the boat  
 
main page
my photographs
ship's log
weather links
family
video
                 
 
 
taking ownership of top cat
 
living with an heavenly twins
 
ongoing refurbishment
 
                 
we launched her, now we have to refit top cat
         
 

may 2002 - the story so far....

In the winter of 1996 Top Cat was lifted out and left dry for the winter. During this time my Grandmothers health deteriorated and my father had a full time job looking after her.

This stopped Top Cat being ready for a season and my parents decided to leave her in the yard for that summer. Things kept slipping and eventually she was left as interests and time were devoted elsewhere. Most times I would see my dad I would nag him to get the boat sorted, I offered all my spare time to help him. Eventually in December 2001 he offered the boat to me, I had begun my usual nag, 'so dad, what are we going to do with the boat', and that was it, give it to me.

The strange thing is I was hankering to release some equity and buy a yacht, but I couldn't, not while Top Cat was sat rotting in Wales. The situation had stopped both of us owning a boat. At least this way we would all get the pleasure of Top Cat again.

  Top Cat in the yard, covered in moss and muck  
         
  The London Boat Show, where we got many ideas and I was brought up to speed about yacht instruments.  

We traveled down to the 2002 London Boat Show to get some ideas and look for new engines for Top Cat. We did not buy anything but came home with a forests worth of paper leaflets and catalogues. It gave us some great ideas and gave me a scare, I had been away from boating for about six years in all, things had changed somewhat in that time. LCD displays appear to have revolutionised sailing electronics, before we had CRT (television type) screens, which were power hungry to say the least. Even our VHF was using 10x the power that a modern unit was claiming during standby. Oh how things on Top Cat were set to change!

If you have read the last few pages in this section you will be up to this point, I will now go through some of our major works so far.

 

see how we launched top cat again here

 
_____________________________________________________________________________________
         
summer 2002
         
 

Now Top Cat was back on the water we were left a little without a plan. Thus far our aim was to get he back 'seaworthy' and on the water. We had achieved that. Now we had to decide what order to continue the work of refitting the boat.

We decided to finish the saloon first, after all, when not outside this is where we would spend most of our time. At time of launch, the carpet for the saloon was being stored in the galley, most of the headlining had fallen down, the windows were leaking, there was some mould on the wood, the list went on.

We tackled each job on it's own and one by one the saloon started to come together. The carpet made enormous differences to the warmth, sound and feel of the saloon. The mould was coming off with gentle bleach. A new switch panel was found and the boats wiring was refitted. The hardest part of this particular job was crossing wires over the bridge deck, this has also increased the amount of wire required for the job quite substantially.

 
         
 

While working we were also starting to sail Top Cat. At first I kept trips short and of no appreciable distance to ease Tanya in. She did very well and pretty soon we were working as a team.

On some weekends the weather was great for sailing but we chose to work on the boat instead. This was quite hard to do when we watched people going out for sails in the sun, but our time would come, the more we worked the more we could play, or at least that is what I kept saying to myself.

September was approaching, which meant the Southampton Boat show. Although I am more than happy most of the time to buy from boat jumbles, when it comes to more expensive equipment I tend to shy away. Thus the boat show comes in, all kinds of chandlery under one roof.

We had saved all summer and I had been working overtime to buy some toys for Top Cat.

  Tanya fitting new carpet around the saloon  
         
 

Just before the boat show I had also booked an insurance survey at my insurers request. This is a little like an MOT for a boat, to prove to the insurer that the vessel you have told them about is actually worth what you say.

Generally the survey went well, but some things had to be changed quickly. The Gas system, fire extinguishers, anti-siphon valves on the engines and lots of little bits. The main problem as described for our gas system was that the oven did not have flame outs.

So now our list at Southampton had grown to include anti siphon valves and an oven. So what did we buy (bearing in mind this was the most shopping we had ever done in one day!)

We did not buy an oven but were able to check all the competition, I had considered diesel fired ovens, but these worked like an AGA and I thought it might become unbearable in summer. We chose a Nelson Spinflo as they seemed the best built and had a thermostatically controlled oven, most don't. It has been a great oven since fitting.

We bought a Lowrance fish finder, the old fish finder had died and also used far too much power. I prefer fish finders to normal yacht sounders, as you can see the depth trends far more easily.

 
             
  Lowrance fishfinder above the compass, note also the new wheel which transforms the sailing experience   A stern ladder at last. we carry a stainless ladder for getting on and off Top Cat when she has dried out, which does its job, but it has tubular steps. These are agony in bare feet, so we needed to find something more comfortable. We found a great folding ladder with wooden steps, again this has been great since purchase.   Top Cat's stern boarding ladder  
         
  We also bought a new wheel. Rather than the spoke wheel that Top Cat had always been fitted with I wanted a nice large wheel that felt good to use. We found a great one at Southampton.

One thing about the boat show is you spend a fortune and then see nothing for weeks. After which boxes of new gear start appearing at the front door by courier.

