Topic : a bit disillusioned

I appreciate that not all of my questions can be answered in this sort of way, and I apologise for a such a long post, but here goes anyway.

A couple of years ago, My father and I stumbled over a Dinghy of unknown design and background, sitting in a field where it had recently been evicted from it's home in a cosy barn. Acting on a whim we purchased said dinghy from the farmer (who was able to tell us that it was a merlin rocket) thinking that it would not take too much to get on the water and be a suitable first boat for me. We promply found a new barn for the dinghy to keep it dry and full of excitement started to investigate what a merlin rocket exactly was - Thanks very much to this site for all the information on merlin rockets.

The sail number is 43, and 43 is also marked on the hull on the cross member behind the daggerboard. With a small amount of investigation we now know that we have an early Merlin (probably about 1947 - 1949 ish?) and probably quite rare. Is anybody able to shed more light on it's history?

The boat has now been evicted again, and is now at home in my garage (at least it is somewhere where work can be done on it)

The mast is alloy so I am assuming that it is not the original (probably would have been wooden?) the boom is wooden and quite probably original. I has a suit of sails, but rather in need of replacing, as is all the rigging. 3 of the original cylindrical bounancy tanks are with the boat as are daggerboard and tiller. The hull on the other hand is the source of my query.

We have already had a slight accident with the boat and dropped the front about 6 - 8" onto the trailer taking out the first 8" of the keel (no other damage done) which in itself seems like an easy repair even for someone with limited knowledge/skills like me. However on closer inspection, the wood beneath is rotten. There have already been repairs/replacements to many of the ribs with strips of plywood. Some of the planks are splitting, and there is a plank either side 2 up from the keel screwed over the original planks and evidence of epoxy or similar used inside the hull. The outside of the hull has been painted below the water line, possibly hiding more use of epoxy.

I am confident (and this is the way that my father would want the project to run) that with the use of more epoxy and some rudimentary repairs, I could have the boat up and sailing again, although my investigations into merlins has lead me to believe that this is not the sort of boat that would suit my requirements, and both my father and I are in agreement that once the boat was capable of sailing again, she would be sold.
It is my thought that being such an early boat, she deserves a full and proper restoration which is someway beyond my abilities and the space I have to work in.

If we were to go down the rudimentary repair route, would this be serving this boat a complete injustice? (I probably know the answer to this one)
Is she worth anything in the state she is in as I have described? (it would be nice to recoup our initial outlays. (although 2 years storage fees have been sprung on us as we had not agreed what the farmer was getting for storage)
Would she be worth anything if she had a full restoration? I have read a couple of posts of people on here that have restored a vintage merlin, what would their advice be?

I apologise again for a long post, but would be grateful of any advice or information about our particular boat that anyone may be able to provide.

Posted: 02/09/2005 22:18:46
By: vint43
Your boat is listed as Seafire built in 1946 by Woottens of Cookham.  It will be solid mahogany rivetted on rib.  Coincidentally No 36 (see the post earlier) and 111 were by the same builder and have both been restored this year.  They will both be at Bowmoor, Lechlade as indicated.  If you are able to go you will be able to see what can be done.  Chris Barlow who owns No 6 Iska and did much of the work on No 36 will be able to give loads of advice.  The mast would have been wooden as you suggest.  Among many jobs taking 6 months No 111 needed the ribs replaced in the cockpit area - a lengthy but essential job but well worthwhile now it is done. Rare yes, but value wise - who knows especially if there is a load of work to do. Suffice to say that you would be unlikely to recoup the cash if she was fully restored but then that is true of all boats I reckon. Would be done for the love of it!!    Do try and preserve her if possible and maybe see you at Bowmoor.

Posted: 03/09/2005 00:07:57
By: 111
MY girlfriends grandfather built her back in the day! Would be a shame to see her go to waste but as you say she will need to be done properly and you will not get your money back. With merlin rockets it is a love thing! Having just restored an old boat at some expense and passed it on it will be around for years to come and thats what it is all about. As Garry has already said go along to Bowmoor and see what can be done.

Why do you think this boat will not be suitable for you?

