Some progress at last…

Despite all that this poor excuse for a spring can throw at us, progress is being made at long last.  The interior of LJ is now a bright and clean looking ‘antique white’ and the cabin sole is resplendent in light grey deck paint.


Saloon, port side, looking aft


Galley, stbd, looking aft

Galley, stbd, looking aft


Inca, looking bored


Washboard before…


Washboard stbd, after sanding and first coat








So, apart from the sliding hatch the interior refit is almost done.  Barometer and Clock still to be fitted to beam but starting to look like home.

I have also made a start on the woodwork on deck, spent a few minutes sanding one of the washboards and am encouraged with the result!



Meanwhile above decks… work has finally started on the mast.  Middle son (a fine fiddler and a qualified luthier (violin/guitar maker) was pressed into service and appointed official ships carpenter.  After untying him he agreed to take the Kings shilling and set to work with a will.

The bottom of the mast was rotten, no really, rotten as a pear.  In fact large chunks of it could be removed by hand.  So, the carpenter set to with a saw and plane and removed the wood back to something solid.  He then planed everything flat and prepared to scarf a new piece of spruce on.  When the jointed piece was fitting to his satisfaction a good dollop of West System epoxy was mixed and applied.  The whole lot was clamped up and left to set.

The rotten mast base before work started.

The rotten mast base before work started.


Cutting out the rotten section

Cutting out the rotten section







Ready for gluing up...

Ready for gluing up…


...scarfed and glued.

…scarfed and glued.







So, the carpenter was given a spell of shore leave and has promised to return soon to carve the new section to shape.  A bit of rot was found at the masthead and a couple of small splits to take care of then it’s back to sanding and scraping prior to varnishing.

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Progress report

Well, loyal followers, work is progressing albeit slowly.  Fellow boat owners will, I am sure, identify with the fact that for every job started on an old small boat, another two or three appear.  There must be a reason, some little known universal law, for this, but I can not discover it.  So, for every step one takes forward, one leaves the boat two steps further from getting the thing ready for sea!

The galley on Mk1 Crabbers doubles as a chart table, the shelf in the picture folds down to provide a useful space to lay out charts and pilots etc

The galley on Mk1 Crabbers doubles as a chart table, the shelf in the picture folds down to provide a useful space to lay out charts and pilots etc

This weekend, we moved the charcoal heater from the main cabin into the forepeak.  This should make risks of burns much less likely for me.  Being VI I do tend to stumble and know it would only be a matter of time until I stuck my hand out to steady myself and grasped the burning hot surface of the little heater.  At least in the forepeak it is relatively out of harms way and should still be effective in heating the boat.

The other milestone was the making of the first cuppa aboard!  The Origo is now fitted in the newly painted galley and worked a treat. (see below)

Teabag No.1 goes into the cup.

Teabag No.1 goes into the cup.

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Scraping, washing and tent building…

…my poor wife is still poorly.  After removal of her gall-bladder we had assumed all would now be well.  NAH!  No such luck.  Still in pain (over 3 weeks since going under the knife) and not happy.  I did suggest she could do a bit of scraping to take her mind off of things but that did not go down too well.  I was only trying to help!

I have begun the marathon rope washing.  Washday bluesThe results of the firstI found that they need doing twice.  One wash ‘double shotted’ with powder to remove most of the green grime, then a second wash with only a standard amount of powder (non-bio) and a dollop of fabric conditioner.  I have to say the results are very good indeed.  Some of the seizing had come loose so I replaced the whipping twine and only cut myself twice on the same finger!

The boat now boasts a winter cover big enough to allow work to continue.  The 8m X 5m tarp cost £70 and it is a ‘cheap’ one!  Still it should last until the next batch of windy weather.  I built a frame to raise it high enough to give standing, well crouching, headroom.  At least I can now make a start on removing fittings and repairing the decks.


