Wooden boats are in constant flux. Their boards shrink and expand. Which poses a particular challenge when trying to fill the seams that open up between planks on the hull.

I only realised this when I saw the boat next to Drumler in the boatyard, Tarka. I’m not sure what type of boat she is but, like Drumler, she was built in Hong Kong from teak at about the same time. Here she is.

When I first saw her, she had raised welts down the seams of her hull and topsides, where the wood filler had been squeezed out from between the planks, pushing her beautiful new paint job up into raised, uneven fault lines.

One of the nice things about boaties is how friendly everyone is, and how willing they are to share their knowledge. So I was chatting to Steve, who has been working on refurbing Tarka. Turns out, the owners had fully renovated her last year, taking her right back to the wood, packing her seams with cotton wadding (as per traditional recommendation). Where they went wrong was in using a flexible wood filler to fill the cracks on top of the wadding. When back in the water, the planks expanded, squeezing the flexible filler out into raised bumps along the lines of the seams. Here is a picture of the hull:

Tarka's raised  seams

Tarka’s raised seams

Steve told me that the answer is to use an ultra-hard filler, made from a Lead compound. You use White Lead for the topsides, above the waterline, and Red Lead below the waterline.

Being Lead, it’s a pretty specialist product, but Steve recommend his supplier, which is a small company in Beccles called Traditional Boat Supplies.

One call later, and a Litre of White Lead Paste arrived within 24 hours, ready for filling.

If you need some White Lead Paste for your boat, you can contact them on:

01502 712311

Or visit their web site at http://www.tradboats.com

Anyway, I duly filled any cracks in the topsides with the paste (which works pretty much like window putty). Left it for 2 days to dry, sanded it down and ready for painting.

Not being a purist, I couldn’t be bothered with the Red Lead Paste below the waterline. Her seams are pretty tight and I reckoned no one will see them anyway below the water. There’s enough other work to do this year without tackling the hull seams. So I left it for now – maybe next year…