Centaur “Collar and Cuffs”

My last post was a bit of a “woe-is-me”  moanfest about water in the boat.

A timely arse-kicking comment from an inspirational source, Neil,  of The Gleda Project and others made me realise that I just needed to get on with it.

The weather has improved, the days are warmer, longer and with it my mood lifted.

You might remember I was bemoaning the water in the bottom of the boat.
I had put this down to some of the re-inforcing webs that stiffen up where the bilge keels attach having come loose.

This is a known weakness on Centaurs that take to muddy drying moorings. The constant action of settling in the mud and then rising up through the mud each tide forces the angled keels out and in over and over again. The remedy was to reinforce the bilge area with webs like you can see below. Most Centaurs by now would have had this remedial work undertaken. Mine looks to have failed after a season on very soft mud.

So over a couple of weekends I got to work with a multi-tool, flappy wheel and general assortment of dust-making-tools:

The left web is very loose, attached only by some glass tape at the bottom. The right web is firmer but you can see a worrying crack.


The Bosch Multi tool is a great peice of kit!

The area was ground back with an angle grinder with blue sanding flap-disc and then sanded further with the multitool to make yet more dust, much to Her  dismay.

Then last weekend when the temperatures looked like staying consistently above 8 degrees celsius, I had my introduction to epoxy.

A coat of unthickened epoxy to hopefully give a good surface to bind on was left 24 hours. This alone seemed to stiffen up the whole area.
This was followed by some thickened epoxy fillets. The epoxy was thickened with MILLIFIBRE white cellulose fibres from Reactive Resins.

Thickened epoxy fillets are about 1.5 inches across. Clingfilm to protect the nuts.

I’d read loads of course in preparation.

My first intention was to pipe the epoxy in with a freezer bag with the corner cut off.

Not all bags are created equal! Mine had some kind of hospital corner fold that when snipped produced a double squirt. That was quickly abandoned.

So too was the hand crafted wooden large-radius-curved tool that I’d fashioned to make the nice wide fillets.

Much better was the Pot Noodle cup that I’d been saving for mixing in.  Cut into a tongue-shaped scoop/spatula it worked well enough!

This web wasn’t showing any sign of failure but I thought it prudent to beef it up whilst I was in here.

The plan is to cover all of these fillets with a couple of layers of glass matting that you can see in the background.  

I know it’s not pretty. But I hope it’s functional. If it does the job, then that’s what is important to me.

Reactive Resins epoxy was quite easy to work with. I hope that my application of it has done it justice!

Whilst I was inside the boat making a mess, She was outside making ‘FREE’ look beautiful:

Bottom scraped and taped, keels primered.
Thank goodness for small boats – even at 26ft small, she took a suprising amount of time to paint
Blue Skies and  Blue Skirts.



Now she matches, “Collar and Cuffs”!

She worked hard on scraping, prepping and painting and now ‘FREE’ looks as pretty as a Centaur can, Collar & Cuffs!


2017: Over-coming Inertia

‘Free’ is still on the hard standing. We’ve managed a couple of visits down to see her this year but to be honest, it seems to have been a struggle to get motivated with her.
The weather has been miserable. It’s winter, in England, which means it’s cold and wet. And there’s little usable daylight. These are all feeble excuses, but to be honest that seems to be all I need.
The biggest hurdle seems to have been the discovery at the end of last year that the bilge was filling up with more water than we were comfortable with.

About 80 litres in a fortnight on the visit before we pulled her out onto the hard last year.

It makes me realise that we’re going about things in all the wrong order.  What’s the point of trying to make her warm, bright and pleasant if she’s slowly sinking.

So mid January we went down and emptied the bilges once more.  That’s about all we did. It was too cold and miserable to get motivated to do much more.

I was finding the 3 hour drive at a weekend each way too much of a bind for the little time we got to spend on the boat too. I was definitely having some kind of slump…

This last weekend we booked a 5 day weekend and meant to get on with things in earnest. We didn’t leave until Thursday afternoon, driving through some absolutely horrendous weather. We parked up on Dartmoor in fierce winds and horizontal rain. I really like sitting in the van with the stormy weather rattling on the roof and windows, the Eberspacher heating us nicely. Insulated from the worst of it but connected nonetheless.

The next day, Friday, I wanted to do some shopping for bits to do the jobs I’ve been putting off.  Captain Tolley’s Creeping Crack Cure, (an optimistic bodge to stop the windows leaking until I have the budget to fix them properly), some stainless steel screws for reattaching the curtain rails, and some epoxy resin from Reactive Resins who were particularly helpful. Roger Ball sings praises about their epoxy here..

I was gradually removing all my excuses for not tackling the job that’s daunting me: The Keel Bolt area on the bilges.

I’m thinking that this is the most likely source of the water ingress. One of the starboard bilge strengthening webs has cracked and come away.  ‘Free’ has been sat on a borrowed drying mud swing mooring for a year and I’ve come to accept she needs better than that.  It doesn’t look like its been doing her any favours.

