I was under no illusions; building a boat of this size was going to take a big chunk of my life; I estimated an absolute minimum of two years and I wasn’t far out.
After hunting around I got the plans from Samson Marine, a yacht building company from the West coast of Canada who specialised in designing and building concrete boats of all sizes. Although concrete boats (particularly barges) had been built in the UK before, I was one of the first to resurrect the technique and build a yacht using this technique.
The construction basically consisted of wire rods in the shape of the hull being covered in chicken wire and impregnated with cement then rendered with epoxy resin to make it waterproof. The resulting hull is very strong though to be honest, designers don’t use this technique for racing yachts because it is far too heavy.
I had already noticed a wonderfully placed concrete base near to my home in Warrington and next to the River Mersey. I obtained permission from the Canal Company to use it and set to work ordering materials.The only drawback was that it lacked electrical power but with no alternatives I made the best of it with the result that all the work was done without any power tools whatsoever. I made a wooden frame on which I hung the first layer of ½” black iron waterpiping formed into the shape of cross sections of the hull. Lacking any specialist bending equipment, I simply trapped the pipework between my house and the cast iron down spouts and heaved on it until each one matched the plans. Of course, all this work had to happen between jobs on the canal, where it wasn’t unusual for trips to last 12 hours, and that’s without the travelling time.
The next stage of construction was to attach twisted reinforcing bars to form the longitudal lines of the boat. Once completed, I set to work attaching eight layers of ½” chicken wire to the structure. That involved tying short lengths of wire every couple of inches to secure the chicken wire to the frame and was a mammoth task. Occasionally, I did get help from colleagues, friends and even my wife but I did the bulk of the work myself.It was all worth it when the great day came to plaster the hull. I hired a team of five men who worked all day applying the cement mixture to the structure. Friends and family all came to help and come evening I was proud to stand back and see the proper shape of hull for the first time.
I won’t bore you with the rest of the construction. Work proceeded constructing the coachroof, fitting a Morriss Vedette engine (bought brand new for £60), installing a cockpit, and generally fitting her out with the hundreds of things necessary to go to sea. I had a mast and boom made by a firm called Procters on the south coast and ordered a set of sails from a local firm near Liverpool.
It was a great day when a crane turned up to load El Lobo II onto the back of a trailer and tow her to the launch site about 500 yards upstream on the River Mersey. A large crowd turned out, many of whom didn’t believe that a concrete yacht would float.
My wife christened her El Lobo, smashing a bottle of home made wine across the bows in the time honoured tradition. The next day, we stepped the mast and having generally tidied up and finishing a myriad of jobs we went down the MSC, out into the Mersey, past Liverpool and out to sea to hear the sound of proper waves breaking on her bows for the first time. It was a golden moment and I was proud of my achievement.
I was sailing her single handed but unfortunately the weather detirorated to a force 8 gale and I was forced to turn back to Eastham. A good job really, because the weather deteriorated further to a force 10 (which would have been bad enough) but in my haste I had forgotted all my sea charts! In the event, El Lobo proved to be a wonderful sea boat. Although she wasn’t the fastest thing afloat, I was to find out that there were few better boats in the world when things (literally) got rough!