Puffin - a 1937 Hillyard sailing yacht

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  • Yeah this got me too. What a dream!

    Awesome thread! Please keep it up.

  • Not at the mo, inside is currently full of tools and junk. Will take some pics before launch when it’s all sorted

  • Yesterday I took out all the internal ballast and weighed it. 130kg of pig iron and 230kg of lead. The pig iron will be replaced with lead as it is very rusty and was making an awful mess of the bilges and lead will take up less space. Puffin was a bit tender when sailing so I think I need to up the total ballast to about 500kg. Spent 3 hrs hitting lead with a hammer to make it into nice blocks.


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  • Does it have an engine or do you use an outboard?

  • I use an outboard. There was originally an inboard, I think a Stuart turner petrol but now no mounts or shaft tube. I did consider installing an engine but for the price of that I could buy several outboards. It will be a bit of a pain in the canals, an inboard diesel would possibly be more convenient but I’m hoping that in the long term, on the sea, having less engine power will encourage me to become a better sailor. Also considering a set of sweeps or a sculling oar for emergency propulsion.

  • It will be a bit of a pain in the canals, an inboard diesel would possibly be more convenient

    I think there are advantages to the outboard in canals. With a long keel like that, you may be glad of the extra manouverability you get from being able to apply power athwartships. Means you don't need to carry so much speed to get steerage. It'll probably also go better in reverse.

  • Yes definitely more manoeuvrable with the outboard. Was thinking more fuel availability and cost and the need to refuel less with diesel and a tank. I will however have several petrol cans and a Raleigh twenty so can go and buy fuel when I go to get baguettes

  • Today’s job is scraping the old varnish off the main hatch as it was starting to peel. Next I will sand and then 7 coats of epiphanes. 7!!


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  • Following keenly. Can't believe there's not a more cost effective way of providing ballast other than smooshed lead. There must be a fortune sat there.

  • options are still essentially iron or lead; lead is better as it's denser so you need less of it and you can place it lower to achieve an increased righting moment for a given weight of ballast. also doesn't rust which is handy.

    water ballast is a thing but not in for this type of boat.

  • I think the French tried depleted Uranium at one stage but it was soon banned

  • Health and safety gone mad.

  • If i'm reading your posts correctly, you didn't have any sailing experience before going to live on your friends narrowboat?

    did you do any sailing / courses before buying this lovely thing? It's something i'd like to start - but have no idea where !

  • athwartships

    Today's new word, thank you

  • Amazing stuff! Great thread.

  • I have lots of sailing experience - just not as skipper of my own boat. I sailed dinghies as a child, have paddled kayaks since a teenager and used to work as a passenger vessel skipper on the Thames (motor vessels). I started sailing yachts about 10 years ago after going on a school trip (as a teacher) with tall ships youth trust. I then went back as a volunteer and have since sailed around 10000 miles including uk to canaries via biscay and a west to east Atlantic crossing. I’m now a volunteer 1st mate on a challenger 72’ with TSYT. I think the best way to start would be to either go on a comp crew course, join a club or try and persuade someone to take you sailing, to see if you actually like it. The image of sailing is cocktails and hammocks whereas in reality it can be a lot more miserable, sort of like very damp camping with added sleep deprivation if you do long passages. I happen to really enjoy all these things!

  • Varnishing the main hatch and washboards. 1st coat is 50% thinners


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  • A few cracks had started to appear in the cabin sides. When I scraped them out it seems that they were areas that had been previously filled. Water has crept in and there was a bit of rot. I scraped the rot out and filled with an epoxy fairing compound. Not ideal and not a permanent solution but will do for this season. When the filler has dried, I will sand and paint with semi gloss topcoat.


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  • Hull painted above the waterline, mostly just touching up


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  • Cabin sides sanded and painted. Will do another coat tomorrow


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  • Absolutely lovely stuff. Are you Bristol-based?

    If it's at all useful, we've got our shagged 30ft project cat that's (very slowly) making its way back home to Scotland laid up at Towy Boat Club near Carmarthen till July. If you ever decide you want the boat a bit further down the channel I can't recommend them enough.

    Dirt cheap and a proper nice and not at all snobby (they let us in!) bunch who run it .

  • My new favourite thread for sure. Can't wait to see more.

  • Boat is now in Emsworth, a long way from the Bristol Channel. Would love to sail up to Scotland one day, have previously sailed to Islay, it’s beautiful round there.

  • Top thread

  • 200kg of lead in the bilge


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Puffin - a 1937 Hillyard sailing yacht

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