During the winter months I like to have a challenge, usually of the boaty type. Whether it is repainting a boat or carrying out repairs. Usually this is with wood, a material I am happy to work with. This year I decided to go over to the dark side and try something different Fibreglass. So after having a peek as to what was available I also wanted to see if there would be something of a challenge, not just to “do up” but also sail afterwards. Remembering in my early 20’s when I sailed a wooden Chippendale built fireball I thought ah, that was fun and reasonably forgiving. So the search started for a fibreglass fireball, locally and not too much. Several were seen on E bay and other social media sites but then one came up locally, cheap, and needed plenty of work. I agreed a date to look at this boat, and when I got there it was half full of water the sails were green and it had been significantly neglected. A very low price was agreed and I towed it home to start work on it. First thing first remove any remaining water from the boat, and there was still plenty of it, then look at the fittings. Most ended in the bin, and then baseline photos and videos. And there was going to be plenty to do. The list of jobs looked substantial. Much of the woodwork structure under the foredeck was wet and in not a good state, the mast step had rotted away under the fibreglass, all the remaining fittings had to be removed and all holes filled, there was only half a centreboard, and the hull and deck needed to be tidied up to look presentable. Never mind the control lines and everything that goes with them needed to be done, newer sails, and a mast if it could fit in budget. To add to this it was now late October and I wanted to see if I could get it on the water in February. Luckily for me I have a garage that is attached to the house, but like a lot of 70’s built properties this is not very wide. So I have a special dolly I transfer boats onto that means they can be moved from one side to the other as well as backwards and forwards. With the bow under my workbench and the boat on one side I started work at the front. Now the foredeck on an FB is very long and not being built like an ape with long arms a decision was made to cut a hole in the foredeck the size of a large hatch cover. So marking the area carefully so I could reuse the piece removed I cut this hole so I could start work. The wood, as expected, was still damp, so I used this opportunity to video it to see what shape and how much needed to be replaced. Then I removed all crumbling and wet wood from this area and got rid of it ASAP, and then when done, 2 electric paint stripping guns were put into the buoyancy tank to start the drying out process. Yes the deck got quite warm as did my garage, but after a week like this it had made the wood substantially drier. Being a hoarder I don’t like throwing anything out and I had plenty of marine ply, Epoxy left over from other projects, so all necessary wood was measured, cut, checked that it would fit epoxied and ready as soon as I felt the inside was dry enough to start. The biggest issue I had refitting the timber was I could only get one arm through the hole, so trying to hold a piece of wood in place and clamp it proved dificult. But I have a tool for that. The litter picker. Grab what you want to hold in place and tie up. Clamps it a good ‘un. So clamps could go on before I screwed it all together. I would recommend anyone to get one. Get the technique correct easy as anything! During the waiting time while the foredeck was drying / curing work started on the mast step. With the fibreglass upper layer savagely removed it then became very clear that the wood underneath was very wet and rotten. This was cut out using the same aggression as I used to remove the covering. Chisels screwdrivers electric drills, anything that I could lay my hands on till all the wood was out. After leaving this to dry out I found in my stack of wood a piece of teak almost the correct size to fit in the hole. A little bit of cutting and it was in, all surrounded by a fibreglass car repair kit to pad it out. All this work had been done effectively for a zero price as the materials used had been costed into earlier projects. So this gave me a thought could I do all this including fitting out for less that £150. We’ll see! I decided that I was going to tidy up the decks and hull. So the decks, side tanks, and all the internal area were all washed with sugar soap, washing up liquid and I used a green pan scrub at the same time to slightly scuff the surface at the same time. Then once dried and allowed to dry naturally, a clean rag was then quickly used to clean the area before applying International Paints PreKote and Topdek. The hull itself was cleaned by using cutting compound followed by car wax. While the paint was getting hard I took advantage of the time to start replacing some of the fittings, while the boat was still in the warm. With the boat now outside it was time to start on some of the woodwork. The thwart had been removed earlier but there was still the centreboard and rudder to deal with as well. The thwart was well and truly sanded down as it had been in the garage drying with the Centreboard and rudder assembly under the boat whilst I worked on it. What could be varnished was and that hung up to dry, whilst I sanded the rudder and centreboard. However the centreboard was missing huge chunks from it. A quick journey to the local wood recycling centre quickly but that to right with an almost perfect fit of mahogany, subject to reshaping been acquired. Not bad for £9.00.
This was quick to shape and soon it was epoxied into position, and ready for painting. Both the rudder and Centreboard were painted in the same colour as the deck. I must admit I love varnished wood but in this case I do like to be able to have a quick glance every now and then to check there is nothing round either of the foils and white is good for that. All that is left to do is to fit out. As I mentioned earlier I am a hoarder, but I am also a Yorkshireman, so dipping into my pocket is an alien thing for me to do. So I have loads of cleats, blocks, control lines that have been replaced but yet still in good condition. I had spent time refurbishing where I could. AS is normal with this type of project there is always something else needed. By good fortune I can get perused parts locally very cheaply and put them to use. So after no time at all it was fitted out (top of the fleet guys – please don’t look too closely!). Mast up and sails put up to see if everything works. Well the main looks knackered, the jib not too bad. So as everything seemed to work took the sails down to wash. My dog then decided she wanted to help. The main is a lot cleaner with much of the green off. It goes up and down the mast OK. Fits the boom. Jib works, but I will be changing the tensioner. So what is left to do. Get it on the water to test it. COVID-19 has prevented me from getting it to the club. Once I have had it out I will be looking for a newer main, spinnaker as I have done nothing about the spinny system and a second hand cheap mast. Costs to date – including £109.00 for the paint, £186.00 overall, including a small cost factor for all the materials and fittings that were already in stock. Sailing an expensive sport. Not really at club level only when you get really serious does it mount up. A performance boat for under £200 not bad.