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

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Battery Monitor

I went aboard Sprite today and fitted the £7 battery monitor, clock and temperature gauge:

When I took the picture the sky was very overcast, so the battery was down to 12.7 volts. I gave the glass on the solar panel a clean and it jumped up to 13.1 volts!

As you can see the cheapo ebay depth sounder is working fine as well. 1.3m under the keel as it was a 5m tide today.

I've started taking the cam cleats off the boat so I can fit the new ones.

Its a good job I have, because as while I was under the cockpit trying to free the bolts off, I noticed the nuts holding the winches onto the boat are almost rusted right through. On the port side there are only two semi-complete nuts holding the winch on!

So Another job is added to the to-do list.

I went over to Jim's boat for lunch, where we watched the harbour master team try to refloat one of the sunken wrecks on the beach. It gave us plenty of amusement watching them.

The first mistake they made was turning up initially half an hour past high tide without a pump. They already knew the thing leaked, it stays on the bottom every tide.

So they looked at it, poked and prodded it and left.

Then they returned half an hour later with a pump. By this time the tide had dropped about a foot and was still dropping. I went the hose and on went the pump. Three people were on the wreck, weighing it down even more, including one chap on the roof who seemed to be doing some sort of dance routine... He'd jump up and down, side to side... he was quite active, but superfluous to the effort of raising the wreck.

As we watched, the stern of the boat started raising out of the water. We couldn't telll if it was actually floating for the first time in years, or if it was still on the bottom and the tide was going out.

Half an hour and several gallons of water later, we decided it was the latter of these two options, which is when the HM team also gave up.

But its nice to finally see them putting some effort into removing the wrecks that blight the beach.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014


A few weeks ago I started looking up old boat names involved with the family.

I Googled Nuestra Barca, the name of my dad's old Dawncraft 25 and lo and behold, it popped up in the Dawncraft owners Forum!

Here it is in 2009 still looking well loved and looked after:

Not sure which canal it's on, I don't recognise the surroundings. Possibly it's still on the Macclesfield Canal, or maybe the Peak Forest Canal.

Here's a closer shot:

Finally a shot of the rear:

I spent many great Teenage holidays on this boat. I learned how to service outboards and sort any boaty mis-haps on her. I shouldn't really say this, but I lost my virginity on it as well! Ah, the attraction of being a teen in charge of a shiny boat...

Nostalgia indeed.


I dug this photo out of us on the same boat and scanned it into the computer:

This picture was taken around 1982 at the Tameside Canal Festival. I'm the one sporting the semi-afro on the right, then next left is my late brother, then my mother and my brothers wife. The girl is my mum's boyfriend's daughter and the young chap with the dummy is my nephew.

At the time my brother and I were heavily into Citizen's Band CB, hence the sweatshirts which sported our "handles"  (the names we used over the air).


I've had a bit of spare cash recently thanks do doing a bit of overtime at work and true to form I've spent a bit on Sprite II.

I've spent £33 on a couple of new cam cleats for the jib sheets. The old Tufnell ones are getting a bit past it and keep sticking, letting the rope slip through.

So they need to go on in the next few weeks.

I've also bought a gizmo that's normally for cars, but should be handy on the boat. Its a clock, inside/outside thermometer and battery monitor. All for £8!

I was also window shopping at a local Chandlers and they had two large cleats on clearance at £1.99 each. I snapped them up mainly for Jim's boat, as a winter project on his is to get the sheet and halyard for the main Sail to run back to the cockpit so it can be single-handed. We can rund the lines back to the cleats which will be in the cockpit or on the cabin roof. Not quite as elegant a solution as a jammer or clutch, but for £4 they're a bargain.

It's about time I spent some time sorting Jim's boat so his boating pleasure is increased. He hasn't really sailed it this summer, mainly because I'm sailing mine and he hops aboard.

Maybe next year we can accompany each other in our respective boats and cruise as a fleet. :-)

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Boat Show!

Yesterday I dragged Jim kicking and screaming to the Boat Show in Southampton.

Well, ok, I lie. Actually my wife got me two tickets to the boat show for my birthday so I could take Jim with me.

I picked Jim up from his house at a totally reasonable 10:30 and got down to Southampton around 11. Knowing what the traffic is like between Portmouth and Southampton, that time in the morning was probably the earliest we could get there without being stuck in traffic. As it was, there was a bit of traffic leading up to the show. We were cheeky and parked in the IKEA car park, not far from the show entrance. Thoroughly reasonable prices there as long as you don't stay over 7 hours.

