Gael Force’s Top Gifts for Christmas

With 4 weeks left until Christmas, you’ll be joining the camp of one of two types of people. Either you have all of your Christmas shopping completed and have done since at least mid-October.

Or, you’ve barely even thought about Christmas and reading how little time is left until Christmas Day has sent you into a panic. (There’s also the Christmas Eve shopper but we won’t count them).

That’s where we come in.

We’ve created a range of Christmas shops to provide you with inspiration but we’ve also gathered together our top 10 favourite gifts to give to your loved ones this Christmas. Check them out below!

1. Limit Pro XR Watch – £29.99

limit-pro-watch

Limit Watchmakers have a knack for producing superb designs with great features for great value and this watch is no exception!

The Pro XR watch has rugged marine styling in navy blue with features such as a stopwatch, countdown timer, pacer, day/date, alarms and night-time illumination!

It’s also waterproof to 100m and boasts a two-year guarantee. Even better, it comes gift-boxed, so you don’t need to worry about presentation this Christmas!

Another great Limit watch we have available is the Digital Countdown Watch in red/black for the same price.

2. Gael Force 7×50 Focus-Free Waterproof Binoculars – £39.99 (or 2 pairs for £70)

binoculars-with-review

Our own brand waterproof binoculars are superb value for money. These nitrogen-filled binoculars have long relief and are manufactured with a robust rubber armour body. They come with a carry-case and strap and offer a range of 367ft (132m) at 1000 yards.

The focus-free aspect means they use your eye’s natural ability to focus, rather than relying on manual adjustment and focusing mechanisms.

Our two pairs for £70 deal offers you an even better saving than buying one on its own so you can either get two gifts for less or you can treat yourself while you’re shopping for others!

3. Nauticalia “Ship Faced” Tankard – Only £9.99

ship-faced-tankard

Everyone loves a good gag gift so why not combine something funny and perhaps a little silly with something useful?!

Whether it’s for a boating-themed party, a gift for those hard-to-buy-for ‘Yachties’, or simply keeping track of which drink is whose, this tankard is sure to make the recipient, and everyone else, smile!

Please be aware that it isn’t suitable for microwave or dishwasher. Size: 1 pint.

4. Garmin Striker Plus 4cv Fishfinder with GT20-TM Transducer – RRP £246.99 NOW £209.99 (Save 15%)

garmin-striker-plus-4cv

The Garmin STRIKER Plus 4cv fishfinder is the perfect gift for the fisherman in your life. The built-in GPS feature (with CHIRP traditional sonar and CHIRP ClearVu scanning sonar) lets them mark and navigate to waypoints and shows the boat’s speed.

The Quickdraw Contours mapping software creates HD fishing maps of the places they’ve been, storing up to 2 million acres of content with 1-foot contours.

This fishfinder makes fishing a breeze and it’s built to work in any environment. The bright 4.3-inch display and intuitive user interface make it simple to navigate so they are ready for anything on the water.

5. Nauticalia Pocket Hammock – £14.99

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From the late 1600s onwards, hammocks (derived from the Spanish word ‘hamaca’) were widely used on ships with sailors having to share a double one.

Thankfully, you won’t have to share this one with anyone else. This frameless mini-hammock is woven from tough nylon and rolls up into a fist-sized ball that can slip easily into your pocket.

It is versatile in its use as you can take it out on the boat with you or when you go camping. It is suitable for people up to 6 ft 3 inches tall.

6. Holebrook Men’s Windproof Joar Sweater – RRP £138.98 NOW £109.95 (Save 21%)

holebrook-joar-navy.jpg

The ‘Joar’ sweater is the latest to be added to our range of Holebrook knitwear. Holebrook is known for producing high-quality sweaters which is why we’re sure your loved ones would appreciate one as a gift.

This black t-neck sweater is 100% cotton and structure knitted with brown Alcantara patches over the elbows and shoulders making it fashionable, comfortable, and functional.

This windproof sweater is perfect for keeping the chill away, regardless of the season, while still remaining light in warmer weather.

Check out our great range of other Holebrook sweaters for men and women.

7. NauticaliaWooden Dominoes Set – RRP £19.99 NOW £11.95 (Save 40%) SOLD OUT

dominoes-set

This set is a great gift and also a nice way to pass the time over the festive period, wherever you may be, regardless of age.

This smart wooden box with glass panel set in the top and brass inlaid corners houses a full set of quality wooden dominoes.

Box length: 8 inches.

8. Nauticalia Salmon Cushion – £19.99

salmon-cushion

Cushion, pillow, toy or ornament, it’s entirely up to you! This unusual fabric fish is highly realistic and a great quirky gift to someone.

It’s printed on both sides and is firmly stuffed to give it an authentic shape and appearance. The cushion is made from strong hardwearing polyester with a shiny gloss finish and is 33 inches long.

It’s also CE tested for toy safety (ages 3 upwards) so you don’t have to worry about that.

We also have Crab Cushions and Shark Cushions available, if Salmon doesn’t take your fancy.

9. Standard Horizon HX210 Handheld Radio –  RRP £134.95 NOW £118.95 (Save 12%)

hx210-radio

The HX210 Marine Handheld Radio is a handy compact transceiver with a high capacity Lithium-Ion battery and a buoyant case. It is waterproof to 1 metre for 30 minutes and is designed to float face up if it’s dropped overboard. It also has a 3-year warranty so overall, it’s the perfect gift for that clumsy person in your life!

Despite its compact size, it boasts one of the largest screens in its class with a bright (yet dimmable option) backlit LCD screen and easy to operate menu system. The water-activated strobe light on the cover makes it easy for the radio, or the person using it, to be found at night.

It’s the perfect time to upgrade your loved one’s old radio and with all USA, International and Canadian channels available, it’ll suit you wherever you are in the world.

10. Gael Force Chandlery Gift Vouchers – £10-£50

gift-vouchers

Still struggling for what to get your loved ones for Christmas?

If you’re not sure what they need, why not give them one of our gift vouchers so they can treat themselves at a later point?

Vouchers are redeemable over the phone or in-store at our Inverness, Glasgow, and Plymouth branches. They’re also valid for 1 year so there’s plenty of time to use them.


Visit our Christmas shops for more inspiration! We’ve made Christmas easy this year by setting up shops by budget, by ‘who it’s for’ and everything else in between. Happy shopping!

Top Products for Laying Up Your Boat

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2017 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer. The clocks will soon be going back again, lulling us into a false sense of security with our ‘extra hour’ in bed… It must be that time of year again.

Time to lay up your boat.

But what is “Laying Up”?

Laying up or “winterisation” is the process of preparing your boat to withstand the winter weather. This is an important part of your boat maintenance in order to prevent damage and ensure a smooth, problem-free, and worry-free return to sailing come spring-time.

So, where should you start?

