Monday, September 18, 2006

When we purchased Fair Dinkum in August of 2004 she had been used mainly as a day sailor and therefore she was pretty spartan. This was perfect in my mind, as I saw her as a blank canvas that we could alter and improve to accommodate our needs. We wanted a small cruising boat that we could take out for 1-2 weeks. So we started in on the changes the first week we brought her home.

One of our first decisions was that of colour.
We noticed that in just about all the pictures of a
group of sail boats the dominant colours were blue or black. So we thought if we chose something different our little boat might stand out somewhat. We chose Burgundy as our main accent colour, and added beige and blue as well.

I painted the rub rails Burgandy and boot stripe black. In the water you barely saw the black and we thought it looked sharp. Our friend Rod suggested raising it so we did by 2", problem solved.

A note about colours. We learned later that certain colours are easier to to do on a boat, certain colour pigments are not available for products such as antifouling. So if you're thinking about changing more than one colour of a boat, make sure you can get all the colours you want for all the areas before diving in and changing one colour at a time.


The first thing inside to acquire this new colour were the cushions. The orange was hideous and some had mold.

The new cushions are Burgundy with a beige leaf, with a solid vinyl back. Kathy tackled this job and I figured it was best to let her struggle on her own. My contribution came when some muscle was needed to stuff the foam into the very tight new covers. As we have two young crew members we thought it wise to apply three coats of scotch guard.

Later Kathy made up pillows in a matching burgundy and navy plaid. Although the pillows helped, our backs still felt 'bent' as we sat in the cabin, and your head would hit the sloping ceiling. Our solution was padded backrest shelves.


I used 1" x 6" cedar for the shelves, as it was economical and easy to work with and would weather well. I made a cardboard template first so that I could get an accurate cut matching the curve of the hull. I attatched it with 2" screws thru the galley wall at one end and used a 'L' bracket at the other. I then cut a 2nd front piece for the back of the cushion rest. I put 4 bolts into this board winch would line up with 4 holes in the front of the self. I then added 2"foam and stapled fabric over this, and bolted the rest onto the self. I figured that this would make it easy if we ever decided to repair or change the fabric.

Two more pictures of the aft berths
before and after . The cushion
rests are great back supports and the shelves are handy store places for things like sunglasses pens etc. The rest helps position you 3-4" forward in the seat, therefore your head has more ceiling clearance.

The Winch

One concern we had on Fair Dinkum was the winch. It was ok for raising the keel with locking gear however, you had to be careful lowering the keel. Once while Kathy was lowering the keel her hand slipped, the handle spun rapidly and whacked her hand, leaving it bruised and sore for several days. If you simply unhooked the lock mechanisms the winch handle would spin madly and the board would slam down with a thud. This caught a friend of ours off guard when he flipped the lock up (as his first boat had a braking winch system.). We decided before one of us broke a hand or dropped the board out the bottom of the boat we would change the winch. I searched for a long time but could only find brake winches in the $175 to $200 range when a fellow Matilda owner pointed out a winch on sale at Princess Auto for $79. I ordered it that same day. It's bigger than I expected, but now our 11 yr old can raise and lower the keel easily and safely. Also one person can work the winch and tiller at the same time. Some day I'll swap it for the trailer winch and buy a smaller pretty one for the boat

The old winch was mounted just above the compass. I covered the bolt holes with a decorative board and used the original bolts to secure the wood. We saved the old winch as a back up which we could reinstall quite easily.

Wood Work

All of Fair Dinkum's exterior wood needed refinishing. The hand rails and door were sanded and and then given three coats of Cetol. The lovers on the door was the biggest pain of this job, as Chris pointed out when he refinished Escape's door. The effort was well worth it, we don't have a decent before picture, but the change in appearance was very dramatic.

This picture also shows the location of the original winch. I also added the handle to make door removal easier.

MainSheeet System

Fair Dinkum came with a standard Matilda mainsheet rig; Two blocks on each side near the stern mounted on top of the coamings. There was also a double block at the end of the boom to complete the triangle sheet arrangement. The port block had a swivel base and camcleat. I found the sheet would limit access to the outboard, you also had to watch your back when sitting near the stern. We saw a boom vang type systems which looked effective but attatched right where our new winch was, also we didn't want to block access to the cabin door.

I came up with a stainless bar across the middle two uprights of the stern pulpit. I mounted the block with the cam cleat to this and later added a second block with a shackle.( poor mans fiddle ). So far it has done the job just fine. Getting at the motor is easier and, we only have to watch one set of sheets crossing over when tacking. The bar is adjustable for easy removal of the tiller, and when lowered prevents the tiller from accidentally jumping off.

Later this season I will run all lines aft with sets of blocks to camcleats at the cockpit and add sail slugs to the main sail. I've seen this system on several boats and it makes sense, especially if we want to lower sails in a hurry I just have to find the time.


