Friday, 28 June 2019

Mariota is afloat!

Mariota afloat at last

I've not been posting on here for a while, as the last few months (years) have been consumed by building the Mariota, which is an Iain Oughtred designed, double ended sloop. She's an extended version of his well kent Wee Seal, drawn out to 21 feet 6 inches but on the same sections. To my eye the longer length works well aesthetically and I reckon he's got the sheer line just perfect.

Mariota, by the way, was the Queen of the Western Isles circa 1380 and a pretty tough lady by all accounts. I found her a couple of years ago, when visiting Eilean Mor MacCormick

Building any boat is quite a big endeavour and this one, my eighth over 33 years, has taken me much longer than I anticipated. In August 2016 when I asked my wonderful neighbour for a loan of here garage I had in mind something like six months rather than three years, but her car has survived and we're still friends.

Sadly my old Volvo hasn't survived. Here she is with the first load of wood for the skeleton arriving for machining.

Some day I'll write a lot more about the joys of building small boats. It's one of the most fulfilling things one can do and really quite easy, as you just keep making bits and adding them to what's already there. But you do need space to do it and an understanding partner. Advantages apart from the obvious include keeping one fit, having no time to get drunk, spreading the cost over time, ending up with something lovely. Traditional art is all about hand and eye coordination, with this build the eye belongs to Iain, the hand is mine, a nice partnership.

Handing over the planking to Alec Jordan saved me about a year of work. The planks were assembled in the house and walked along the road to the garage.

Then assembled on the upturned moulds.

Essential to keep someone else's space nice and clean!
By May 2017 we were ready for a turning party, with help from the village.

Lots of experts.

For those interested in the detail of the Wee Seal/Kotik designs here are some minor changes that may or may not prove to have been beneficial.

Following chats With Mikhail Markov, who has the prototype White Fang, I drew out the external ballast keel forward and also provided a sloping forward end. This unbalanced the boat slightly when she was launched a few days ago and I've added some internal trimming ballast under the stern. I'm not unhappy about overdoing the ballast, as we can have pretty nasty conditions here.

I hated everything to do with the ballast, apart from the nice men at Ballantynes of Bo'ness who have been casting since 1852. Shifting a huge lead slug about was no fun.

Mr Holmes, great help throughout

Discussions with Steve Hall, the wizard sailmaker, resulted in the gaff being lowered a little, shortening the spar and perhaps bring the power aft a little. The idea was to make the sail easier to peak. Time will tell.

For comfort I've built a deep, traditional cockpit and for safety a bridge deck. the area under the stern deck is open and looks good for storing ropes, fenders, sail covers etc.

The companionway hatch is offset, providing a really big chart table, food preparation space to port and a single berth to starboard. A second person can sleep under the foredeck, just (that'll be me!).

Two practical tips.

First, everyone building upside down puts a line through the moulds just above the building floor to ensure a straight boat, but of course it gets kicked about and ceases to be of use once the hull has been planked a bit. Richard Pierce advised me to use instead an overhead cable with plumb lines of varying lengths suspended.

Second, being an idiot I failed to seal round the centreboard case and have had to fix several leaks. Had I built it into the hull when upside down that would not have been a problem, as everything would have been visible and easy to do, working downwards. Something kit makers should bear in mind! My excuse is that working with only a few inches of clearance between floor and hull things were difficult for an ancient person.

Problems of building in a tight space

By the end of year two much of the internal woodwork was done and I was starting on the deck structure. In May 2018 we had a nice visit from Iain, accompanied by wee Faith.

The Sorcerer and his apprentice

Soon after, cabin beams

Things like the rudder take a lot of time. My friend and neighbour Pat Delap made a lovely tiller from local windfall ash.

I wanted a nice traditional interior. The compression post is from the old Ardrishaig Distillery, that came down over thirty years ago. Like the beams and trim all recycled old growth pitch pine, an endangered species nowadays. These trees were growing at the time of Admiral Cochrane!

The old shipmates transferred from Stroma

Earlier this year we had the second visit from the Master

And a week ago the launch party was a happy affair, with local help, whisky barrowed down by Anne and just a few pals watching.

I haven't sailed the Mariota yet. Although the weather is lovely the winds are strong and gusty, not ideal for a first trip. Meantime I've found a great spot for drying out for repairs, repainting etc, or just showing off the lovely lines.

The Wherrymen

The Wherrymen
Two old friends on the water