Buying the epoxy and some glass matting left us in Bodmin on Friday night, so we found a suitable spot to camp in the VW alongside the Camel Trail near Padstow. Another good meal, a game of Cribbage (I won) and we settled down for another windy, rainy night.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny and feeling cooped up for two days already in the van we decided to walk the small portion of the Camel Trail to Padstow. It was good to blow off some cobwebs and great to feel the winter sun at last. We had a little mooch around, a good pasty, peered in Rick Stein’s restaurants and even bought a spatula from his cook shop (which I was pleased to note wasn’t any more expensive than online) and then headed back. We’d arranged to meet my brother, who lives nearby, on Saturday evening, but thought I still had an opportunity to actually get to the boat back to the boat and drop off all the bits of boat-stuff that were filling the van up. So we hauled arse back to Plymouth.  These aren’t long distances, about 45 miles.  But some of my readers might not be aware that a Cornish Mile is longer than your standard mile. Longer even than your Country Mile.

We got to the boat with just enough time and light for me to lift the bilge cover and inspect the bilge. I had secretly been hoping that the water coming in had been rainwater. We’d had so much rain since our last visit in January I’d hoped that I would see a good couple of inches in the bottom.

Bone. Dry.

That means it’s coming in through the bottom. Either the Keel Bolts or the Stern Gland. Or possibly a weeping sea-cock. Sigh. Not off the hook yet.

We traipsed the 35 miles back to my brother’s and were treated to a lovely Chinese meal and a shower. That’s a luxury we don’t get to bother with on a 5 day visit usually. After seeing him and his family we set off back toward the boat to another free stop for the night, fresh and full.

Sunday dawned, cold, grey and wet. We eventually got going to the boat. I dropped her off to walk for the last couple of miles and got breakfast cooking.  I’m never normally this reluctant to get on the boat.

After breakfast (about 2pm) I eventually get on and take the bottom of the kitchen unit off to explore the starboard keel-bolts better.  I tentatively prod and poke with a screwdriver.

Still procrastinating.

I go and see if I can borrow the right sized sockets from the boatyard, as the one I’ve brought with me is nowhere near man enough.  He has a few that might fit, but don’t, so I occupy myself with soldering the LED light that I managed to break whilst moving some cushions about whilst She gets that last coat of paint on a remaining piece of the foam insulation.

We call it a day there.

Monday dawns blowing a gale and raining like we started the escape on Thursday. We get to the boat, I head off to try and find some better sockets for these keel nuts.


Roger, the resident marine engineer, rummages around in a box of sockets, bringing out each candidate as big as my fist and three times as heavy.  I’ve asked him for 40mm sockets and of course these Westerlys were built when milimetres were knee-high to a short thing. Turns out 38.5 was what I should have asked for.  The real measurement in fractions of an inch is too far lost behind 50+ years of ‘patina’ for me to read.

But it  does the trick. I manage to remove the keel bolt nuts. Far too easily for my liking. I remove them (one at a time) and then re-tighten them to a comfortable level. And then try to undo them again. Much better.

I’m hoping that a combination of epoxying the broken webbing and just tightening the nuts will stem the ingress.  It’s a job that needs doing regardless, even if it doesn’t turn out to be the source of water.

I’m optimistic that I’ve overcome the inertia I’ve been experiencing.

I’m sure it’s down to a combination of crappy weather, lack of sunlight/daylight, wariness of the unknown, worry that I’ll make things worse, unfamiliar materials and practises. Lots of excuses.

I guess the moral of this long rambling story is this:

Sometimes you just have to take your tool in hand and give it a good tug!

P.S. The Photo above is Her at Whitsand Bay in January.

More Saloon Paint.

Another flying visit to the boat for more work on the saloon.

I fiddled with the lighting and the interior bulkhead panel whilst She put another coat of paint on the ceiling. I think we can safely say that the insulation is working. Even though the sun was out it barely got above 10 degrees Celsius, but it was pleasant inside. We had about 10 tea lights burning which kept the chill at bay.

We’ve decided to try and make some window frames to cover the join/junction where the foam meets the windows. The best way would certainly to have taken the windows out, have them refurbished and resealed and put back in and pinched the foam between it when putting the windows back in, but I had no intension of redoing the windows, or the expense and time that would entail.

So I tried to neatly trim the foam around the windows.

And the result was hideous. There are no photos. Suffice it to say these new wooden frames will hide the ghastly hatchet/Stanley blade massacre.

She came up with the ingenious idea of using greaseproof paper to trace the outline of where the frame should go to. A skill garnered from cheating at Art homework apparently…

Greaseproof paper template.

The tides were once again at unsociable hours so it was a one day effort. We decided to mix it up on Sunday with a trip to the moors.

I’d forgotten how beautiful Dartmoor is. We found a great spot to camp for the night and then went walking through forests and up Sheeps Tor and back to the VW before a pub dinner in The Plume of Feathers, Princetown.


What a beautiful camping spot.



A jolly enjoyable weekend.