Tuesday, February 11, 2020

_________________ INVOKING BILBOS WALKING SONG __________________

The road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

Bilbo Baggins of Bag End wrote this walking song about, well, walking. Being a distant cousin of Bilbo I have decided to use my family connections and borrow the song for a nautical use. It may be a stretch for some, but for me I like to see the walking song also as a metaphor for (among other endeavours) boat building and restoration. If you've ever laboured (and suffered) over a much loved project you will indeed understand.

Bow detail - Mahogany scarfed into Alaskan Red Cedar

I have always thought myself to be a bumbling and hopeless painter. Today I had a brain wave. Instead of launching forth into the beginning of 6 coats of varnish I read for the first time the Aus/NZ edition of International Paints 'Boat Paint Guide with Colour Card and How-to Guide'. What a useful eye opener! The golden sentence were words to the effect that 'Two thin coats of varnish are better than one thick coat that runs everywhere'. I brushed on one thin coat - no runs - Hallelujah.

 I have made the mast collar with a rebated slot to take the mast boot bungy cord - keeps the water out.

I also varnished the poplar dagger-board case. The holes at the forward base are hiking strap attachment points.

 Rather than butt the cockpit trim at right angles I have fitted rounded corners - much easier on the eye.
I am pleased with the way the grain in the Gaboon plywood deck has been picked up by the varnish.

The weather is balmy and warm at the moment so the next 5 days are booked for the last coats of varnish (6 in total). I then begin the painting of the hull - the road goes ever on.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

_____________________ COCKPIT FLOOR BATTENS _____________________

The first attempt to glue down the cockpit battens (above) was a disaster. It happened like this. I had all four battens held in place with little blocks of wood (as above), all well glued up. I then proceeded to put as much weight (tool boxs, large G clamps, various wood planes etc, etc ) as I could find to place on top of the battens to apply pressure and squeeze out the excess glue etc. The next morning when I had a look at the job I found that I could slide a short steel rule under all the battens in various areas. So I ripped the whole lot out. One day to put the battens in - one day to take them out and sand and prepare the area for another try. I wasn't impressed by the loss of about 5 metres of good Alaskan red cedar.

For the second attempt it was recommended to me that I simply temporarily screw down the floor battens and remove the screws when the glue was dry. This I must admit, is a simple and effective method, but this would have meant repairing the holes the screws made on the outside of the hull after the job was completed. I wasn't prepared to do this. So I devised another way of applying pressure to the battens. A method which you can see in the photographs.This method turned out to be very effective and didn't involve breaching the hull in any way.
Job complete. The battens are firmly in place. A few more pieces of trim and we won't be too far away now from painting, varnishing and attaching all the sail controls and other gear.

Saturday, January 4, 2020


I think if I have to cut another rolling bevel on a pair of splash boards I might well give up the will to live! I haven't come across such an ornery piece of wood working marlarkey for quite some time. Having said that, I am grudgingly thankful that the boat demanded this of me as I am quite pleased at how they have turned out.

Every set of Zephyr splash boards I have seen are straight or curve in the opposite direction to mine. I have curved them this way in a Herreshoff - ish kind of way because I like the way they look.

And on goes the deck. The angled piece of plywood in the foreground is a deck join doubler where the fore deck plywood joins the side deck.

Fore deck is on.  Note a different and much bigger side deck doubler on the left hand side of the photo. This doubler doubles the side deck thickness in this area from 4mm to 8mm making it strong enough for the skipper to sit without cracking the deck.

Note also the hanging scales. The "legal" minimum weight (as set in the class rules) for a Zephyr is 58 kgs. Before the renovation began the weight was 64 kgs. I have been watching the weight carefully and hope she weighs in at 58 kgs - a light boat is a fast boat.

Happy is the wooden boat renovator if he has a good supply of G clamps. 

Fully decked is a bit of a milestone.

Today I glued on the new splash boards which I had laminated up over a temporary jig. It was a bit of a mission, especially cutting, planing and sanding a rolling bevel on the underside of the splash boards - not a job I want to repeat in a hurry.

The only construction work left to complete are the cockpit floor battens, the internal cockpit trim and the exterior trim (rubbing strakes) around the gunwales.

