After Dave sold Fashion, I decided to divide my time between the UK & Thailand and disappeared for the winter.

Whilst I away Dave bought the gaffer Berneray, for a snip. Or so he thought !!!


Berneray in Oban, Scotland

Berneray was a 45', twin masted, gaff rigged, wooden schooner, fitted with a 2 ltr Ford diesel engine. She had originally been built to service Scottish lightships, had been decommissioned, and wasn’t in the best condition. In fairness, that was reflected in her price but as it turned out, everything above the hull was basically rotten. Even the base of the foremast disintegrated one morning, dropping and collapsing the whole rig across the boatyard.

Luckily, damage was minimal.

Dave then jacked up the wheelhouse onto a scaffold pole framework, and everything below it was cut away and consigned to the tip. The 5 tons of rusty sash weights that were her ballast were weighed in for scrap. The planking and ribs on the inside of the hull were meticulously cleaned, and painted in yellow ochre.

On returning in the spring I got involved and after giving further thought to the wheelhouse, we decided to scrap that as well. And so Berneray became a 45 foot dinghy.

First job was to shoot 5 tons of 'ready mix concrete' into the hull for ballast. At the time trimming was a guess, but it turned out to be pretty accurate.

We then set about rebuilding her.


Berneray's Rebuild

Dave started building the cabin top and I set about the decking. We had originally planned to get Adrian (the local shipwright) to re-deck her, but he was busy at that time. So under his guidance I set about the task. It didn’t prove to be as difficult as I imagined, infact, I was pleasantly surprised how just easy it was to work in hardwood. Contrary to my belief, it was far easier to cut than softwood.

2” thick Iroko planking made up the Covering Boards that followed the curved shape of the hull, and two layers of 1” marine ply (stepped overlapping into the Iroko) filled the gap between the CB's and the cabin sides. All was glued and screwed. Hot tar was then poured between the CB's and the hull to form a seal. Once Dave had completed the marine ply cabin top, we then sheeted and glassed it down and across deck to within a foot of the hull, terminating the edges in a routed out groove. The edges were then secured with beading and sealed in with resin. This proved an effective way of sealing her from the elements, and we never had any water ingress from the decks.

Next job was to install the wheelhouse that Dave had constructed in sections at home. Getting the right angles to get the windows to lean out, whilst incorporating a thruppenny bit shape to the front, was a challenge, but Dave sussed it and it worked. As we pieced it together, we again glued & screwed and it paid off. We never had any movement or creaking from any of the construction throughout the boat. Sliding doors were chosen and they worked well.

It was around this time that I was headed out to Thailand once again and on my return I found Dave had roughly fitted out  Berneray's cabin & wheelhouse. There were 7 berths, a galley, and a heads complete with a Victorian style electric flushing toilet, macerator, bath and shower.

Berneray's final accommodation consisted of 2 single berths in the for'peak, 2 doubles & 1 single in the main cabin, and an additional double in the wheelhouse if required. Over the summer we finished fitting it out.

Time for the rigging. Two telegraph poles were purchased from Calders & Grandidge (Boston, Lincs.) and we set about whittling them down. After tapering them to spec. I think I again disappeared for warmer climes, leaving Dave to finish off the stepping, the rigging and refitting the bowsprit. I came back the following spring, and only had to help with a bit of tidying up on deck, to finish it off.

Dave had also been busy that winter, installing cabin heaters, water heaters, electrics and plumbing, and generally finishing off the interior.

All that was required now was to re-paint the hull, so I took it back to bare timber with an electric polishing mop, fitted with a 9” foam backing pad & 32 grit discs. She was then primed, undercoated and painted in cream. Against the tan sails she looked a picture.


Berneray Rebuilt

All in all the rebuild took nearly four years, but it was worth all the effort. She sailed brilliantly, held her course and could be sailed hands off for long periods with very little input.

The only downside was that she had no winches, all sail work had to be done by hand. That was OK whilst his son Andrew or myself were around, but just dropping the sails and putting them to bed, took a good half an hour. Breaking them out was a bit quicker, but required quite a bit of effort to haul them up and top out the gaffs. Tacking was the same. The sails had to be sheeted in well before they had wind in them, and then trimmed by sheeting out.

For a couple of years she served as a great family boat, allowing Dave & Jan to take the children and grandchildren on many trips around the East Coast, but eventually she was put up for sale. Meanwhile Dave looked for something newer and more manageable.

Berneray was eventually sold as a live aboard, and replaced by the yacht, Swan.


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