Here at Gael Force, we have a wide range of products for all your boating winterisation requirements but it can be time-consuming to find all the right products for this process.

To make things easier for you, we’ve compiled a list of our top picks for laying up your boat this year:

1. Tetrion Moisture Mate Absorber – £7.49

1.moisture-mate

The “Moisture Mate” absorber is a simple and safe way to help reduce moisture in the air on your boat. If moisture is left unattended, it can lead to serious problems such as condensation, damp and mildew. This is also a much cheaper alternative to buying a dehumidifier and most effective when placed in the harder to reach places and little nooks and crannies.

2. Polygon Eco Bilge Cleaner Sachets – £9.99

2.polygon-eco-bilge-cleaner

This bilge wash is an eco-friendly way to clean out the bilges. The polymer powder-filled sachets are water-soluble so they can be pre-dissolved in water or simply added straight to disperse oil and disinfect the bilge.

Everything about it is biodegradable so using this product will reduce the need for the usual plastic containers, helping us do our bit for the environment while making this job easier too.

This product is really handy and versatile as you can also use it to clean the decks, superstructure and hulls. And while you’re doing this, you should also test out of the bilge pumps to ensure they are working as they should!

3. Alke Mini Catalytic Heater – £184.49

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For the last decade, boat owners have been raving to us about this heater!

The minicat Catalytic Heater works off butane or propane gas and comes complete with safety thermocouple. The safety factor is the catalytic element which allows the gas to burn away without a flame at a relatively low temperature, therefore avoiding any possibility of an accidental fire.

It is CE approved and complete with FFD (Flame Failure Device) but you should always maintain permanent ventilation when the heater is being used. Install it free-standing or wall-mounted to keep your cabin warm.

4. Starbrite Sail & Canvas Cleaner – £10.49

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This handy little product is specially formulated to get rid of dirt, grease, and stains from both natural and synthetic fabrics, including sails, boat covers and bimini tops.

It is easily applied once diluted and the solution does not weaken fabric or thread. It’s the perfect product for ensuring your sail and other fabric on your boat are spotless after a busy season.

You can also follow this up by applying Starbrite’s Waterproofing Treatment to make material watertight and resistant to future soiling, giving you less work to do in the future.

5. Polyform F-Series Fenders – from £15.99

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Fenders are important for taking the hit in bad weather so your boat doesn’t have to because they absorb the kinetic energy of your boat berthing against a jetty and prevent damage to vessels and berthing structures.

This is especially relevant with the stormy conditions we’ve been hit with recently and will stand you in good stead while your boat is unattended over the next 6 months for any other storms forecast.

These heavy-duty fenders come in a range of sizes to suit your vessel and have high abrasive resistance and energy absorption. They’re also tested in temperatures ranging from -30 degrees to +60 degrees Celsius so you know they’ll withstand all weathers.

6. Starbrite Non-Toxic Premium Anti-Freeze – £9.99

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Starbrite’s anti-freeze is the perfect solution to provide cold weather and corrosion protection for your water systems and engines, preventing them from freezing up while in storage.

It is safe and effective to use on aluminium, copper, brass, and all types of plastic without compromising rubber, seals, or hose materials. It is an incredibly versatile and useful product!

This anti-freeze provides burst protection to -46 degrees Celsius and freeze protection ranging from -11 degrees to -9 degrees Celsius. And even better, it’s ready to use immediately – no dilution required!

7. CT1 Unique Sealant & Construction Adhesive – From £12.49

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Be careful not to let any gradual gaps or flaking old sealant to fester over the winter period – some might say it’s cheaper to deal with the problem now rather than let it deteriorate.

You’re in luck though! CT1 Sealant is a unique all-purpose adhesive that can be used in most applications without the need for any additional fixings. It can successfully bond metal, glass, wood, polystyrene, mirrors, and almost any material, making it a must-have for this time of year for any boat maintenance needs.

It is resistant to chemicals, UV, and fungal growth while maintaining environmental compliance. It can be painted, does not shrink and is odourless. Most importantly, it works in wet or dry conditions.

8. OML Volcano Outboard Motor Lock – £67.99

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Don’t leave your outboard open to theft over extended unattended periods of time! Made in the UK and from high grade 316 stainless steel, this bolt lock is one of the best in the marine market.

It is built to resist theft as the smart cone shape design makes it difficult for offenders to strike hard and awkward to grip with a huge wrench. This is what you want from a lock when ensuring your expensive outboard is safe over the winter. Suitable for use with most Suzuki, Honda, and Tohatsu engines.

9. Gael Force Mooring Compensator – from £10.49

6.compensator

Also known as “rubber snubbers”, this mooring compensator is designed for use on small boats and can be used with up to 15mm rope. Rubber snubbers reduce boat movement at a mooring or on a marina berth.

It is sturdy, constructed from natural rubber, and resilient to sea-water, sunlight, and weather, meaning it’ll take the strain in bad weather conditions and you won’t have to worry about it when it’s docked for the winter, just like your fenders.

Also available in two other sizes.

10. Hylite Slimline Tube Heater with Thermostat – from £26.95

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Hylite’s Tube Heater is a great addition to your boat to ensure good air circulation in enclosed spaces and assists with preventing condensation and dampness. This choice is low power at 240v and slimline with an energy saving thermostat which can be left on the boat.

It can be fitted using the brackets provided, either by mounting them on the wall or on the floor. It is fitted with a UK plug and IP44 rated for water resistance. Available in 3 sizes: 0.5m, 1.0m and 1.5m with a 1.5-metre long cable.

Protect your tube heater with Hylite’s Heater Guard.

11. Jabsco Twist N Lock Toilet (Compact Bowl) – £119.95

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Depending on when you prefer to kit out your boat, this might just be the perfect time to replace your toilet. The ‘Twist n Lock’ toilet from Jabsco is our best-selling toilet so it won’t leave you wanting for quality.

The white vitreous china bowl and enamelled wooden seat and cover lend themselves to the twist n lock function which is an action handle to seal down the toilet seat and protect against symphonic flooding and waste backflow.

It has also been designed for easy left or right-handed installation and with easy access for maintenance. So, if it’s time for you to upgrade, this is the toilet you want!


For a further list of products suitable for this process, visit our “Laying Up Your Boat” shop.

How To Remove Antifouling

Disclaimer: This post is intended as a guide.

As we come to the end of the sailing season, it’s time to consider laying up your boat for the winter and one aspect of this is removing the antifoul from your boat if it is in poor condition.

Now, opinions are split on when is best to strip the old antifoul. Some people will wait until next year when they bring their boat out to apply fresh antifoul. However, there is a train of thought that suggests doing it now could save in time and effort in the lead up to the season next year as the old antifoul is still soft and easier to strip.

