The Pocket Cruiser

Some years ago, we sold our live-aboard cruising yacht Elizabeth when we decided that we weren’t brave enough to continue with our world cruising plans in the company of a small baby. In the intervening years, we have often looked in a dreamy way at the yacht listings, but it was never either practical or the right time. Finally, however, the stars aligned in our favour: We found ourselves living by the coast on the island of Tasmania, next to arguably the best cruising ground in Australia, and our daughter turned six and began to show an interest in the world of sailing.

We were monitoring the sales listings for live-aboard cruising yachts around the Southern hemisphere, and looking for something a lot cheaper and older than either of our previous standard production boats Pindimara or Elizabeth. We reckoned that we were now experienced enough to tackle something a little more bespoke and unusual, and there were plenty of interesting candidates out there, many of which had been circumnavigating with families aboard for years.

We had been talking to agents in the US and New Zealand, and although there were plenty of boats for sale, we were prevented from travelling to either destination by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Then a couple of interesting yachts popped up right in our own neighbourhood, and we went to have a look. On the walk back from the marina berth of a particularly interesting steel-hulled Adams 35, we passed a lovely little blue pocket cruiser with a hand-written ‘for sale’ sign tied to the shrouds.

The owner, Tom, was aboard, and showed us around. She was a sound 26-footer that had been used for several decades as a live-aboard at the marina, but all her rigging was in place and she had a newish engine and, we were told, a full sail inventory. Tom had been stuck in the US for the last two years due to work and the pandemic, and so the little boat had sat wallowing unattended for all that time and now sported flaking paint on the coach house and significant rain-water in the bilges. Nevertheless, she appeared to be fundamentally sound, had a recent insurance survey, and was very very cheap as the owner had moved ashore and didn’t need her as a home any more.

As a coastal pocket cruiser, she wasn’t at all the kind of boat that we’d been looking for, but she felt good aboard and the price was very appealing. We slept on the idea, and then realised that this might be exactly the kind of yacht that we needed. Because our 6-year old daughter had just started school, we were unlikely to need an ocean-capable cruising yacht in the near future, and knew from experience that such vessels can be horribly expensive to keep in trim if only sailed at the weekend rather than cruising aboard. We have regular jobs and a couple of building projects on the go, and wouldn’t be sailing on a daily basis. Furthermore, at only 26 feet and steered with a tiller, she might be just the boat to teach an enthusiastic little girl how to sail.

We had thought that whatever boat we finally purchased, we would keep her on our own mooring near to our bush property to the south of the island. However, Tom had already established that the marina would be happy for us to take over the lease on the existing berth, which was only minutes from our newly built house.

We handed over the cash, and are now proud owners of an elderly but cute Snook 26, named Cheval de Mer.

The History of our Snook 26

We have just purchased a pocket cruiser, registered as a 1978 Snook 26. Since there is no record of Michael Snook ever designing a 26-foot version of his famous racing boat, we were curious about her history. Luckily for us, a previous owner had left on board a potted history of the yacht.

She was originally launched as a standard Snook 22 racing yacht, purchased by a Steve Lovell, whose nickname was ‘Shovel’. He raced her as ‘Shovel’ out of Bellerive in southern Tasmania.

A year later, he hauled her out and cut her in half with a chainsaw. Aided and abetted by Michael Snook himself, he spent three weeks inserting a four-foot pre-prepared centre section, increasing the total length to 26 feet (a change from 6.7 to 8 metres). To balance the boat, they moved the keel aft, and increased the draft from 1.3 to 1.7 metres. Arguably just for fun, they also increased the height of the mast to a 9 metre luff, and extended the boom out to 3 metres.

In this new format, Shovel raced very successfully, and – by virtue of the extended cockpit (which was known locally as ‘the beer garden’) – became a popular venue for post-race drinks and, by all accounts, some pretty disreputable parties.

At some point in the nineteen-eighties, Steve sold Shovel and moved to the mainland. The next known report is from a subsequent owner, Dennis, who found her in a dilapidated state in Devonport in Northern Tasmania. Dennis helped the then owners to rebalance the boat – now known as ‘Kermit’ – as a cruiser, and later bought her from them and sailed her back to Hobart. He reported that, even detuned, she was still very fast, with a propensity for surfing on the swell that had to be continually damped by means of trailing drogues.

