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Iron Bark
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Books By Annie Hill

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15 July, 2013

Refitting and Upgrading 'Fantail'

I can't believe how long it is since I put anything on this blog!  The trouble is that I want to do it right - so because there always seems to be something else to do, I don't do it at all.  I have a draft here, that goes back months and I've decided that today's project is to bring it to a hasty conclusion and get it posted!!!

I had intended to haul Fantail out of the water in October, to do a quick antifoul.  At the same time I would build the new yard.  But life, as so often happens, got in the way and I ended up spending 7 weeks looking after a friend recovering from a couple of operations.  Most people would have been delighted to live in a beautiful house, surrounded by lovely bush, on a beach in the Bay of Islands.  There were projects to do, a garden to play in and a fine kitchen where I could spread my wings and cook to my heart's delight.  But I have to say that by the time I went back to Fantail I was more than ever convinced that I am meant to live on a boat and will only be happy as long as I'm living in this way.

By now my poor little ship was supporting the makings of a marine reserve, and there was now no debate about putting off the haulout any longer.  I had intended to go to Norsand in Whangarei, but they only had a few cradles small enough for my boat (!), so I ended up going to Riverside Marine, just downstream from the Town Basin.  This proved to be a good choice and they looked after me well.  But, as is increasingly the case, I was penalised for having a small boat.  This trend is becoming depressingly common.  While at first glance, it might seem fair for an 8-metre boat to be charged half of what a 16-metre boat pays, in fact it is far from just.  An 8-metre boat requires only 21 square metres of water, while her 16-metre long sister will need 85 square metres.  And that is only a part of the unfairness:  the larger boat will need a deeper berth - perhaps artificially dredged - a much larger turning area and more substantially moored pontoons with larger cleats.  And this overlooks the fact that it's not unfair to assume that the larger boat will probably be worth ten times as much as her little sister, so that the cost of mooring the boat will be a much smaller part of her general maintenance costs.  I find it sad, and indeed potentially rather stupid, that small boats are being discriminated against: many people start sailing when they are young and impecunious, only to gradually buy larger and more expensive vessels as their disposable income increases.  If these people had been unable to afford to moor their boats in the first place, then they might have decided to take up another sport instead.  And where would the yards and marinas be then?

It was explained to me that the reason that I was charged a minimum of 10 metres, is because the travel lift needs a certain amount of room to move and that this limits the number of boats that can be fitted in the yard.  Fair enough.  But why was I charged at the 10-metre rate for scrubbing off, for chocking up, etc, etc.  And why a minimum of 10 metres in an alongside berth?  But that was generous compared with the Town Basin, who insist that I pay as a 12-metre yacht if I wish to go alongside.  And I'm not talking about individual slips, here - I am talking about mooring alongside.  But I would bet that I wouldn't be allocated my full 12 metres of dock space if a further boat could be squeezed in!!  And this marina is run by a non-profit trust.  So why are small boats required to subsidise larger ones?

However, I didn't have much choice, so I bit the bullet, hauled out and set to work. There were a few bumps in the antifouling, which may, or may not, have been osmosis.  Supposedly the boat has been treated for osmosis in the past, but I've no idea whether it was professionally, or even competently, carried out.  I knocked the top off them all and only 2 or 3 showed signs of weeping.  I decided that as I'd be leaving the antifouling until the final job, I'd let these spots dry out and see what they looked like in a couple of weeks.

I had never had the chance to finish repainting the deck, so that was the first job.

When I had first bought Joshua, as she then was, there had been a considerable amount of maroon trim, which I disliked.  It had taken ages to get rid of the stripes on the white topsides, and the maroon paint all over the deck wasn't much easier to remove.  A heat gun seemed to be too savage because it lifted the gelcoat beneath, as well as the paint, which I found rather surprising.  In the end I resorted to paint stripper and various scrapers, followed by vigorous wet sanding.

