David Rushby carries out a thorough overhaul of a 40-year-old Sarum 28: interior, electrics, engine, standing rigging... the lot!

Occasionally I’ve said that if someone were to look into one of my ears they’d see daylight out of the other. Owning one boat is questionable, owning two defies sense.

We own a 42ft motor-sailer that was designed and built for us. We’ve been to the Med with it, through the European waterways and to the north of Scotland.

It’s a good seaworthy, comfortable boat, but as with most motor-sailers it motors better than it sails and therein lies the problem.

My wife, Charly, wants to sail and as a result in October 2020 I bought another boat – a 42-year-old Sarum 28, an aluminium bilge keeler designed by Robert Tucker.

We previously had a 38ft aluminium yacht that was built for us and I realised that aluminium is the ultimate boatbuilding material – it requires little maintenance and you don’t have to paint it. In fact it is better left unpainted.

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Sure, attention needs to be paid to avoid mixing metals without properly insulating one from the other and the electrical system has to be carefully designed. But having said that fitting out is otherwise straightforward.

Starting afresh

Charly is a scientist and has an acute attention to detail, but her first career was in electronics. The previous owner had owned the Sarum 28 for 15 years and had fitted it out.

Charly took one look at the electrics and immediately started ripping it all out. I did the same with the interior from the mast back.


Old Bukh still worked but would be replaced with a lighter motor

The electrical installation was a 240V system using an interesting multi-coloured wiring scheme.

The 12V battery was charged by the original Bukh 20 engine (still running well), an inverter-supplied 240V for domestic plugs and each energy-saving light had its own transformer to bring it back down to whatever voltage it needed.

The batteries and charger were located beneath the wet-locker, unprotected!

Amazingly there was no sign of any serious galvanic action in any part of the hull.

The boat had a gas cooker, but no gas leak detector and no bilge pump.

There were no seagoing berths so, obviously, no lee clothes and, surprisingly, no saloon table at which to share a meal or drink.

The construction of the saloon seating left a little to be desired, the timber for which appeared to have been reclaimed from old pallets. There were no washing facility in the heads – and no door.


Old chart area was pretty minimal

The forehatch leaked badly onto the berth in the forecabin and had to be replaced. Finally the interior of the boat was repainted with a commercial mould resistant paint.

Lift out

Every boat I’ve owned has been built for me (apart from a 1926 Percy Mitchell Tosher that we had to rebuild from the keel up) and our motor-sailer was built under Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) supervision, so I had a good idea when I first went aboard the Sarum 28 that we had some work in front of us.

Charly brought the Sarum 28 back from Falmouth to the Tamar where we live and we had her lifted to get a better view of her underwater condition. All looked reasonable, so we started work.


New Beta engine is lowered into the boat

A boatbuilder I had got to know was good enough to lend a hand (encouraged with bottles of Taylors LBV port!) with some of the more challenging jobs, such as taking out the Bukh and installing a new Beta 14 – much lighter and adequately big enough for a boat weighing only 3.04 tons – and installing a new anchor winch, the old one having seized solid.

The galvanising on the original anchor chain was rusting, so 60m of new 8mm chain was purchased. Another 15m of 8mm of chain was spliced to 35m of 16mm multi-plait for the kedge.

New sails were needed, so a fully battened mainsail and a genoa were ordered from Westaway Sails together with boom cover, dodgers and lee clothes.

Eurospars stripped and rerigged the mast and installed new masthead and steaming lights from Peters and Bay. They also renewed the standing rigging.

New running rigging was all led back to the cockpit through clutches to a new winch to make it easier to manage the boat single-handed.

We had a very neat aluminium gantry made for us by the builder that fabricated our earlier aluminium boat.


Wooden frames of cockpit lockers…


…were replaced with aluminium

This now accommodates various antennas for GPS, AIS and radio and also a Rutland wind generator and wind speed indicator. The flimsy wooden cockpit locker covers were replaced with watertight aluminium ones.

While Charly was rewiring the boat and fitting navigation electronics alongside an MCA surveyor I ripped out the saloon back to the hull lining and rebuilt it with new berth lockers and port and starboard sea berths with trotter boxes – one under the new chart table and one under the hanging locker. New upholstery was fitted throughout the boat.

The old galley was ripped out and a new one created with a new gas cooker properly installed and certificated and a new sink with tap. Most importantly, we also installed a gas alarm and bilge pump.


Saloon has been fitted with comfortable seating – and a table

When we got the boat the most sophisticated bit of electronics was an ancient depth sounder, functioning, but precariously hung from the deckhead by the companionway.

Bits of wire had been screwed into place on one side of the companionway, I guess to support a tablet for navigation purposes.

There is now proper provision for working with paper charts and almanacs – where there was none before – and a panel with fused switches, VHF, GPS and AIS.


The Sarum 28 now features proper chart table and nav station

Mystery hose

The seacocks were overhauled and work was needed to get rid of a curious length of garden hose that led from the stern gland to nowhere. An Atlantic windvane self-steering system has also been fitted.

All that needs doing now is having the boat lifted, once more, to get the bottom cleaned off, reprimed and then antifouled. Then Charly can go sailing.

As I said at the beginning, “Look down one ear and you can see daylight out of the other”… and pound notes fluttering about in the wind.

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This feature appeared in the October 2022 edition of Practical Boat Owner. For more articles like this, including DIY, money-saving advice, great boat projects, expert tips and ways to improve your boat’s performance, take out a magazine subscription to Britain’s best-selling boating magazine.

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