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

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Busy Weekend

Well its been a busy weekend. Yesterday Jim brought his new rudder with him, so we spent the day fitting that to his boat.

That left today to get the work done on Sprite 2 and although I ache, I've got all the important jobs done.

I got the shorter back stays on yesterday, however despite fitting 20mm shorter turnbuckles the back stays were still slack.

New shiny back stay turnbuckles

Looking at the front stay turnbuckle, it had no locking nuts, so there's a chance it could have loosened over time. Tightening it wasn't an option because it had got bent in the storms when the chain jumped off the bow roller.

Here's the old tunbuckle, apologies for the intrusive finger!

Bent old forestay turnbuckle and a finger!

Cue a trip to the local chandler and after I'd got over the shock of the price I left with a new turnbuckle. I'd have got one elsewhere but I really wanted it done this weekend.

I fitted it today and it tightened up the rigging properly.

Shiny new expensive turnbuckle
Once the rigging was tight, I started work on the mainsail. Last time I unfurled it, it didn't seem to lift all the way up the mast. ~This time it did, with the help of the winch! I seems before it got as far as it could before lifting the boom, but I didn't have the manpower to lift both the sail and boom together. 

Here I am checking the Halyard isn't stuck
With the sail and boom lifted, I had a look at the downhaul. It was looking a bit sad and neglected, mainly because a couple of pulleys seem to be missing and it wasn't led back to the cockpit like the other lines. I found a pulley in the cabin, but it really needs another attached to the downhaul itself. Something I need to sort out later. At least I got it (sort of) working and routed back to the cockpit.

Here I'm sorting the downhaul. 
All things considered the sail looks a bit baggy, but I'm not about to enter races or anything, so that's not a problem for me. All I want is for it to sail.

With the rigging and sail sorted, it was time to fit the outboard and check out the charging system. Again the outboard was flawless, Starting fine and idling as it should. The tell-tale for the water pump was still working so I'm not as paranoid about it overheating. 

I plugged the engine into the charging socket and checked the ammeter on the rectifier. Voila! over an amp of charging current on a fast idle.

It may have taken months to sort, but its working!

So, sails sorted, engine running, charging circuit working. What else could I work on? I know, I'll re-oil the handrails. They were looking a bit dry so more teak oil got put on them. Its amazing how quickly it gets soaked up. I'll probably have to top it up regularly over the year.

So what Next? Another job I haven't done is reproof the spray hood! So I fitted it and then got the proofer out, which was kindly bought for me by Jochen, one of the guys at work. Its the stuff we use to reproof fabric hoods for convertible sports cars. Mind you I'm wiring up his camper van in payment. lol.

Hmm, I'm on a roll here, so on to the next job: painting the mooring number on my mooring buoy/fender, while the spray hood was drying out. 

Dodgy painting 
The painting was a bit iffy, but then everything was moving about. You try painting a moving target with any aplomb.

Eventually it was time to come off, as the tide was going out. So, I got the newly-stiched sail cover back over the mainsail, and the cockpit cover over the cockpit and spray hood. Looks a bit weird but the spray hood still needed to dry out. 

Looks a bit hunch-backed!

I think a clean should be on the list soon!
And that was the end of the day. 4 hours after starting, I'd done most of the jobs I had planned to do and a few more.

I ache. I don't remember aching this much after climbing around boats when I was a kid!

But I'm happy. Definitely happy. I now have a boat that the next bit of good weather and tide permitting, I'll be able to take for a sail, as its maker intended.

A hull scrape and clean and application of some antifouling needs to be added to the to-do list, but I'm planning to do that in May during one of the bank holidays.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Current Plan for the Weekend

The long-term forecast says the weekend will be fine weather, so I'm already getting a list of jobs together.

1. Replace backstay turnbuckles with shorter ones to tighten up the back stays.Then tighten rest of rigging to suit.

2. Get mainsail to raise fully

3. Paint Mooring Number on Mooring Buoy.

4. Fit Boat name on Stern if possible.

5. Take outboard to boat.

6. If possible have a cheeky sail.

7. Have another look at Jim's outboard.

8. Re-oil hand rails.

9. Fit new bungee on sail cover and refit sail cover before leaving.

The bad news is high tide is quite early for a weekend, so no lie in!

But then I need to do some work on the car so I should be able to fit that in in the afternoon.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

How to Board from a Dinghy the Easy Way.

Because Sprite 2 is on a mooring out in the middle of Eastney pool, I have to get out to it in a dinghy obviously.

A lot less obvious is finding a way to safely and easily transfer from the dinghy to the boat and vice versa. I've seen many suggestions on forums and the like, but for the me the "Keep it Simple Supid" or KISS principle applies.

Okay, here's how I approach the apparently tricky subject:

First, I always approach the boat downwind. I can then use the wind to align the dinghy up with the boat as it swings in the wind. It also helps when gliding to the side of the boat.

As I come up to the side of the boat I pull the oars in on the dinghy and then hold onto the boat. Whilst still sat down I put a rope from the side of the dinghy into the jam cleat on the side of the boat.

I could quite easily tie the rope off on a cleat.

Basically I'm doing two thing: first I'm securing the dinghy to the boat, but secondly I'll adding the stability of the boat to the dinghy. As long as the rope holds, any weight I put on the side of the dinghy moored to the boat will be shared between the dinghy and the boat. The buoyancy of the boat reduces the tippy nature of the dinghy so when you step onto the side of the dinghy to step onto the boat, it doesn't instantly capsize!

Now the dinghy is stable, I can stand up and move about. I step to the front and loop the dinghy's forward line over a cleat on the side of the boat. Actually its bolted to a stanchion but it does the job.

The reason for the second line is security. I ALWAYS tie up two lines on the dinghy so I don't lose it. A few times one of the lines has slipped and I've been left with just the one line holding the dinghy to the boat. If I hand't had the alternate on there I'd be stuck or swimming!

As belt and braces, especially in choppy or windy weather I throw a loop at the end on the dinghy's bow line over the winch. That way if everything else fails then I've got a final final holding line.

Its just taken you about twice as long to read this as it takes to actually do. In all I can have the lines hooked up on the boat in about 15 seconds.

Once the lines are sorted, I can then transfer bags and stuff to the boat in safety. When I lean over I put my weight on the boat.

When I transfer to the boat from the dinghy I also put my weight on the boat first with my arms and then swing my legs into the dinghy, eventually transferring my full weight to the dinghy in a controlled manner.

There's no drama, it just works! No climbing up stern ladders or anything complicated.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Busy Start to the Week Off The Boat.

Its been a busy week, thanks in part to the good weather at the weekend giving me the psychological springboard to push towards completion.

That longer hour after work means I've been able to check on the boat after work in daylight, although the tide has so far been out when I've been down there. Next week the tides look ok to at least get on board and do small jobs. Anything that lasts about an hour will let me get it completed in daylight after work.

In the meantime on land I've been busy. I've completed the re-stitching needed on the spray hood and my next job over the next few days is to redo some of the missing stitching holding Sprite's name to the spray dodgers.

Finally once that's done I need to stitch up the sail cover which pulled apart in a small section of stitching when the wind caught it in the storms.

I've also ordered smaller stainless bottle jacks for the back stays to see if I can get them tightened up. I don't know if they'll be short enough but its worth a try.

I've also received the lettering for Sprite II's  name for her stern. That way when the spray dodgers are off people will know who she is! I'm not sure if putting the name on from a pitching dinghy is a good idea, or whether I should leave it until I put her on the beach for a weekend in the next few months.

Being happiest when busy means I've also enrolled for a free online course at a college, which should help at work. It supposedly takes up 10 hours per week, so my workload should be quite high over the coming months!

My other hobby of tropical fish keeping kept me busy last night as I cleared all the filters and the tank out with a bit of spring cleaning.

Currently I'm also investigating some of the free chart plotting apps available for Android phones. Not a substitute for proper charts I know, but could come in handy as a handy pocketable aid. I'll report back later on just how good a free app can be or if it can be any good at all. So far just the difficulty of getting the app and map downloaded and talking to each other is a major put-off.

So at the moment I've got lots going on!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Maintaining Gannet II and Outboard Testing

I spent most of today working on Jim's boat, Gannet 2 today. He had a few issues that needed looking at like his rigging needed tightening and he needed his outboard re-commissioning after the winter.

I tightened up his forestay for him and got his generator working, but his outboard steadfastly refuses to idle. I suspect a blocked idle jet in the carb is the culprit. I've squirted a bit of carb cleaner down it and it started to improve, but not totally and not before we had to leave his boat due to the tide. I might need to revisit his outboard at a later date or take it home and work on it.

I gave my outboard its first blast since its layup. I put it on the back of the dinghy and I have to say it works quite well. On Jim's dinghy if you put the weight of and outboard and a steerer on the back end, the bow points towards the sky and you have about an inch of freeboard at the transom and you're in danger of sinking. On mine there was quite a few inches of freeboard and it just skated along! If anything the outboard is overpowered for the dinghy as it was quite quick with the engine just on idle.

Its turning out to be a bargain at £16! It does everything: It rows out to the boat, is stable, can easily take three people and now works fine with an outboard. I bet it works well at it's intended purpose of sailing too!

One thing I noticed with the outboard is the water cooling tell-tale wasn't working again, so I took it home and ran it in a bucket of water. The tell-tale was blocked with what felt like a crust of salt. Pushing a thin screwdriver up there I got to a point where there was some resistance and then it pushed through, rewarding me with a stream of cooling water out of the tell-tale pipe.