The tent frame is stronger then it looks, honest.  So, where is the refit at the moment?  Mast lowered and awaiting repair/varnish.  Bowsprit and Gaff both waiting for final coat of varnish.  Boom being stripped.  All ropes washed.  Tent fitted and secure.  Work about to begin on decks, then move heater and decorate below decks.  By then the warmer weather should be upon us and the mast can be tackled.  That only leaves the other 300 jobs on the ‘to do’ list, so all things being equal she should be afloat by August.






But which August I hear you say!

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Scrape scrape scrape…

So, two weeks after starting some progress is evident.  I have discovered the joy of Cabinet Scrapers.  The ever helpful yard manager and Jamie (Luthier middle son) both advised against my buying a belt sander, ‘like a butchers knife in the wrong hands’ said Mr Yard Manager when I asked his opinion.  I understand his point of course.  Such a machine in the hands of a VI person, such as myself, would have any self respecting craftsman reaching for the wood filler and invoice book!

Many years of accumulated varnish need to be removed

Many years of accumulated varnish need to be removed

So I ordered a selection of Cabinet Scrapers from Axminster Powertools and they arrived by return of post.  Fantastically simple invention, just a hard sheet of steel.  With the help of a burnisher a small edge is put on and boy do they work.  The varnish comes off in sheets, well small curly sheets at any rate.

Although they are very effective, they really make my arthritic hands hurt, so undeterred, another visit to the Axminster website provided me (again by return) with a Scraper Holder, a little plastic and brass gizmo that holds the tool at the correct angle and relieves the pressure on my poor old thumbs.  Still hard work but if a jobs worth doing…

Scrape scrape...

Scrape scrape…

So after what felt like 10 years, the Gaff and the Bowsprit were duly stripped of old varnish.  There were a lot of black marks under the varnish that I am told is mould growing due to defects in the varnish.  These were treated with Oxalic Acid and a household bleach.  I guess this will kill the mould, but in any case it leaves the wood looking a lot healthier.  Following the instructions to the letter I applied the first coats of International Schooner varnish.  This is a traditional varnish that I am informed is one of the easiest to get a good finish with.

Third coat and things are looking better...

Third coat and things are looking better…

Here is the bowsprit with three coats, carefully sanded in between, and looking a lot better I think.  The trouble is, with my visual problems everything looks good to me, so I have to keep pestering Mrs BS to tell me how I am doing!

My ever helpful Yard Manager told me to leave a week or two between the final coats to let the layers harden, so I have put the bowsprit and Gaff up the left-hand side of the stairs for now 🙂

The next big job was figuring out how to set about the boom.  As mentioned earlier the boom is too long to keep in the lean-to.  It too has been living up the stairs!  The only solution it to carry it out of the front door and round the house to the path and work on it in the open air.  So progress on the boom will be very weather dependent.

A rare nice day so work has begun on the boom.

A rare nice day so work has begun on the boom.

First job was to remove all the fittings from it.  I have no idea what most of them are for.  Three cheek blocks, umpteen cleats, a couple of D rings and so on.  I guess that I will have to put them all back on and work out what they are for later.

Working on the boom is going to be a pain in the nether regions, dependent as it is on good weather but I suppose this will be the case with the mast too, so I will have to learn patience.  I have heard of it but am not sure how to do it.

Finally, the ironmongery was a problem that I have been pondering.  Originally galvanized but painted black by a previous owner I did not fancy spending hours scraping and wire brushing.  So a quick eBay visit and I found my old favorite, Caustic Soda.  I used to use gallons of this stuff to clean machinery parts in my previous life as an agricultural mechanic.  A strong solution in an old baking tray and all the metal fittings washed up as good a new.  A word of warning though, the Caustic will attack the galvanized finish so keep an eye on it and remove if it begins to fizz!

20 minutes in a strong solution of Caustic Soda and the paint is gone!

20 minutes in a strong solution of Caustic Soda and the paint is gone!

