Leila came out into the sunshine at 0900 on Thursday the 24th of May 2012 after four years of restoration in the Southwold boatshed. In a delicate operation because of her deep drought and narrow beam, the full expertise of Harbour Marine Services was needed to move her out onto the hard standing in readiness for an expected launch in the first week of June.
Rob Bull finds Leila in Great Yarmouth and brings David Beavan and then John Buckley of HMS to see her. The Trust is established and application made for a sustainability grant from NHSR. The trust becomes a registered charity. None of this required a solicitor and was all done on the Internet.
More rot is found below rotten stanchions. Rotten stanchions, mast partners, planking and frames are removed. The funeral of a good friend Dick Spring raises £800 for the boat.
The frames are fitted and two more planks have to be removed from the port side below the waterline – another 50 foot of mahogany is ordered. The stern gear is serviced and greased.
We start planking using a steam box made from Swedish pine that has drifted onto the beach from Newhaven. Our excellent Fijian Mahogany supplier goes bust, so we are on the hunt for 50 foot of 2 inch mahogany planking. We receive another generous private donation from Geoff of Southwold to keep us going, as we run out of money every week. The bronze fin head bolts for the plank butt joints alone cost £500 and have to come from America.
A frustrating time as we can’t start on the HLF funds until the hull is finished, but we run out of time and money. Rob and David have to take time off to go and earn some money to keep the home fires burning. In early August a local trust donates £8000 and we start to use two shipwrights from the yard to get the boat finished so that we can launch in September and get to Lowestoft. The pictures show Dick Baldwin, a local fisherman, helping with the fairing and sanding of the planked port side, ready for painting – Blakes Paints have agreed to supply all our paint for half price. The starboard side is still being planked by Steve and Chris of HMS. You can see the new stem made by Rob. Pictured in close up is Steve the yard foreman who is now running the hull restoration. Steve has spent a lifetime working on boats, starting work in a Lowetsoft yard on ships.
Sadly, Steve died of cancer before we finished the restoration.
When we took apart the transom, more rot was found in the horn timbers and the cockpit, so we are rebuilding the back end – I suppose that many old ladies would need their back end lifting at Leila’s age! We are going to need another £20,000 to finish the restoration. The picture shows an interesting comparison between iron and bronze fastenings in oak. The iron bolt on the left has been attacked by the tannic acid in the oak and rusted, expanding to crack the oak and allow water in to subsequently rot the oak, whereas the bronze bolt did not corrode or rot the oak – this is why we have replaced iron bolts with bronze throughout the restoration.
A year ago, the Trust ran out of money, having spent £90,000. We could not afford yard shipwrights at £220 a day any more, so it was down to Rob to get the deck beams finished, which he was unable to do, due to work pressures.
Now a year later, Leila is taking up valuable shed space and we must either finish this project or abandon Leila to the elements. Colin, the Trust chairman, has drawn up a schedule of work to get Leila in the water by the autumn and fitted out over the winter. Phase one, from January to March, is for Rob to finish the deck beams and planks, so that the other works can proceed. The picture shows some progress on the beams.
Is that a seasonal halo round his head? Chris, from the yard, is now working full time with Rodge on the deck. It has been decided to lay ply underneath the deck to improve water proofing, so the deck has been stripped, the ply has been dry fitted and the stanchions set in place. Meanwhile the bulkheads and beams are primed and undercoated.
With a £2000 grant from the National Historic Ships Register and a further £2000 from Pam Alison, we bring her down to Southwold from Great Yarmouth. Seen here leaving the Yarmouth piers for the first time in twelve years. Subsequently we find a loose sea cock, a paper thin plank and a fishing net around the prop, so were lucky to make it!
Leila comes into the Harbour Marine Services shed on Blackshore, Southwold. A piece of fibreglass over the apron is removed to reveal extensive rot in the rock elm, which has to be hacked out and replaced by a laminated piece of oak by HMS shipwrights. Rot is found below all the rotten stanchions. Cuprinol is applied with a garden sprayer. Some good publicity generated by East Anglian Press Agency in the local press cause the son of a previous owner to contact us. A few gaps in the hull. Getting your hands dirty
The new frames are ready to bolt as sisters to old or broken ones. We have opted to make our own bolts out of aluminium bronze rod as its less than half the price of ready made bronze bolts. The new exhaust has been fitted as well as new seacocks – one was held on by a prayer. Leila is starting to dry out in the shed but it is good to be out of the weather. More cuprinol for the hull. A local ex-barge skipper donates £1000.
