Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lay-up 2010 – ‘Ladybird’

Not a very elegent winter cover, but it works.


Last Wednesday, ‘Ladybird’ was taken out of the water, and at the time I felt a certain amount of elation because she had given me a great sailing season. Technically she no longer belongs to me, because my daughter became her new owner, but I’m still very much involved with crewing and maintaining the yacht. I also have the privilege of sailing her whenever I want.

Yesterday, I helped my daughter and a friend of hers tuck the boat away under her winter covers. In the past I have usually laid-up my boats by myself, but with three people doing it, the operation was quicker and easier. We first had to remove all the clobber that had accumulated in the bilges, things like boxes of tinned food, long life milk, water cans and bosun’s items; then we took out stuff from the side lockers, such as navigation equipment, books, crockery, cutlery, followed by safety items, including buoyancy aids, and flares. Curtains were removed, along with bunk cushions, the ensign, the Autohelm, the battery and the kedge anchor. The extraction process continued until the boat was stripped bare - even her washboards were taken home for repair, and most of her ropes for cleaning. We had already taken the outboard and the rudder when the yacht came out of the water.

Unless a yacht is equipped with a bespoke winter cover and a supporting framework, tarpaulins spread over the boat are the next best thing. Quite often the mast is secured above the yacht to form a ridge for the tarpaulins. Some sort of chafing material is tied to the tops of the stanchions to minimize wear and tear when the tarpaulins are buffeted by the wind and heavy rain or when they are subjected to the weight of snow. I usually keep the mast up, but remove the backstays so that a cover can be placed over the boom which I fit with an extension of wood. I tie the topping lift to the end of the extension; then I keep it in place with a rope tied to the backstay fittings. I fix a wooden support between the pulpit and the mast for a second tarpaulin to protect the foredeck. This arrangement is not elegant, but it does the job.

During the winter there will be the usual maintenance: perhaps replacing worn stitching on the sails, repairing bunk cushions, making new curtains, strengthening the washboards and charging the battery. The outboard will need servicing.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

‘Micro’s’ Cruises

No 1 - Burnham/Yokesfleet Creek

"Will you launch her with Champaign?" I had been asked.
"More likely Branston Pickle!" was my reply.

The time came to try her out - in secret. Visions of her being low on her marks, or being down at the bow played on my mind, but all was fine.

‘Micro’ was easy to tow behind my old Ford Sierra. At 50 mph I wouldn’t have known she was behind the car, and even when traversing a bumpy section of the B1012 near South Woodham Ferres, she barely made her presence felt.

I could not find the Harbour Master at the Marina office, so I set up the rigging. As I sorted the various bits of string I took note of the water beyond the entrance and estimated the northeast wind to be a Force 2 - ideal for a trial sail.

Entry into the water was not as well controlled as I would have liked. The slipway was occupied by a 26 ft trailer sailer, but the owner was pleased to move her to one side. Reversing through the narrow gap left between the edge of the slipway and the cruiser proved tricky. Because I did not want the wheel bearings to get wet I didn’t let the trailer down the slipway far enough for Micro to float off. Therefore I had to push her until she slid into the water, but to my surprise she tipped to one side. This was because her pointed stern didn’t have sufficient lateral buoyancy to keep her upright. I took note of the situation, and logged it as lesson number 1: Immerse the trailer far enough into the water for the boat to remain upright. Just make sure the wheel bearings are cool and packed with grease before launching.

Somehow, I had forgotten the Branston Pickle, but I was pleased that only the owner of the cruiser and his wife were there to witness ‘Micro’s’ baptism. This was a time for me and my 'creation'. She was going to test me and I was going to test her.

Test number one. How would she row? After parking the car and trailer I pushed the boat into deeper water to prevent her from grounding when I climbed aboard. I gently nudged her away from the slipway, shipped the oars, and with little effort on my part, I rowed her to a nearby pontoon, where I prepared her for sailing.

How would she sail and how would I manage her? I didn’t know if she would have weather helm, lee helm or neutral helm, and I was diffident about sailing her through the narrow passage between the moored boats, so I carefully rowed her to the open water of the River Crouch. There I found the true strength of the wind was about Force 3. I first hoisted the main, and away she went. I felt quite happy with how she handled. Next, I set the free-standing jib, and I took care not to capsize the boat as I moved forward to browse down on the halyard. By comparison with my Roamer dinghy, ‘Micro’ was far less stable, but she was sufficiently firm for me to sit on her side deck while I tugged the halyard and made it fast.

I was amazed how well she went to windward, and when tacking she came about with ease; only now and again did I use the jib to help her round. Downwind she slipped along leaving just a trace of a wake, save for three trails of bubbles, two for the keels and one for the hull. Feeling more confident, I tacked to the entrance of the River Roach. Sitting on her side decks was not as comfortable as I had hoped, because the pneumatic cushion between my posterior and the coaming was ineffective.

At the Branklet Spit buoy, ‘Micro’ almost got up onto the plane. There were no other boats around, except an anchored SeaWych close to the north bank. Half-an-hour later, the tide was on the ebb and the wind almost faltered, but there was sufficient to make over the ground towards Paglesham. I wanted a quiet night; therefore I steered the boat to port into Yokesfleet Creek.

Protected from what little wind there was by the high muddy banks, ‘Micro’ came to a halt. Having stowed the sails, I rowed her beyond the electric cable marked by yellow and black lozenges either side of the creek. Five seals ensconced on the western bank kept their beady eyes on us. Two were larger than the others and I guessed they were males. The sun gradually sank behind the top of the bank, leaving behind a sunset of painted orange, pink and purple streaks. I needed to erect the improvised tent before the evening dew. To prevent any draught coming in from the front end I rigged an old raincoat under the boom and tied its corners to the chainplates.

My rumbling tummy told me it was time for the evening meal. I poured water into the saucepan and placed it on the gimballed cooker for heating a precooked meal which simply required boiling water added to it. Although not as hot as I would have liked, the chicken curry tasted OK. Yoghurt and Ovaltine completed my repast.

