Dark Corner

Recently while working on a large sailing yacht, time was getting short, the owner was due and there was still much to be done. As nice as it is to always do the very best possible job sometimes it’s not always possible. Finances or time constraints often heavily influence most jobs.

The job itself was to reinforce the boat in the deck area by the mast. In order to do this most of the interior of the boat had to removed and later modified to take into account the new beams. Most jobs on a boat always seem to take longer than one thought and this job was no exception.

There was so much to do and decisions had to be made as to just how far we should go along the road to perfection. Often I would come across an issue and then explain to the skipper what the problem was and the various options open to him. From this was born one of my favourite expressions.

It was the skipper who coined the expression ‘a dark corner’ and it refers to an area of the boat that is unlikely to receive close attention as it is poorly lit. Often in boats there are areas that are either rarely seen because of their location or because there is not much light. So these are referred to as ‘Dark Corners’.

‘Do you want me to remake this piece or shall I just do my best with what we’ve got?’

‘No, don’t worry, it’s a dark corner.

Here’s a time lapse video I made of the interior going back in. It was taken with a GoPro taking one picture every 60 seconds. It was taken over the period of about three weeks.


‘Quick’ BXS Square water heater/calorifier long term review


Very pleased with how well the Quick BXS fits in the engine room but soon to be disappointed with it as it started leaking.

Like most things one buys for a boat, choosing the right water heater is far from easy. There is a huge choice of heaters out there in all shapes and sizes, made from a variety of materials with varying cost.

The first consideration was where to put the heater. In the Dana 24 the position is obvious. There is a large empty space behind the engine which couldn’t really be used for much else. Of course having extra weight right at the end of a boat is not ideal but sometimes a compromise must be struck.

The second most important consideration is how the boiler is built. I wanted a stainless steel construction for longevity. Many heaters have stainless exteriors but the actual water tank within is often made from enamelled steel or even aluminium which didn’t seem very clever to me.

Now that I knew the size of the heater and what it should be made of I was able to trawl through the many choices to find the most suitable. In fact, if you’re looking for a square stainless heater, there is very little choice as most heaters are round.

Finally I decided on the Quick BXS heater. It was made with a 316 stainless tank with a 304 stainless exterior. In order to fit the tank I had to make a shelf in the engine bay which I glassed  in. The heater was a snug fit and that was good because it meant it couldn’t move. A 40 kilo (when full) tank needs to be well mounted!

The BXS works well. It has a small 500 watt element that heats the water when connected to the shore supply and a calorifier for heating the water using the engine which is very efficient and we can have very hot water in just 20 minutes. It takes longer with the element but that never matters as it is always plugged in.

All in all I was very pleased with the way the BXS performed. It heated water quickly and kept it warm for about 24 hours. However it has not been reliable. It wasn’t long before the drain tap started dripping. This did not affect the performance of the unit but it did mean that we were losing valuable water and the pump would come on from time to time.

Having changed the tap, a not easy job as it meant draining and dismantling the water pipes, the heater sprung a leak again. This time it was more serious. The welding around where the element went had failed. It appears that the centre piece was ‘spot’ welded on in one action and obviously the machine was poorly adjusted and didn’t have the penetration required to properly weld the two surfaces together.

I contacted Quick in Italy where they are made and did not receive a reply, despite numerous attempts. So I contacted Quick in the USA where customer service is generally better than in Europe. However I was to be disappointed. If I wanted my tank repaired or replaced I had to send it back to them. This meant that we would be without a water system for some time and the cost to ship the unit back would have been very expensive.

In the end I asked a welder friend to weld the area properly instead. I received an email telling me that if I did that it would void the guarantee. Since the two years was almost up anyway I went ahead. My friend has been welding for 30 years and really knows his stuff. He confirmed what I had suspected, the welding did not have enough penetration. He then TIG welded all around the area and since then I have had no further trouble with this part of the tank.


This picture shows the welded up area around the heater element and the very poor insulation. Note how thin it is where the tank nearly touches the outer box.

