RESTORATION TREASURE TRAIL
I have no idea why certain pieces speak to one person and not another, I suppose it has to do with our interests and what we regard as important or relevant. Many people collect furniture, ornaments or even wrist watches throughout their lives. Some hope to make a handsome profit and others intend never to sell an item, but rather enjoy viewing it for the rest of their lives.
ESSAY ON PROVENANCE…WHAT OF IT:
It has been mentioned that a ‘good’ vintage boat restoration is made ‘great’ by it’s provenance; interesting, accurate and validated. Provenance is what guarantees your investment is safe and provides a talking point around your boat at shows or with those that share your passion.
Where was she built, when and who rode in her? All good questions that you should strive to ascertain and write down so it stays with the boat. Provenance is what makes the boat desirable to buyers and collectors.
ESSAY ON PROVENANCE: PART II
It’s always interesting to know where a boat started out it’s life; which boatyard built her and when. The boatyard will come with a reputation. If your boat has survived the ravages of time, the builder is likely to have been be a good one. Most builders started out as small, family-run businesses. In Canada in the late 1800s the most well known, started out making canoes and rowboats. Then came the demand for larger and larger boats to serve the holiday homes of the wealthy, which could only be reached by boat; powered first by steam and then the combustion engine. Racing boats followed, their performance boosted by aviation technology of WWI as surplus aeroplane engines found their way into boats. Some famous boatbuilders are associated with the engines they used. For example, Riva had an agreement with Chris Craft in the US, to use their engines.
BEFORE AND AFTER SERIES:
COMPLETE RENOVATION OF ‘IL SILENZÍO’
This first example is a Thesen built, rear-seat-driven runabout from Little Brac. She was bought by Andre Beyers in the condition you see in this photo. He requested a complete restoration; the hull was damaged, the entire deck and windscreen needed replacing, all the hardware needed rechroming, buoyancy and navigation lights installed together with a battery, CD/radio and speakers, the transom built up to accommodate a new 4 stroke outboard, new instrumentation, dashboard and cable steering assembly, new upholstery, sunshade, trailer and plenty of varnish. Not a small job!
HALCYON PART 3: ENGINE INSTALLATION
Halcyon’s Diesel engine arrived in a sturdy box.
I’ve chosen reliability over tradition. Diesel safety over petrol.
The modern controls would need to be hidden from casual view and any stainless steel covered with brass where possible. Modern technology would compromise the look slightly, but would hopefully be worth it in the long run.
SMALL BOAT SERIES
This ‘nutshell’ dinghy I bought, sight unseen, was in the Natal Midlands. I thought it a stunning example of a wooden sailboat with character. It needed very little work, but getting it to Knysna would cost more than I paid for the boat!
It came with mast, rigging and other handmade items by his grandfather. I still hanker after it even if it wasn’t that practical. In the end I sold it on to a retired gent who wanted a fishing boat on his trout dam.
ROMANCING A THAMES SKIFF
BY OWNER: TONY BERBRIDGE
The Thames skiff is a leisure boat dating from the mid 1800’s the origins of which are the Wherry, a working boat dating back to the 1500’s.
It was the fashion in 1860-70 to take your girlfriend for a day on the river over the weekend, and I have seen a photo of the Thames with so many skiffs on it that you can hardly see the water.
REFLOATING A THESEN CLINKER
This stunning clinker was bought on auction during lockdown in 2020 and trailered back to Knysna. Part of a deceased estate, the boat had been in Witsand for many years under a lean-to and, being visible from the road, had lead to the house being nicknamed ‘the boathouse’. At just under 5 metres in length, the solid yellowwood planking and stem and sternpost knees had beautiful colour and grain detail.
If the ‘Dory book’ can be regarded as the bible of dory construction, that would make John Gardner like Moses. The undisputed authority on the dory, Gardner has a huge reputation and his book defines the dory as “a flat bottomed boat, with sides and bottom planked lengthwise and with no keel structure other than the bottom planking”. To me the unique aspect of the dory traditionally is that it should be a ‘double ender’; like the mythical ‘push-me-pull-you’ they look similar at both ends, although some dories do have a small transom area. These characteristics make the dory an extremely stable vessel, perfect for crabbing or fishing coastal waters.
REFRESHING A ROWBOAT
As an easy first project in ‘restoration’, a small rowboat can be very rewarding and prove extremely useful as well. These boats can usually take a small outboard and are often used as tenders to yachts although a rubber duck is preferred by many. If fitted with rowlocks they make a fine rowboat or fishing boat.
'HOW TO' SERIES:
HOW TO: BUILD A TRADITIONAL STRIP FOREDECK
Alternating a dark grain plank and a thin white line down the bow, has become associated with the image of traditional runabouts. Certainly not all boats had them and many chose other patterns, but this image has come to symbolise the romantic, wooden boat look. This post will give a guide to how this can be achieved. The use of tape will not be considered here.
HOW TO STEAM BEND WOOD
Steam bending wood sounds simple, but daunting at the same time. It’s full of ‘what ifs’ and ‘how tos’ and yet once you’ve been shown or taken through the process, nothing beats trying it for the first time. There is something magical about bending wood round corners. The wood takes on a character and shape that is unique to each application. It twists and yearns back to the horizontal, but is frozen in time to its new shape.
HOW TO DESIGN A TRADITIONAL SWIM LADDER
A seriously dark bruise had formed inside my thigh the day after pulling myself over the gunwales after a swim at Featherbed. Although there is a large cleat to help pull yourself up, it’s still difficult to clamber up and over. A traditional wooden swim ladder was needed.
I had a good idea of what I wanted from historical photos, but there’s a lot to consider. Positioning the ladder on the port or starboard side of a small to medium sized vessel will result in the boat rolling under load, and the ladder tucking under, making it even harder to climb out. So positioning it on the transom would be necessary.
REPAIRING DRY ROT IN A KEEL
Dry rot isn’t dry, it’s soft. If your fingernail or the end of a screwdriver can easily penetrate wood, it’s likely to be as a result of dry rot.
If not removed dry rot will continue to spread either side of a seam or along the weakest grain. The only solution is complete removal, back to hard wood, leaving nothing at all. This is a daunting challenge especially when it’s in a vintage boat keel.
CHOOSING YOUR RESTORATION PROJECT...SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER
There are a number of considerations when choosing a ‘restoration/renovation’ project. Here are my thoughts on this:
Experience level: this really is the most important aspect as it is what stops most people giving it a try.
There’s no quick fix, experience is built with each successful project. You can come from a balsa-wood model building background or jump straight in. Fine carpentery skills would be an advantage, but are not an entry level requirement.
RENOVATION OF A PURSLOW
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.
While visiting the Traditional Boat Show in Henley in July last year I met Colin, the owner of Clewer Boatyard, onboard Gelyce. He invited me to visit the boatyard the following week, as I wanted to see Fixitor for myself as she wasn’t at the show. Interestingly, bought in 1949 from an army officer stationed abroad, the boat’s name came from the owner’s decision then to ‘fix it or let it rot’ such was her condition at that stage. Her original name is not yet known, but research continues.