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

Friday, 30 August 2013


I went to see the boat today when the tide is on its way out.
My boat is marked with the red arrow. As you can see it takes the typical stern down position when aground. I think this is a peculiarity to Mk1 Seawyches because looking at later boats the keels seem to be modified so the boat sits more level.

Anyway you can see that I placed my mooring just on the edge of a mud flat. Bad news for getting off as early as Jim (the boat just above the red hulled cruiser) but good in that I won't be stuck at some wierd angle on the slope.

You can see that the weight has already sunk down one tyres worth, so I just need to bury it another 9 inches or so to completely bury it.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


I'm fascinated by the different coincidences and crossovers in life.

There is one thrown up by owning a Seawych. I never knew the makers, Sadler & Son were in the town I moved from to live here in Portsmouth.

Sadler & Son were based in Bicester, my old home town. Out of all the places I ended up in after moving down from Lancashire, the one town I pick just happens to be the place where my boat was built! Its strange because its about as far from the sea as you can get. I know because I used to trail an American sportsboat all the way to the sea from the place.

I've tried to check on the history of Sadler & Sons to see whether they were still around in 1994 when I moved to Bicester but sadly the internet has let me down on that score so far. Obviously my boat wasn't made when I was there, but I just wonder whether I would have driven past the place and not noticed. Unusual for me as a boat instantly catches my eye.

It looks like the Seawych was produced up until 1981, way before I moved to Bicester. I need to dig more to see if that was the end of boatbuilding at Sadler & Son or if they produced a different boat or range of boats later.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Mooring (2)

Well the boat is now moored!

It took a bit of work to get it all together. Went to the Portsmouth Boat Jumble on Sunday and got 10 metres of chunky 12mm chain for £40 and then stopped off at B&Q for a couple of bags of cement. Luckily the ballast I got for free. So Sunday afternoon was spent mixing concrete and pouring it into the truck wheel. I remembered there was an old tyre left outside work, so I nabbed that on my way to the boat (its only 5 mins from work) and used that as a former for an extra layer of cement.

I spent Sunday night on the boat on the beach making sure no-one nabbed my block and chain. I remembered that the keels make the bow higher than the stern, so faced down the beach and the boat stayed level.

Bit of a disaster Monday morning as I rolled the completed block down the beach to the bow of the boat: the top tyre separated from the bottom wheel. Must be a bad concrete mix. I hastily drove to the local B&Q and got another bag of cement. I placed the block under the bow and refilled the tyre on top, so it was back to 2 layers.

High tide was due about 4pm so Jim came down about 1 after a nightmare in traffic and we had a couple of brews while we waited for the tide. I though we'd never get off the ground and the ropes I was securing the block to the bow with were stretching under the weight. I pulled the chain taught and used my junior hacksaw as a pin to lock the chain in the bow roller. Within 5 minutes we were floating and pootled out to where we were  dropping the mooring.

Then another disaster as the hacksaw got jammed on the bow roller, stopping the weight from dropping. I started whacking it with a hammer, then the head flew off and hit Jim! I dropped the anchor to hold us in position while Jim rowed the dingy over to his boat for a crowbar. Just as Jim got to his boat, the weight of the block got the better of the hacksaw and pulled it out of the bow roller. Typical! The hacksaw disappearing into the briny is a small price to pay

I dumped the mooring buoy complete with pick up buoy over the side and hooked the loop of chain at the end of the rode onto my samson post. Then pulled the anchor up and stowed it away. Finally I was moored.

We stayed on the boat for an hour or so having celebratory brews and due to the weight of the chain the boat doesn't move much at all. We went for a quick pootle out of Eastney pond and then back in again, to get my bearings on coming into the pond and picking up the mooring. Its quite easy to pick up the small buoy, pull up the loop of chain and whack it over the samson post, then bind the pick up rope over the post as well. But the good thing is its all chain. At some point in the next month or so I need to fit a swivel just under the mooring buoy. I didn't fit one as there weren't any at the boat jumble. Ebay will have to supply that one.

But now I ache. But at least I've used the last Bank Holiday of the year productively and if the traffic reports on the radio were anything to go by, we were better off where we were.

Today at lunchtime I nipped down to the boat and it was sat at its usual angle (stern down) on the mud. Interestingly it wasn't that far away from the weight, so it looks like the chunky chain is doing its job and stopping it moving about too much.

But now I'm happy, I can move on to other jobs, once I've fitted the swivel of course.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Mooring

I've spent the past few days getting together the bits for the mooring. Yesterday I got a Van wheel for a tenner, which will give me the basis for attaching my chain inside my concrete block.

The chain, shackles and swivels I hope to get at today's Boat Jumble at Fort Purbrook. We'll see how that goes.

The mooring bits so far: £10 truck tyre and free buoy.

Jim tried his engine yesterday and is amazed at how quiet it sounds and how smooth it runs. Plus the gears work. Nice to know I can still work my magic on things mechanical. Its amazing the difference just a good service and tightening all the bolts can make.

I might put the boat on the beach this afternoon so I can crack on with the mud weight ready for tomorrow.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


This is where I've chosen to moor my boat. As you can see its cheap for a reason: you don't have water in the pool all the time. However the pros outweight the cons; its very, very cheap. I couldn't possibly divulge how cheap it is, but I reckon I can insure the boat and pay for the mooring for around £300 a year, which when it comes to marine running costs is rediculously cheap. Yes, at neaps you're not going to have water around the boat for long, but if the tide times are right, you bugger off out into the Solent on the outgoing tide, have a play for a day and then wash in with the incoming. Or you just play in the harbour for a few hours and then come back. Sail up to Langstone, drop the hook, wait an hour or so, the water retreats and you walk ashore to the pub. Walk back to the boat, have a coffee, do some odd jobs and then the water comes back and you sail back to your mooring.

Tides play a big part of your life on a mooring like this, but I love the character of the place. Yes, there's a Marina not far away and the local cruising club is encroaching with their tidy and organised pontoons, but I love the lack of structure here, the higgledy-piggledy way the boats are laid out and the harbourmasters attitude to laying a mooring. I also like the attitude of the people here: no-one is serious and there are plenty of boat owners in the same position of running their boats on a shoestring budget.

We even have a few old houseboats dragged up onto the shore decades ago and still in use, remnants of an age where you could do such things without incurring the wrath of those that wish to control us. There's one small houseboat set aside on its own: its used by an old lady that uses it maybe one or twice a year (or maybe our visits to Eastney coincide only once or twice a year) and she uses it to get changed before she goes off and has a swim in the pool amongst the boats. Actually on the Hayling side one of the houseboats was once quite obviously an old WW2 era landing craft, possibly an old Higgins Boat, complete with drop down door.

The shingle beach is shallow and gives way to mud, so is ideal for swimming: no sudden drop-offs. Its also ideal for running a boat up onto to do any repairs. You just pick your spot and wait for the tide to go out. Then you have a good few hours to reseal that skin fitting or do a bit of scrubbing.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

I Love Free Stuff Sites

Not only did I get a free boat (well, nearly free: I bought the engine and the boat came with it), but now I've got a free mooring buoy.

It s pretty big one designed to have a swivel with a shaft through the centre, but the swivel is missing as it rusted away. No matter, I'll run the chain through it or something similar.

I love free stuff sites. The main ones are  Freecycle and Freegle but there are others. What you do is register and then other members post ads for stuff they want to get rid of but are still usable. You can also post wanted ads, but its a bit ambitious posting a "Free Yacht Wanted" ad and the administrators will tell you so at the same time as canning your ad.

The thing to do is be realistic and honest in your expectations. A mooring buoy isn't that big a deal and some ex-yachtie might have one in the garage that they've not used in years: be prepared to spend some time scrubbing the old mooring number off it and any weed and/or barnacles.. Chain is a bit more rare, as its rusts to bits or gets weighed in for scrap.

You also will have to accept that whatever you get isn't going to be the latest and greatest, it might need some work, or you're going to have to be patient and wait for someone to place an "offered" ad.

But if you're prepared to put in the work, you can save a ton of money. Its the essence of skint sailing.

Thinking about it I forgot I got my VHF Handheld Radio off Freecycle a couple of years ago, which let me give my old low power one to Jim. So it saved a considerable amount of money and benefitted a friend.

Short Day

I had to come off the boat last night as it was blowing quite severely and I wouldn't have got much sleep.

I went back first thing today and moved the boat.

I couldn't stay on long as I've got a mooring buoy off freecycle. A nice big one that used to hold a 25 footer!

I got it home and I've already painted my mooring number on it. I just need some chain and a concrete block now to complete the mooring. No sign of chain on freecycle though.

I did try and wire in the charging circuit this morning, but I noticed that there wasn't battery voltage at the socket on the transom. Looking underneath the wires underneath the socket leading to the battery have been cut or corroded away, so that's something I'll have to replace.

Tracing the wires back through the boat ended up at this device:
The bad news is the top of the fuseholder on the side is missing, so it needs replacing before the thing will work correctly. . I'm not convinced the Ammeter is necessary as I don't think the charging coil on a 4hp outboard will produce as much as 6 Amps.

