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After Four Years Work, Restored Swan 36 Lofna Sails Again in Northern Ireland

16th November 2022
Lofna's first sail in over ten years on Belfast Lough
Lofna's first sail in over ten years on Belfast Lough Credit: Susan Gray

A Swan 36 from the famous Nautor yard in Pietarsaari, Finland was the type of boat that Del Fairley had set his heart on, but the one he found in 2018 on the hard at East Down Yacht Club on the east coast of Strangford Lough was in a very sorry state

Undeterred by the deteriorated condition of the boat Del and his wife Gill set about what proved to be a four-year-long restoration project for the Swan, which had, by then, been given back her original name, Lofna. Lofna seems to be seen an alternative spelling of the Norse name Lofn which means ‘praise’.

Lofna's aft deck pre-restorationLofna's aft deck pre-restoration

So after Lofna’s relaunch in October 2018, she was towed to the pontoon at Down Sailing Club at Ballydorn near Whiterock on Strangford Lough, and Del and Gill spent the winter of 2018/19 making her waterproof while they stripped and cleaned the inside. The next Spring, they trailed her to the nearby Cadoo Boatyard. By that Autumn, Lofna was taken on a new trailer to Bryan Willis's workshop in Larne.

Then began the mammoth task of making Lofna look like new. And for anyone considering taking on a similar job, this is what was involved. The topsides and coachroof were stripped completely and six coats of epoxy resin applied to replace the gelcoat. Hundreds of hours of fairing and surface preparation followed, and then she was resprayed using epoxy primer and topcoat. The coachroof was also resprayed with non-skid paint. Below the waterline, all the through-hulls and seacocks were replaced with modern composite fittings.

The hull had previously had osmosis treatment, so after stripping the old antifouling, this was faired, painted with epoxy primer then treated with an environmentally responsible antifouling. The entire deck-hull joint was resealed with flexible epoxy resin externally and additional laminated fibreglass internally, while the chainplates were remade by Gary Ghio from Cushendall.

The teak deck was in good condition and only required sanding - except the cockpit, where a significant amount of work was needed to replace and recaulk the teak, build custom fibreglass draining hatch frames and remake the locker hatches. The steering pedestal was completely rebuilt with help from Owens Engineering in Waringstown, and an inboard linear drive autohelm was installed under the cockpit. This was particularly satisfying for Del and Gill as they had been told: "that won't fit in a Swan 36". The deck gear was mostly reused, including six self-tailing winches fitted by a previous owner.

Lofna in the  workshop. The topsides and coachroof were stripped completely and six coats of epoxy resin were applied to replace the gelcoatLofna in the  workshop. The topsides and coachroof were stripped completely and six coats of epoxy resin were applied to replace the gelcoat

After all that work, there were two big jobs left to tackle – installing a replacement engine, which at first appeared it wouldn’t fit a Swan 36, but with custom mounts and a remote oil filter it did. The other task was replacing the teak cockpit coaming, which turned out to be rotten inside. This complex job was done by shipwright Daniel Dorman at Whiterock on Strangford Lough, who satisfyingly was able to use reclaimed teak floorboards from the closed-down Belvoir Park Hospital in Belfast.

Lofna's new deckLofna's new deck

With help from many willing friends, the 16-metre mast was transported from Whiterock, while Lofna herself was moved from Larne. They were finally reunited in Carrickfergus, where the standing rigging was replaced and the mast restepped.

Del and Gill were delighted to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Lofna's refurbished interiorLofna's refurbished interior

And so by early August this year, after four years of work, some 3,000 hours of labour and more than ten years on the hard, Lofna was ready to relaunch.

Lofna sailing on Belfast LoughLofna sailing on Belfast Lough

She completed a 220-mile shake-down cruise to the Clyde in September and is now berthed in Bangor Marina, where work on her interior fit-out, electrics and plumbing are continuing to be ready for the 2023 season. By then, Lofna will be approaching 55 years old.

Lofna in CampbelltownLofna in Campbelltown

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down

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