For the remainder of winter we were fitting new gear and painting the cockpit. I had also replaced the log at the the original kept getting blocked by weed too easily. The company I bought my wind speed indicator from was running a special offer on repeaters so I bought a new log and repeater and also a repeater for the wind speed. A repeater is a remote screen showing the same data as those at the helm, this allows us to have displays at the chart table.

  New floor fitted, now to rebuild the steps  
         
  Images show transformation of Top Cat's cockpit from 1992 to 2004  

2003

By the beginning of the following season we had a new gas system, almost full rewire and a new looking helm. The picture on the left shows it as it is today, you might notice a third instrument now in place of the GPS plotter. This is a close hauled wind display bought by my mum for my Christmas present.

Very little was done during the summer of 2003 as the weather was far too good for working, so we sailed.. see our cruising logs.

 

 

Roll mouse over the image to see how I have changed the cockpit.

 
         
 

winter 2003 - 2004

 

We bought a radar and started to replace the head lining in the saloon. Previously my parents had gone for a dark material headlining which I have always been desperate to change in order to lighten up the cockpit and galley areas.

During the lay up the older headlining had all suffered from damp and parts were hanging down. We bought new vinyl material and thin ply boards and set about marking out the ceiling in order to cut the ply into panels which we could take home to cover with the vinyl.

The image on the right gives an idea of the headlining that was up in Top Cat when I took her over. The images below show the finished headlining which we replaced.

  Photograph of Julian and the late Suki in the saloon showing the old headlining  
             
  Finished saloon headling   Finished saloon headling   Finished saloon headling  
         
  As well as finishing the headlining in the saloon, we also built new curtains. I bought some inkjet transfer paper from PC World and Tanya made the curtains with plain material. Transferred Top Cats logos onto each curtain and I think they look brilliant!  
         
  The day we chose to unstep the mast there was thick snow  

2004

This winter (2004) I have upgraded Top Cat's inventory with a new RADAR, this an essential piece of safety equipment for offshore cruising, if used correctly. This meant un-stepping the mast. As required fate stepped in, as I needed it the crane at the marina had broken down. This put back our winter work by about two weeks. Eventually I was able to bring another companies crane onto the marinas property to lift my mast, a little unfortunate that the weekend I chose there was 3 inches of snow on the ground, it kept us awake anyhow!

Luckily the crane was still able to operate and we stepped the mast at about midday. Once Top Cat was back on her mooring I went over to the yard to inspect the mast and found to my horror that the standing rigging was in dire shape, especially the forestay which had opened at the top. This will have happened when we first launched in 2002 and the roller reefing was jamming on the forestay.

 

 
         
 

 

I went over to see Will at Partington Marine and explained my need for new rigging, hopefully this weekend as the crane was booked again for Monday, this was on Friday I spoke to him. As the weather was preventing work to be carried out to the boats outside he said he would be able to build my rigging in the workshop the next morning, brilliant. So Saturday we built the rigging, it was frightening haw bad Top Cat's original rigging was, none of the lengths matched the old swages had been bent in the swage machine, it was just generally poor. The none matching lengths will explain my anguish at setting up the rig for the last two years, I was never able it seemed to match up the turnbuckles (bottle screws).

 

  The crane lifts Top Cat's mast clear  
             
  The radome fitted to the mast  

On Saturday afternoon and Sunday we worked like crazy to get the work done on the mast. The next two images show my steaming light and deck light assembly, I have now fitted this properly, previously the cables were just taped to the front of the mast with duct tape, I had fitted it temporarily with the mast up at the end of 2002.

 

 

  Monel rivets used instead of recommend by manufacturer stainless steel self tapping screws, stainless will damage alloy masts  
         
  Cheek block fitted to the mast ready for lazy jacks, also note damage to rivets on roller reefing  

The above image shows the radome mount fitted and the very large cable gland for the wire to enter the mast. I also went around the mast replacing damaged rivets where required, especially on the roller reefing assembly. I had bought a lazy tongs riveter off ebay for £14.99 and it has well and truly paid for itself these last few weeks.

The image right shows one of the cheek blocks fitted for my new lazy jacks system. I have built it myself and it seems to work well. This will help to stack the mainsail on the boom when lowering the sail, it had been just falling into the cockpit previously.

I had also used the time when the mast was stepped to fit a tri-light. Top Cats original tri-light was stolen when she was laid up, I fitted deck level lights but have chosen to add this to give great visibility on offshore cruises and to give some redundancy. I also needed to repair my Nasa wind unit which was coming loose. I fitted a navtex and an active aerial at the masthead to overcome noise from electronics and other boats when on the mooring. So far I have been receiving navtex from Niton, Denmark, France, Ireland and Scotland, so it seems to be working.

 
         
  After a leaking underwater skin fitting threatened to sink Top Cat during the bank holiday weekend in May we had to have Top Cat lifted so that repairs could be made properly. This and other work was carried out, including a good clean to her topsides and new anti-fouling paint applied.

