It was all the fault of the Hon. Sec. of the Stella Class Association, and his article in Classic Boat suggesting that there were two clinker Stellas looking for new homes with aspiring owners crazy enough to undertake major work on them. I had just got my pension but I felt that I needed some scheme to help keep me active.
Many years ago I had trained as a boat builder in a yard near Southampton, in the days of predominantly wooden boats, and so thought that a Stella rebuild would be the project for me.
Rebuilding Stella No.17 ALCYONE - by Robert Douglas
The dear Hon. Sec. used his enthusiasm for Stellas to persuade the owner of Alcyone to part with her.

So, on the morning of 19th. October 2011 she arrived in Pembrokeshire on a triple axeled trailer from Blythe, and was lifted off by the farm JCB front loader and put into a barn.

Sitting on wooden blocks and shored up by fencing posts she looked beautiful. What lines; that designer Kim Holman certainly had an eye for a striking looking boat. Beautiful but sad, she was certainly showing her age, but who doesn't at the age of fifty-three.
As is fairly common with these boats the ingress of fresh water through the deck in way of the chain plates had caused widespread rot on her port side. The beam shelf, the sheer strake and two planks down from the deck were badly affected.

But in many ways that was nothing compared with the problem lurking in the bilge. The wood keel was split for three quarters of its length – a 6mm, sorry, ¼” wide gap through which water must have poured when sailing.
OK, it would have been less when plimmed up, but it had necessitated the fitting of two large electric bilge pumps and a Whale gusher pump. Also, the arms of the floors were broken across the short oak grain.
Isn't epoxy resin wonderful? It wasn't in general use in my day. Otherwise I think that I would have bathed in the stuff. So, with its help, I laminated in about thirteen feet of new Douglas Fir beam shelf and replaced the damaged planking with Utile, taking care over the shift of butts or rather, epoxied scarves.

I completely stripped out the cockpit, the engine and the interior including the bulkheads, to improve access, and built a cradle to support the hull so that I could drop the cast iron ballast keel and remove the damaged wood keel.
Then I bought a sabre saw. Because the keel bolt nuts were so badly corroded it was not possible to undo them and knock out the bolts. So I cut off the keel. It only took about a couple of hours to cut through the 3/4” and 5/8” keel bolts until it was hanging on by one 3/4”bolt. So with the darling wife's advice ringing in my ears, 'Don't do anything stupid' – really as if I would, what are they like, I carefully cut through the remaining bolt, having first arranged blocks with a small gap to the bottom of the keel. And with a reassuring crunch the 1.2 ton cast iron keel dropped the few millimetres onto the wooden blocks. With much grunting and the minting of a few new oaths, I managed with the help of chains and an ancient puller to heave the keel clear.
To remove the wood keel the 1/2” (12mm) bolts holding it to the floors had to be let go; again they were badly corroded, but proved no challenge for sabre saw, he just sliced through them, no bother. But the screws along the garboard/keel joint presented a different problem. The heads of the brass screws had de-zincified and just snapped off leaving the body of the screw still embedded. Because of the rabbet along the keel into which the garboard sits, I could not use the sabre saw, as I wanted to preserve as much of the wood keel as possible to serve as a template for the new one.

So time for a new toy. Men and their toys – much female muttering. I had never used a multisaw before, but in the catalogue they looked to be the answer. And, indeed the Bosch multisaw proved to be so. In quick time it worked its way into the garboard/keel joint and cut through the offending brass screws. Small wood wedges forced the joints open on either side of the wood keel and having cut through the scarf at the forward end a heavy boot caused the wood keel to drop away. So, I could now stand with my feet on the concrete barn floor with my body in the boat.

I bought a 3” (75mm) thick piece of Iroko and laying it on trestles alongside the old wood keel I transferred markings from the old to the new. A hand electric circular saw sized the timber and removed the bulk of the material for the rabbet, with a wide chisel and home made small adjustable bevel producing the correct angles.
I wanted to lay and temporarily affix, the new wood keel alongside the capsized cast iron keel so that I could drill through with an extended drill bit from the bottom of the keel up through the new wood keel to give the correct position and angle for the new keel bolts. (Photo of keel from another Stella with two bolts projecting. Not sawn off!) But there were eight reasons why I could not do this.

