Former toolmaker and lifelong boat enthusiast Andy Dore knows how to spruce things up but even he had his work cut out buying and refitting a 1998 Fairline Targa 29 for under £75,000. He tells Phil Sampson his story...
Ever since I was young I’ve loved the water. Mum and dad called me their water baby because I could dive before I could swim. My boating history goes all the way back too; I’ve had boats ever since I could stand up.
I started with an inflatable boat and I used to go round the chandleries as a nipper where I’d see a little 8ft dinghy and a Seagull outboard and that was all I ever wanted – anything that floated, you know; I just wanted to get on it and paddle along! Then I joined the sea scouts and they showed me how to do it properly – canoeing, sailing, rowing, the lot.
When I grew up, I had a Hardy Navigator on the Thames. That was great fun. It had a toilet and although it was only 18ft, you could sleep on board. I got into larger boats when a friend of mine, Glenn, bought a 28ft Dufour 2800 sailing yacht.
He invited me in when it needed fixing – I had trained as a toolmaker and master pattern maker, which are really handy skills when it comes to renovating boats. We made the Dufour look beautiful. Then we went sailing with another friend, Tony, who had a 33ft Moody Eclipse 33, and I said, “we need one of these!”
Two years later, Glenn and I had one. We made that look beautiful as well!
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Everything changed when grandchildren came along. While Glenn and I still had the Moody, a sailboat wasn’t the thing for the family – we needed a motor boat that could accommodate us comfortably for a weekend.
I know from experience that big old boats mean big old bills, so the search began for a mid-size cabin boat, which would be jointly purchased with family member, James Brown.
Only a Targa will do
My neighbour in the boatyard has a Fairline Targa 34 and after a show round we decided that its timeless design, layout and functionality would make it the ideal boat for us. Unfortunately, he wasn’t selling, and despite searching we weren’t able to find one within budget.
So we started looking at alternatives. At one point we put in a bid for a Gobbi 31, but pulled back when we realised that wasn’t really what we wanted – it just wasn’t a Targa!
In the end, a Fairline Targa 29 turned out to be the best of the bunch we could afford. I found a 1998 example on the Isle of Wight, and while it was all there mechanically you could see it hadn’t been loved for some time.
On closer inspection it became clear a lot of work was needed, pretty much everything you looked at was either broken or damaged in some way. The boat was advertised at £65,000, but after some negotiation our £54,000 offer was accepted.
Now we had our boat – Blue Tonic. The purchase went through in early April and our aim was to get all the required work completed by mid-May so as to be ready for the season.
We keep the boat at Deacons in Bursledon, where she was lifted ashore as soon possible. Six weeks isn’t a long time for a refit, so we put together a detailed plan of action complete with timescales.
The arrangement between James and I was that I would do the work and in return for my time he would pay me an agreed labour rate. All other costs would be shared equally between us.
Once again, my training came to the fore – had I not been able to do the work, we simply would not have been able to afford the boat. The bonus for me is that I genuinely enjoy doing this kind of thing.
Sure, there’s a bit of anxiety at first, but the reward comes when you take the boat out; then there’s a real sense of satisfaction.
Talking of anxiety, fitting the bow-thruster was particularly nerve-racking, as not only does it mean drilling through both sides of the hull, but you have to drill it in exactly the right place.
You want the thruster as far forward as possible and you want it reasonably deep in the water, but hopefully out of the water when the boat’s on the plane.
To start with, you’re faced with optimising the position of it in the hull without really knowing what’s under the floor inside.
You end up saying to yourself, right that’s where I want it, then you have to go inside and try to work out if that’s possible without anything getting in the way.
Once I’d made my decision I cut a hole in the floor. That gave me a big area for access and making adjustments, and I knew that when the floor was screwed back down we’d end up with a nice rigid job.
Back outside, I marked the diameter of the tube on the hull and started drilling. I ended up chain-drilling the holes because I couldn’t find my fancy saw at the time!
Once I’d done it I knocked out the centres and took an angle grinder to the holes until the thruster tube fitted. Then it was a matter of putting some wedges around it, fairing it into the hull and laminating it in from the inside. I made a curved template to ensure I got the external profile right.
Another important thing with a thruster, which I know can be overlooked, is that you have to make sure it ends up in the right place with regard to the internal height available – you don’t want to get into bed at night and find it sticking up between you and the missus!
Ours had to be canted back a number of degrees to make it fit, which in turn called for a reinforcing support to take the weight of the unit.
With the thruster in place I moved on to Coppercoating the hull. I know some people get put off jobs like this, but it’s not that difficult, it’s just all down to preparation.