We track down our mahogany to a Cumbrian timber merchant who lets us have another seven planks at the same price. We have a big set back when we discover more rot beneath the port channel and have to replace the channel, a deck beam, more frames and more planks. Harbour Marine Services foreman Steve is helping us when he can with the race against time to get Leila planked and in the water before she opens up and needs a complete re-caulking. Tom, a foredeck monkey that we sometimes race with, helps with sanding and oiling the spars. Hugh comes down for an interim inspection and we finally submit our Heritage Lottery Fund application.
The Heritage Lottery Fund comes good unexpectedly early and approves our application, as long as we secure £5,000 match funding. We discover dry rot in the stem which has to be cut out. Someone had previously tried to burn it out by stuffing a burning rag or something down a bolt hole, so that the stem and apron were charred internally. Sotterly estate have an old oak post that will do the trick for us. The hull repairs have taken four times the expense and time that we budgeted – there is always more rot than you can see even with the closest survey. Richard of APA continues to get us good publicity and Bull gets on the telly – BBC Look East – bringing a few previous owner and sailors out of the woodwork.
After Steve uses a laser to scribe a waterline and Tim fairs the port side, we start to apply white lead putty and primer – then disaster strikes again. We find extensive rot in the transom which Tim starts to take apart, while Steve and Mark continue with the starboard side. Further rotten planks are found on the port bow and quarter, so David drives to Sheffield for more mahogany planking and Rob sources more oak from Sotterly. This sets us back at least a month, and we are unlikely to make Lowestoft before Christmas. Yard bills of more than £3000 a week are crippling us financially, but the Alisons help again and the PD James Trust promises to contribute. The rot in the planks seems to start in the middle of the plank, which is why we were unable to detect it earlier.
Our hopes of a Christmas launch were dashed when we lifted the damaged covering board to reveal widespread rot and damage from iron fittings around the forward beam shelves. We are now replacing the deck, deck beams, beam shelf, king plank and some more frames. We are also fitting some proper bits which attach to the keel. Rob and David have less time as they need to earn money and the funds are further depleted – so we are down to just Tim helping us from the yard. We will not be doing the Tall Ships this year, but we continue restore her properly.
With two weeks to go for phase one, Rob is still working on the deckbeams. Local carpenter Rodge Nundy, who has done the boat building course at Lowestoft College, is now helping out on the woodwork. The yard plan to put the engine back in at the beginning of April, so that David can finish the mechanical side before launching.
In the last month, we have had five volunteers – Will, Graham, Tony, Roy and Michelle – as well as professional help from Roly and Chris of HMS. We decided to start the engine before we re-installed it, but found that it had completely seized after three years out of use. Roly supervised the stripping down and renewal of liners, pistons, rings and gaskets – watch it fire up with a burning diesel rag on youtube: http://youtu.be/59eaw6KvyZc
Stuart, a volunteer from Lowestoft College, lays the deck under instruction from Chris of HMS. Chris, Rodge amd Stuart finish laying the deck. The curve of the pitch pine planking looks really good. This was how decks were laid in Victorian days. The hull is undercoated, Rodge and Chris start to fit the pitch pine deck planking. We extract a keel bolt which is remarkably good shape for 50 years old. A modern steel bolt would have rusted by now. We need to find a wrought iron replacement
Standing proudly outside the shed were the two main men who had laboured to get this 1982 gentleman’s racing yacht ready.
Chris King 54 of Leiston, on the right, has been running the restoration since Christmas for Harbour Marine Services, where he has worked for 5 years. “This has been the most rewarding experience of my short boat building career,” he said, “ The help from the volunteers is what has made it work.”
Michel Bougard 67 a retired toolmaker of Reydon has volunteered every day. “It’s been wonderful. I’ve really enjoyed it and I ain’t looking forward to it finishing,” he said. Michel who still sails his Laser SP3 off southwold every weekend, will however look forward to a trip to Holland on Leila that he has been promised for his efforts as a volunteer.
It was a tricky process that was expertly handled by the HMS team. First she had to be winched across on the cradle so that the hoist could get round her, then she had to be gently raised off the cradle without toppling over, and finally moved to her hard standing temporary berth outside.
Steve winches as we watch. Michel poses, then Chris poses. The main man again. Nice butt – the boat! JB slots her in nicely to a hard standing berth.