At this point the boat weighs 53 kgs. So I have 5 kilos up my sleeve - Steady as she goes skipper and she should make the grade.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

_________________________ STONEHENGE ___________________________

Here we are, a couple of Kiwi tourists goggling at a famous piece of iconic English history and heritage. It was a hard won view. I hadn't driven a manual geared car for several decades. To get there I drove a manual geared car (The English still LOVE manual cars and all power to them I say.) that had been generously loaned to us all the way from Cambridge to Stonehenge and back again on various 6 lane M25 type motorways. In England traffic lights are rare but roundabouts are ubiquitous. Counting the multiple exits as the GPS told us in calm tones to "Go over the roundabout and take the seventh exit" yikes! was quite an experience. In New Zealand we go around the roundabouts not over them, but that's ok, every country has its own version of English grammar. The hard part for me was that counting the exits as I thrashed my way around the manual gearbox on the two lane roundabouts was difficult when the exits were often obscured by semi trailer trucks the size of air craft carriers. So I was happy on the way down to Stonehenge and back to Cambridge on the M25 to simply crawl along for 20 minutes or so in various places including for a longer time in the vicinity of the motorway exits to Luton airport. It gave me time to gather my wits and equilibrium (but worry about the new bits of iron filings floating around in the manual gear box.)

Stonehenge was smaller than I thought it would be but I found it none the less impressive. At the visitor centre (Which is sensibly a kilometer or more away from the stone site) there is an impressive time lapse presentation of Stonehenges' history that shows how the site would have looked at the time the stones were erected. There is also a museum with various artifacts that have been found on the site over the years.

Comprehensive information about Stonehenge can be found here on the official website:


We were lucky with the weather so were able to appreciate the broad undulating Salisbury plain and its big skies and soft vistas. We shared it with literally hundreds of other tourists - a reality at interesting sites on a crowded planet.

This is a photograph of a photograph that was on an information plaque - Stonehenge in the winter.

Stonehenge has a feeling of mystery about it. It is a link to another culture, world and world view. Its essence had a feeling of great remoteness to me - it is a shell of its former substance and meaning. Like many of these sites, we are looking at a husk of a former time and life. The living cultural context and the vitality of life that animated Stonehenge has been lost in the mists of time.

Monday, November 25, 2019

___________________ HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM __________________

Due to my Apple Mac Pro Laptop computer giving up the ghost (The ghost in the machine? - now there is an interesting philosophical / theological / consciousness / being / mystical .....  etc question ) ...... I am unable to do any more posting on this blog until the said 'Ghost' is returned (or is that replaced?).

So postings regarding sojourns in the UK to Stonehenge, the East Coast Rivers, Cambridgeshire, Maduradam in The Netherlands, a visit to Whangarei of James Cooks Endeavour Replica, Zephyr yacht restoration progress and various rants about nothing in particular will have to be put on hold for a while.

Friday, November 15, 2019

______________________ TO THE NETHERLANDS (1) _____________________

While in the UK for the birth of our fourth grandchild we took our luck on Ryan Air (After the debacle with the hire car company we needed all the luck we could get [see previous post] ) - and flew to The Netherlands for five days to spend time with our good friends Ben and Renee. It was a very nice break and we were treated royally by our friends who shared their beautiful home with us and drove us around to see some interesting sites in this great little country. Renees cooking was superb and Bens beer was the best I have ever tasted.

Kinderdyke was in a moody mood with its sombre ambience of autumn Dutch skies. What impressed me was that except for two windmills that were open to the public, all the others are rented and lived in by people who undertake caretaker duties (after qualifying from a training course) which includes running the big wind sails for a certain number of hours every year.

Beautiful Kinderdyke is now a World Heritage site and justifiably so.

 I loved the interiors of the windmills. They are small and snug and have the feeling of a small boat.

 Climb up the stairs, fall into bed and close the doors on the world - great.

Just like in a boat. Small, purposeful and with everything at hand and in its place.

A days exploration was celebrated with a bottle of one of the worlds best beers. I can't think of a better way to end a days tripping around.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

______________________________ THEO _______________________________

 This is our fourth grandchild Theodore (Theo).

The name Theodore means 'gift of god'. It is a biblical name derived from the elements 'theos' meaning god and 'doron' meaning gift. We flew all the way to the UK for his birth, as we had done for his older brother Salem. Joy is a very appropriate word for these occasions.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

_____________________ INGLORIOUS BASTARDS _______________________

We have just returned from a couple of months in the United Kingdom bringing back with us much good news and the memories of such positive experiences that it seems questionable as to why I would want to share a negative experience. But; prospective fellow travelers, being fore warned is to be fore armed. So before I post about the good times and the good news its a case of bad news first.

I hesitate to tell this tale because quite frankly it turns my stomach every time I think about it, but perhaps with the telling will come a form of catharsis, of purging, of letting go and moving on. I could certainly do with that.

