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.


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