came to me by serendipity. We live on board a Dutch barge and have four marinas on our strip of the Medway, Being surrounded by boats inevitably one gets tempted and for the past year I’d been playing with the notion that I wanted a little boat of my own. But nothing suitable ever turned up, boats in my price range were really only fit for fire wood, and this wasn’t really what I wanted. To make matters worse I knew that I wanted a wooden boat. A few years back we’d had a little clinker built dinghy, and from those few weeks struggling with this rather badly rigged little boat I’d got the notion that sailing was an elemental thing, that reached deep inside to some ancient race memory. I had to have a wooden sailing boat!
Given that I couldn’t afford more than a few thousand pounds, I’d begun to think the best way forward was to build a small sailing boat, spreading the cost over three years or so, building as cash became available. No problem as the boat we live on is 160ft long and 17ft in the beam. Consequently we have two huge workshops, one a machine shop the other for general woodworking and fabrication. I looked at study plans…and knew that this would be a long, involved and clearly expensive undertaking. I lay and dreamt.
Then just before Christmas 2004 Chrissi my partner mentioned that the owner of our marina had acquired a small sailing boat by default that he needed to ‘get rid of’. Maybe I should go and have a look? I did, I was unimpressed, but had the notion that maybe I should buy her ‘tart her up’ and sell her on as a way of raising cash. The poor thing looked a little forlorn, but appeared to be in sound condition. Better still she was wooden which meant I could work on her. So I got the go ahead to break into her to have a better look.
Trusty crow bar in hand this was duly done although later I found the keys tucked away in the cockpit! To my surprise, she turned out to be rather nicely built; diagonal planking and properly roved and clenched nailed. Hmmm. She was clearly a ‘proper boat’ and my interest deepened. About the same time Chrissi pointed out a ‘small ad’ in the back of PBO for a "24ft Eventide designed by Maurice Griffiths" and she noted that It looked just like ‘my’ boat. She was right, ‘my’ boat was indeed an Eventide and although I knew nothing of Maurice Griffiths at this time it was, nevertheless a name I had come across in numerous articles in magazines. So the little yacht really was a proper boat, money was handed over and she became mine! As she became mine she shed her old name, ‘Eventyr’ and became ‘Lyekka’. A few months down the line I was told by a Norwegian that Eventyr was Norwegian for fairytale, a nice name and a nice twist on Eventide.. but this knowledge came too late for I had set my heart on ‘Lyekka’.
My plan at this point was to have Lyekka craned out, pressure wash her off, anti-foul then put her back in. Work on the topsides and coach roof, which was minimal anyway, could be done with her back in the water.
I arranged to do this and in early March she was towed, most indignantly by a friend with a small RIB and outboard to the Marina next door, as her engine was a non-running Stuart Turner (no rude comments please!).
However, on craning out ominous blackish water was seen to emerge from around the keel and it became clear that her sheathing had failed in at least half a dozen places. Remedial action would be necessary. No problem, I’d worked in a small boatyard on wooden boats a few years before so I wasn’t frightened of what I might find. Mark, the manager of the marina where Lyekka now resided was most helpful and encouraging, told me that my boat had been re-rigged about 9 years ago but her previous owner had done nothing with her. She had sat around for 9 years and had never left port in all that time!
Fortunately the marina is a friendly place, home to several related businesses including a shipwrights, who, being wooden boat owners themselves, can always be called upon for that useful second opinion and sound freely given advice. When I mentioned I’d bought an Eventide I was surprised to find that Colin (the yard owner) was most enthusiastic about my boat " It’s good to see someone looking after an Eventide… they’re good little boats, sail quite well… I spent a few happy summers sailing in one as a lad off Brittany…no you’ve done all right there.", this was most encouraging!
I have since grown used to people, mostly older gents, coming up to me or stand gazing at Lyekka and proffering variations on " she’s a Maurice Griffiths boat isn’t she? But back in the early weeks of ownership I was not ready for this often emotional reminiscing. I now began to feel a most unexpected sense of pride, and dare I say it, fondness for my little ship that previously I thought looked so small and insignificant alongside various larger and outwardly flashier modern plastic yachts. And so, quite unconsciously, I made the decision to actually enjoy doing the work rather than see it as a chore! With hindsight, this seems an essential approach if the job is to be ‘done right’.