Test number three: Would I be able to sleep aboard when the boat was at anchor?
I never sleep well on the first night of a cruise, and this was no exception. One reason for my lack of sleep was the rude noises made by the seals! Did they fart or did they belch? I couldn’t tell. Of course, I needed to relieve myself in the middle of the night, but that was test number four. Could I use the bucket in the confined space under the tent? Success! - Hurrah! I emptied the bucket, rinsed it and tied it in place on the stern deck. What a wonderful starry night it was.

To keep my head warm I wore an old, but cherished peaked cap that played havoc with my hair by scrunching it up so that I resembled a scarecrow with a head of straw. In the morning my eyes were zombie-like, outlined with black circles, and my chin felt like a wire brush. I was not amused by the dawn antics of the male seals as they chased one another up and down the muddy bank. From the top they would slide down and plunge into the dark water, appear again and repeat the performance. Meanwhile the females remained poised with their noses in the air, as if to say we are above this childish nonsense - silly fools don’t impress us.

Breakfast was next on the agenda, before shaving and ablutions. I needed to catch the last of the ebb.

Because there was little wind, I thought I would have a hard slog rowing all the way to the River Crouch. As I rowed down the Creek, the large seals were curious. Did I have designs on their trio? They followed me, one at each quarter, until I was well clear of their domain. The wind filled in from the northeast and it was sufficient to move the boat at about a knot. At Horshoe Corner I was forced to put in a series of windward legs towards the entrance of the River Roach. The last of the ebb assisted us as far as the Branklet Spit Buoy. The timing was just right, because from there the flood tide began to flow up river to the west.

The air was crystal clear, and apart from the gentle lapping of wavelets from ‘Micro’s’ curved bow, I couldn’t hear another sound. Seated on the floorboard I leant against the aft end of the cockpit with my arm raised so that my fingers rested on the tiller. The experience was sublime. This was my dream turned into reality. A young lady was walking her dog beside the river, and the boatman of the Royal Burnham Yacht Club stood beside his launch. He ignored my wave, and I magnanimously concluded that he was short-sighted or he was too interested in lighting his cigarette.

All of a sudden I felt excruciating pains in both of my legs. I daren’t try standing, as I was afraid I would capsize the boat. Vigorously I massaged my legs to restore the blood supply, and gradually the cramp eased. I had sat motionless for too long and the chilled air had cooled my legs. Thereafter, I determined to move my limbs now and again to keep the blood circulating. I didn’t want to be a victim of deep vein thrombosis!

All the way to Fambridge I had the River to myself, but it was a different story for the return passage to Burnham. Several yachts, most of them using their engines, overtook ‘Micro’. As is often the case when it is a sunny day, the wind increases about 1600, and white cumulus clouds skip across the azure sky. With those conditions ‘Micro’ creamed along.

I shall remember the screeching terns at the River’s edge, a pair of ducks with their chicks in single file, trails high in the sky from planes, and the joy of helming my little boat on her first cruise.

Getting packed for the journey home was time-consuming because of interruptions from spectators who were intrigued with my small, wooden boat – a boat so very different from the usual plastic tubs and gin palaces that frequent marinas.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tomahawk 25

An unusual Junk-rigged Tomahawk 25. These yachts are normally rigged as Bermudan sloops.

The Tomahawk 25 designed by Alan Hill and moulded by Marcon was first launched in 1970. Eric White, the founder of Marine Construction described her as ‘The People’s Boat’, and as such she was generally cheaper than her rivals. When she was shown at the 1971 Earls Court Boat Show, only one was sold, perhaps because she was perceived as being too radical, with her fin keel and skeg-hung rudder. This reticence on the part of yachtsmen unfamiliar with the advantages of GRP production over traditionally built wooden boats soon faded when her performance and practical characteristics became clear. Then a twin keel version with encapsulated keels was produced in tandem with the fin keel boat which widened the appeal, to the extent that marginally more of the former were built according to demand.

In addition to completed yachts, this five berth cruiser with a semi-open accommodation plan was available for professionals or amateurs to equip and finish according to their budgets. Altogether about 290 boats were built over a period of 10 years. Alan Hill was pleased with his Tomahawk 25 which he cruised with his family and won Burnham Week. An active Owners’ Association offers a quarterly bulletin, a members’ forum, a brokerage section on their website, and rallies.


LOA 7.7m 25ft 4in

LWL 6.1m 20ft 0in

Beam 2.6m 8ft 6in

Draft (fin keel) 1.4m 4ft 8in

Draft (twin keel) 0.9m 3ft 0in

Displacement 2,300kg 5,066lb

Ballast 1,000kg 2,200lb

Ballast ratio 43%

Sail Area 12.7sq.m 137sq.ft

No 1 Jib 13.9sq.m 150sq.ft

No 2 Jib 6.9sq.m 75sq.ft

No 1 Genoa 21.3sq.m 230sq.ft

No 2 Genoa 16.7sq.m 180sq.ft


Tomahawk 25 Details

Tomahawk Owners Association

Good Photos of a Tomahawk 25 –Sold

Tomahawk 25 for Sale £6,500

Tomahawk 25 for Sale £7,995

Tomahawk 25 for Sale £10,290

Thursday, October 28, 2010

No Boat Building Today


Action Man

Today was a time for keeping appointments and looking after a great-grandchild. My wife and I did the early morning shopping with the help of the little whippersnapper; then it was time for the first appointment at a local clinic for the optician to examine my wife’s eyes. While that was being done, the tiny lad entertained me at a play park by climbing frames, sliding on slides, swinging on swings and running for the sheer joy of it. Falling into mud and getting the bottoms of his trousers wet was all part of the fun. Sodden grass and mud were the complementary ingredients that made for a fine outing.

After lunch it was time for my dental appointment and the extraction of a very recalcitrant, rotten tooth that did not want to part from a jaw where it had lodged for more than seven decades. But the gentle maiden with the needle and pincers had a stronger will, and by brute force she levered the stubborn object to and fro until the root gave way. She placed a wad of encapsulated cotton wool into the cavity and told me to bite on it for twenty minutes, by which time the blood should have congealed and the anaesthetic worn off.

She was right. Feeling returned to my lips and gums, and the blood stopped flowing. I could talk again and look quite normal after having the appearance of one stricken with a stroke, the side of my face limp and loose and the corner of my mouth turned down. Back at home I gratefully removed the bloodstained wad that partially protruded from my lips while enhancing the grotesque image of a stroke victim.