The boat show was great. It's nice to see some small yachts exhibited. You don't tend to see boats under 20ft in the magazines, so its interesting to see what's available. The downside is my phone battery has decided over the past week to lose all its capacity, so I couldn't take many pictures. I did want to take a picture of the interior of one. It was a bit Laurence Lewellyn-Bowen: looked nice but totally impractical.

We had a look at a few big boats, but there were a few design issues that struck me. The first is that there's a trend to put a double berth under the cockpit, but no-one could sleep in that bed while the boat is being sailed because you'd have the constant noise of footsteps above your head. The second is that to save space, the ladders into the cabin are unbelievably steep, with very little in the way of hand holds. Of course a spartan interior looks very nice and works ok on a hard standing at a show, but a bet it's bloody tricky when the boat is moving out at sea.

As a nod to this I noticed small windows into the cockpit from the rear berth. Just big enough to pass a cup of coffee through. Because you'd have a job carrying it up those damn steep stairs!

Here's Jim trying out one of the big boats:

Jim, those trees are a bit close, I think you've run aground mate!

There were other design disasters to be seen on other boats. One boat featured a steering wheel so big it was the width of the cockpit, which meant you had to walk on the gunwhales to get round it. Not only that, but it's huge circumference meant the designers had to put a channel in the floor to accommodate it! Not a masterpiece of design that one! Another was a cockpit plith/table that was so wide even with the table folded, that you could hardly get past it. It was a bit better that the stupid big steering wheel though in that you could (just, by shuffling sideways) get past it without having to get out of the cockpit.

Another design trend I didn't see much of the last time I went to the boat show are the "super dinghy" day boats. The yachts in the 20ft range that have massive, open-stern cockpits and a teeny-tiny cabin somewhere up front. I take it these sailing rocket-ships are the sailing equivalent of the track-day cars like the KTM Crossbow and the Aerial Atom. Totally impractical for anything other than going fast.

Around lunchtime the Sun came out, proving the forecasts of showers incorrect and left me carrying a coat and a brolly around all day. But it helped improve the boat show experience. I doubt it would have felt so good with constant drizzle.

On the Marina pontoons we met Ben and his Practical Boat Owner Magazine project boat Hantu Biru, which has been restored to and impressive standard. Its a Snapdragon, so Nicky, you may like to know PBO are putting the project articles together into a book, especially  if your son Daniel does get that cheap one in Southampton. Ben let us actually get on board Hantu Biru to have a look at her close up. All I can say is the standard of finish is very impressive. The topsides are painted in two-pack paint and it looks just like a new gel coat.

Ben chatting to the er, crowds.
Ben actually recognised me from this blog, which was a shock. Its the first time anyone has actually recognised me from here. So, Hi Ben, welcome to the very exclusive Skint Sailor readership!

On the other side of the pontoon from Hantu Biru was a big square-rigged ship called the Phoenix.
Jim, having spent time helping to restore HMS Gannet, like old boats, so we went aboard and had a nosey.

I do like old sailing boats. They have a specific smell to them. Here I am at the wheel:

Mark, I think we've run aground, those buildings are extremely clo...
Sorry, I've done that one already.
Phoenix is a lovely boat, but all that wood needs constant maintenance. Not for me.

You'll notice that in the picture above I'm sporting my new "Sprite 2" baseball cap. Me and Jim pushed the boat out (figuratively) and bought personalised caps with our boat's names on. Ours for a tenner at the show and you can watch them use the clever computer controlled machines to do the embroidery and put the names on the caps.

I finally realised what the time was around 5pm, so we started to head back to the car. We spent 6 hours there and still didn't see everything. It was great day out.

Friday, 19 September 2014


It may turn out to be the nautical equivalent of coloured neon lights under the car, but I thought I'd use up the last of my red LED strip lights in the cockpit.

It might prove to be a disaster especially if the supposedly waterproof lights don't turn out to be so waterproof after all. But I've sealed the ends with silicone sealant so that should stop any moisture getting in and attacking the copper strip. The strip goes off into the port locker and there are about 4 LEDS in there before the end of the strip and the power wires so it lights up the locker as well!

But I thought it may come in handy to light up the cockpit at night. The red LEDS shouldn't affect night vision and if they do I can just switch the things off.

I expect to be buzzed by curious helicopters when the things are lit though, they are quite bright!

I've still got to fit lights in the forward part of the cabin, but it looks like I can use the wiring to the original fluorescent lamp that was in pieces when I got Sprite.

I've still got some white LEDS left over, so I think I'll be donating them to Jim for Gannet II

Sunday, 14 September 2014


The entrance to Langstone harbour wss pretty busy today. I guess everyone is making use of the last big tide with the good weather.

