Sennen Cove

The Boat
On the water again

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Sennen Cove is a nice little village about a mile northeast from Land's End, Cornwall, U.K.

It was in the Sennen Cove pub (founded in 1691, if I recall correctly) that we made the decision to buy this boat. That's how she became to be called "Sennen Cove".

The boat did not originate from the village, just the name. The name is quite proper, however. The village has a solid fishing history, and the boat is definitely of the "fishing style" type.

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The Boat

The boat has probably been built in the fourties. The construction is not that of a working fishing boat, rather a fishing style pleasure boat.

The lapstrake planking, decks and seats of pine, steam bent frames and stems of oak, deck details and windshield frames of mahogany.

First try on the water:
The chunk of cast iron I'm kneeling at is a Wickstrom W1 marine engine. Oh, if an engine can be loved, this is an engine to love. It's a pity they don't make things like this any more.

Yes, I believe the deck has seen better days :-(

The W1 gives a staggering 5 hp output at 1500 rpm out of a single 500 cc (30.5 cu in) cylinder. As close to a steam engine as You can get, without having a real steam engine.

In the W1 everything seems to be designed for simplicity and reliability. No electrics, magneto ignition, crank start, raw water cooling (but this is what finally kills the engine, of course, in 20 or 30 years rust will make a hole in the block), water taps to drain the block in case there will be frost in the night, a funny little funnel to feed extra fuel into the cylinder for easier cold starts, possibility to grind the valves without dismantling the engine or taking it out of the boat (it works, I've done it), possibility to change the crank bearing without dismantling or taking out etc. etc.

And of course! The engine is bolted directly to a wooden engine bed. Without any rubber mountings.
What's that got to do with reliablity?
No rubber mountings to break, no flexible couplings to break on the propeller shaft, the fuel line can be a copper tube, no rubber sections to break.

No wonder the manual says "Wickstrom is reliability itself."
They were built to get You back from the cold, stormy sea.

The engine runs! Water is squirting out of the exhaust pipe to the left of the stem. The exhaust system, btw., is also made of copper. No parts to rust!

Now look at her lines. There's not a single modern boat with beautiful curves like on "Sennen Cove".

The hullform is a rather round bottom one. In practice that means, that there is very little initial stability, but once the boat tilts enough, the heavy engine on the bottom starts acting as a mighty counterweight to give the boat a lot of final stability. She feels very tippy, but is actually impossible to capsize.
(I gave my two sons, aged 11 and 14 at the time, permission to capsize her if they can. They couldn't. So it just must be impossible.)

Running against waves with this kind of a boat feels like riding a train: You don't even know there are waves. The bow is sharp, high and flared. It cuts waves very nicely and there's very little spray.

Running sideways to the waves feels like rocking sideways in a rocking chair. Most newcomers to a boat like this are horrified, they really feel like this is the end. But it's not. Just rock along.

Running with the waves means a lot of steering, a lot of broaching. The bow doesn't dive and "get caught" in the water in an uncomfortable way, however, so broaching doesn't feel terrifying.

The big But: At the time of taking these pictures she leaked some 60 liters (13 gallons) a day. That means: Something must be done!

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That "someting" was going to be:

Clean the hull

All old varnish (or what was left of it) was removed with a hot air gun, scraper and finally with a band sander.

Fix the hull

All the lapping seams of the hull were first scraped clean of old varnish, putty and whatever, then brushed with epoxy and finally filled with an epoxy - wheat flour putty.

I was given a lot of good advice against gluing the seams. But would I take such good advice?

No, I would not! People seem to resist gluing lapstrake seams because they mix the concepts "flexible" and "loose". A riveted seam that has worked "loose" is not "flexible". It is "broken".
After gluing it is as flexible as the riveted seam was originally, only it does not leak any more.

Until now, after six seasons, there's no reason to regret the gluing. She is not leaking nor having any other problems that could be related to the seams.

Paint the hull

The exterior was first impregnated with epoxy, sanded, and painted with two coats of industrial grade two component polyurethane paint. White, of course.

I believe there are two differences between industrial grade polyurethane and a "proper" boat paint. The sailboat picture on the label of the boat paint can, and the triple price tag. Anyone is free to disagree, but my experience with the industrial paint durability makes my faith strong ;-)

The underwater part was painted with a proper bottom paint.

The hull paint job almost finished.

Varnish the deck

The deck will need a rebuilt one day. But running a boat is more important than rebuilding her without an end, so new coats of varnish will have to do for now.

Repair the engine bed

The engine bed cross beams were clearly too short for this installation. The beams were extended as far as there was room.

The engine mounting bolts were loose. Once they were tightened, the noice level and hull shaking were reduced dramatically.

Repair the frames

The insufficiently narrow engine bed and loose mounting bolts were clearly the reason for seven broken frames on either side of the boat. With a little bit of exaggeration one could say that around the engine the bottom and sides were not connected at all.

I repaired the frames by gluing and screwing steam bent oak frame bits, extending one plank width from the failure to either direction, on top of the original frames.

This may not have been the "best" solution, but at the time it was the "best possible" solution: there was no one to hold against the rivet on the outside of the boat, so the "proper" solution had to be abandoned.

Well, the "improper" solution has lasted for six seasons now, can't be too bad.

Oil the interior

The interior of the boat was treated with linseed oil - pine turpentine - wood preservative mixture. As it obviously had been treated before.

Change steering cables

This was the funny part. The previous owner was an artist, a painter. He had installed plastic strings, the type often used as a drying line when washing clothes, as the steering cables. These were replaced with proper ones.

Ever since, I have called that type of plastic string "the artist string".

A light engine overhaul

The engine did run, but starting could have been better. So the following light overhaul was carried out:

Then just fill her up, crank, and off You go.

Oh, put her back to water first... ;-)

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On the water again

No more leakage (once I reattached the cooling water intake hose ;-).

Her cruise speed now is roughly 6 knots, at maybe 1000 rpm, with a fuel consumption of about 2.5 liters (1/2 gallons) per hour. Opening the throttle wide open only increases noise, vibration, consumption, stern draft and stern wave. Not the speed.

On the other hand, she almost reaches hull speed with the engine idling, so the throttle lever is almost unnecessary!

"Old men by the sea" have tried to give me good advice, to mix some diesel fuel into her gasoline, "because it is basically a paraffin engine". Like all good advice, don't take it, if You don't understand it.

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...and the living is easy...

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