Ferro Cement Restoration

Hi folks – welcome to my ferro-cement boat blog. I started this project about 5 years ago as a way of keeping a record of the process and also because there seemed to be a lack of information on restoring ferro boats on the internet. Once i had basically got it afloat and completed it to a certain level of usability I ran out of enthusiasm and energy, which are maybe the same thing, and sold it. A number of other things happened in my life and the lack of money and time made it the obvious choice. The lesson i learned from this is don’t walk into a big project like this with your eyes closed. Inevitably, as in my case, costs and work spiral; i discovered many more things wrong with it after my initial survey. Make sure you get good advice and do the survey properly.

There is lots of info on how to do ferro repairs and also a lot of chat and my take on how to approach working on a big project like this. In fact i ended up totally gutting the interior and renewing just about everything in the process, so it is a general introduction to all aspects of doing up a boat without the finer details of how to do the work, I am assuming that if you’ve got this far you are a skilled person. When i first started it i used a site which gradually deactivated certain features in order to get money out of me so i had to switch to wordpress. This means that the first few months of blog are contained in added pages and can be viewed towards the end of this main page. My efforts in this direction have stopped short of putting everything in an accessible format so you’ll have to persevere if you want to find everything.

From the hits on the dashboard i have noticed that there continues to be interest in the site which comes from search engines so i am assuming that this stems from the tagline or title as being about ferro- cement boats. on that count here is a quick summary of my experience in repairing the hull.

There are a number of general cement repair epoxy mixtures as well as specific marine epoxies, all of which vary in grade and price. To some extent you can choose the fineness of the filler ingredient to suit the application. But as with the original cement mix there is an optimum balance of grades or fineness of aggregate which gives the strength and fluidity of the mix. According to the manufacturers and experts, the strength of an average repair epoxy is at least as strong as the best original cement. The crucial aspect is in the adherence of the epoxy to the cement which is why epoxy is used below the waterline because there is less strength in a cement repair when new wet cement is applied to old set cement which may also contain impurities sustained in the damage. This is partly because the setting process of cement is a chemical one and not a mechanical one, whereas epoxy is mostly the other way round, especially in terms of sticking to a foreign material.

Anyway there is more contained in the blog which should be findable from the photos. As I said the boat now belongs to someone else so for me it is a fait accomplis; my life has moved on and pastures new etc. Happy boating!

Where am i going?


This is a good question, which has 2 answers. In the short term I am sailing up the river on a nice sunny day in may and enjoying the exhilarating speed when a gust puffs down a channel on the water and the boat revs into life and heels over at nearly 45 degrees. On the other hand, metaphorically speaking, I am not that concerned with the goal, more a feeling that it is an activity which is an end in itself. Just trying to enjoy the feeling of freedom, the raw elements and the vitality of nature as i concentrate on keeping my craft in balance with the swirling energy all around.


This is the boat dangling on the end of the straps of the launching forklift. it captures the wonderful hydrodynamic shape of the hull and helps to explain the lively and light-handling ability of the boat.


And this was the first opportunity I had to get my camera out of my pocket as the wind dropped in the lee of a tall wooded bank. A great place to get the flask out and enjoy the relative calm of a secluded and natural place.

Small is Beautiful


I am in a bit of a tangle boatwise to be perfectly honest – for a start , I have bought a beautiful little fibreglass 24ft yacht which is all up together and now after 3 weeks of polishing and scrubbing I have launched it and enjoyed 3 blissful outings on the river. The reason for doing this, apart from the fact that is was going for a song, was that I was in despair about seeing all these tasty small boats flitting up and down the river past my mooring and wondering why I was just sitting there sunbathing rather than being out on the open sea. Having returned to my sailing roots, which is more like what I have been doing in my latest acquisition I now understand why.