Then after another few years the heater started leaking again and so it had to come out yet again. As you can imagine removing a heavy water tank from a small difficult to access space is not easy. On inspection I found that one of the welds on one of the pipes had a hole in it.


Leaking yet again. Tell tale water marks down the front show that water has been getting out.

My welder friend confirmed that the welding had been poorly done. This can be seen by the fact that the weld seems to sit on the surface rather than be sunken into it as good welding should be. He welded it up for me.

I wrote to Quick to complain as I did not think it normal that a tank should fail at the welds, not once but twice. They replied this time only to tell me that the cause was galvanic action. This was before they had even seen the tank. It’s obviously their standard ‘it’s your fault’ clause which they use. Fair enough, the unit was out of guarantee so I did not expect much help but I was disappointed in their attitude.


Finding the leak using soapy water. Here you can see the small white bubbles indicating a leak. It was only a tiny hole but the tank is part of a pressurised system so that represents quite a leak. Note also the lack of penetration in the welding. Note how it seems to ‘sit’ on the surface rather than be melted into it.

It is true that boats can have all sorts of stray electrical currents aboard and it’s true that the tank could have been attacked by galvanic action however I saw no signs of any of this when I took the tank out. All the brass fittings which screw on to the pipes were in perfect condition. If there had been any galvanic action there would have been obvious corrosion showing and on closer inspection you would expect to see a pinkness showing where the zinc in the brass had been eroded away. The fittings were all in as new condition.

Further more the zincs on the hull on the boat are very slow to erode, a further indication that there are no electrical issues on my boat. Further more, the Dana has excellent electrics done to a very high standard and the boat is just 7 years old so I rule out galvanic action as a reason why the tank started leaking on two separate occasions. The reason as far as I can see is due to poor manufacturing. It is possible that the stainless steel was not properly cleaned before welding or was not of the highest quality but in any case I had problems and they were not due to galvanic action.

So having had a very disappointing experience with this heater and the company who make them I decided that I had lost faith with it and wanted it off the boat. I would instead buy the best heater I could find and fit that instead which is what I should have done in the first place! And so began a long search on-line for water heaters. I discovered that Indel make water heaters and since we have one of their fridges aboard, I can certainly vouch for their quality.

The Indel range of heaters are by far the most expensive heaters on the market and that’s because unlike other manufacturers their units are built to a spec and not to a price. I chose the Slim 15 which is a round unit with a 15 litre capacity, that’s almost half as small as the BXS but in theory it should still give us as much hot water.

The Slim 15 has a thermostatically controlled output which means you can run the tank at a far greater temperature and thus get more hot water water for showering. The heating element is shaped so that it drops down to the bottom of the tank so that all the water is heated and not just the top half.

When I drained the BXS to remove it, the first (lower) half of the water that came out was cold, eventually it ran hot but it does mean that you’re only heating half of the water which means you’re carrying around all that weight of water for nothing. The heater element in the BXS is straight and does not heat the water in the bottom of the tank.

Then there’s the insulation. The Slim 15 has foam all around it where as the BXS is basically a round tank in a square box so in fact it has almost no insulation at the points where the tank touches the box. The difference between the two tanks is extraordinary. If you place a hand on the Slim 15 it is cool to the touch, even though the water within is scolding hot. The BXS was always hot to the touch indicating very poor insulating qualities.

The bottom line is that you get what you pay for. The Slim 15 was twice as expensive as the Quick BXS but it is better insulated, has a thermostatically controlled output so that the tank water can be heated to a much higher level which makes the unit much more efficient. It may have a much smaller capacity than the BXS but it heats all the water in the tank not just half of it. It also comes with a 5 year guarantee which is a far better indication of the confidence a company has in their product than anything else.

Yes the Quick BXS was not expensive considering it is made of stainless but it is poorly made and not as efficient as it should be. Their after sales service is disappointing preferring to blame the customer than even consider for a moment that there might actually be  a problem with one of their products. If you take into account the extra costs involved in having to replace the tap unit and paying for the welding twice then this BXS heater has worked out very expensive indeed. Not to mention the time and hassle involved in removing the tank to be worked on.

