In Her Element

Germaine In Boat HoistIt was a slow journey from the back of the IBTC boat shed to Lake Lothing. It took several days for Germaine to travel the 100 yards or so out of the shed and back into the water. She’d waited 16 years and at 11.00 last Tuesday morning she was back in the water. Awakened at last she made her way across the lake as we watched in admiration.

Germaine On the Move

The first stage of her journey started a couple of weeks ago. Her way was blocked by an accumulation of boats of various shapes, sizes and degrees of portability. When they had been lifted, pushed, pulled and rolled out of the way (see Henry’s brilliant shed shuffle), Germaine was ready to glide out of the shed on her wooden cradle. We felt like an Egyptian chain gang as she slid along on greased boards which had to be carried from back to front, but we had some some help from a digger and a for lift truck, which eased the load somewhat. She slid out of the shed and along the hard to the yard next door where she reclined in her cradle for a few days to wait for the big day.

She needed a few last minute adjustments of course, and we carried on working on her out in the yard despite the rain. My contribution was very minor, just attaching a couple of fairleads to her stern, but it was nice to be part of it.

Germaine RiggingAs Ron eased her into the water using the mobile boat hoist, the rigger and his team rigged up the very complicated looking gaff rig on her mast in an impressively short order. The was hoisted into place and suddenly she was ready for her first voyage across the lake to Haven Marina. We waved her off and cheered.

Germaine Stepping Mast

Germaine Afloat

Germaine’s next stop will be Douarnenez later this summer when her rigging and sails have been completed.

Countdown to Launch

StemBandIf you hang around long enough in the IBTC boat shed at the moment you get a job on Germaine. She’ s a beautiful Camper and Nicholsons cruising yawl, built in 1882, and has been in the boat shed since 1997; but not for much longer. It’s all hands on deck to get her ready for the big day when she gets back in the water again. She’s taking shape rapidly, and I’ve been hoping that I would get the chance to do some work on her before she goes.

One afternoon when everything on Naiad was either being bonded with Arbokol or was covered with wet varnish, I went and volunteered my services. The first task was fitting a galvanised steel band to her stem. It went on with a bit of persuasion using a 10 foot bit of 6 x 4 wedged in a groove in the floor of the boat shed as a shore and plenty of Arbokol. I was concerned that I might start the launch early as I levered the band against Germaine’s stem, but she stayed firm.

AirVentInsertThe next job was to install an air vent in the coach roof, which required rather less brute force. Starting with a lump of mahogany, the first task was to make a cylindrical insert that would look tidy and fit in with the beautifully crafted internal fit out. The outside profile was quite straightforward to cut on the lathe after getting the block of wood roughly cylindrical. Cutting the hole out of the middle was a delicate operation, as it would leave the walls of the tube quite thin and therefore there was a risk of it collapsing. I secured it in the drill vice and held my breath as I cut into it with a hole saw on the pillar drill. When I got half way through, I turned it over and drilled from the other end. It held together without collapsing and joined in the middle; not quite as major an achievement as digging the Channel Tunnel, but not far off.

The next scary bit came when I had to use a hole saw to cut a hole in the teak deck on the coach roof to put the vent tube in; I must have measured it about 10 times before committing myself with the saw, but in the end I just had to get on with it. Cutting a big hole through the roof exposes end grain, so I sealed the inside of the hole with epoxy, and stuck the insert in with mastic. The rest of the job was straightforward and just involved screwing things together and sealing them with mastic.

AirVentTopI’m looking forwards to Germaine’s launch next month; it will be a major operation getting her out of the boat shed, with lots of rearrangement of boats required. She will leave a big hole as she’s been an imposing presence in the boat shed for a long time, but I’m glad I got to do a bit of work on her before she leaves.

Sex in Wood


Leila – you’ve got me on my knees

It has to be said that Leila looks her age; she’s over 100 years old. The rot has set in; she’s lost her sheen and has undergone some unflattering surgery in the past. But there’s something about Leila; ‘sex in wood’, as Pete the tutor described her in our tour of the boat yard this week. After quietly thanking Pete and the patron saint of blogs for the title of this post, I took some time to stand back and properly appreciate her. When you look beyond her ageing and damaged planks, she looks fast, deft and sleek. She has an elliptical counter, lots of overhang, a bit of tumblehome, a curvaceous turn of the bilge, very little crop and a wineglass transverse section. I know this because this week we had naming of parts (or boat terminology) and there’s lots of it, so I’ve started writing a glossary to keep track of it all; but let’s concentrate on the boats for now.

Leila is a six metre class yacht designed by William Fife III, generally considered to be one of the greatest boat designers of all time, and built in 1912 at Fairlie on the Clyde; it seems incredible that she’s so old. She was found by her current owner rotting away in a timber yard. One of the most elegant features, her counter stern, had been cut away (probably because of rot); but this will be rebuilt as part of the restoration.

Leila is not the only beautiful boat at IBTC. There’s Cloud, a new build of an Albert Strange design that won a Yachting Monthly design competition in 1908. She has carvel planking in iroko wood, a spoon bow, a canoe stern and a wineglass hull section.


Then there’s Germaine, a restoration project who appears in scantlings’ masthead picture sometimes. She’s a carvel pilot cutter built by Camper & Nicholsons in 1882, she has a nice forefoot and a counter stern (in common with Leila).

That’s enough boats for now; there are plenty more in the boat shed to talk about when I get to know them a bit better (probably by taking them to bits). Now I think I’ll go and have another look at Leila.