Monday, 30 April 2012

The troubles with old boats (and old bloggers)

I've not posted anything for a couple of weeks, one of the longest breaks since this blog began. Partly I've been reflecting after the first hundred, but also I admit the weather here has been utterly unseasonal and great for varnishing. Also there is the (not so) small matter of my part-time subsidiary career campaigning against the relentless destruction of our underwater habitat and our wild life by the activities of industrial-scale fish farmers and scallop dredgers. Two industries that are allowed to police themselves are getting away with destruction on a massive scale, justified by unproven claims of economic benefit and the principle "out of sight out of mind" because of course only recreational and commercial divers are seeing what is going on beneath the surface. I try to keep this blog uncontroversial but occasionally one's anger boils over.

It's been interesting to review the various posts so far and the extent to which they have been gaining hits.

In an earlier post about a top secret event in mid-Argyll, which may (or then again may not) happen somewhere at some time in the near (or distant) future I made a reference to the Bilderberg Conference, which resulted in a flurry of hits. If you're reading this because I've done the same again, then welcome to a better World. Your life will improve if you give up the love of greatness and huge wealth and get close to nature in a little boat. You may even get an invitation from our revered convenor.

One of the most popular posts has been The Trouble with old Boats, which was really just a feed to Adrian Morgan's excellent site, but perhaps the hit level suggests that there is a demand for advice on this subject. I am privileged to regard Adrian as a friend and I hope he'll forgive me for saying that his blog is more about new boats than old ones and that they seem remarkably trouble-free. His descriptions of the traditional building process and images of the results certainly give me moments when I feel like throwing out the epoxy, sticking the remaining stocks of plywood in the stove and putting in a call to Ullapool.

That the North-west hasn't got a new customer is mainly due to the fact we don't have a great deal of space or time for any more boats here. Over the last twenty five years or so I've built six boats, of which three are still on the policies, my very first a Joel White Nutshell (how many of us have started that way?) an Iain Oughtred Acorn dinghy and the very versatile Walt Simmons Christmas Wherry. No longer around are the John Gardner Swampscott Dory (unimproved version, but a great boat) and his Quincy skiff, both given away to good homes and I hope still around somewhere and finally Sonas, my biggest and most challenging build to date.

I've done two restorations. The first was the Islander, Stroma, which took me about 5000 hours over eight years between 1995 and 2003. She and her sisters have their own website, After nine seasons afloat she is showing no signs of deterioration and needs only minimal maintenance, but her topsides paint is fading and this Summer she's being kept out for a thorough going over, which should see her well on her way to her centenary. We are truly custodians rather than owners of these old ladies.
My second restoration is current. Juni was brought back from Sweden in 2005 in an expedition which I chronicled here, An Expedition to Stockholm. I had to buy her after sailing on one of her sisters, Miss Juli, whose image appears above. I completed a certain amount of conservation work then had to shelve the project to allow the small matter of building a house to proceed. That now over I'm getting to work with a vengeance and hope to be launching in a month or so. She's a lovely little yachtlet with a history by a designer, Tore Herlin, who deserves to be much better known outside his native land. In between completing the work to get her afloat I'll be writing about some of the problems faced in the restoration and also looking into the stories about Juni and the Juni-type boats.


  1. I enjoyed the Stockholm post - reminded me of visiting in 2008 for the Square Metre Rule Jubilee when raced on a 33 square metre that was trailered there and back.

    More here - note the Saltsjobaden stuff is towards the end.

    1. Thanks for drawing my attention to your blog, I'll add a link on here when I'm next housekeeping.

  2. Can't say I have a favorite post - enjoyed them all. Please keep up the good work!

  3. Guess I already said that, but I really mean it.


The Wherrymen

The Wherrymen
Two old friends on the water