I examined the instructions for those who have tooth extractions and bewailed the fact that I was to be denied hot drinks for the rest of the day and that I should have to rinse my mouth with hot salty water after every meal for the next five days. Avoidance of alcohol was not a problem, as I seldom drink it, except on special celebratory occasions, even then, just a wee dram. If pain should set in, I could take refuge by helping myself to Paracetamol tablets, and as a last resort I could phone the advice line. I wasn’t to rinse my mouth today, and avoid strenuous exercise, as if I felt like doing it!

And so the day flashed by, and soon it was dark. ‘Sharpy’, my boat in the making, would have to wait until an appropriate moment when I shall use my tools to continue her creation and shape her into a vessel with a joyful spirit.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

End of an Extraordinarily Brilliant Sailing Season



Flying High


All good things come to an end, but that doesn’t take away from the goodness. That which was good was good and shall be for evermore. All the good times I had sailing ‘Ladybird’ this year can never be taken away. I shall remember them for as long as I live.

As I saw her being lifted from the water at the end of an extraordinarily brilliant season of sailing, I thanked God for the enjoyment He graciously bestowed upon me. It is only by God’s mercy that we receive any good things*. We have no ‘human rights’ to receive them. There is nothing fair and equal in this world, no matter how dedicated politicians and do-gooders would try to have us believe, and their efforts will never achieve their utopian dreams. People are not born equal. We all know the truth that we are all born very unequal.

Those of us who sail boats can trace back to the origin of our love of sailing, some like me for more than sixty years, and others perhaps for only months. Circumstances brought us to our passion; in my case the chance that in my youth I lived only a few yards from a very inspiring man who built and sailed small craft. He encouraged me to build a canvas canoe and rig her with sails, and from that time onwards a tiny spark ignited a flame in my heart that in time has engulfed a forest and goes on consuming more and more of my life, revitalizing with each new experience of boat ownership and adventures on the water.

The summer of 2010 was as good as it comes from a thousand mile cruise along the south coast of England, mostly alone aboard the Seawych ‘Ladybird’. I met numerous people, friends and relatives; visited many ports, rivers and marinas, and I had some very challenging sailing, particularly around Portland Bill on the return passage. On such an occasion when through unexpected circumstances because of a strong wind that was not forecast, I found myself sailing on the edge. I would not have chosen to be in those breaking seas, but I had no option. I was there because God wanted me to be there; I put my faith in Him and He watched my every move as His waves gave me the ride of my life. Excitement and exhilaration could not be equalled. Would my little boat be pooped? Would she broach and be filled with tons of water?

Weymouth Harbour was never so lovely. The sun shone, and there was little hint of the wind at sea. I climbed the gangway and headed for the fish and chip shop just before closing time. Never so delicious was the taste of cod and chips, laced with vinegar and salt.

*Matthew 7:11, James 1:17, John 3:27

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 16

As I suspected would be the case, I was unable to do any boatbuilding today, but I have a photo from Mr. Anonymous who is building a ‘Sharpy’ in the USA. The photograph shows two unfinished moulded ballast weights for the keel, plus the mould and a pattern for the mould.

Derek’s building plan gives full details of the lifting keel, along with an explanatory note saying that the weights are made from 1.5 millimetre lead flashing. His article about his boat in Water Craft Magazine, number 37, explains that he made a template and cut 96 pieces and glued them together with contact adhesive. This took him a long time, because of the period required for waiting while the glue became touch dry. Fumes were a bit of problem. He would have preferred to have the weights cast at a local foundry, but they would not do it.

Derek gives a cautionary note with the study plans that the boat is suitable for being built by experienced builders who have access to metal working facilities. Apart from the ballast weights, I shall have the stainless steel fittings made professionally. In fact, I’m waiting for a quotation from Belmar Engineering who makes fittings for Fairline and Sunseeker. Those who can do things like turning stainless steel on a lathe will not have a problem, but if you want to avoid the expense of having the metalwork done for you, I feel sure that a determined person will find ways of improvising. Necessity is the mother of invention.


More details about the ballast weights and the keel

Belmar Engineering

Water Craft Magazine (Back Issue for # 37 available for £6.00, including postage)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 15

Transom Assembled

My estimate of how long it would take me to finish the remaining parts of the transom and assemble them was way out. I thought the job would only take an hour or so, but it actually took six hours and twenty minutes - that’s including joining the pieces together with screws and epoxy. I had not taken into consideration the time it would take to shape and bevel the cleat edges so that transom would slot snugly into place when fitting it to the hull panels.

This job was a bit like building the Temple in Jerusalem which took place during King Solomon’s reign. The first stone was laid in about 966 BC and it took seven years and six months to complete the building. There was to be minimal noise during the construction, as would befit the nature of the building; therefore the huge stones were exactly shaped and pre-fitted at the quarry before being rolled on rollers to the building site so that they could be slotted into place.

Maybe I’ll get around to fashioning the inner stem post tomorrow, that’s if nothing crops up to prevent me doing it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 14

'V'-shaped Stern Post

Transom bits (Less two pieces I have yet to make)

At last I was able to make a start at building the transom. In all, there are nine pieces that have to be shaped and glued together: there’s the central five-sided stern post, six edge cleats, all with angled sides, and two panels of plywood. Unlike any other transom I’ve seen, this one slopes forward to give a streamlined appearance, and it has a cross-section in the form of the letter ‘v’. It will look elegant when it is finished, but the construction needs some precision so that the hull side panels and the floor panel will fit it exactly. They will butt directly onto the inner edges of the transom panels. The aft deck panel will be fitted to the upper edges of the transom and their associated cleats.

I shall need at least an hour, perhaps two, to finish shaping and gluing the parts together, but if all goes well, I shall be very satisfied with the end result. Then I shall need to fashion the stem post, so that I can do a trial assembly of the side panels and the frames, but not until I have fitted the sheer strakes and the chine logs to the side panels.

