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SML'S Boat Restoration Project

In June 2018 SML bought a boat, the aim – to restore it and in the process learn what our customers have to go through in terms of planning, preparation and paint application.

The boat
Du Bleiz is a 43ft steel ketch. She was built in 1972 in France.  In the last 47 years she has had only 3 owners including SML. The previous owner purchased her in 1989.  We  found her in something of a sorry state lying in Bristol Marina. Like so many yachts, that were once someone’s pride and joy, she was showing her age and the tell-tale signs that her steel hull needed some attention.

At this point in the story it is probably pertinent to mention that while we would consider ourselves very knowledgeable about  paints and paint systems,  our knowledge of steel boats and their restoration is much more limited!!

Malcolm Johnston – Owner of SML Paints and Coatings.
Malcolm used to own and rent out acommodation on houseboats on The Thames.  As the business expanded it became more & more difficult to find suitable boats to rent out to tenants.  In 2003 he commissioned the build of a steel 100’ x 20  2 deck houseboat.  The boat was built by Richards of Great Yarmouth and towed to it’s mooring close to Chelsea Bridge.  The yard recommended a paint system using Jotun paint.   Malcolm was so impressed with the quality of the paints that when an opportunity arose in 2004 to become a main UK distributer for Jotun he took it and SML Paints and Coatings was born.

Malcolm has no experience of sailing.  The main idea behind buying and restoring Du Bleiz is to get hands on experience of boat renovation.  All the work (with the exception of welding – thanks Wally for the great job!) is being done by SML staff, none of whom have done anything like this before.  Hopefully the experience we’re gaining means we will be able to give better real world advice to our customers.  It also means we can trial new paints prior to launching them.  One day, when the boat is finished (hopefully in 2020), Malcolm has a vague plan to learn to sail and maybe take Du Bleiz on her second trip across the Atlantic (the last time was 1996)! 

John Bass – Marketing Manager of SML Paints and Coatings.
Malcolm approached John one Monday morning having seen Du Bleiz for sale on eBay over the weekend and asked, “what do you think?”. John has a considerable amount of sailing experience having sailed around the World in the ‘2004-05 Global Challenge Yacht Race’ and having done one trans-Atlantic yacht delivery and another across the Indian Ocean. However, John’s experience did not extend to actually owning a yacht and in over 50,000 miles of sailing (mainly as a bowman) had never brought a yacht, of any size and under power, into a marina and docked it! John instantly saw the potential for SML to experience the kind of tasks their customers take on every day.

However, the more we talked about it the more we concluded that this project really would benefit SML and its customers. Every day we get calls from ordinary people who do not have access to the ideal environment, tools and experience when working on their boats. This would be an opportunity to see what was ‘really’ involved. Real World situations with weather, time restraints, budgets and inexperience. The one big advantage was that we knew about our paints, we could test and make mistakes, we could apply and re-apply as many times as we needed learning what method worked and what didn’t and then pass that on to our customers.

The one aspect of the project we all agreed on was that although SML could afford to hire in experienced people with expensive preparation gear many of our customers couldn’t. We were going to approach this as our customers would. We looked for tools on eBay, we would research the correct processes from yacht owners on Google and we would be getting our hands dirty – as it turned out we got very dirty!


PART 2 -  The viewing, purchase and survey
PART 3 -  P
reparing the deck and hull
PART 4 -  Finding corrosion
PART 5 -  The Bilge
PART 6 -  Fairing
PART 7 -  P
ainting - Primer

 

 

What our customers say

Hello guys, the customer service I received when I was calling for advice really was excellent, I'll be recommending you to all my fellow boaters - Richard Sergejev - Hertfordshire