Ready for priming...

Ready for priming…







I have just realized that this blog on blind sailing is becoming a blog on VI boat refurbishment!  Sorry.  There is no way out of this but to leave the blog alone until LJ is back afloat.  You never know, it may inspire someone to buy a tired old boat and get stuck in, on the other hand it might put others off.  Any way, I promise to get back to sailing as soon as I can.  Promise.

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Bigger lean-to needed.

Suffering from the snow and not being able to start work on LJ’s refit, I decided it would be a good idea to bring home (on top of Mrs BS’s car) the Boom, Gaff and Bowsprit.  The idea is that I can take my time sanding them and varnishing them in comfort, with R4 on, a cuppa to hand and the heater on.

No Chance.  The boom is about 18″s longer then the lean-to.  RATS.

...The boom however I tried...

…The boom however I tried…

...just will not fit.

…just will not fit.

Gaff and Sprit fit fine...

Gaff and Sprit fit fine…






So, bigger lean-to or saw a couple of feet of off the boom?
Only kidding. I guess I will have to wait for dry days, forgo the heater and sand and varnish with a bit sticking out of one of the doors.

Never mind.

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Latter Day Heroes?

Like many sailors I have read Roger Slocum’s account of his solo circumnavigation in a boat he basically built himself. The book, ‘Sailing Alone Around the World’ is a classic. Understated, modest and wonderful all at the same time. Another classic must be Maurice Griffith’s ‘Magic of the Swatchways’. Beautifully written and a real page turner. In fact I read it in 11/2 days, staying up until 2am, unable to put it down. In a similar vein Charles Stock’s ‘Sailing Just for Fun’ is another book that inspired me to sail in the first place.

In this modern age however, and for those with limited vision in particular, the www offers tonnes of inspiration. For a while now I have been following a few blogs on the www. Much better then this one. So, nothing on telly? In a boring meeting with your iPad? You can waste a pleasant hour or so, browsing these sites…

The first site that I have been watching for years is run by an amazing bloke, Roger Taylor. Whenever I think that my boat is a bit small, I remember Heavy weatherRoger and the fact that he sailed a 19′ bilge keeler north of the Arctic circle, to Greenland and back, circumnavigated Iceland, did the Azores etc etc. I attended a talk given by Roger at the Woodbridge Cruising Club some years ago. If you ever get a chance to hear him, do yourself a favour and don’t miss it. Not only does Roger sail solo, without an engine and with only the most basic electronics, he also filmed the trips! Make sure you have some spare time before settling down to watch them. Inspirational.

My second hero has to be a chap from up t’north, called David Hippey and his Mk1 Crabber Ruach. Having sailed no more that 15 miles in one go, and never having gone ‘offshore’ David sailed around the far north of Scotland, single handed in an old lift keel Crabber. Like Roger (above) not only did he achieve this he also filmed it. I keep going back to Davids blog at watching his films again and again.


Charles Stock, mentioned above, sadly passed away late last year.  His book is a must for all fans of small boats and muddy water.  His website is still up and running (I hope someone is maintaining it) and is well worth a visit at

Completed and fitted out by Charles Stock, this tiny boat has covered more sea miles then many, if not most, modern cruisers.

Completed and fitted out by Charles Stock, this tiny boat has covered more sea miles then many, if not most, modern cruisers.

Finally, for now, my list of Latter Day Heroes concludes with an old ugly bloke, who until recently sailed an old ugly boat (although his new one is rather pretty), Dylan Winter.  His voice may be familiar to BBC R4 fans and he has even appeared on the telly from time to time, but for me his sailing films are the peak of his achievement to date.  Dylan has an ‘eye’ for the right shot and the patience and knowledge to know where to find it.  His blog can be found at where his films can be seen for free, although Hi-Def DVD’s are available too.