Now berthed at the marina, Dennis and Fiona fitted her out as a live-aboard cruising boat. To increase the living space, they lifted the coach roof to give 6 feet of headroom while extending the cabin back into the ‘beer garden’ to return it to a more reasonably sized cockpit. They added a larger rudder, a pushpit, an inboard Yanmar engine, and had the interior fitted out with bunks, drawers, sinks, table, chairs and a head.

They wanted to rename her, too, and were keen to retain some reference to the Snook’s long and interesting history. After some thought, ‘Shovel’ became ‘Cheval’, and then by obvious inference, ‘Cheval de Mer’.

Dennis and Fiona lived aboard for some 13 years, and I infer from the charts that I found in a stern locker, that they travelled to the mainland and then up the NSW coast at least as far as Port Stephens.

In around 2004 she was back in Hobart, and was acquired by Tom as a permanent live-aboard. He didn’t sail her much, but made some changes more in keeping with her new function as a stationary home. About five years later, Tom’s work took him to the US, where he remained for two years. Cheval de Mer slowly aged in the marina, starboard side facing into the weather, where the paint abraded away from the coach house and she began to leak.

On his return, Tom found himself in changed circumstances and living on land, and he just wanted to pass the yacht on to somebody who would appreciate her. And that is where we came in.

Despite spending nearly a decade largely stationary, her hull seemed sound, the moving parts were all still moving, and the only issues seemed to be with the ply of the cabin top. In the middle of a pandemic and with the marina’s hard-standing already full of racing yachts getting tuned for the season, taking her out of the water for an inspection was a non-starter, so we took a deep breath and bought her warts and all without either a test sail or a professional survey.

As soon as we took possession, we emptied her out, and took her out on the water. She performed beautifully in the gusty light winds of the day, with a slight tendency to lee helm as she appeared to be massively over-powered. Considering her history, that’s not at all surprising, and we’re happy that we just need to settle in and get comfortable with her.

New acrylic windows for the yacht

Our new boat leaked when it rained. It wasn’t subtle; water poured in around the badly sealed acrylic windows, and through the screw holes, and through the wooden framing.

Given the sheer volume of rain water that we were pumping out of the bilges on every visit, it was clear that this was Item 1 on the agenda.

For the last decade, Cheval de Mer had been sitting in her berth, with the starboard side facing into the prevailing weather. The port side wasn’t too bad, but to starboard the paint had flaked off, and parts of the forty-year-old marine-ply superstructure had degraded to such an extent that they were water-permeable.

My first task was to undo the dozens and dozens of dome-nuts that held the windows on. This was tricky without an assistant, and I didn’t have a mole-grip to hand. I rigged up a spanner hanging from a line on the outside, which provided just enough resistance to undo the screw from the inside. Then return outside to reset the spanner, then back inside. Repeat… it took a while.

The old acrylic windows to starboard then popped out easily in a flurry of weathered wood-flakes.

The port-side windows were fixed with sterner stuff. They had been glued in with a strong sealant, and the only way to get them out was to shatter them with a blunt implement. Eventually I extracted all the shards from the frame, only to find that the sealant itself was still firmly bonded to the paint all down the port side, completely immune to scraping. I got it off by applying a heat-gun, which didn’t affect the sealant but which bubbled up the paint underneath so that I could get the whole mess off with a scraper.

Even though the wood was sodden in places, once covered in a tarpaulin it dried out without warping, although there were significant cracks and dints. Woodwork is not my favourite activity, so I cast around for an easier way to repair the damage. It was then that I discovered the delights of the amazing West System 105 epoxy resin.

This stuff is incredible. You mix it up and slather it onto wood (or fibreglass), and it soaks its way inside the layers, chasing away any water, and then sets to a hard but slightly flexible finish. I spent several days happily painting it onto the exposed wood, and watching it vanish completely inside, before finally it had seeped in everywhere it wanted to go and the final coat stayed on the surface, looking like a thick varnish.