It is a complicated story with numerous twists and turns so I will tell a 'Long Story, Short' as the saying goes and tell it in the form of a series of bullet points.

  • There are two outfits involved in this fiasco - AUTOEUROPE and EUROPCARS
  • We ordered a car through the online broker called AUTOEUROPE. 
  • AUTOEUROPE is also associated with an entity called KEDDYS but the association is unclear.
  • The car was to be picked up at EUROPCARS.
  • We paid over 800 pounds including full insurance cover.
  • We read the AUTOEUROPE terms and conditions. The indicated time of pick up was from 12 pm. Apparently there was a two hour window to pick the car up but no where was this stated. Penalties were indicated for 'Lateness' of pickup although 'Lateness' was not defined. This part of the T's and C's was unclear being ungrammatical and confusing. Later when in dispute another set of T's and C's were sent but were still confusing. (These amended T's and C's were not what we had agreed to). The original T's and C's not only did not define 'lateness' but did not mention full forfeiture of all money as a result of this 'lateness'.
  • We arrived in business hours at approximately 3pm and were refused a car or a refund of our 800 pounds. We were told we had breached EUROPCARS terms and conditions. We said we had not seen THEIR T's and C's as we had booked online with AUTOEUROPE so we could hardly be in breech of T's and C's that we hadn't seen or agreed to. EUROPCARS later emailed us their T's and C's - all 79 pages of them.
  • Later that day we rang customer services of both AUTOEUROPE and EUROPCARS. EUROPECARS customer services told us to go back the next day and a car would be there for us. But when we turned up the next day they again refused to give us a car or refund any money. AUTOEUROPE said on the phone they would look into the matter. A subsequent email from them confirmed that there would be no refund.
  • We rang our NZ Bank that night and asked that the Visa payments be stopped. They put the payments on hold and told us that it would take 3 weeks for the case to be resolved by their disputes team.
  • At this point in the proceedings we felt confused, disoriented, furious and a very long way from home.
  • Further searches on the internet found that the UK newspaper 'The Guardian' had done some investigative journalism into these outfits. Their opinion is the same as mine regarding their business practises and customer relationships - unethical, immoral, possibly outside of British consumer law and possibly illegal. I say 'possibly' because it begs the question as to how these companies keep trading if operating in this manner is illegal?
In the end we were lucky on three counts:

First we had our son in law as our advocate. He fought our corner for us. He did all the phoning and emailing and put together all the data relating to our case in a very fluent, logical and considered way.

Second. Although putting forward our case didn't have any positive effect on the idiots we were dealing with, I think the clarity of his thinking and documentation helped our bank to make the decision to reverse the charges on the Visa card. In the end the bastards didn't get any of our money.

Third. Our son in laws mother loaned us a car which meant we could redeem some of the time left to us to do a few trips that we had planned. We were very, very appreciative of this generosity.

I think if we ever try to hire a car again when we are overseas we will do it through what I hope are still reputable car hire companies such as Hertz and Avis.

I was going to say in conclusion that we would in the future always "read the fine print" in the terms and conditions more carefully - but as our experience shows, even this approach isn't foolproof and some what problematic. The fact is there are 'Inglorious Bastards' everywhere.

Monday, September 2, 2019

_______________________ THREE GOOD THINGS ________________________

NUMBER ONE: If you look closely at the bow you will see two holes that have been drilled through the stem. The initial holes were drilled oversize, filled with West System glue and then smaller holes drilled. This well tested (On Zephyrs) arrangement takes the place of a heavy stainless steel fore- stay chain plate and solves the problem of fore-stay stress loosening screws over time making this system problematic. The fore-stay will now be attached to rope that is threaded through the holes in the stem.

NUMBER TWO: The new mast step has a couple of good features. First it is very strong and second it is adjustable fore and aft. I have bolted it down as far foreward as possible which gives me a mast adjustment from vertical to well raked aft. Various mast rakes are optimal for different wind strengths and the ability to adjust the rake easily and quickly is an advantage.

NUMBER THREE: Self bailers are terrors of beasts to fit nice and flush. It took me three careful days to get this job completed. I won't go into detail because the explanation would be so long you might lose the will to live reading about it. Suffice to say, it was very tricky, but when completed and I skimmed my hand over each bailer in the manner of a zillion water molecules the transition was smooth and seamless and I was smiling.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019


Shipmates, I hear you ask: "How many photographs of the final fairing stage of a Zephyr yacht does a person need to look at?" - Well the answer is four photographs.

The previous post showed the hull with its first fairing compound combed on. These photographs show the hull after micro light fairing compound has been applied, sanded fair and two coats of 'two pot' Everdure applied.