We briefly covered how to remove antifouling in our Antifouling FAQs post earlier this year but we have now expanded on this topic further with its own dedicated blog post.

Read on to find out how best to remove antifoul from your boat.

1. Prioritise Health & Safety.

It’s extremely important before you begin this type of work to ensure you are wearing the correct protective gear. This includes safety goggles, nitrile rubber gloves, overalls, and a solvent mask (if working in a confined space).

bcf-antifouling-dos-donts

It is also highly recommended that you work in an area that is sufficiently ventilated.

Although it is more focused on applying rather than removing, it is worth keeping in mind this handy leaflet created by The British Coatings Federation (BCF) to “inform and educate boat owners with regard to the hazards associated with antifouling their boats.”

2. Remove loose antifouling.

Whether the boat has just come out of the water or it has just come out of storage, you’ll want to begin by removing any loose antifouling with a high-pressure fresh-water washer.

Make sure that any residue and wash water is contained during this process and disposed of appropriately afterwards. Once this has been completed, mask off all areas that will be stripped.

3. Use an antifouling stripper.

interstrip

To remove old antifouling, you can use a paint stripper like International’s Interstrip AF. These products have been specially formulated to remove antifouling from all substrates and Interstrip, in particular, won’t harm the gelcoat when used on glass fibre.

Application of the paint stripper should be generous and with an old brush. Ensure you follow further application guidelines provided on the product label.

You should leave the product to work for a minimum of 10 minutes, though the time required will depend on the temperature and the amount of old antifouling on the hull.

4. Remove old antifoul.

Once the appropriate amount of time for the stripper has passed, take off the old antifoul with a blunt scraper while it is still soft. Ensure the product does not dry out by working on small areas at a time.

Interstrip is able to remove several coats of antifoul in one go but heavy build-up might require this step to be repeated several times.

Final Note: Remember that you will need to sand and prime the hull before applying fresh antifouling.


N.B. Due to the strict carriage of dangerous goods regulations, Gael Force can only dispatch antifouling and associated products to addresses on the UK Mainland.

The DIY Restoration of a Small Yacht: Rudder Surgery (Part 2) & ‘Bringing Her Home’ (#5)

seb-profile-photo-ytSeb, originally from Portsmouth in Hampshire, is the Sales Supervisor for the Gael Force Marine Megastore in Inverness.

He has agreed to write a series of posts following him and the restoration of his 26 foot, 54-year-old fibreglass yacht.

This series of blog posts so far can be read here.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes.

BLOG POST #5: Rudder Surgery (Part 2) & ‘Bringing Her Home’

Before we get back to the rudder, there’s the small matter of transporting the boat overland to her new home – my driveway!

I moved house last month (hence the lack of an August blog entry) and before all the boxes were unpacked, I was organising transport for Sunfire to take her overland from Hopeman harbour to a nice little spot just outside my front door.

The Invicta 26 isn’t a particularly large or heavy yacht, but my nerves were still shot as I helplessly watched her suspended several metres in the air, cradle and all.

1.sunfire-lifted-lorry

Getting to this somewhat precarious point took a couple of hours – we had to shift her around in the cradle and adjust all the side supports before lifting her.

There were a couple of touch and go moments – at one point I think most of her weight was on the side supports – but ultimately we got her on the lorry without any damage other than some frayed nerves and I was delighted to see her arrive safely at the other end.

2.sunfire-lorry-transport

Sunfire weighs about two and a half metric tons, which incidentally is the limit of the lorry’s crane when fully extended.  The shape of the driveway meant that the boat had to be craned off the back of the lorry, as opposed to side-on, which required the crane to be… fully extended.

It was a cool and overcast day, so when I saw a bead of sweat appear on the crane operator’s brow I knew it was the ‘maximum load’ alarms and not the weather that was making him sweat.

In the end, the crane held strong and the boat was carefully positioned into the perfect spot. When I look out my bedroom window I can now see Sunfire lying comfortably in her new home!

3.sunfire-driveway-new-home

Now, back to the rudder.

Recapping quickly, in my last blog we saw how I cut out a huge section of the side of my yacht’s rudder with reckless abandon. The reasoning behind this was that I’d discovered that the entire thing was completely hollow and would fill up with water as soon as it was submerged.

I wanted to fill it with a rigid, closed cell polyurethane foam to add stiffness, strength and to reduce the volume of water that would ingress into it once back in the water. Making that first cut was one of those ‘no turning back now’ moments, but after discovering what lay inside, I’m confident it was the right thing to do.

4.open-rudder-damage

There were lumps of what appeared to be old, rotten core material inside and a thin layer of powdery stuff covering all the inner surfaces. It may sound strange, but these little lumps of crud actually made me very happy as they implied that many years ago there was indeed a foam core in this rudder.

There was also glassed-in plywood around where the pintles were, which would have been for re-enforcement but was now completely rotten.

 

As always before attempting any repair, the first thing was to remove all the rot and clean all the surfaces.

Removing that rotten plywood was no easy task. I tried using a rotary tool with a small grinding attachment to grind it out, but the wood was so saturated (even after two years ashore) that it didn’t work. In the end, a good old chisel was the most effective.

With the rotten wood removed and the surfaces cleaned up I was finally ready to start rebuilding. Roll out the epoxy!

7.west-system-epoxy

Epoxy is a very versatile substance and can be mixed/thickened with a variety of additives and powders in order to change its properties to suit any particular application.

West System has a range of epoxy products that will cover just about every kind of repair you can think of on a fibreglass boat. It’s also used for many bonding and re-enforcing applications on GRP or wooden boats.

I contemplated going into great detail about all the different epoxy products and how to use them, but that would itself span several blog posts and there are tons of helpful how-to manuals already available on West System’s website.

It’s important to note that whenever using epoxy, gloves and protective eyewear should be worn. You really don’t want this stuff on your skin!

Before I could think about putting in the new foam core, I needed to re-enforce the area where I’d removed the rotten plywood.

To do this, I wanted to fill the area with thickened epoxy and new plywood. I first cleaned the entire area with acetone and then coated it with a thin layer of un-thickened epoxy. The next batch of epoxy was thickened with 402 milled glass fibres and squeezed into all the nooks and crannies of the cavity.

 

I filled the entire void like this, adding in some plywood to bulk it out, and then glassed over the top to the repair with biaxial glass cloth to finish it off. I’m confident that it’s now stronger than it was and also that any points of water ingress around that area have been blocked up.

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After this, I applied a thin mix of epoxy and 404 high-density filler along all the inside seams of the rudder, where the two halves were originally bonded together, to seal up any potential leaks.

This probably wasn’t necessary, but with the innards of the rudder so exposed, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. The thinness of the mix allowed it to self-settle along the seams.

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With the epoxy all fully cured and any amine blush (a waxy substance that forms on the surface as part of the epoxy curing process) washed away, I was ready to start pouring in the new foam core.