We had the hull sandblasted, which removes all the muck and gives a great key, and I then faired in the chips, marks and damage with epoxy.
Then it was just a case of getting it all smooth, applying a few coats of epoxy primer and getting four of us together in the yard to apply the Coppercoat, which has to be done in a single day.
Four days later, the coating had to be scuffed up as the copper sits in a suspension of epoxy so you have to break the surface so the copper can do its work.
With that done, I steam-cleaned the engine bay and gave the engines and legs a full service. The old mechanical throttle mechanism had seen better days so we decided to upgrade with a new unit and cables.
You’re constricted here by the size you can cut the aperture out to and the clearance you’ve got inside the helm, as the mechanism extends 10 or 12in downwards.
We ended up with a super shiny chrome Ultraflex throttle assembly, which looks great, and fitted Ultraflex Mach Zero cables to give us as smooth an action as possible. This has proved to be a good upgrade and we’re really pleased with it.
With the bow thruster, Coppercoating and mechanical work all done, it was time to attend to the cosmetics, fixtures and fittings. There was quite a list of things to do here.
The boat required a full cut and polish inside and out, and as the decals and stripes on the hull had seen better days we replaced the lot. I had to re-bond half the teak on the bathing platform too. It had been stuck down with Sikaflex, Evo-Stick, Araldite; you name it, but none of it had worked and the teak was all bowing up.
The glue on the back of it was about 8mm thick, I’d never seen anything like it! I had to prise up the teak and clean it all off. It’s now re-bonded properly with thickened epoxy, so it’s not coming up again!
Inside, the window rubbers were perished and looked horrible, so had to be changed. That was a bit of a pain, but it’s not a difficult job, it just requires time and patience.
There were lots of little time-consuming jobs that needed doing. In terms of the other major work, we replaced the acrylic chart cover and drinks holders, the fridge, the carpets and the cockpit upholstery.
The upholstery was something I couldn’t do myself, so we enlisted the help of SEW Trim of Southampton, who did a lovely job. We did the carpets though, and here we used the old carpets as a template and got a new set cut by a neighbour who’s got a carpet business.
We then sent them off to have the edges bound before fitting them into the boat using double-sided carpet tape, which is how the originals were retained. The entire job came in at just £220, which is cheap enough not to have to worry about inevitable spillages!
We upgraded the navigation system to a Simrad chart plotter with AIS, and the last major item on the list was a new stereo system. We decided to invest in Fusion.
Although it wasn’t in the budget, we thought we’d treat ourselves as we wanted to create something which would be as user-friendly as possible. Fusion’s system can be controlled by an app on our phones and that’s great for when we have the kids on board as it means they can listen to their own music.
With all the work done, the boat was relaunched and we were ready to go. Or at least we thought we were until a jackshaft bearing disintegrated and the resulting water ingress caused one of the starter motors to fail.
We also had a problem with a Separ fuel pre-filter letting air in. But with those issues now resolved there’s been no looking back and throughout the summer Blue Tonic has been getting out and exploring the Solent.
In the final analysis, we’ve ended up with a fantastic boat in excellent condition at an affordable price. Blue Tonic now looks great, handles well and is proving to be a great weekender without costing the earth.
For anyone considering having a go at restoring a boat themselves, I’d say just make sure you go in with your eyes open. I’ve never bought a boat, no matter how good, that didn’t need money spending on it.
Make sure you get a good surveyor and do your research – all boats are a compromise in some respect, so do your homework and ask yourself what you want from the boat before you buy.
I’ve been asked a number of times about how the shared ownership thing works, and I’m happy to say that for us it hasn’t been a problem. Sometimes we all go out together but if James wants the boat to take his partner Megan and their two kids Jack and Ella away for the weekend, that’s fine.
And if I then want to take my partner Jackie out for a day or two, that’s good too. Maybe we’re just very fortunate, but we’ve not had any conflicts at all – Blue Tonic is turning out to be the great little holiday home by the sea we’d all been hoping for!
Time and money
The all-up cost of buying and renovating the boat came to approximately £75,000. Here’s a breakdown of the costs and the time Andy spent on the job.
Boat price: £54,000
Lift and yard space rental: £550
Bow thruster: £1,350
Copper coat: £1,000
Throttle controls: £465
Bellows, anodes and prop tool: £265
Belts, impellers and filters: £175
Batteries and charger: £320
VHF radio: £245
Fusion radio: £275
Starter motor: £170
Screen rubbers: £100
Lift and relaunch: £500
Other items and sundries: £7,000
Parts subtotal: £14,475
Labour (36 days): £6,500
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