When will I learn that it just doesn’t pay to buy anything but the very best for a boat. It never pays going for the cheaper option as it always costs more in the long run. So now I have had to buy a better and more expensive heater which makes the Quick BXS even more expensive! If I had only bought the best heater in the first place I would have saved a lot of time and money!

There’s another argument for buying the best equipment and that is when you have a problem you are much more likely to be taken seriously by the company that are proud of their product than one who is just out to make money.

Conclusion: Poorly made, poorly designed, poor insulation and poor after sales service. You pays your money and you takes your choice. I for one will never buy another ‘Quick’ product for my boat.


Shore power lead with style


It’s all very well having a brightly coloured plastic shore power lead for your boat but it doesn’t look very nice and the plastic gets dirty and marks the boat. So here’s a simple solution made using a piece of rope.

Many ropes today are braided. That means that they have an inner rope covered by an outer sheath of woven rope. This adds comfort and helps to protect the inner rope from chafe and UV damage.

To make a rope effect power cable, simply find a rope where the inner part is the same size as the cable you wish to cover. Using a hot knife cut around the rope cutting in only deep enough to cut off a few inches of the braided cover. Do not cut into the inner rope.

Now you can tape the electric cable to the inner rope and as you pull the inner rope out, the electric cable will feed into the cover in its place. You could feed the cable in afterwards by compressing the cover to make it larger as you go but you need a very clean taped end that can’t get snagged and plenty of patience!

Now connect up your plugs as usual. If you can fit the braid around the cable and clamp it with the plugs own cable clamps then do so but you might find that the bundle is too thick. In this case take it as close as you can and finished with a whipping sewn through the braiding so it can’t slip.

If you want to really make it look smart, consider making a leather boot to fit around the plug at the boat end. This keeps water out and sun off.


The rope covering doesn’t get dirty, or if it does you really can’t tell. It doesn’t mark the boat either. It protects the cable inside, looks very smart and costs very little to do. It’s certainly a vast improvement on the usual variety of ugly electric cables seen on any walk on any dockside!

Update: I offered an article about this covered electric cable to an American yachting magazine who shall remain nameless, but they rejected it even though they liked the idea.

Why did they reject it? Well I’ll tell you. They felt that it was far too dangerous to condone the action of actually taking a plug off and putting it back on again. Personally I felt rather sad that they think so little of their readers. I would have thought that changing a plug was within the capabilities of most sailors, after all, anyone who chooses to go off shore in a little boat must be fairly competent in the first place.

To make matters worse, the American marine plug is even more idiot proof that the European one, not only are the holes that take the wires colour coded, even the screws that tighten the wires are colour coded. Honestly I would expect any ten year old to be able to wire a plug.

What is really tragic is the fact that this kind of censorship is actually self defeating. If you do not allow people to try new things they will become even more dependent on others to be able to function in this complicated world. This magazine should encouraging self reliance and confidence, both necessary qualities for any sailor instead of being paranoid of the possible consequences.

I ask you, where does it end? Should they not run articles about making something because a power tool was used at some point? After all power tools are dangerous. Should they not run articles about painting? After all paint is dangerous. The fumes might make you dizzy and fall over.

So know this, changing a plug is very dangerous. You might electrocute yourself or others if you risk doing such a complicated job on your own without specialised and expert supervision on hand to assist if you get confused by the three coloured wires. You have been warned.


Marking perfect chamfers


Here’s a great little bit of kit that should be in any self respecting ship wright’s tool bag. It’s for marking chamfers. They are easy to make and can be made in a number of sizes. I call it a chamfer ship because it looks a bit like a boat in shape.

The way they work is this: Simply place the ship on one side of the wood that you wish to chamfer and mark around it. Then holding the pencil on one side, slide the ship down the length of the wood until you get to the other end. Flip the ship to the other side and repeat the action. Spin the ship 180 to mark the other end of the chamfer.