When you run your beady eyes over a recently coated glossy hull any imperfections are very easy to see. I was heartened to find the hull fair and true with only minor imperfections

The final stage is a regime of sanding between undercoats and the application of a glossy final coat.
But before that happens the hull will be turned the right way up and the new deck, splashboards and other trim installed.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

______________ STAGE TWO OF THE FAIRING PROCESS _________________

Don has faired six of these hulls before, so 'Slipstream' is in good hands as he uses a sanding board to do the first sanding.

Completion of the first sand. The timber hull shows through in the high spots, the low spots are where there is still fairing compound of up to a depth of 2mm. Sighting along the hull with my eye and using a fairing batten failed to show any hills or valleys in the hull. I was well pleased.

The second stage of the fairing process will be another layer of finer compound to fill up the grooves left from the first sanding. This second layer of fairing compound will then be sanded ready for painting.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

_____________________ FAIRING UP THE HULL ________________________

The first stage of fairing up the Zephyr involves plastering the hull with fairing compound. 

This compound is a mixture of West System resin, hardener and '413' grade powder. The powder is mixed in with the resin and hardener until the concoction has the consistency of peanut butter.

The fairing compound is then applied with a simple gizmo that looks somewhat like a plastic comb with wide blunt teeth. The mixture is applied thick and fast. Fast acting resin hardener ensured that within the hour the whole mixture was well on its way to 'going off'.

Stage two is the hard yacker stage. Its going to be all sanding boards and muscle power. The grooves in the first coat allow for quick and relatively easy sanding. The lay of the long sanding boards combined with a good eye will ensure beautiful full curves and a fair hull.

Stage three will be another coat of a finer sanding compound which will fill the grooves that are left. Additional sandings should produce a beautiful fair hull. I am very lucky to have the help and expertise of my good sailing mate Don who has previously successfully faired 6 Zephyr hulls. 'Slipstream' deserves nothing less than a beautiful fair hull as she undergoes her 60th year birthday renovation.

The big question now is: what colour shall I paint this beautiful fair hull?

Thursday, July 25, 2019

_____________________ THE DON BUYS A BOAT ________________________

My good mate Don and I have been racing an International Flying Fifteen class yacht together. We called this boat 'Borrowed' because ....... it has been a borrowed boat. We have done some work on the boat in lieu of sailing it - something of a win-win situation.

About a week ago we went and looked for the second time at a much newer and better sorted Flying Fifteen which Don has now purchased. We will be sailing her for the first time this coming Sunday. She is called 'Explosive'. I have been referring to the boat as 'Gelignite' and Don has been calling her 'Hand Grenade'. Whatever appellation she ends up with we are both determined to sail her well so that her performance doesn't end up being that of an old bomb.

Friday, June 28, 2019

________________________ MAKING PROGRESS ________________________

I washed the hull in methylated spirits which draws out any rot inducing moisture and helps get the hull down its minimum weight.

 Repairing the holes by laminating on layers of 1.5mm Gaboon plywood in strips.

The first stage of the fairing process. I have used a belt sander (on the first stage of reducing the height of the laminated repairs) and a manual long board sander. I must say, having all the holes in the hull closed off and the timber faired up feels like a bit of a milestone.

The next stage in this long process will be 4 coats of '2 pot' Everdure wood preservative with the first coat heavily diluted with thinners which helps the Everdure penetrate deep into the wood. These coats seal the timber, prevents the re-absorption of moisture and provides a base for the fairing proper - with West System resin and various fairing compounds. All of this is time consuming hard work, but for a Zephyr sailor - a fair hull is a fast hull.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

__________________________ SUNDAY SAILING _______________________

Sunday is traditionally a day of rest - one way of resting is to lean into the day doing something that you really like to do. I am all for that, so I went sailing. Don and I raced the Fifteen. My brother Tony who was the official photographer thought he was going to be shooting from the end of a jetty but ended up getting a helpful passage on a local boat and was out among the action.

Every race is a learning experience and we are certainly learning a great deal. I am finding being the crew rather than the skipper a rewarding experience. Skippering for me usually means racing solo in my own boat, so I am enjoying being part of a team.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

___________________________ 'BORROWED' __________________________

Here she is - the Flying Fifteen 'Borrowed' that Don and I will be sailing for the third time tomorrow. Our placings to date have been a 6th and 2nd place. Today was an alteration / preparation day. We tweaked a few things, sorted out the hiking straps and placed some non skid tape on the side decks in strategic places. We will be hunting for a good breeze tomorrow.