|Peter expressed concern as to whether or not the bilge keels would be substantial enough to cope with grounding every tide when she is sitting on her mooring in Lincolnshire. I have never heard of any MG design having a problem in that quarter, has anyone else?|
|At the end of this page is an article by Peter about how he found her and rebuilt her, a real labour of love, well done Peter|
|Here 'Little Gull' is seen arriving by Lorry and being unloaded. Peter will be sending in regular updates we hope.|
|Hope there will be explanations of all the pictures, to follow.|
|Gleaming varnish work!|
|September 2010, and Little Gull takes to the water again. Here she is in the shed ready for the crane...|
|Gently does it!|
|Peter tells us there were 6 pumps running and he was up to his knees with a bucket as well. Hope the motor was not in her! Thankfully all has taken up and after a short while just one pump every now and again! Now to get the sails up!|
|On her mooring at Wells Next the Sea, a good job well done!|
|Good Sailing 'Little Gull'.|
|Here she is after all the hard work. Peter's work was nominated as the restoration of the year to classic boat. He did not win the prize, but just to be nominated was a real accolade. well done Peter.|
Little Gull brought back to life
The dear old Surprise (my Dauntless featured in CB…) was fine for estuary cruising but not really up to offshore stuff…the planks are only 3/8’’ which isn’t much if you hit the famous ‘North Sea Chop’…
Down at Wells- Next- the- Sea in Norfolk I had coveted a beautiful wooden boat undercover in a yard, albeit in need of some work. I later discovered that this was Moonfleet; a 28’ Lone Gull II class designed by Maurice Griffiths, arguably his finest design and featured on the front cover of Classic boat way back in spring 1987.
She wasn’t for sale but the seed had been sown. We over winter at Fosdyke Yacht Haven, where Dave Parkinson and Greg have a wealth of knowledge concerning wooden boats. Dave suggested I speak to Alan Stacy; owner of Stella Marie moored at the delightfully named Surfeit Seas End. Alan told me Stella Marie, an MG ‘Storm’ weighs 5 tons and was very well built by Alan Platt at Thundersley, Essex. After a thorough refit he had taken her on a passage from the Baltic Sea through the Lubeck / Elbe canal and on to Norway.
Searching on the excellent MG Eventide site I came across Gooney Bird – a fine example of a Lone Gull II built in Fiji in tropical hardwoods and sailed round Australia, surviving three hurricanes and coming up through Suez to be a home for the husband and wife owners for 10 years…but she was out of my price range.
Finding Little Gull for sale on the same site, I was in the Portsmouth area on business and arranged a viewing. Derrick Daniels was delightful and gave me a wealth of information regarding the boat he had owned and cherished for 20 years, explaining that he was getting too old to keep up with the maintenance. Built by Blakes of Highbridge in 1988, she is registered on the British Register of ships in Guernsey and spent all her life cruising the Channel Islands and Brittany.
A year or so earlier there had been a serious enquiry from a syndicate, who commissioned a survey which Derrick was happy to show me. This ran to about 10 pages and listed a small mountain of tasks, mainly superficial and taken one at a time all manageable? Anyhow the proposed purchasers backed out and Derrick took the survey to Hillyards for a quote. This also ran to about 10 pages and the bottom line was £27k + VAT! And that was without seeing it.
At this rate the boat was virtually worthless, but I had fallen for her and I think Derrick appreciated she would be going to a good home and so a deal was struck. I’m not going to reveal the price but it was very, very fair, and included all the rigging a host of spares and 10 sails – including a brand new Genoa. The next task was to arrange transport to the secret boat yard (a cowshed I rent near to home in Lincoln).
Steve Gaunt operates a haulage business about 3 miles away from me, specialising in moving mobile homes around the country. His rigid trucks have a hi-ab crane with an 8 ton lift capacity, saving on cranage both ends. It was a while before he was in the area but eventually we managed to get a return load for £750.
Little Gull was stripped out and put under cover. 35 years of paint build up on the hull was more than my orbital sander could tackle so we called on the boys from Farrow system who shot blasted her back to bare wood above the water line using warm water and pumice sand, which keeps damage to the timbers to a minimum. It also exposes any damage, which in our case was a rotten plank on either side just below the gunwale. As is so often the case, it’s the fresh rain water which causes the problems, and this extended to the foredeck, cabin front and transom.
The interior was fairly sound but a couple of ribs in the forepeak would need sistering. The survey proved a very useful starting point for a schedule of works which I felt we could tackle with the help of Gary Scott, a skilled joiner working next door.
Little Gull’s construction is 1’’ pitch pine planking on 1’’oak ribs with mahogany cabin sides and interior. A visit to the local timber merchants in search of pitch pine was looking fruitless until the elderly proprietor asked what it was for. On hearing it was for a wooden boat I was shown a stack of pitch pine retrieved from a Liverpool warehouse (roof beams) from which he was planning to build a welsh dresser. A very reasonable bargain ensued and armed with this, some oak and a slack handful of copper nails we were ready to ‘ave a go’. Gary knocked up a steam chest fed by a wall paper stripper and using the old timbers as a template we bent first the ribs then the planks into place, Gary scarfing at 6 to 1 no room for a sheet of tissue paper between the joints.
The blasting had exposed the grain on the pitch pine where it was soft and much filling and sanding was going to be needed to get a fair finish. Below the waterline looked reasonably OK (although this later proved to be a little optimistic). Taking advice from my Broads boatbuilding friends we decided to use epoxy filler above the waterline and sikaflex below. So followed hour upon hour of sanding (using a dual action orbital sander with 400 grit which leaves no marks) and filling. To begin with we used proprietary filler from Traditional Boat Supplies and when John’s supplies were exhausted we used car body filler from a trade supplier in Lincoln (Portland Tools). This seemed to be just as good for a fraction of the price but maybe time will tell.
Gary tackled the cabin front which had rotted in the corners. The whole lot came off and two new deck beams were needed, made from pine, Gary carving the Thames measurement from the original. My joiner friend supplied Sapele (African mahogany) for the cabin front, and Jewson’s the marine ply for the foredeck. My great friend Richard came up for a weekend to form a wrecking party and took back various items for varnishing, using his dentists hands to achieve a superb gloss finish that I can only aspire to.
We then tackled the aft end; tearing back the canvas deck covering on the after deck and removing the Oak davits which had suffered some rot where they joined the deck due to poor drainage. The top half of the transom was rotten where it joined the planking, all due to ingress of fresh water and had to be cut out with a jig saw and a batten screwed to the transom as a guide. A slab of sapele was procured which Gary expertly shaped to a perfect fit and finished off with a capping piece. The Davits were repaired and re fitted with 3 diagonal drain holes a piece to allow water to pass through and hope fully prevents further rot.
During the winter months I tackled the interior. A good steam clean, sanding down and van and tuned it over behind. Cylinders slid upon we took the injectors nourishing/panting was all that was needed for now but it still takes time. Marine grade stainless steel shroud plates made up when I had some money (£300) were bolted through the planking using existing wooden spacers.
The engine is a 30 HP BMC ‘Captain’ 1.5 litre 4 cylinder diesel, replacing an earlier 12HP model. Alan who knows about these engines said it would be seized after not turning for 4 years. So we decided to prove him wrong. Having removed the injectors and poured diesel down the pots, we turned the crank with a big spanner and everything seemed to go up and down and in and out – whether it was in the right order I knew not. The injectors were returned from a re furb and a hose pipe stuffed up the raw water intake. She fired up eventually and after a loud clatter we were all covered in thick blue smoke – a real Fred Dibnah moment!
About this time I decided to set a launch date for August bank holiday as I felt the project would just drag on if I didn’t. By January I was ready to apply Witham Oil and paint primer/filler followed by sanding, a process I went through sever\al times before applying undercoat and top coat – again Witham traditional yacht paint in County Cream.
The lovely oval brass portholes were taken away to be breathed on by Dave – he used a very fine wire brush attachment to get a highly burnished finish which was then preserved using lacquer.
Witham yacht varnish was used throughout; as was their anti-foul and blue deck paint which I think gives a lovely ‘swimming pool’ look.
Below the waterline didn’t look too bad. After sanding off the loose antifoul most of the caulking seams looked reasonably tight, but there were some gaps in the dead wood and in the hood ends that I filled best as I could with red lead putty, cut and sanded when dry.
The spars are solid spruce and very heavy – no need to worry about kicking straps! They were in good condition and took well to 3 coats of pine Sikkens Cetol and 3 coats of yacht varnish. Stainless standing rigging was in good order with some spare shrouds. Some bottle screws had seized and needed a good soak in diesel. The running rigging took some fathoming out, using the only photograph I have from the old days thanks to the Maurice Griffith’s owner’s web site, http://www.eventides.org.uk/
Peter Jeckells and old friend looked after the upholstery very reasonably and this was the most expensive single item, but worth it.
I was determined to launch before the summer was out and to give myself a challenge invited all my mates and anyone else who had helped in the re-fit to a party at my house at the August bank holiday weekend. I live on a marina development just outside Lincoln on the Fossdyke canal, so the idea of having the boat moored outside whilst I got on with fitting out was very appealing.
Last summer was dry if not hot and I was able to work in the evenings painting, varnishing and doing the hundreds of little jobs that need doing. So often I found myself starting one job then getting distracted by another I’d see that would just take a minute , then another and another until an hour or too later I’d come across the original job, unfinished!
Anyhow the week before the party I felt as ready as I would be to launch. Chris was summoned with his tractor to pull the yard trailer and boat out of the shed and up the drive where Steve was ready with his hi-ab lorry for the short journey to Burton Waters Marina. Chris followed the truck with tractor and trailer as we would need this to launch. The yard weren’t happy about using their fancy hydraulic launch trailer on a wooden bilge keeler, but otherwise couldn’t have been more helpful. Little Gull was craned back on to the yard trailer and Chris backed her down the slipway. My intention was to leave her on the trailer for a while to see how she was taking up, but the slip was a very shallow gradient and Chris insisted he couldn’t go any further on his tractor without a life jacket. The only way we were going to get her off the trailer was to go for a ‘lifeboat’ style launch. Chris pulled forward and then reversed as fast as he could back down the slip. As he braked hard we gave a tug with the stern lines and off she came.
Then the fun really started. I’d installed a 500 GPH bilge pump and there was a good size hand pump. And a washing up bowl if needed. It was needed and quickly, the old saying about the best baler in the world being a frightened man with bucket running very true. I was in the cabin passing the bowl up to George (well into his 70’s) but could see that I was losing the battle as the floor boards started to float. I grounded the boat on the slip way fearing the worst.
Dave Dray had been a great help polishing the brass work and runs a professional business supplying lights and fountains for concerts etc. We needed more pumps urgently. Dave jumped into his Morris Minor and shot back to his shed returning 20 minutes later with 3 industrial fountain pumps. I have a wonderful picture of fountains shooting high into the air through the hatch from the depths of the cabin.
Within an hour or so the deluge had reduced and the pumps were holding their own. We couldn’t bloc k the slip any longer and gingerly set off under engine (the Morse control came off in my hand on first use) to my mooring a few hundred yards away. The pumps were coping and over the next few days we took them off one at a time; by the time of the party she had taken up so that only the bilge pump was needed, and she looked a picture dressed overall for the ‘pink party’.
Philip came over and installed some basic electrics to get us down to Boston and round to Fosdyke where I wanted to over winter. To use the boat on the inland waterways we needed a boat safety certificate (or so I thought). Ian Lumley had been over to do an I interim survey in the boat yard and I asked him to advise on the BSC. After much sucking of teethe gave us a list of pipes, jubilee clips etc. needed for the engine (including an expensive bilge pump filter). He liked the Pansy charcoal stove but was completely miffed by the Taylors paraffin cooker as he could find a category for it. After I assured him it wasn’t working we got the BSC which was re-assuring although it cost over a hundred.
Mid October saw us setting off for Boston (after another party!). This means going under Lincoln’s famous high bridge (touched bottom) and down the river Witham, which had been virtually closed all summer due to the weed. This got steadily worse until Kirkstead Bridge when it disappeared. A apparently there are 3 types – blanket weed, which comes up from the river bread in blanket ‘strips’, duck weed – the green stuff that floats on the surface, and an American invasive weed which is like green and white polystyrene balls that flat just below the surface. We had to keep reversing to clear the prop and cleaning the raw water intake filter; it was like taking the African Queen up the Ulanga River.
Eventually the famous Boston stump appeared on the horizon and we moored up for the night before sampling one of Boston’s surprisingly good Italian eateries.
Next morning the girls embarked early – not confident about the short tidal crossing from the Witham to the Welland – and Matt joined me for a 6 am start. The grand sluice at Boston has 2 ‘levels’, 2 hours before and 2 hours after high tide, and we took the first one to ensure we got to Fosdyke on one tide. Once the lock gates had closed behind us we were on our own ‘down below’ as this part of the tidal Witham (The Haven) is known locally. The engine had not missed a beat through the weed, but above the throb of the Long bridge lump I could hear a distinct beep! Beep! Which sounded just like the overheating warning on the old Surprise. But maybe it’s a truck reversing up on street level? No, it’s coming from the boat. Engine covers off, no sign of overheating. I tell map we’ll have to stop and sort this out, consider anchoring in the tideway. Matt is now crawling on the cockpit floor trying to find the source of the beep! beep! beep! Which seems louder. It’s coming from the stern says Matt, in fact it’s coming from your trousers……and yes it’s my mobile phone wake up alarm. Stand the coastguard down.
A beautiful dawn broke across the wash as we breast tab end and turned right into the Welland. The wash is a truly magical place; rarely do you see another vessel…just birds, porpoises and seals. Fossdyke was reached in good order and a day or two alter Dave Parkinson lifted her out onto blocks for the winter. By coincidence we were alongside Stella Marie, the 26’ MG storm that inspired my purchase of Little Gull. Owner Alan has taken her to the Baltic and Norway.
We were taking on more water than was healthy and I could see where it had leaked out when taken out of the water, which was addressed, d with sealer.
Over the winter Phillip set too doing a ‘proper job’ on the electrics. More or less everything was re-wired, including the mast (lights and VHF). A new control panel was made from white plastic and illuminated toggle switches buzz bars sprouted in the battery locker and under the chart table. We usually made a weekend of it, sleeping on board and sustain ourselves at the Ship Inn – Batemans and Adnams with real food (the steak & kidney pudding, with real suet, is a belter). One weekend in February the temperature dropped to -14 C – at 6 pm! With the ‘Pansy’ charcoal burning stove mastered and supplemented by a mains electric oil filled heater we were warm enough. (Once when I was lighting the Pansy and flames were leaping out of the top, someone asked if Id got gas on board. Nah! Too dangerous I replied.)I got on with jobs around the hull, sanding down the filler that had squeezed out of the seams and re-painting. And strengthening the rudder (which had developed a crack) with 6 marine grade stainless steel bars bolted through.
Come the spring the mast was rigged ready for raising using Dave’s 1954 ‘iron fairy. Crane and we were soon ready to go back in. This went Ok using Dave’s 50 ton slings and leaks appeared to be much less than last time. We spent a night on board and the following day set about bending the sails on. The Genoa went up the reefing slide well enough but to get the main on meant turning the boat on the mooring to head the wind. Normally at high or low water this isn’t a problem, but the river flow was stronger than usual following heavy rain. In fact it was so a lot stronger, and although I was on board under power to assist, once the bow was pushed out the current snatched it round very quickly. Phillip managed to get a turn on a cleat but the snatch pulled the fairlead off the transom with a slice of sapele. This was bad but probably took the strain from the Samson post. We had to wait for the flood tide before we could get her properly alongside as she was pinned against a motor launch. The owner turned up 10 minutes before we could move Little Gull but there was no damage to his vessel and profuse apologies were accepted all round. As they say, you never stop learning and hopefully we won’t do that again.
The passage across the Wash to the summer mooring at Wells was uneventful – no wind, flat calm so a good test for the engine which was fine. Wells is a bustling, friendly port with a new outer harbour to cater for the offshore wind farm traffic and plenty of fore and aft moorings, which we felt was important to avoid any damage to the bilge keels which can occur on swinging mooring. If the flood tide lifts the boat and a keel catches on sand bank there is a huger pressure on it. The harbourmaster is particularly helpful, coming out to meet first timers in his powerful launch and helping with mooring etc. Readers will know that the summer of 2012 didn’t start until August so sailing has been a bit restricted, but there have been some golden moments already. A dash over to Skegness and back in a day- 80 miles under sail and 4 mackerel. Blakeney to Hemsby and back (another 80 miles) and Brancaster Fairway to Wells Fairway in an hour under genoa only. Lone Gull has proved to be as good as they said – on anything form a broad reach to close hauled she can be left for up to minutes without attention, thanks to the long heavy keel and bilge keels.
Finally mention must be made of the Jabsco toilet. A veritable throne with standing headroom and sliding doors for privacy, it really is a luxury. Until we ran out of loo roll and used kitchen towel. Big mistake –blocked loo! I took the pump apart, no sign of problems. Working towards the sea cock (where’s the sea cock? Out the b----y window cock!) I deduced the problem was at the out flow. The green ribbed 2’’ pipe must have been fitted from new 45 years ago so a hacksaw was needed to get it off. Blockage removed, we tried to get the pipe back on the toilet outlet. Nowhere near. But by heating up the pipe end in boiling water and banging a conical wooden bung into the end to make a ‘trumpet’ it slid on. At the time of writing the toilet pumps out beautifully but won’t pump water in. I knew that bucket would come in handy.
And the cost of the project? Well lets say there was change out of £6k, including purchase price…..plus my time of course, which I thoroughly enjoyed!
Peter Harrold 30/8/12
|These magnificent pictures of 'Little Gull' taken off Yarmouth Norfolk on a good sailing day. Peter says that seeing them though has made him realise he needs new sails!|
|Looks good Peter! hope to see more of her when classic boat do the feature on her!|