Now it is a simple case of chiselling off the wood down to the marks for the perfect chamfer.



I made this chamfer ship in very little time from an offcut of teak. Teak works well as it is an oily wood and slides well.


A red exhaust situation


Many Rivas have the insides of the exhaust outlets painted red.

Many years ago I was lucky enough to get to play with a Riva Aquarama. This is the Rolls Royce of speed boats, an absolutely iconic wooden creation resplendent in deep thick varnish. They have been seen in films and were owned by a lot of famous stars, perhaps the best known being Bridget Bardot.

They are beautifully made, right down to the finest details so it doesn’t surprise me that good old examples can fetch half a million pounds or more. Fitted with twin V8 engines and could do about 50 miles an hour. They are sought after by water skiers because of their smooth wake.

My association with a Riva began when I was crashed into by one. It was called the Gipper and was owned by a Belgian guy who was somewhat overwhelmed by the thing. He was a bit shaken by the whole episode and seemed relieved when I offered to chauffeur him about. I couldn’t believe my luck! I was to be paid to drive him and his family about during the summer.

So while they sunned themselves, I sat on the famous Pampelonne beach at St Tropez watching beautiful girls walk by all the while being paid. When we got back to the house I had to wash and chamois the boat down. I didn’t get much instruction from the owner regarding how to look after the boat but he did say one thing. ‘The exhausts have got to be red!’

Some Rivas have the insides of the exhaust outlets painted red. It’s a completely ridiculous thing to do but since that was all that mattered to him I felt obliged to make sure that his exhausts were indeed red. Once after a day on the water I noticed that some of the red paint was missing from the exhaust pipe. It wasn’t surprising really as they were chromed and paint doesn’t really stick well to chrome.

The problem was that the exhausts were right on the water line. It was impossible to paint them like that. In the end I bought a plastic dorade and fitted it to the exhaust with a jubilee clip. Then I dried out the exhaust and using an angled brush, I was able to repaint the exhausts with some degree of success. It wasn’t easy hanging upside down on a shiny and sloping varnished transom but I did it.

Every person I have ever worked for has always had something that they deem important, often it is a quite inconsequential issue but when you have spent a small fortune on a boat it’s not unreasonable to expect a certain degree of control. I make it a point to listen to an owner and find out what is most important for them. Then it is a simple matter of making sure that I do it. That way they are happy and if the owner is happy, then I am happy.

And so was born the ‘red exhaust situation’. Since then its usage has spread throughout the yachting community to mean something that matters to an owner, no matter how ridiculous you might believe it to be.

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Z Vise portable Vise review


The Z Vise mounted upside down on the bench.

Rather than bore you with words, I suggest you watch the following video to really see what the Z Vise is about. Talk about versatile, it has over 20 functions, some of them very clever indeed. Watch the vid and I’ll discuss the vise afterwards

As you can see it’s an impressive bit of kit. True, the guy demonstrating the vise is a consummate pro and has obviously done this a few times but there’s no denying that the Z Vise could come in very handy.

There are a few issues. For example, it seems like a vise like this is the answer for those who sail, the perfect tool for holding stuff while you work. This is true in a sense but don’t forget that to make the most of this tool, you do need a surface to put it on. What I mean is, you could attach it to almost anything but many of the vise’s functions require that there is a good surface behind the vise to support the material you are holding. Mind you, even without a work surface the Z Vise is still very useful.

There is a handle that is used to tighten the vise, it is not fixed which means that the vise can be used even in the centre of a work top, although this does make using it a little awkward. As in most things there’s a knack to it but if you do the vise up tight, you may find that one 3/4 turn is not enough to release the work. The best is to place the vise at the end of a square table. If the table has rounded ends you won’t be able to clamp it near enough to the edge to get the handle to swing 360. Perhaps it would have been better if they had extended the handle a couple of inches at the cost of a little less portability?

The Z Vise comes in a plastic case. The pieces are cleverly packed so there is little wasted space but there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s a big package although not excessively heavy.

