WABI works.

Continuing with a now-familiar theme then…..

WABI”’ real time : the boat is ashore on a trolley at Calstock boatyard, i am home and this week i started on a long job list that i created on the way home from France.  At home iv’e spent a week bashing away at the rain forest that our garden has become , to the extent that iv’e now got a pile of green waste some 20 feet long, 6 deep and 5 high….hopefully one of my mates will be around next week with a trailer to haul it to the tip.

I realise that i haven’t said much about the final stages of the voyage : the return cross-channel passage and the 2 daysails from Falmouth to Fowey and from Fowey to home. The return passage was much better than the same passage going out and there’s not much to say except that i’m writing the night passage up now as a section of my book project.  I did count 14 ships and 3 fishing boats at one point during the night so it was a busy one and frustratingly slow : right at the end of the voyage WABI”’ seems to have developed a speed problem despite me scrubbing as much as i could get at while we were on the beach at Camaret.

In this post though i just want to talk about the work i’m doing on WABI”’ right now : the essential repairs and maintenance and if time allows, the next stages of the modifications.   I’ll start the first refit post with the 2 things that i’m working on this week , the rudder and the hull, today it’s raining as it only can down here so aside from working on my book project this morning iv’e heaved the workshop door open, evicted the current crop of spiders and set-to on the rudder repair.

1.The rudder.

I don’t know if i have ever told this story but when i first bought the Liberty she was a very cranky sailer and it took me a while to work out a couple of things that were causing that : when we got her ashore that first time and onto the trailer to be brought down to Cornwall i had to unship the rudder…..when i came to re mount it i noticed that the blade was in back to front and that it was loose.  Correcting those 2 things improved the steering no end.    What i also noticed was that the leading edge of the rudder was straight for most of it’s length but seemed to have a hollow in the line near the top.

I never thought much about that until this trip when the outboard motor developed a consistent and annoying tendency to ‘trip’ in reverse, kite up and start chewing on the leading edge of the rudder blade.  It did that enough times to first get really bloody annoying when i was trying to manouevre in a breeze and secondly it was clearly damaging the leading edge of the rudder and it’s obviously done that before….that’s what the odd shape of the top section of the leading edge was all about.

The repair.

This is today’s work : i taped a straight edge to the leading edge of the rudder blade and marked parallel lines down each side using a piece of Iroko of close to right size. Then i made a dozen cuts across the old material and carefully chopped out the old material with a very wide chisel and then a sharp, rough rasp…. each end has a 45 degree rise/scarph edge.  I then shaped the Iroko strip to fit and fettled it into a reasonable fit (reasonable by my woodworking standards which aren’t the best).  As of this evening the wood of the blade is just finishing drying out so tomorrow i will glue the new piece in. Notably i can see that previous repairs have been done but very badly….it looks as though what was done at some time is that a previous owner had the same problem but just drove some wood screws into the leading edge and bogged around them with filler but never re-shaped the whole edge or wrapped it in glass cloth.  What i will do once i have shaped the new piece is that i will cut back the edge each side for a few inches and lay a strip of cloth/epoxy all the way down the new edge and fair it in.

Job, at end of day 2 : new piece glued in and GRP cloth on.

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Something that i’m a bit obsessive about is keeping the underwater hull clean and really smooth : call that a throwback to my racing years. What iv’e mostly done with WABI”’ often twice a season is to get her on the slip, scrub and wet sand the hull and then lay on one new coat of antifouling.  This spring i didn’t get a chance to do that but i did scrub as much of the underside as i could get at and i did that several times : the only section that’s very difficult to get at is inside the 2 bilge runners and the hull between them and the CB slot.

On the passage back from France i noticed that i had a distinct speed problem and that was only days after scrubbing WABI”’ on the beach at Camaret : although, once again i hadn’t been able to get right underneath because the bilge runners had settled into the soft sand there.  During the passage home i had light winds for the first 12 hours so i just motor-sailed to maintain passage speed, then when the wind picked up a bit i just sailed and i reckon i should have been doing at least half a knot more than i was doing if not a bit more.

Once i got her ashore i could see immediately what was slowing us down, and predictably it was a heavy growth of small barnacles completely covering that centre section of the underwater hull.  Because of the way she had been put on the yard trolley i couldn’t get to that section at all when i power-hosed the hull off, in fact it’s all still there now although since then i have jacked up and chocked the whole trolley so that i can get underneath and i have started to scrape off and wet-sand the entire hull…..lovely job….not !.  As of today i’ve done about half of the hull but got the most difficult section to do and i may still have to wait for the hoist to be free again to work right underneath.