The two-part polyurethane foam I used was designed for this purpose and is much more rigid than the ‘builders’ expanding foam you get in a spray can.

The two parts must be mixed together at exactly the correct ratio – I used some electronic weighing scales – and when combined you only have a few seconds before the reaction starts. If you don’t pour the mixture quickly enough you’ll soon have a foamy disaster on your hands, literally! Again – gloves and eyewear should definitely be worn.

I started by pouring the foam in all the edges of the rudder then set about building it up in the middle.

 

The great thing about this foam is that it’s easy to work after it has cured. It didn’t take me long to cut and then sand it to a profile I was happy with. I bevelled the edge around the cut-out to give a good surface area for the new sheets of glass to bond with.

West System recommend a bevel of twelve times the thickness of the laminate you’re working on. In my case, the laminate was 4mm thick so I made a bevel of 50mm.

15.polyurethane-foam-cut-sanded

I was using a heavy tri-axial cloth for rebuilding the side of the rudder and I calculated that 4 sheets would give me the correct final laminate thickness.

The first sheet would be the largest – going slightly beyond the outside edge of the bevel and the last sheet would be the same size as the hole I cut out. I used the section that I cut out as a template to mark out the glass cloth.

16.triaxial-cloth-cut

Before laying up the glass, I stabilized the surface of the foam core by spreading a thin layer of thickened epoxy over it. When laying the glass, I used a roller to spread the epoxy around and into the glass cloth as I lay each piece down. It’s important that the glass is fully impregnated with the resin and no air bubbles are trapped underneath it.

I’d not glassed an area this big before, but I think it went well overall. I might have underestimated how much epoxy this heavy cloth could soak up though so I may have ended up with a laminate that is a little heavy on glass and light on the resin.

Before the epoxy cured, I covered the whole thing with peel ply. Peel ply is a cotton weave cloth that epoxy doesn’t bond with. Once the epoxy has cured, the peel ply can be ‘peeled’ off, taking any amine blush with it. This process leaves the surface underneath perfect for the next step – fairing.

 

Fairing is the process of smoothing out any unevenness in your fibreglass layup and getting the surface ready for painting. In this case, I spread epoxy thickened with 410 microlight over the entire work area then sanded it down with my home-made flexible sanding board.

The sanding board is just a 3mm strip of plywood that I glued a couple of handles onto one side and then a sheet of cork and some sandpaper onto the other side. It’s great when you need to sand a curved surface as it conforms to the curve.

 

My initial mix of the fairing compound was a bit thin and sagged away from the centre, so after sanding it back there were quite a few low spots which needed more compound.

I mixed up some ‘peanut butter’ consistency epoxy, spread it on, waited for it to cure, washed off the amine blush and waited for that to dry. And that’s where I am at the moment. Sanding is thirsty work however and I’ll have to leave the next session of sanding bliss to the next blog!

22.extra-fairing-compound-rudder

Coming Up Next Time: I’m hoping to wrap up the rudder next, I mean literally wrap it in glass fibre, so join me then!


If you have any questions for Seb regarding this post, please feel free to comment below.

The DIY Restoration of a Small Yacht: Rudder Surgery(#4)

seb-profile-photo-ytSeb, originally from Portsmouth in Hampshire, is the Sales Supervisor for the Gael Force Marine Megastore in Inverness.

He has agreed to write a series of posts following him and the restoration of his 26 foot, 54-year-old fibreglass yacht.

This series of blog posts so far can be read here.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes.

BLOG POST #4: Rudder Surgery

I wanted to get the rudder and tiller home so that I could assess their condition and make any repairs from the relative comfort of my shed. As it was a transom hung rudder, removing it was simply a case of unbolting a few brackets and lifting it off its gudgeons.

Despite its substantial size, it wasn’t too heavy, and I was able to get it off and onto the roof rack single-handed.

1.rudder-tiller

The Tiller (the “easy” bit)

Despite being heavily weathered, the condition of the tiller ‘only’ warranted renovation rather than a complete replacement.

The first task was to remove all the bits of hardware. The previous owner had bolted various brackets and such onto it that I had no need for. I removed these, countersunk the holes and filled them with a generic teak coloured wood filler.

The old varnish was so flaky that sanding it off by hand was relatively painless, but the teak underneath was very weathered and I would have had to remove a lot of material to get back to fresh wood.

2.tiller

Rather than sand until I had a matchstick for a tiller, I decided to use a teak brightener to give the wood a more uniform appearance and remove the surface mottling caused by weathering. After brushing it on and washing it off, the look was much improved. She was now ready for some varnish!

I used International Schooner varnish, which is an easy to apply, one-part varnish with some UV filters in it, so it was perfect for exterior woodwork.

The first rub down was with 120 grit sandpaper to give the varnish something to key into. I then wiped it down with acetone to remove any remaining dirt and remove some of the oils in the wood which would allow for better penetration of the first coat of varnish.

I thinned the first coat with International’s Number 1 thinners at 20%. This allows the varnish to penetrate the grain of the wood which should prevent any chance of it peeling off in the future.

The technique I use for applying varnish is to brush it on lengthways with firm brush strokes to get the varnish on quickly, then go over it with brush strokes at 90 degrees to the first coating. Finally, I go back over it with very light strokes across the length of the work. In theory, this should get the varnish uniformly applied and remove any air bubbles that may have formed.

The trick is to work quickly so that the ‘wet edges’ of the vanish don’t tack up before you’ve done the whole thing. I’m no varnishing expert though, so if anyone has a better technique, I’m all ears!

The following day it was ready to rub down with 320 grit paper and apply its first coat of un-thinned varnish.

3.varnishing-tiller-1

4.varnishing-tiller-2

5.varnishing-tiller-3

I learned the hard way that good lighting is important when varnishing. After completing what I thought was the final coat, it turned out that there were small areas that I’d missed.

I also think it pays to decant the varnish into a disposable container (paper cups in my case) rather than use it directly from the tin. There’s nothing worse than opening a tin of premium varnish to find a film has formed over the top of it from repeated exposure to the air!

I repeated the varnishing process six times until I was happy with the build-up. I thought the finish looked great!

6-tiller-varnish-finish.jpg

The rudder: down the rabbit hole I go…

With the rudder safely back home, my first job was to remove all the paint so that I could properly assess its condition.

I wanted to use this ‘opportunity’ as a tester to see which method of paint removal I would use on the hull later on: sanding or wet shot blasting.

I liked the idea of wet shot blasting – using blast media in conjunction with a pressure washer – as I thought it would be the quickest method and give the best finish.

I was wrong…

I’d bought a cheap (£20) attachment for a pressure washer that has a tube going into a bucket of blast media. I used the finest grade of media I could find in the hope that it wouldn’t be too aggressive and damage the surface underneath the paint.