To add light and air to the cabin we also made a screen door using a basic sreen window kit found at most hardware stores. The tricky part was getting the angles on the corner brackets right. We also wanted a sreen for the bow hatch again using one of these kits. Originally I was going to have this screen hinged on the cabin ceiling but changed my mind as I was locating the screen. I decided to make two wood tracks to hold the screen in place, to move it out of the way it is simply pushed towards the bow. This way it would not get bumped and can be moved in and out of position from above or below deck.

Stain Glass Work..sort of
There was a pass thru window in the galley wall, between the galley and the front v-berth. We wanted privacy for the v-birth, but still wanted air flow and light. Kathy came up with a stainglass window effect on a piece of lexan using gallery glass paint. I hinged it and installed a small hook and eye system so the window can swing out of the way.

Ah a woman's touch, the window may not make a boat faster but it does makes a boat look pretty.

Cupboard doors

We were tired of lifting up cushions etc. To get at the storage area under the berths, access from the front would be so much easier.
I cut the doors (1/4" thick panels treated with with cetol) first, then taped them in place and traced their outlines, then drew cutlines a 1/2" in from the outlines. This job went much better with a new carbon blade in the jig saw !I mounted the doors with self closing hinges and to finish the job I made a matching door to replace the old galley door.

We also added 4 book holders, two in the v berth and two in the galley area. They are used for books etc. The larger one in the galley was built just long enough to hold or first charts.


We have kept the electrical system fairly simple with only four runs off the battery; VHS, interior lights (2) ,exterior lights and bilge. They are connected via two terminal blocks connected to the positive and negative battery terminals respectively. We've added a power inlet through the port combing which enters into the port locker where the battery is located. I then installed a GFI outlet in this locker and branched this outlet to a plug in the galley beside the galley door. I went this route because with our battery in the port locker it makes charging easy and we don't have to run an extension cord from the galley plug back outside to a charger.

Gas Tank Chest/Table

Our gas tank sits at the far back of the cockpit. At first we tried putting it in a Rubbermaid container which looked a little better and gave us space to store digny paddles, and provided a extra flat surface for meal preparation. We wanted something a little nicer so I went to work on a cedar chest.

The chest was made of cedar 1"x 6" cedar boards. I added 2 lower compartments for paddle storage. the top is actually our table top which slides off and has a leaf that can be added for extra length if needed. There is a second lid below this that covers the gas tank when the table is removed, it can be slid back to view gas level or removed completely to allow tank removal.

For legs we used a set off an old TV tray table legs, the legs tuck very neatly beside either aft berth out of the way. The table extension is locked in with two wood guides and two metal posts (far side post is shown slightly exposed in pic on the right) that slide into tracks in the extension and main table.

The table can be moved into the cabin and we found it to be the same height as the old table within an 1/4". Now with the old table gone we have more storage clearance under the cockpit floor.

I think most people change their boat to match their needs, whether it be for daysailing, racing or cruising like us. If your boat is new to you, before cutting, chopping, painting etc spend some time on it. Make a list of things you'd like to change that would make your time on it more enjoyable. The sources of ideas and how to's information is endless, so take some time to research any change you'd like to make. For many working on their boat it is almost as much fun as sailing their boat, we made modifications to make our sailing more enjoyable! I remembered a very good quote from a sailing book I read, "make sure you own the boat and it doesn't own you". So spend what you feel comfortable putting into the boat, our friends Rod and Ondine have a boat budget for each year. You may not stay within that budget every year, but it helps to keep costs reasonable.As our 2005 sailing season is into the final couple of months we've made plans for a few more modifications of Fair Dinkum, that should keep us somewhat busy this winter. We hope this page has been helpful, and please feel to email us if you'd like more details on any of our modifications.

Our North Channel Cruise

Our first trip on the North Channel cruise with the Trailer Sailor group was a blast. We joined 30+ boats to sail from Spanish Municipal Marina to Little Current.
The day we arrived, we joined the rest of the Trailor Sailers for a pot luck Bar-Be-Que at the Marina. That night we slept 'on the hard' in the parking lot. The next morning we put in and headed for Eagle Island. Upon arriving we rafted up with our friends on 'SeaQuell' while our daughters, Shawna (13) and Emma (11) paddled around in the dinghy looking for other friends on the the other Matilda sailboat - 'Escape' and visiting our neighbours and other kids on the cruise. Their dad we jealous - they got to see more boats than he did.

The next morning dawned calm and quiet.

Later that day our adventure really stared with 30-40 knott winds during a thunderstorm. We found out the weakness of our litle Mailda, it was not the was the crew. During the course of the storm our anchor was blown out of it's holder, thus requiring Kathy to run to the bow of the boat and grab it. It was just at that point the storm it. While Kathy dealt with being stuck in the bow pulpit, Shawn dealt with the dinghy that had blown across the back of the boat and broke the aerial. We were out of contact with the rest of the flotilla and more importantly our friends on SeaQuell, and Escape. Many thanks to 'Jet Stream' a motor boat that helped us out, and contacted the group and our friends to let them know all was well. Our friends were very happy to hear "Fair Dinkum has been located, 4 souls on board, all a little shaken and wet, but fine" The storm did seperate us from the 30 plus boats in the group but, on the positive side we were blown into a paradise cove of crystal clear blue water and white sand behind McTavish Island.

