making a patch, laying up three layers of mat on a sheet of polythene, smallest on top, which then goes into the hole first

I then degreased the repair with acetone. I then covered the hole outside with a piece of scrap hardboard waxed with polish so that epoxy would not stick to it to act as a former for a skim of epoxy with a filler added to it; this would do two things: bring the outside level and also provide some thing for the patch to adhere too. Meanwhile the patch that I had made up was becoming hardened but not yet set off; this was laid up on polythene, so that when offered it up to the hole from the inside, manoeuvring it up a gap between the inner/outer moulding; when completely set I would be able to peel off the polythene, I then left the repair to harden off before removing the former, sanding down and making good the repair from the outside.

The patch as seen from outside after former removed

Second former

I then put another former on the outside to give an edge, before mixing and applying filler to finish the repair.

Sanded ready for painting

The repair of the centreboard case was more problematic; the case had been damaged by the metal plate whilst left on the mooring by the previous owner. It had torn away inside corner of the case, there was little room for access to the damage. Firstly I removed the Iroko capping to the case, drilling out the old screws which had corroded away over the years, naturally this chewed up the wood in places which I filled with epoxy filler made with shavings of wood to form a binder. This I was able to reverse fit to give a clean surface. But back to the repair. I adapted the previous technique of making a patch but this time I used an ice cream container as a former to replicate the complex shape of the hole.

Finished moulding removed from former, the top layer is peel ply

I also added a piece of peel ply to the moulding to provide a roughed surface to the patch so that this would give a good key to the repair.(Peel ply is a material which will not stick to resins, when you peel it off it leaves a ready made keyed surface for bonding)

The internal surface of the repair I cleaned up as best I could to provide a key for bonding, using a manicure emery board to get into nooks and crannies, degreased with acetone (nail varnish remover). I then used a rapid set epoxy such as Araldite to bond the repair patch to the hole, I put a screw into the patch to manoeuvre the patch, also to tie a string to pull the patch into place, also I chocked the repair with small pieces of wood.

Cut down patch in place

When this repair had set, I again sanded and degreased to back fill the repair proud to the surface this time using some colloidal glass spheres as a filler in the epoxy; this gives a smooth finish.

Structural repairs done, I then had three options to refinish the hull: 1) To patch the repairs with gel-coat colour matched to the rest, this would be the professional way to finish and entailed polishing the rest of the hull with an abrasive, 2) refinish the whole of the hull, inside and out with a flow-coat finish, in effect a complete new top coat. Whilst the materials for this are cheap for long lasting finish also requires a covered workshop and a lot of labour to get the result, 3) repaint the hull, which is cost effective but might need ongoing maintenance.

I chose to repaint it; the overall condition of the boat had many nicks and scratches, and was best suited to it. I degreased, sanded the whole hull, applied two coats undercoat, and three topcoats to get the finish. I find a yearly top-up at fit-out with ’Cateran’ keeps her looking trim. Again there is technique involved in having the right conditions to do this outside; good weather is also a requirement; when I paint I use foam roller to apply working small areas at a time, I then drag a worn brush, that I keep just for the purpose, over the still wet paint to brush out the dimple effect you get when rollering gloss paint; if you work from one corner of the boat you maintain the wet edge of paint to achieve a good finish.

The finished paint job

The woodwork needs attention to the gunwhale, which had been repaired in a workman like way, but the spars needed to be re-varnished. I did not know what had been used before so had to strip back to bare wood, as different products can react with each other. Instead of using proper varnish which needs a lot of prep, dry covered conditions and needs a lot of time for results, I have tried another wood care product, a high-tech product called Sikkens Novatech & Novatop, this is high solids wood stain that is vapour permeable and needs one coat of each to get a finish. Whilst not as attractive as trad varnish, needs less time to work. I am not all that pleased with the results but it was cost and time effective, only time will tell if it was worth using.