Building ‘Sharpy’ is giving me an enormous amount of pleasure and satisfaction. For me, there’s little that can stimulate and excite me as much as using my hands to create an individual piece of craftsmanship in the form of a sailing vessel, especially one tailored for my own use. The expectation and thrill of sailing her, urges me on to see the job through to completion. How long that will take is anyone’s guess.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 13

Sometimes things don’t go as planned, and that happened today. I thought I would be able make the backing pads for the side panel butt joints, shape the inner stem post and build the two part transom. In fact I didn’t get around to doing any of them. Instead I reshaped the side panels and worked out where the frames would be joined to them.

The other day when I cut the side panels I thought there was something wrong with them, because the chine edges didn’t flow smoothly. Today, when I checked their measurements I discovered the aft side panels were too wide. I had inadvertently made the ends that will join the transom too long, and as the bottom corner where it joins the transom was a datum point the measurements for making the chine line were out. Fortunately, I was able to trim the panels to rectify the matter.

Before it got dark I was able to clean up the frames by using a file to remove dribbles of hardened epoxy. I finished them by lightly planning their edges and sanding them.

I’m not going to make any predictions when or what I shall do next, because nothing is certain in this life. One minute I can be fine, the next, I may be on my back with flu. With that in mind, boatbuilding is an adventure. An adventure is something started that has an unknown end. The outcome cannot be guaranteed! ........... Oh, only the other day, I likened building a boat to being on a trek of a thousand miles which is accomplished by taking one step at a time, and as long the walker keeps stepping forwards he will reach his journey’s end. On that basis I can be certain that I shall complete the boat if I keep working at it, but I can’t be certain I’ll keep going!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 12

Frames in the making

Frames complete with edge strips

I’ve had a satisfying day working on the four frames. Each frame has five sides that are reinforced with strips of wood. They are held in place with small, brass panel pins and epoxy. I first made the strips of wood; then using a pencil I marked where they would be tacked to the frames. Frames number one and two have their strips on the forward side, and frames three and four have their strips on the aft side. Before applying the epoxy, I hammered panel pins through the plywood frames so that their tips just broke through the surface where the epoxy would be applied. Having applied the epoxy to all the surfaces, I simply pressed the strips onto the tips of the panel pins and turned the frames over so that I could drive the pins home.

Tomorrow, I may be able to make the butt joints for the side panels, form the transom into its shape and fashion the inner stem post.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 11

Side Panels

Today I did a total of 4 hours in the garage. I worked on the forward side panels and smoothed the edges of the frames. I have now cut out the hull side panels, but not the keel box support frame, which can only be done when the side panels have been assembled to form the shape of the boat. The reason for this is that the exact dimensions for the keel box support frame cannot be known until the side panels have been joined to all four frames, and the two-part transom. When they have been glued together, including the internal stem post, the panels for the bottom of the boat can be cut to size and fitted. It is important that the chine logs and sheer strakes have first been glued to the side panels before they are assembled to form the shape of the boat.

I shall have to consider whether to thicken the three-eighths plywood frames along their edges for better adhesion and to give more bulk for the nails or screws that will hold them in place to the side panels. Mr. Anonymous, who is building a ‘Sharpy’ in the US, did thicken the sides of his frames by gluing a beading to them. There will be no need to thicken the keel box support frame because it is made from a 6 millimetres thick piece of plywood. The plans show an epoxy fillet on the forward side of frame 3 to which the forward end of the keel box is joined. That makes a lot of sense, because that is the area where most stress will be located because of the forces imposed by the keel. It would be prudent to put epoxy fillets on both sides of frame number 3 because it also takes the load of the keel where the Bowden cable runs over the top of a pulley located in a bracket at the forward end of the cockpit.

My next job will be to make the internal stem piece and the internal edge supports for the transom, because until they are in place, I cannot do a trial assembly of the side panels to find out if they fit properly to the frames. Only then, if all the edges line up can I glue the chine logs and sheer strake to the side panels before the final assembly.

Because Derek Munnion does not include a building instruction manual with the boat plans, builders have to work out the order of assembly, but if there is a problem, Derek is always pleased to offer advice over the phone, or by email.

He is currently changing his Internet Supplier; therefore his old email address is defunct. When he gives me his new email address, I’ll post it here at my Blog. Meanwhile if you want plans, please contact me, either through the Blog comments page, or by email to: . I’ll put you in touch with Derek. Plans are currently £40.00 for UK residents and slightly more for those who live elsewhere in Europe, the USA or another country. Study plans are £4.00 worldwide.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 10

Layout Plan

Cardboard Template for Aft Side Panels

Frames and Transom Pieces

It’s been a brilliant day; the sun shone, but there was a bitter wind. Therefore I took up residence in the garage to avoid the wind, and placed my temporary workbench there. This consists of a planked panel laid across two homemade trestles. Eight foot by four foot plywood overlaps the edges, which gives me space for cutting out shapes as I jiggle the plywood.

First of all I had to accurately draw outlines of the frames and the aft side panels onto a sheet of plywood, making sure the best side was uppermost. Although I had prepared a layout plan, doing the measurements and cross-checking them, took a long time, and it wasn’t until mid-afternoon that I started cutting the plywood with a jigsaw. I was pleasantly surprised at how stable the 4 millimetre ply was. There were no split edges, and the saw seemed to follow the lines effortlessly.

At 1645 my wife called to say she had made an early evening meal, and by then I felt I needed a break – besides, the light was fading. That marked the end of boatbuilding for a day that had started at 1000. I logged 6 hours and 15 minutes, because I had taken 30 minutes for my lunch break. So far I have spent 21 hours 30 minutes at building ‘Sharpy’ - all of it enjoyable. I am not the fastest builder of boats, and perhaps others could do what I do in half the time, but I wonder if they have half as much pleasure. I avoid using power tools unless I have to; in fact, I only have three power tools: a jigsaw, an electric drill and a rotary sander.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 9

Rounding the Mast

Top of the Mast

Bottom of the Mast

The Mast

The forecast was for showers in the afternoon, and there certainly were heavy ones and a clap of thunder, but that did not stop me working on the mast. Between 1000 and 1230 I did the general shaping of the mast, without imparting a curved circumference; i.e., I planed the laminated Douglas fir so that it was tapered from one end to the other. The building plan gives very precise measurements to 1/16 of an inch, and working to that tolerance requires skill with the plane, but slight irregularities can be smoothed away by using a sandpaper hand tool.

