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  • 145. Top Tips Tuesday - My Top Picks For The 'Disaster Bag' - Emergency Repairs At Sea

    Our top product picks for emergency repairs at sea

    When we sold our Hunter Channel 31 which was berthed in the Canary islands we advertised it as yacht complete with all, yes all the gear, we had accumulated over the 12 or so years that she was in our ownership. The logistics of bringing back all that loose equipment was frightening and as for the expense we might have incurred with excess baggage, it doesn’t bear thinking about!

    However, now the Mystery is finally in the water I have put onboard a selection of tools and now its on to what we call our Oh S..t Bag or more politely the ‘disaster bag’ which hopefully covers most mishaps such  as... what happens if a toilet seacock gets blocked; the mainsail rips and its 100 miles from a sail maker; the inflatable develops a leak after muggins pulled it over a sharp object; or I bounce the transom of 'Hindsight' off the Lefkas town quay and so on. In a way its good to start afresh as new products have been introduced to the market and old favourites have been replaced with a better performing product often at a more competitive price!

    The first item that I pop in the bag and that was not available all those years ago is G-Flex, a superbly versatile epoxy from West Systems which can be used to repair all sorts of substrates such as GRP, alloy, wood and those extremely hard to glue plastics like polyurethane; so versatile it can even be used underwater! Next on my list is Stay Afloat putty. It’s a one step instant water leak plug for below and above the waterline (great for that hard to solve window leak). Instead of carrying a pack of wooden bungs I am going for a Sta-plug by Forespar which is a form fitting emergency plug that can be trimmed to suit. For replacing a damaged seacock or hose whilst afloat a Seabung is an essential bit of kit, no need to go to the expense of a haul out. Sixth into the bag is a packet of Dr Sails (see video below of Dr. Sails being used by Didac Costa to repair a sail during the Vendee Globe), a brilliant flexible epoxy which can be used to repair torn sails (both woven & laminate fabrics). Whilst on that subject of rips or a tear, sachets of Tear Aid type A and B. Type A is a superb repair patch material which can be used on all fabrics except PVC. For sprayhood windows & most inflatable dinghies Tear Aid B can be used, having said all that it makes sense to carry the appropriate Polymarine inflatable boat repair kit! A tube of Stormsure can be use to repair sea boots or help stick your deck shoe sole back on and then there is a roll of ‘proper’ gaffa tape. We stock the incredibly tough and sticky T Rex tape. Finally a way to save your mobile from a watery grave, should it fall into the bottom of a rather wet dinghy a Gadget Saver, as it says on the packet ‘dries out wet electronics rapidly’.

  • 144. Top Tips Tuesday - Stormy weather? No problem with a Mighty Mug onboard


    As readers of my blog will know we finally launched “Hindsight” last August (only three years late), and, just before Christmas I tensioned the rigging and bent the canvas on; then sailed her from our 'summer berth' at the RNYC Blyth to the Royal Quays marina North Shields. T’was a perfect day, relatively flat sea state, wind not quite dead on the nose however it was gusting 15 to 20 knots so one reef in the main. Crew consisted of nervous skipper (me) and the other Rob who works for Andy in the workshop. Unfortunately the only pic that came out any good on my phone of the maiden voyage was the image taken just before I tidied up the halyards into the  halyard bags. Honestly we were only 100mtrs outside the piers!

    Since that sail and with a family holiday abroad, the other 134 items on my to do list has not shrunk but expanded somewhat and that does not include mugs and other cooking utensils etc.

    Last night, feeling sorry for myself, slumped in front of the telly suffering from what could only be described as man flu (incidentally Jenny has come out In sympathy but ONLY with a heavy cold!!!), our dog managed to knock over with her tail, my coffee mug perched on a low table. After we had both cleared up the mess she said 'shame we hadn't got a couple of those Mighty Mugs at home, I did notice that you had already got a couple onboard Hindsight then you can throw that bloody squeaky toy to the dog till your arm gives up or she gets bored!


    Mighty Mug comes in two sizes and a variety of colours, can be washed in a dishwasher, and, as one of the the video shows on youtube even if you fire a plastic bullet it just wobbles! Simply place a Mighty mug down on a flat surface and it creates an airlock which allows Mighty Mug to resist accidental knocks thereby avoiding spills. When you lift Mighty Mug the pressure is instantly normalised allowing the airlock to release and the mighty Mug to lift naturally.