At first I’d planned to simply patch the sheathing and do proper job over the next winter, putting her in our hold and replacing the polyester sheathing with epoxy. However, the sheathing seemed to want to come off of its’ own accord and given all the above (the friendliness of the marina, the kind comments and indeed my continually growing sense that Lyekka deserved being well looked after) I decided to adopt a different approach.
With the demise of the sheathing it became clear that Lyekka was built of mahogany, diagonal planked with a callico and tar layer sandwiched between the layers. Amazingly there was no rot at all save for 5" of the topmost plank where it abuts the transom. Although it took a while for it to dawn on me the longitudinal external planks have no joints and run continuously for the length of the boat. Save the fact that on her starboard side the topside planks aren't’ overly well faired (giving her a ‘hungry dog' look) Lyekka gives the indication of being very well built.
Although initially I’d wanted to re-sheath and epoxy Lyekka, there was a growing body of advice against this. Furthermore, I could agree with this advice. I sought John Williams’ advice because I’d read on the Eventiders site that he had spent ages painting Blue Nose after stripping off the sheathing. This seemed to confirm an approach that Colin and Stuart (my ‘friendly neighbourhood shipwrights) had been hinting at.
John (Fiddlers Green) advised me to paint the hull with conventional paints, as the tar in between the planking can leech out and this causes a problem with two component paints. His advice was to check carefully the stability of the tar layer. I really wanted to use an epoxy paint but I was working purely on a hunch. Stuart had steered me in the direction of Skippers Line Epifond AM9, rating it highly.
So the seams were inspected for oozing tar! Luckily the seams were sound although given a warm spell they were beginning to open up a little. It seemed a wise precaution to get something on the bare hull sooner than later to prevent Lyekka drying out too much, so cautiously the Epifond AM9 was applied.
I have to say that I’m very impressed with this paint, it has a very solid feel and dries to a reassuringly finger nail proof finish. Even in the odd two or three spots were the tar did ooze a little, successive overcoats seem after a month, have held it back. We shall see.
The plan is to give Lyekka at least 4 coats of AM9. This process I have combined with the fairing using West System lightweight fairing filler to make good. I’ve chosen to build up a good layer and be patient making careful use of a squeegee rather than too much sanding. After 3 coats Lyekka’s port side looks good. Although as I mentioned earlier, her starboard side is going to take a bit more work to produce what I would call an acceptable finish. Depending upon one or two factors I may use a conventional paint on the topsides but assuming all looks well (i.e. no tar bleed through!) after another month I will probably use a two component finish, purely to make future maintenance more straightforward.
Given the weather of late has been dismal, and the offer of a ship-wrighting job (3 days a week – mustn’t grumble!) within the marina, it’s all taken a while longer, but been a lot more enjoyable than I expected.
The Stuart Turner it turns out is a twin cylinder ex generating set plant and has no gearbox. This engine has never been installed, simply dumped in the appropriate space. No gearbox = no good, at least to my thinking. True Lyekka was fitted with a variable pitch prop so this arrangement may have made sense, but the prop changed pitch but didn’t feather. This meant that when sailing the prop would have, quite literally, been a drag.
Looking at the bundle of documentation that came with her, Lyekka must originally have either had, or been intended to have a Stuart 4HP single. Fortunately (again no rude comments please) I have twisted a friends arm with £100 and one has arrived. This has been stripped and pronounced sound by Chrissi the engineer, who marvelled at the superb engineering quality and simplicity of the little beast: Two basic moving parts – crank and piston - an engine so simple even I can get to grips with it. Chrissi also had a Stuart prop and drive shaft from a boat she had some 20 years ago and this now has a new home! More of the Stuart Turner in the next episode. I figured if people wax lyrical on the joys of Seagulls then…
May 19th 2005
I will stick with the Stuart 4 for the time being. If properly installed, restored and maintained the Stuart should not be too much of a health hazard - I'm going to have proper drip trays fitted so the safety aspect shouldn't be a worry but I will take up your suggestion of the sniffer though as I would like to fit a Bengco Charcoal heater and I'm aware that solid fuel and petrol is not always a good idea! Still in the 'Swatchways' Maurice was always brewing up coffee on a primus - a lethal device if ever there was one!
All this said we will probably have to re-engineer the twin. but it will take longer than we have this summer. Being surrounded by diesels - we have a 450 HP Stork on board our barge and a 60HP Duetz that turns the generator, a Daf 60 HP bow thruster up front not to mention the Lister twin for the compressors for the main engine start - I'm sick to death of them!!
