is how I came to
begin the wooden boat restoration of 'Mignonne'.
Many years ago, in the boat yard where I kept a previous boat,
there were a
couple of lovely old sailing cruisers, which had been abandoned, for
reasons the owners had left them to rot.
One in particular had clearly
little gem in her hayday.
I kept hoping that someone would buy her and restore her to
Back then, I had neither the time nor the
courage to take her
on. Then one
day the yard owners took a chain saw to her! Along with several others,
destroyed to make room, on the hard for paying customers.
I guess the memory of that little boat being chopped up was in
the back of
my mind when I first set eyes on Mignonne.
I had just sold Piffy, my previous boat. She was an Invicta
27, a lovely
little boat, not only did she look good but she sailed good as well. I
However, after four years cruising together, she was getting
to the stage
where she needed some serious attention.
Unfortunately, she was of glass fiber construction and I’m
I hate working with epoxies.
I always end up in a mess.
wanted another wooden boat if only for aesthetic reasons.
with Piffy was the lack of standing headroom.
She was only a couple of
short but that couple of inches can make the difference between
living aboard and having a sore head and stiff neck.
I was on the look out for a wooden boat with full standing headroom.
As I’m a single-hander, I was after something similar in
Then I came across the wreck of the Mignonne.
The photograph below
only show some
of the damage that I would need to repair.
So why did I take her
First, I must admit that there was a certain amount of gut instinct
there was just something about the shape of her hull that appealed to
However, Mignonne also had the potential to fulfill my requirements and
I wanted a sailing cruiser, one which would be easily handled
by an aging
As I was looking to my future plans to go off cruising on a
when I reach retiring age.
So a long keel, not too big, comfortable both for living as
well as for
being reasonably stiff and good load carrying ability.
Speed was not a priority however, looks were.
The beauty of buying a restoration
project was that it
allowed me to fit out to my own requirements.
Most boats are fitted out
accommodate a couple with two point five children.
I had no need of
It’s not that I’m a misogynist just that the chances of a
young nubile subservient bimbo wishing to sail with a silly old fart
are so remote that I have discounted the possibility.
The other thing I wanted was a covered position from where I
watch in the warm and dry especially at night and when it is cold and
would also be somewhere protected where I could sit at any time yet be
see what was happening around when moored up or at anchor.
I had no illusions about the amount of work that the
I did have some reservations about my ability to do the job,
I’m neither a shipwright nor a carpenter.
As can be seen from the
she had been badly neglected and had suffered some structural
Another aspect of taking on a rebuild was the notion I had of
self-sufficient in that I would develop the skills and the knowledge to
to repair and maintain the boat without having to hire so called expert
It wasn’t until I had started the rebuild that I decided to
her to junk
Fortunately, I was still working on the hull repairs and hadn’t touched
the decks, so I was able to plan the moving
of the partners
into the renovation.
Mignonne at Milford Haven
I must admit that my decision to buy Mignonne may also have been
her being in the boat yard belonging to Milford Haven Marina.
Milford is situated near the mouth of the River Cleddau, at
the extreme end
of southwest Wales.
The Milford Haven Waterway is the largest estuary
Its sheltered, tidal waters are surrounded by a diverse 200-mile
which provide habitats for an abundance of wildlife as well as being a
beautiful place in which to sail.
On his visit to the town in 1802, Admiral Lord Nelson was
heard to remark
that he thought it was one of the great harbours of the world.
What is more the marina is within the Milford docks.
not just a
parking lot for plastic pleasure boats but is also a working harbour.
vessels from all over Europe call to unload their catch.
There is also a dry dock that can accommodate vessels up to
140 meters in
length and 19 meters in beam.
Vessels as diverse sail training ships and
tankers use this facility for refit work and repairs.
It is not unusual
one of the smaller ‘tall ships’ tied up to the harbour wall.
The harbour also plays host to classic boat regattas.
All in all, it was a wonderful place to spend my weekends. I
even managed to
get some work done on Mignonne. And I made some very good friends while
My office on board "Mignonne" when she is moored in St Pierre Pill.
And some of our neighbours.