This ‘restoration story’ is like many I presume in that an aging father decided that the vintage family boat, that his father bought when he was a child, needs to be restored and that his son should pay for said restoration.

And so the conversation began: how much do you charge? how long will you take? Eventually we agreed to proceed a month at a time and a boat, that until then I had only seen in photos, arrived in my driveway. These are the ‘before’ photos.

This was the second twin cockpit, rear seat driven wooden boat I’d seen, having restored a Thesen boat with a similar layout.

renovation of a Purslow
Restoration of an old Purslow

After cleaning out the boat I assessed what needed doing. The first step was to make the hull waterproof. The client wanted it fibreglassed, so I threw some seawater into her and watched where it drained out. The result was interesting as the water poured from the keel, quite far forward, all the way down.

I took a video for the client and the project began in earnest. With the hull turned over ( windscreen having been removed ) it was clear the retaining bolts on the keel had rusted, this rots the wood in the immediate vicinity and creates a gap around the bolt. The keel would need to be removed and replaced.

The iroko replacement fitted tightly. The bottom of the boat was now flat allowing the fibreglass to extend across the entire hull. The original, uneven planking was sanded back and epoxy sealed - not aiming for perfectly smooth, but sufficient to allow fibreglass to bed correctly.

The hull was fibreglassed, faired and painted a vintage white. The chine was a convenient edge, hiding the less-than-perfect margin. Almost a month had gone by, but the results were promising and the client was prepared to proceed.

Restoration of an old Purslow
renovation of a Purslow
Restoration of an old Purslow

The brief now was to build a new windscreen and fit a replacement vintage Mercury outboard. The boat had to pass its survey with navigation lights, buoyancy and battery to be fitted.

The previous motor had fallen off in transit damaging the rear of the boat and destroying its cover in the process. The damage to the deck would need some repair and the whole boat varnished and prepped. The steering wires needed replacing and anything else that was discovered along the way.

Period correct, brass port and starboard navigation lights had been sourced from the UK. Keeping the boat consistent, with its original patina, was important to me. I was not about to bling the boat up and mix chrome and brass. This needs to be agreed with the client beforehand. The windscreen template was the original plastic one, but glass doesn’t bend like plastic does, so the centre support was important to get right.

The clients expectations need to be managed and only with constant communication can this be achieved. The temptation is to ask for more and more to be done, while not expecting the completion date to move out. For example his father asked for a forward flagpole to be made, for a pennant he had designed for the boat, and to be kept secret while the son was expecting a two month deadline. This could only be achieved working 5 - 8 hours on a daily basis.

Renovating a Purslow
Renovated Purslow

In the end the boat passed its survey and the client was happy (as was his old man). The entire job took just two months which is unusually quick and not something I would have thought possible given the initial condition of the boat. It was a privilege to work on such a fine example from the Purslow workshop, complete with its original brass fittings and launch wheel. The boat resides in Port Alfred.

Restoration of Purslow complete

If you have a restoration story, please send it with photographs to for possible publication.