Dylan's old boat 'The Slug' ashore on the Blackwater

Dylan’s old boat ‘The Slug’ ashore on the Blackwater

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Sea Trials…

…well, sort of. I never really expected to get a sail in before Lady Jayne was lifted out for her refit. But the weather fell right today and the tides were good (springs), so as James was up for it, we got up early and headed down to Maldon. Stupidly, I had removed all the sails for winter storage (in the front bedroom) and we had to get to the boat early to give time to bend them on again.

The wind was very cold F3 to F4 from the North East and we had a stonking beat up to Mill Beach, passing another gaffer coming up river. We also saw an amazing dinghy come belting past at about 20kts! Some sort of planing boat, lifted right out of the water supported by a couple of legs, with I assume, foils at the lower end. Could it have been a Moth? Any ideas most appreciated.

Lady Jayne performed really well, no idea of how fast we were going but considering the sail trim was appalling, we were both pleased with her. However, the leeway seemed rather excessive, again, possible a function of poor trim? Any gaffer sailors out there please feel free to help out here! Another thing we noticed was heeling. She seemed to heel more than old Alexandros. I wonder if full main and both foresails was a bit much for F4?

Silly film posted on the film pages of today’s trip if you can be bothered!

We got back to Maldon after rounding the Lawling Creek No.2 PHM, at about 16:00 and had a bite and a pint in the Queens Head. I think we went in for a warm up as much as anything else.

Bodes well for the future, roll on the refit and roll on the summer!

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At home…

Lady Jayne

Lady Jayne

So, Lady Jayne is home in Maldon! After our adventures, battling raging seas, avoiding privateers and… oh, you have seen the film. Fair enough.


With just a little luck we may get a sail in before the end of the holidays.

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Happy New Year?

Hope you all had a good one. Spent mine sitting in A&E with my poor wife. Long story but I had to call 999 and she was rushed into hospital, pumped full of morphine etc etc. Admitted into hospital and saw a consultant who suspects a gall bladder problem, and wants to operate to remove it very soon indeed.

I left the hospital in Harlow at about 5 to midnight, and Inca and I saw in the New Year walking up First Avenue in the pouring rain, feeling very sorry for ourselves. Anyway, Mrs BS is home now, having a scan tomorrow and we will see what happens.

So, back to boats…
Lady Jayne has a gas cooker. There is a vented locker aft of the cockpit that houses the gas bottles, all looks right and proper but I do not like gas on a boat for obvious reasons. So I have been getting the courage to flash the credit card about and buy an Origo 3000 similar to that fitted to Alexandros. Woke up this morning and glanced at eBay, as you do and found a buy it now auction for a brand new, unused, Origo in original packaging for £150. I guess it is 10 or 15 years old, but it is new…

It is clear that the cooker has never been used!


As a bonus it even came with a brand new gimbal set!


I am not sure if I will be able to use the gimbals though, as the galley area on LJ is tiny and is covered by a useful drop down board that will do stirling service as a chart table.  The existing gas hob is too tall but I am sure the Origo will fit but not too sure if the gimbal kit will.  Down to boat asap to check.  If not, I will put the kit on eBay to fund a set of pan holders.





Another little pressie that LJ got this week was a new solar panel.  This is the same as the one I fitted to Alexandros.  In the three years it was fitted I never had to top up the batteries, so I guess it will be fine with LJ’s single 100amp/hr battery.  I did not trouble with a regulator as the battery is large enough to cope even on a sunny day.


So, high pressure finally on its way, the missus is not feeling too bad, tides look good for Friday (as long as LJ has not been lifted out yet) so maybe the New Year is looking up after all.
Happy new year to you all.

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First of a new era…

So, at long last, I have finally got around to adding a film of the new boat.  Not much of a film to be honest, more a sort of video diary of sailing the Crabber.  A sort of aid memoir really, so when I am old(er) and sitting in a bathchair in the old peoples home, I will have something to watch rather than day time telly.

Hope you like it in any case.

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