Swift 18 No 028

By Nick Taylor


I was working at a farm just outside Midhurst. The farmer had recently died and his daughter was clearing up so that the property could be sold. In a corner of one field was a trailer and sailing boat. The wheels had sunk down into the mud and it looked in a very sad and neglected state. I asked the daughter what was happening to the boat. It had belonged to her Dad and he had brought it down from Northumberland when he moved 16 years earlier. He parked the boat in the field when he moved there and that's where it stayed. I was given first refusal on the boat and naturally I very soon became the proud owner of a Swift 18.

My first job was to get it out of the field. The farmer next door came to the rescue with a JCB and managed to pull it out of the mud and onto a hard standing. The boat wasn't sitting square on the trailer, so Dave Rush and I managed to jack her up and then lever her back into the correct position on the trailer. Where she had sat crooked for 15 years, two of the side rollers had punched holes in the GRP hull. Although this was a big disappointment it wasn't an insurmountable problem. I managed to get the wheels off the trailer, but the brake linings had bonded to the drums! The shoes were relined, the bearings changed, tyres pumped up and she was ready to take home. My old BX struggled a bit but we got her home without any problems.

Once home I was able to assess the exact amount of work needed to get her sailing. She had two small holes in the GRP hull, both on the starboard side and of course below the water line. The Swift is double skinned and then foam filled to supposedly make it unsinkable. This means that you can't get to the inside of the hull from the inside of the boat without first cutting a hole in the inner moulding and removing the foam. The cabin had a small amount of water in it, some of the cushions were damp, and most of the lining had fallen off. The rigging didn't look too bad. The stainless standing rigging was OK except the forestay, which had a couple of damaged strands. The running rigging was pretty green (I don't mean it was a pretty green colour, I mean it was 'growing!') and would need replacing. The furling jib proved to be rotten when unfurled, obviously there was no UV strip fitted! This would have to be replaced. The main was a bit grubby but ok, it had been stored in its bag in the forepeak. However there was no boom to attach it to. Also lost in the move from Northumberland were the rudder, rudderstock and tiller.

The first thing I did when I got her home was to wash all the green slime off! And then scrub, scrub, scrub. I stripped the inside and cleaned this as well. Then I scrubbed the outside again and again and again! I called on Keith Calton to help with repairing the hull. He told me what needed doing and I did it!I firstly had to cut away the inner moulding and remove the foam to access the inside of the hull. Two holes were cut, the first in the cabin floor and into the 'pod' that holds the cooker. The second was under the starboard quarter berth. Once a large enough space was cleared the inside of the hull could be cleaned before Keith applied a GRP patch on the inside. When these two patches were cured the outside of the hull was made good using Gel Coat. The space was then re-foamed and the sections of inner mouldings replaced.

I had carefully removed all the linings from inside the cabin and kept them all to use as patterns. Once I had sourced and taken delivery of new lining material I laid it out and placed the old linings on top to give me the exact shapes I needed. Gluing them in place was not so easy. The headlining and bulkhead linings weren't too bad as they were mounted on detachable boards. This was much easier to do than sticking three square feet of flapping material to the insides using contact adhesive!

The cushions were pretty grubby. I could get the covers off some of them, on some I removed the material and foam from the marine ply backing (and sanded and re-varnished them) but on a couple of them the zips were so badly corroded I had to wash the covers with the foam still inside. The covers washed ok but they took weeks (months!) to dry.

I decided to clean and polish the boat using a system called poliglow (www.poliglow.co.uk) from Cooks Maritime Craftsmen in Lymington (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). This is a 2-part system in as much as the first part is poliprep. Poliprep cleans and prepares the GRP for the Poliglow, which gives the protection and the shine. The preparation has to be perfect as the poliglow is a polymer that protects whatever it is underneath. You can't polish any marks out as you do with other systems. I used poliglow inside and out and am satisfied with the result.