After a lunch break lasting half-an-hour I was back on the job; this time I planed away the remaining edges to shape the mast into a tapered spar with a circular cross-section. I finished the shaping by using the sandpaper hand tool. Meanwhile heavy showers periodically drenched the piles of shavings from the morning’s session, but I had moved the workbench into the garage where I could continue working.

About mid-afternoon, my daughter and her three young children arrived on the scene. The tiny boys have got to that stage where they ask many questions and when you answer them, they invariably ask ‘Why?’ So you patiently explain why, only to be presented with another ‘Why?’ and so on. As I’m a natural teacher, I had to show the trio how to use the tools lying around on the floor and the bench. I was then saved from further distractions by my daughter taking the boys to the woods to look for conkers, nuts, etc. Needless to say, they returned about an hour later, drenched to the skin, but they were overjoyed with their finds wrapped in plastic bags.

I persevered and finished smoothing the spar before rounding the top and squaring the bottom so that it will fit into a socket at the bottom of the mast box – yet to be made when I build the hull. The mast was completed at 1645, which meant I took six hours and fifteen minutes to do it.

The timber and the plywood for building the boat arrived yesterday; therefore there’s nothing to stop me cutting out the hull panels and assembling them. The arrival of cold weather could make using epoxy problematical, but I’ll try dealing with that situation when it arises, which it is sure to do.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Jaguar 25

Designed by Frank Butler for the American market, the Catalina 25 was a very popular yacht. The English version, the Jaguar 25, was manufactured by Eric Birch at Canvey Island, Essex, between the mid 70s and the mid 80s. The yacht was built under licence, and during that ten year period about 940 yachts were produced. She had good all-round appeal on account of her 4 to 5 berth accommodation based on an internal moulding with teak trim. New owners could choose between having their yacht with a fin keel, twin keels or a swing keel, and they could opt for an inboard engine or and outboard with a sail-drive control.


LOA: 25 ft

LWL: 22 ft

BEAM: 8 ft 3 in

Draught: 3 ft 1 in (Twin Keels)

Draught: 5 ft 8 in (Fin Keel)

Draught: 5ft 6 in (Swing Keel)

Displacement: 4300 lbs

Headroom: Standing


Jaguar Yacht Owners

Jaguar 25 Photo Gallery

Jaguar 25 for Sale £6,500

Jaguar 25 for Sale £8,500 – bilge keel

Jaguar 25 for sale £8,670

Jaguar 25 for Sale £8,995 – fin keel

Jaguar 25 for Sale £9,650

Jaguar 25 Mk 2 for sale £11,950

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 8

Preparing the wood with the sander

Clamped together in the kitchen

An ancient Chinese proverb says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” My mother used to have a slightly different version of the proverb which went like this, “A journey of a thousand miles is nothing more than a step at a time.” I much prefer my mother’s version of the wisdom proverb, because when I am on a journey it comforts me; I know full well that if I persist, I shall reach my destination.

Boat building is rather like being on a journey. As soon as the builder takes his first step, he is on his way. A few days ago I made the first item for my ‘Sharpy’ keelboat. Doing it was not difficult, but I had to saw the full length of a long piece of Douglas fir. The first saw stroke was the beginning of an exciting adventure. Each successive stroke brought the journey closer to the end. One-and-a-half hours after making the first cut, the task was done.

The next leg of the journey was to fashion the yard by rounding and tapering the piece of wood. I began by making one sweep of the plane. Hundreds of times I moved it back and forth and I was encouraged by shavings accumulating on the ground. With satisfaction I saw the yard taking shape, and then came the time for smoothing it with sandpaper. Finally, the job was over, apart from the varnishing and two tiny holes for sail lashings.

Today, I took another step along the way by preparing wood for the mast. I had to join two pieces to a thicker one, so that I would have a single length of wood thick enough for shaping the mast. After they had been cut to length I sanded and scored the surfaces that would come into contact with epoxy. The outside temperature was too low for applying epoxy; therefore I assembled the pieces in the kitchen where is was nice and warm. After applying the epoxy I clamped them together. When the epoxy solidifies and hardens, I’ll be able to fashion the laminated wood into a sturdy mast.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Westerly Griffon

A Griffon at Hullbridge

The Westerly Owners Association’s website has photos and information about the Westerly range of yachts, including the Griffon 26, the Mk 2 and the Club. The original Griffon was the successor of the widely popular Centaur, which name was derived from a Greek mythological creature that was part human and part horse. The first known depiction of a griffon, griffin or gryphon was found in a mural painted in 1500 BC; it resembled a creature with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. Westerly named their new boat the Griffon. Although a much better boat on all accounts than the Centaur, she was never as popular as the cheaper and less sophisticated vessel.

In total, 329 Griffons were built between 1979 and 1981. Unlike the Centaur, designed by Laurent Giles, the Griffon was the brainchild of Ed Dubois. She was a faster and roomier yacht, and she was built to a higher specification, including a wooden interior. Unknown to Westerly, there was an inherent design fault with the twin keel version, which resulted in cracks appearing in the GRP at the forward end of the stubs. This was due to repetitive stress loading caused by the vessel settling into thick mud, time and again at each low water, while at her mooring. This fault was rectified, but modifications to around 20 Griffons were costly, and in part they brought about the closure of Westerly Marine Construction in 1981.


LOA: 26'
Beam: 9' 2"
LWL: 21' 6"
Draught: Twin 3' 3" Fin 4’ 9” Lifting 3’ 3” to 5’ 6”

Displacement: 5,900 lbs
Ballast: 2,717 lbs


Westerly Owners Association

Yachts Net Westerly Griffon Information Page

Westerly Griffon for Sale £9,950¤cy=GBP&access=Public&listing_id=76786&url=

Westerly Griffon for Sale £13,950

Westerly Griffon for Sale £18,950¤cy=GBP&access=Public&listing_id=29066&url

Westerly Centaur

Friday, October 15, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 7

The Yard ready for varnishing

The Yard

Yesterday, in preparation for making the yard, I spent about an hour-and-a-half sawing a 15’ piece of well seasoned Douglas fir to make it into a square section. Today I shaped it with a hand plane into a round section and tapered both ends to measurements on the sail plan. Having rounded the ends of the timber I used a sanding board to give it a smooth finish. Finally, I smoothed the surface with medium-fine sandpaper and rounded the ends of the yard by using a hand plane, a file and fine sandpaper.

