Monday, November 20, 2006

The Dynamic Duo.

Ten days ago now, but still well worth telling. They came back, The Nutters. Supersam and the lovely Marianne once again humbled us with their attendance at the workface. This time I’d remembered to bring the new palm sander and the supper (see High Times), and the wheelhouse shed the rest of her peeling varnish and grey weathered finish. Didn’t really take long either as all of us attacked it simultaneously. Best of all, if you turned the stereo right up you could still just about make out the tunes over the buzz of sanders. Everyone got really excited as the bridge really started to look the part, and on the Sunday we wiped it all down and threw a load of teak oil at the wood and the results- wow. This weekend we’ve continued the work and soon it’ll be time to reassemble all the bits. I can’t wait.

Students, up for anything, Bless ‘em.

Hot Stuff

Robin has nearly, nearly finished welding along all the plate lines and around every single rivet head beneath the waterline on the forward third of the hull. This is very cool, and to prove it here's a cool picture of him in action.


We’ve just received this post right, and its arrival wasn’t exactly unexpected, no no no- it was positively dreaded. Yup. Even More money is about to start flying out of our hands in a hurry.

Our host boatyard has sent us a very complimentary letter, commending our work so far and thanking us for paying our monthly rent absolutely on time, every time, which nevertheless declares that the rent is going to have to increase. Our original agreement was to be out of water for six months, a year tops, and the yard works on a quick turnaround basis so we are relieved to have got away with our extended stay for sixteen months already. To be honest we’re just happy that this charge hasn’t been applied earlier, but now it has. The upshot is that in January we will start to pay well over six hundred pounds a month for the storage ashore of Ms Ann, a fifty percent increase on the previous status quo.
We are already paying through the noses for Wendy Ann’s refit/rebuild and so are in a permanent state of seeming apparently completely flipping skint- in spite of grafting our arses off almost non-stop to earn well. You just wouldn’t believe the bills that come in just to keep the project (ahem) afloat, and because Boat actually stands for Break Out Another Thousand, we now live a life that in some respect resembles that of Victorian paupers. We’ve recently taken to going to the butchers and blagging free bones to roast for stock in order to make rice taste more interesting. The greengrocers are next on our hit list. These belts are tightening, and I think I’m going to have to find a sharp instrument and make even more holes. Somehow we are facing the fact that we can only go on, not stand still or go back.
This is what the money is really like, and we are scared silly because we know that the only outcome that works for us involves getting Wendy out of the shipyard intact as fast as possible, but also to get that work done according to our original plan, there’s just no sense in going through all of this- then botching the rest. Hence we are trying to work out what it will cost to make our boat float, and think up way to pay for it all. Things look fairly dark on this front.
But Wendy Ann’s forward end really is looking pukka. It’s just the back end that’s bothering everyone. Seriously though we’ve come such along way already that we kind of owe it not only to everyone who’s involved, but also to the boat herself, to continue. I’m personally hugely pleased with the quality of the work carried out so far and although the boat is still completely naked the repaired areas look good, each contributing to the overall effect of a newly solid boat, at least the front third anyway.
So we’re continuing, of course; and kind of wearing the fixed grins of forced positivity. Funny but right now things seem both really great and really awful at exactly the same time, a most strange sensation indeed.
Where on earth can we find the money in a hurry? The search has begun, and I’m talking very nicely to the bank although I’ve already taken a large loan with them. Whatever we do to stump up the cash (short of wearing balaclavas with menaces in financial establishments) has to work not only now, but in the long term too. We stand on dicey ground in interesting times, it’s all about balancing the pressing needs of the situation in hand, with the effects of burdening ourselves further in the long run- more loan repayments. So I’m beginning to think laterally about this, Christ I even bit the bullet and asked my mum. Not something I undertake lightly, trust me.

Will we survive? Will Wendy Ann 2 ever float again? Bet now.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Magic Lantern

This is how Wendy Ann’s house looks at midnight on a frosty clear still November evening, taken on my crappy camera phone. You just have to imagine the fat full moon overhead, and the fireworks going off all around. And the warmth, light and laughter within the wheelhouse, surrounded without by cold dust and bare steel. What a strange life we’re living.

High Times.

We temporarily lost the dog after my home display of pyrotechnics for our employers on Friday night. Whoops, I’d accidentally left the side gate unlocked so when the bangs started up Basil had immediately legged it for the safety to be found under our neighbour’s hedge. It took ages to persuade him out, the poor thing.