It’s strong. It might be made from alloy but it’s well designed and made from quality metal. Besides it carries a lifetime guarantee that says much for the product. However I suspect that most people buy a Z vise after seeing a demo like this at a DIY show and feel that they have to have it but then barely use it. This is probably the reason why there are so many for sale on ebay and similar sites. There’s no need to buy a new one when there are so many out there in perfect unused condition! I bought mine for £80, it was old but in an ‘as new’ condition.

Since I’ve had the Z Vise I have used it a lot. It is a brilliant and very clever bit of kit. I have used perhaps half of the functions. I doubt I will ever use the others but you never know. Just the other day I was short of a clamp so used the Z Vise. It was perfect and I could put a lot of pressure on it. For the price it’s very good value.  Highly recommended.


How to Bend Wood


Over 30 strips of 2.5mm in place on the jig. This is just a dry run to check that every thing is ok.

There are many ways to bend wood but it will depend on the job that you want to do as to which method you will use. For example if you only want a slight bend, maybe simple brute force will be sufficient but it depends on the size of the wood. No amount of brute force will bend a foot square section of oak for example!

Thinner wood bends easier than thicker wood and some woods bend easier than others. The greater the curve, the thinner the wood needs to be. These are all basic rules that cannot be broken but if you know what is possible then wood can be shaped into almost any form. Even time can bend wood as can heat and moisture. Wood really is an amazing material.

As wood bends, the inner section compresses and the outer section expands. Sometimes it is possible to stop the wood breaking as it is bent by placing a steel band around it as it is bent into shape, in much the same way that a plumber inserts a steel spring into a copper pipe in order to bend it without it kinking.

Steam, or in fact any kind of heat can be used to bend wood but it helps if the wood is green, or in other words, freshly cut so it contains more moisture and is naturally more flexible. But steaming is only good for relatively thin sections of wood. So what does one do if you want to bend a larger section?

Well, it depends on how much you want to bend the wood. It also depends on the orientation of the grain and as I mentioned earlier on the type of wood. Often brute force and time can bend quite substantial pieces of wood but these days people are in a hurry and can’t wait months for gravity to do its thing.

Perhaps the most effective way to shape wood is to laminate it. This is done by gluing thin strips together using a jig to create the shape required. The thickness of the wood required will depend mainly on the radius of the curve required. The greater the curve, the thinner the strips will need to be.


Making the three sections of the jig from layers of 20mm plywood. This jig was made in three pieces because there are many knees to make and they are all slightly different. By keeping the curved section the same, only the other pieces need to be modified each time.

The down side of laminating wood is the fact that you have to make a jig and use glue. You can use almost any kind of glue but for the best and strongest results it’s best to use epoxy. The trouble with epoxy is that it is messy and expensive. That said, once the jig is made it’s easy enough to bang out any number of glued laminations.

Recently I was called in to reinforce a 20 metre wooden sailing boat. The deck had lifted due to the compression forces of the mast and rig and in order to put more strength into the boat new and larger hanging knees were required. So that the knees did not intrude into the boat too much they needed a fairly sharp radius but as they were 75 mm square that meant that they would need to be made from very thin strips indeed. In fact sometimes laminations can be made with wood as thin as one millimetre!


Just some of the strips of mahogany cut to make some laminated knees.

In this case it was decided that 2.5mm would be about right. The ideal is to use the thickest laminate possible as it requires less work and less glue and arguably looks better as there are less glue lines visible in the finished product. 2.5mm wood bends very easily even into a very tight curve but once you pile a load together it becomes much harder. It’s not so much the physical limits that you can bend the wood too but more the force needed to force a stack of laminations into the jig.

To create a 75mm thick knee, over 30 strips of wood were required and because there is quite a lot of force involved, the jig needs to be pretty strong. The jig was made from 4 pieces of 20mm plywood stacked together to create a support for the stack. The wood is actually cut about 8mm thicker than required as it will need planing down on both sides afterwards. When the wood is in the jig, it is slightly proud of the jig. This enables it to be bashed or clamped down into place.

