Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Six days. Part 3

Once more into the breach went I, and my stamina was definitely starting to get a bit ragged around the edges, but hey, in for a penny. I took Becky to work at seven in the morning on Saturday before taking on the M25 and A3 again, Wendy was waiting.
The good thing about the bosun’s store is that all I had to deal with was paint, very little corrosion was presenting itself. Thick peeling old paint cracks into large flakes under the needlegun and just pings off the steel quite quickly. The bad thing is the shape of the space. At the moment it’s a bit like a large curvy funnel with a bloody great propshaft at the bottom and there’s really not that much to stand on. So I became magnet boy for the day, managing determinedly to stick myself bodily to the walls in order to reach the high up stuff. That’s all good for about five minutes, but five hours later and bits of me had locked themselves into weird spasms and I found myself rapidly switching from top to bottom of the space and back in a desperate attempt to relieve the by now intolerable pain.

Sod the teabreaks, I just wanted it over with and had only allowed myself a day to do this on account of the fact that I knew I was truly knackered, to stay on to Sunday would be suicide. If I’d been fresh for it then yes, I could’ve slept over and finished it, but my wonky state told me there was no way I’d complete. Instead I chopped the job in half and made a decision to concentrate on what I deemed important, ie. The Hull. The deckheads would/will wait.

Funny to think this space will one day become our main bedroom. Looking at it after a long day behind the gun I realised that we’ve such a long, long way to go before we unfurl a patchwork quilt in here. At the moment it’s the most impossible choice of comfortable sleeping space but believe me (most of the time this fervent belief in the dream is the only thing that keeps us going) we’ll get there, it’ll only take several years.

And of course this isn’t even the end of those stinky needleguns. Because I had neither the time nor the superhuman energy and the bosun’s deckhead didn’t get done. There’s a possibility that my little airhammer might do this instead, but last night Becky brought attention to the fact that Wendy’s main deck (not the stuff Robin’s just cut off, the rest of it) still requires needle treatment, a fact I’d convieniently overlooked. Bugger. Therefore we’ve chalked the May bank holiday into the diary as most likely time to enjoy the noise and mayhem one more time. Oh excuse me while I wet myself with eagerness to use that bloody tool again… Why didn’t we buy a house like everyone else? Because it would just not be as good a test as all this. That’s why. And the walls’d be all straight and vertical. And I wouldn’t get to look forward to one day, one bloody day, living on the water.

Six days before the mast. Part 2

I drove alone to Southampton, armed with a small tent and a whole bunch of duvets, my overalls and enough tea bags and milk to see me through three days.
I drank my first cup of tea and put on my overalls, I almost prevaricated by putting on the kettle for a second cup, then thought ‘ahh sod it, lets go’ so started the compressor and clambered into the eighteen inch gap between the bottom of Wendy’s keel and the floor of the shipyard. There I remained for the rest of the day. And it was a lot like a noisy wrestling match held in a coffin. I soon gave up on the wheeled crawl trolley that I’d brought along foolishly thinking it’d help. Sir Isaac Newton stated that every action has an equal and opposite reaction-which translates thus; push needlegun against hull, slide slowly but inexorably out from underneath hull. Bother. I soon discovered though that a large wedge shaped block of oak usually used by the shipyard as a chock did actually help alleviate a little of the strain on my neck and back (and elbows and knees, pick a body part) for some of the curved areas up toward the bilge keels. But mostly I rotated about the cursed needlegun like a stuck beetle, as often as not bracing my toes against the hull itself. What fun I had.
The scale was easily identifiable under the glare of two 500W lamps as darker and shinier, almost wet looking against the rough pock marked steel. Boy did the needles chew through it, and it was particularly satisfying to see showers of the stuff raining down upon my goggles. Even so- now and then it somehow managed to get through and stab me in the eyeballs, great. I fished some whopping chunks out from under my eyelids each time I went for a pee, a ritual which increased in frequency as I sought solace in more and more cups of sweetened tea.
When I eventually clambered out from my narrow torture chamber at the end of the day I was astonished to discover that I’d done most of the port side. Great joy indeed and silly walk to the loo to pick more crap out of my eyes. Then I decided to have a long shower in which I revelled- and used half a bar of soap again, I must’ve been absolutely filthy.

Wednesday held similar experiences for the most part, that is until I swore at the needles and decided to break out my new toy instead. The previous week I’d purchased a basic, and small shotblasting gun from machine mart; it uses aluminium oxide grit (hugely overpriced at the same shop). This contraption made me sing with joy, as it brought the needlegunned surface up to a stunning matt silver finish and even winkled out contamination from the tiny gap along plate lines. In spite of putting a large plastic sheet down in order to recycle the grit it still proved a thirsty machine and the law of diminishing returns led me to decide to concentrate on hitting the bits that Robin would most need scrupulously clean- the rivets and platelines. I had my hood tied up tight around my mask and goggles to protect against blasting my own forehead off and amused myself by singing ‘once on a hill with a lonely goatherd’ and making up most of the verses. I still have no idea why, it just seemed right at the time. God the beer was good that night, that pub has long since got used to seeing me arrive in a state of total disarray.

Thursday I managed to finish the job (!) and wobble out of the shipyard at about four in the afternoon. I slept like a dead animal that night and inexplicably felt fine the next day. This was good, I had to achieve another days work in Epsom before chasing myself back to the boat for one final attack, this time in the bosun’s store. Christ.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Supersam's Bicycle.

And a decent view of the bow. Thanks to Marks extra wideangle Nikon.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Six days before the mast, will ye serve? Part 1

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.

Open Deck Surgery.

With the pointy end nearly done (weldy-wise), attention has been turned to Wendy's knackered stern. In preparation for what came next dear Robin spent a frantic week cutting ALL the deck over the trim tank, seemed the right thing to do as most of it was really bad and I didn't fancy trying to crawl around inside the stern with the deck still on, banging my head every couple of minutes and swearing even more than usual. Here's a picture of how it looked half way through his mission. Sometimes just removing the crusty old steel makes things look loads better, even if it does leave massive holes where bits of boat should be. Turns out we definitely made the right decision- brace yourself, we've been very busy indeed...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Isn't She Lovely?

I mean Becky of course, but the new compressor is pretty hot too...