Basically if one comes from a background of feeling the wind in the sails as a physical sensation which can be adjusted by the shifting weight of the sailor, and the deft flick of the mainsail rope or tweak of the tiller to adjust to the changing force of the wind, then the difference in experience between Mabinog and the lightweight [about 1 ton compared to 13], is extreme. The large boat relies on the abstracted consideration of the movements of the boat as it reacts to changes in the weather which must then be interpreted and responded to in a calculated way. If you get it right, the ride is secure and comforting allowing a detached but thrilling view of the sea passing by. With the smaller craft one becomes emotionally enmeshed with every nuance of the shifting water and wind. Need I say more.


And where this all leads is to the realisation that large boats tend to attract people who want a floating home as well as a moderated sailing experience. The smaller boat is for those who revel in the thrill not unlike that of the surf dude pitting his wits against the unpredictable swell of the ocean. There are obvious advantages of both mediums and I have enjoyed immensely my floating home experience and the tranquil surroundings of my mooring. But I have not progressed, psychologically or financially to the extent of equipping my house boat to take to the sea – this is my stumbling block which compounds my sense that I am at heart someone who travels light – as a result I am in the throes of selling the Bigger vessel. Above is a prospective buyer at the helm giving it a sea trial in a good blow which the top picture shows, in that we had to change the large stripy jib for the only other one I had on the boat – which is actually the staysail – designed to go on the inner forestay – but which actually just managed to balance the mainsail while hanked on to the front forestay.

Photo realism

mabinog sailing

Thought i’d give it the full page for this photo which was taken by a sailing friend who was passing nearby in his dinghy. As i have been hard at work for the last week rebuilding the back end of a motor boat for someone, I have not been out since last time but only just received this photo. I think it summarises for me the convergence of technology with human aspiration – the function of a tool to express our desires for a vision of life which satisfies our innermost yearnings. No doubt there are many layers of hidden hankerings for something transcendent in the mundane – but as with doing up the motor boat according to someone else’s  dreams, my part in it is sustained merely by the pure abstraction of the profit motive. However, as this is the bottom line of my capacity for creating my own heavenly vehicle, the nub of this dilemma must involve the translation of the capacity of the tool through the medium of my own technical skill. And as this suggests that i would be content merely to sit back and look at photos of my boat rather than go out and sail it, i feel this expresses the fundamental limitations of the idealism of photography which almost assumes that the simulacrum of the experience can substitute for the real thing. No chance!

lloyd photo mabinog

And on that note – I have long puzzled the relationship between photography and art – and this often boils down to the actual elemental quality of the image – ie. between the image on the screen and the paint on the boat – and this is particularly heightened in the case of fine art when you see the real thing in a gallery – not to mention the obvious need to view objects in time as expressed by picassos cubism and its association with sculpture and primitivism. I just go this photo off the website of Lloyd the graffiti artist [whose work this is],  who you can view on facebook. Actually i think the best comparison is between recorded music and live experience of musicians – for me there is again no comparison – thats why i hardly ever listen to recorded music and have realised in my own playing that the division between the form or structure of the music or tune, and the sound of the instrument and the way that the musician shapes it to express themselves , defines the obvious cleft of meaning between experience and knowledge – even though the synthesis of the two in a seamless whole such as a traditional dance gathering in a ritual setting manages to combine both in a symbolic  narrative and collective experience which enhances the potential of both.

A Chorus of Seals

skokholm seals



If you look carefully just above the waterline basking on the rocks you can see the seals. In fact what alerted me to their presence as I nosed carefully into this rocky bay was the sound which at first almost seemed human, or at least somehow a mixture of something like a dog howling and a human singing, interspersed with the occasional grunt or groan. And when there were a few of them doing it at once; as there were about 20 of them in this small bay, there was a sense of a kind of primal chanting. This was obviously enhanced by the remoteness and exposed quality of the environment which evoked in me a sense that here was an experience of the elemental energy of the universe, the raw material before civilisation came on the scene. But maybe this was in fact some kind of mating ritual, or perhaps a precursor to our own tribal behaviour patterns which, after observing them for a while seemed to have something to do with the presence and position of a dominant male.