I went aboard Sprite and did some tidying. I took my car hoover aboard and hoovered the carpet.
I also made up a lead so I can run my transistor radio from a USB port. I've a couple spare on my 12v extension socket.

A bit of fun

My father sent me a couple of "Old Guys Rule" t-shirts for my birthday.
Thanks Dad.
I think he likes the fact I'm still messing with boats.

Small Sail.

Just had a small sail around Langstone harbour yesterday. The tide was 5 metres, so not only could I sail round the harbour, but also I had time for lunch on the boat and time to square everything away.

While I was in the harbour I saw a mass of dinghies getting ready to race. Very colourful.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Light Work

Yesterday I put Sprite II on the beach so I could do some work on her. I tend to get more work done that way as I can just walk to the car if I forget anything.

First job on the agenda was fitting protectors on the shrouds:
And yes they are PVC water pipe at £2.49 each. One of the cheapest mods I've done.

The next thing was fitting cabin lights which is something that took all day.

First I got a strip of wooden moulding and stained it to match the other wood in the interior. Then I fitted it to the cabin roof.

I then stuck the self-adhesive waterproof LED strips I bought off eBay for a tenner. White on one side and Red on the other, so I now have Red lights for night time cruising as well as White lights.

During the day they look just like they been there for ages. The wooden strip blends in well.

I put White on the port side over the cooker and Red on the Starboard side over the instruments and also where the multi-purpose table sits when its being a chart table. Those seemed the most logical options.

And they work rather well. Here's the white lights:

The strip is really bright and shines like a fluorescent strip with a fraction of the power drain and space.

The Red lights work equally well:
I think the camera had a hard time focusing with the lack of contrast, hence the slightly blurry picture.

.Of course I didn't just fit the lights to make them work, I also had to fit the wiring, then mini truncking to tidy it away into and then a switch to switch the light on and off and also to switch from white to red. I chose to use a domestic household light switch to do that job as it was the cheapest option. Its fitted just under the step into the cabin, so its easily reached from the cockpit.

 I'm debating whether to put strips in the forward cabin as well. I do have plenty spare and I've also got a second switch. I wanted them independent of each other because it would be handy when cruising that someone could sleep in the forward cabin with the lights off and the curtain divider drawn, but still have the aft part of the cabin lit.

Whilst wiring the lights into the fuse panel, I noticed a wire had come adrift. It was the wire for the masthead light, which means the bulb wasn't blown and I don't have to go up the mast. Bonus! I rewired it and checked it out once it had started to go dark. It worked!

I didn't float off the beach until nine, by which time it was pitch black. Luckily there was a decent moon and no cloud, which helped getting back on the mooring.

The evening was only spoiled when I was rowing back from the boat and some idiot from Eastney Cruising Association in a dinghy with an outboard came rushing through the moorings right for me. Luckily I had my head torch on to light up the dinghy so at least he could see me. I couldn't see him and with the noise of the outboard there was no way he'd hear any shouting. As soon as he saw me he slowed down, but really someone from a club should know better than to come through moorings at full pelt anyway, let alone at night and without some form of light on their boat.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Evening Visit

I got out to the boat after work yesterday. My neck has subsided enough to have a go lifting the dinghy. The good news is it coincided with high tide so I didn't have to drag the dinghy far.

The first thing I did was put my new downhaul pulley on the mast:
New downhaul pulley fitted. Old pulley on the right.
I may only gain about half an inch of travel, but I'll take it. Any extra travel helps tension the sail more.

I also loaded some plumber's pipe on the boat ready to fit it to the shrouds to help protect the Genoa, which is getting shredded along its edge by the steel wire. That's a day-long job, so not for a while yet.

Today I was looking at a few ideas I've had regarding storage, so that might be a job for the next few weeks.

Lighting will be a theme over the next few weeks too. I've got a set of LED navigation lights I need to fit and also I need to convert my masthead lights to LEDS too. That way I won't need to climb the mast to change the bulb. Well, only the once to install LED bulbs.... I'm still contemplating how I get up the mast to do it. That'll be a job for a lunchtime low tide day, so I can put Sprite on the beach and keep it stable while I climb the mast.

I was mulling a few more things over, but they can wait until I've got a plan of action sorted.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014


Well not quite, but I've noticed that the Google street view for Eastney has been updated and my boat is on there now!

I can even tell which week (or two) of the year it was taken, because it was the week after I scrubbed the bottom of Sprite II. I helped Jim do his the day after but he didn't fancy taking his mast down to sort his jib furling gear, so he left it on the beach for a couple of weeks in May.

Shame your boat's not on there Jim!