Posted: 03/09/2005 09:06:31
By: Jeremy3446
My main concern is my ability and space to do a proper restoration. If someone were in a position to be able to restore her to her former glory I would be happy to pass the boat on as is, but would like to recoup the purchase price (a low 3 figure sum)

my wife doesn't sail, and my children are 2 yr 8 mnths, and the other 4 months old. I am a novice sailor (used to be a competent windsurfer, sailed a friends mirror, and have sailed my fathers manta 19 with him)I would like a boat that I could sail single handed, but still have space in the boat for the family, as well as being able to store it in my garage (max 16')

Posted: 03/09/2005 09:24:59
By: vint43
Size wise it will fit in your garage.  You can sail a merlin single-handed, especially a design such as this as its narrower beam makes it more stable and easier to tack.  As for taking your family on board... well maybe not all at once but it's certainly ideal if your wife fancies trying crewing out or for when your two children are old enough to want to learn to sail.  I learnt to sail in a Merlin from the age of 6/7 as a crew.

Why not have a word with someone like Laurie Smart about the cost of a full restoration or talk to someone like Paul Seaman who's commordore of Minima YC. He had Warrior 1952 restored by Laurie recently and it looks beautiful.

Posted: 03/09/2005 11:10:15
By: Richard 3233
Laurie would do a very good job but would be costly. Probably worth it though on a boat of her age.
I started of crewing merlins when i was 5. Remember my first outing at Cookham when my Dad still had Panatella. Going back a bit now though.

Posted: 03/09/2005 11:36:01
By: Jeremy3446
That's the other problem, we cannot afford costly restorations. Don't get me wrong, I would love to keep the boat and see her at her best, but I'm being honest to her, and don't think we can do her justice. I would be more suited to an enterprise or similar small day boat.

Posted: 03/09/2005 11:57:40
By: vint43
Remember that the early Merlins had a tiny cockpit!!  I think that the cockpit of 111 in comparison with No 36 is slightly larger by the placement of the stern crossmember being further aft - but this may have been done at a re-deck.  Also 111 has slightly narrower decks but these are the replacements put in before I got her. So my cockpit is 6' x 2'6" but the cockpit therefore will be  5' x 2' if original and so a family of four would unlikely be comfortable - just not enough space to seat/accommodate you all!!  As Jeremy said the older boats are more stable narrower certainly and there is a lump of lead on the centreboard which helps if the c'board is original- the lead I fear often got ripped off as it was butted onto the timber and then the boards were either shortened or made of timber only. I imagine that there may be more than a few lead weights at the bottom of the Thames!!  I managed to replace the lead on my c'board and it now weighs 6.5kg!!!  But you were allowed to have one of 56lbs as a maximum - changed days!!!!  The Merlin was designed not to let water in even when on it's side capsized in calm water due the the wide roll decks and having sailed 111 it is clear that she can heel well over and not take water on board in comparison to newer boats. I have some line drawings from Yachting World sent to me by someone, which I could photocopy which are interesting and really quite detailed (without measurements) but could be used like a jigsaw box lid type of guide (well it's all I had to work from plus a lot of help from Chris Barlow!!)  If you are interested let me know your address by email and I'll post them to you.  (If anyone else would like this please do the same but don't all rush at once as it could cost a fortune in postage!!)  I agree with Jeremy that she deserves to be restored.

Posted: 05/09/2005 08:55:04
By: Garry R
although the cockpits are small, the roll deck 'seats' were comfortable! i recall all being well and dry, as you say, until you gained water, then had the problem of getting it out with such a small area for bailing.

Posted: 05/09/2005 09:16:49
By: john
Come on guys, back off a bit.  Vint, as I understand it, you are trying to say that you don't have the expertise to do the work yourself, nor the resources to pay someone else unless you can recoup the costs later by selling the boat.  I would be in exactly the same position.

You have three options. One, scrap the boat and put the loss down to experience. You have said that you don't want to do that because it seems a waste of a good old boat.

Two, try and acquire the skill by tackling it anyway. You are probably looking at a job that will take most of the winter even if you can keep the boat indoors, with no certainty of having a boat that meets your needs at the other end. Incidentally, unless you are a keen DIY man with access to tools etc, I would guess you won't see any change out of £1,000.

Three, it is possible that there is someone out there who thinks the boat is worth restoring and wants to have a go at it. I suggest you put it on the for sale list on this site, which won't cost you anything and may get some of your outlay back. At the very least, even 'Free to a good home' would give the boat a chance.

I would agree with you that an Enterprise or a GP 14 or one of the modern 'unsinkable' plastic boats would serve you and your family better. I hope you stick with it - there's no sport like it. Whatever else, you have no cause to feel disillusioned - neither the boat nor the sport has let you down.

Posted: 05/09/2005 09:22:49
By: Got-the-tee-shirt
it always feels like it worth restoring a lovely old boat, but if the rot goes in deep, then it isnt going to be worth it. a few planks or a localised area can be sorted, but bigger problems are going to demand replacement timbers, not just squirts of epoxy...

Posted: 05/09/2005 09:23:45
By: Mags
It's worth contacting Mervyn Allen who runs the vintage wing.  In his restoration of Kate he did not attempt to dig out or remove any rotten timbers but merely dried everything out very thoroughly and coated it with epoxy.  Kate had been skinned in heavy fibreglass in the 50's and the pine planks beneath were shrinking and cracking.  There are a nunber of places now where you can actually see light through the planking but the gap is closed with glass cloth and epoxy.  This is cheaper and more practical than digging out and replacing a lot of timber, requires a lot less skill but the result is very impressive

Posted: 05/09/2005 09:40:46
By: Andrew M
you say that , but some years ago the club i belonged to restored 291, which had survived a fire, only to suffer a road accident when a truck t-boned the hull! the repair was made with new mahog planks 3-4 deep along the central third of the port side, coppered into place with new ribs etc, new guns and decks! if you had seen the result, then you would not have written a negative reply. on close inspection, you could still see the char in the grain of the mast from the fire!

just gaze into deep pools of perfectly brushed varnish - not a trace of epoxy,and no spray finish!

incidently, if anyone knows the whereabouts of 291 tarka, please let me know.

Posted: 05/09/2005 09:58:26
By: john
I re-ribbed 111 in the cockpit area - removed all the rotten ribs (plus the sister ribs put in at some point).  640 rivets and roves later plus rubbing down, revarnishing, she sails nicely and like you said, John, the roll decks are comfy if not exactly roomy.  Will try not to test the "tricky baling" theory but can see exactly why later boats went wider not purely on speed grounds. Then there is that wonderful rolling centreboard mechanism, the quirky rotating mast (should there be a fixed gooseneck?)and the wonderful jib halyard with the little block on the forestay plate (I had to make a new one) which the jib clips to rather than the forestay which seems almost superfluous.  But you are right - those deep pools of chestnut mahogany brown after varnishing.....  one of the best (but not the only)reasons to restore.  Don't be disillusioned vint43 - you have the potential for a beautiful boat and there is a huge amount of advice from the Merlin community and beyond.

Posted: 05/09/2005 10:50:06
By: Garry R
If you look in the Gallery there is a couple of pictures of Garrys boat 111 haveing the ribs replaced. You may find some other interesting pics in there too. I remember re-ribbing 408 years ago with my dad and having to crawl under the fordeck on all fours to varnish the new ribs. Kills the knees!!

Any advice you want, vint, just put it on here and you will get as much as you like - as you can tell!

Posted: 05/09/2005 11:14:41
By: Jeremy3446
I'll send in some before and after shots of the restoration of no.36. It was in a state! even Doing It Yourself it will cost more than you can then sell it for, but that's not the point but having said that I think that one of this vintage should be preserved as it was one of the first batch of merlins built. can offer advice/moral support/means to advertise.(go to the forum) I'm sure someone out there will take it on as a project if you decide not to. Good luck

Posted: 05/09/2005 11:51:46
By: Chris
Please note the website for the Classic and Vintage racing Dinghy Association is not a 'dot co dot uk' as given above but

Posted: 05/09/2005 12:02:55
By: Chris
Thanks Got-the-tee-shirt. You just about put it in a nutshell. I am well aware that if I fully restored her, I wouldn't recoup my money, but would be willing to do it for the experience, but still sell on afterwards for whatever she may be worth. To sell in the state she is in, I would like to recoup the price Paid. I'm not in this to make any money, if I don't do the restoration, I just don't want to lose any money

I wouldn't scrap her. I'd rather do the epoxy route and at least she's sailing again. If this route is I suspect (and the reason for this post was to get peoples opinions on that) a crime against old boats, I would rather let someone else have her who will restore her properly.

As far as I know the boat has always been stored indoors, she certainly doesn't look like she's sat outdoors for any length of time, but their have been repairs of the cheap and epoxy nature, there are cracks in some of the planking almost as if the rigging has been overtightened and the top of the hull pulled in on itself (I was delighted to read in a book on the subject that I don't have to remove all the planks to get to the bottom ones, they can be removed and replaced.)

Posted: 05/09/2005 12:24:43
By: vint43


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