Author Archives: unionchandlery

  • 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,


  • My First Attempt at Paint Removal

    Painting a 26ft boat is no small task, and as any wooden boat owners out there will know, the thought of sanding it back to the bare wood every season or two is just too tedious to face sometimes. So I wasn’t completely surprised to find I was scraping off almost half centimetre thick flakes of paint from my hull (I use the word ‘flakes’ loosely here, as most of my ‘flakes’ were more than 2 inches across and impressive structurally sound).

    I decided to start with the deck trim/toe rail as I want to take that back to the bare wood and varnish it. So far I have identified three entirely different colours in multiple layers. You can imagine my elation.

    Needless to say, I gave up on my attempts to scrape and sand it back fairly quickly, and decided instead to turn to my more chemically based friends, paint strippers!

    Below are images of the results I got using Owatarol’s Dilunett paint stripper, recently been re-released as Marine Strip, and I have to say, I was impressed. It liquefied the many, many layers of paint on the toe rails and with just a scraper (as I am currently lacking in electricity, so it is all elbow grease for now) I was able to get most of the trim back to bare wood!



    Mid Removal


    I won’t lie to you, this was still a slow and painstaking job, but at least I was seeing results. The bottle recommends using a pressure washer, which I did not have. But having seen how well the Dilunett liquefied the many, many layers of old paint, I can see how a pressure washer would make it a very quick and easy job.

    I have a friend, who is skilled in removing paint with a gas torch, coming down next week to have a look and see can he help with the hull, because as impressive and effective the Dilunett was on the toe rails and trim, I’m not sure my arms and hands could take a whole 26ft hull of it without a pressure washer to rid it of the liquefied paint.

    With sore arms and tired hands,


  • Two Candians and a Tempest run the River Suir

    This year I got the opportunity to paddle the River Suir from Golden in Co.Tipperary to Waterford city with 4 friends. The plan was to make the 120km trip in 3 days, camping by the river at night. I was in a Tempest Sea Kayak, and the lads were in 2 Canadian Canoes.

    We started early on a Tuesday morning in late September at Golden. There is a car-park behind the local pub with access to the river. The general plan was to try to make it to Waterford by Friday morning all going well.

    The river is probably only 15m wide at this point and full of bends and twists. There is plenty of wildlife to see along the stretch of river from Golden to Cahir, including otters and kingfishers.

    First stop was Athassel Abbey a few miles from Golden. It dates from the 12th Century and covers a huge site. Amazingly there is no signage or info about it at the site, so might be worth reading up on before you set off. The man who founded it, William de Burgh, was buried there 800 years ago. (There are quite a few bulls on the farmland surrounding it so keep an eye out!)

    Next we were off to Cahir. On the run into Cahir there is a weir possibly 8ft high, while it does slope, there is a concrete shelve below the water line. I found this out to my detriment when the tail of the sea kayak and the nose got suspended between the top of the weir and the shelf causing me to capsize. The water is deep here and there is no easy get off here to empty the boat. The only way is back onto that step below the weir and empty the boat up there (I would like to thank Derek from Bansha for helping me do this!). We paddled on to Cahir and pulled up for some light refreshment before the next weir at the town.

    It was decided to lift the boats over the town weir on the port side and make for Ardfinnan and make camp there. There were a few small weirs and rapids along the way, all easily negotiable. We were lucky that there was a good flow on the river and did not encounter any dry spots on day one.

    When we got to Ardfinnan it was about 6.30pm. Ardfinnan is a fine spot to stay. We pulled up just before the first weir at the town and camped beside the village green. I was using a three man tent but the lads prefer to use a shelter and tarp. It works well and cuts down on weight in the canoes. You would get 4 to 5 people under it. We set up the Kelly Kettle and a small fire to heat a big pot of pasta.

    We hit the Green View pub that night where our presence had not gone unnoticed! Nora, the land-lady, was 5th generation at this establishment. She was a wealth of knowledge on the area and its stories, the stout was not bad either. We slept well that night and proceeded to rise early on Wednesday morning. I cooked up some sausages and eggs on the stove and prepared to run the two weirs above and below Ardfinnan.

    The first one is gentle enough but important to stay upright as again no immediate get out spot here. The 2nd drop is perhaps 2ft just below the bridge. Canadian no.1 managed it grand with a bit of bracing. I went next and proceeded to capsize again in shallow water as the back end of the kayak caught on the ledge. Luckily there was a dry spot in the middle of the river to haul up and empty out. Canadian no.2 is built from marine plywood and epoxy. She made the run but scraped her backside off the ledge. She was leaking now and it was decided to pull her in and do a repair job. The lads managed to find a local who drove them to 3 garages in order to find some epoxy putty (body filler). The group split and we agreed to meet at Knocklofty Bridge later that day.

