The Refit Of Windborne
Today’s story is on the schooner – Windborne, by John Gander, via Dean Wright, John and family refitted and owned Windborne for many years. Its a great read by one of our best woody boatbuilders. I’ll shut up and just let John tell the story – enjoy, I did 🙂 Remember – to enlarge a photo, just click on it 😉
‘Windborne’ was built in 1928 by Cornish boatbuilders Gilbert and Pascoe at their yard in Porthleven and launched as the cutter ‘Magnet’ after launching she took part in the Fastnet yacht race. She again raced in the Fastnet in 1930 but this time re rigged as a schooner, and has continued with this rig.
On sailing to the United States her name was changed to ‘Huguenot’ and registered in San Diego. On being purchased by the Charleson’s a Canadian family from Vancouver, the owner wanted to retain the name Huguenot and she was renamed ‘Windborne’ a very fitting name for her, and she was Vancouver registered. On sailing her to the U.S. port of Blaine just south of the Canadian border Mike and his wife Karol began getting Windborne ready for a voyage to the south Pacific.
The family visited many Pacific islands during their cruising and then headed for New Zealand and on the last part of the voyage encountered heavy weather and Windborne suffered some damage to her bulwarks and rigging. Being designed on the lines of the Bristol Channel pilot cutters and soundly built she is a very sea kindly vessel and delivered the family safely to Auckland.
Bev and I had not long completed ‘Deepstar’ and were planning on building a large sailing craft for our family use, however time was getting on, so before it was too late and our children left home we decided to look around for a suitable vessel. We were introduced to Windborne on her mooring at Herald Island and went for an afternoon sail with the Charleson family, and could see she was worth and deserved an extensive refit.
Her planking is Pitch Pine on sawn Oak frames fastened with galvanised soft iron spikes, I was not familiar with these timbers in our Picton boatyards so flew back to Picton to talk with Peter Jorgensen at his Waikawa boatyard. Pop as he was affectionally know, with his years of experience in Danish boatyards was of course very familiar with these timbers, iron fastenings and European construction, and his knowledge was very helpful when I surveyed her as I did on returning to Auckland and putting her on the grid at Westhaven.
We took possession on the last day of July 1980 and made ready for the voyage to Picton and with a capable crew we sailed from Auckland on the 7th of August. Winter is not the always the best time to head down the east coast and it was somewhere off East Cape that we found that the forward skylight was only held in place by the shiplap joint and no through bolts. With a couple of sections of bulwarks missing and a good sea running this deficiency was made evident, and the hand bilge pump showed it’s worth. I always sail with a fairly comprehensive tool kit and with a selection of fittings and fastening in the ships inventory the skylight was secured in place.
To undergo the refit I planned, we needed to have Windborne undercover and were fortunate to find we could have the use of Finn Jorgensen’s big shed at the Waikawa yard for a limited time before it was required for their next commission. On the 24th of December we hauled out and made ready to have the masts lifted out, and started the job of burning off the topside paint. As is often the case fastenings deteriorate around the waterline area but it was not possible to pull the old spikes out of the oak frames so additional galvanised ship spikes were driven adjacent to the original’s, two planks below and three planks above the waterline.
On the last day of December ‘Windborne’ was hauled up into the shed ready for the major refit, and what better way to spend new years day for a family than to spend it working with earnest tearing up the canvas like material covering the decks, I was suspicious that this was laid over the 2 inch Baltic Pine decks because of leaks, the ruination of many fine vessel’s. I was relieved to find the timber was in a good state of repair so the decision was made to retain the deck. Removal of the deckhouse was fairly quick and easy but more time was required to remove deck fittings, deck prism’s, and other deck furniture until we had a clean flush deck. The bulwarks were fastened to grounds over the covering boards with the frames extending to the cap, this is an area of potential leaks. On removing the damaged bulwarks and beltings and sawing off the frames at deck level, the new bulwarks were to be fitted on the outside of the sheer strake as was our practice at the Carey yard.
Next we moved below decks, unfortunately in later years any original furniture and fittings had gone to be replaced with ply, paneling and some pegboard, hardly befitting a traditional yacht, however we did expose the original tonnage and tonnage exemption carvings by removing layers of paint from the deck beams so we had something from her past. I had planned the layout we required so removed all bulkheads and the hull lining. This gave a good opportunity to make a thorough inspection from bilge to deckhead.
While I was fitting new bulkheads, Bev and our boys Wayne and Neville, began removing the rigging and paint from the spars. As is common in these vessel’s cast iron ballast is set in concrete between the floor timbers, however she also carried 2,775 lbs of lead ingots. At some time Windborne had been hauled out on a two bearer slip cradle and for a thirty five ton vessel this was grossly insufficient, the result was that she had damage to the underside of her wooden keel, so I made a casting box and we used the lead ingots to cast a blast keel to replace the damaged section. I next dressed off and sanded the the Baltic Pine decking and laid marine ply using epoxy glue to, and over the outside of the sheer strake.
By late February we were ready to start the new bulwarks and to help with our time schedule Finn offered me the use of one of his men, I chose Keith Hansen, Keith had learned his trade at the Jorgensen Boatyard and Keith and I worked well together ( I hope he still agrees with my comment ). We started on the Bulwarks using double diagonal Matai with a hardwood stringer, followed with new hardwood beltings.
Laying the 5/8” teak deck was a slower job, I don’t like decking laid straight fore and aft and wanted to follow the deck plan as far as practical and run the decking into the king plank in the traditional manner and this means edge setting the deck planking. We departed with tradition when it came to caulking the seams and used thioflex polysulphide with the accompanying mess that follows while the product cure’s. Next it was onto fitting the new Teak Cap and Taff rails. The new deckhouse was built on Kauri coamings and sheathed in glass cloth, all other deck furniture is Teak.
As our time in the shed was limited I was fortunate to be able to engage Bob Clerke a ships joiner, I delivered a load of teak at Bob’s workshop, and with measurements and patterns Bob set to and made skylights, hatches, a magnificent saloon table and other fitments to help with my fit out below decks all done in Teak and Kauri. The topsides were recaulked and my daughter Shirley stopped the seams with white lead putty in preparation to repainting. By the beginning of May the new look ‘Windborne’ was out of the shed.
Masts were stepped with an English silver coin dated 1928 under her main mast and a Canadian coin under the foremast, and on the 6th of May at H.W. she was sent down the rails but remained in the cradle, the summer had been hot and dry and we had pumps ready, next day with a bit of oakum caulking in a couple of seams she was ready to leave the cradle and lay alongside the wharf at our boat shed to complete the fit out below decks.
A year or so later I removed the Isuzu engine and replaced it with a 4 LW Gardner. For the following eighteen years ‘Windborne’ carried our family on many adventures in all sorts of conditions. Roger Carey told us boys that wooden boats are built of living things, and every wooden vessel has a soul, I strongly believe this.
This last few weeks I have I have visited ‘Windborne’ out on the hard at Whangarei receiving care and attention from her owner Avon, he is doing a good job she’s looking good, being well ventilated and with salt water over her decks, the best thing ever.