After loads of planning the big week has just been and gone, and largely it’s been a success.
The dreaded needleguns have been back, and in order to maximize their potential I’d taken the week off my building site work and thus allowed two weekends and three days during the week between to get the various jobs done. The tasks were as follows. First, to remove all the thick scale from that bloody trim tank, this needed doing in order to begin making repairs as the gas cutter will not cut through heavy corrosion. Second, to clean up the bottom of the hull where blasting could not reach, all the rivets and plate lines need welding under there and apart from the occupational hazard of setting himself on fire every now and then, Robin was spending more time cleaning than welding. Third to remove all the remaining paint and rust from the bosuns store immediately forward of the trim tank, over the months we’d removed some large areas but all the fiddly frames and corners still required attack.
So with the stage set B arranged to borrow the horse truck from work and I coerced several lunatic friends into coming along for the first weekend. At seven on Saturday morning we loaded the horsebox up with all our new steel floor bearers, the electric compressor (nice one Paul) three ladders and a whole bunch of bits and bobs purchased from the likes of screwfix. Becky drove the behemoth down to Southampton with Jan and I took Mark and Wingnut in the car. Wisely the DVLA have decreed that new drivers no longer have the right to drive bloody great big 7.5 tonne trucks, so I got the fiesta instead- anyway there’s something quite sexy about seeing a slim blond girl driving a lorry, you see balding male wild eyed maniacs doing it all the time, and they are not in the least bit attractive. Our final team member Supersam, arrived in true style on his track bike.
As soon as we’d all disembarked at Wendy, B and Robin turned the truck around and set off back down the motorway to Fareham to collect our other bits of steel, namely the central pole for our spiral stair and the tubes destined to replace our original vent tubes.
I’d decided that while a gang was present it’d be good to concentrate on getting the most gratifying thing done so into the trim tank went Jan, Wingnut and myself and the filthy noisy process that is needlegunning began in earnest. Mark attacked the two inch thick wooden panels that originally made up the forward compartment floor and supersam dived into the bosun’s store with a grinder to attack the crusty old paint. The combined noise was something that defies description. Later in the day I found myself trying to communicate with Robin by running to the bow with him, bellowing at the top of my lungs and waving my arms around like a windmill in order to make myself understood. Things went really well, especially the new air hammer which proved brilliant at winkling out the really recalcitrant stuff in corners-the only drawback being that with the pressure cranked right up it was impossible to hold on to for more than a few minutes at a time, it doesn’t break your back, wrists and nerves like a needlegun, it just runs away instead. We stopped work around six thirty that first day, unfortunately B had to leave us for a lecture evening so it was just me and the boys, cue much gutter talk regarding Wendy’s dirty gusset, massive tools, dry tugs and so on, ah- the lads. Jan disappeared for one of his infamous hour long showers whilst the rest of us rattled around marvelling at the progress so far. Mark had discovered that most of the floor he was sanding was pine but a proportion of it was turning up teak, a weird but welcome discovery. Supersam was now the dustiest man in the universe and Wingnut just could not get his mind out of the toilet. The discovery that most of our overalls were emblazoned with the name Ian Hunt set him off again (do I need to spell this out? No, I don’t) and I took ‘em all for a (frankly crap) meal that evening at one of those chain Mexican restaurants. The reason for this being my first option, The Shamrock; which is at least in staggering distance was closed for a function, drat. Never mind, we staggered a bit further and drank more beer in order to make up for it, there is a small possibility that this should be phrased the other way around.
Accommodation that evening was, you’ve guessed it, The horsebox! It has a double bed which Jan somehow bagsied but the rest of us were on airbeds in the main (horse) compartment. No Becky did not leave us with a haynet, fresh water and plenty of straw, we did not whinny and stamp our hooves (much) and yes it was scrupulously clean in there. I slept rather well. I’m sure Sam did too when he eventually got in from partying in Southampton for half the night, the nutter- that sort of behaviour makes me feel really old, and I’m only thirty two.
Sunday morning and I was first up availing myself of the horseboxes cooking facilities. I must’ve cooked half a pig in the form of bacon and chipolatas with fried eggs, white bread and ketchup. And gallons of fresh coffee. An army marches on its stomach and this lot are no exception.
After the obligatory stand-around-smoking-whilst-discussing-the-plan bit we had a very successful Sunday too, B arrived at about ten, by which point the noise was probably rudely awakening half of Southampton and we just cracked on till about four. There was a distinct collective crunch as we all found our energy reserves emptying, this coincided with the revelation that the trim tank was actually done. Bloody hell.
I drove some achy bodies back to my local train station and thanked them all profusely. I can never thank them enough really. Leatherman Jan, Supersam, Mark and Wingnut, I take my hat (and mask, and deafies, and goggles) off to each and all of you.
I had a days work to accomplish in Epsom before I could make a return to ms Ann in order to continue with the plan, I stumbled blearily through it just about managing to remain the right way up through the day. I was becoming slightly apprehensive about my next mission- underneath Wendy Ann.