    The wind had picked up now and a bit of rain started to fall. We made good progress and stopped at a small village called Newcastle. We called into a local shop where they were thrilled to meet us and allowed us to use the facilities. We also got some sandwiches made for 3 euro a pop, not bad going!

    After the bridge here the river is noticeably downhill. It does however widen substantially and with wind from the south we were eager to turn east toward Knocklofty. You pass under an old steel bridge which serves an old mansion on the south bank. The stone bridge at Knocklofty is about a mile further downriver. We broke for a rest here and met the lads with the repaired canoe.

    On to Clonmel next. We knew the weir at Clonmel was not runnable. It’s at least a 9ft 90 degree drop with a bridge to negotiate after that. There is also a right turn which brings you through the soon to be finished slalom course in the town. We chose to lower the boats down to a ledge just to the right of the main weir and then negotiate some small rapids below the bridge.

    Grand so far. We passed through the town and tied up about a kilometre downstream. Time for tea. The rain started to pour down torrentially and a decision was made to go hell for leather to a village called Kilsheelan about 10km away.

    This stretch of river just has one spot, below a stone bridge, about halfway down where there are some rapids. These did not present any problems. We got to Kilsheelan at about 7pm. We went into Pat O Sullivan’s pub for a bit of light refreshment. Pat was kind enough to let us dry out our gear in the back lounge and so we decided to come back here after we made camp down by the river. Pat told us about the artist living in the big castle over the river.

    Gottfried Helnwein has been living at Castle Gurteen for the past 20 years. Many famous people have stayed at the castle. Gottfried was away the night we passed for Pat assured us he would have been in for a pint was he home. We headed back to camp at about 12 and slept well until 7am.

    So our next mission was to get to Carrick-on-Suir by 10am as the river becomes tidal here and we reasoned being there at high tide would be a good start in getting to Waterford City that day. The stretch of water from Kilsheelan to Carrick was excellent on a cracker of a morning. We took our time and stopped for brunch at the marina there.

    Onwards to Waterford with the tide. We left Carrick at about 11.30. It all looked so easy, or so we thought, with the tide running out. The river basically becomes a lot of long estuaries with wind head on. My Tempest sea kayak was now coming into its own and enjoying the waves created by wind over tide.

    The rest of the group in the Canadian canoes were finding it a bit more challenging. We broke for lunch and realised we had only covered 10km after 2hours! It was a strong southerly wind and when we finally caught sight of Waterford’s new tall white bridge we were convinced we were home and dry. That last estuary must be 5 miles long. This section was tough going even though the wind was now at our backs. We passed under the big bridge about two hours later! About 2 more to go now.

    We pulled up at Waterford city marina at tea time. We had underestimated the distance and conditions and were fairly shattered! Luckily we were allowed to keep our boats on the marina that night and retired to the Keg bar for a few well deserved pints having completed our trip in 3 days.

    The whole trip was approximately 120km in length. The final day was a bit of a stretch but with a good flow 3 days should be sufficient. The advantage of paddling in late September was that we had plenty of water on the river. However temperatures were quite low at night, so a warm sleeping bag is essential. Lower temperatures also ensured we didn’t encounter any midges.

    One more thing about boats: The Tempest sea kayak was a little bit long coming into some of the turns on the river. It does however have plenty of speed and also plenty of gear storage space. Perhaps a 15 ft kayak might be a better option as it might cruise at the same speed as the canoes. Alternatively just use Canadian canoes and have a relaxing trip.

  • Winter Wet Gear

    As the weather starts to get worse, we thought we would give you a quick overview of foul weather gear for autumn and winter sailing.

    The type of boat you are sailing on will hugely influence the type of gear you wear, you aren’t going to wear the same gear on a 1720 and a half tonner. That said there are a few steps you can take to ensure you stay warm and dry as we move into the colder, wetter winter months no matter what boat you sail on.

    The best way to stay warm, is to stay dry. The first thing to invest in will always be a good set of waterproof outers. Whether you prefer wearing salopettes, jacket, cag, keeping your gear in good condition and ensuring it isnt leaking is the first step in staying warm as the weather gets colder and wetter. Your lighter summer gear will more than suffice coming into the winter so long as it is keeping you dry.

    Layering under your gear is the next step. Cotton will not keep you warm, fleece, technical fabrics and wool are the only fabrics worth looking at when buying gear for under your oilys. Helly Hansen make a great range of merino wool base layers which will keep you toasty well into the shorter days. Wool socks are also a must have, wool stays warm when wet unlike other fabrics, and as such is the perfect underlayer for any sailor. If you are particularly cold, a light down jacket under your sailing jacket will keep even the coldest sailors toasty.

