Saturday 7 January 2023


What progress since the last blog post? you may reasonably ask. At this point in the winter there often seem to be more problems than solutions.   The consolation is, I suppose, that problems you know about are an improvement on problems you havnt yet discovered.

I managed to get some 22m diameter wrought iron rod for the keel bolts, but the next difficulty is finding someone to hammer out the boltheads for the lower end. Heating rod of this size up to white heat and then riveting a head on it is not really the sort of thing you can do at home with DIY tools. William Crossfield would have just had a word with the friendly local village blacksmith; to do the same thing today requires spending a lot of time on the internet. I contacted a number of people who dont do this sort of thing, or who used to do it once but not anymore. However I think I have now found a blacksmith who can do the work but can't start for several weeks...

The cause of the leak that started this chain of investigation wasnt just deterioration of the keel bolt, it turned out that the keel band at this point had also rusted away.

Bonitas hull was built on an iron keelband, 5 inches wide and as long as the boat. This would have been the first thing that was laid down when they built her. It was probably a plate about an inch thick originally. Holes were drilled in this to take the keelbolts. The keelband is impossible to keep painted and has been gently rusting away for over 130 years. I knew this problem was coming but I had hoped that its replacement might be something that Bonitas next owner would tackle. Theres a section of keelband about 5 ft long that has perished and needs replacing this year and I think we can do that in steel plate. The rest of it should last a few more years. I think it should be all right to have the keelband in several sections- to renew the whole thing at one go would be a major undertaking.

I dont get the old boat lifted out very often, so it makes sense to look at any other jobs that need doing. For some months there has been a scraping noise when moving the rudder. The rudder head comes up onto deck through a wooden rudder trunk, whose diameter is only about 20mm greater than the rudder head, so its impossible to inspect with the rudder in place. I had hoped that the scraping noise might be due to a trapped piece of driftwood or perhaps a more adventurous than usual barnacle, but poking in the gap with a stick didnt help.  The only way to get a proper look is to drop the rudder out. Dropping the rudder out requires digging a hole about 3ft deep under the boat for it to drop into. I started on this a few days ago but with solid persistent rain the hole kept filling up with water and after a bit I decided to go home. I will try again when and if we get some dryer weather.

On a brighter note there is good progress with planning OGA60, the celebrations to mark to Old Gaffers Diamond Jubilee, and for the Round Britain Cruise for which Bonita has entered. It all has to come together for the start in Ramsgate on 26 April!

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