Its marked P.R. Boat Specialities, Brooke, Rutland, LE15 8DE.

The output is 12V DC, but the input is AC, so I assume its some form of rectifier/regulator that smoothes the output of the engine charging coil to DC for the battery.

Anyway its another link in the charging chain that needs sorting before the engine can charge the battery. Not a biggie.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Working on Board

I just got here on the last bit of water and am now doing various jobs while the boat is sat on the mud on this very grey day.
The cooker has cleaned up spectacularly well.
I'm now glueing a split in the wood of the companionway before doing some lunch.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Something for the Weekend?

Well, I do have a few plans.

I'm going to be on the boat most of the weekend giving the interior a good clean and other odd jobs like sorting the charging wiring on the engine.

I'm also going to spend some time scoping out where to set my mud mooring. It appears the mooring I hitched up to was sold on, so I need to move. I'll raft up to Jim's boat and spend Saturday night aboard which gives me plenty of time to do some of the odd jobs.

I sorted Jim's outboard this week and handed it back to him yesterday with a working gear shift after replacing the gear lever. He was a happy bunny; its hard to explain the sadness of an engineless boat. I nipped round to the mooring after work (its only 5 minutes away) and we dinghy'd it over to his boat.

I've not worked on an outboard since I was a kid and used to sort out the outboards on my Dad's Dawncraft canal cruiser. The little single cylinder 4hp Yamaha was a lot simpler than the 9 and 25hp twin cylinder Mercurys I worked on decades ago. In fact I was pleasantly surprised as to how simple it was to work on. Disconnect two wires for the stop switch and 8 bolts later the powerhead came off with the coil. 4 more bolts later and the bottom cowling came off to allow me to change the gear shift lever. A couple of hours including greasing and adjusting and it was sorted. Mind you the gear shift was brand new which made me a deal skinter than I was. I'm used to buying motorbike spares and I work for a company selling spares for Mazda sports cars, so I was prepared for a jolt. But its nice to know that my Skint Sailing money-saving skills have been honed, given that my mariner is very similar to the Yamaha.

I did have to smile because one of the spanners I worked on the outboard with was from my first moped: a Yamaha from the late seventies. It just seemed appropriate using a 34 year old Yamaha stamped tool on a modern Yamaha engine somehow.

The bad news is the weather: its predicted to rain the whole weekend which could end up being miserable. However, the boat came with a boom tent, so that'll be going up to keep the cockpit dry. If I get the chance I'll reproof the spray hood too.

Hopefully I'll get a dry spell so I can hoist the main sail, I'm keen to see how easy it hauls and I want to see the sail number if its got one.

I'll hopefully have time to take a lot of pictures and maybe a video or two for posting up here.

UPDATE: I came off the boat this evening: predicted winds of 30mph and constant rain would have made it a nasty night aboard. I'll get up early and move it off the mooring. I can't stay on long though: Someone on Freecycle is giving me a mooring buoy and a short length of chain and I have to pick it up in the morning.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Then and Now

This was me back in 2007 on my powerboat. Pre-crash, pre-petrol-price-hike, pre-belt-tightening.

My how I've matured: instead of rushing around, not caring about things like tides, I now have to use them and time my passages. A lot more cerebral, a lot more grown up, a lot less rushed, a lot less stressful. Which is a good thing, as stress is something I don't need in my life: its possibly the risk factor that caused my stroke.

Mind you the new boat will withstand a lot wider range of conditions too, so I should be able to enjoy it more, plus its actually in the water whereas my Sportsboat was on a trailer and had to be hauled to the water.

Here I am last weekend de-stressing:

First things first, before I can actually enjoy sailing it and not worry about the rig breaking, or the rain getting inside, there will be a few jobs to do. On my limited budget they will have to be prioritised and done over the winter. But hey, pottering about with your boat is one of the joys of boating! Especially on the days when you can't sail for whatever reason.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Work In Progress.

Well, I've made up the wiring for Sprite II's engine, so it can now be connected to the charging circuit. So when it goes back on the boat it will be complete. As long as I fathom out which connection is positive and which negative. I always use opposite connectors on each wire so you automatically know which is which on cars and stuff, but the previous owner put the same connections on each wire. Something that I might change in future as it reduces the chances of a cock-up and crossed wires causing damage later on.

Despite handing in my mooring application to Langstone Harbour board on Sunday, I still haven't heard anything back from them, so I'll be giving them a visit this morning to try and get a mud mooring sorted. Then I either make my own sinker and bridle, pay someone else to make and lay one or just find a disused buoy like everyone else! On the plus side my insurance documents came through yesterday.

