Users of our products, Duncan Dumbreck and Chloe Jennings, aka Sailing Hunk of Junk, has taken on the huge challenge of building their own boat. We managed to catch up with Duncan to ask him about their experience.
How did you get into building a boat, where did the idea come from?
We decided to build as it isn’t easy to get the type of boat we want in the second-hand market, and a new boat would be way out of our budget. Also building it ourselves means well know how everything is made/repaired which is great as we will know how to fix anything that goes wrong.
Have you had experience of this sort of large project before or is it a first time? It seems like such a big challenge to take on!
I (Duncan) started a small business with a friend when I finished University, which taught me to be less afraid of big challenges. Also, I grew up on a farm, where we always made and fixed stuff so I had the confidence that nothing was beyond what we could learn to do.
How much time did you spend working on the boat, do you have a day job as well? How do manage your time and energy levels?
Chloe (Duncan’s Girlfriend) has a job working as an ecologist. I tend to work as an when people offer it to me. (Driving tractors, care work, anything really) it allows me to be flexible in the boat building and there is normally work available if I needed it. When we’ve got boat work to do then I’ll be doing it full time, and when we need to earn money or if we are waiting for parts for the boat I can work. I’m hopefully going to get some welding qualifications under my belt soon so I can earn money that way too.
Energy levels are harder to balance. We’ve both been completely burned out at various stages. Usually, the other person will pick up on it and we’ll take some time away from it together. We’re a pretty good team like that.
You seem organised and methodical in your videos and on Facebook; Did you plan it out all in advance or are you changing how you do things as you go along?
We did spend the best part of a year making sure we understood what we were getting ourselves in for. it has meant the progress has gone smoothly so far, but I’m sure there will be things I’ve forgotten or missed out. Prepare as much as possible and be prepared to be flexible.
Were you prepared for the challenge it was going to be?
I think we were as well-prepared as we could have been.
What has been the hardest part so far and have there been any mishaps along the way?
The hardest part is when things don’t go to plan. we’ve had a couple of instances where parts didn’t fit, and it’s easy to get frustrated about having to re-do work you’ve already done. We spend about 3 months working on the transom of the boat (in back. in the end, to get everything right we had to undo about 2 months of previous work to get the part properly. It was especially frustrating as for a long time the answer wasn’t obvious, so we were just trying things to see what worked.
As for mishaps I’ve had a couple of grinder sparks in my eye (although I always wear safety gear), which was quickly dealt with at A&E. I think that the sparks were landing in my hair and falling into my eye later. I now shave my hair completely if we have lots of grinding to do.
What has been your favourite part so far?
I have to say that making the videos and looking back over what we have done has been great. It sometimes hard to stay motivated when you’ve been staring at the same part for 3 months (as above), but when you can look back and see what you have achieved it helps to keep things moving forward.
Also learning to weld has been awesome. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to get good at but never had a reason to. I’m now happy with my MIG welding, my welding stick is solid if not completely consistent, and I’ve recently added a TIG machine to the collection, and I’m happy with how quickly I’m picking it up.
When’s the launch, and what’re your plans for?
My least favourite question to answer. It’s a tough one. I’d like to say “when it’s finished” but no-one is ever satisfied with that as an answer. We think it’ll probably still be more than a year before we have her floating. It depends on so many little things as well. If there is work available, we may take some more time to save up for the cruising budget.
What’s the next project going to be, or is this enough?
I’ll never say never, but for the moment the boat is all we can think about. We’ll hopefully enjoy a few years of sailing before thinking about what’s next.
Have you done much welding before?
Growing up on a farm I was pretty used to the idea of welding, but not very good at it. Dad has an old oil-cooled transformer stick machine, and we built an off-road go-kart when I was 9. That’s when I first tried it. I wasn’t very good, and dad did most of it. The go-kart is still going strong so it can’t have been that bad. You can still see my first dodgy welds.
Then before we started on the boat, I decided that I probably ought to practice a bit. I knew I’d probably end up with a GMAW machine, but we had the old stick machine to learn with, so I just started practising. I learnt a lot from the internet, mainly YouTube videos. Then got the XTP254i and practice with that before we started building the boat.
Were you prepared for the difficulties of welding such a large and complex project? Have any aspects been particularly hard?
I think that so far it has been less complicated and intimidating that I first thought. We have still got a lot of welding to do but there isn’t anything I’m feeling anxious about. Learning about weld distortion is something that has come with experience, and is one of the more valuable things to know.
How easy was it to use the machine as a beginner?
The synergic features made it very easy for me to switch over from stick welding, which made it instant success and gratification rather than birds’ nest and frustration that I hear from a lot of first time MIG users. I knew that we would be using dual shield flux cord wire (from Bohler Thyssen) so I needed to learn how to use the settings properly to get things dialled in.
Any features you particularly like?
The four-roller wire feed unit is a feature that I liked. I never had wire feed issues at all.
Anything you would want to change about it?
If I’m honest with myself the only other feature I would have wanted was for a suitcase-style wire feed. When I bought the machine Paul (Advanced Welding Supplies in Ashford Kent) said I should think about it because that’s what shipbuilders use. The next machine up (XTM 503i) has it and isn’t much extra. But given the choice again I’d still be happy with the XTM254i. It has done a great job for us.
All of us at Parweld look forward to seeing the end result and look forward to keeping up with the progress of this project.