You know how this goes. Sand, fill, sand, fill, sand, fill…

Once I’d done the major work with West System 105, I filled small imperfections with Knead-It, a two-part filler that comes in a handy tube which means that you can just tear off exactly the amount that you need. Eventually there were so many different colours and textures that I couldn’t work out by eye what was flat and what wasn’t, so it was time to add some paint.

I used Norglass Shipshape two-pack primer, which sticks to pretty much everything that my boat is made of. On my first go, I made the mistake of brushing it straight after mixing, when it was still runny and very hard to work with, but I learned to patiently wait the crucial first ten minutes for it to go off. It went on pretty well after that.

Once it was all the same colour, my eye was no longer distracted by all the different textures, and I could properly see the lumps and bumps that needed sanding and filling.

A second coat of primer, a final sand and minor filling, and then a top-coat of two-pack Norglass Norcote. For a short while, at least one part of the boat looked like a million dollars.

I waited a couple of hours for it to dry, but the weather was against me. The temperature was hovering around ten degrees, which is the minimum for curing, and the surface stayed resolutely tacky. Rain was forecast and I had to pick up my daughter from school, so I covered the boat in a tarp.

That night, the wind blew the tarp in so that it stuck to the paint, and I had to peel the whole thing off. Then I had to sand off most of my hard-won polished finish, and deal with some slumping that had occurred in the cold of the night. But at least the surface was now relatively flat and white, and I could move on to the next phase.

Using butcher paper taped to the dock, I made up templates of the new windows that I wanted to fit. They were significantly larger than the originals, because I wanted to completely cover the areas that had been weakened by screw-holes.

Following local advice, I took the templates to Eagle Plastics in Hobart, who gave me a warm welcome and made me some lovely new acrylic windows, 5mm thick with a bevelled edge and a smoky tint.

Scrolling through sailing forums, it soon became clear that the only choice for adhesive was 3M Very High Bond (VHB) tape, which was readily available on the internet from Embossing and Tape Supplies (ETS). This double-sided tape is incredibly easy to use and forms a powerful bond with both the acrylic window and the painted boat.

For the first window, I did make a mistake, in that I didn’t quite butt up the black tape to completely hide the underlying white paint. I had thought that the tint and the shadow would hide the joins, but I was wrong.

In retrospect, I should have used a little black paint either on the window frame or around the inside edges of the window, but such is the power of VHB that you only get the one chance: Once the window was in, I wasn’t going to get it out again without a large hammer.

I did better with the rest of the windows, though. You live and learn.

And finally, to make the whole thing waterproof, I needed to run beading around the outside edges.

Now, according to the forums, there is one and one only solution, and that is to use Cow Dorning’s CowSil 795. In my innocence I had assumed that I would just go and buy some when I needed it, but this American product is not widely available in Tasmania, and I wasn’t going to wait to have it shipped from the US.

I contacted the local Fibreglass Shop who advised that their marine customers have always had good results with an Australian product, FixTech FS200, and moreover they had it waiting for me in stock.

I got out the 3M Scotch blue (in my opinion the only worthwhile masking tape), and carefully taped both the acrylic window and the surrounding painted woodwork.

Like any silicone product, it was quite messy and needed care, but I found that it went on easily enough as long as I didn’t apply it too thickly. The back of a bamboo teaspoon gave a nice finish.

I removed the tape straight away, which gave me the chance to fix up any over-thick portions with my trusty wooden spoon (wetted with soapy water) before it started to cure. No matter what you do, silicone gets everywhere, but I found that dropped spots were easily removed with Goof Off, which also served to clean my spoon and fingers between applications.

On the whole, I think it came out OK.

Oil in the Bilges

It was a sunny Sunday morning with light brisk winds, a perfect day for a family sail after weeks of incessant rain. We climbed aboard, cast off, and motored out of our berth.

Immediately an alarm sounded from the panel in the cockpit. I heard it from the bow where I was keeping lookout, but I had only just replaced the depth sounder and had not calibrated it, so I assumed that it was responding to the shallow bottom under the keel. At any rate, squeezing out between rows of expensive boats on a blustery day is not the time to be focussing on electronic problems.

The alarm cut in and out as we navigated around the pontoons, and as we passed out into deep water through the arms of the breakwater I waited for the it to stop. It didn’t, and I saw Bronwyn duck forward from the helm to look more closely at the panel, and she shouted, “it says Low Press”.

