Thursday, August 24, 2006

Last Weekend, The End of Filth?

It’s nearly upon us, or is it? I’ve got 1 bilge compartment to do and a zoom up the keel bit and I will Finally beat the engine room bilges. Not so infamous now are they? In fact inside overall the big rust and paint obliteration haul is finally coming together, and next weekend is going to be great. I’ve recruited a small army of golems in order to attack those last corners and hopefully see the light at the end of the funnel. I’ve got high hopes that we’ll do it over three days with a combination of needles and the old grinderettes, and it’ll also be a big buzz to have visitors again- anyway I’m dead pleased with my solo progress today, yes I am. Six weekends of scrovelling around in tiny spaces where you truly just cannot shift position/get the gun in the right place/ignore the searing pain in your lower back.
Also I am just about sick of going to the pub wearing what looks like really heavy gothic eyeliner but which is in fact just recalcitrant bitumen dust that washing won’t shift. OK, it was fun for a couple of weeks to make with the old Jack Sparrow “where’s the rum?” but try telling people there was so much bitumen in those bilges, easily an inch thick in places and they think you’re an obsessive lunatic (again) and their own eyes start to glaze over.
Yes I sincerely wish for an end to this filth. Take two bottles into the shower? Not likely, I take a jam jar full of industrial hand cleaner, a flannel, half a bar of soap (each time) and the scrubbing brush- and I’m in there for ages. I must have the most marvellously exfoliated skin in the south of England I’m tellin’ ya. And by God where did these muscles come from? Cor- I look great, I’ve never owned biceps in my entire skinny life, so now I feel like these are not my arms, they can’t be. Who grafted these bruisers on while I was sleeping? I’m beginning to look the part, except for the eyeliner. Bloody Goths.
Also Robin has been busy in my absence, bravely getting down with welding around 4624 rivet heads below the water line. Good innit? We didn’t really fancy going to all the expense and effort of blasting, replating and what’ll probably cost a fortune paint job, only to throw ms Ann back in the water and discover leaking rivets. So Robin chivalrously declared his willingness to begin welding up every single one, and the seams along platelines too. He’s had to experiment a bit to figure out the best (fastest) approach, and after much deliberation the best is: nice thin 2.5mm rods on the stick welder. Forget the mig, it just hated all the shit that’s stuck in the microscopic gap between plates. This blows out the new weld as it’s being laid. The boat has been far from the water for over a year, it’s nearly nine months since blasting the outside, and the vessel is now kept in an extremely dry environment yet water still hides in tiny crevices of Wendy Ann 2. Incredibly the job doesn’t seem to be taking forever. I’m sure Robin is turning little weldy circles in his sleep after any given day with us at the moment but it’s only taken three full days of his time to largely complete the first of six areas into which we’ve divided the whole task.
So I find myself praying to any deities that might feel like listening that it could soon be time for paint. New clothes for an old boat. Oh please oh please oh please.
Speaking of which somebody’s left a half dozen cans of intershield and intergard epoxy outside the wendy house, they’ve clearly already had one owner but there’s plenty of life in them tins yet. I have a deep suspicion that they’re a donation intended for us and I really want that to be the case but I don’t want to put anyone’s nose out by just whisking them into the tent, and I’m supposed to go to work before anyone’ll be around to ask. So what do I do- elect to hang work and stay here until Monday morning so I can ask nicely, or pinch the paint and go back to stinky work? Bet now…

God I’m whacked. I feel all jangly and pummelled and covered in one big bruise, but yep- still on board the boat! A milestone came and went with the long awaited moment where I declared the bilges finished, and I’ve since managed to find time and love for some of those details that I’m always on about… and then I went berserk and had an ‘experimental’ go at some starboard bulwark action which was a dream. And Lo and Behold a phone call from miss B to tell me that opportunely our employer has somehow granted us both the day off work tomorrow (this as time in lieu of cover that we provided last weekend!!) so now I get to ask permission before running off with that lovely paint. I wonder what my stars said about today? Today Cancerians will be all knackered and wobbly, but for some reason they’ll enjoy it and get what their heart desires. Cancerians should avoid late nights, alcohol and 500watt halogen bulbs. Beware of eyeliner and bosun’s stores.

