Monthly Archives: May 2017

  • A Clean Bilge is a Happy Bilge!

    As mentioned in my last post, I have been finding many little jobs to do before cleaning out the bilge on my lovely boat. But, having finally decided on a name for her, it felt like time to tackle this most “delightful” task.

    Saoirse has been sitting up for a year or more, and she had her engine removed, but all her hosing left in place. While this will make it easier for me to put a new engine into her, it also meant that plenty of oily sludge has made it way into the bilge. Couple that with paint flakes, leaves and the other general gunk that calls the average bilge home, I had a lovely Sunday afternoon ahead of me.

    Challenge number 1 was to pump her out, a mixture of brown water and semi solid gunk was sucked out via a manual bilge pump. While it was hard enough work pumping her out by hand, a manual bilge pump doesn’t have a strainer on it and has a 19mm intake, so it was able to deal with the semi solid, oily mixture housed in my lovely boat.

    Once she was somewhat dry, I had to start removing the larger lumps of mostly solidified oil by hand, heavy duty work gloves were my best friend at this stage.

    Now I was left with a bilge that was slick with oil residue and similar. Boat Buddy Interior Deodoriser and Cleaner had been recommended to me as being very good for cleaning out bilges and cutting through grease and oil. And it did not disappoint! I started using it straight on to a sponge and scrubbing at the layer of water and oil in the bilge and it immediately started cutting though and lifting the residue. After wiping down the whole bilge (with about 5 sponges) like this, I then diluted it to the recommended 1:50 ratio, poured a couple of litres into the bilge, mixed it around to lift any further residue and started pumping again.

    While it was not the most fun Sunday I have ever had, it was very satisfying! Unfortunately due to worn paint the photos do not do her justice, but let me tell you, there is a major difference. While she will need another wipe down before she is ready for some bilge paint, she is no longer in a state where I won’t let anyone see inside her, which coincidentally happened the weekend before my parents were coming to see her for the first time.

  • She Finally Has A Name!

    After much deliberation I am very pleased to introduce you all to the newly named Saoirse!

    Irish for freedom!

  • Caulking and Splining

    Hey guys,

    Apologies for the silence, due to a nasty bug I was a little under the weather and so was not able to pay Saoirse any attention for a few weeks. Made up for this recently by spending a day working on her caulking and splining.


    Some of Saoirse’s splines, kept safe to use as templates for replacements

    As she is a carvel built hull she had been both caulked and splined previously, but due to sitting up for the last few years her timbers had dried out and shrunk and the gaps between the planks had opened up. This had lead to the splines coming out in large areas along her sides and also the splines getting very wet and soft. Luckily this softness hadn’t yet affected the planks in the hull but rather than wait for that to happen I decided to make a start on getting them all removed and letting the hull fully dry out.

    The gaps between the planks after the loose splines were removed, brown paint is above the water line, blue is below.

    The gaps between the planks after the loose splines were removed, brown paint is above the water line, blue is below.

    See the biggest issue with a wooden boat being out of the water for this long is that fresh water (rain water) will cause softness and eventually rot in the wood, saltwater doesn’t have this effect on wood, while saltwater will swell a boat out, it does not cause rot in wood.

    Getting the splines out was not too bad, as I mentioned above, they were mostly falling out by themselves due to the planks opening up. The caulking was another matter however, and it needed to come out as it was soaking! Some of the gaps that had opened up were sufficiently wide that I could pull the caulking out with a flat head screwdriver. Other bits were still well bedded in and either took a bit more persuading or are still in there pending me making up a hooked tool to help me pull it out.

    Some of the larger gaps, you can just see the caulking bedded into the back

    Some of the larger gaps, you can just see the caulking bedded into the back

    I think my most disheartening moment thus far came when I was removing the caulking from the bottom planks, in front of the keel, and the small amount of water in her bilge started dripping out. Up to this she had been beautifully water tight below the waterline. But considering the amount of water her caulking was holding (it was dripping) I was very glad to get it out.

