A lifeboat love affair

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If you’re ever travelling down the Gloucester to Sharpness canal, keep an eye out for Craig Glassonbury. As General Manager of distinguished boatbuilders RW Davis & Son Ltd, he can be seen on the dry dock at Saul refurbishing all sorts of historic boats with his colleagues. Here, he tells us about the boatyard’s restoration of classic lifeboats.

How did you start restoring lifeboats?

RW Davis & Son Ltd has decades of experience in restoring all sorts of historic craft; lifeboats are a natural extension of that.

It all started when I restored my own 1933 Liverpool Class Always Ready at the yard and my colleague Phil refurbished his lifeboat here too. Because of our location, right on a very busy canal, it attracted a lot of attention. People could see we were working on them as they were sailing by and so the lifeboat renovation work starting coming to us.

As I talk to you now, I’m standing on the newly refurbished decks of the Dorothy and Philip Constant. She’s a Watson Class lifeboat, built in 1962 and originally used at Shoreham.

Which WEST SYSTEM® or PRO-SET® epoxy products do you use and why?

We use WEST SYSTEM® epoxy for bonding and sheathing. That’s the 105 Epoxy Resin® and 205 Fast Hardener®. We also use 406 Colloidal Silica whenever we need a thicker mix.

renovating boats

It’s brilliant stuff. It just works; it’s strong and robust. When you’re at sea bouncing around in bad weather, you don’t want to worry that something is going to fail.

I’ve been using WEST SYSTEM products for at least 25 years. I only use WEST SYSTEM epoxy and I’ve never had any of my renovations fail. For example, I renovated the Always Ready about ten years ago and she still looks as good as new today.

Talk us through the renovation process.

Every project is different and has its own challenges.

On the Dorothy and Philip Constant, we sanded back the decks, raked out the joints and applied a coat of WEST SYSTEM 105/205 epoxy. Then we made a fresh epoxy mix and added colloidal silica, applying it to the wetted out decks so that it bonded and everything was water tight.

On one of the lifeboats we restored, however, fresh water had got in through the deck and the boat had rotted out along the deck shelf. The deck beams were rotten too – but the deck was fine. I had to rip out perfectly good decking in order to rebuild the shelf and beams and then re-deck with double diagonal oak planks.

What is the most rewarding part of the restoration work?

It’s great that we can take the boats along to RNLI fundraisers. People love seeing them and they help to raise money for the charity. So even though they may not be rescuing people anymore, you could say they’re still in service!

What are your top tips for boat builders looking to start a similar project?

Make sure you use the right cloth; nothing too thin. The WEST SYSTEM 765-767 Twill Weave Carbon Fabric is lovely cloth – really easy to drape for good curves and very robust.

 

You can find Craig and co at Junction Dry Dock, Saul, Gloucestershire GL2 7LA. Tel 01452 740 233 or email sales@rwdavis.co.uk.

Looking for a detailed account of a classic lifeboat restoration? Read about Mark Raynes’ renovation of the 1924 MANCHESTER AND SALFORD.

 

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