It's true diesels are so reliable, we often get called to start some old devil that's sat around for years - and guess what? They always start just like that! But then Chrissi does seem to be blessed with a magic touch.
Yes I know I'm being daft but I'm going to try! - I long for something with charm (don't laugh) that doesn't make a racket! Chrissi assures me that the Stuart is a quiet little beast, and according to a scrap of paper in with the 'bits' found on board the single should be enough to push the boat along at 6 knots - enough to get in and out of the berth, but not enough to get me out of trouble I suspect!!
Now on the drawing board is an idea for a regenerative electric drive/Stuart hybrid... now that would be nice.. Chrissi's a bit of a wizz kid on stuff like this so expect some developments.
June 05. Just a brief update. The page looks good and more to come soon! Someone in the marina lent me Post War Yachting - which I enjoyed so much that I went and tracked down a copy for myself using Abebooks. I also lashed out on a very nice edition of Little Ships and Shoal Waters - so yes I've got the bug!
The Sturt has gone back together and I've made a new engine bed, the good side of this is that it means I can tuck it away further and have a smaller box in the companion way - which will make getting in and out a lot easier. All the sheathing has now gone save for a small patch between bilge keel and main keel starboard side - see below!
Work progresses well, although I've managed to damage my right hand index finger - A&E stuck it back together with superglue and 7 butterfly stitches - dropped 10 sheets of MDF on it! Think I'll definitely make sure I have a better than average First Aid Kit on board and do a First Aid course, hate to think what could happen a few miles off shore!
However: this has of course slowed me up somewhat, but a good chance to do some gentle painting and varnishing, Perhaps some writing of part 2.
I've been working from the old waterline which I recorded before I stripped the old sheathing off. I've tended to up this by a couple of inches and will have a boot topping above this just in case - what do you think?
Ah yes the paintwork - it's still nowhere near as good as it should be - in places the sheathing came off easily in other...not so. I didn't want to sand wood down, so it's been a case of building up.
The epoxy primer and two pack polyurethane top coat I've gone with seem at this stage to be brilliant products - no problems with the tar leaching, it does hold it back so long as the layers are thick enough. Plan is to launch her and slowly get the hull better over a couple of years - more sanding and filling: The dilemma here is to maintain a sense of her 'planked woodenness' and not to end up with a fibreglass like mirror finish!
October 2005 update.
Lyekka Part 2
Following the tragedy of the damaged finger, progress slowed a little. There remained about 2 metres of fibreglass sheathing on the starboard side, and this was a real pig to remove. This side of Lyekka had always been to my mind the ‘problem side’. The starboard side was nowhere near as well faired as the port side, and, whereas on the port side of Lyekka the sheathing tore off in strips, on the starboard side the sheathing was well and truly glued to the wood. These last two metres were ‘the last two metres’ for good reason!
I found that the old sheathing did respond well to a hot air gun, but its use bothered me. I didn’t want to dry out the wood and neither did I wish to disturb the tar layer between the diagonal planking, which melted quite easily. Purely physical removal methods, old screwdrivers and sharp chisels would frequently tear the grain of the mahogany, and although the glass cloth often came away without too much provocation the resin layer was always well and truly stuck.
Although I would resort to the hot air gun for really difficult and hard to reach areas I found that patient sanding was by far the best solution,. Although this was costly in time and money in that I managed to wear out the spindle on a very nice orbital sander doing the job. In fact we had to make up new parts for the sander, but this was not a problem for us because we have a machine shop, and with hindsight it seemed that I must have had a ‘Friday afternoon special’ or maybe it was just my over aggressive technique. Either way, I could not have done the job without my Sealy sander and varying grades of 3M Stikits: a tool I would happily recommend.
Oh yes!; the sanding would also do my neck in, meaning that successive days would be spent watching TV in bed dosed up on ‘Nurofen’ rather than getting on with the job! Just manoeuvring under the boat was a real problem, especially between the keel and the bilge keel. Mark, the marina manager, took pity on me and suggested putting Lyekka on a taller palette, but I declined his offer. A higher pallette would have made some operations easier, yet others like sanding would have been even harder, since by and large, as she was, lying flat on my back Lyekka’s bottom was at a perfect ‘arms reach when it came to sanding. With my neck properly supported on a few old cushions the operation was not too unbearable, and invariably brought on comments from spectators like ‘S’no good sleeping on the job y’know!".