Oh dear.

I stuck my head down the hatch and found that our nice clean white bilges were awash with engine oil.

Despite having lost all its oil, the one-cylinder donk was still plugging away, so we used it to get to a nearby mooring buoy. A gust caught us and we missed, and had to go round again, praying that the engine would keep on going. It did, we tied up, and killed the motor.

Now what?

We were stuck out in the Derwent River, on a mooring of unknown provenance. It looked big and well-kept, but we’d never seen anybody use it before.

We had the dinghy on board, although it temporarily lacked either a drainage bung or rowlocks. Still, it was easily enough to get the family back to the marina with diligent use of kayak paddles. We tied up the dinghy in our berth, and went home.

On Monday, we arranged for the yacht club to give us a tow to the yard, so that we could get her out of the water and have a look. It wasn’t really necessary to get her up on land, but she was overdue for an antifoul anyway, and because we bought her quickly for cash, we’d never seen her bottom, so it seemed like a reasonable opportunity to kill several birds with one stone.

As soon as we were up on the cradle, I pumped the oil out of the bilge and cleaned up the mess. The bilge pump – which had never worked very efficiently – was saturated in oil so I took it home for a clean. The unused piping for the water tanks (I’d removed three large tanks when we set her up for sailing rather than live-aboard) was similarly contaminated, so they went too.

The engine was pristine and clean. There was no sign of any leaks, no trails of oil, nothing. The engine sat on its blocks, and the oil sat beneath, with no indication of how it got out.

The oil filter felt rough to touch underneath, and I wondered if it had developed a pinhole. It was very, very tightly fitted, and there was evidence (in the form of crinkles on the underside) that somebody had cranked it on with a strap wrench. I had to puncture it to get it off, so destroyed any real evidence of pinhole leakage. There were also two metal oil pipes that dipped down into the bilges, where they had likely sat in rainwater for some time while the boat was unattended before we bought it, and these pipes showed a crusting of rust. I dismantled it all and ordered replacement parts.

In the meantime, I got busy with the hull. Once I’d power-washed and chipped off all the shellfish, the fibreglass was down to a previous layer of paint, and the steel keel was practically back to metal. There was a chunk missing from the rudder, where an exposed internal screw head was now visible. I applied two-pack resin where appropriate, and two-pack underwater undercoat wherever I thought I needed it.

I would have preferred to rub the whole keel down and apply a smooth finish to the anti-foul, but time was short, the cradle was needed for racers rubbing down for the start of the season, and I did also have to work at my day job. A couple of top coats applied with a roller would have to suffice, on this occasion. She looked OK though.

While she was out of the water, I replaced the sacrificial anodes. The keel anodes were ready for replacement, but the one on the prop shaft was in relatively pristine condition, most likely because it hadn’t been fitted properly and only sat loosely on the shaft. To be fair, the previous owner had warned me that he had replaced it in the water and he wasn’t certain that he had tightened it enough, so I was glad to see any anode at all. I had a working theory that if the shaft anode wasn’t functioning fully, enough current might have leaked to burn a pinhole in the thinnest mild steel in the engine, which would be the oil filter.

The new set of (very expensive) oil pipes arrived from Yanmar. When the dealer got them out of the box, my first response was, “Gosh, they’re so shiny!”

He gave me a knowing look and said “Aaaah, you’ll have the old ones, then.” Some years back, Yanmar changed the design from steel to copper because of corrosion issues. Not quite a smoking gun, but a useful pointer that I might be on the right track.

I fitted the pipes, and then briefly fired up the engine. It started, didn’t knock, and the oil stayed in. I only let it run for about 15 seconds because there was no seawater coolant in the intakes. The proof would be when we put her back in the water and warmed the engine up, but at least there weren’t fountains of oil everywhere.

Pausing only to give the bilges a final clean, and then pessimistically lining them with puppy pads, we pushed her back into the sea.

We tied her up to the jetty, and fired up the engine. We stared fixedly at the bilges. Neither oil nor water appeared.

We waited, and listened to the rhythmic pop-pop-pop of the single cylinder. There was no oil in the bilges.