Anyway, back to the business of sailing and the all important factor of how the boat performed and my developing relationship with it. If you look 2 blogs previously you will see a picture of the boat languishing in choppy waters at the mouth of the estuary with the lighthouse in the background. In the above photo I have travelled beyond the headland and out to an island which is managed by the RSPB. As you can see this is a good couple of miles out to sea; I had a sublimely euphoric journey getting there, delighting in the wonderful performance of my craft in the ideal conditions which filled the sails and blew me at an exhilarating pace out to sea.


So after a long stretch at the helm, as I had raised the mainsail while on my mooring up the river, and then hoisted the jib once I got into a wide part of the river where a favourable northerly ushered me out of the main shipping lanes and into the great blue beyond, I arrived at this spot which I had not visited since my last smaller boat.  It is hard to put words to the sense of enjoyment of sailing effortlessly and silently out across the wide seas to a remote wilderness, and then the sense of blissful tranquillity once I had switched off the engine which I used to manoeuvre into a safe anchorage. With the sound of the seals, the rare blast of hot weather and putting my feet up with a hot cup of tea I was indeed in paradise for about an hour when another yacht arrived for a spot of fishing, but by then it was time to glide gently back to the calm of my nights mooring inside the haven with the stiff breeze and the downshore current giving me a smooth ride home. After another day at the visitors pontoon when I went ashore to do some coast path and lazing on the beach, I then came slowly  back up the estuary, the wind filling my genoa from a following westerly, the incoming tide guiding me to my own mooring. Hopefully this will not be the last of the summer wine!


dive bob

A quick blog before I set off to warmer climes for a holiday  – but I wont be lugging my diving suit with me as its supposed to get hot over there  [fingers crossed]  Anyway I took this ‘selfie’ myself – and surprisingly it came out well – so I thought I’d stick it on the blog just to prove that we have had some decent weather. The main purpose of getting the wetsuit was to stop me getting hypothermia if I have to dive under the boat to remove obstacles from the propeller – which happened in my last boat and left me shivering at the helm for the next hour. So I was well pleased with this bit of kit as I plunged under the boat to check if my bearing was still in good condition because I am getting slightly concerned about a slight knocking noise coming from underneath when I rev up the engine. Fortunately all is well bearing-wise, as I suspected, so this narrows the culprit down to either the exhaust vibrating against the hull or the inner stern gland which has a bronze bearing to keep the water seal in the right place.  Another feature of the wetsuit is that it keeps you afloat, which has its advantages in staying buoyant but means that it is more difficult to swim under water – so I rigged up a rope going under the hull to pull on. And the price you pay for keeping nice and warm inside this artificial layer of walrus fat is that it is harder to swim – I had visions of me floating out to sea with the tide because I couldn’t swim against it – good job I was securely attached to my dinghy.


st annes head2

st annes head

Last weekend i managed to go out for a sail on my own by putting the mainsail up while moored to a pontoon which is anchored in the middle of the bay. The only snag with this is that when it came to casting off the last rope tied to the jetty the boat was already heaving to sail away from the pontoon – so it was an act of fine balancing and a well timed leap with the rope in hand to get going. However, once underway it was a doddle – and i creamed across the mouth of the estuary  with the tiller as light as a feather in my hand while i relaxed in the nice steady motion of this rounded and deep displacement hull and revelled in the comfort of my well protected and strategically advantageous cockpit – as can be seen by the visibility in the photos with the spray hood folded down.

By the time i reached the place where these photos were taken i was approaching the choppy waters at the mouth of the estuary where the outgoing tide meets the longshore drift outside. As a result the breakers virtually stopped my forward progress, which had only been sustained by a slight breeze, and i sat there frustratingly pitching up and down with the sails flapping, optimistically anticipating an upturn in the windspeed. Unfortunately this was not to be, and by the time i had reached the fast flowing longshore tidal currents it was all i could do to manoever back into the relative stillness of the estuary under sail.  At this point, the changing direction of the tide combined with a funnelling effect of the estuary, plus the fact that i was now heading more into the wind which multiplies the effect on the sails, meant that i could cruise back down the river to my mooring, and, at times, benefit from an upsurge in wind speed from the dynamics of the river banks which gave me exhilarating bursts of speed and whet my appetite for the next venture.