    The final stage is your extremities, here were talking hats, gloves and boots. If you loose feeling in your hands and feet you are going to be useless to the rest of your crew, and a couple of upwind legs on the rail can have you really feeling the cold. We recommend a hat with 2 layers, this cuts down on wind getting through the fabric. As a sailor, you know there is no hope of keeping your hands dry, but keeping the wind off them can greatly reduce how much to feel the cold. A pair of long fingered gloves can be a god send on blustery days.

    Personally, my sailing boots are my most important piece of kit. I spend my life permanently cold, and the best investment I ever made was my Dubarry Ultimas. Most of the sailors I know swear by Dubarry’s sailing boots for both warmth and waterproofness. I wore mine as a Junior Section instructor and regularly had to walk into the water when launching boats and they never leaked. Mine are now 6 years old and still going strong. Really any pair of properly waterproof boots will see you through the winter, but for longevity, warmth and comfort I have yet to find anything that beats the Dubarry range.

    We stock all of the above gear and our shop staff would be more than happy to help you over the phone (021) 4554334 or in store.

    The final piece of advice we can offer you is keep the blood sugar up. If your blood sugar starts to drop your body looses the fuel it needs to heat itself. So there really is no substitute for something sweet onboard!

  • Once upon a time in Galicia..

    Last September I had a great experience sea-kayaking in the northwestern part of Spain called Galicia. Some people would know it for hillwalking. Particularly as the ‘Camino do Santiago’ passes through it and finishes in either Santiago proper or on the coast at Finistere. For anyone who wishes to escape the usual high-rise apartment holiday this is the place to go.

    I booked a small house on the coast across the bay from the city of Vigo. This area is called Nerga and is close to a town called Cangas. I had made contact with a guy called Jaime at NordES Kayaks over the internet and booked a kayak with him for the trip. At this point I should say that while my French is good my Spanish is a work in progress! I would advise learning some Spanish for this part of the country, as English is not spoken here.

    The Ria de Vigo is sheltered from the big Atlantic storms by the Islas Cies. These are 3 islands with the most spectacular scenery ! To paddle out here is about a mile and a half at the shortest point but the sound between the islands and headland can have a fair bit of swell ! There are plenty of beaches and hidden coves to visit if one heads west. If rock-hopping is your thing then turn to port from the beach at Nerga and there are lots of opportunities along the coast to Cangas.

    I was paddling alone but met a few people each day on the ocean. I would bring a vhf if possible as I believe the laws of paddling offshore are not as generous as Ireland. Jaime warned me that the Spanish Coastguard are not that keen on paddlers from outside of Spain without all their paperwork. I did not meet any of these guys on my travels but maybe I was lucky. I could go on but will let the pictures tell the story. Brevity shall be my m.o. for this first instalment.

    How to get there : Flights Dublin to Santiago do Compostella (2.5hrs)and train to Vigo (1hr). Ferry to Cangas (0.5hr)

    Or this year Ryanair have started flights from Dublin to Vigo.

    Rental of a P&H Capella sea-kayak was €100 for 10 days. This included a nice Gola carbon split paddle.

    I brought my own spraydeck and buoyancy aid.

    Water temperature was warm in September so I just brought shorts or neoprene ¾ leggings. I’ve been further up the coast in June and it has been positively Baltic. So the trick is to let the water warm up over the summer and head over in September.

    So to sum up if I had the opportunity to go here again this year I would be there in a heartbeat !

    Next year hopefully,


    Useful contacts:

  • Meet The Team

    Hi guys!

    We here at Union Chandlery wanted to help you, our customers, with all those small boat jobs, on the water issues and keep you up to date on new developments both on and off the water. So we’ve started a blog!

    Each week a different member of our team will share some of their knowledge with you.

    We are lucky to have a very diverse team here in Union Chandlery, covering a number of water sports.

    Garrett, whom many of you will recognise, is our resident kayaker and shop manager. He is here to help you with any query you may have, especially all you paddlers.

    Toni, another familiar face in the shop, is our electronics whizz. If you’re having problems with your electronics or are looking for some advice on changing or upgrading, Toni is your girl.

    And finally, a new face in the line up, Evie has recently joined us from Western Marine in Dublin and loves all things sailing. She can help you with everything from Oppies to Mirrors, Lasers to yachts. You’ll see her out and about at events so don’t hesitate to say hello and ask her for any bits and pieces you need.

    Each of our team will be sharing what caught their eye, issues customers in the shop have encountered and topical issues in their area of interest each month to help keep you all up to date and as informed as possible!

    If there is something in particular you need help with or would like advice on, do not hesitate to call into us in store, 4-5 Penrose Quay, Cory City, or call us on (021)4554334.

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