Apart from drilling holes at the head and foot of the yard and varnishing it, the yard is finished – total time to date is six-and-a-half hours. The holes at the top and bottom of the yard will be for short lengths of thin Terylene line that will be used to secure the head and the tack of the sail.

If building the rest of the boat will be as easy and speedy, I’ll have my ‘Sharpy’ on the water in time for the sailing season next year, but from experience I know there will be times when things will not be so good. Autumn is already with us, and winter is on the way. The first frost has been forecast for tonight, and cold weather will hamper the use of epoxy.

My next job will be laminating two pieces of Douglas fir to the sides of a thicker piece so that it will be thick enough for making the mast, and I shall need to join the timber with epoxy. The mast is short, so I shall be able to bring it indoors if the outside temperature is less than 15 degrees Celsius. I use a two pot epoxy from UK Epoxy Resins – two parts of resin to one part of catalyst dispensed by pumps. It takes three minutes to mix and there’s usually a twenty five minute gel time, which is ample for most jobs, even fixing a deck on a small boat such as ‘Sharpy’.


UK Epoxy Resins

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 6

Keel Box

Mast Box

Preparing the Douglas fir for making the yard

What can we learn from the photo of the keel box? We can see the support frame for the keel box is at the aft end. At the forward end there’s an upright support between the keelson and the deck beam. There’s also a knee at the top that strengthens the area where the keel hoist will be fitted. We get a good view of the backing pieces for the butt joints on the side panel and on the floor of the boat. The keelson is strengthened at the base of the keel box with reinforcements either side of the box.

The photo of the area between number one bulkhead and number two bulkhead shows how the mast support box is made. This slightly differs from Derek’s building plan by having a circular recess for the foot of the mast instead of a 1.5 inch square slot.

Today I started building my ‘Sharpy’ when I began shaping her yard from Douglas fir. The bulk of the timber should be delivered on Monday.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 5

View forward

View aft

These photos give us more detail. The one of the forward section reveals that the boat has been fitted with standard foot pedals – the sort that may be found in manufactured decked canoes. Derek’s building plan gives details of an oak rudder bar angled at 30 degrees from the horizontal which articulates on a spindle embedded in a vertical fore and aft mahogany support. This support butts onto bulkhead two. The fore and aft position of the rudder bar is adjusted to suit the crew. The photo adds to our understanding of how the the keel box and the mast support are made.

The photo with a view towards the stern shows bulkheads three and four, plus details of the transom. The transom is made from two plywood panels that are joined at an angle. A substantial internal post is shaped to accept the panels which are inclined forwards to provide a streamlined effect. This arrangement, although pleasing to the eye, makes the construction more complicated than would be the case with an upright, single panel transom. The complication also requires specially made pintles that will fit the angled transom, but this requirement could be eliminated by having an external transom post with a flat outer surface.

Before the aft deck is attached, two 15 mm plastic tubes will need to be fitted to holes in the transom for conveying the steering lines between the rudder yoke and the foot pedal. The forward end of these tubes will be attached to holes in number four bulkhead. The tubes will pass through number five bulkhead. After the internal woodwork has been protected with paint, and the partitions filled with polystyrene pellets enclosed in plastic bags, the deck can be fitted.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 4


Forward Section

It gives me great pleasure to be able to tell you that a ‘Sharpy’ is being built in the USA. The builder wishes to be anonymous, but he is very happy for me to publish photos of his boat. I’ll start with two of them - one of the cockpit and the other shows the forward end of the boat.
Here is my abridged reply to his email giving me permission to publish his photographs.


Well, (Mr. Anonymous),

Thanks for the 'go ahead' with your photos. I think they might encourage others to build 'Sharpy'.

……………………………………………………….. All of these home-built craft have differences, some of which may improve their performance or functionality. Feedback via the Internet through group discussions, forums, blogs or websites is automatically archived, and photos are particularly useful, because things seen are easier to understand than those described by words.

Builders come up with their own solutions to problems, and they have their own methods of working. Those who share information online about such things, add to the pool of knowledge.

I look forward to seeing photos of your ballast castings, and to making them available to potential builders of 'Sharpy' by uploading them to my Blog.

Best wishes,


What can we learn from the photos? They give us a lot of information. The cockpit photo reveals where the two floor panels are butted together and where the side panels are joined. It clearly shows the construction of the keel box. There’s a support frame at the aft end, and under the coaming, on the port side, we can see a knee for strengthening the side deck. Either side, on the floor of the boat, there are single stringers. At the bottom of the side panels there are chine logs. Careful examination will reveal that the support frame for the keel box, bulkhead, and knees, have been thickened by the addition of beading at the edges where they come into contact with side panels. The forward waterproof bulkhead is far enough in front of the keel box to give space for the foot steering bar that will be installed later. There’s a slot at the apex of the coaming for the support block that will be part of the keel hoisting and lowering system. At the top of the photo you can see where the raised foredeck joins the sloping side decks.

The photo of the front part of the boat gives us more information. We can see the mast support, the sheer logs and the number 1 bulkhead, plus the central deck support beam. It also reveals what will become two watertight chambers. The original plans recommend filling these compartments with polystyrene pellets in plastic bags - presumably, the sort that will not degrade. Mr Anonymous will be adding watertight hatches, so that he will be able to access the compartments.

Monday, October 11, 2010

British Hunter Pilot 27

Unequivocally, we have here a Hunter Pilot 27. She’s a very comfortable 4 to 5 berth cruising yacht designed by David Thomas who has a string of successful yacht designs to his name, including the Elizabethan 31, the Sigma 33 MH, plus smaller boats like the Medina, the Sonata, the Red Fox 200 and the Horizon 21. He is a designer with almost impeccable credentials when it comes to perfection in yacht design, both for racing and cruising; therefore we can expect a good turn of speed and efficiency from the Hunter Pilot 27, but what we also get is practicality and functionality because of the ergonomics of the design.

