Welcome to the first of this year’s updates for the building of our jet hydroplane Longbow. January often seems to be something of a long month, especially when waiting until its end to put some much needed wages into the bank after all the outlay of the Christmas festivities!

So what has happened during January in the world of jet hydroplanes? Well one of the highlights was seeing our good friend Dave Warby and his team managing to get some test runs in of their jet hydroplane Spirit of Australia II on the Manning River at Taree, Australia after such a long lay off due to the pandemic restrictions. 

Photo courtesy of Ashley Walford

The purpose of the runs on the river was really just to get the team back into the swing of things and to shake down the boat to throw up any issues that might have needed resolving after such a long lay off. Better to find out on these runs relatively local to where Dave is based, before making the longer trip to the reservoirs in New South Wales, Australia where all the high speed development is undertaken. Nevertheless even with such a limited stretch of water available on the river (including moored barges etc on the course to watch out for) Dave blasted along at over 190mph and reports that he is very happy with the way they currently have SOA2 set up. 

Photos courtesy of Steve Cage

Dave says it is looking like March when they will be going to the reservoirs, so not too long off and we wish him and his team good weather and every success with the continued development runs there. 

Closer to home at the beginning of the year I went up to Coniston to a ceremony of remembrance for Donald Campbell CBE, where he tragically lost his life on the morning of 4th January 1967 in his iconic jet hydroplane Bluebird K7, whilst attempting to better his own Outright World Water Speed Record of 276mph. Gina Campbell QSO, Donald’s daughter was there and whilst I don’t always attend these things, I felt I should make the effort on this occasion as it also included the internment of the ashes of Tonia Bern-Campbell placed within the grave of her beloved Donald; so there was a mixture of emotions as we remembered the lives and achievements of these two very charismatic people.

Most of those in attendance then made their way to the Ruskin Museum in the village where we were able to see for the first time their new exhibit of a Land Rover that had supported Donald during some of his record attempts. This vehicle had been lovingly restored and rebuilt by Eric Hadwin with his family / staff at their garage Lakeland Land Rover at nearby Torver. Many years ago my dad had bought an ex military air-portable lightweight Land Rover from Eric and I can remember all the fun we had driving it about the countryside in the summer with an open cabin and still in its army camouflage paint.  

Those with an interest in jet hydroplanes, Donald Campbell and Bluebird K7 will I imagine already know that an open letter regarding the craft was issued by the Trustees of the Ruskin Museum during January which can be read in the News & Events section of their website. Within the notes at the end of that letter there is reference to a team who will rebuild as necessary, maintain and run the craft once the Museum have possession of it. I only make reference to this as I know how folk are prone to speculate and indeed we have been asked directly if the team referred to by the Ruskin Museum is myself and DJ our driver for Longbow.  Accordingly I feel it is important to clarify that this team of the Ruskin Trustees who will rebuild as necessary, maintain and run the craft once the Museum have possession of it, is not myself or DJ our nominated driver for Longbow.  

Anyone who has an appreciation for what we have in front of us with regards the building and running of Longbow should of course realise that Longbow is more than enough of a commitment for myself, other than keeping family including my good lady happy, though as any husband will tell his wife, not necessarily in that order. 

Back with the build of Longbow they do say challenges should be met with open arms and I have certainly had those arms well and truly stretched over painting and sanding the underside of the hull. At the end of last year I left you with having built a tent over the entire upturned hull in the workshop and masked down from the hull and build table to the workshop floor. This being to minimise the amount of airborne dust landing and sticking to the wet paint whilst it cured. 

With that tent and sheeting in place it just left a narrow passageway of workshop floor to get around the hull to paint it. Rigged in my coveralls I washed the hull underside with clean water and new unused lint free cloth, then let that dry overnight. The next day with coveralls on again I cleaned the hull down with our sponsor HMG’s Prep Clean to ensure no surface contamination and a gentle wipe with tack rag. This was followed by a light spray of the narrow passageway floor inside the tent with water to dampen down any dust that might be present there. With the electric heaters on full wincing at how much the service charge is going to be now the rates have shot up, they do manage to keep the workshop at just above 15 deg C in the midst of winter and then I set to work with the paint and rollers. 

The results of all this preparation unfortunately were, yes you guessed it, still airborne dust settling in the paint…….

Perfection Pro is a great paint and indeed having sprayed several cars over the years I have never come across a paint quite like it where you can roll it and it just flows out to completely lose all traces of roller application. There really is no need at all to tip it off with a brush and roller application is quite surprisingly on a par with a sprayed finish. 

However the cure time with this paint I am finding is taking around 5-7 hours so anything at all in the air during that time will inevitably settle and contaminate the finish.  

With an automotive 2 pack spray applied paint you can apply three of four coats straight after each other and they typically dry in minutes so the timeframe for airborne contaminates to settle in the paint is far less than the several hours mentioned above. 