We put her into gear and strained the engine against the mooring ropes. There was no oil in the bilges.

We sat around until she was good and warm, and until the waiting rubberneckers had lost interest and got back to work, and then we quietly backed off the pontoon and opened her up. She had far more power than we were used to, and her bow pointed eagerly out into the river. She ran like silk.

Eye Splice

Before we bought her, our pocket cruiser Cheval de Mer had been in the same berth for some 20 years, through two previous live-aboard owners. For most of that time, she has sat with her bow facing into the dock on six permanently spliced mooring lines, which had been specifically created to hold her in position with easy access to a ladder up onto the dock along the starboard side.

We have no protective toe rails on Cheval de Mer, and the mooring lines had been rubbing in the same places for so long, that they had chafed right through the gel coat on the gunwale to the glass fibres beneath. I’ve sealed the worn holes with West System resin, and preventing further damage is on the to-do list.

I had been checking the dockside fittings now and again, and had already doubled-up on two of the lines because they were looking a bit old. Then one winter’s night there was a wind event recorded as 120km/h, so I dropped by the marina next morning to check that all was well. There’s a short mooring line that is used to keep her close to the ladder, but the land-side connection isn’t really visible as it is hidden under the dock. That morning I found the mooring line floating free, with the rope eye and metal thimble worn completely through.

Clearly, I was overdue to replace all the lines, but the reason that I hadn’t done it properly yet was that I didn’t want to just replace them ‘as is’. My preference is to be able to pop out for a single-handed sail now and again, and so far I haven’t done that on Cheval de Mer because of the difficulty of reversing out of the tight corner in which she is berthed, an action that really needs two people, one to steer and the other to fend-off. I wanted to make up new lines which would allow us to berth her stern-to, giving me the opportunity to simply motor out of the berth whenever I wanted to. In case you’re wondering, berthing in reverse will be much simpler than departing in reverse, due to the configuration of the pontoons and available hand-holds.

We waited for our chance when the wind was low and the tide was slack, so that we could turn her around in her berth while hastily fabricating temporary lines. I had an idea in my head that we would push her out and turn her around by hand, but Bronwyn pooh-poohed that plan and said that she’d simply motor out to sea, turn around, and come back in. Since somebody needed to be on the foredeck to fend off, and somebody else needed to be on shore to work the lines, we borrowed the services of our friend Peter, and thank goodness that we did.

We arrived as planned on a wind-free afternoon at the slack of high tide and started the motor, an old but serviceable Yanmar single-cylinder which thudded reassuringly as Bronwyn backed Cheval de Mer out of her berth. All went well until she was out in the channel and making that tricky first turn, and then the overheating alarm came on. Last time that happened, we ended up with a bilge full of oil, so Bronwyn hastily killed the engine and we completed the manoeuvre by hand, using lines, ironically as I’d originally planned. Luckily there were three adults and a child to help with the fending-off.

We got her around without too much fuss, and then pulled her gently into the berth. As the stern swim platform came gently level with the end of the berth, Bronwyn somehow fell off it and banged both thighs on the concrete dock. It hurt a lot, and resulted in significant and colourful bruising.

While Bronwyn sat quietly and thought nice thoughts, the rest of us juggled the available lines into suitable lengths, and it wasn’t long before we had her nicely positioned. In fact, with the stern swim platform facing the end dock, there’s little need to use the midships ladder at all, you can just step on and off the swim platform whatever the tide. It’s a bit of a mystery why the live-aboard owners chose to keep her bow-to in the first place.

Back at home, I got out a large roll of poly rope, and taught myself to splice an eye. It always seems so complicated when you read about it, but in practice it turned out to be pretty simple to make a slightly amateurish but strong eye in the end of the rope.

As always, practice makes perfect, and over a few weeks I made a full set, complete with new stainless-steel shackles and thimbles for the landward side.

I tied the boat-end in a temporary bowline, so that I had some flexibility in choosing a good final length in all tides and weathers without committing yet to a splice at both ends. Meanwhile, I need to figure out what’s wrong with the raw water cooling pump…

The Little Pump that Didn’t

While backing the yacht out of her berth the other weekend, the engine overheated. It had already done this once recently, and on that occasion had filled the bilge with oil. I had since carefully (and expensively) replaced all of the metal oil pipes in case of invisible pinholes, and since then the engine had been behaving itself, so it was disconcerting to hear the alarm shrieking again. This time, before we killed the motor, I peeked over the stern to check the exhaust, and sure enough it was running dry. There was something amiss with the raw water cooling pump.