    Link to Video of water dripping out of her:

    I have the caulking removed from almost half the boat (the starboard side). The biggest hold up I’ve had thus far is someone along the way needed to replace some splines and instead of getting new splines made up, used filler instead. I know it is a much easier job, but my goodness it is some pain to remove. As they had left the caulking in behind it I needed to get it out.

    One of my attempts to remove the caulking filler used below the waterline (not a very successful attempt)

    One of my attempts to remove the caulking filler used below the waterline (not a very successful attempt)

    The filler is very chalky and is falling apart as I was trying to dig it out. If anyone has any ideas on removing it, it would be much appreciated as my hands are very sore from trying to dig it out. No to mention I am trying to be very careful not to gouge the wood around it.

    To anyone looking at restoring a wooden boat, I know it is painstaking and difficult to remove and recaulk a boat (that is the barrel I am staring down at the moment) but it is really worth it. You learn a lot about your boat by getting this up close and personal with it. You start to see where edges of planks are starting to go soft, you really get to know the boat. And while it has been a painful job (which I am no where near finished), it is helping me assess what I need to do to get Saoirse on the water and make sure she can stay there.

    The worst thing I can image right now would be getting her on the water only to find out a year or two later that I hadn’t found some softness in her hull and it had turned to rot and I was right back to square one, stripping her and replacing things again.

    So while it is tough, I am finding it very worth it (please don’t remind me I said this when I’m being driven mad by trying to re-caulk her!!)

  • Wooden boat restoration (or so I hope!).

    The number one thing I know about wooden boats is that my dad has said we are to hit him over the head with a shovel should he ever buy another one. And that’s after only owning a GP14 for the better part of the last 20 years. So what has possessed me to take on a 26ft mahogany folk boat? Not a clue. But here we are.

    I know about as much about wooden boats as any other twenty something sports boat sailor, so this is going to be an interesting learning project. I am going to keep you all up to date on how she is going, what I am doing and what is, and more likely, isn’t working.

    I am very lucky to have been working in the marine trade for the past 4 years, 3 in Dublin and 1 in Cork, so even if I don’t know what I’m doing, I know who to ask.

    For all of you looking to take on a similar project with little to no experience of working on wooden boats, this journey will either be confirmation that anyone can learn the skills required in wooden boat maintenance…. Or it will reaffirm for you that wooden boat ownership should be left to those initiated few who can identify rotten teak from 20 paces.

    So, the boat! She is a 26ft mahogany folk boat with a stepped up coach house. She has a teak deck which has been coated in cascover. All her planks and ribs are sound, although 5 ribs need replacing due to cracking. There is a small bit of rot on her toe rail on one side but other than that she is solid.

    She is also filthy as she has been sitting in the boat yard for the past 2 years.

    She originally had a small diesel engine on board, but that has been removed pre my ownership. She has her rudder, tiller, keel and spars all in good condition.

    All in all she is a manageable project. Her hull and keel are in good condition, there is very little structural work to be done and she has most of her fittings still. These were my main criteria when considering taking on this project, the boat had to float e.g. no holes and no rotten planks (When you get into replacing planks you are taking on a much bigger project). The coach house had to be intact and solid. This is just practical, rebuilding a coach house wouldn’t be the most difficult project, but if it is damaged or missing it means the cabin and bilge have been exposed to the elements which increases the likelihood of rot, something to try and avoid when acquiring a wooden boat. Mine is missing her windows, so she was somewhat exposed, but luckily the boat yard she is in pumped her out, so it was just the build-up of dirt and sludge I had to deal with (will have to deal with, funnily enough I have thus far found many jobs than need doing ahead of cleaning the bilge).

    I have gotten her without a name and I have yet to name her, so “her” is what we shall be referring to my lovely boat as until I settle on one.

    So there we go, that’s me and the boat. I hope you will follow us on what promises to be a funny (at times not intentionally so), and hopefully informative, journey from somewhat sad in the corner of a boat yard, to sailing in the high seas (or at least cruising from Crosshaven to Kinsale of a weekend).

    So here is to teaching this new dog some old tricks,


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