Bayside Boatshop
by Ross Lillistone

Modest Knowledge

Writing letters and emails seemed to take up much of Mike Rowe’s time, but he tried to answer his correspondence carefully. Throughout his life he had benefited from other people’s writing, and owed much to teachers he had never met. Within the limitations of his experience, he tried to pass on his modest knowledge.

“Dear Bill,

Thanks for your recent letter. It is good to hear that the project is progressing, and that you are starting to think about finishing systems, rigging, and powering options. I understand the excitement.

I have often tried to point out to people that the drudgery of scraping, sanding, marking and planing are all necessary evils. How else are you going to be able to stand back and enjoy the satisfaction of looking at a boat of which you are proud? It probably sounds corny, but the more you put into the boat, the more she gives back.

Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of using shortcuts during the painting. There are all sorts of options when choosing a paint system, and many work very well. However, the ones that last have a common ingredient, and that is attention to detail. I have yet to discover a short-cut or miracle system which is capable of competing with a conventional specification.

As with so many things in life, an evolutionary method is better than a revolutionary method. The traditional systems have become traditional because they work!

You have already discovered that the choice of a particular system may well close doors to other systems permanently. Choose with care, and with one eye always on the time in the future when re-finishing comes due. Also consider the requirement for repairs to minor damage.

The systems which I use have varied with time, and with the availability of new materials. However, there is a consistent pattern to a successful paint job, regardless of the type: -

  • Surface preparation
  • Surface sealing
  • Priming/undercoating
  • Topcoating

Skipping any of these steps will degrade the job, and use of cheap materials will de-value the boat much more than the initial saving in cost.

My favourite method for plywood or cold-molded construction is as follows: -

  • Epoxy sealing with any of the good-quality saturating epoxies;
  • Four coats of high-build epoxy primer/undercoat applied by brush (high quality brushes are essential for all work except glueing). I normally sand back heavily after the second coat, and then do a light sand after the third and fourth coat;
  • Two, or three coats of high-quality topcoat. Depending on the nature of the job I use either a two-pack polyurethane (Hempel Polybest or Boatcraft Pacific Aquacote water-reducible polyurethane), or a top-grade single-pack alkyd enamel. Sometimes I spray (particularly with the Aquacote), but brush application is fine. Unless you have access to a supplied-air respirator, I recommend that you do not spray the solvent-based polyurethanes – once again, use a really good brush. Spraying single pack alkyd enamels is no problem, but use a filtered mask.

Yes, I know that this is turning into a lecture, but I can’t help it – sorry! On to something different –

We had a good sail on the weekend in our sixteen foot dinghy. I know that you don’t like our un-stayed rig, but for what we have time for it is very good indeed. Our current standing lugsail was made by a man who understands traditional rigs, and it works incredibly well. Our elapsed time from driving into the car park to launching the boat fully rigged is seven minutes!

Barney’s rig is fast when hard on the wind, but it cost a fortune in stainless fittings and blocks, takes ages to rig and strike, and is vulnerable to the failure of any one of many fittings. If a part breaks, the rig comes down. His rig takes ages to set and strike - if we raced him out to the island and back, we would be on the way back in before he had left the harbour.

The sprit-boom has worked out really well. As an experiment, we set our sail with a conventional boom using a gooseneck, and the next time out used the same boom rigged as a sprit-boom. Without any question the sprit-boom is superior – it is self-vanging, doesn’t hit anybody’s head, and the snotter tension is easily altered to suit the conditions and point-of-sail. The effect is like changing gear in a car.

Being able to repair minor rig damage, independent of chandleries, is a real advantage. About the only breakage that would affect us seriously would be loss of the mast – anything else could be fixed with chewing gum and brown paper. You know, our rig doesn’t have one inch of wire, uses no bottle screws, no shackles, no vangs, no gooseneck, no sail track, no winches, no fairleads, no swaged terminals, no stays and only one pulley block! And yet we tack through ninety degrees with boat- speed and regularly plane downwind and on a reach.

Your John Welsford Navigator is going to be a great boat. The proportions are just about perfect for daysailing and camp-cruising, and the standing-lug yawl rig option will exhibit most of the above virtues. In fact, the rig will be better than mine due to the balance options the tiny mizzen offers – this will be of particular value when you reef the mainsail. Not only will rig balance be retained, but the mizzen will hold the boat up into the wind while you tie in the reef in the first place. In a squall, you could drop the mainsail in an instant (due to it being a lugsail) and continue sailing under jib and mizzen. Sail balance would be fine.

Ian’s Redmond Bluegill is just about ready for him to pick up. The spars from the un-stayed rig are short enough to stow inside the boat, and her proportions make her very suitable for rowing. When you consider that she can also take a ten horsepower outboard, the design is superb. Very simple to build, no strongback required, and good looking!

Doug’s Squark design has proved to be a great success. She may only be eight feet long, but she paddles and tracks very nicely using a normal kayak double-paddle. Interest in her has been strong, because people like the idea of a pretty little open boat that can be carried in one hand and put in the back of a station wagon, hatch-back or ute.

Anyway, there is work to be done, so I’ll sign off.

Mike Rowe “