The truth of the matter was simple; time spent getting comfortable meant a better job done and less aches the next day. The wretched ‘bad finger’ kept on getting knocked, usually crawling in and out of the space betwixt keel and bilge keel…and I’d invariably had just got the dust mask on, the earplugs in, crawled under, just as I realised the chisel, or the hot air gun was out of reach! but, eventually, the hull was good enough to have some epoxy primer painted on. Then it was a case of fill with West fairing filler, sand off, put on more paint, sand off put on more West System….ad infinitum.
I was glad when this episode was over!
Lyekka was painted with Aemme Skippers Line AM9 Epifond 2 part epoxy primer, with the fairing process I reckon to have put on at least four coats bellow the waterline and probably six or seven coats on the topsides, the starboard side having more time spent on it.
Below the waterline, on top of the AM9 I put three coats of Aemme Solva Primer – a rubberised one component product. On top of this went two coats of Aemme red Antifoul. The topsides got three coats of white Aemme Space Top, a two part polyurethane enamel.
This was some time ago now and although the tar layer did occasionally leach through the epoxy primer in places, this tendency was always cured by over painting the problem area. Four to five months down the line from the application of the first primer coats and all looks very well. I have to admit that I do like good materials, a trait I inherited from doing BA and MA degrees in Painting at Chelsea Art School. I have always found that good paints do not come cheaply, but, invariably good paints are a joy to use. Before Lyekka I’d had no experience of two component paints and the decision to use them was not without a lot of pondering the pro’s and cons. I was certainly dreading the application of the Space Top enamel. This was the only paint put on by brush, but this paint was a real pleasure to use, brushing on so easily (thinned 10% – 15% as recommended) and drying to an even and very hard finish. I was also keen to have a ‘serviceable system’ that was easy to maintain. Given the grief and amount of effort in preparing the hull I wanted to ensure that any future remedial action would be limited. I don’t mind having to face the occasional topsides touch up/ongoing routine maintenance and an annual scrub and antifoul but I hope I’ve done my time lying on my back with my sander!
Once the hull was repainted I began to think about other matters. Lyekka had come to me as, I suspect, an unfinished project. The engine had been placed on the engine bed but never connected up to the prop shaft. There was no galley to speak of and no instrumentation. The rig too was in an incomplete state, and given my complete lack of knowledge in such matters, was the biggest challenge. Although I was keen to get Lyekka back in the water there was still much to be done. And, inevitably as I would have to get Lyekka from the craning wharf and into the marina basin the engine was always a priority, especially as I had acquired a sense of dignity - no more tows! I will begin with the tale of the Stuart Turner…
As I had inherited a Stuart Turner twin which turned out to be an ex-generating set engine, there was no way of connecting this beasty satisfactorily to the prop. The engine had no gearbox, and the prop was a variable pitch device. All very nicely made but not really what I wanted. The old variable pitch prop and shaft made way for a Stuart prop and shaft that Chrissi had been hoarding for some 18 years, and was an ideal match. A gearbox was needed for the Stuart and was procured by purchasing a single cylinder Stuart P5 locally from a friend who had a couple lurking beneath an old boat in the yard. The theory being we could just pull the gearbox off the single and fit it to the twin.
This was not so simple as the crankcase ends on the generating set which made do without a gearbox were different. That was not all that was different, but more of that later. Given this problem I decided to fit the single, true it was only 4 HP but then I wanted to sail not motor, the engine was more to charge the batteries surely? The single appeared to be in very good condition, we stripped it down, and then reassembled it in the workshop. Would it run? Not at all, even cranking round on the ‘Dynastart’ the thing showed no willingness, indeed any intention to run. The timing was checked with a strobe.. spot on, still nothing. At this point we began to call the wretched thing filthy names…but it wouldn’t even be insulted into action! We borrowed the other single from beneath the old boat, that ran perfectly jury rigged on the jetty, even having the bad grace to fire on the starting handle. Unfortunately it was not for sale.
My single, given its belligerent nature was deemed a viable donor. We would exact revenge upon it and use it, as we originally planned, to rebuild the twin. The crankcase ends from the single were fitted to the central crankcase block from the twin. The gearbox crankshaft end from the single was grafted to the crank from the twin, because the twin being from a generating set had no gearbox.. Then we had to re-machine the studs holding the head/cylinder block as the spacing on the single was very slightly different. All this was done, and the engine went back together beautifully. Would the unholy hybrid run? Well yes it did, after a fashion. It would sputter a few times running more on the dynastart than of it’s own volition, then die. A bit more fettling and it would it would run in a hap hazard kind of way, but never for more than 30 seconds. The carburation was suspected, but later dismissed.