  • 143. Top Tips Tuesday - A Rope Stripper, the perfect Christmas gift


    Jenny, my long suffering wife, has been telling me for more years than I wish to remember that she finds it increasingly hard to buy me, the guy who has everything, that perfect Christmas gift. Yes I certainly appreciate those thoughtful and often quirky stocking fillers such as a can of Fentimans tonic water and/or a bottle of Fever Tree, Terry’s chocolate orange ‘box’ and of course the Christmas edition of Private Eye. However, for my main prezzie, something that would set my heart beating faster, what could be better than a Stripper for Christmas and yes folks they do come in all shapes, sizes and prices. For me the Ambassador Marine Stripper propeller protector (having been onboard and seen one in action) is the one to go for, yes it's not cheap but when you consider the cost of a lift out, diver call out, maybe a bent P bracket or even worse, the loss of your boat its starts to look very good value for money! It's available in both a sail drive or a shaft drive version.

    My first prop ‘foul’ incident was some years ago when helping friends take their superb Dutch designed and built Breehorn 37 through the Caledonian canal when at the bottom of Neptune's staircase we literally ground to a halt. The second time we had a foul up, this was on another friend's yacht, I was so impressed with the way the Stripper coped with cutting away a lazy line as we fouled when leaving a stern to mooring in Sivota that I vowed then and there that one day I'm going to have one for Hindsight, which at that time was our work in progress project! Fortunately Jenny was aboard for both these incidents so when she asked me last December what I wanted for Christmas, I replied "a Stripper and make it a combined Christmas/birthday/semi retirement present!" Well my dream came true; what a joy my own personal Stripper, now ceremoniously bolted to the sail drive on Hind Sight August past. Yes I will still keep a close look out for the unmarked lobster pot buoys when sailing the North East coast this winter. If I do miss spotting one in poor visibility or run into that polythene sheet floating just below the surface, the stripper will save the day.

    PS. For keen followers of Top Tips Tuesday (or is it unfortunate ones) I regret to say there will be no more ‘words of wisdom’ till January 2017, so all it remains to say is have a great Christmas and New Year from myself, boss man Andy and all the team.

  • 142. Top Tips Tuesday - An easy 'How to' guide with West Systems

    This week's 'Top Tip' is an easy "how-to" guide on repairing the area around a stanchion base on a fibreglass boat. Lots of boats have damage around the stanchion base and if left they can lead to much more serious problems when water gets into the deck, not to mention the added risk to crew.

    Many thanks to West System Epoxy's Hamish Cook and David Johnson for their permission to use this article.


    We asked Hamish… How do you repair a stanchion on a fibreglass boat?

    Is one or more of your lifeline stanchions coming away from its base? It’s a common problem but it’s vital that it’s fixed quickly. A repair with thickened WEST SYSTEM® epoxy and fibreglass will do an excellent job, as our technical expert Hamish explains.

    There’s a lot of stress placed on the humble stanchion. Often knocked when docking, or shoved when setting sail, it’s not uncommon for them to weaken, or even wrench away from their base entirely. However, given the vital role that these posts play in crew safety, it’s essential that they’re fixed as soon as possible.

    On a fibreglass boat, fixing a stanchion base with epoxy is a relatively straightforward procedure. My colleague David Johnson has produced a video (above) talking you through the repair. Here’s my written step-by-step guide to assist you through the process.

    Step 1 – Grind away the damage

    The first step is to take out the stanchion and grind back the hole to remove all damaged material. When grinding, ensure you taper in to the centre of the hole; grinding a bevel around the edge will create an enhanced surface area for your epoxy bond, so that the repair is as strong and long-lasting as possible.

    Step 2 – Insert a backer

    Make sure you wipe the area clean with alcohol.

    Then, if the hole is deep (if you’ve exposed the inside of the boat), you’ll need to push in a backer which your epoxy resin repair will adhere to. We recommend using peel ply for this. Cut your peel ply to size and push it inside the hole, cementing it in with WEST SYSTEM epoxy thickened with WEST SYSTEM 406 Colloidal Silica. Leave it to cure.

    Step 3 – Apply thickened epoxy

    Mix up some more WEST SYSTEM epoxy resin and hardener and blend it with WEST SYSTEM 406 Colloidal Silica to a mayonnaise consistency. Use a small brush to apply this to the peel-ply-reinforced gap, pushing it well in and smoothing it around, so that it fills any irregular shapes. This will ease the transition to the fibreglass part of your repair.

    Step 4 – Apply fibreglass

    Once this has cured, the next step is to mix up some more WEST SYSTEM epoxy , this time adding some WEST SYSTEM 402 Milled Glass Fibre Blend. Push this mixture into the hole with a mixing stick first of all, before working it into the hole with a brush, stippling to feather out any spiky bits of the fibre and remove any air bubbles.

