Thursday, 25 March 2010

Reality check

My original plan when I was looking for a sailboat was to buy one which I could immediately sail and get as much experience as I could. And that was my spirit when I bought Ting-a-ling. I did not imagine that I would be spending all my weekends doing hard labour instead of relaxed cruising. It now seems to me that that is rarely the case when you buy a sailboat, unless you go for a new one or spend loads of money to get one in pristine condition. Sure, there are bargains out there but the general rule is that you will get what you paid for. And I paid about £2k for Ting-a-ling. That included 6-months marina fees (about £1k) and an engine which could fetch around £1k. When I viewed the boat I was not happy with its condition - I did spot the rot on the bulkhead, the missing chainplate knee, the more-than-normal water in the bilge etc. But I didn't spot the compressed coach roof, soft deck etc. I knew there was work to be done but I had no idea how much and how difficult it would be.. I had second thoughts and when I handed over the money to the seller I was not at all sure whether I was doing the right thing.. My definition of the right thing though is a very loose one. The right thing is simply something you can live with..

Three months later, I can't say I have regretted it. I do spend all my weekends doing work but I think I prefer it to getting up at 1pm, faffing around and drinking around London pubs which was what I was doing before. And the knowledge and skills I am developing are invaluable, particularly if I eventually set off for the round the world cruise. It has been a very steep learning curve and I've been reading all the time about every single repair and different ways to do it. I have spent about a third of what I paid for Ting-a-ling to buy eqipment, tools, materials and books. But I'm still enjoying it and looking forward to that day when I will be able to sail her, being confident that I have done a good job. And I'll be more happy knowing that it was I that managed to restore her to this condition. So even though I might prefer to go sailing this weekend instead of building the bulkhead, I am happy that I bought Ting-a-ling and pretty sure that if I hadn't I would probably be drinking at the Kings Heads and waking up with a headache on Sunday morning.
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More progress

The plan for this weekend was to install the new bulkhead. In order to do the tabbing though, the hull had to be properly prepared first, which meant taking off all paint and smoothing the surface. I bought a new corded drill and a wirebrush just for this job as the cordless drill kept on dying all the time. This job was very messy - I got dust all over the boat and it didn't look look like a healthy environment to work in. I later discovered that I could pull off all the remaining tabbing which essentially eliminated the need to take off the paint first. However, this was also a difficult job as the tabbing was very tough to take off and I kept on cutting my hands trying to pull it off. In the end I was left with the smooth surface of the hull..

The new plywood for the bulkhead and chainplate attachment had arrived so I spent Sunday morning cutting out the new pieces. I bought a jigsaw for this job and it worked a treat as my Bosch multi-tool saw would have been a pain for this job.Sunday was a beautiful day.. I could now see the light at the end of the tunnel - I had all the equipment and material to get Ting-a-ling sailing again.
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Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Some progress

Here's an update on the bulkhead repair. I've managed to cut a piece of tabbing and to make a template for the new bulkhead out of it. The result can be seen in the picture.. It looks like patchwork, probably because it is. I should add here that when I was cutting the bulkhead, the side near the hull was completely rotted and would not come out in one piece. This meant that I had no template to use for shaping the new bulkhead piece. What I did was take draw a vertical line on the remaining bulkhead from top to bottom and measure the distance at right angles from the line to the hull at regular intervals of about 10cm. I transferred those measurements on a large piece of thin cardboard and carved the hull shape.

I've also done my first epoxy job. I used some to sheath the bulkhead at its base where I cut it as it was quite damp there too. But I couldn't be bothered removing all the damp wood so I thought I might as well protect it with epoxy.. I mixed fiberglass in the epoxy after I chopped it up to little pieces. The mix became quite hard quickly, probably because I didn't use the correct proportions of epoxy/hardener/filler. I also found more rot on the cockpit.. A section of wood was filled with what looked like sand which came off quite easily when I touched it.. I got it all out and filled with epoxy/fiberglass-filler mix. There is still some rot there but I just wanted to seal the area so no more water gets inside.. I realise that I have to be a bit more careful with epoxy but at this point I just wanted to familiarise myself with the stuff and get an idea of how to use it and what it can do. I'm pretty impressed with it..

I also managed to charge one of the batteries with my new charger and most importantly to get the engine started. The other battery is probably dead and I'm contemplating buying one of the Red Flash series which are supposed to by quite reliable or perhaps settle for a simple car battery that is half the price.
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Tuesday, 9 March 2010

DIY Masochism

I just came across an ebay listing for a T24. It's in excellent condition and I just wish mine was that good. I hope that I will someday admire Ting-a-Ling as much. However, it's more than double the price I paid.. although judging from the rate of my repair bills I may end up spending the extra cash anyway. And I wonder: would it be better if I had bought this one? It would have spared me the tedious work I'm currently committed to but even so I'm not sure that I'd swap.. This is DIY masochism..
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Monday, 1 March 2010

A pleasant surprise

This time I visited the boat equipped for some serious messing about. I went alone as it would be quite difficult for two people to move around in the mess that I was planning to create. I bought a saw (actually, a multitool), light, various tools, gloves and masks and was prepared to cut up everything that was rotted. As I opened the hatch, I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of water in the cabin. I was actually overjoyed as I could now relax a bit, knowing that imminent sinking is not a big worry. It seems that the tarpaulin I had used the last time to cover the coach roof had done an excellent job keeping the water out. I always thought that the water was coming from the stuffing box or a sea cock but the fact that it was now almost dry meant that it was probably because of rain water coming in from the deck or the coach roof.

I had ordered a Black & Decker battery charger but it had not yet arrived so I could not start the engine and had to rely on shore power for all my electricity needs. Well, the house battery was still going but that was only re-charged by the small solar panel and I could not really count on it. I was however, happy to find out that I could power the bilge pump with the 12V drill battery which I could re-charge with shore power..

This time I intended to get some things done as during my previous visits I did not end up doing much at all. I wanted to cut all the rotten parts of the bulkhead, get the toilet seacocks unstuck and start the engine. The latter was not an option without a battery charger and although I read that you could start a Yanmar 1GM manually, I could not find a suitable winch to crank it. I had a go at the seacocks, trying anything I had together with brute force and although I always thought my level of brute force was pretty good, in this case it was useless. The seacocks wouldn't bulge at all! I was impressed and at the same time disappointed as the thought of having to haul the boat out to fit new seacocks was not appealing.

So I moved on to the task that I thought I could handle easier: cutting wood. Equipped with my new saw I started attacking the bulkhead and soon enough I had inflicted plenty of damage. The problem was that I kept finding rotten wood the more I cut. Where is it going to stop? At some point I had to remove some shelving to gain better access but I could not figure out how. I didn't want to take things apart or break things because it would be a pain to put back together. On the next visit I was a bit more determind and figured out that I had to apply a bit of force to take things apart. After I had removed the shelves I ended up cutting almost half of the bulkhead on the starboard side and my despair grew as the job seemed to be getting a lot bigger than I first imagined. I would now have to remove the sea toilet if I were to do the job properly. Is it worth doing this for half the bulkhead or should I just go for the whole thing now?