7.rudder-blast-media

Despite using a petrol powered pressure washer that I had managed to borrow, it was slow going and I found that it would remove chunks of gelcoat before removing whatever primer had been painted onto it years ago.

8.rudder-mottled-finish

After 30 minutes of work, the result was a mottled finish that still had some traces of antifouling and plenty of the underlying primer. I’d also managed to cover about 50% of my garden in black sandy stuff. The following pictures show some of the damage it was doing to the gelcoat:

9.rudder-damage-gelcoat-1

10.rudder-damage-gelcoat-2

It may have been that I was using the wrong media or that my technique wasn’t right, but the bottom line was that for a DIY’er, it was time-consuming, messy, relatively expensive (the blast media wasn’t cheap) and ultimately, an ineffectual process.

However, it was very good and quick at cleaning up the stainless-steel fittings still on the rudder and at getting into nooks and crannies that would be difficult to access with sandpaper.

After everything had dried out, I flipped the rudder over and retrieved my trusty sanders. I’m a strong believer in having good quality tools and I wouldn’t recommend approaching something like this without a sander that can at least be connected to some form of dust extraction.

11.rudder-belt-sander

The belt sander with a 60-grit paper made such light work of the job that I instantly realised that sanding was the way to go. With the dust extractor running, there was negligible dust, but I still wore a full face mask to make sure I wasn’t breathing that nasty antifouling.

Once the majority of the paint was removed, I used a powerful dual-action orbital sander and hand sanding to finish the job.

12.rudder-sander-1

13.rudder-sander-2

That being done, it was time to get down to business. I pulled out the two bolts securing the upper pintle and was dismayed (but not surprised) to find them covered in a yucky brown sludge.

14.upper-pintle-damage

I assumed this was rotten plywood that had been used as a core material for the thick upper part of the rudder, so I drilled out the holes with a 25mm hole saw in order to see how badly rotten the wood was.

I was amazed to find that there was no core material of any kind – just an empty void surrounded by 10mm laminate!

15.upper-pintle-no-core-material

I don’t know if the rudder is the original or not, but either way, I found this construction pretty odd. It did mean that I wouldn’t have to cut out and replace loads of core material though, which was a relief!

My plan was to fill that section with some expanding foam, then cut a core out of the foam which would become a mould for pouring in thickened epoxy. It should end up stronger and more watertight than the original construction.

Onto the main body of the rudder.

It sounded hollow when I tapped on it in any section of the blade which I assumed meant that core material had become delaminated. There was nothing for it but to drill another inspection hole.

To my amazement, there didn’t appear to be any core material in there at all! Just a greasy lining on the inside of the laminate.

16.rudder-main-body-hollow

As far as I could tell I had three options:

1. Patch up the hole and leave it as it was.

  • As they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fit it”. I don’t like this argument as everything on a boat breaks eventually and the job of the owner is to take preventative measures to avoid things breaking when you really don’t want them to.
  • Besides, the boat’s been out of the water for two years but there was still evidence of water ingress in the rudder. If I left the rudder as it was it would quickly fill with water when submerged, giving it a huge mass which I would consider dangerous in a heavy sea.

2. Drill a series of holes in the rudder and squirt expanding foam into them to fill it.

  • I didn’t like this idea either as, due to that greasy lining, the foam wouldn’t adhere to the inside of the laminate and not having inspected the internals of the rudder I would assume that water would still get into it readily.
  • Also, expanding foam from a can is very low density and isn’t really suitable as a core material, any water that got in would wick into the foam and saturate it in no time.

3. Cut out a large section of one side of the rudder, clean everything out, make good the areas of potential water ingress, fill with high-density polyurethane foam and replace the cut section with glassed epoxy.

Option 3 is apparently how professionals would approach the repair.

I think you can probably tell which way I was leaning. Besides, a childish curiosity in me wanted to look inside the thing.

After long deliberations, I decided to take the plunge. I went about marking up a terrifyingly large section – big enough for me to reach all areas of the inside of the rudder blade but with enough lip to let me bevel a 60mm edge for bonding the new laminate.

Then, with oscillating multi-tool in hand, I ripped into the rudder of my boat.

17.open-rudder

Coming Up Next Time: Join me next time to see what horrors I uncovered and how I go about turning this thing back into a functioning rudder!


If you have any questions for Seb regarding this post, please feel free to comment below.

A quick look at the Gael Force Marine Megastore

Did you know that Gael Force has 3 stores across the UK (with sites in a further 3 locations)?

Our Marine Megastore in Inverness (South Kessock) is one of our biggest sites. Here we stock products from many areas of interests, including leisure marine, commercial fishing, and commercial marine.

We also have a large warehouse adjacent to the store, with 400,000 cubic feet of storage, and between the two, this Summer, we’re filled to the brim with stock and look forward to helping you find what you need!

In addition to Inverness, we have our Marine Centre in Glasgow (Hillington Industrial Estate) which stocks a smaller range of commercial marine and leisure marine products while our Plymouth Marine Centre (Sutton Harbour) focuses largely on products for commercial fishing.

Watch this short snapshot of our Inverness Marine Megastore and pop in to see what’s in store for yourself. Take the chance to get up close and personal with our range of kayaks, dinghies, creel, engines, boat maintenance products, clothing and more!

Inverness Megastore Opening Times:

Mon-Fri: 8am – 5.30pm

Sat: 9am – 5pm.

Sun: Closed.

Glasgow & Plymouth Opening Times:

Mon-Fri: 8.30am – 5pm.

Sat & Sun: Closed.

Get our addresses and contact numbers through our Store Locator.

The DIY Restoration of a Small Yacht: Un-stepping the mast- Short-handed (#3)

seb-profile-photo-ytSeb, originally from Portsmouth in Hampshire, is the Sales Supervisor for the Gael Force Marine Megastore in Inverness.

He has agreed to write a series of posts following him and the restoration of his 26 foot, 54-year-old fibreglass yacht.

This series of blog posts so far can be read here.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes.

BLOG POST #3: Un-stepping the mast- short-handed

The next priority for this boat is to get it transported closer to home. It’s currently an hour’s drive away from where I live which makes the restoration progress slow going.

I was initially considering sailing her to a club/yard close to Inverness but given that she’s going to be out of the water for at least a year, I decided it would be better to get her transported across land directly to my house.

The idea of being able to spend my evenings grinding out fibreglass and tinkering around in the bilges seems strangely appealing.

However, she can’t be transported anywhere with her mast up, so un-stepping her mast was the next logical step and the subject of this blog.

The boat’s mast is deck-stepped, so thankfully it doesn’t have to be lifted 3-4 feet to get it clear of the deck. Still, having the use of a crane to lift and remove it would be the easiest, safest and most sensible way to get the mast off.

