Making the Most of a Minimal Budget. Contact me at: or on Twitter: @skintsailor

Monday, 24 December 2012

Swotting up on Seagulls

This weekend I've been reading up on-line about seagull engines.

One of my primary concerns is the orange ooze that leaks out of the gearbox. I have a potential fix for that so that's one of the first things on the to-do list. There's a better oil seal for the propshaft that at least keeps the oil from dripping everywhere.

Looking at the engine, so far I need a carb spring, carb choke plate, fuel vent screw, spark plug cap and starter cord.

Most things are cheap to get hold of, but the choke plate seems to not be available in numbers so commands a price: its a whopping £17.50 just on its own. I'm skint and I'm not paying that for a flat bit of metal, so some ingenuity may be required to fashion a plate myself. Maybe an old tin cut up, flattened and cut to shape will produce a thin enough plate of the right shape.

However that'll have to wait until after Christmas and New Year, as the family festivities come before fettling old outboards.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Where have all the Yachts Gone?

Ebay has gone quiet this week with no new listings of cheap yachts. The wreck has reappeared At exactly the same price it didn't sell for before.

There was a yacht that went for very little that had quite a bit of history involved with it (google "yacht stalker" to read the story). Seaworthiness obviously isn't an issue as its just come thousands of miles from Turkey, but having arrived from a non-EU country, VAT status and CE compliance are very big issues. Obviously VAT would have to be paid to HMRC on the cost of the boat (luckily not too great a sum for a cheap boat) but CE compliance can cost several times what the boat cost.

I did email the broker selling the yacht on behalf of the owner and was told VAT and CE compliance aren't an issue on such an old boat. Which is true had the boat been in the EU all its life. But having just arrived from a non-EU country, however old the boat is the clock starts now.

Take VAT status for instance. On a pre-1985 boat the boat is deemed to be VAT-paid but only as long as there is proof of the boat being in EU waters on December 31st 1992. Now there are thousands of boats out there that don't have a hope in hell of providing such documentation, but those are the rules. Even so, if the boat gets sold outside the EU then the clock is reset and VAT will be due if the boat ever comes back into the EU. On a £300 boat its not so bad a risk as you get a receipt for £300, and then stump up the £60 VAT, get the receipt from the VAT man and then squirrel it all away with the boat's other important documents. Job done.

CE compliance is a bit more complex. Being a Leisure 17 the boat would have been made in the EU. At some point it went to Turkey. If there was documentation to show it was in the EU before 1998 then no problem. Without that documentation it becomes a new import, and therefore is required to be made compliant. I'd hope with this boat in particular that there would be a makers mark with the date of manufacture on it. Without that...

For the small boat owner its a minefield of complex legislation. Its above the head of your average bloke with a small yacht on a mud mooring. But the there is no getting away from the fact that all boats should have documentation of some sort to prove their status.

What are the chances of proving the VAT status on a cheap boat? How can you prove its date of manufacture, given that the manufacturer will most probably be long gone by now? How can you prove that the boat was in EU waters before Dec 31st 1992? Its a pretty anal owner that keeps receipts of harbour dues or mooring fees from that long ago.

The same goes for CE compliance.

There really needs to be some sort of amnesty for owners of small boats such as you see parked up in the bays, creeks and estuaries, the boats that have been here donkeys years but have scant evidence to prove it.

But in the back of all our minds is the nagging feeling that at some point, some young upstart in some ministry or other will look at us as some new revenue stream and the more macho HMRC guys will love the idea of dashing about in a fast RIB intercepting small yachts and demanding papers, or suffer taxes... I mean fixed penalty notices.

Monday, 17 December 2012

I've Got The Power! (All 2HP of it!)

In my price range most, if not all of the boats available come without an engine. That's understandable because the engine can be worth as much as the boat itself. So the canny seller will split them and sell the boat separately, as a slightly down at heel boat and engine will not command the price you can get selling them individually.

To that end, I've been searching for motive power so should I find an engineless gem, I can snap it up and not worry about how I'm going to move it.

And last month I found this on eBay:

£34 and it was mine. A cursory look over it and its in good condition overall, with very little corrosion. It turns over easily by hand, so no worries about it being seized.

There are issues, such as the missing petrol cap vent plug, missing spark plug cap, the dodgy throttle cable and missing throttle slide spring and also a leaking gearbox prop shaft seal. But hey, it was made in 1962 (its as old as me!) so I shouldn't complain. That's a lot of history!

But the condition of it means its worth adding the few bits to get it going again. The good thing with seagulls is that most parts are cheap. I'm quite looking forward to working on it and it means for once I get to use the imperial spanners and sockets I've very rarely if ever used in my socket set.

On the plus side the prop is in great shape as are the drive shaft and the exhaust shaft. The tank is ok but could do with a respray.

