24/05/2020 0 By Chris Phillips

Apologies to my reader for what seems to have been a prolonged absence from the ether, at least in this format. What can I say? I’ve been busy.

I returned south from Barcaldine last week, after what ended up being a very productive time. I managed to get the coachroof of Meander to a state in which, should she be moved to a part of the shed directly under a leak, she would be nearly waterproof. The new sides have been filled where necessary, and coated with 3 coats of epoxy resin to waterproof the ply. The small gap between the deck and the bottom edge of the ply has been filled with sikaflex, which should stop water getting in that way. The areas of the top which I replaced have been glassed with 2 layers of cloth, and have received large doses of filler to attempt to bring them up level with the original areas- a hard job because the original glass layer is quite thick, being polyester (rather than epoxy), and having therefore used much more bulky Chopped Strand Mat (CSM), which is a form of glass which is not compatible with epoxy resins due to the binder that holds the strands together not being soluble in epoxies. As a result I need to build up a layer of filler about 1mm thick over the entirety of the new surfaces (as well as those small areas which lost a veneer layer from the ply during the destruction phase), which will then be sanded and faired to the surrounding areas, so when painted they will hopefully be indistinguishable. The second layer of glass went over the edge of the roof, extending across the ply edge, the edge of the larch T&G deckhead panelling, and the join with the new sides, effectively waterproofing the whole thing. The areas where the old glass had delaminated from this edge also received a strip of glass tape doing the same job. My last job before leaving the boat was to refit the windows, which went very smoothly. The jobs which remain are to compete the filling and fairing on the roof (I ran out of filler powder for the epoxy), to fill and sand the screw holes in the window frames, to scrape residue mastic from around the window frames inside and out, to refit the main sheet eyeplates to the coachroof before fitting the hardwood “eyebrow” trim just below the top edge, and the quadrant beading (bedded in copious amounts of Sikaflex) around the deck-coachroof join, filling the screwholes in all of these, and painting with 2 coats of epoxy primer then 2 topcoats outside, and a further primer coat before a tie-coat, undercoat (good old Dulux) and top coat (ditto) on the inside. Finally there will be the grabrails, one dorado vent and the spray hood fittings to refix, and the slight gaps around the edges inside to be tidied with a small bead of decorators’ filler.

New coachroof sides, yet to be painted

The remaining screwing, filling and fixing jobs I hope to complete in the first 3 days of October, before Team Phillips (double ‘L’) come up for a week in a nice holiday cottage just up the road and help with the painting (mother) and, excitingly, installing the new engine (father). I hope also that we can get the topsides and deck painted, and the cockpit (although this is likely to interfere with engine installation, so may have to wait), and of course install the new prop!

For the spotters amongst you, you may like to know that the engine is a Beta 43, and the propeller a Featherstream. Meander is very excited about being re-engined, and can’t wait for her new bits! Also from my honestly-gotten tax rebate, I hope to purchase a suitable furling gear for the jib, to replace the venerable but unsatisfactory and decrepit Wykeham-Martin gear it currently has. This may be a rather clever German design which is designed for use with hanked-on sails (OK, my jib does not have hanks, but these are easily fitted to the current jib, and any future sails of course will come with), and incorporates a new stay (again, currently the jib is set flying, so this would be a new jibstay attached to the wire soft eye which currently takes the halyard block), with its bottlescrew above the furling drum, keeping the tack the same height from the cranse iron, and finally the halyard coming down the fwd side if the new jibstay, tensioned with a purchase at the bottom end and rotating with the sail and stay. This will minimise modification required to the rest of the rig, will look like a traditional sail (more or less) when set, without an unsightly foil, and incidentally is cheaper than your normal drum/foil/halyard swivel gear, and does away with the potential stresses on the halyard. It is a fine alternative to the Wykeham-Martin, and should work 100% better, allowing me to keep the jib set in stronger winds, knowing I will be able to furl it away again. The downsides? Setting up the halyard at the beginning of the season, and potential chafe to the sail by the hanks when furled.

So it is all happening on Meander, and also back on Lord Nelson, here in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where we are making our preparations for departure on the final leg of the Sail the World epic. I am enjoying my short time in Canada. Everyone is so polite and friendly, and it is quite simply a very nice place to be.

We will be sailing from here on Sunday morning, heading for Lunenburg, tall ship capital not just of Canada, but of the Americas as a whole. It will only be a day’s sail (or motor, looking at the forecast), and they have been looking forward to our visit enthusiastically, so I expect our welcome to be quite something. There we will spend a couple of nights, and bunker, before setting off finally, bound for Iceland, Faeroe, possibly Shetland, Orkney or both, then finally London, where we are due to berth alongside HMS Belfast in the pool at 1030 on the 19th September.

I hope, of course, to update you whilst we are on passage, so until then – fair winds and calm seas!