Despite this, I had different ideas. And being someone that, when possible, likes to get things done myself, I opted for a method of mast removal that in theory can be done single-handed – the A-frame!

1.boat-diagramThe idea behind this system is that you keep constant tension on a line (the genoa halyard in my case) that goes from the mast top to the apex of the A-frame. You then have another line (we’ll call it ‘the lowering line’) going from the apex of the frame through a block at the bow and back to the cockpit.

Once the forestay and the lower shrouds have been removed, the only thing preventing the mast from dropping backwards is the lowering line. This can then be eased off and in theory, the mast will gradually fall back as the A-frame rises up in a controlled and stress-free manner.

The key is that the A-frame remains at 90 degrees to the mast at all times, maintaining your angle of pull on the mast.

The lower legs of the frame must be positioned amidships in line with the base of the mast and the apex going all the way to the bow. I built it from some cheap stud timber that I had lying around in the shed.

The length required was longer than the 2.4m lengths that I had so I bolted two bits together to make it the right length. The two pieces were joined at the apex with a door hinge (again, lying around in the shed) and an eyebolt put through to fix the lines to.

I drilled some holes through the bottom of the legs so that I could tie them off to prevent them from slipping when under load. I also used a jigsaw to round off the edges of the feet so that there wasn’t a sharp point digging into the deck as the frame rose up.

2.sunfire-invicta-mast

The mast should really be on a tabernacle when using this system, but that’s not the case with the Invicta, so I had to improvise. I needed something to keep the base of the mast in position but also allow it to tilt down whilst it was being lowered.

My rough and ready solution can be seen in the picture below. I bolted a small piece of plywood to the deck through a hole left over from one of the deck plugs and fixed an eye plate to it. I then used a long dee shackle to join the eye plate to the foot of the mast.

3.sunfire-invicta-mast-improvising

This shoddy arrangement was definitely the area of the system where I had the least confidence. I was worried that if the mast twisted or drifted over to the side too much, the forces exerted on that eye plate could cause some damage to the deck.

Well, nothing ventured nothing gained, I guess.

To catch the mast as it came down, I built another frame from some flimsy treated frame timber. As it turns out it was only just not too flimsy!

4.frame-catch-mast.jpg

On the day of the un-stepping, I was grateful to have two helpers in the form of my wife and father-in-law. Their jobs were to steady the lateral movement of the mast by taking the topping lift well astern of the boat. I had to extend it by tying on a length of Marlowbraid rope that I had kicking about.

5.seb-with-rope

When we were all in position, I began removing the lower shrouds, slackening off the backstay, and then with some difficulty, I removed the forestay (it has a Rotostay roller reefing on it).

For journalistic reasons, part of me wants to record some kind of drama or unforeseen problems that arose, but the truth of the matter is that everything went exactly according to plan.

My wife kept a small amount of tension on the topping lift and as I eased off the lowering line, the mast slowly but surely began its descent into the cross-tree.

6.seb-sunfire-invicta

Admittedly, it was pretty nerve-wracking at times. Especially at the point where the mast was nearly down and began swaying from side to side as my wife desperately tried to guide it into the cross-tree.

All in all, it was a success and the following day I returned to remove all the rigging and get the mast off the boat.

7.sunfire-invicta-mast-down

You can see in the picture below that the boat is now beginning to look more stripped down and is getting closer to the blank canvas that I’m working towards.

8.sunfire-invicta-no-mast

Until next time!

COMING UP NEXT TIME: There’s not too much that I can do now until I get the boat moved to my house and put under cover, so the next blog will most likely be a wee recap of my progress on stripping it down.


If you have any questions for Seb regarding this post, please feel free to comment below.

Gael Force’s Guide To Buying An Inflatable Boat

Whether you’ve been sailing for years or this is your first, the information provided in this guide should come in handy for you. Inflatables can be used for a multitude of purposes so make sure you keep that in mind when deciding on what one to buy.

Have a read through our buying guide below to find out all about the things you should consider when planning your purchase.

BUDGET

From WavEco to Aquafax and, there are many brands to choose from and options to consider when purchasing an inflatable boat, not least of all, your budget.

The first thing you need to decide is how much you are willing to spend on your new dinghy before you can get down to the nitty-gritty of the specific boat options.

Gael Force’s offering of inflatable boats ranges from £299 to £1,079.99 based on the specifics below.

SIZE

The size of your inflatable will depend on how many people and how much equipment you intend to carry on your boat.

The capacity of dinghies usually ranges from 2 to 4 people but it will also depend on how much space you would like for those passengers.

A 2.3m dinghy will have less space for 3 passengers with equipment than a 3m dinghy but the 2.3m may suffice for just 2 passengers.

When thinking about the size, also pay attention to the maximum load capacity of the dinghy and use that as a guide. This may mean your boat can comfortably fit 2 adults and 2 children on one outing or 3 adults on another.

PVC VS HYPALON?

Another point for consideration is – what material do you want? Dinghies are made of either PVC or Hypalon and the main difference between the two is the price and durability.

pvc-boat

WavEco PVC inflatable

PVC boats are particularly popular as they are more lightweight and cheaper than Hypalon. PVC boats can be folded easily, making them more compact to store when not in use, and the material can be incredibly strong.

However, PVC can be susceptible to deterioration if left exposed to sunlight, heat and humidity.

Hypalon is much heavier and more expensive than PVC but it is much more robust as a material. It is commonly used in the construction of heavy-duty RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boat).

If you intend to use your boat frequently, then the Hypalon is the best option as it is ready-built. However, if you don’t plan to use it often then PVC is better as it can be stored far easier.

SLATTED FLOOR, AIR DECK OR AIR V-FLOOR?

There are pros and cons for any floor on your dinghy and again, it comes down to your intended use of it.

Slatted floors tend to hold the dirt and sand but they are quick to set up and are more hard-wearing, particularly if you have a lot of traffic going off and on the boat.

air-v-floor-boat

Honwave Air V-Floor

The Air Deck is more stable than the Slatted Floor along with being lighter and drier. It folds up compactly into a roll as well.

However, lots of traffic can result in more wear and tear as there isn’t really anything to protect the PVC.

The Air V-Floor on the Honwave is best if you want a dinghy that is light and speedy. The V shape of the hull means it cuts through the water better than other rounded dinghies. The downside is that these tend to be more expensive.

ROUNDTAIL OR TRANSOM?

Choosing between roundtail or transom mainly comes down to whether or not you would like to use an engine.

Roundtails are not conducive to holding an engine so you would need to row it but the upside is that there is more space for the length.

On the other hand, a dinghy with a transom can use an outboard engine and is more stable than the roundtail. However, the transom does make the dinghy heavier overall than the roundtail.

OUTBOARD ENGINE OR NOT?