Chrissi then had the insight that the engine was running the wrong way. Logically this seemed to be the answer. The generating set in order to accommodate the generator sited the magneto in a different place, and, in this place it turned in an opposite direction to normal. Stuart Turner rather than change the magneto seemed to have made the engine run anti clockwise (by re-machining the breather port in the crankshaft), since rotational direction didn’t matter when turning a generator. We enquired of this at Fairways who now handle the Stuart Turner spares, but were told that Stuart’s had never made an engine that turned anti-clockwise. Chrissi wasn’t convinced since, given the position of the magneto in the generating set version of the engine and the fact that the inertia start on the magneto was non reversable, it was hard to see how the engine would run with the magneto set up the way it was.. In order to test this theory she set up a points and coil based ignition system and turned the engine anti clockwise. The damn thing ran, almost perfectly, even starting on the handle after a couple of cranks. But there was a problem…the gearbox was now turning backwards. We had proved a point but what we really needed was a new crankshaft!
And right on cue one turned up! We were pointed in the direction of an old twin, in pieces on a Dutch barge down in Allington near Maidstone. As we saved the previous owners the grief and indignity of removing this ‘pile of junk’ by tipping it into the river, it cost us nothing. It was stripped down…and surprise surprise..the crankshaft was deemed ok, and yes the port was machined in the opposite direction to the one we had. The evil beast of an engine was stripped down again and the crank replaced. Chrissi was a little unhappy, feeling it was a little tight and didn’t turn as well as the old one but it sparked into life and ran OK and we had to get the thing in the boat so we let it go…Hmmm.
Once installed in Lyekka the engine was run up and apart from a few niggles re-setting the carburettor (impossible to reach the adjusting screws!) it seemed ‘a runner. ‘Lyekka was duly craned in the engine fired up, warps cast off and….thirty feet from the wharf the engine died! Not a good start. The engine would occasionally lend a hand on the short journey from the crane wharf to the marina basin, but by and large this journey was largely under electric drive courtesy of the Dynastart and a pair of stonking gel batteries, which saved the day.
Back on Lyekka’s new birth the engine was poked and prodded but would not run right at all. Chrissi stripped it down and the problem initially seemed to be the Dynastart which had been wired in a hurry to get us home and was now acting as an electric brake, the Dynastart was removed, engine ran, but not very happily. Chrissi suspected the engine was tight, and with the pistons removed this seemed to be the case. The engine was indeed tight for 120 degrees. It may be a bent crankshaft, or, more probably a bent con rod. Time will tell.
In all this I suppose the obvious question is why do I persist with the Stuart?. The answer is simple: I like it. Despite it’s roguish character, when it has run it has been a very quiet engine, and it feels somehow right for Lyekka. Even so I did falter, the given fuel consumption figures seemed to be the nail in the Stuarts’ coffin, so I decided to think about another engine. Last Sunday (early Oct) I went for a cup of coffee on board a friend’s boat moored a few berths down from Lyekka. Hugh was aghast that I was considering ditching the Stuart Turner (he has one too, one that gives him no trouble at all). I weakly raised the issue of the high fuel consumption.."She’s a sailing boat for God’s sake!" I crumbled, nodding feebly and the Stuart Turner’s future was secured!
It’s back on the jetty, in pieces, soon to be in the workshop, this time…this time!
Given all the grief with the Stuart it’s easy to overlook the good things. Lyekka is back in the water. Lyekka has no leaks. A lot of people have said very nice things about her, and about my work! So all in all it’s been a good summer.
In the interim I have turned my attention to sorting out the sails and the rig. A new Jib and staysail are being made up by Wilkinsons Sails who are based at Conyer Creek. On their advice I’m replacing the forestay and backstay – this means my first flight aloft in a bosun’s chair. I’ll try and get a picture taken! I’ve also managed to find an old Kelvin Hughes radio on eBay. Then I have to sort out a cabin heater and a decent cooker/oven. I think that I’m going to spend my hard earned cash on a Taylors sytem which is hellishly expensive but looks the part!
Rachael Tyrell October 2005