In the forward cabin there is a large double berth and a hanging locker, and in the central cabin where most activity takes place and where there’s the least movement when the yacht is underway, there’s a galley to starboard and settee berths to port with a large table. This accommodation is enclosed in a raised pilot house where there can be an optional steering station, which I for one, would appreciate when the going gets tough, and the rain is bucketing down. Underneath the cockpit to starboard there’s a double cabin with a seat and a lobby. By the companionway to port there’s a heads with an optional shower.

Hunter Boats offered a twin keel version and a fin keel version, but by far the more popular was the twin keel yacht. In practice little difference has been found between their performance, and this must be due to the design of the asymmetric twin keels that are towed in to provide lift when sailing to windward. The yacht is steered by a transom-mounted rudder which can be operated by a tiller or by a wheel or both. Thus, the helmsman has a choice of whether to steer the boat from within the pilot house or from outside in the cockpit. The latter is self-draining, and it has sloping, teak-faced side benches. I particularly like the side decks which give easy access to the foredeck.

Altogether, Hunter Boats produced about 100 Pilot 27s, either for kit completion or as finished yachts. Production started in 1996 and ceased in 2005. Right now there’s a glut of second-hand Pilot 27s for sale, ranging from between £33,000 and £42,000. See my links below.


Hull Material: Fibreglass


LOA: 27' 7"
LWL: 22' 4"
Beam: 9' 1"
Draft: 3' 4"
Displacement: 2745 Kgs
Ballast: 1073 Kgs


Pilot 27

Yachts Net Info Page for the Pilot 27

Serenity – a Hunter Pilot 27 Sailing Yacht

Pilot 27 for Sale £42,000

Pilot 27 for Sale £38,950

Pilot 27 for Sale £37,500

Pilot 27 for Sale £35,500

Pilot 27 for Sale £32,995

David Thomas Yacht Designs

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Is this a Signet? (See the Addendum* below explaining she's a Crystal)

As far as I can see, there is little of note to set this small yacht apart from others like her built in the style of small sailing cruisers manufactured in the early 60s, but I do like her rather snug, contented appearance.

I think she may be an early Signet, perhaps produced by Hurley Marine, circa 1963/4, but fitted out by another yard. She’s probably an early version because of her wooden coaming and unusual, but attractively shaped windows. Other versions have two large rectangular windows on either side of the raised cabin trunk or one long rectangular window. Signets were designed by the American Ray Kaufman and most of them were manufactured in the USA.

Gilmax Ltd., of the UK, produced a late version known as the Mk 11, or Super Signet. Various manufacturers offered Signets with fin keels or bilge keels, skeg hung rudders or transom hung rudders. Some manufacturers offered a choice of inboard or outboard engines.


LOA 19' 10"
LWL 16' 0"
Beam 6' 8”
Draft Bilge Keel 2' 0"
Draft Fin Keel 3' 0"
Displacement 2,047 lbs
Headroom 4' 1"


Signet 20 Yahoo Group

Signet 20 Mk 2 – Sold, but good photos

Signet 20 for Sale £995

Signet 20 for Sale £1,500

Signet 20 for Sale £2,500

Signet 20 for Sale £2,750

Sailboat Data – Signet


Paul Mullings has identified the yacht as a Crystal. Follow this link to see photos of one:

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 3

Profile and Plan View

Sketch of the Keel

The Keel

The 42 inch keel is made from plywood, aluminium, mahogany and lead. Both the leading edge and the trailing edge underwater sections are tapered and they are shaped from mahogany that is screwed and bonded to the plywood so that they overlap the aluminium sheathing on either side. A Bowden cable attached to the bottom of the keel fits in a groove on the leading edge. When in use, the cable is clipped to a tackle on the foredeck so that the keel can easily be raised or lowered. When fully raised, the top of the keel protrudes 23” above the cockpit coaming; this does not interfere with the sail, although I doubt the keel would be fully raised when the boat is being sailed. For optimum speed downwind, that may be the case, and should an involuntary gybe occur, the boom would be clear of the keel.

The ballast keel bulb is laminated from sheets of lead that are shaped with shears or scissors. Each piece is joined to the other with flexible impact glue and they are clamped together with locating pins. The starboard ballast is permanently attached to the keel, and the port ballast can be removed for convenient transportation. Derek designed the keel so that it would be able to flex, and if it were subjected to exceptional strain the plywood core may possibly fracture, but the keel and ballast would not be lost.

The keel snugly fits into a vertical keel box that is at located at the forward end of the cockpit. There is room either side of the keel box for the crew’s legs to pass under the foredeck so that his feet can rest on the steering bar.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 2

Derek with 'Sharpy'

Yesterday I explained how I planned to make the hull panels for ‘Sharpy’ from marine plywood. Today I want to say a few words about setting the boat up for sailing.

Unlike Matt Layden’s ‘Paradox’, ‘Enigma’ and ‘Elusion’, Derek Munnion’s ‘Sharpy’ is not sheathed with epoxy GRP. Sheathing considerably increases the weight of a vessel and as ‘Sharpy’ has been designed to be transported on the roof rack of a car, keeping her as light as possible is the name of the game. Getting her on a roof rack would be more difficult if the ballast keel had to remain in her. Very cleverly, Derek devised a keel that can be removed from the boat for transportation. It is inserted into the keel box when the boat is on her side, and to make this easier, the lead ballast has been divided into two parts. The smaller 33 lbs piece is permanently attached to the tip of the keel, and the larger 40 lbs complementary piece is joined to it by two locating pins. During transportation, the keel components are normally kept in the boot of the car.

Getting the boat on and off her roof rack can more easily be done if the rack has been modified with a padded roller located above the boot of the car. A padded roller will minimize damage when the boat is being pushed up and forward onto the rack and when she is being taken off.

At the launching site, ‘Sharpy’ is carefully placed on her side, so that her keel can be inserted into the keel box from underneath. If the ground is at all rough, a small mat should be put under her to protect her from being damaged. After the keel has been inserted, the boat is turned upright and a Bowden cable used for lowering or lifting the keel is clipped to the tackle on the foredeck designed for that purpose. The Bowden cable fits snugly into a groove on the forward edge of the keel, and its lower end is fixed to the bottom of the keel. This neat arrangement allows water to flow around the keel without hindrance.

