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

Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Sails are Finally Done.

Yep, I've finally finished the jib sail, completing the "refreshment" of Sprite's sails.

The jib now looks like this with it's new UV strips:

The stitching looks ok from a distance, but is a bit wonky close up. But it looks like it will work, so that's the main thing.
As you can see I've added some tell-tale strips on the trailing edge, just to see if they will help me set the sail better. I've done the same on the main sail.

I just need to get them back on the boat now and do some sailing....

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Using the Speedy Stitcher

I've been using the Speedy Stitcher this weekend. One thing I can say is that it's not such a speedy device, making one stitch at a time. But it works and works well.

The first thing to note it that the needles supplied with it are huge and the waxed thread pretty thick. More suited to huge canvas sails I think. So I used the polyester thread I've been using and sewing machine needles. They're not the strongest, but they work. I've also found that leather needles work better on several layers of sailcloth with the Speedy Stitcher than the denim jeans needles I've been using previously.

I've been using zig-zag stitching. Not so tidily when I have to stitch a new row, but when re-using existing stitching rows and holes, the results are excellent.

Here's how it works:

First push the needle with thread through the fabric.

Then pull the needle back slightly. The thread makes a loop. Use something to catch the thread and withdraw the needle. Then pull enough thread on the opposite side of the fabric to the stitcher to run the length of stitching you are doing. If you are zig-zag stitching then add a fair bit more length of thread:

Now push the needle through the next hole:

Withdraw the needle slightly so the thread makes a loop:

Now pass the long thread through the loop:

Now pull the needle back out while keeping tension on the thread below.

The thread below should not be pulled to the top so keep tension on it while you pull the stitcher back to tension the top thread:

Repeat ad nauseum until the stitching is complete. As you can see its easy to make tidy stitching when following previous stitching holes. Not so good when you freestyle like the zig-zags in the stitching above.

But the speedy stitcher works surprisingly well even with thin thread. It's a handy little tool if you are required to fix your own sails and you don't own an industrial sewing machine. But it's really only for small jobs.

But the jib is now well on the way to completion. After finishing the head of the sail, I stitched the bottom UV strip along the foot of the sail today. All that's needed now is to finish off the ends.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Half Day on the Boat.

I said a while back that I'm reverting to the 2014 model of taking short day and half-day snatches messing about with the boat.

As the sky today looked like this:

And work was slack for once, I took half a day off.

I had time to kill while I waited for the tide, so I walked up the beach. I found the reason why the Westerley wasn't floating. All is not well in the skeg department...

A hole in the fibreglass isn't good and the metal part of the skeg appears to have rusted badly, The support for the rudder has gone too.

I offered the locker tops up to the boat with their new stainless hinges. Despite using the template I had last time, the angles are a bit off, but not by much. They'll do.

The hinges need a bit of work. The back of the hinge is too long and needs trimming by about 5mm in order to fit. I'll have to get the grinder out to sort them, I don't have any saw blades that will cut stainless.

I also had a play with the VHF shelf. It needs some angles making in the plywood to fit the roof and wall line of the cabin. No pictures yet as I was short for time. I had to wait for a couple of hours for the tide and then I only had a couple of hours to get to the boat, do the business and then get off as I was picking the wife up.

While I was there I watched a dredger using the deep water channel from Southsea Marina. They had been dredging the pontoons outside the marina. To say the twisty channel was a tight fit is an understatement. They got stuck at least once and had to wait for the tide and have a small tug help them steer round the tight (for a barge) channel.

Last year I bought used clips for the 2.5Hp outboard's cover. I know I'd put them on the boat somewhere, so I spent half an hour rummaging in the bilges through the boxes of stored stuff until I found them.

I also measured up the front of the cabin where the round porthole is. I'm thinking of getting a small used opening hatch to replace it and get some through-flow of air in the cabin. It might air it better.