Another job that I wanted to do was to varnish all the teak.  Fantail has a teak capping along the edge of the deck and I don't think this had ever been varnished.  I am not a fan of the so-called 'scrubbed teak' look, which actually means neglected, weathered, grey wood.  Teak can tolerate an enormous amount of neglect and still scrape up easily to a beautiful colour, but like all wood, if left completely unprotected, it will weather, and get damaged.  I was delighted with Fantail's paint scheme, but the grey teak disappeared into the alloy toe rail (not the prettiest thing in the world) and I felt that brightly varnished teak would enhance her appearance.  I had been told about a Kiwi product called 'Uroxsys' and decided to try this out.  The product consists of a clear primer and a clear topcoat.  You prepare the wood and put on one coat of primer.  Then you put on at least 6 coats of the second part.  This is a regime I would follow anyway, the primer being the equivalent of thinned varnish - although I'd usually put 2 or 3 coats of this on, with progressively less thinners in each coat.  Uroxsys has several advantages over the competition.  It is easier to use than two-part polyurethane - its closest competitor, because it doesn't need mixing.  It is more flexible, but like most two-part polyurethane 'varnishes', it is perfectly clear.  Because it is clear, you don't need to mask off or work super-carefully like you do with conventional varnish.  It is supposedly much longer lasting than conventional varnish.  Its clarity makes it a much more attractive finish that the stained finishes designed for doors and windows in houses, that so many people use nowadays.  You can apply another coat as soon as the previous one is touch dry, which means that the whole varnish job can be carried out more rapidly.  It is far too soon to judge its longevity, but even if it only lasts as long as top-quality spar varnish, I'd go for it again, if only for the ease of application.  It's not much more expensive than a brand-name spar varnish.  So, before I painted, I scraped and sanded the wee bit of teak that support the aluminium toerail along the deck.

I then sanded all the rest of the deck forward of the cockpit canopy and applied 3 coats of Altex primer.  On top of this I applied Altex two-pack polyurethane, finishing off with their non-skid compound.  This latter proved to be a serious disappointment, because in spite of following the directions to the letter, the result was very uneven leaving some areas of the deck slippery and others excessively rough.  And of course, the appearance was also disappointing.

But it was a lot better than it had been!

I hate washboards and Fantail had three of the things.  Why do I dislike them?  Well, for a start, there is never a proper place for them, in reach of the hatch so that you can drop them in at a moment's notice if it suddenly comes on to rain; and even if they do have a proper home, they rattle around and get in the way until they are stowed.  If you are sailing in the rain, particularly with a following wind, you are constantly taking them in and out as you go below to check the chart, make a cuppa, etc and again, they are a damn nuisance to put down while you climb in and out.  And they have an annoying tendency always to fall over with an awful clatter, if you prop them up 'for a moment' and I dislike sudden, loud noises!  So all in all, washboards and I do not get on.


For some time, I had been thinking of the idea of a fold-down companionway, to get rid of this problem.  Most people I'd mentioned it to, had shaken their heads dubiously and sucked their teeth pessimistically.  It's the sort of "what-was-good-enough-for-me,-my-father-and-his-father-before-him,-should-be-good-enough-for-a-foolish-woman" attitude that I am used to, but still a bit discouraging for all that.  However, I threw the idea out to my wonderful friends in the junk rig community ( and someone in Queensland promptly came back with photographs of his companionway, which was very similar to what I was planning.  Admittedly, Arion has a sliding hatch and I have none.  On the other hand, I am a hobbit and this boat is being altered to suit me, not some putative buyer in the dim and distant future.  Anyway, armed with the knowledge that a least one other person had used 'my' idea and was happy with it, I bent what is laughingly-called my mind to the problem of creating it.

And now I'm going to cut a very long story, very short by simply putting a few pictures here so you can see for yourself what I did:

Preparing the cockpit sole for the new bulkhead

Making the pattern

Fitting the new bulkhead

Making a pattern for the locker lid, on which the new hatches rest.  See also that part of the lower washboard has been cut and glued in, in order to provide a sill.

Adding the framework on which the hatch boards will land.

Gluing in the additional framing

The completed 'washboards'/hatch  
There now, that was nice and fast, wasn't it?  The extra locker provided by the new bridgedeck is a perfect place for a bilge pump (which, until then, I'd never found a home for) and I can also keep some collapsible water containers there, ready to take ashore.

I'm sure that you are awe-struck at my standard of woodwork, but I have to confess that most of the teak was fitted by a real boatbuilder.  I know my limitations and I know when to pay money to people who can do things much better than I!

As well as this job, I painted the hull with two part polyurethane and also repainted the decks and cockpit.  My little ship looks a lot smarter than she did.

I was very pleased with her when we came to re-launch :

and the care that Carl and his merry men took to keep my new paint in pristine condition made me feel that other people appreciated how much work I'd put in, too:

Another thing I'd invested in was a really nice self-adhesive name.  Being a thrifty soul, I attached it to some black acrylic and screwed that to the stern, so that I can take it off next time I paint the boat.

Back in the water,it was time to get on with the cockpit paint and finish the job, all of which - as ever - took longer than anticipated.  To add insult to injury, the only rain that fell in January, came on the day I put on the final coat of paint.  Still, it looks fine from a few feet away!

A few weeks later, Mark and Phil on Icebreaker took a photo of us sailing near Waiheke Island, and I could see what the new paint job looked like.  I was pleased with it.

1 comment:

John Thorp said...

Fantail is looking lovely! Folding washboards a great idea. X