All that remains to be done before putting ‘Sharpy’ into the water, is to ship her mast, attach the yard to the halyard, stow the sail on the side deck, and fix the launching trolley to the skeg at the aft end of the boat. She is then pulled the last few yards to the water where the trolley is removed. When she’s afloat, the rudder can be fitted, and the steering lines clipped to the rudder yoke. The whole operation takes only a few minutes, and she’s ready to go.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Building ‘Sharpy’ Part 1

I’ve no idea how long it will take to build ‘Sharpy’, a 15’ sailing sharpie designed by Derek Munnion, but I shall make a start when the timber and marine plywood arrives at my home. I ordered the mahogany and plywood from Robbins* of Bristol, and I expect to have them before the end of next week. Meanwhile I’ve been planning how I can most economically make the shapes of components for the hull. I shall use a handheld jigsaw for cutting the various shapes. From four sheets of 4 millimetre 4 ft by 8 ft of marine plywood to the standard of BS 1088, I shall have to cut out 17 shapes, the largest of them being the central and aft section of the boat’s bottom. The forward section will have to come from another sheet.

I set about finding the best layout for the various bits and pieces by making patterns to the scale of 3 millimetres representing an inch, which is the same scale Derek used for sheets one and two of the building plans. These detailed drawings show how the hull should be built. I found it was easy to trace the shapes directly onto greaseproof paper - proper tracing paper would have been better. After cutting those out I juggled them to fit onto 4 pieces of paper that were 144 millimetres by 288 millimetres. These rectangular pieces of paper represented the sheets of plywood that will be used for making the hull.

Part 2 of this series will be posted in due course.


‘Sharpy Plans’


‘Sharpy’ 15’ drop-keel Sailing Canoe

*Robbins Timber

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Vivacity 20

I’ve seen quite a number of Vivacity 20s sailing the shallow waters of the south-east of England, for which they are well suited. With a draught of 2’ 6” they can creek crawl where other vessels possibly would not dare go, and if they get stuck, they can happily take the ground by settling on their bilge keels.

Designed by D. C. Pollard, the yacht was developed from the Alacrity 19 that was built by Hurley Marine, but marketed by Russell Marine. Russell Marine, who later joined forces with Catalina Yachts of the USA, took over production of the Vivacity 20 in 1972.

With a masthead rig, a 7’ 1” beam and a waterline length of 18’ 4” they had a good overall performance. Motorised propulsion came from an outboard motor mounted on her transom. Featuring an open plan layout and four berths, she was a popular choice for couples - even those with one or two young children.


LOA 20’ 02
LWL 18’ 4”
Beam 7’ 1”
Draught 2’ 6”
Displacement 2,205 lbs
Headroom 4’ 0”


Vivacity 20s for Sale (£1,000) (£1,750) (£1,800) (£2,500) (£4,000)

Vivacity 20 – good photos

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Snapdragon 747

Thames Marine at Canvey Essex, manufactured a series of family sailing cruisers under the brand name of Snapdragon. Their 24’ 6” bilge keel Snapdragon 747 was in the middle of the range. Owners claimed they went to windward marginally better than the Snapdragon 24, which was the predecessor. I must confess that I cannot spot differences between them. The 747 has standing headroom of 5’ 9”, five berths in two cabins, a separate heads and a hanging locker. Comfortable accommodation seems to have been the priority, rather than performance under sail. Some people would classify the 747 as a motor-sailer rather than an auxiliary yacht, but that would underestimate her performance off the wind and downwind.

There are several of these early 1970 GRP yachts for sale. If you are looking for a good value, family yacht that can be kept on a half-tide mooring, and you are not too concerned about windward performance, a Snapdragon 747 may meet the criteria.


Hull GRP
Keel Bilge
LOA 7.47m (24ft 6in)
LWL 6.25m (20ft 6in)
Beam 2.45m (8ft 0in)
Draft 0.76m (2ft 6in)
Displacement 1,678kg (3,692lb)
Ballast 703kg (1,547lb)


Snapdragon and Mirage Association

Snapdragon 747 for Sale £6,495

Snapdragon 747 for Sale £4,200

Fin Keel version of the Snapdragon 747 for Sale £6,495 (Sold)

Good Photos of a 747

Snapdragon 24 - earlier version of 747

Monday, October 04, 2010


A Pandora International on the River Crouch

My Pandora Mk 1 at Dover

My Pandora again

Ridgeway Marine produced three versions of the E.G. Van de Stadt Pandora. The original 22’ Mark 1 was based on the Trotter, which evolved from the Randmeer day boat. Van de Stadt added decks and a coachroof to convert her into a weekender, and named her the Trotter. He subsequently increased the height of Trotter’s freeboard to provide more space for the accommodation and to compensate for the additional weight. She was named the Trotter-Pandora.

In 1967 Grimsby Plastics was licensed to build the Trotter-Pandora, but they only managed a run of 20 boats. Ridgeway Marine took over production in 1971, and after they redesigned the deck and coachroof, they marketed her as the Pandora. In 1973 they revamped the whole boat and gave her a deeper keel and a taller rig, but continued to offer alternative hull forms, i.e., fin keel, twin keels or with a drop plate. This model was named the Pandora International.

A final transition took place in 1976 when the yacht was given a retousse stern which necessitated her having a skeg-hung rudder instead of a transom-hung rudder. This version, the Pandora 700, was equipped with an even taller rig. Production of the 700 ceased in October, 1991.

I owned a Mark 1 Pandora in 1981 and sailed her to Holland and back. An account of the cruise can be found in my Blog, starting with Part 1.* (See link below)


The Pandora Owners Association

Pandora Mark 1 Brochure

Pandora International Brochure

Pandora 700 Brochure

*Part 1 of my Cruise to Holland aboard ‘Apple Charlotte’ my Pandora MK1

Pandora Mk 1 for Sale £1,850

Pandora Mk 1 for Sale £1,600

Pandora International for Sale £3,850

Pandora International for Sale £3,400

Pandora 700 for Sale £3,450