Its interesting that the other day we saw men in yellow coats along the shore and it looks like the long-awaited clearance of the shore is starting. Portsmouth university own a substantial part of the shoreline at Eastney and a few months ago they put up signs declaring the boundaries of their property and notes to the effect that any boats left on their property will be removed at the owners expense. Hence my friend Jim, who'd had his boat on the shore for ease of access (he's not a sprightly lad!) moved to a mud mooring. It looks as though yesterday's exercise was affixing notices to the boats so I doubt it'll be long before the clearance starts. The thing is, among the wrecks and the scabby boats (you know, the ones that either don't float or haven't seen a lick of paint in years), there are a couple of nice ones including a 23' Snapdragon drop keeler. Its a shame as I've not seen it move for probably a year. I think the owner must regularly visit it, as the beaching legs go from under it every now and then and then a couple of days later it appears the legs are back ok again. I'm not sure sinking into the soft mud twice a day would do much for the keel mechanism if he moved it into the middle of the pool.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Got There!

We finally got to Langstone Harbour yesterday. A relatively early start of 8am got us out of Chi harbour as the last of the tide was coming in. Quite a flotilla exiting the harbour and we were by far the smallest (and slowest) boat heading out.

It would have made an impressive picture showing all the boats lined up on the way out of the harbour but even at that time it was a bit lumpy on the way out for such a small boat. Once we'd beaten the tide the trip across Hayling seafront went well even though we were side-on to the waves. Sprite II handled things quite well. She really is quite a stable boat for something so small. We risked opening the jib a bit to give us some  stability and to help the engine along, which I really didn't want to do on an unchecked rig, but it was fine.

Anyway by lunchtime we were safely in Langstone harbour having virtually surfed on the swell coming into the harbour, timing it just right for the tide to be slack. Even the Langstone ferry was having a lumpy time of it on the swell when I crossed over to cycle back to Sparkes Marina to pick my car up. Then back to Portsmouth to pick my son up as he's down from Oxford for the week.

Not much in the way of photos at the mo as yesterday I met my son's girlfriend and family for the first time, so I've been very busy.

Today I promised my son a cycle ride, so we bunged the bikes in the car, headed down to Eastney to see the boat, did an inspection and made up the to-do list and then had a cycle down the seafront to Southsea for tea.

A couple of things stand out: the windows really do need sealing as a priority. The main halyard needed a shackle fitting on a pulley and also its too short to reach to the cockpit, so needs replacing. Some 10mm braided polyester will do nicely. In fact if I can use the same for most lines so I might see if I can get a bulk buy. :-)

Jim's outboard played up coming out of Chi harbour on Sunday, failing to go into reverse. I had a look at it today and the plastic shaft of the gear selector has snapped, either through lack of lubrication or from lying the outboard on that side with all the weight on the plastic handle. Looks as though I'll be making a trip to Ron Hale's tomorrow.

On a better note outboard-wise, I thought the engine that came with the boat needed a new impeller. It seems not and was only a bit of grease that was blocking the tell-tale. I've also fathomed out where the charging circuit (its a sail power model) should connect. I could only find one wire and obviously a charging circuit needs two. I had a good look today and found that a wire had corroded and fallen off the fuseholder in the engine. A quick prod with a volt meter confirmed that the loose wire and the corroded stub sticking out of the fuseholder were in fact the two wires of the charging circuit. So I need to sort out the wire to the fuseholder and then I can pop the engine back on the boat complete with charging circuit.

The boat keeps surprising me. The spray hood that I thought was missing a bracket did indeed have the end bracket, but the plug bit had pulled out of the end of the pole. A couple of wraps with insulating tape and a few taps with a heavy object to knock the plug back in and hey presto! I have a working spray hood. It needs a little tlc but thats not a problem. We have a sewing machine.

So that was today. My youngest son came along with me and likes the boat a lot.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Free Boat?

Well, nearly. But getting a lovely, fully equipped, virtually ready-to-sail Sadler Seawych complete with long shaft 4hp engine on my budget it almost feels as though I stole it.

I went to see it on Friday evening and it looks great. It needs minor TLC, but nothing major. Rebedding and sealing deck fittings and the windows is a high priority as is sorting out the warped cockpit locker tops.

Here she is: Sprite II in all her skint sailing glory. Not bad eh?

We tried to get her over to Langstone Harbour yesterday but the weather beat us. Well, the predicted F3-F4 turned out to be more like F5-F6 and was wind over tide: not a nice combination exiting Chichester harbour. The swell beat the engine in the end, so we had to turn back.

So she now sits in Sparkes Marina awaiting another attempt today.
Wish me luck...