Wisely having decided to leave for Southampton early on Saturday morning in order to allow us to have a civilised Friday night (see above) I drove Becky, Jan and myself down there at a nervous sixty six miles an hour with my still fairly new driving license, and arrived to find Robin perched upon the scaffold welding his way round the starboard rivet heads, seeing him again was lovely, even though we knew he’d be there it was great to have the chance to catch up with each other again.
Inside the wendy house the air was frosty cold and damp, after the official starting work cuppa (two sugars please) I breathed huffy air that smelt of steel and we all donned overalls ready to work for the day.
This was to be B’s first working trip to the boat since the end of July, as she’s been doing loads of paying weekend instructing work all summer. She’s also currently suffering through a nasty bout of back pain, she was thrown off a horse two months ago and is still waiting for a proper scan to identify what has gone horribly wrong. So I felt it important that we got this weekend right for all sorts of reasons. Hence we’d devised a plan. The wheelhouse would be the focus of engagements and we’d throw everything we could at getting just one small area done and painted, officially the first bit of proper paint on the boat…
We had an early speed wobble when I realised first; that we’d left our supper of homemade beef chilli in the fridge, then not only that but also, the horror- I’d also left my brand new palm sander- bought special, at home. Grrr. Never mind, it turned out there was enough to do (if not eat) so whilst B attacked the skanky dusty living accommodation, Jan took the last windows and the doors off the wheelhouse before taking a sander to the rest. And lucky little me got an angle grinder out to clean up the steel of the bridge itself, more crappy paint and heavy rust had to go, so the chipping hammer got a good airing too. But the D shaped deck is brand new, and Robin just had to finish welding the seams underneath for it to be done. Yep, you can see from the picture that we’ve no ships wheel or instruments- long gone before we bought her I’m afraid.
Things got crowded later in the day when Robin joined in on the bridge to close up a useless square hole cut into the coaming, so for a while the work became positively gregarious, now that’s what I call a refreshing change.
By the end of Saturday there was quite a lot to feel good about. A tiny area of steel was as ready as it’d ever be for paint, welded, cleaned and prepared. And we were covered in teak dust instead of nameless black filth, hooray. I took B and Jan for good Chinese food at Panda restaurant, where we ate as if we hadn’t seen sustenance for a week. You know you’re really hungry when the waiter passes wry comment on the speed with which you’ve just demolished the starters.

Sunday morning, after bacon and eggs I held belt sander races on one of the doors, bringing up the beautiful grain and colour. Jan decided to have a bash at getting this old transformer-welding machine to work, work it did, and Lo he did start filling pits and holes. Even shorn of its cover the contraption got hot very quickly with inevitable results, so B went to get some more fuses. We had to stop him before he used too many of Robin’s sticks, and before he blew half the fuses in Southampton. Not before I had a quick go on some scrap though, mostly I just welded the stick to the work piece and swore- so I’ll be needing some practice then.

Then the moment of reckoning had finally arrived. We wiped down the one door we’d got done enough and applied teak oil, the effect of which was like a ray of golden sunshine in the murk. I made brace for the paint. Cor but that marine epoxy though, strong stuff isn’t it? We decided to use a bit of Intershield 300, two-pack stuff. I had the chosen area all ready and at 3 on Sunday afternoon wiped the steel down thoroughly with standard thinners- which loosened the bolts on my forebrain right off, then dried everything out, mixed up and slapped on the old paint. Sticky paint. Mmm. The fact that I’d chosen the bridge as ground zero didn’t help matters vaporous, even with the windows and doors off. The lack of air movement inside the tent ensured we all gained a good few lungfuls, consequently even packing up to leave immediately afterwards was a laugh and driving home (tar baby) was a hoot, in spite of ten minutes taking the airs (aka checking the oil in the car). I don’t think we’ve all laughed so hard for a long time now, at just everything and anything, suddenly the entire world was funny. B was still having fits of the profound giggles when we unloaded the car at home. Maybe it really was only the paint melting our brain cells, but I’d prefer to think that it just helped a pervasive sense of relief to be expressed. Anyways we all awaited the splitting headaches, which never arrived. Yahoo!
Next week I really must sort out some ventilation, I’m sure that stuff’s not good for you…
That moment of first paint was hugely significant, it is brilliant to be able to say we’ve finally begun to give ms Ann some new coatings- and although it’s only a beginning, B and I both feel as if we’ve broken through a huge barrier and that we can now begin to guess at the shape of work to come over the next weeks and months, certainly it looks like there’ll be plenty more variety than all the endless grinding that we’ve been doing.
And it’s probably going to take the entire week to wash all the dirty overalls, musty duvets and dusty sleeping bags, the washing machine seems to be running constantly and there’s still a mountain of dirty gear to sort out, but at least the living accommodation will be a little less pikey for a short while. All ready for the winter.