A budget boat restoration of a Snapdragon 23

Two seafaring staff from Practical Boat Owner magazine have taken on the years-long challenge of showing readers how to do up a boat from scratch.

‘We were out on the water when we bought the boat’, said editor David Pugh. ‘We paid £510 for it on eBay.

‘We knew the restoration would be a big job; she was covered in moss and slime and there were nettles growing from the cockpit floor, but still, she was more or less watertight and we thought we might finish quite quickly.

‘That was back in August 2011…’

More than two years and 700 man hours later, David and features editor Ben Meakins’ dedication to their task is evident in the now pristine hull and deck of Hantu Biru: a Snapdragon 23 with berth space for four, made by Thames Marine in 1964: the official PBO Project Boat.

The task has brought the whole PBO team together with everybody chipping in for the initial clean-up, before the hardy pair began their ongoing restoration in January 2012.

Hantu Biru’s adventurous past

Before being taken under the benevolent wing of PBO, research has unearthed Hantu Biru’s rather adventurous history.

She was owned by an army major and shipped around the world during the ’70s, from Singapore to Germany, resulting in a lot of sun damage to her glass fibre deck, which had become soft, necessitating repair.

She even took part in three Singapore Round the Island Races (in 1969, 1970 and 1971) as brass plaques found on board testify.

‘We think that from Singapore she was taken to Kiel in Germany’ said David. ‘And then to Gosport where her history runs out.’

It is then assumed that she sat ashore for 20-25 years, unattended and out of action. Upon purchase she was full of rainwater, with a flooded engine. Luckily her 40-year-old sails had just about kept dry, hanging in a barn.

Hantu Biru means Blue Ghost in Malay,’ adds David. ‘It’s an odd name but we wouldn’t have changed it because of her travelling history, and it has worked in our favour as our readers all know who she is.

‘And besides, it’s bad luck to rename a boat. None of us will admit to being superstitious but this boat’s been enough trouble without bringing bad luck to the mix!’

Ben said: ‘We spent six months stripping her to a bare shell and basically making everything look a lot worse.

‘It’s taken a while, but now we can finally see her taking shape. All we have left to do is the interior. Then we’ll see if she floats!’

What’s next?

It is expected that the gradual revamp of the boat’s vintage interior which on purchase included a 1960s depth sounder, retro light fittings, a stereo, rotten plywood panels, a tiny ancient toilet and a rusty fuel tank, will take another few months to complete.

‘When we’re finished, we’ve got this idea of taking her across the Channel for celebratory moules-frites’ adds Ben. ‘But then again, you never really finish working on a boat…’

While the PBO team don’t expect Hantu Biru to be fast, they will spend time and effort tweaking to get the best out of her.

The idea is to then auction her off for charity.

Follow Hantu Biru’s progress and track the repair work in PBO every month and on the Practical Boat Owner Facebook page.