Namely the sawn off bolts still firmly embedded in the keel.
So, having removed the cement filler covering the recessed heads of the old keel bolts,
I attacked the cut ends with a punch and sledge hammer. And out they came, as good as the day Cardnells' boys had put them in, all covered in pitch. That is all except one. There is always one. In the world of keel bolt removal, sagas have been written, all sorts of tricks used. But I had a huge advantage. I had a Harold. Everyone needs a Harold for this job. Mine came in the form of a farmer used to removing recalcitrant bolts on farm machinery. He turned up with his air compressor and chipping hammer and began by attacking the recessed keel bolt nut in the bottom of the keel. He then produced a mighty socket with a four foot (1220mm) long tommy bar and having previously soaked the nut in penetrating oil, he leant on the bar. And joy of joys, it yielded. Fortunately, there were a few spare threads on the bolt so the tightening of the nut 'unfroze' it. It was then a simple job of driving it out with hammer and punch.

So now I was able to line up the new wood keel with the cast keel and drill the holes for the keel bolts. After coating the rabbet with primer, the new wood keel was ready for fitting. Having first knocked out the sawn off brass screws in the garboards, and using splints I splayed out the garboards to give enough room for the new wood keel to pass up between the them, without causing any damage. Having dragged the new wood keel under the boat I worked two jacks under it and starting in the stern I slowly jacked it up, nipping up and down the ladder to make sure that the ends of the ribs were locating into the recesses provided.

If I could have done, I would have slapped myself on the back. But age-deprived suppleness, precluding this, I gave myself hearty congratulations instead. It fitted perfectly. You might think that so it should. But so often in life 'sod's law' intervenes and buggers up the job, but happily not in this case. I then dropped it down 1/2” (12mm) and
pumped a bead of butyl mastic into the rabbet. Then refitted it and refastened the garboard to it with silicone bronze screws. OK, so perhaps I should have used a traditional bedding of white lead, putty and paint, but the beauty of butyl mastic is that it stays pliable so allowing for shocks and slight movement, without losing its integrity and allowing leaks.
It was now time to make and fit new floors. I had carefully removed the floors including the broken pieces to use as patterns for making new ones, using the wonderful sabre and multi saws. One learns these things from hard-learned experience - to keep all removed bits until the end of the job. Using 2” (50mm) thick Iroko and the versatile epoxy resin I fabricated new floors, making sure to avoid short grain in areas of stress, and bedded these new floors down onto a bedding of epoxy mixed with filler.

I accept that there will be sharp intakes of breathe amongst the die hard wood men with this use of 'modern' materials’. My view is if it does a better job than using the traditional materials, then use it. I am sure that if they had been available in days of yore, they would have been used.
The floors were fixed down using 5/8” (16mm) bolts and the cleaned off and epoxied ballast keel bedded down on the flexible butyl mastic. I had mounted the keel on castors to facilitate the lining up of the holes.

I managed with some difficulty to find 3/4” bar to make the new keel bolts. For some reason the equivalent in metric – 18mm I could not find. The sizes seemed to jump from 16 to 19mm. And I could not risk a too tight or loose fit.

With a profuse amount of sweat and numerous cups of tea taken in prolonged breaks, I managed to hand cut the threads on both ends of the 3/4” bar. And after liberally coating them in bitumen I fitted them and tightened them up over large square washers bedded down on butyl mastic, with boat cotton wrapped around under the nuts
recessed into the keel

Next the bulkheads and mast support, then the cockpit and interior.

Will I ever get afloat, only time will tell. Work stops in the winter because it’s a bit too cool and damp in the open-ended barn for my creaking joints.

But in the meantime, thank you the now ex-Hon.Sec. and ex-owner of Alcyone for without you an ageing, one-time boat builder would not be having nearly so much fun entering his dotage.

As with the Manual and all articles on the SCA web site the views and techniques used and explained are those of the authors.

Each owner needs to make their own decisions about whether the techniques described are suitable for their own boat.

Gen Sec