Monday lunchtime.
Just found out I must down tools, return to do an evening shift at the pub. Drat.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Grinder rewinder

Although it’s largely over it might be good to write about the near neverending task of grinding the flaky old paint and rusty stuff out of Wendy’s interior, just in case you ever feel like buying an old vessel and want to get all the crap off the cheap way (don’t be fooled) this is what it’s like.
We began the process at the beginning of January 2006. Remembering that B and I can only work ms Ann every weekend it still took us almost every single available one- that’s about forty eight 12 hour days work, per person, until July to complete the process in the forward accommodation and engine room (alright- as near complete as we could stand, we’re regrouping soon to see the bosun’s store to the same standard.) I wish I had photos of me killing the inside of the funnel, that was the day it all got a bit weirder. Thank Christ we were lucky enough to have occasional helpers to take a bit of the strain, the funny fuckers.
Anyway, it goes like this; purchase grinders, fit with wire brushes and make a start. Break expensive grinder, buy more. Then realise it’s going to take forever so whatever you do don’t look up. The fairly vertical bits up to about chest level are hard work, the frames and rivets are really hard and slow but the deckheads (ceilings landlubber) just take the piss. Holding a screaming grinder over your head for hours definitely hurts so I’m masochistically proud to announce that it was me who ground almost every one of the sods- the credit for the other one goes to supersam, who’s well and truly earned the name.

It’s reasonably noisy work, and so dusty that no matter how good the protection you’ll still end up tasting the boat for days afterwards. Yeah, I’m well aware of the dangers of lead based paints, but the job had to be done. We spent a fortune on replacement cartridges for the masks we use but in the end simple things like having a couple days growth of stubble is enough to break the masks integrity sufficient to allow the ingress of dust. Yep, dust is a real problem with this caper.

Using a grinder for this purpose is a bit like throwing a Very Angry Baby repeatedly against the wall. And it bites, wear goggles because it will occasionally spit out broken wires which embed themselves in overalls, through two sets of jumpers, or deep into any available skin. God knows what one of these would do to something as fragile as an eyeball. Nevermind that, a moments inattention will lead to really seriously bloody injuries. Over the months I’ve collected three new and very interesting scars on my knuckle, left wrist and inner right forearm. The knuckle one went to bone. Through proper gloves. The glove in question ended up looking like a frog after an A-level biology lesson, so neatly bisected along the seams that we kept it and occasionally wave it about in a kind of vague warning tone at anyone new who comes to help out.
The difficult thing to convey is how long the job is, it’s a torturously slow process and I think we made it slower by being really rather thorough, in some areas literally inching our way across the surface and now the finish is uniformly back to bare steel everywhere. In fact I sometimes worry that our finish is too smooth and that new paint might have trouble sticking long term. Some people assure me otherwise, but I can’t help wondering. We realised just how long this was going to take by about our sixth weekend, and I still find myself unable to quite get over the fact that it’s really nearly done, and I haven’t had to do it since a month ago up the funnel. I went through a phase- and I’m sure B did too, when I had recurring dreams about guiding my grinder round everlasting rivets, being made to eat 3mm paint sandwiches, that sort of thing. Regardless, we finally got to a point in the forward compartment when we decided it was done- we couldn’t stand it anymore really, at the beginning of march and by then we were already completely knackered. Don’t mention the day job. The Engine compartment is actually just about done too now, and all that remains in each are a few frames on deckheads and other inaccessible little details (like the gunwales on which the paint is very sound and in any case are densely covered in rivet heads). The plan is to start getting at all of them by needle gun this coming weekend. Now, the impression inside Wendy Ann 2 is one of clean lines, lovely shapes and black metal. And a hole or two. It’s really an incredible difference from the peeling, cancerous layers of paint and rusty mess which caked everything a few months ago, and I reckon she don’t look too bad at all.
Although me and my dear lady conducted an awful lot of this activity alone we were graced on a few occasions bysome pretty amazing folk, so therfore I owe medals, new hands and nervous systems to: Miss BB the tug tough wife to be, Jan the man (again), supersam, zeronine Jon, Richard, mister Wingnutt, hello Dave, the Lover Nick, Claire Earhartt, Pete mcWirsty and the skyscraper Mark. Freaks. Their moral support and sheer stirling effort not only kept us on track, but made a significant contribution getting the whole thing done.