Needless to say I ran it in the bucket of fresh water for a good half hour to help flush some of the salt out.

Right now I feel like I've had a good weekend. I'm sunburnt and I ache, but I've ticked a few items off the to-do list and I've helped Jim. Not bad at all.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

More To-Do List Bits Done

The weather was nice and fine today so I took the cover off the cockpit and let the manky locker tops dry out for a bit. I also varnished the washboards and cut and fitted the new battens to the mainsail.

I don't have pictures of the washboards yet as they need another coat of varnish, but I did take a picture of the mainsail while it was up:

The sail doesn't seem to haul up to the right height, so that will need looking at.

I've taken the sail cover off and given it a wash, it also needs some restitching. I've done the same for the spray hood as well. Once they're dried and stitched up I'll give them a dose of waterproofing.

I also got the cockpit cushions out for an airing as it was so nice today.

My final job of the day was fitting the radio from my old boat to Sprite 2. Sprite's original radio had a fault on the microphone so I got a new mic from eBay. I got the radio to transmit but there was no audio, so it looks like the audio problem is internal to the old radio.

The old radio has been relegated to the car so I can listen in and see who's about. I might open it up and have a look at it in the fullness of time. There are circuit diagrams on the 'net so it should be ok.

I'll be back tomorrow but I'm spending time fitting a rudder on Jim's boat.

Thursday, 13 March 2014


Went down to the boat this evening to see what it looked like in the mist. The answer is pretty eerie, as the mist dampens any noise and the normal sightseers stayed away making it a pretty lonely place.

Sprite 2 is out there somewhere!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Lost Week

The past week has been a bit of a washout because the tides have been  wrong during the week and the daylight hours aren't yet long enough to allow me to work on the boat after work. Then at the weekend I was here:

Yes, I was working at the weekend: supporting a track day at a very cold and windy Snetterton Race Circuit (VERY windy, hence doubling up on the weights on the windward side of the gazebos to avoid lift-off!).

In the meantime it was warm and sunny back on the South Coast. In other words idea weather to do boat stuff. Typical!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

A Not-Much-Boat Day Today

Even though it was blowing a hooley I still got the dinghy out and rowed out to the boat. As it was loaded up with the Genny, A big rucksack and a big box of tools I put the bits in the centre of the dinghy for stability and used the forward seat and rowlocks. Everything worked fine: with the rowlocks further forward I have more control over the dinghy in the wind. Instead of spending half my time keeping pointing in the right direction I just slowly paddled out into the swell and ferried across the wind.

I was on the boat for about half an hour but things worsened and my knees were aching after rolling about while kneeling. I did some soldering of the aerial leads (Not that easy soldering in a bit of a swell) to make my improvements yesterday more permanent. I also took my SWR meter to check out the radio and aerial, but then found the microphone no longer keys the radio into transmit. Something else to fix or replace!

I came off the boat shortly after that as it started raining and the rain was being blown under the cockpit cover! I came off right at the top of the tide, so at least I didn't have to drag the dinghy up the beach.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

A Very Good Day's Work Today

Today was a good day weather-wise as well as tide-wise. I got to spend over 3 hours on the boat today.

Gorgeous Weather Today, the First day of Spring!

Well, finally I can tick the charging circuit off my to-do list! I re-wired and refitted the connector on the stern so its all done!
Here it is bedded on a new bed of sealant:

A connector. Not sure why it took 6 months to sort it out!

I also moved the radio to the hinged bracket in the companionway, so I can access it better when afloat. I also sorted out the wiring. The power lead was a bit lose and the aerial lead needed a total strip and rewire. The wiring in the connectors was a bit of a mess! But its the same when I used to sort out installations back in the old CB and Ham Radio days. I saw some real horror stories!

The good news is I can now raise the Coasties on Channel 67 and annoy them with endless "radio check" calls. Only kidding!

Nice and Tidy With Space for Instruments on the Left.

Yes I'm listening to Southampton VTS to give me an indication of the receive range. I pulled the power cable and cables out for the transducers for the speed log and the depth sounder, so that when I eventually find a Nasa Clipper Duet cheap enough I can fit it to the bracket. I missed one for £41 about 3 months ago as I didn't have the money at the time and I haven't seen one go that cheap since.

I tidied the wiring up in a few places using yet another Lidl bargain. A set of cable tidying items for only £1.39!

The self-adhesive cable clips came in really handy today to keep the charging wire out of the way in the rear locker and also to tidy up the wires in the cabin to the radio.

So, if the weather holds tomorrow may be sail and rigging day. I need to take my tape measure and measure the length of the tensioners for the back stays. They are as short as they can go and I need shorter ones to tighten the backstays. I also need to measure the space at the stern of the boat as I want to get the name on the stern so that people know who she is. Without her spray dodgers she's a bit anonymous.