Note also the wind generator I fitted at the beginning of the season. I bought it second hand from a member of an internet sailing forum I use. It has been a brilliant buy, keeping our batteries topped up.

 

 

 

  Top Cat in the yard ready for re-launch  
         
  Top Cat on her mooring showing new Horseshoe on starboard side   We finally got around to purchasing some new horseshoe life rings. We had visited the North West boat jumble the week before with the intention of focusing on some much missed safety equipment for Top Cat. Here are the latest photographs of Top Cat on her mooring.

 

 
         
  I felt the need to modify Top Cats main sheet traveler, as it was we had very little control of the position of the boom when sailing. Granted, in light airs it was possible to move the boom and tighten down the main sheet but this is a far from ideal to get maximum flatness on the sail. I added some adjusters in the form of blocks and cleats to enable full control of the sheets position on the track. Turning or going about it is still possible single handed by pre-losening the adjusters allowing the traveler to fly across as it did before.

 

Roll mouse over the image to see how I have changed the cockpit.

  traveller pre and post modifications  
         
  old and new sails  

new sails, at last...

Over the past two seasons we have also bought new sails as we could afford them. We used Kemps as they have given us excellent service and I will thoroughly recommend them always.

 

 

 

Roll mouse over the image to see how I have changed the cockpit.

 
         
  2005 work carried out

We have been fairly lazy this year with very little work actually being done. My health has been not so good so we are limited now to my 'good days'. Lots of little jobs have been done, such as fitting a bulkhead compass which is much easier to steer off than the compass which came with Top Cat. I finally sorted out the connections and wiring to the radar which has made it now 100% reliable, about time too really, it had dropped onto the 'tuit' list, as in I would get around tuit.

One main job that we have had done is to finally fit a push pit rail, this is the stern rail which most yachts have to stop you falling off the back. Because Top Cat was built with an external steering tie bar the aft deck was inaccessible, but as she has been modified now with an internal tie bar the aft deck has been opened up to create a more useable space. A friend from Porthmadog built the rails for us and I am quite pleased with the results. They have also become a place to store things such as the life rings and dan buoy.

  View of Top Cat transom  
         
  Image showing the push pit we fitted to Top Cat over the winter months. They have opened up the aft deck and made her feel a bit bigger. The transom ladder has now been moved to the centre and the stern light seen above obscured by the ladder has now been moved.  
         
  Independent plastic bed springs from Victoria Yachting  - Click to see company website   Another fairly major purchase has been a sprung bed base in our cabin. Because I have quite serious spine and joint problems now, a good nights sleep is essential to enable me to move around more easily the next day. While at Southampton boat show in 2003 we spotted a company selling plastic independent bed springs that can be built up to suit any shape of bunk.

These were not cheap to buy, but have made a fabulous difference to the comfort on board, to the point that I sleep better on the boat than at home. An image below shows the springs. Clicking on the image will open the companies web page.

We have also finally got around to fitting new propellers. The originals were of incorrect size for the new engines we fitted in 2002. The difference to cruising speed under power is tremendous, the extra power gives quite a reassurance when the wind is blowing in harbours where manoeuvring without mistakes is so important. We used Castle Marine in Caernarfon who talked us through all the options. Wish we had done it earlier now!

 
         
  new look saloon

Tanya has been really busy, me too, if being the idea's man is being really busy, no, ah well.

We were both getting a little bored of the saloon with it's 70's caravan feel. When we took over Top Cat some things needed to be done quickly, this included the saloon seating and carpet.

The foam was quite thin and very square looking. So, armed with some wadding, a couple of cheap duvet covers and some new leather feel material Tanya set to work.

I think she has done a fabulous job and the boat is now transformed to somewhere that is pleasant to hang around. The seats with the extra wadding are so comfortable now, actually not a brilliant thing as it makes it far harder to actually get of our arses and get anything else done now!

  New cushions in the saloon, far more homely!  
         
  Images showing our refurbished ships head  

refurbished head - 2007

Last year we spent a long time refurbishing the ships head, it was pretty much a full re-build in fact. The company I bought the pvc board from which I built the cockpit locker covers were also willing to bend the material to order.

I had a piece built with a plinth to construct the heads floor. Behind the sink and behind the toilet we used thin (2mm) pvc board glued to the bulkheads, this looks the business. We then found some modern vinyl tiles to cover the walls and fitted a corner sink. Previously Top Cat had a cabinet in the corner holding the sink, although useful for storage this unit really made the heads area very small.

We had not used the flexible water tank on the starboard side for about 8 years and I was surprised that an over night soak in puri-clean brought it back to life, we did however change all the pipe and the water pump. No more buckets for washing in the heads for us, it took a while to do it, but I am glad I waited and was able to do the job properly with the right materials.

Roll mouse over the image to see how I have changed the cockpit.