If I ever did it again I’d definitely have the inside shot or UHP blasted. There’s the ridiculous expense, but how do you figure into calculations the cost of time? I do know what my chiropractor charged to straighten me out after a particularly heavy bout of deckheads (couldn’t walk). Look at it like this, either some other maniacs do it for you with real heavy plant and then it’s all over and done and all you have to do is pay ‘em an absolute fortune (a lot)- or do it yourself. No contest mate. If I had the money, I’d pay.

Monday, August 14, 2006

How to have fun with needle guns.

Last weekend me and the Leddermann Jan decided to attack the engine room bilges a bit more. The weekend was the very definition of ‘it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it’.
It was far too hot for overalls but for some inexplicable reason Jan decided to wear what started out as a white t-shirt. Takes all sorts I suppose. Seeing a very tall man cram himself into impossibly tight corners is strangely encouraging, clearly it’s all about technique (note the cushion). Seeing the same tall man turn into a nightmare vision of Marc Bolan is just plain funny. Mind you I’m not that sure about my own eyeliner effect. I think we enjoyed the experience, at least Jan didn’t become too sarcastic- his usual defence against exhaustion. But my wrists and lower back aren’t about to forgive me in a hurry. Ho hum, still not done with the damn needle guns. Grrr.

The Little Bird.

It’s high time I made a bloggette all about the single most influential member of the Wendy Ann reconstruction team so far. I’ve ummed and ahhed for weeks about this, considering it an impossible task- as here is a man who is bigger than blog can describe.
B and I first met Mr Robin F Twine just after the boat came out of the water from an introduction by Di Roberts, and he was more or less hired on the basis that ‘everything’s possible’. I remember being really scared about the state of the steel and not having a single sniff of a clue about what to do with it, yet here was this tiny man who seemed to take the whole ghastly sight in his stride, significantly did not say one single negative word about our predicament, and after a quiet moments thought announced- yes, everything is indeed possible.
I guess in following our guts we got lucky, Robin has proved himself to be a constant source of strength, encouragement and inspiration, a font of knowledge and means by which we are learning so much that I would happily apprentice under him- I suppose that in a way that’s what I’m doing. All this is not at all bad for a guy who humbly insists that he’s not a welder at all. I know what he means but it got quite an interesting reaction from Becky the first time he said it (about six months and a few grand in). Also for a supposedly ‘not a welder’ his work is really, really neat. I am amazed at the skill, care and attention to detail that has gone into all our new hull plates, matching new welded plate to a very old compound curved riveted hull is no mean achievement, and now, sighting down the newly completed forward third of Wendy Ann’s hull, all the curves match pretty beautifully. Flat plates were bent up to frames in situ by means of hydraulic jacks and chain hoists, and over the months a remarkably huge amount of our hull has been replaced, as well as a massive chunk of keelson and every other frame up forward. It’s been an adventure, and an education, and now I find myself tentatively thinking that we might be almost halfway through the welding work. The pointy end is just about done, and all three of us are looking pensively at Wendy Ann’s fat arse (sorry- stern) knowing that it will be the proving ground for what we’ve learned so far. Slowly, with the help of our man, Wendy is being hauled back from the brink of shipwreck- but she’s already a thing that I know we are all becoming very proud of.
oh and ps.. sorry (only a bit) about the portrait R!