The jig was made in three pieces and then they were bolted through the work table with 10mm bolts to ensure that nothing can move. Where the wood bends around the most, an inner block was also made to ensure that the clamping pressure on the curve was even.


The inner block is crucial to a quality lamination. This ensures that there are no visible glue lines in the finished product. The other areas are easier to clamp.

When the jig is made it’s time to do a dry run. This is to ensure that you will have no problems when you come to actually glue it up. What you do not want is to discover a problem half way through gluing. Epoxy is unforgiving in this respect. If it goes wrong, the wood will be glued like that forever and since epoxy, wood and your time is expensive, it’s worth taking a little while to do a dry run just in case. If the dry run is successful, remove the clamps and the strips and prepare some epoxy.

The stack is laid down on its side and the first strip is coated in glue. I always mix in a little thickening agent to ensure that the epoxy has a little flexibility and also to ensure that the epoxy goes on thick enough. Making sure you use the right amount of glue is a matter of experience but it’s certainly better to use too much glue rather than too little! Once the first strip is coated with glue (using a roller) the next is laid on top and then that is coated and so on until you get to the end.

Then the stack is placed into the jig which has been lined with plastic to avoid the assembly from gluing to it and thus making it impossible to remove once the glue has cured! The stack is clamped in place starting at the centre of the curve. As the first clamp is tightened a little, it’s worth bashing the stack down onto the work surface. Now work outwards in both directions clamping and bashing as you go.


The laminations, glued up and clamped in place. Leave to cure for 24 hours before removing.

If you have used sufficient glue and enough even pressure from the clamps you should end up with a solid piece of shaped wood that doesn’t even look like it was made from many pieces. Once it has been in the jig for 24 hours it can be removed. It is possible that the finished piece will ‘spring’ that means that it may open slightly as it tries to go back to its original shape. The more laminates you use, the less chance there is of the laminates springing.

Once out of the jig, an electric plane is the ideal tool for removing the glue that has hopefully squished out from between the strips. A belt sander also works well though sand with progressively finer grades to ensure that no scratches are visible in the finished product.


The knee, planed down and sanded. A bit of spirits on a rag show how the knee will look once varnished.

If you want to get really carried away you can assemble the stack for gluing so that the colour of the wood is uniform. Often wood, even from the same tree can be different depending on the direction or orientation of the grain so you can disguise the fact that a beam is made of many pieces by carefully matching each strip to the one above it. In reality it’s not really worth it unless you are trying to create something really spectacular. In time, most woods with either darken or lighten with exposure to sunlight which will make the colour more even.


A close up of the curved section of the knee. No glue joins are visible but it is possible to see a slight difference in colour of some of the laminations. In time these will fade slightly until you’ll have to look closely to see if the beam is made from many pieces.

You can of course make a feature out of using different woods in a lamination. Often boat tillers are made like this. It’s a bit cheesy but it does show what’s possible. Laminating wood is a great deal of fun and also very satisfying. It is also quite amazing how a stack of thin strips of wood that were collectively very floppy suddenly become unbelievably strong and resilient once glued.


Laminated tiller on a Dana 24. This one is made from mahogany and ash.

boats Uncategorized

Cutting down kitchen taps


The original long reach tap on the bottom and the cut down version above. Not the easiest job in the world but if you’re after a short reach tap for your galley you may not have much choice.

Once I had decided to go down the pressurised water system route on my boat I was then faced with the problem of what taps to use. The choice of taps out there is simply massive. We narrowed the choice by deciding what tap features were important to us. We wanted a mixer tap so we could have hot and cold water.

Many mixer taps come in two parts but as I hate making holes I wanted a mixer tap that only required one hole to fit. As well as a mixer tap we wanted a pull out shower head that could also act as a tap. Now we were reducing the choice nicely but no matter how hard we looked we simply couldn’t find what we wanted in the size we wanted.

Although taps look different they are pretty much standardised in design and size. For example, the reach of most pull out mixer taps is about 200mm. This is far too much for our little boat. It might be fine in a house where you have a huge kitchen sink but they look frankly ridiculous placed over a small boat sink.