We spent the balance of day at McTavish Island and due to small craft warnings the next day, and a skittish crew we decided to remain in our little Shangrala for another day.

The following day we proceeded on to Spider Bay Marina in Little Current. We hooked up with the rest of group and compared 'storm stories'. It appeared that the flotilla had been blown hither and yon, but had finally regrouped in Little Current. We all went to dinner to to enjoy the camaradarie.

Nothing helps in recovery more than good food, good wine and good friends.

Fortunately in Little Current we were also able to get ice cream for all, go grocery shopping, do laundry and have showers as well (much better than back woods canoe camping).

After our time in Little Current we moved on to Mosquitoe Cove. The crew of Fair Dinkum was still a bit tentative about their skills so 'motor sailed' their way there. At Mosquitoe Cove the girls were able to learn how to snorkle and were able to snorkle around an old ship wreck from the lat 1800's. They also discovered that the beach at Mosquitoe Cove was primarily made of clay, so decided it would be a good idea to give themselves a spa clay treatment.

Following Mosquitoe Cove, the group of Fair Dinkum, SeaQuell and Escape moved on to Croker Island along with 'Star Gazer'. The crew of Fair Dinkum was a bit more daring this time, and put the sails up. In fact, Shawna decided she liked sailing so much she sailed the entire 4 hour trip from Mosquitoe Cove to Croker Island all on her own.

Croker Island was a nice place to stay at the base of granite cliffs. Good times were had blue berry picking, more snorkeling, frog and snake hunting, hiking to the top of the cliffs, dinghy cocktails and movies on the portable DVD player that we packed for moments just like these ones.

After Croker it was time to consider heading back. So we headed to Laurier Island. A nice Island at the mouth of the Spanish River. The guys decided to try out some fishing. The children continued their frog hunting and did some more swimming.

After a night of silly wind changes that caused SeaQuell's dinghy and Fair Dinky to come in close contact, the final day dawned grey and rainy just like our mood. It had been a wonderful week and none of us wanted to make the treck home. We motored our way to Spanish Marina to begin the sad process of pulling out and heading home.

It was a wonderful trip. We had the opportunity to experience challenges we'd never experienced before (and really may not want to again). We saw beautiful scenary, made good friends, and actually learned how to sail (sort of).

We're planning that this is only the beginning our sailing adventures.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Blackwoods Sailing Adventures

On August 27, 2004 the Blackwood family- Shawn, Kathy, Shawna and Emma - decided after almost 20 years of backwoods canoe camping it was time to graduate to sailing.

They made this decision after canoing down the French River to Georgian Bay in July 2004, meeting up with long time friends who'd been sailing for 9 years. The friends - the Brandon's took the Blackwood family on a sail. And the Blackwoods were hooked.

So started the search for a sailboat that would fit 2 adults and 2 pre-teen daughters.

Their search was not in vane on August 27, 2004 they purchased a 20 foot Matilda sailboat named 'Fair Dinkum'. The name is Australian for 'fair honest and true'. We felt that was appropriate for our first boat.

During September and October 2004 we sailed around Buckhorn Lake, one of the many lakes in the Kawartha Lakes system. We were learning how to sail - it was a lot different than canoing.

Over the winter Shawn and Kathy planned their first sailing trip - with the Trailer Sailor Association to the North Channel of Georgian Bay in July 2005.

Alot of work had to be done on the boat to make it ready for the one week trip the work included:

  • reupholstering all the berth cushions
  • adding back rests to the quarter berths
  • redoing the wiring
  • redoing the galley plumbing
  • redoing the head plumbing (very important)
  • redesigning the back pulpit to accommodate a solar charger and a rigging change
  • improving access to the interior lockers
  • window repairs
  • and ensure Fair Dinkum didn't have any leaks.

We were kept busy all winter long. It did however feel like a very long winter while we waited anxiously to put Fair Dinkum in the water.

So as soon as the ice was out we put her in the water in Little Lake in Peterborough. We went for a sail on Easter Sunday. It was a beautiful sail on a beautiful day and provided lots of entertainment for the people on shore who were surprised to see a sailboat out on the lake so early in the season.

Our next sail was on May 7. Shawn's birthday and the day before mother's day. This time we took her to Chemong Lake, sailed the lake a bit, had lunch, sailed some more, and had a bar-be-que for dinner. We then motored her back to the Marina and took her home. Again, a great day.

Our May Sail

Our Victoria Day trip

On the Victoria Day weekend 2005 we planned to sail from Chemong Lake to Buckhorn Lake for the family cottage weekend. The only problem was that as soon as we put the boat in the water it started to rain. So we motored all the way with a big tarp up to keep us dry. We looked like we were a covered wagon on water.

After the Victoria Day weekend, we put Fair Dinkum into Little Lake a couple times, just to get back out on her, but didn't do much sailing.

We were anxiously waiting for July 16th when we would leave for our North Channel Cruise.