Additionally you can typically machine polish contaminates out of the surface finish of automotive 2 pack spray applied paint once it has cured but with the Perfection Pro polyurethane paint system you are not really meant to machine polish it at all. This is because if you do you will tend to remove the UV protection in the finish and indeed you also lose that fantastic gloss the paint naturally dries to. 

I did try polishing an area of intermediate coat contamination to see what the results would likely be if I opted to do that in the final coat and yes it does take them out but the visible downside is I confirmed that you do indeed lose the finished glaze as shown in the following photo. 

Whether I could get better results with wax and buffing I am not so sure but clearly this particular paint is really meant to be a self finish. 

One thing that was suggested was to add an accelerator to reduce the drying period and hence the timeframe for the wet paint to be contaminated with airborne dust. To this end I was assured by a local automotive stockist that Rocket paint accelerator would work with a 2 pack polyurethane so I gave that a try to a sample area. The lesson for that day was this particular type of paint accelerator adversely reacts with Perfection Pro and just made more work for me to do. 

I had to wait three days for this adversely reacted sample area to harden before I could sand it all off back to sound paint beneath.

Further research suggested the correct accelerator to use with Perfection Pro to be a Pro Cure Awlgrip type but frustratingly there was delivery problems from the stockists in the USA with Marineware in the UK not expecting a delivery of it until March! Having a phone round I failed to find anyone who had it in the UK and so have separately ordered some from the USA with it expected to be with me mid to late February so I will let you know how I get on once it arrives. 

When Jamie Smith from Marineware came to see Longbow towards the end of last year it was at the stage that I had applied the Perfection Pro primer coats ready to receive the undercoat.  At that visit Jamie said the undercoat that he would send would be pigmented red so as to be the same colour as the top coat but unfortunately for whatever reason when it arrived its colour was standard white, so I just carried on and applied a few coats of it until we had a solid white colour throughout. 

The hassle here was that having noted that there was airborne dust in the first topcoat of red I put over this white undercoat, sanding that dust away exposed this white undercoat in several areas. What I hadn’t appreciated was the level of opacity with Perfection Pro meaning the next coat of red colour that I applied you could readily see these white patches of undercoat beneath it. At this stage I should in hindsight have either sanded the entire hull back to white undercoat and preferably have gone back to Marineware to supply a red undercoat in say 2-3 layers as originally discussed. However I didn’t I pressed on with the topcoats, hoping eventually I will get a solid red colour throughout. 

To date I have done six red topcoats of red colour and I can still see white undercoat bleeding through the red in some areas. Bearing in mind you cannot put one coat immediately on top of another with these paints, you have to put a layer on, wait three days for it to harden before you can sand it, then take another two full days to machine and hand sand the hull, then another day to clean all that down and finally apply a coat of paint. 

I have to date painted, sanded and repeated this to the entire underside of Longbow’s hull on my own for a total of 22 times if you count all the original HMG primer coats, the Perfection Pro primer coats, their undercoats and then their top coats. That equates to nearly 60 full days of work so far just to paint the bottom of the boat!

I am not there yet with a solid red colour throughout the underside of the hull and as a best scenario I am probably looking at doing another 2-3 more coats to get that solid red colour throughout. 

To be fair this is not the fault of the paint, it is me having to tackle this in the midst of winter, with as you will appreciate freezing temperatures outside, some horrendous storms battering our cottage workshop. The terrible weather must be moving the air inside the workshop to at least some degree in an environment where I haven’t been able to take the hull off the build table and Longbow in her current inverted state is just a massive wet painted flat surface acting as a dust magnet for several hours. 

That my friends is me welcoming a challenge with open arms…..so when people say to me why have I not turned the hull over yet, perhaps they will now appreciate as to why. All I can hope for is nobody scratches the paint it has took months to apply during the next job of taking the hull outside to turn her the right way up and get her on to the trailer. 

On a brighter note it was great to have a visit from my good friend Colin Fletcher a few days ago who is Area Manager for our sponsor Wessex Resins & Adhesives Ltd. 

In addition to his vast knowledge of epoxy, Colin has had experience with paint systems of the type I was using, so it was at least of some comfort for him to tell me how well I was doing under the circumstances and that he was very pleased with how the build was progressing. We had a very positive and productive meeting over a brew discussing the next steps going forward including finishing the sponson tops, interior coating of the hull with epoxy and beginning to get our heads around how we are going to form the driver cockpit composite safety cell. 

Finally this month we finish on a high as Elsa and Henry, two of our standard poodles have had four gorgeous pups that will be white in colour as adults. This will be Elsa’s last litter, with pups from previous litters now living in several countries as far away as New Zealand. The photo below shows her two girls and two boys taken yesterday having just opened their eyes, so if you or somebody you know are interested in having one, just let me know.  

Well that is all for the January update folks and I hope by the next diary update at the end of February I have a solid colour on the underside of Longbow and we can finally move things forward once more. Thank you for dropping by and if you have not done so already please like our Facebook page to be notified of updates as our fun little venture continues. 

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