Born Again Boater: Repair jobs lead to financial freefall

With the deal finally done on Nick Burnham's dream boat, it's time for our Born Again Boater to face the (other) expensive bit

The temptation to sail the new Skibsplast home to Torquay is enormous, but also unwise. It hasn’t been serviced for over a year, lots of bits simply don’t work, and it hasn’t been used for who knows how long.

Heading out past Portland Bill and across Lyme Bay would be asking for trouble. Fortunately the broker, Claire, knows a man called Bob with a 4×4 and a big trailer, and three days later the boat is at Darthaven on the River Dart, picked up like a toy by their enormous travel lift, and chocked up ashore. Let the spending begin!

I’ve chosen Darthaven for a number of reasons. With no proper boatyard in Torquay it is one of the most convenient yards to home but not the only one.

Where Darthaven really scores is in the breadth of its services; a Volvo Penta dealer, shipwrights, a well-stocked chandler, and 240v electricity and water nearby. I’ve a feeling I’m going to need them all.

Volvo first, and a consultation elicits a list ranging from a new rev counter to replacing the cam belt and tensioners (we’ve no idea when it was last replaced) as well as a full service.

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Born Again Boat Part 4 - polishingI’d planned to try and cut back and polish the hull and superstructure myself, but it’s a big job and has to be done right.

In addition the vinyl stripes are looking tatty (they are 18 years old after all) and really need removing, a fairly specialist job, so in the end I employ Darthaven’s GRP specialists to take care of it in the belief that it will be a worthwhile investment.

All that leaves is cleaning and mending, and there is plenty of that to be done. All the exterior upholstery is brought home and scrubbed with a heady combination of cleaning potions and comes up reasonably well.

Some of the foam inserts are wet so once finished they are left in the conservatory which, with the windows and doors shut, reaches a temperature only a few degrees less than the surface of the sun.

The tonneau cover goes off to Bay Covers to repair the rotten stitching and broken edging. And my partner Andrea and I set to the boat itself.

Even in the cabin I’m going in with spray interior cleaner, a sponge and a bucket of clean water and gradually turning the latter black.

The cooker is surrounded by a ring of rust, paint is chipped off the seat frames and steering wheel boss, and the whole boat just feels unloved.

It’s getting love now though and gradually, with liberal use of sandpaper, Hammerite paint, a steam cleaner and a plethora of cleaning products it starts to come good.

All that’s left is to sort out the worn and broken bits, and here my good friends James and Steve (the former an ex-Princess aftersales bod, the latter the same for Sealine) get stuck in.

Born Again Boat Part 4

Steve admires the Skibsplast’s newly anti-fouled outdrive

Fire extinguishers (two original, the third with a service expiry date of 2009) are replaced. Two broken nav lights are swapped and an anchor light added.

The pathetic folding dinghy anchor is swapped for a proper anchor, complete with new chain and 30 metres of anchor warp. The sea toilet has a broken pump housing so the whole thing is replaced with a new one.

Two manual bilge pumps are broken so we replace those with brand new Whale Gusher pumps, and the auto-electric pump floating lose in the bilge is re-attached.

A seized fresh water pump is replaced, a perished fore hatch seal replaced, and on and on, fixing, mending, swapping out and putting right.

Born Again Boat Part 4 - fire extinguishers and life jacketsMeanwhile, a pile of large cardboard boxes is growing in my dining room. I use a Crewsaver Ergofit 190 lifejacket, which fits well and is comfortable so I order six of those.

Views on emergency flares might be divided, but personally I believe nothing says ‘HELP, I’M IN REAL TROUBLE’ like a smoke flare, so a Pains Wessex coastal flare pack is sourced.

Finally Standard Horizon’s latest small colour chart plotter arrives. Something of a luxury, but plotters cost so little these days it makes no sense not to have one.

I add a Standard Horizon DSC radio for good measure. Linked to the GPS it allows instant push-button emergency transmission of boat details and location. Not that I’m getting nervous…

Darthaven’s shipwrights have got stuck in to the gelcoat, cutting back and polishing and the results are… Wow! An utter transformation, the surface has gone from sandpaper to glass, and losing the rather ‘Eighties’ stripes has sharpened up the appearance.

It looks a different boat, as does the inside after our combined efforts. The final job is to re-signwrite the boat with new ‘Skibsplast’ logos and a new name.

Finally, four weeks after arrival, we’re ready to splash!


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