So far here’s how the easier sections are looking.   I don’t know what the orange and grey layers are and i don’t particularly want to have to take everything back to gelcoat but i am having some problem working out what to re-paint with : my choices seem to be either International ‘Inter-protect’ first (2 pack epoxy) and then a hard racing antifouling or VC systems Epoxy tar and VC antifouling.    The thought against an epoxy finish during a fast refit like this is that the hull doesn’t get the chance to completely dry out first and a hard epoxy coat can actually seal moisture underneath.

So far the hull is looking quite good underneath and i haven’t found any nasties yet : no evidence of blistering….what i have found is one odd patch of thin grp cloth which seems to have been put on as an additional layer under the bow : it’s dry and not properly bonded so that’s going to come right off.  Funnily enough i had been thinking about laminating on a kevlar bow patch as we often did with canoes to make a protective layer for beaching : so far iv’e only had the one very minor bump with something hard while beaching so i’m re-thinking that idea.

Iv’e discussed copper coating with a couple of people : Al was quite keen and i was tending that way when Chris at the yard told me that it fouls very quickly in the river where we tend to get a thin mud film on boats that dry out…as mine does. Apparently locally the high-end multihull builder was finishing his boats with one of the copper coatings, they were just fouling up and most of them have since been re painted with conventional antifouling.

When it comes to the new antifouling i will use a hard racing finish as i tend to scrub the hull and that just takes off soft, ablative coatings.   The topsides gelcoat is very chalky and dirty with some deep scratches, i’m going to cut the whole surface with very fine wet and dry paper and then buff ,polish and finish with wax : i think that at her age she could do with being completely re-painted with a 2 pack spray paint system but there’s no way i can do that this year….possible job for next year if i can talk the boss into letting me have some shed space.



Hull job 2.  The plastic rubbing strip has become detached from the hull/deck join for a few feet on one side, by the look of the rubbing strip it’s a 2 part moulding and the base strip has only been attached with tiny self-tappers into the outer layer of GRP.  I’m not sure whether or not to do a temporary job and just re-attach it using slightly longer screws or glue it on with sikaflex now….must admit i would like to take the whole thing off and replace it with a laminated teak one.


The old outboard is still running which is a bit of a surprise, it even starts quickly but it does have this annoying tendency to ‘trip’ and kite up in reverse gear : that might be something really simple although the evidence from the rudder blade is that it’s been doing that in the past.   One of the worst design features of the Liberty is that the motor is inside the cockpit just in a shallow well, the inside back face of the cockpit is curved so all of the engine noise is reflected into the cockpit and the cabin….it’s one of the noisiest set-ups i have ever encountered.   It’s so bad when i have to motor with any amount of revs that i would consider buying a newer and quieter engine or building some sort of sound baffle in the cockpit to reduce the noise.


Next post : electrics and rig


  1. Very interesting and enlightening stuff. Hoping for some insights into your experience sailing a twin masted rig with no headsails. Pros and cons, situations in which it has the advantage, etc. Am still working on the refit of that 25′ Westerly so am cribbing ideas!


  2. Could I ask you if you have thought about wishbone booms. I am a Liberty owner and am re rigging for next season and before I order a new set of sails as per the originals I want to explore the sprit boom/ wishbone options and would be interested to hear your opinions.
    Regards Bill


    1. Yes i did think about building a pair of wishbones as i think they would work in pretty much the same way as my simple sprit-booms. What i failed to do was to find a viable way of making them at home at low cost. Most of the ones i have seen are either curved aluminium tube or carbon fibre….neither of which can i work with. I did try and work out a scantling for laminated wood but couldn’t find enough information to work with.


      1. When reefing with straight sprit booms how do you control the loose bunt of the sail without having to tie the reef points in ? I can see how this can be done with lazy jacks on a wishbone boom but not with a sprit boom.


      2. I think the whole sprit boom arrangement is brilliant and I have seen a description by Phil Bolger of a wishbone boom made of timber but basically with a straight boom either side of the sail joined at the clew and a short piece of timber forward of the mast joining the two booms athwart-ships thereby making a triangular wishbone with the snotter attached at the middle of the short timber.This might allow loops of strings to be attached along the length of the booms and under the foot of the sail to catch it when it is reefed or stowed. If it worked it would hopefully stop the need to go forward to stow the loose sail, which is my only problem with the sprit boom.


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