Whether you get an outboard engine for your dinghy or not will depend largely on what you intend to use your dinghy for.

waveco-aluminium-oars

Waveline Aluminium Oars

If you are using it to travel back and forth from your boat to land (depending on the distance), you may well decide to simply use oars to paddle.

On the other hand, if you will use your boat to travel longer distances then setting it up with an outboard engine is likely a good choice.

When choosing an engine, you should also consider how much it will weigh down your boat.

2.3hp-4stroke-engine

2.3hp Short Shaft Engine

Given that the boat will be carrying you and your passengers, supplies, fuel and the engine itself, you might want to consider a lightweight engine that won’t struggle too much with everything aboard.

If you are only going to be using the boat inshore, you will be better off with a short shaft engine.

When considering the horsepower, you can also look at the specifications of the boat to find out the maximum engine power.


Choosing the right inflatable boat can be an expensive purchase so make sure you take your time deciding which one is right for you.

Browse Gael Force’s range of products below:

Inflatable and rigid boats

Outboard Engines

Oars and Rowlocks

The DIY Restoration of a Small Yacht: Getting in and about the wee engine (#2)

seb-profile-photo-ytSeb, originally from Portsmouth in Hampshire, is the Sales Supervisor for the Gael Force Marine Megastore in Inverness.

He has agreed to write a series of posts following him and the restoration of his 26 foot, 54-year-old fibreglass yacht.

Catch up with his first post if you haven’t read it already.

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes.

BLOG POST #2: First look at the engine – a Yanmar 1GM10.

I must preface this post by stressing that I am no mechanic! Mistakes will inevitably be made and at times more knowledgeable readers will no doubt be left pulling their hair out at my incompetence!

The engine is among the most critical (and expensive) pieces of equipment on a boat, so it would, of course, be prudent to give it a full inspection and test run before any prospective purchase.

In my case the boat was priced very low and had not been on the market for long, so a quick visual inspection and making sure the engine turned over and had compression was enough to satisfy me that I should take the plunge and make an offer on the boat.

The engine in question is a Yanmar 1GM10: an 8hp, single cylinder, raw water-cooled diesel engine.

These small diesel engines are relatively simple beasts, so armed with the Yanmar workshop manual and the excellent ‘Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual’ (a book every boat should have on board), I felt confident enough to service the engine and carry out some basic fault diagnoses.

1.yanmar-engine-1

My aim was simply to get the engine started and give it a basic service including oil & oil filter change, primary and secondary fuel filter change and water pump impeller change.

I will be temporarily removing the engine at some point in the future so a full service will be carried out then. However, for now, I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t a non-runner and also ensure it was properly laid up until I do remove it from the boat.

Fuel Line

Clean fuel is critical to the smooth running and longevity of any diesel engine, so before I even attempted to start the engine I wanted to get rid of the 2-year-old diesel and replace the primary and secondary fuel filters.

The fuel tank is fibre-glassed into the Lazarette and was about a quarter full of diesel. This was not a good sign given that a proper layup would require the tank to be left either full or empty.

2.fuel-tank

I managed to syphon off what I thought was most of the diesel into an old can. After I’d done that, I went down below to catch the ‘last little bit’ in a suitably sized container by taking the hose off the engine.

The fuel hoses were all rock solid with age so there was no chance of pulling it off the hose tail, but given that there was only a tiny remnant of fuel left in the tank, I decided to cut the hose and just go for it.

3.filter-and-hose

My puny container was overflowing with fuel in seconds and the mild sense of surprise at the diesel’s rate of flow I experienced soon turned into all-out panic as I scrambled around trying to find more containers.

I tried clamping down on the hose, but it was too hard and it just wouldn’t close up! I jumped up into the cockpit and contorted myself into some unnatural position in the cockpit access hatch to reach the ridiculously inaccessible fuel shut-off valve at the bottom of the tank.

By the end of all of that, I struggled to find something on the boat or myself that wasn’t covered in diesel and there was about 5 litres of the stuff in the bilges.

I’m not sure how I so heavily underestimated the amount of diesel left in the tank, but either way, I still had to get rid of the last bits in the bottom before putting fresh fuel in.

Rather than go through the same nonsense with containers and spilt diesel, I decided to use a Pela Oil Extractor to suck out the remaining diesel from the bottom of the tank. As it got down to the last dregs, an alarming amount of black gungy sediment came up.

I didn’t really have time to give the tank a full flushing out so I just sucked out what I could, put 10 litres of new, clean diesel in and left it overnight for any sediment to settle back to the bottom.

While the fuel shut-off valve was closed, I drained the fuel line and changed the filter element in the Delphi water separator. This was straightforward enough, though it was obviously full of diesel and the entire assembly needed a thorough clean. I also replaced the old fuel hose that I’d cut with a new piece and fastened it with Jubilee clips.

4.new-filter-and-hose

Next up was the secondary fuel filter which is on the engine itself. To cut a long story short, I failed to undo the nut holding the fuel filter assembly in place.

It’s notoriously difficult on these engines and I didn’t want to waste time on it given that I only planned to run the engine for a short test period.  I didn’t want to risk damaging it by trying to undo it without the proper tool either.

5.fuel-filter-housing

The last thing to do on the fuel line was to purge all the air in it by ‘bleeding’ it. On the Yanmar 1GM10, there are three bleed points where you must sequentially open them and pump fuel through until pure diesel with no air bubbles comes out.

Lubrication System

To remove the old oil, I used the Pela Oil Extractor via the dipstick hole and then opened the sump drain nut to drain out the last of it. I poured in some new oil to try and flush out any crud that was sitting in the bottom of the sump.

Removing the oil filter was surprisingly easy – I was able to do it by hand with ease. I then put a little smear of engine oil on the o-ring of the new filter and screwed it on hand tight.

6.lubrication-system

When filling up with oil, a top tip from the Gael Force mechanics is to always fill it to the dipstick rather than putting in the amount specified in the engine’s manual. This is because there will always be some residual oil in the engine so putting in the specified amount will result in overfilling the engine.

I didn’t touch the gearbox oil as I won’t be running the engine in gear for this test. I will change the gear oil before she gets put to use again though.

Cooling System

The Yanmar 1GM10 is raw water cooled, which means that it pumps seawater directly around the engine rather than using it to cool coolant via a heat exchanger. It’s a simple system but it does have some major drawbacks.

Any build-up of deposits on the walls of the cooling system can greatly reduce its cooling efficiency. Additionally, having salt water in direct contact with the engine can result in serious galvanic corrosion if the anodes aren’t replaced regularly.

In a draw on the boat, I found several knackered impellers, which is an obvious clue that there’s some problem with the water pump. All I wanted to do for now was replace the water pump impeller, so I’ll have to monitor that going forward.

At some point in the past, someone had fitted a Speedseal water pump.