With the engine cover removed, I could see that the cover to the pump’s impeller housing was now streaked with green, which it hadn’t been before. Clearly it was now leaking sea water, but it is well known on the Yanmar 1GM10 that a leaky pump cover can drip subtly and almost invisibly onto one of the oil lines, causing it to rust.

Perhaps this was the ultimate cause of my assumed pinhole leak? Perhaps, but a slight water drip didn’t explain my current problem. I removed the cover, expecting to find the impeller broken up into chunks, but it was still in place and in reasonably good shape. Curious.

I unfastened the clamp holding the flexible sea water inlet pipe and pulled it off the pump, forgetting that I had not first closed the through-hull. There was a violent spray of sea water which only stopped after I reached behind the engine and smacked the stopcock lever with a rubber mallet. Shaking the water out of my hair and rolling my eyes at my carelessness, I returned to the task at hand.

With the hoses disconnected, it was time to remove the pump, but this was easier said than done. Perhaps due to long-term microscopic leakage, but certainly at least in part due to long-term neglect, all three of the pump’s mounting bolts were rusty and rounded. There was nothing for a spanner to grip.

I was contemplating the traditional solutions (welding a rod to the rusty bolt head, chiselling a groove to provide purchase for an impact driver), when on the internet I discovered “bolt extractor sockets”. What a marvellous invention. They’re like a regular socket, but instead of a hex shape inside, they contain angled blades. The idea is that you hammer them onto the rounded nut or bolt so that they cut their way on and hold tight, at which point you simply undo them with a regular socket handle.

I bought a set at Repco. The kit looked solid, but the concept sounded far too easy to be true. I was wrong; the first bolt came off like a dream. After a little fiddling, so did the second one.

There is an immutable rule of mechanics, that – regardless of where you choose to start or what you are working on – it is always the final fastener that causes the most trouble. The third pump bolt was no different. I hammered home the extractor socket just fine, but the third bolt sits partially obscured by the crankshaft pulley, and my socket wrench is just a little too fat to fit between the pulley and the bolt head.

I really really didn’t want to remove the crankshaft pulley. In that direction lies madness. Instead, I went to Nubco and purchased a beautiful little socket wrench with a low profile and short handle, built especially for those awkward tight corners. Back on the boat, it slipped perfectly under the pulley, and in a jiffy out came the water pump.

I could clearly see the moving parts inside, and frankly it didn’t look too bad. I needed to deal with the leak, but the rest looked OK. Still, there was a problem with the pump, so I went ahead and disassembled it. Most of the guts came out easily, but I had to pry and chisel the oil and water seals, and they would never work again. Nevertheless, they had looked fine before I mangled them.

I asked the lovely people at Spectrum Engineering for Yanmar’s full rebuild kit. They didn’t have one, but they carefully examined my disassembled parts, gave me back the ones that they judged unharmed, and replaced the bearings and seals from their shelves. The lady asked if I wanted a gasket for the impeller cover. I said, “what gasket?” because my pump hadn’t had one. No wonder it was leaking.

After scrubbing the old parts clean with toilet gel, vinegar, and bicarb, the rebuild was pretty simple, apart from a rookie mistake when I was drifting in the new bearing seal with the back of a socket but unaccountably got it wedged at a slight angle. Back to Spectrum to get another replacement, and then the job was done.

I’d decided to replace the seawater hoses that feed the pump, because they had seemed a bit crispy to the touch when I pulled them off. My local Repco supplied a Z-hose which I could cut into lengths including the tricky moulded curves.

Back at the boat, I laid down a puppy-training pad under the engine (marvellous for soaking up spillage, and much cheaper than posh chandlery pads) and pulled off the old seawater hoses. The stopcock was of course still closed, but residual water spilled out as I got to work replacing them, using new stainless hose clips.

