Friday, 2 November 2007

Its pretty bad, but not too bad

Paul Stevens sent his report in. These are his conclusions:

Robinetta is in sound structural condition insofar as sufficient structural strength remains. However this survey has identified some general deterioration to structural members and fastenings, and it should be borne in mind that any dismantling of this type of vessel inevitably reveals some further deterioration. However for her age she is in satisfactory condition and with normal maintenance will continue to give good service. She is a very unusual design with an interesting and well documented history and as such deserves some time and money spent on her now to secure her future.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Meeting the Surveyer

The day of reckoning! (in other words, the surveyor came). I’ll put his report in the folder when we get it, but basically all the bolts holding the keel saddle in place are gone, as are the bolts reinforcing the scarf joint in the bows. Amazingly this is not a huge structural problem (unless I misunderstood him) but they must be replaced before she goes back in the water or she will leak.

The sprung planks on the bow should be reparable without having to replace all of them, the hull below the waterline is sound and can just be anti-fouled, and the few areas of wood that need replacing are all above decks, including (unfortunately) ones on the port side of the cabin.

I’d made a replacement shelf for the one made of ply that was de-laminating, and I took it up to check it fitted before painting it. It does, as does the bunk end stop I also checked for fit.

The estimate for the repairs from the yard is over £6000 due to the high labour costs. They think they’ll need at least 14 days labour to get the keel saddle bolts replaced! This can be reduced by Julian and I doing things like taking the cabin benches out to allow access.

We had her surveyed

From Robinetta

The surveyor came to find out the bad news

Saturday, 27 October 2007


Went up to Shotley with Julian. Another lovely day, weatherwise. I forgot the sugar soap, and the sanding block, so spent my time washing the internal paintwork down with fairy liquid. It was very grubby, and I found some more detachable bits to bring home, but the good news is that the ceiling paint is in good condition. I am not going to have to repaint that!
Julian traced the wiring, and ended up stripping it all out. None of it was marine grade, and there were “chocolate blocks” connecting bits of wire together all over the place. He’s going to redo everything, so when we left Robinetta in the evening none of her electrics except the bilge pump and engine starter were useable. The lighting was all caravan type, fluorescent bulbs in plastic housings; Julian’s talking about using LED lights everywhere to cut down the current needed.

Friday, 26 October 2007


I e-mailed Mike to check that the cheque had cleared. It has, so the change of ownership is now official.

Contacted the boat registry, since Robinetta’s registration has lapsed. Was told to just re-register her as class III, cost £25, with no need for proof of purchase! Sent off cheque for family membership of the Old Gaffers association, £23.

I've also started to make a wooden slatted base for the double berth out of the remains of a broken bunk bed base

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

The uncertainty begins

Drove up to Shotley, hoping to start on the anti-fouling, but found the paint on the bows had been stripped back then left. Talked to the boat yard, and got the bad news; the bows have already been re-nailed, and the wood is not strong enough to just do the same again. If we want Robinetta to last we need to get the bow planks replaced. I was afraid of something like this, but prepared. I have arranged for a marine surveyor, Paul Stevens, to come and have a look at her. We need to know how much work needs doing before she is safe to go back on the water. A full report will cost £500, but I think it is worth it. Julian says it will be my birthday present!

I took all the removable painted wood home with me, together with the sails, and anything else loose in the cabin. I shall paint the locker covers at home to minimise the paint smell in the boat. It is also far easier to do them in the garage than on the boat!

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Taking inventory

Julian and I drove up together, and began the work of emptying out, and taking inventory. We intend to strip her internally to aid cleaning.

We started by removing the table, and taking up the faded carpet wedged beneath it. This revealed the timber floor, which we lifted, to find the bilges had about two inches of water in them. They are supposed to self drain back towards the engine where the bilge pump will reach it, but the slots through the ribs are narrow, and had blocked with rust. I suspect Robinetta lies differently on the water, so the bilges do drain more efficiently when she’s afloat. Luckily sponging them out cleared them, and showed the rust was only sludge. With the floor lifted it is possible to reach the lead ballast which is packed around the mast.

We took the table, carpet, and bench cushion home, plus all the crockery, glassware, cutlery, and galley supplies. We also took the port and starboard lamps and brackets off, then sorted the ropes and fenders.

We paid our first visit to the Shipwreck Bar (the marina’s food/drink outlet) and had a nose around the chandlers.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Taking possession

I drove up to Shotley with the cheque, and took possession. Robinetta’s out of the water, I can’t go anywhere with her, so Mike gave me the key and all documentation without waiting for the cheque to clear. He also introduced me to the marina staff in the lock tower, and I picked up a form to change the berth holder. We have decided to keep Robinetta where she is next year. Julian’s been saying for years that if he had a boat he wanted to keep her on the Orwell, and Shotley is at the mouth of the Orwell. Mike’s paid the berth up to December, and does not want a refund, same with the insurance, so that’s two expenses put off for two months… I called the boat yard and asked them to get on with the work on the bows.