7.cooling-system-speedseal

As you can see, the water pump is conveniently situated behind the crankshaft v-pulley, so having the Speedseal is great as it means that it can be removed without tools and without the need for replacing a gasket each time.

If the previous owner was having a problem with going through impellers I can see that this would have been a priority upgrade (but not a solution to the problem)!

I took a photo of the old impeller before removing it to make sure I put the new one in with the ‘fins’ in the right direction.

8.old-impeller

The old Impeller came out with minimal coaxing from my pliers, but I was quite dismayed by the amount of crusty, salty gunk in the water pump. If the engine had been properly serviced that would have been cleaned out.

After doing a sub-standard, rushed job to clean out the water pump housing, the new impeller went in without any issues. I smeared in the glycerine lubrication that it was supplied with before popping it in with the fins bent the correct way. I’ll remove and clean up the water pump more thoroughly when I take the engine off the boat.

With the Speedseal cover plate replaced, it was finally time to get the old girl running.

The yard where the boat is currently lying has no water supply, so to get water to the engine for cooling I had to go to the nearest public amenities and fill up a bucket – far from ideal!

After my jaunt to the loo and with a fresh bucket of water on board, I disconnected the water inlet pipe from the seacock and poured as much water as I could into it to try to reduce the risk of getting an airlock in the cooling system.

The Yanmar 1GM10 has a hand crank and with just a single, tiny cylinder it would surely be no difficulty for me to hand start it… or so I thought.

No matter how much momentum I got spinning the crank handle, as soon as I released the decompression lever it bounced back from the cylinders’ compression. My machismo was severely dented until I read on forums that it is pretty much impossible to hand-start. That’s a disappointment as it means I’ll have to keep two batteries on the boat – one exclusively for starting the engine.

Thankfully the batteries already on the boat had some juice in them (there is no power available in the yard either) so I switched the key and pushed the button and… the engine turned over but made no attempt at firing.

It turns out I’d missed a critical step in the bleeding process. On the final ‘bleed’, between the high-pressure pump and the injector, the throttle must be in the fully open position when pumping fuel through. I did this and tried starting her again.

Amazingly, after two years without use, the little Yanmar spluttered reluctantly into action and quickly settled into a steady idle – she sounded great!

There wasn’t any water being pulled through, however, so I quickly pulled the stop switch and scratched my head. I whipped off the water pump cover and a reasonable amount of water poured out, so it was trying.

After a few more failed attempts at pouring water down the inlet hose to get rid of airlocks, I decided it would be far easier to sort this out when the boat was close to a source of water so I could get a hose onto the engine.

My main concern was that salty deposits had totally clogged up the cooling system but I just didn’t have time to test that theory as the sun was setting on a Sunday evening.

All in all, I’m really happy that I managed to get the engine started and that she sounded sweet without any concerning smoke coming out of the exhaust. The cooling water problem is frustrating but I’m not going to let myself worry about it until I’ve been able to have a more thorough inspection of it.

What have I learned? Try harder not to get diesel everywhere!

COMING UP NEXT TIME: 

My next priority is to get the mast down. If I can get access to the yard’s crane this month that’s what the next blog post will be on. If anyone thinks it can be done without a crane, please advise in the comments section!

If not, I’ll talk about the progress I’m making with gutting the boat – it’s amazing how much ‘stuff’ can be fitted onto a 26-foot boat!

Looking after your Lifejacket Properly Could Save Your Life

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2010 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Lifejackets are one of the most essential pieces of safety equipment you can arm yourself with, whether you’re out at sea or enjoying the UK’s many and varied inland waterways, lochs and rivers.

As they are so important, lifejackets need to be checked and maintained on a regular basis to ensure that they are performing properly and will stand the test of time.

Taking a few simple steps to look after your lifejacket could help save a life as well as prolong the life of this invaluable piece of kit:

1. Protect the ‘salt bobbin’.

salt-bobbin-image

Halkey Roberts Salt Bobbin

The trigger mechanism for most automatic lifejackets is a dissolvable ‘salt bobbin’. The salt bobbin will react if it is stored in an area which is humid or damp.

It can also react if has not been wiped down and aired after each use. As such, your lifejacket should never be put away damp.

After each use, you should:

  • Wipe the lifejacket down to remove the salt.
  • Remove the bobbin if using water to wipe and clean the lifejacket.
  • Allow the lifejacket to air dry, remembering to replace the bobbin once dry.

2. Check the gas cylinder for loose screws and corrosion.

lifejacket-co2-cylinder
CO2 Cylinder

The screws in CO2 cylinders can loosen up over time so you should check them for tightness each month. You should also check the cylinder for corrosion every three months and replace it if it is rusty. Check any material that was in contact with the cylinder as the fabric may have been damaged.

It is advised that you should always carry a re-arming kit for each jacket you have on board your vessel which will allow you to get it ready for use again immediately should it inflate for any reason.

Check the manufacturer expiry dates on cylinders as they may differ depending on whether they are Halkey Roberts, United Moulders or Hammar. Replace expired cylinders as recommended.

3. Check for leaks.

Every six months, you should inflate the lifejacket manually with a hand pump using the oral inflation (top-up) tube. Using a hand pump instead of your mouth will help to prevent moisture build-up inside the lifejacket.

Leave it inflated for 24 hours to ensure that there are no leaks or damage. If there are no issues, re-pack the lifejacket according to the manufacturer’s folding instructions.

4. Check the exterior of the lifejacket.

The webbing of your lifejacket, along with the stitching that holds the webbing together, should be checked every three months.

You should also check the zips, buckles and other fastenings are in good condition.

5. Store it correctly.

Store the lifejacket in a dry area on a non-metal coat-hanger. Out of season, automatic lifejackets should be stored partially inflated.

They should not be stored in hot engine rooms, on engine blocks, or kept under tarpaulins in open areas. These environments will essentially create a ‘greenhouse effect’ and could damage or weaken the operation of the lifejacket.

6. Service the lifejacket at least once a year.gael-force-lifejacket

The manufacturers of our own Gael Force Cruise, Hi Line Pro and SeaStorm Lifejackets recommend that you have your lifejacket serviced at least once a year by a registered servicing centre.

If this service is not performed, the chance of an accidental firing of the lifejacket is greatly increased.

7. Consider getting a free RNLI safety check.

As an extra security measure for your peace of mind, the RNLI perform free inspections at their lifejacket clinics. They also advise you on how to carry out your own checks. Email them at community_safety@rnli.org.uk to find your nearest clinic.


Gael Force supplies a range of baby, child and adult lifejackets along with appropriate re-arming kits. Prices for lifejackets start from as little as £17.95 (inc. VAT) while re-arming kits start at £11.49 (inc. VAT).

RNLI also offers a great official guide to lifejackets and buoyancy aids, from choosing the right one for you to maintaining it. You can download and read it here.