At 71, Richard Hare embarked on a year-long renovation of a 30-year-old Westerly Konsort. He shares why it was one of his better ideas.

None of us are getting any younger. It’s a well-known fact that boatfolk are more than just inclined to allow their hearts to rule their minds and, some might say, their better judgement.

And this could so easily have been the case when I embarked on the renovation of my new boat, a Westerly Konsort, sail number 700.

Having fitted out my former boat, the Golden Hind 31, Keppel, when I was turning 50 it came as a shock to find myself so much more tired when I brought her back to the UK 10 years later for an 18-month decade service.

I was turning 60, and I was knackered by around 4pm! This was unthought of just 10 years previously.

Down in Robertsons Boatyard, as the weekend winter nights drew in, the thought of a large glass of red wine beside the fire while watching ‘Strictly’ with a bowl of beef and horseradish crisps and pork scratchings was just too tempting.

REstoring an old boat

Before – Southern Cross as purchased in April 2022. Credit: Richard Hare

For the first time in my life, I realised that I was knocking on a bit.

Also missing at this stage was the siren beckoning of the Ionian and Aegean seas.

That driver was by then already a thing of the past, a wonderful warm memory.

Back then, when we sunk Keppel’s anchor into the Greek seabed for the first time the reality was every bit as good as the dream, and so it remained for three glorious years.

The sale of Keppel was sad, a sadness tempered by us finding for her an ideal new owner.

A boat moored to a pontoon

Restoring an old boat. Cockle in Brittany in, September 2023. Credit: Richard Hare

Had I returned her to the UK, HMRC was to hit me with a post-Brexit £10,000 VAT bill, we were told at the time.

We’d committed the ‘crime’ of basing her legally in the EU for more than three years, and this despite VAT already having been paid in full.

This year though it seems that a measure of common sense is being applied, we can now apply for a waiver of the ‘three-year rule’.

So, I could have brought her home after all. But that’s the ‘sunlit uplands’ of Brexit. Hey-ho.

So, having sold Keppel in France to her new custodian from the Republic of Ireland I anticipated buying something in the 23-24ft range for local river pottering.

A man restoring an old boat by removing the vinyl

BEFORE The toe-end bulkhead was stripped of vinyl and painted. Credit: Richard Hare

In truth that would never have worked for me although I kidded myself at the time that it would.

Fortunately, I was spared that particular disaster by Southern Cross coming on the market in early 2022. She got me thinking.

Could I resume short-term liveaboard cruising in mainland Europe, despite Brexit?

Well, distance cruising was out but we could work around the 18-month EU boat entitlement regulation by exiting EU waters as that time approached, and then returning for another 18 months.

And as I ran my eye over Southern Cross did I reflect on any of this ageing experience? Nah… Not a chance.

The lights of foreign cruising had already flickered back on again, and I was hooked.

A restored old boat with new forepeak

AFTER Maple strips conceal 12mm closed cell foam. Plywood replaces drooping vinyl on deckhead. Credit: Richard Hare

But then there was that old chestnut: the wife/partner scenario.

My wife, Janie, was sceptical about any other boat after Keppel. She’d pretty much packed away her sailing gear for good and kitted herself out for horse riding, and then there are tap dancing shoes. Jodhpurs were the thing. Sailing salopettes (pah!) were history.

The messaging was unambiguous: she loved Keppel, and she wasn’t interested in another boat. Brittany would work though, I figured, if only just for me. I could settle for that.

But first, Southern Cross as she was then named, needed a root and branch renovation if this aspiration was to be realised, and also if Janie was to ‘hang in there’ a bit.

The appeal of a Konsort was that it could be converted from a spacious holiday cruiser to a decent enough liveaboard boat.

This entailed the installation of a proper shore power system, pressurised hot and cold water, a shower of sorts in the heads, an efficient fridge, a lot of cockpit locker organisation; and a lot more stowage everywhere. Increased battery capacity was desirable too.

The previous owner had recently reupholstered the boat and we liked the fabric. His curtains were OK too.

That aside, she needed a 30-year refurbishment.

She had it all: the droopy vinyl, decades-old skin fittings, a questionable engine and she needed a thorough clean, both inside and out.

She looked old, tired and in need of TLC. Being left alone during the two-year pandemic while the previous owner was abroad certainly contributed to her condition.

Re-varnishing throughout was needed to bring her interior back to life. So, how was this tackled?