Something like a Lewmar Size 10 should do it, 10 inches by 10 inches would be ideal. I'll be hunting on eBay for a while. The bad news is I'm working when Beaulieu Boat Jumble is on, so I won't be able to visit the best chance to bag a bargain hatch unfortunately.

Online auctions and boat jumbles it is then....

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Busy Boat-Related Weekend, But Off the Boat.

Done some boaty stuff this weekend, but not actually got out to the boat.

On Saturday I had a look at my £35 Mariner 2.5Hp outboard. The head was cracked and leaking water, so last year I invested in a replacement head, but never got round to sorting it out.

So yesterday I unbolted the head and I could see the crack had gone into the waterway.....where a previous owner had stuffed chemical metal or something similar in an attempt to plug the leak. eBay bargains eh?

The bad news was the lack of water in the chemical metal area has caused the piston rings to nip up on the bore and there was a bit of scoring. So, no wonder the exhaust wasn't the usual two-stroke crackle then, with so much blow-by. Anyhoo, with the replacement uncracked head fitted the engine still runs so who cares. It's just down on power but as I'm only using it as a dinghy pusher and emergency back-up for Sprite, it'll do.

Once I've replaced the water pump impeller...... and drilled, tapped and replaced the seized bolts that sheared as I tried to get to the impeller....

One thing to note with these small two stroke engines is that they are essentially all the same. The head I fitted was off a Johnson 3.3 bit fits the Mariner 2.5 exactly. The engines were badges as Mercury, Mariner, Yamaha, Suzuki, Tohatsu and Johnson. Parts are interchangeable but just make sure you get the parts for a similar Hp rating. The 2.2 bore is different from the 3.3. The 2.5 bore is the same as the 3.3 but I supposed the carburettor is different to increase the horsepower.

So, the outboard needs some more work... on to the next thing then.

Thanks to the recommendation by Brian on the mainsail post, I've bought myself a speedy stitcher. It looks just the job to stitch the thicker areas of the jib sail. I'll probably change the waxed thread for polyester though, so it matches the white thread already on there. It does look a quaint, oldy-worly sort of device, even coming in a suitably retro card box. A job for another day though, stitching the jib.

Today's job was cutting the marine ply into locker tops and the bits needed to create the home for my VHF radio. That took me a few hours, carefully cutting (reasonably) straight lines with a jigsaw.

I've already bought hinges from eBay. So I loaded the car up and drove down to the boat, where it was a bit too windy to row out to Sprite. I really needed an outboard... er....

The wind from the West was whipping up big waves inside the harbour, that crashed and sprayed over the Eastern shore. The strange thing is the water looks calm close in, sheltered by the shingle spit at Eastney, but the wind was fierce, howling and shrieking through the rigging. The boats really swinging in the wind. Rowing would have been a chore once I was out of the lea.

I walked down the beach and took a few photos. This is the Westerley that tipped over during Katie. Apparently it's skeg is holed, hence the inability to float.

This open Gaffer is a new addition on the beach:

As it was blowing from the South East I thought I'd check on the yacht stuck at the top corner of the harbour. It wasn't good news:

It's been there for a fortnight since storm Katie blew through and those two weeks have taken their toll. Such a shame.

Hopefully this is the last big blow, but I doubt it.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Harbour Fees Paid.

This year Langstone harbour board has decided to make fees payable a month later than normal. Instead of the end of February they were due at the end of March.

I paid mine last week and got my lovely new purple sticker (sorry plaque) in the post yesterday.

I just have to get to the boat and stick it on. :-)

Still the same as last year:  £132 for the years mooring and harbour dues. And there are still people that begrudge paying that, like Doug. :-) But then he had a boat in Langstone harbour long before the Harbour Board was created and fees were invented, so I can sort of see his point.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Boat Takes a Back Seat This Weekend

My car is due it's MOT on Tuesday so I've been sorting it out ready. Yeah, I've had the Swedish Tank almost a year now.. time flies!