No matter how I searched I could not find anyone who made a single hole mixer with a pull out shower/tap in a size with a short reach. The other problem is cost. For some reason taps can cost hundreds of pounds. Since we needed two, one for the galley and one for the head it could cost as much as £500 just for two taps which seems a bit excessive to me.

Are these expensive taps any better? I looked into it and it appears not. It seems to me that you are mostly paying for the style. Even the cheapest taps have a reliable mechanism. In any case, regardless of the price there was still nothing that we liked or felt could be modified easily.

In the end we decided to buy the cheapest mixer taps we could find on the assumption that one day, we might find what we were looking for and could change them when we did. Also I had an idea to cut down the pull out section and if I made a mess of it I’d rather do so with a cheap tap and not an expensive one!

As it happens it was a good move buying the cheap taps. It’s been over 5 years since we fitted them and they have been totally reliable, working smoothly and never dripping. What more can you ask for from a tap? The model we chose is the most common tap on the market, you can find them anywhere.


If your tap has a black plastic screw end then you can probably cut it down successfully. Sometimes, really cheap versions are moulded in one piece but they are easy to identify as the threads are also chromed.

The first thing I did was see if I could cut the pull out section down. I was in luck. The version that we bought has a chrome finish but the part that screws into the flexible chromed hose was black plastic suggesting that it is a separate part that could possibly be removed. I have seen other versions that are chromed all the way along and these are one piece units that cannot be successfully cut down.

The main tap is made of chromed metal but the pull out section is actually plastic although it is chromed. So if you find yourself in the same situation as us then here’s how you can cut down and modify the pull out tap.

First, decide where you want to cut the tap and place tape around it. The tape reduces the chance of scratching the surface should you slip while cutting. Since the tap is more or less the same diameter all the way along you can cut it just about anywhere you like.


Place tape over the tap where you intend to cut to protect the chrome finish. The plastic cuts easily with a hacksaw.

Once the tap is cut in half, make sure then end is square and clean by running it up and down a sheet of 80 grit sandpaper. Then before you remove the tape, with a piece of 200 grit sandpaper (or there about) lightly sand the sharp edge. Do not round it off as the chrome is very thin, just sand it lightly. Then remove the tape.

At the cut off end, cut the tap again about 15mm from the start of the black plastic insert. Then cut shallow slots all the way around as shown. Then using a small and sharp screwdriver, force the point between the chrome and the insert. Normally, a small section will come away. Repeat until all the plastic has been removed and you are left with just the insert.


With the hacksaw, cut vertical slots down as far as the black plastic.

Now with a sharp knife, cut away the ridge so that it is smooth all the way around. Do not cut off the small guide that locates in the tap base as that will be needed so that the tap sits without turning in the tap base. Then sand the surface even with some 80 grit sandpaper. You don’t want a sandpaper too fine as you want to create a nice key for the glue.


Using a small and sharp screwdriver, force the chrome plastic away from the black insert.

Now try and fit the insert back into the tap. It probably won’t fit so using a narrow sharp knife, enlarge the inside of the tap. Do this gradually and keep trying the insert until it goes in as far as the small guide.


Here is the black plastic insert after the ridge has been cut away and the insert sanded with 80 grit ready for inserting back into the tap.

Now glue it in place with plenty of PVC glue. That’s it. Job done. I know it’s a lot of hassle but if you want a short reach pull out mixer tap then you may not have much choice. The good thing about these taps is that they are not expensive. I bought 4 from and cut them all down at the same time.

The one annoying thing about these and most other similar taps is that it seems impossible to buy any spares for them. After time the rubber perishes and the spray pattern becomes very poor. Also the rubber cap that covers the button that selects the spout or the spray gets very stiff. It is amazing that you can’t buy just a few simple parts to refurbish these taps but instead you have to buy the entire assembly. This is quite sad really in this day and age especially when the parts simply unscrew. If you could buy spares they could be changed in moments.