All in all a successful trip which has confirmed in me the superb sailing ability of my craft – this notwithstanding the damp conditions and the lack of funds or willing crew to add to the viability of setting off to some distant shore. Never mind –  it becomes more and more evident to me as i observe the droves of state-of-the-art luxury yachts zooming past me in the lightest of breezes, that the modern gleaming white plastic yacht is a creature of technical refinement and exorbitant cost. On that basis i am happy to wait while my meagre income – [negative at the moment] – attempts to scale up the level of equipment , courtesy of e-bay and local cast offs, to a point where i will feel more confident in heading away from base camp at my idyllic mooring on the river. After all, what is the point sweating anxiety over the latest bit of kit to speed me to some other salubrious location when i have everything right here, right now?  The process is the goal, patience is a virtue and time will tell;  fingers crossed that august doesn’t turn out as dissappointing as last year!

Marine Sandwich


The window of fair weather seems to have passed for the moment so a week of doing other things is in store – which reminds me – i must get my book published and save the world from imminent destruction and spiritual apocalypse. Better still have a sandwich – and a vegetarian one at that. People go on about the destruction of the environment but really the problem is quite simple – we exploit the land by insisting on eating vast amounts of meat and carving up the land into denuded green squares dosed with chemicals all the while herding the masses into squalid boxes in urban jungles. We have lost the appreciation of nature – how to be in balance with the harmony of nature and discover our true selves amidst the beauty and vitality of the natural world. I was forcefully reminded of this while spending a week working on a relative’s farm which is admittedly composed of some characterless green squares but on a small scale and a diversity of animals who are more pets than livestock – the joy of feeling really like an animal in uncluttered symbiosis with the basic stuff of life – after all we share nearly all the same body parts as other mammals!


This is obviously part of my rationale – well more emotionale really – in deciding to get a big boat and spend most of my energy in getting it seaworthy. Now i have tasted the reality of being out at sea – well almost! – i can feel the surge of emotion which draws me ever more into the wilderness – perhaps this is the authentic green man in me which wants to escape the misery and claustrophobia of concrete synthetic culture.  Well maybe there is a spirit of adventure there too – the sense that all this technology can be harnessed to support my journey to a remote place – ironically away from the source of all those things which i have spent all my money on in building this mammoth project  – maybe the delusion will all come crashing down someday – the thought that keeps whizzing round my mind is that my entire invested output is dangling precariously on the end of a rope and at the mercy of the next stormy weather which could send it all down the plughole – not to mention me of course. So any reckless adventurers who want to crew on the boat please get in touch – it would be great not to have to tackle this learning curve single-handedly   – although i suspect that is my ultimate aim.

Baggy Trousers!


Sailing at last – despite the stretch marks in the mainsail which means that a new mainsail will have to be acquired before top performance is achieved! But I was very impressed with the way she sailed and handled in the slight conditions of the maiden voyage. After a few minor adjustments by an old hand who came along to help – we got off to a brisk start and headed out to sea – only to find that the current was stronger than the wind and was dragging us down stream – so we had to turn back and had a leisurely sail back up the haven where the currents were in the right direction.


As you can see the conditions were nice and flat inside the sheltered waters but she glided over the waves out at sea and gave me a confidence that with a stronger wind it would be a joy to sail and was equally light on the helm which was my main concern. After years of graft and rebuilding the skeg and rudder I was concerned that it might have skewed the balance – but it cruised effortlessly and picked up with the slightest gust even though the new jib is well short of a light-weather genoa – another item on the shopping list.


I would have loved to have seen her glide past all the other shiny white plastic yachts with this stripy foresail billowing and the dragons head surging through the waves! Well that will have to wait till I get some more crew and can perhaps go out to sail with another boat and swap places. Actually I was so keyed up for the maiden voyage that it took me a long time to adjust to the reality that mabinog was at last doing what it was designed to do – in fact the bloke who built her never sailed her either – anyway after a couple of hours at the helm and the pleasant weather and views out towards the islands – I mellowed out and enjoyed a marine sandwich and cakes – not to mention the cup of tea which always has the edge when you have the waves and the horizon moving past.