The ABS light was on so I took it into a garage for diagnosis and a quote for fixing it. Their diagnostic equipment said the ABS pump was faulty. The pump is made up of two parts: a hydraulic block with the valves and the motor/pump and an electronic module to control all of the valves and the pump.

The garage could only get brand new ones from Volvo... at nearly £1000 for the electronics and £1500 for the hydraulics! As the car only cost £500 that wasn't gonna fly.

So on Friday I ordered a used pump off ebay.... £45. Job done I thought.

But then I tapped the huge information resource that is the internet. It seems it's quite common for the electronic control modules to suffer from dry solder joints. Quite a common failure in a lot of electronic units since lead in solder was reduced in the name of environmentalism.

The hard part is getting the plastic casing apart to get at the electronics. So, since I had a replacement on the way, I thought there's no risk involved in having a bash at the faulty one.

So the electronic module was removed and I set to with the hacksaw to cut through most of the casing and then followed carefully with a stanley knife to carefully finish separating one half of the case from the other.

The sight that greeted me wasn't pretty: two massive dry joints on the power supply to the ABS pump motor. Usually you have to use a magnifying glass to see dry joints, but this had been on the way out for a while and arcing had occurred across the solder gap.

Anyway, I got the soldering iron out and reflowed the solder to the two obviously dodgy connections and any that looked a little bit suspect.

Before I sealed it all up again I tried it on the car and voila! The ABS motor whirred and the light on the dashboard went out. That was a fist-pump moment right there! The hard part was sealing the case up again (good old black Puraflex from boat-sealing duty) and waiting for it to harden before bolting the electronics back in place.

The ability to  repair, reuse and repurpose doesn't just make sailing cheaper, it also makes motoring cheaper too. It's a philosophy that works in every area of life, saving precious resources. The car could quite easily have been scrapped for something trivial. All that energy and emissions used to create the vehicle would have gone to waste for something as simple as two dry solder joints. As it is, the car hopefully lives to fight another day. I do think this inbuilt obsolescence, the "throw-away" culture that extends even to large systems like cars offends me. A car should be designed and built to last beyond it's warranty period and should be easily serviceable outside of warranty. These days cars are made so complex that servicing is beyond the normal person and once it gets past it's warranty period repair costs are so high and big bills are so frequent that the cars become unecenomic to run way too early in their life. Cars get crushed so that customers can consume newer models, at huge cost in resources.

Far better to extend the life of a car that has been manufactured and suffer slightly higher emissions, because those emissions are a fraction of the emissions generated to create a whole new car. It would take years of running an old car to match the amount of emissions generated to build a new one in a factory.

Sorry to rant a bit, but there really is a serious side to the Skint Sailing philosophy.

The MOT is tomorrow, here's hoping anything it throws up is fairly fixable and cheap.


Overnight I was reminded of a classic tale of inbuilt motoring obsolescence: Peugeot Diesels. Modern diesels have particulate filters to catch all the soot coming out of the exhausts, but to help burn off that soot and stop the particulate filters becoming blocked, they have an additive called Adblue or some other proprietary name. You can see Adblue tanks on garage forecourts for commercial vehicles as they have refillable Adblue tanks.

In Peugeot diesels of a certain age, the Adblue tank is not user refillable: you have to get it done at a garage. So something that the car uses just like petrol and eventually uses up, becomes a non-user replaceable item. There's a warning that appears on the dashboard not when the tank is empty, but when the on-board computer counts a certain number of fuel flap openings. So if you only half-fill the tank every time, the computer thinks you have used more Adblue that you really have so the service light comes on before it's really necessary. So you take it to a garage even before it's necessary!

That I'm afraid, REALLY offends me.


MOT passed with only a couple of advisories. Tyres and rear brake pads will need changing within the next year or so. Well chuffed. I can stop worrying about the car and go back to sorting the boat now then.  2.2Hp outboard cylinder head swap this week then!