We bought her!

This is scary - we are now boat owners. Don't know if it will turn out to be a good idea or not. Next step is to get her surveyed. Maybe should have done that first, but we really want her and hopefully we can afford to do what needs doing.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

But for how much?

Mike mailed back, asking for £8150. That is the original price less the £300 estimate for the bow repair and the £50 to replace the second battery. We didn’t bargain for that, he just did it on his own!

Tuesday, 16 October 2007


Decided we should buy her, even though I’m sure she will cost more to run than we hope. The thing is, that I was looking at boats nearly double her price, and thinking they were nearly right, if only they had a double bunk and full head room. If only Robinetta was not made of wood I’d be desperate to own her. Therefore, deep breath, if it might cost that much to get her back in the water we should be prepared to go for it. E-mailed Mike and said we wanted to buy.

Monday, 15 October 2007

To buy or not to buy

Julian is keen to buy, but I’m still thinking. I know it will be fine once I’ve done it, but the idea of antifouling every year does not appeal! I keep thinking of ways to get the double bunk back in commission though…

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Reading up

Mike e-mailed us the logs written by Robinetta’s original designer/owner about his first two seasons cruising out of Liverpool up to the Clyde, north through the Crinan canal, up to Skye, then back to Liverpool. After than she was laid up though the war, then sold to a friend, who sailed her down from Liverpool and round to a new home port of Weymouth, and also wrote up the log for publication. We therefore got a good picture of her sailing performance as designed. She was never fast, and is not desperately comfortable in heavy seas (no boat her size is going to be) but she sails well in light winds, and will go though rough seas and over falls with no signs of instability. I want to sail her!

Saturday, 13 October 2007

first view

We drove up to Shotley on a beautiful Autumn morning. Quick and easy trip (1 hr 5 minutes) so we were half an hour early, but Mike was already there. Robinetta is out of the water, and looks rather shabby, but cared for. She needs re-antifouling (which is hardly surprising a the end of the season), and some of the caulking is obvious beneath the blue enamel paint of her upper hull.

Julian immediately spotted that the planking on the starboard bow is not flush to the prow. It needs nailing back into position, and Mike fetched one of the boat yard supervisors, who gave an estimate of £300 to strip the paint and renail/caulk the planking in that position; this would be sufficient if the wood was sound enough for renailing. I clearly heard a “but it would cost more if more is wrong” implied in that statement!

The rigging looks like hemp as she would originally used, but is actually artificial hemp, and a modern durable rope. She was re-rigged six years ago. All ropes are made off on metal belaying pins, which are solid, but superficially corroded. There are two winches, not self tailing, and with fixed handles, mounted on the coach roof. Her sails are about ten years old, but Mike says while the topsail needs repair the rest are sound. He kept the old main sail as a spare, and that will go with Robinetta.

Once on deck the neglect became more obvious. Her topsides are grubby, with peeling varnish on the cabin door, and sadolin instead of varnish in most places. The foredeck and cabin roof are painted with masonry paint, as is the seating in the cockpit. Her above the hull woodwork has been painted in white gloss, which should have been repainted last year. Despite that she definitely projects a basic sturdiness. This is no modern fibreglass “last until the purchaser gets bored” boat, but an over designed enthusiasts vessel with life in her still.

Down below she is basically shabby. The wooden hull is featured rather than concealed, and has been gloss painted white in the past. It is now pale cream, and in need of a good wash, as are the all the surfaces. A table is fitted between the benches and there is no way of converting the two singles into a double. Mike says he has a hammock that he slings across the cabin to use when there are three on board. It acts as extra storage under way.

The heads are a proper sea toilet, up in the fore-peak, with a rather smart curved vanity unit for washing in. The kedge anchor is stored on a shelf in the fore-peak, as is the motoring cone and anchor ball.

Water is stored in two tanks, and delivered pressurised to the heads and the galley area. Cold water only.

The electrics are run off two batteries which are stored one each side in the cockpit lockers. These can be charged off the engine, or off the mains via a car battery charger. They are not proper marine batteries, but caravan ones. Mike gives their life as about three years (one is totally dead and needs replacing, cost £50). They supply power to the water, echo sounder, radio, lights, and bilge pump. There is a small solar panel for trickle charging the battery, which is necessary as the bilge pump is set on auto.