With the old Volvo traded in and the engine void thoroughly scrubbed out with a mix of washing-up liquid and white spirit in hot water – it works like Swarfega – the void was repainted using Danbolin.

A blue engine on a boat

With the engine void cleaned and repainted a new Nanni 21 replaces the former Volvo. Credit: Richard Hare

A new Nanni 21 was installed by Peter Norris in Larkman’s Boatyard, Woodbridge. The boat then entered Robertsons Boatyard at Woodbridge where I worked on her for a year.

She emerged 12 months later as Cockle, a name suggested by my granddaughter.

Just as Keppel reflected Janie’s Australian roots, Cockle reflected mine, Leigh-on-Sea.

Cockle was not completely finished when she was relaunched in April 2023 but she was certainly good enough to go.

At my age, we waste a year at our peril.

Like Keppel before her, Cockle does not have a boat cover. These can cause more problems than they solve on boats that are left to fend for themselves unattended abroad during the winter.

A yacht on a boat craddle

The two upper hull stripes were removed using Power-TEC Stripe off Discs. Credit: Richard Hare

There are Mistrals and Meltemis to consider, and even worse nowadays.

What varnish remained on her exterior teak components was removed and treated with clear Cuprinol wood preservative.

They are now weathered grey.

The fungicide prevents winter mould from forming for several years and avoids the need for annual varnishing.

On the small areas that I did varnish around the companionway, I used International Woodskin, an exterior woodstain, as opposed to normal varnish, again for ease of maintenance.

The decks needed repainting and this took over a year to complete, the cabin top in May 2022 and the side decks a year later in France.

I used International deck paint, cream colour, a colour that was very cool underfoot on Keppel when she was in the Mediterranean.

The cockpit on a boat after restoration

Bar Keepers Friend worked wonders on polishing gel coat although more work is still needed. Credit: Richard Hare

The cabin and cockpit gelcoat had a myriad of spider’s web/hair-line scratches, all extremely grimy, a situation not helped by the boat being left unattended for so long.

I thought I’d have to paint it all but have since been relieved to find that Bar Keepers Friend (particularly the powder version) has made a massive improvement already.

A fine-grade abrasive has also been used in particularly stubborn areas.

Her sails and rigging were fine although I commissioned Suffolk Sails to cut a foot off the genoa foot. I dislike headsails that I cannot see beneath.

Also, the furler (unbranded) was in desperate need of replacement so I commissioned Larkman’s Boatyard to fit a new Plastimo headsail furler. This addition was something that I hadn’t anticipated.

A companionway on a boat following restoration

A new two-hoop Royal blue sprayhood has been fitted. Credit: Richard Hare

Regarding canvas, I winced at the shape, cut, colour and condition of the existing three-hoop sprayhood so I replaced it with a new Royal blue two-hoop version.

This folds down more neatly, essential as I seldom sail with a sprayhood up.

Again, I feel safest with clear vision.

A cockpit enclosure was also part of the package, a blessing during the winter of 2022/3 as I was able to use the cockpit as a workshop.

In addition, Cockle now has a boom awning, a feature that was deployed a lot during the awful weather of last summer.

I don’t use dodgers, I’m not sure what the point of them is. They certainly increase windage.

The two knackered stripes along the side of the hull, one red and the other grey, were removed using Power-TEC Stripe Off Discs in a power drill They were replaced by a new single red stripe.

Much of the vinyl linings had to be tightened, or junked.

Tightening was done by a mix of sprayable impact adhesive or a PU adhesive mastic like Sikaflex or CT1, sometimes combined with wooden battens screwed into the underside of the side deck and deckhead.

Both have a very useful wood core – an option not always at our disposal on other models of boat.

A nav station on a yacht

A corner was cut off the nav desk, half of the floor was lowered and a pedestal now supports the desk. Credit: Richard Hare

The vinyl on the main companionway bulkhead had holes in it where kit had been fitted and removed.

Fortunately for me, the tricky bit that wraps around the corners was retainable and I tightened it onto plywood battens bonded to the fibreglass using Sikaflex.

Superdec painted plywood was then used to cover and insulate the main bulkhead area that faces out into the cabin.

A small varnished box now conceals the back of the compass.

