Bringing An Old Lady Back (The Story of Number 5)

Hello to all you Scorpion sailors out there. I have owned my first Scorpion now for about a year. You haven’t seen me out in her yet because I have had to do a touch of work to her. I have been asked to write a little about our journey so far so here we go.

I’m going to start at the beginning, well nearly. I moved to my current job in October 2013, a sailing centre located in the belly of Plymouth sound. On my first day I noticed a little wooden dinghy in the far corner of the boat park, hidden behind a small yacht and 36 Bosun’s. Having previously worked at a wooden boat builders in Totnes, this little boat immediately had my interest. Over the next couple of months she kept winking at me and my urge to buy her grew, finally I decided to take a peak under the ill fitting cover. To my dismay, inside I saw a very sad site; the first thing that grabbed me was the smell if damp timber, then when I lifted her nose, water poured from her fwd and side tanks and just kept coming. As the water cascaded into the cockpit, the deck just soaked it up like a sponge. I ventured further and completely removed the cover. The plastic of the cover had made a water seal with the deck panels like a wetsuit and the ply was stained and de-laminating. There is more unfortunately, all of her fittings had been removed, including the rear portion of the mast step and all that was left was a soggy centre board dumped inside and a rudder (equally soggy). I put the cover back on, almost dismissing the idea.

Well, as you can probably guess, it wasn’t the end of it. in fact this is where I get to the beginning. I decided that there were enough positives to buy her anyway. I tracked the current owner down who was the previous principal of the centre, I was informed by a few of the long term staff that he had bought her from a film crew about 8 years previous. The film crew bought her from a local at one of the local sailing clubs, and brought her to the centre for the purpose of filming capsize recovery drills. Our boat maintainer took one look at her and noticed that she had already been stripped of her tank hatches (at least) and to save sinking a boat, sent the film crew out to use one of our Bosun’s instead. Having no need for her they sold her to the principle and the rest is as they say, is history.

This is more where I come into her long life. It was the February before I finally managed to get the price down to reasonable (for a boat in her state). It was a Friday when I moved her into the covered area you can see in the picture (you will see why I mentioned this shortly). I took her cover off to let her breath and put the centre board into the workshop along with the rudder for them to dry out. I didn’t take her home right away because I had my Cadet CK3383 (my first restoration) on the trailer I had. You may remember last Feb brought quite a storm. A southerly to be precise and on a spring high, a deadly combination. It was a Monday and I got into work to quite a buzz, the reason was the boat park was getting flooded by the massive swell and had broken the lashings of the dinghies, as a result they were all floating around and smashing into each other. nothing we could do except watch. when the tide went out and we could safely get out there all of the boats, including power boats, catamarans and a yacht were piled 30ft high in the exact corner where my scorpion had spent the last 8 years, and I had moved just 3 days before. This is when I decided to bring her home.

I got her home and into the garage to start drying out properly, in the mean time I knew that the fore decks, and the port side tank lid were shot so I cracked on stripping them off carefully, hoping that if I got them off in one piece then I could use them as a template for the new ones. once these were removed I could see far more clearly damage I had previously underestimated. On the port side just above the frame was a 12” by 9” repair in the hull, this was painted over outside but inside you could see the gaps and the steel nails which had been used to attach the patch to the backing panel. I realised very quickly that this would have to come off, so I took the patch off and started to clean the area to fit a new repair properly. I hadn’t counted on damage to the frame where the original ply had been hacked away, I ended up having to repair a hole in 4mm ply with a 6mm patch sunk into the frame. that done I moved onto replacing the deck itself. I now know a little more how the hole had got there in the first place as she had been crashed at some point as the rubbing streak was also badly repaired (with car body filler) and the area directly surrounding the shroud anchor was the same. I had to chisel out the car body filler and all of the surrounding rot (car body filler traps moisture and rots the surrounding timber, just in case you were thinking of using it). Once I had done this I started to re build the area so that I could fit the panel. I repainted the inside of the tank and then fitted the new panel.

By the time I had finished with the port tank, the boat had dried out and I could start assessing the rest of the damage. I noticed on the Stbd half of the centre board casing, the dreaded body filler had struck again. This meant I had to remove that half of the casing, a job I knew from experience I didn’t really want to have to do. I started from the stern of the casing chiselling the mahogany frame from the hog, in doing this I noticed that the hog had separated from the keel from the casing back to the stern tank. I finally broke the epoxy seal between the two halves of the casing and got the stbd half off. this revealed yet more rot. I cut out all of the rot and scarfed in fresh timber into the hog. I then re attached the hog to the keel. I stripped the supporting frame off of the old casing and cut a new one from ply using the old as a template. I then re attached the frame to the new ply and made a new mahogany frame for the bottom. once this was done I could then start to refit the casing. the hardest part of this was getting the shape with the hog as it was distorted from the damp, lots of dry fitting before gluing it down.

With this done, I moved onto the fwd section. I had been given an ally spinnaker pole by a very kind scorpion sailor among other things as I didn’t have one. The pole Shute on the boat was to small to fit the new pole so I removed it and fitted a bigger one. Once this was done I painted the inside of the tank and fitted new panels.

On a bit of a roll, I moved onto the stern tank. the deck was damaged by water and needed to be replaced. This one didn’t want to come off nicely and snapped several times in the process. Without a template and on the most complicated panel I forged ahead and began the process of steaming the ply to get that beautiful curve. This isn’t as easy as I had hoped and I fought with the deck to get it shaped. I finally managed to shape the ply and started the process of gluing it down. Now the ply was nice and slippery with the glue it was even harder to fit. Finally I got it on, and it has held well. The stbd quarter of the rubbing streak was also completely rotten so I have had to cut that out and replace it new.

This brings me to now, and with the bulk of the work done I am planning on turning her over on the weekend. I still have things to do, I have yet to scrape off the remaining varnish inside her and re varnish, I have to paint her, hence turning her this weekend. I need to manufacture the rear section of the mast step (I don’t know how this looked when she was built) and I need to rig her.

I am currently trying to hash out her hull number with the committee, we have it narrowed down to either number 5 or 8, and as soon as she is done and numbered you are all going to start seeing me sailing her at events. Well if I have done my job correctly. I will put some pictures up in my next post.

If you are still reading then I guess I haven’t bored you too much and I thank you for your time.

******************************************************************************************************************************Edit (John Purdie).

Phil is currently looking for any advice, hist or tips on how these boats were fitted out.

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Bringing An Old Lady Back (The Story of Number 5)




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Phil Slade
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