Friday, March 06, 2009


Spring is coming fast now, daffodils and crocuses in full bloom, sunsets and dawns pushing back the night. "Any day now", the men at the yard where Briongloid lies sleeping beneath her tarp will make her hull watertight again; after that, I want her back in the sea at the earliest opportunity.

So, it's time to get ready. The flowers of rust blooming on her iron keel have been ground away, exploding into powder beneath the stainless steel bristles of a rotary brush on a cordless drill, and the bright metal exposed beneath locked away under two barrier coats topped off with a clean new coat of the most toxic anti-fouling I could find.

Outfit for sutiable for either WWIII or minor boat repairs

However... most detachable bits of Briongloid still seem to be living in our shed, waiting for repairs, improvements, or outright replacement. The biggest and toughest project has been the repair of a damaged cockpit seat. The cracks (inflicted before I bought her) had grown too big to ignore, so it was time to tackle a new task: repairing GRP (a composite of epoxy and glass fibre cloth).

A little preliminary research taught me that fibreglass is a fantastically useful and tough material (can be molded into any shape, drilled, filed; does not rot or rust) . It also taught me that exposure to epoxy resin and the catalyst required to harden it is bad news (industry websites talk airly about fumes and hospitalisations). Also, the reaction that hardens the epoxy is exothermic - get the mixing wrong badly enough, and say goodbye to your shed.

And so, I set to work in my back garden on a frosty night, wearing disposable coveralls over full foul-weather gear, plus rubber boots, nitrile gloves, a respirator, eye protection, ear protection and an LED headlamp - full "WW III Apocalypse mode". The respirator in particular is very impressive - putting it on, air becomes weirdly (and reassuringly) scentless. No word yet on what the neighbours think I'm up to in that shed.

The first attempts at patching were very messy indeed; fibreglass fragments seemed to get everywhere, and the epoxy seemed to have a life of its own, apparently keen to go everywhere but onto the fibreglass cloth - a bit like working with honey that hates you, wants to poison you, and will explode into flame if the bread to which you apply it has too much butter. However, after several iterations of the patching procedure, I began to think that perhaps there was a chance I could survive the procedure; even better, the seat I was repairing actually started to look, feel, sound strong again (no more creaks from where the crack used to be). After a little tidying-up work (file, angle grindge, rotary brush, peeling off masking tabe), it looks as though this might actually have worked.

One week to launch day...

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