    Step 5 – Apply your peel ply

    To help compact the repair, apply some more peel ply to the fibreglass mix when it’s wet. Ensure the peel ply is nicely wet out by the fibreglass mixture. If you’re working in any sort of windy weather, you may wish to apply masking tape to secure the peel ply.

    That’s all there is to it. Once this has cured, you can grind it back, apply your gel coat and re-fit the stanchion. You’ll find this is a sound repair that will last a long time.

    Don’t forget to watch our stanchion repair video by David Johnson.

    Want to know more about fibreglass boat repair? We have a whole host of articles – take a look here.

    Image credit:

  • 141. Top Tips Tuesday - Corrosion Control


    Time flies when you are enjoying yourself! There I was getting kind of used to ‘semi retirement’ just three days work, mainly in the sailloft sometimes working with rigs and bliss, four days tinkering with my own project, when a call came through, "Can you drop everything, go down South this week and do some pattern making on a National Trust historic building, it’s just two days work and don’t forget that you're flying out Sunday afternoon to fit two more of the UV protective sunshields that your sail loft manufactured to another National Trust property". Mount Stewart on the shores of Strangford Loch, the ancestral home of Lord Londonderry, is being ‘fitted’ with a series of sunshields to prevent UV from damaging priceless oil paintings in the galleries below. So when Claire, one of our IT experts, asked when she could expect my draft Top Tips today she was met with an oh...... sugar lumps or worse!


    Anyway here goes, this time of year it’s worth checking out the mast and boom for any signs of corrosion behind a stainless fitting, be it still standing or removed, likewise alloy stanchions and their bases especially if a stainless bolt or split pin has been used to secure the post to the socket. Correct procedure is to always use a barrier between dissimilar metals such as aluminium and stainless. Tefgel or Duralac are my first choices, however I have also used Forespar Lanocote with success.


    If you lift out in the winter and then remove the mast, make sure you remove both the standing and running rigging. So many times have I seen stainless standing rigging casually wrapped round a horizontal spar which can result in a ‘line’ of corrosion down the mast! As for wrapping the spar in polythene, its not a good idea. Instead wash down with fresh water then apply (assuming spar is alloy) a protective coat of either Hempel Alu-Protect or Yachticon metal polish. If its lying on a set of trestles or a mast rack its easy to check for signs of corrosion behind stainless fittings. If there are telltale signs of corrosion remove the fitting and if its only mild, clean the surface apply the barrier and make sure your replace and remember, if fastened with rivets use monel not alloy! If the corrosion is more severe, check with the mast manufacturer as to their suggested course of action.

  • 140. Top Tips Tuesday - Plan Ahead with Chart Art


    Its not often that I ‘do a hard sell’ in my regular Top Tips Tuesday blog but pressure from above has forced my hand this week! If you’re a bloke (and like me) you probably leave, dare I say it, your Christmas shopping till the last moment then find that the gift you particularly wanted to give has a long lead time with delivery now into the New Year, why not consider ordering TODAY one of Annika Tomlinson’s superb Chart Art prints, a genuine Admiralty chart printed on canvas and mounted on artist grade stretcher bars. These are great for hanging on the wall of the family home, office (as can be seen from the below image we have one hanging in our operational headquarters of the ‘other’ Andy’s favourite cruising ground the West Coast of Scotland) or given to that faithful crew member who, come torrential rain, howling blizzard or occasionally sunshine can always be relied on to turn out and prep the underwater surfaces of your boat ready for the first coat of antifoul.


    The beauty of Chart Art is that it can be ‘customised’ such as showing only say a favourite anchorage such as Tinkers Hole on Mull or locally the Kettle in the Farne Isles, or the route of last year’s summer cruise, photos can be added of say your boat, your crew or the maybe the pub you rowed ashore to and had that rather raucous evening! Sadly like all things special there is an extra charge for customising but as can be seen from the example below well worth the extra cost incurred!


    A review from another order reads:

    Andy, Just a quick email to say that I hadn’t opened the chart (I simply wrapped it and delivered it to my cousin for his birthday present) – it was absolutely brilliant – a superb job done by the guy who stitched 5 charts together. Thank you so much!

    If your budget cannot stretch to Chart Art (prices start as low as £109.95 and that includes free UK delivery worth £10-00!) why not purchase an UNFOLDED Admiralty chart of a favourite cruising ground at only £36.60, customers to whom we have supplied a chart in this format have had them framed (suggest non reflective glass), pinned to a wall and on a couple of instances wallpaper paste has been used to stick them to the wall of a sailing club bar! The Chart Art printing process uses technologically advanced 12 colour UV ink printed onto the finest 100% Cotton artists canvas, which is sourced from some of the biggest international art suppliers. Museum Quality Artists Stretcher Bars are made of the finest quality European kiln dried knotless pine, which has the advantage of being extremely hard wearing and not susceptible to warping that cheaper woods are prone to. Each bar features a rounded back edge which is designed to ensure that the canvas is always kept a full 1⁄2" (13mm) above the stretcher bar to ensure that there can be no ghost impressions on the canvas. These stretcher bars also incorporate ‘wedges’ which are placed in each corner and allow the canvas to be stretched extremely tightly over the frame. It also allows the canvas to be restretched over time, which can be of particular importance for the larger sizes. Hanging kits are supplied with all Chart Art canvas so putting them up on the wall is easy. The Canvas hanger incorporates a cut-out which allows the canvas to be hung on a standard two pin picture hook, which is also included. Using the included kit ensures that the canvas is “pulled” flush to the wall on a secure fixing.

  • 139. Top Tips Tuesday - Ignore Tiny Deck Leaks At Your Peril


    It’s surprising how much damage a very small amount of water ingress can do to a glass fibre hull or deck never mind a wooden boat! Over the last three months we have had our eyes opened on a number of occasions due to water damage such as  a complete new transom required on a sixteen foot power boat, see the remains of the transom in the image below, new mast step reinforcement wooden pad needed under the deck and 'ceiling' laminates on an Albin Express, over sixty chain plate bolts needing to be replaced on a ketch rigged Oyster and then there is our very own ‘IT Andy' who had his issues when his Autohelm went AWOL. The boat hit the quayside  and with the force of the impact his forward lower shroud U bolt came out of the deck like one of Kim Jong- Un’s dodgy rockets from its underground silo.


    If you discover a water leak, and I know from bitter experience how hard they are to trace (it may well start a couple of metres or more from where the damp patch is showing internally), don't under any circumstances rely on a quick fix, for example a dab of silicon round the offending deck fitting. Yes it is ok as a temporary fix till the end of your hols and if you must till the end of the season but get it repaired properly as soon as you can.


    If moisture does get under a laminate be it from a fastening, impact damage etc, wood reinforcement pads can soften and rot, stainless steel bolts can rust through due to crevice crack corrosion and fail with disastrous results i.e. the mast coming down or a rudder falling off. If you do trace a leak back to a fitting, the only 100% safe way of fixing it is to remove the fitting and fastenings and, if the substrate is sound and dry, re-fix  after removing any contamination/old sealant from the surfaces. If the fixing hole has not earlier been countersunk (see diagram below) do so before you apply your sealant to the surface of the fitting, the depression area and the thread, messy yes but you can always clean any surplus with acetone on a rag.f703e5b8-2115-407e-b2d5-7c2a878cfb7b

    Sp Eposeal is excellent as a deep penetrating sealer as is either SP106 or West System 105. Should you find it impossible to dry out completely your damp wood, assuming its not completely rotted, use G/flex epoxy from West System; its also great for repairs and bonding difficult to glue plastics.When bolting fittings onto glassfibre, first drill the correct size hole and then use a countersink; this then gives us a greater surface area for applying sealant. The result… no leaks and no issues five years down the line! For an adhesive/sealant I like either Sabatack XL (good range of colours inc Mahogany and Teak) or Sikaflex 291i available in black or white. If only a sealant is required, Geocel 201 is a high performance flexible polymer sealant, the modern replacement for polysulphide. Available colours are black, white, grey and teak.

  • 138. Top Tips Tueday - Cut The Clutter With Seago's 3 in 1 Rescue System


    On our last boat which we first launched just after the Millenium, on the pushpit we fitted a Baltic soft foam horse shoe buoy c/w with a Jotron automatic light, a Seago self inflating danbuoy with auto light and I also had a Plastimo safety recovery ladder as well as an outboard bracket and motor. For our ‘new’ yacht Hindsight (destined  for loads of what we hope will be hassle free stern-to mooring in the Greek Isles next year) to help cut the clutter and make it easier to throw lines to the quayside, we are opting for the new this year Seago 3 IN 1 RESCUE RECOVERY SYSTEM. It’s contained in an easy to fit/remove plastic container (means if leaving the craft for a few weeks you can remove quickly so as to avoid it fading from prolonged UV exposure). The Seago 3 in 1 Rescue Recovery system is contained in a compact waterproof burst hinge case. Inside is a danbuoy with built in lifebuoy, automatic life light, lifting loop with snap hook and sea anchor. Solas reflective tape is fitted as standard and to insure the danbuoy remains upright there is 2.5 kilos of lead weight. To deploy its just a matter of opening the case, the contents drop into the water and the danbuoy and lifebuoy inflate automatically.