Its certainly a lot cheaper than a Japanese engine and once you get them fettled, Seagulls can be just as reliable.

Obviously Christmas means I don't have money for the parts right now, but in a month or so I'll start looking to get the bits to make it work. Hopefully I can keep the total cost of the engine and parts low.

I'll document the fix-up on video and have a breakdown of the cost as I go along.

But at least its one step towards boat ownership.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

So, What Am I After Then?

Thats a good question. I'm looking to save up around £650. The breakdown of how that's spent is as follows:

The boat itself will be around £350. Don't snigger those of you with pristine marina-moored mega-bucks Gin-palaces, there are very seaworthy boats out there available for that sort of price. I have seen boats complete with sails and all fixtures and fittings (excluding the engine of course) go for that sort of money.
Don't forget our ancestors went to sea in boats we wouldn't consider fit for use as tenders these days. A bit of savvy seamanship will overcome the need for bells and whistles. A sturdy hull, strong fittings and a decent set of sails is the minimum prerequisite. Anything else is just the icing on the cake.

Of course you have to know what you're looking for in terms of the boat design itself as there are some turkeys out there that don't handle so well. The material the boat is made from is also crucial. The skint sailor will not be buying a wooden boat as the associated maintenance costs are beyond me. I want something low-maintenance.

I also want a bilge keeler, something that will take the ground easily and stay upright when grounded. This is because tidal mud moorings are that much cheaper than those that afford access at all states of tide.

Any work on the boat will be done by myself. I've worked on radios, computers, cars, bikes and boats before. I know my way around when it comes to electronics, engines, epoxy, glassfibre and all the other skills you need to maintain a boat and more essentially, keep it reliable. Many, many years ago, when I had the money, I used to own an American powerboat so I know how easily boats can sap money from your bank account.

The engine can be a major part of the boat's expense, so real savings can be made here if you can find the right engine at the right price. As I'm talking about the boat and engine separately, that means that another prerequisite is outboard power.

It would be nice to find a £350 boat with an engine (and I have seen them go on eBay), but they are an extremely rare beast. More likely I'm going to have to pick up a cheap outboard of some description and fettle it until it (a) runs and (b) runs reliably. If I just happen to find a boat with an engine at my price, then the outboard becomes a reliable backup engine.

Anyway fixed inboard engines ramp up the initial price of the boat and also add to the maintenance regime and cost. Seacocks, Gearboxes, stuffing boxes and stern glands are not for me. The hull will be simple with the minimum of holes in it. So lets see, probably another £100-£150 budget for the engine.

I'm on a mission to prove that skinflint sailing is possible and just as rewarding with a poverty price tag.

Horror Story (1)

I did say there were some horror stories on ebay. They can range from half-decent boats with unproven provenance, imported from outside the EU with unclear VAT and CE status that could be a ticking expense timebomb, to boats which are basically wrecks. The number of boats I've seen on eBay with water in the bilges or tidemarks on cushions which would indicate the boat has to all intents and purposes sunk... <shakes head>.

Unless the boat is historically important and can garner the support of a group of people, there's no real reason to go for a boat that is beyond economical repair. Why for instance would you buy a wooden boat that needs the whole hull replacing?

Here's an example:
This is a boat that looks to have been left outside  unprotected for decades. Look at how the mast has weathered. No windows and an open companionway means the interior is just as open to the elements as the exterior. At the front there's evidence of panels having sprung or at the very least moved, cracking the paintwork. Judging by the position, the bottom of the boat is in contact with the damp soil underneath. All recipes for a rotten hull. There are bushes growing through it.
At the rear the cockpit and deck have lost any sort of weatherproofing and would appear to be rotten. The transom appears to be parting from the rest of the hull.

This is advertised as "For Restoration" a more apt description is "For Bonfire". Currently there are quite rightly 0 bids at the £100 start price.


Well, this is quite literally a blank page at the moment.

However, I can offer an outline for the reason I've created this blog.

You see, last year I started sailing on a mate's boat and well, I've caught the bug. I've spent nigh on 12 months browsing eBay and generally missing boat after boat due to lack of funds.

So, I've made it my mission to become the Skint Sailor: to see just how cheaply you can get a reasonable size boat and just as importantly as buying the boat, afford to run it.

Here is my plan. I need to get to a target of about £600. For that I can get a decent 19 foot yacht that needs some (but not too much) work, as well as buy a years' insurance (doncha love sail boats: I hate to think how much a power boat would cost to insure), and also moor it legally somewhere.

I'm sure to some paople £600 is pocket money, but to me with very little in the way of disposable income its a hefty enough target.

So, I have a few things I'll be selling off to get the fund started and hopefully someone will buy them.

I'll also be commenting on ebay items as they come up, because at my end of the price range, there can be some horror stories as well as true bargains.