Once both pump and pipes were installed, I folded up the saturated puppy-training pad, dropped it in the bin, started the bilge pump to clear the overspill, and watched the shells tumble along in the lowest bilge. Shells?

I stopped the bilge pump, and had a closer look. There was a handful of tiny mussel shells rattling around, which must have been ejected from the inlet hose when I accidentally flushed it over my head.

What the heck were shells doing in the intake hose? I remembered reaching behind the engine and whacking the stopcock lever with the mallet. There had been plenty of room to swing the hammer. I got out the Dolphin torch and peered over the engine block and into the gloom under the cockpit sole. I could clearly see the inlet hose, leading directly from the stopcock to the pump inlet; no filter, no basket, just raw seawater and whatever happened to be floating in it.

I can only imagine that the shells have been tumbling inside the hose, occasionally falling across the intake and blocking it, falling temporarily free when the engine and pump stops, ready to pop up and block the hose by random chance when the pump re-starts. I don’t want to imagine how many other shells have been crushed to fragments by the impeller and sent to circulate through the engine.

I bought and fitted a strainer, fired up the engine, and sat happily on the dock watching the salt water being pumped back into the sea.

Fixing the little things

I have finally come to that part of the rebuild process where I have dealt with all the big stuff – the engine and the windows and the larger leaks – and can focus on fixing the little things.

The Switch Panel

I had already spent some time already tracing mysterious electric lines around the interior, stripping out the unused ones and labelling the useful ones. One of the tasks that I kept putting off was to decipher the switch panel, because behind it was just a huge ball of loose wires. It was impossible to get my hand in to unthread them, because all the earth leads had been wired into a single brass block that lived in the middle of the snarl.

One sunny day, I arrived with my soldering iron, some reels of wire, and a lot of patience, and began to unravel.

The reason for the snarl was that, although generally the wiring on the boat is sound, it had had decades of additions and changes, every one of which had all been led back to the same switch panel (and especially to the same earth block).

I slowly traced all the wires, and labelled each one, and excised excess cable and replaced it where it was a bit short. I made up a wooden board with more earth blocks than I will ever need, so that each earth wire is separate from the others and easy to distinguish.

Cheval’s Eyes

Cheval has these lovely old chromed navigation lights on either side of the bow. The lenses are faded, the starboard one is smashed, and neither of them are connected to the electrics, having been replaced by a modern unit on the pulpit.

Nevertheless, I rather like them, so one day I took them off and had a think about how I could make them look a bit better (and less leaky).

My first task was to fix the starboard lens, which was broken. I had some Pinkysil silicone left over from another project, so I made a mould of the inside of the port lens. Then I strapped the broken lens into the mould, and filled the whole thing up with F-190 polyurethane.

Of course, the starboard lens was now solid instead of being a transparent shell, but this was fine because I wasn’t going to use them as navigation lights. In any event, the lenses were so degraded from decades of sun that they had barely any colour.

I popped out the repaired shell, and – after quite a bit of experimentation to find something that would stick to both acrylic and polyurethane – discovered some spray paints that gave a bright finish, and gave them a few coats.

Leaky Lazarette

The locker hatches in the cockpit will, naturally, allow rainwater to seep in along the hinge line and down the edges. There are supposed to be drainage channels to catch it and shed it into the cockpit sole, but some of them had rotted completely away, allowing rainwater to drain into the bilges underneath the engine. This would have been part of the problem that caused my oil leak.

Some new wood, a lot of elbow-grease, some industrial glue, and some left-over window sealant saved the day.

We went away for 7 weeks and came back, and the bilges were bone-dry.

Keeping it Tidy

I bought some No-Wear chafe guards to protect my new paintwork. They are flexible stainless steel with a strong adhesive backing, so you can mould them to the shape of your boat. Handy if you don’t have hard gunwales, and your boat is made from soft plastic.

I added some rope bags and a solar-powered extractor fan…

The final touches of deck paint

I’ve been slowly moving around the deck, checking fittings and filling holes, applying two-pack undercoat, and finally finishing off with either Kiwi-Grip textured non-slip deck paint, or Norglass Weatherfast gloss enamel. It looks OK, I think.

She just needs some soft furnishings, a bigger solar panel, and dinghy davits. She’s almost good to go!