    Talking about stern-to mooring, our friends who have successfully cruised the Greek isles for a number of years and given us loads of good advice on equipping our craft,  fitted to the side of the pushpit a reel containing a long length of strong 25mm webbing  which they use to great effect when in a bay and space is limited, tying back to a tree trunk or fastening round a large rock at the waters edge.

    Two makes spring to mind and take up very little space and I cannot for the life of me remember which one they fitted to their yacht, was it the sun or the pre dinner drinks that have dulled my memory? My involvement  was  to jump into the dinghy, row to the shore towing the webbing behind and secure to a suitable object. Finally, on the return ‘journey’ secure a small pickup buoy or two onto the line. The Ankarolina is made from high impact UV resistant plastic and there are four line lengths available, an alloy reel is also available but only with a 70mtr line length. The other make we also retail and I must confess I like the look of is by NAWA. It consists of a heavy duty stainless mooring reel with an adjustable friction brake. Like the Ankarolina it comes with an excellent mounting kit and is available in three webbing lengths. Both of course take up very little space on the pushpit however you must not  forget to cleat the webbing to the boat!

  • 137. Top Tips Tuesday - Bored? West Systems have the solution. Meet Hoppy!


    As avid readers of our regular blog will know I, with a lot of help from my friends and of course Jenny (she is brilliant at rubbing down varnish or epoxy in preparation for another coat) have been fitting out a Mystery 35 hull and deck for the last six years, finally launched the other week with just a ‘few’ outstanding jobs! Well in my very limited spare time away from the boat the other night I was reading the excellent newsletter from West System that regularly ends up on my iPad. Scrolling through, I was fascinated to read about Hoppy, the bike which you can build from wood, I'm sure it would be the perfect set of wheels to have on Hindsight, however, I have been advised by Benjy the boatbuilder and designer of the bike that there are no plans to design a folding one as yet, but hopefully early next year when the ‘jobs to do list’ shrinks a bit more who knows I might have a go at building a non folding bike, but will we now need a larger boat?screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-11-28-44

    Another first class article in this latest newsletter was one by an expat Geordie, Hamish Cook, West's UK technical expert (I used to race Enterprise dinghies against his dad many many years ago and usually got beat by a country mile) on flame-treating plastic which helps create a better bond between epoxy and plastic.

    I used this technique to glue successfully, using their G-Flex, a polyethylene Whale grey water tank to the hull of our Mystery as well as using the same technique to bond a Scanstrut waterproof junction box. I had tried some years earlier in the fitting out process to bond these items to the hull with two different well known makes of adhesive sealant, G-flex was not on the market then.

    409554cc-5582-441c-8dce-4cbc0e6491e7     c316a9d9-2d4d-4251-8a2f-012825770a2d     d9d55799-ff87-478a-9b19-c8ae27879242


  • 136. Top Tips Tuesday - S T R E T C H your laying up days with Flood It

    Flood It LED Lamp lighting up the deck

    Yesterday I spent the best part of the day working on the Mystery down at the RNYC, weather wise it was a  grim day with a strong bitterly cold North Easterly, frequent rain squalls and as luck may have it I was working on deck positioning and fastening down Schaefer deck organisers so was glad of my Gill base layer and my ever faithful Musto Gortex mid layer salopettes and jacket as protection against the biting wind and the driving rain! I was, I must confess, glad when the gathering gloom helped me decide to call it a day!

    Next week, of course, the clocks go back so time working outdoors will be limited however if you want to extend your working day, why not invest in one of the excellent Flood IT cordless rechargeable LED floodlights. We started using them at work over a year ago; found them brilliant. Not only are they great for outdoor illumination but the smaller model is perfect for lighting those hard to access areas which need attention. Decided to put them on our website, the rest is history!

    Fitting out a new boat from scratch and having sold all the ‘old’ equipment when our Hunter Channel was sold in the Canaries, did give us the opportunity to upgrade the contents, both fixed and portable such as LED anchor/tri and cabin  lights, more efficient fridge for the Greek climate so we went for the Isotherm Classic self pumping unit as against a air cooled unit etc. However I digress, as everyone knows you can never have enough ‘torches’ on board the hand held spotlight that gets the nod from me is the rechargeable 3watt spotlight, it’s weatherproof, has an output of 140 lumens and comes with a 240 and 12 Volt adaptor. As can be seen from the second of my snaps it’s an excellent bit of kit, be it spotting mooring buoys, lobster pots, illuminating sails and hopefully never a man overboard!

    Again, Flood It LED lamp lighting up the deck, this time from a different angle

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