Having owned 636 Squiffy since 1995 I had been contemplating upgrading for some time, the big question was, do I search out an old pre 150 hull and do it up, find a second hand Parker, or go for broke and buy a brand new boat.

Throughout the winter of 2007 I was scanning the for sale adds. I looked at a couple of old boats, but they needed a lot of work to bring them up to “as new" specification.  Towards the end the summer of 2007 things were coming to a head.  Something had to be done.  By this time I had concluded that second hand Parkers were just not coming to the market, and that the total cost of buying and renovating an old boat was more than the cost of a new one.  I spoke to Tony Saltonstall, who confirmed my findings.

During September 2007 the Southern Area Championships were held in Plymouth and I took this opportunity to talk through the options with Tony.  I had seen examples of the standard boat he supplied but I wanted a fit out similar to my old boat.  I also wanted to minimise cost by doing some of the work myself, to use the Milanes rudder from the old boat and to source my own timber for the seats. I would need a fully rigged mast and boom, new sails and a big box of bits to complete the fit out. “No problem I’ll get you what ever you want and at a good price”, said Tony.  He was about to take delivery of hull no.853 from Parkers, and it was mine for the asking.  Without hesitation I heard myself saying OK I’ll have it.  The deal was done!

I was going to keep my old low slung trailer because it allowed the boat to go into my garage over the winter.  After a couple of weeks of dithering and failing to come to terms with the logistics of such an arrangement  selling old boat/ collecting new) I decided a new trailer was the way forward.  A telephone call to Tony resulted in a conversation with Derrick Higgins and subsequent exchanges of e-mailed sketches with Sean Clarkson resulted in the development of a super cranked axle low ride trailer.

Less than a month passed from finalising orders to the boat and trailer being ready for collection.   A rendezvous was arranged at Tolworth services at junction10 on the M42, this being approximately equidistant between Plymouth and “up north”. Jenny and I arrived at 11.0am and parked beside a gleaming white squib sitting low on the Higgins special behind Tony’s car.   There was time for a cup of coffee and a bit of yarn with Tony, Derrick and Sean before commencing the long haul back down the motorway.

As soon as we were home I had a look at what was I had bought! The bare white hull contained a box of sails, the boom and a long length of flexible white plastic pipe.  The mast was securely strapped on top, fully rigged and projected in bubble wrap.  The boat went straight into the garage on its trailer.  In the back of my car was a large box of bits the contents of which were soon spread across the living room floor.

There were buoyancy bags, 2 whale pumps, mooring lines, anchor lines, jib sheets, main sheets and lots of sealed plastic bags each of which contained everything necessary for a particular rigging system.  i.e., kicker, main Cunningham, barber haulers, backstay etc, etc.  Literally everything that was needed for each system was there, lengths of line, blocks, cleats, bolts, screws, washers, deck eyes, bushes. .  There was also a diagram on each bag showing how to put the various bits together, with useful hints.

The following day I looked more closely at the hull.  The gunwale, foredeck and rear deck cleats, mast step, rudder pintles, were all fitted.  Otherwise it was unblemished, not a single hole, where to begin!

 

I decided that the thwarts would be my first job.  I sourced some very nice Iroko from Woodstock’s of Falmouth who planed the planks to width and thickness.  Iroko is as durable as Teak and similar in appearance but only a fifth of the price.  Its big attraction to me was that it does not need varnishing, just a good coating with teak oil each year.  Three coats were applied and left to dry before fitting.  After many dimension checks and level checks, with the rear of the thwarts shaped to fit snugly onto the mouldings by the mainsheet crossbeam, and the front bearer beams clamped to the deck frames, holes were drilled for fixings.  Screw fixings to the bearers were concealed by counter bored pellets, and the other fixings were made with stainless pan head screws with penny washers to spread the load.  The previously bare white piece of fibreglass was starting to resemble a squib.

Next task was to fit the two deck mounted whale pumps and associated hull skin fittings.  The pumps come with cutting patterns so all you have to do is to get them in the right place on the deck mark out and then cut using a jig saw.  With careful positioning the pumps can be located so that the covers are not fouled by the jib sheets.  The hull skin fittings are best drilled from outside having first located a pilot hole from inside to ensure that the deck rib is missed.  I used a circular cutter.  The pump bodies are simply bolted down using the deck cover plates and bolts supplied.  The hull skin fitting are bedded in Dows silicon sealant and nipped up tight.  Fitting the plastic piping onto the pump and fittings was straight forward, once it had been heated in very hot water, an otherwise impossible task!

Tony supplies 4 x 100 litre buoyancy bags for fitting under the fore deck.  These are strapped in place using 6mm line threaded through holes in the deck beams.  I made sure each pair of bags was positioned tight against the hull on each side to maximise space in the centre of the boat for control lines.  

Fitting the main traveller was straight forward.  This was carried out by clamping the track in place and drilling through the cross beam for bolting in place.

The fit out would be generally as Tony would supply on one of his standard boats but with the following differences which follow the arrangements I had on the old boat:

•  Spinnaker sheets led through deck sheaves to ratchet blocks and cleats below deck.

•  Spinnaker guy cleats on castles by the shrouds.

•  Spinnaker pole launch tackle below deck with cleat on Cuddy shelf to maintain a clear deck. 

•  Jib sheets through roller deck sheaves to a single point control line.

•  Spinnaker tweeker lines through deck to cleats on the cuddy shelf.

I spent some time laying out each control line system and checking that it ran free without fouling any of the other systems before drilling any holes for fixings.  My routine was to fit one system each Sunday morning before taking lunchtime refreshment at the Walkhampton Inn conveniently located 50yards from my garage.

My deadline was to have the boat complete by 18th April when Tony was coming down to Devon to give a lecture at the Royal Dart and to weigh the completed boat using the association load cell.  I made it with about a week to spare!

 

We carried out the weighing under cover inside Marlifts workshop at Plympton.  A total of 14kg of correctors would be required. I had some lead sheet left over from a house extension project which was about the right weight so I set about making a pair of ingots. 

I cannot possibly recommend the following approach on grounds of food hygiene and health and safety, but it worked for me.   When Jenny wasn’t looking I slipped into the kitchen carefully cut up the lead sheet into small strips and weighed out two 7kg portions on the kitchen scales.  Then I found a couple of old Cow and Gate powdered baby milk tins.  These were just the right size; each would hold 7kg of lead.  One at time I put these on a camping gas stove and smelted the lead fragments applying additional heat using a blow lamp.  Once all the lead was melted, the slag was carefully skimmed from the surface using a piece of steel gauze and the tins were then lifted off the heat.  When cool the tins were snipped and pealed away leaving neat cylindrical 7kg lead ingots which were drilled for single bolt fixings to the underside of each thwart.

We were finally ready for the first race of the season. 

I would recommend this approach to anyone who is half handy with a drill, screw driver and spanner.  Don’t underestimate the time this all takes, and above all don’t rush things.

 

John Barton 

853 Echo

 

 

 

The bare hull, as delivered

 

 

 

Iroko thwarts fitted, below deck spinnaker sheets, and pump

 

 

 

Pump deck mount plate job and spinnaker sheet deck layout

 

 

 

Control lines and buoyancy bags under fore deck

 

 

 

Views fore and aft of fit out

 

 

 

Ready to launch