January 2018

This is the story of LEADING WIND, a DEBEN 4 TONNER, designed by William Maxwell Blake and built by WHISSTOCKS of Woodbridge in SUFFOLK in 1937 and launched in 1938. She spent the war years in Port Navas in Cornwall, this was followed by her return to Poole in Dorset, where her lady owner enjoyed the boat for many years. In the interim the boat has had many new owners  – including my late mother, who discovered the boat in a dilapidated condition in a boatyard in Ipswich and subsequently bought and restored her in 1992. Sadly, once the restoration was completed, ill health forced my mother to sell the boat, which was a great shame – they were both destined for the Norfolk Broads for further adventures.

Leading Wind passed through many new hands and each in turn, made numerous improvements, such as installing a new engine and a solid fuel heater. Sadly the last owner also had health issues and the boat suffered from the ravages of time and led to an enforced sale, which is where our story begins.

Following a tip off from a FACEBOOK friend, who had seen an advert for the boat, we couldn’t believe our luck when we discovered that the boat was lying just down the road in Bosham Boatyard – not the East Coast where we last saw her !

Upon first sight, excitement led to despondency and my initial thoughts were that although the hull seemed sound, the structure of the boat was possibly compromised and it would be an expensive restoration. Initially, we walked away but boats have a habit of finding custodians and this was only the beginning.

Later – after protracted negotiations, she was mine and we engaged a marine surveyor to give us a better indication of the full horror that we had taken on ! As fate would have it, although the boat was built in Suffolk (not the South Coast) – our surveyor knew Deben 4 Tonners very well and in a former life he used to be the manager of Whisstocks boatyard, where she was built !

To cut a long story short, after receiving the survey report, we engaged, classic boat specialist, Tim Gilmore Ltd of Birdham Pool Marina to do the lions share of the difficult work, whilst the wood family rebuilt the interior and did the cosmetic work.


Tim Cath of Bosham Boatyard delivered the boat to Birdham Pool Marina and here he is removing the strapping prior to the boat being lifted off his flatbed trailer.

Up up and away – Leading Wind takes to the skies !














being lowered onto the boat mover.













Leading Wind is temporarily chocked up and the tractor gently pulled the trolley forward.






September 2018 Birdham Pool Marina classic boat festival.  “Leading Wind” was in Tim Gilmore’s workshop  and the serious work had begun. Our goal is to get her afloat in time for the next festival in SEPT 2019 !















Devoid of her interior, and badly degraded Floor Timbers Leading Wind is ready for some new oak replacements.











Tucked away from the glare of publicity, in her new home, in Tim Gilmore’s workshop, Deben 4 Tonner, “Leading Wind” has begun her epic restoration – she is also the inspiration behind an art project that will document her Renaissance.


“Leading Wind’s” old knee is cut back and cleaned up.


Below : the stem has been cut back further and a replacement laminated stem and floors have been dry fitted. 22.9.18


Update 29.9.18 : the antifouling has been peeled (£600 well spent) to reveal the condition of the pitch pine planking, which was surprisingly good. In order to gain access to the one remaining keel bolt (which was cut with a sabre saw) and a floor timber near the stern, we decided to remove the garboard. The fastening holes were then pegged and sealed.

In the photo below the new floor timbers (horizontal components that hold the keelson and the sides together) have been primed in battleship grey and they will be re-introduced to the boat next week. Fortunately, the other horizontal feature, the stringers, running the length of the boat, where ok.


Scary photograph with the garboards removed for repairs and priming. Copyright Chrisnwood All rights reserved

Repair to end of port garboard. A nice recycled piece of pitch pine. All old fastening holes are pegged with the same piece of pitch pine.

Repair to sternpost and deadwood, laminated together.


New floors fitted and fastened

sternpost and deadwood repair complete and both garboards returned to their rightful places.

and the other side – 21.10.18.

UPDATE 2.11.18 : The white primer indicates the number of timbers that have been removed and shortly will be replaced with new green oak ones. Once they are in place their neighbours will be taken out and also replaced. The idea being that the shape / form of the boat won’t change during the process.