So, a fairly long winded way to get a short reach tap on the boat but at least it is possible!

Bicycles boats

Folding boat towed by folding bicycle

The Fliptail 7 towed behind a Brompton folding bike

Maybe it’s because I live on a boat that the idea of things that reduce in size for easy storage appeal. After all, if I didn’t have a Brompton, I wouldn’t be able to have a bicycle aboard. For that matter, if I didn’t have a folding dinghy, I wouldn’t have space for a tender either.

It seems amazing to me now that I have waited so long to get this idea together as it’s so obvious I wonder that I didn’t think of it before. The marriage of a human powered bicycle and a human (or wind) powered boat is just great.

The Fliptail 7 from weighs about 18 kilos which is no problem at all for the Brompton. On the stem of the Fliptail there is an eye bolt and on the aft end of the Brompton rack is a pin which the eye is simply dropped onto. The weight of the boat keeps it in place. There is plenty of ground clearance and the turning circle isn’t bad for a vehicle which is over 10 feet long either.

The pin on the rack doesn’t make the Brompton’s folded size any bigger but it does interfere with the bike when the swing arm is swung around. The bike still stands on its own but is not as stable as when all 4 rack wheels are on the ground. The answer I suppose is some sort of easily removed bracket.

The trailer attachment is made of alloy tube and is light and also folds away for easy stowage. It can be used equally for the road or even for launching and retrieving the boat. The Fliptail can be folded or unfolded with the trailer in place. It simply attaches to the boat’s transom where the outboard motor would normally go and could be fitted to any boat so long as it has a flat transom whatever its thickness.

This combination is perfect and I see no reason why you couldn’t go quite a long distance with the boat behind the bike. You can feel the weight when you first start to pedal but you soon forget the bike is there, at least on a level surface. The oars rest naturally in the boat and you could just as easily also add the mast and sails etc to the boat as well making the Fliptail 7 amazingly versatile.

When you get to the camp site you can even use the erected dinghy as shelter to sleep below. The folded Brompton takes up little space inside the boat so you could peddle up stream, put the boat and bike in the water and paddle or sail downstream. When you get where you are going you simply haul the boat out of the water, fold it and hitch it to the Brompton and off you go again. This is camping luxury!

The best bit is that there is no pollution! A bicycle and a row boat. Wow. Talk about setting a good example. Everywhere I go, people look and stare. And I’m not surprised really, it’s not something that you see everyday. More’s the pity.

The trailer attachment is not yet available, though Woodenwidget will soon be offering plans to enable a DIYer to make their own. If you are interested, please drop them a line, maybe if there is a lot of interest, they can be persuaded to speed things up a bit?

If you want to know more about the Woodenwidget range of dinghies for the spatially challenged, please visit and check out their range of clever little boats.

Here’s a link to an article I wrote about the Brompton that you might enjoy too.



An about time book about one of the most influential bands ever.


Extraordinary artwork from James Marsh. The long awaited book about Talk Talk is coming.

Ok, I’ll admit it. I am a Talk Talk fan. I’ll go further than that. If I was stuck on a desert island I would certainly want either ‘The Colour of Spring’ or ‘Spirit of Eden’ with me. I don’t think I could live without a regular fix of Talk Talk.

They began in the early 80s and just a decade later they were no more. Despite the fact that so few people have heard of them they remain a hugely influential band. Many musicians have a great regard for them. And why not? Their sound (at least on their later albums) is quite unique, imaginative and powerful.

The music was what Talk Talk was about but there was also those album covers drawn by the highly talented artist James Marsh. The hours I have spent listening to those albums while at the same time losing myself in James’ thought provoking images are too many to count.

There is no other band like Talk Talk. Even though I have been listening to their music for nearly 30 years I still can’t put my finger on what makes it so special. I just know that I love it.

So what better way to indulge than a book celebrating this seminal band? This beautiful book is a labour of love. Please register your interest now and ensure that it becomes reality.

To learn all about the book, see a list of contributors and get a sneak preview please visit: