Tuesday, March 27, 2007

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is quite explicable
that labour is inexorable
and one day the miracle
will be incredible.
Mumsie x

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