NB : it looks healthier now the garboards are back !

Another area of interest is the top section of the transom which was repaired but not successfully as not all the rot was cut out and in later years it returned – this has now been rectified by removing half the transom !



Above can be seen the knees, which were beginning to degrade and it was deemed prudent to replace them before sorting out the transom. The new knees can be seen in the photo below (painted grey) and gripped in the vice is the replacement for the top half of the afore mentioned transom.

Update 21.12.18 The transom is whole again.

And after a few coats of varnish . . .

New quarter knee tying the new top of the transom to the side of the boat. NB : It was painted prior to final fitting as it will be inaccessible later – after layers of new aft deck and the diesel tank has been refitted etc !



The plywood afterdeck has been filled, sanded and sheathed with epoxy resin – now all that remains is to add the two pack polyurethane deck paint.

The hole made to access and replace the quarter knee is now filled !






Nearly all the new green steamed oak timbers are in, nailed and riveted up. There’s a couple of short planks that were butted up to existing timbers (where two thin planks become one)  but some new properly scarfed replacements will fill the gap very soon – so she will be better than the original ! Those new grey floor timbers will certainly hold her in shape for the next 80 years !





Richard hard at work sheathing the new side deck.



Meanwhile inside, I have been busy with my hot air gun and scraper !

It’s a long job but the sanding continues





The plank edges have been routered out and widened and a spline of new timber is added and glued to one edge, leaving a much smaller gaps than there was before ! The gap will then be filled with caulking cotton and red lead. Here we can see some of the tiny wedges that were made from the old battens that were temporarily fastened to the planks to guide the router – nothing gets wasted !

She is beginning to look a little more wholesome 30.7.19. The chain plates have been dry fitted, the quadrants around the cabin sides have been fitted and the fastening holes, plugged with matching mahogany plugs, sealed and varnished and a coat of Teamac Metaclor Underwater primer has been applied to the bottom, which had been professionally “pealed” (well worth the money as it to saved a lot of time and effort).

Progress is occurring thick and fast ! Both rub rails are made and stuck to the top strake with Sikaflex before being screwed, countersunk and plugged with mahogany plugs which are sanded and the whole rail sealed. The rails are left long (overlapping the transom) then cut down to size, rounded and sealed.

Leading Wind now has both port and starboard rub rails permanently attached.

To preserve her dignity I have applied a coat of Teamac Metaclor Underwater Primer to her bare bottom ! Next, more coats of primer, under the waterline, will be followed by red lead and calking cotton in the seams.

The next major project is stripping off the paint and filler that is bravely adhering to the ballast keel (although currently it looks ok, there are areas that have “blown” and air pockets have got between the filler and the surface of the rusted iron keel) This gets chipped off with a hammer, then it’s wire brushed and the worst of the rust removed before painting with a rust inhibitor / sealer.

The keel will be bolted back on, hopefully next week or possibly the week after. Then lots of filler will be reapplied to the joint between the ballast keel and the wooden keel. This will then be sanded down and faired so there is an even transition between the two.


Everything below the waterline is filled with a traditional mixture of putty, red lead powder and linseed oil. Here the countersunk holes left from installing the new frames are filled prior to yet more coats of paint ! 6th August 2019

Caulking cotton is supplied in balls – the string is made up of individual strands, which can be subtracted or added to – here’s Richard of Tim Gilmore Ltd making up a thicker line of caulking for the seam between the hood ends of the planks and the deadwood (sternpost) – a big seam needs thicker caulking ! One end is gripped in the bench vice and the other is in the chuck of a power drill which is slowly rotated to bind the extra strands together.

The twisted cotton is tapped into the seam with a caulking iron a bit like a flat ended bolster. As the planks will expand in water (hopefully) you don’t need to ram the cotton in too firmly – a gentle tap is enough to bury the cotton, leaving the top of the seam for “paying off” with a mixture of red lead powder, linseed oil and putty – hence the orange seams !

The seams are “paid off” (filled) with a traditional mix of red lead powder, putty and linseed oil – here the mix is being applied with a filling knife (spatula) – it’s a filthy job hence the rubber gloves !

Jib sheet tracks are back and the deck and coachroof have two coats of two-pot polyurethane

deck paint – all that remains is to tidy up the edges and remove the blue masking tape !

Two coats of Teamac Metaclor underwater primer, followed by three coats of white undercoat and the topsides are getting there – just a light sanding plus a few little dings need filling, then more undercoat, followed by a coat of 50% enamel / 50% undercoat, then two coats of enamel.

My new Collars Mast (the one in the middle) was delivered at 08.30 on Thursday morning and so far I’ve got about 5-6 coats of thinned varnish over the entire mast. Tomorrow I will bring some cotton buds for varnishing inaccessible areas like the bolt holes for the fittings , which have not seen a lot of action yet. The slot in the top which will take the sheave or pulley for the main halyard has been varnished by poking a varnish soaked rag into the hole. More exciting news of riches to rags later !

Leading Wind comes out for the day and goes back into the shed 1.5 tons heavier ! Here’s the ballast keel with Leading Wind patiently waiting for the top of the keel to be prepared.

Bituminous Mastic is troweled onto the top of the keel, then a layer of roofing felt followed by more mastic, then another layer of felt, them more mastic. Two keel bolts have been inserted for initial alignment with the wooden keel.


The tractor edged the boat mover incredibly slowly and with amazing precision and once properly aligned with the keel, three bolts were persuaded into the holes in the keel and up through the wooden keel and the new wooden floor timbers. Richard of Tim Gilmore Ltd then spent a happy couple of hours going up and down the ladder like a yoyo to add custom washers and nuts to the protruding bolt and then tighten up each of the eight nuts. He also did a very professional job of cleaning up all the black mastic which squirted out around the bolt holes !

Leading Wind looking smug and reunited with her 1.5 ton keel. She sat there for an hour whilst the other boats were manoeuvred into the shed and were parked and propped up with shores and wedges.

Rebuilt rudder firmly attached and located into new gudgeons and pintails.

She floats again !

And here she is at the Birdham Pool Marina Classic Boat Festival 7th/8th September. As the new  mast is still in the workshop, I lashed two boat hooks together to support my rag tag collection of flags – the hull is “taking up” nicely (meaning the planks are expanding and the leaks are less of a concern) and last nights leakage amounted to 30 pumps of the Whale Chimp Handpump ! Many thanks to Richard of TimGilmoreLtd for pumping her out his morning !

Ignore the random collection of fenders – it was a spur of the moment thing, just in case somebody rafted up alongside – who knows by the time the 2020 edition of the classic boat festival comes around I might have got a matching set of fenders all wearing matching stripy socks !

A slightly better set of fenders and here we see the boat floating a tad high – before the chain and moveable ballast was put back. She still floats a bit high but the mast has yet to be slotted in and the engine is still in the workshop too !

And here’s Leading Wind in her permanent berth at Birdham Pool Marina – the saga / restoration continues. So now we have the rig back where it belongs and a temporary winter cover to protect the cockpit from the weather. The engine was craned in when the mast appeared – although it still has to be connected up. We are also concentrating our thoughts on the interior and this is slowly being put back. CW 19.10.19

The solid fuel (charcoal) stove is in it’s new location on the new bulkhead which forms the hanging locker, which has swopped sides and is now on the port hand side.

The galley, chart table, bottle of Adnams Broadside, and my bunk which has changed colour – no more battleship grey – the white undercoat will morph into cream yacht enamel. Since taking this photo, the splines, in between the topside planks, have been treated to their first coat of undercoat.

The mock up for the v berth, over the portapotti and the bunk ends etc. The sole (or floor) will need extending around the mast and at some stage I’ll have to secure the ballast – as they say in nautical circles. I decided  to keep the natural look of the new oak frames and here they are after a couple of coats of Hempels Impreg and two coats of Jotun Ravilakk Varnish. It means painting the planking in between is slightly more awkward but in my opinion – worth it ! I have yet to fill the gaps and do a more permanent job of the planking but the important outside has plenty of protection !


09 February 2020 : halyard winches are on !

About chriswoodartist

painter, print-maker and illustrator

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