With winter upon us, Nick Ward says this could be just the time to retreat into the ‘man shed’ for a spot of boatbuilding.

When it comes to boat refits, I often liken them to childbirth: all the pain and effort evaporates as soon as the boat hits the water. I always think that a straightforward task like a boat refit should be a relatively quick, simple and painless job.  But how close to reality is that? 

Taking the boat to pieces may be quick and simple enough, but putting it back together is not quite so rapid. Particularly when, as in my own case, you are bringing an older wooden boat into the 21st century, whilst keeping the classic traditional look. No visible USB sockets, no bright twinkling LEDs or five bar gate-sized chart plotters.

I have looked at wind instruments showing speed and direction, but these are expensive. A bit naïve you might say, but I think I know when it’s windy, and the time to reef is when the kettle falls off the cooker. As far as wind direction, there is one of those things at the top of the mast that points towards the general place the wind’s coming from. Of course, I am looking at this from a cruising point of view and if I were racing, the navigation suite might resemble the flight deck of a Jumbo Jet.

The other issue with working on boats in man sheds during the winter is the cold.  Although the epoxy resin is kept in its very own heated storage box, curing times are slow and general motivation and the heavy clothing does not help. A friend who was helping out one winter complained about the cold, saying that he couldn’t make the coffee for the morning break and listen to Radio 2’s pop master quiz because the water in the bottle had frozen. We had lunch in the pub that day.

Another problem with home refits is the lack of time. Working as a yacht broker I would expect the buying and selling process to slow down in the winter months, but Waypoint Brokerage is not slowing down at all.  In fact we are both listing and selling more yachts and motorboats than in previous years. We have been averaging five boat transactions a month over the past 12 months. It’s been expected that the boat-buying bubble would burst, but there is no sign of this happening yet, and so the time I can devote to the refit of my own boat has been more limited than I’d anticipated.

During the course of my day job of yacht brokerage, I quite regularly come across some sad-looking boats at this time of year. Not laid up in the traditional way, some boats are just left from the last time they were used. 

Sails are left on and are attacked by the wind and winter storms. In contrast, some owners bring out the winter covers. These are fabulous things, some designed to protect the important bits like the winches, cockpit teak work and the cordage. Others go the whole hog and cover the entire boat, leaving just enough space each end for the all-essential air to pass through the boat so as not to encourage the rot-inducing spores.

A well-covered boat will keep its value for longer and consequently be more attractive to a new owner when the time comes to pass her on.

Now – back to that refit….