So, in more detail, from fore to aft:

  • Anchor box A fore and aft mini-bulkhead was fitted into the anchor locker to separate the chain from the Anchorplait. Rope squashed down the bottom of an anchor box seldom ever dries and there are cases of permanently damp plywood bulkheads rotting as a result. Cockle now carries 30m of 8mm chain to port of the divider and a similar amount of Anchorplait to starboard of it. On the 3:1 rode basis, the Anchorplait will seldom be wetted.
  • Forecabin Vinyl was removed from the underside of the foredeck and this was replaced with plywood painted white using Sadolin Superdec (water-based exterior paint, satin). The anchor box bulkhead was also stripped of vinyl, thoroughly cleaned of all adhesive and re-finished using Superdec. Similarly, the vinyl above the hull-side shelves was junked and replaced using 12mm closed-cell foam faced with maple strips attached to ribs laminated to the hull. Maple attachment aside, these ribs also add strength to an important area of any hull. Vinyl was also junked from the main forecabin bulkhead. The adhesive was removed (a long and tedious task) and these were subsequently clear-finished using Ronseal Yacht Varnish, satin. For liveaboard use, Cockle had insufficient clothing stowage. To improve this a shelf was created above the water tank and this freed up a lot of space for rolled-up clothes on either side of it too. To improve access, the unwieldy locker lid was cut in half and a central support was added. The forehatch was renovated professionally with new acrylic ‘glass’.
  • Heads The heads is now fitted with a hot and cold pressure shower tap. Cockle already had a factory-fitted shower tray but space is very limited for showering. However, it can be used, thereby freeing us of the need for a marina berth just to have a shower. There is no facility for a shower tray waste pump so a baler is used to empty the tray content into the loo. It’s not what we have been used to but it is a worthwhile improvement. A new toilet was installed, as were both associated seacocks.
  • Hanging locker The considerable redundant space hull-side of the clothes rail was used to fit two deep shelves.
    A third will be added later. Apart from re-varnishing throughout, the navigation area was re-designed and re-built. I’m tall and there was insufficient leg room beneath the desk, and this was made worse by a desk supporting strut that further impeded access. This situation was relieved by (1) cutting a corner off the desk (2) lowering half of the sole (floor) and (3) replacing the desk strut with a useful pedestal for nav books and charts.

The galley was also rebuilt. Originally half the space was taken by a useless, very large unrefrigerated cold box.

This has been replaced by a heavily insulated and smaller fridge made of 18mm plywood – itself an insulator – lined internally with epoxy.

Additional insulation comes courtesy of 37mm closed cell foam plus an additional 12mm plywood outer casing.

A cabin being worked on while restoring an old boat

BEFORE Vinyl stripped from main bulkhead and ply prepared for varnish. Credit: Richard Hare

The compressor can be switched off at night, as was Keppel’s, even during Mediterranean summers.

The two cabinet drawers that caused a massive waste of space in the galley, along with a tiny cupboard, have been replaced with a single cupboard that stretches unimpeded to the back of the cabinet.

One of the drawers is now fitted below the fridge to house fridge containers.

Atop the cabinet, there are two sinks – a large one for washing up, and a smaller one for draining.

A cabin on a yacht

AFTER Bulkhead ply after varnishing. Credit: Richard Hare

There’s pressurised hot and cold water in addition to a foot pump faucet. The sink outlet, formerly a narrow diameter hose that exited out of the bottom of the hull (an unsettling design feature, surely) – and consequently incapable of completely emptying – has been replaced by a wider diameter hose that discharges easily through the hull above the waterline.

Regarding electricity, the two batteries have been replaced by 2 x 105Ah ship’s batteries and a 70Ah engine battery.

Shore power control, installed below the companionway, has been added to provide calorifier heating, battery charging and an AC circuit with domestic sockets.

It is a Eurohike Mobile Mains Kit with USB and 15m of cable.

A saloon inside a boat

With all fitted bar the paraffin lantern, the saloon is good to go. Credit: Richard Hare

Although we liked the upholstery fabric, one settee cushion was as hard as a rock and as heavy as a log.

This foam was replaced to be the same springiness as the others.

Saloon berth backrests were halved in thickness so that they can remain hooked up in place when access is needed to the under-berth lockers.

They can also remain in place when bunked down for the night, albeit on higher hooks.

The questionable fold-out double berth has been reduced to a large single berth. She’s now a 5/6 berth 29-footer, not a floating dormitory.

Unlike previously this berth now provides easy access to the three spacious locker bins below, none of which would ever have been used by us as it was such a palaver to get to them.