I discovered a website for Swift 18s www.swift18.org - and this proved to be invaluable. Chris and Gail down in Horsham invited me to look round their Swift. This was the first complete Swift I had seen and gave me something to aim for. I was able to see what the missing bits looked like. As luck would have it I never did manage to find a boom and rudder from all the boat jumbles I went to, but I did get loads of other useful bits and a lot of unnecessary bits as well! Through the website I got in contact with Mike Cooper who\'s obtained the original moulds for the Swift and is currently building a new boat. He made me a brand new rudder blade and also had a rudderstock manufactured for me. If it wasn't for Mike I'd probably still be going round in circles.

The next major obstacle was the boom. Despite several jumbles and visits to various second hand sources no boom was forthcoming. Then Dave Rush said he had a boom off a 25 footer sitting in his shed. He thought I didn't want it as it was too long. I cut a couple of feet off of it, bodged a gooseneck, fitted a slab reefing system and 'hey presto' we were in business. A new furling jib was bought as the original has disintegrated as soon as I 'unfurled' it. Obviously the UV strip wasn't working!

The boat was now ready to move from Farnham down to the ECA at Eastney. This was an uneventful journey although the hub covers both disappeared somewhere near Butser. We called into the Trailer Sailer Centre at Northney Marina. They had a hoist and I was able to check the drop keel, which hadn't been down for 15 years. It seemed to work ok and I managed to get a coat of paint on it as well. Once at the ECA we stepped the mast. The only thing of any concern was the forestay which had a couple of broken strands. However Chris Hornsey very quickly made me up a new forestay. The new sail was eventually fitted along with new sheets. Due to the fittings on the adapted boom I needed to reposition the main traveller. Chris Hornsey made up a wire 'Horse' and the main sheet was attached to end of the boom rather than the centre. A new Mariner 5hp outboard was purchased and we were ready to launch.

The first outing wasn't a complete disaster! We launched into Eastney Lake and motored out into deeper water in Langstone accompanied by Dave Rush and his Heavenly Twin 'Elara'. Once into deep water I asked my son to wind the keel down. He wound and wound and wound. I should have told him to wind for 48 turns only, (this is something we have since discovered). The winding bolt came out!! We had no way of getting the keel up. We tried putting a rope under the keel and pulling it up, but believe me this method doesn't work. Whist trying to pull the keel up I stepped on the outboards\' gear lever and snapped it off! I could get the engine started but it wouldn't go forward or astern!! Dave was able to tow us back to the slipway where we beached her, this pushed the keel back up and I was able to get the bolt back in. I was took my almost brand new outboard back to Fairweather Marine to have a new gear lever fitted. They took pity on me and only charged me for the lever.

The next outing was much more successful; it was my birthday and we sailed over to Wootton Creek where we named the boat 'Whacker.' One more disaster followed a few weeks later. I let 'Whacker' go from the top of the slipway into the run on one of the biggest springs of the year. It couldn't have run any further! I thought I'd got away with it but no, Bob Blowers had seen it! I thought I had the winch wire on, but .. The boat was completely unscathed, well not quite, one wheel of the trailer came off the concrete right at the bottom and this tipped it over just enough to catch the outboard leg. The leg snapped off and just dangled below the motor! Fairweather Marine was unable to fix it so I had to buy another. Despite the all the tractors and winches I was unable to launch and recover the boat on my own, with the boat in the water what do you do with the trailer? Or conversely, what happens to your boat when you\'re taking your trailer back to its space? I very soon decided to get a swinging mooring. Once I had made the ground tackle and agreed the position with the Harbour master, Dave Rush slung the sinker between the two hulls of his catamaran and we placed the mooring in Eastney Lake. Once this was done I was able to sail the boat on my own as well as with friends and family.

'Whacker' has sailed to Portsmouth, Ryde, Wootton, Cowes, Newport, and Southampton and also explored the shallower reaches of Langstone, before coming out of the water for winter at the end of October.