The echo sounder is a generation or two out of date, and will need practice to read. It is mounted in the cabin, and not visible from the tiller position. The radio too is much older than anything we’re used to.

The engine is diesel, a 10 or 12 hp Yanmar which Mike fitted himself new 12 years ago, and had self maintained ever since. There are two fuel tanks. Access is very good, under the companionway steps as we are used to, but with plenty of clear space around it. The water tank switching taps are close to it. Will they overheat when the engine is running? They are turning taps like you would find in a house, rather than the in-line levers I am used to on a boat.

The engine is started from the cockpit, with the key and coil heated switches mounted just under the companionway door. The throttle is concealed inside the starboard locker on a panel that swings forward when needed. It can be concealed even when in use, for example when motor sailing; this means ropes don’t get caught on it, and it can’t be accidentally knocked by someone walking past. I think this is a good feature, and it’s certainly unusual.

The cockpit lockers are a generous size, with lots of usable room. The diesel tanks are in them, as are the batteries, and the manual bilge pump. Ropes and fenders are kept in them, plus a bucket and boat hooks. There is an electric auto steering “arm” here as well.

The cabin roof runs all the way to the hull at the sides. This is one of the features that gives the good headroom below, but it does mean a step up from the cockpit to go forwards, and then a step down onto the foredeck. The main (fisherman’s) anchor is “stored” (loose) on the foredeck, with the chain running into a locker which is open to the heads. There is an anchor windlass (hand ratchet variety), which lives down in the cabin. This is necessary as the anchor is heavy, but so is the winch, and I don’t really fancy having to carry the windlass on deck to use it! Mike says he normally uses the kedge anchor instead, and that is enough to hold her in most conditions. The side lights here are in mounts that look like old fashioned oil lamps, but they are in fact electric. The anchor/motoring light however is an oil lamp! The stern light is not permanently mounted, but plugged in by the tiller when needed.

Cooking is done in a galley area just to port of the companion way steps. There is a tap here, but no sink to speak of, just a small deepish tray to catch drips from the tap. The washing up is done in a bowl stored separately. The cooker is a two ring gas type, with a grill, and oven. It is fixed, not gimballed, and according to Mike it will not be possible to change this to a modern yacht safety spec. Plates and mugs are stored on open racks above the tap. The only work surface is in front of the hob, and its presence means access to the oven is concealed inside a cupboard!
Opposite the galley are a set of four drawers, (cutlery in the top one) and a hanging “wardrobe” for oilskins and life jackets. This is supposed to be self airing, but Mike says this does not really work, and the door should be left open to keep it aired whenever convenient.

There is plenty of storage space throughout in original (?) cupboards and under the benches, plus Mike added enclosed box cupboards along the sides. These have pictures of Robinetta and other boats Mike’s owned in his life (he got his first boat when he was twelve) set into them. Drinking glasses are stored in these, plus the compass which is mounted on the sliding hatch when in use.
The lights are electric strip lights, but I suspect they are only used when Robinetta is plugged into the shore power. She also has two chromed gimballed oil lamps in the cabin. They are not in great condition looks wise, but are fully functional.

Mike has owned Robinetta for 21 years, and although he did a lot to her at first (he totally remodelled the cockpit) he hasn’t sailed her for eighteen months. His wife does not like sailing, and he is in much demand as crew for his friends’ boats. There is no place left in his life for solo sailing, and Robinetta represents a drain on time that he does not have enough of. He keeps her at Shotley because it is available at all states of the tide, but it costs £1800 a year, plus about £300 for insurance, and he is just not getting value for money. He’d love to keep her, but having a boat you don’t use, and aren’t going to, is not sensible.

Robinetta needs a loving hand. There is work that needs doing before she can be put back in the water (the anti fouling and bow planking), and then a lot of general maintenance to get her back up to a good condition. She definitely appeals, but is a big commitment.

Monday, 24 September 2007

first contact

Julian found the gaff cutter “Robinetta” advertised for sale on the Old Gaffer’s website. Mike Garnham, the owner, wanted £8500 for her. We were immediately interested because we like the rig (same as “Eve of St Mawes” that we did our Dayskipper on), and although small enough to be easy for 2 to handle, and cheap to berth she promised full head room and a double berth. These are almost unheard off in a 22’6” boat.

Julian contacted Mike, who replied that he thought he’d sold her to the original owner/builder’s son, who was due to see her at the start of October. So that was that. We kept looking around for other boats, but nothing attracted us both as Robinetta did, despite her wooden hull.

Sunday, 23 September 2007


Spotted Robinetta on the East Coast OGA Site and mail Mike Garnham about her.