  • Cockpit locker As is so often the case the voluminous cockpit locker was an unorganised void. It is now fitted with a level sole (floor) for Jerry cans mainly, a shelf above the calorifier for warps and other stuff, a hull-side shelf and a demountable bulkhead has been added to the aft end for fender stowage. A 15lt Hotpot calorifier is fitted to the bulkhead that it shares with the galley (benefit of a short pipe run) and its insulation has been boosted by the addition of an 18mm foam sleeping mat, the sort used by roughty-toughty back-packers.
  • Electronics The electronics are ultra simple. Having had a phone conk out on me – along with its tide tables and weather information – I won’t put to sea without paper charts and the skill to navigate. Being ‘navigated’ (as opposed to ‘navigating’) makes me nervous. So, in addition to the existing basic chartplotter and a basic but very robust old GPS, I have Navionics on my tablet. Although Cockle came with a DSC radio she did not have AIS. So, I replaced the VHF with a Standard Horizon combination DSC radio/AIS receiver.

Was it a bigger project than anticipated?

Yes. And it has cost a lot more than anticipated too. But when you’re my age and the kids are doing well and are well provided for, what are we saving up for? Shrouds don’t have pockets.

A bulkhead on a boat

A fore and aft bulkhead separates the chain from the Anchorplait. Credit: Richard Hare

It’s that old thing about all restorations, be they old houses or old boats – it’s nearly always better to junk anything remotely dodgy when it’s easiest to do so (and in a more controlled environment) than lurching from one hassle to another on a crisis management basis later on.

And why wouldn’t I buy a new engine anyway? I can afford it, and I might at least have the benefit of it, as a club friend pointed out to me.

The old one was 30 years old and I would only have worried every time I switched it on.

If my new Nanni is anything like the one I installed into Keppel, well, that one performed flawlessly for over 22 years and it’s still going strong.

Continues below…

And as for whether a man of my age ought to know better… Well, I’m glad I did it.

Non, je ne regret rien, as the song goes.

I’m living the cruising life again and it’s great. I love having my family and mates around me to share the experience. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

A water tank installed on a boat while restoring an old boat

A plywood tray atop the water tank increases clothes stowage. Credit: Richard Hare

Janie still on board? Well, she spent a fortnight on board Cockle in Brittany during the late summer and the verdict’s still out.

She conceded that the boat doesn’t pong (nor did she when we first inspected her) and she concedes that she’s comfortable.

She also conceded that she’s ‘quite nice’.

So, not all-bad. Janie knows, and I know, that poor little Cockle will never be Keppel, but if there’s one thing I’m certain of it’s that she’s comfortable, cosy, impressively seaworthy and, importantly, worthy of Keppel’s sun-soaked, joy-filled wake.

What the refit cost

I spent almost as much on new equipment as I did on the boat!


Three batteries replace the original two. Credit: Richard Hare

This included:

  • A Nanni 21hp diesel engine
  • A polypropylene fuel tank to replace the original stainless steel tank
  • An Isotherm fridge compressor and element
  • Plastimo headsail furler
  • A Signal masthead light unit
  • Navtex weather information
  • Pressurised Whale fresh water pump n 15lt hot water calorifier
  • Shore power connection to battery charger, calorifier, AC circuit.
  • 10A battery charger n 2 x 12V (110Ah) batteries plus a separate 70Ah starter battery
  • Jabsco toilet
  • Engine seacock
  • Toilet seacocks
  • Heads shower tap
  • Seago four-man life raft
  • Standard Horizon GX2400GPOS DSC VHF radio with integral AIS
  • Sprayhood
  • Weatherproof cockpit enclosure/tent
  • Boom awning/tent
  • Sun filter boom awning
  • Tiller cover
  • Renovated forehatch.
  • Utile and oak tiller
  • Investment costs: Boat £18,000 Additional equipment £14,000 TOTAL £32,000

Enjoy reading “Why restoring an old boat at the age of 71 was one of my better ideas”?

A subscription to Practical Boat Owner magazine costs around 40% less than the cover price.

Print and digital editions are available through Magazines Direct – where you can also find the latest deals.

PBO is packed with information to help you get the most from boat ownership – whether sail or power.

        • Take your DIY skills to the next level with trusted advice on boat maintenance and repairs
        • Impartial in-depth gear reviews
        • Practical cruising tips for making the most of your time afloat

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter