Time to go back to black this weekend in the engine room bilge. R has finished cutting the big rectangular hole out of the keel plate so it was my turn to get in there and make the most of the marvellous opportunity to clean up even more and have all the shit just fall out of the boat.
It began on Saturday with consternation, I’d decided to use a degreaser and pressure washer to blast the (still after all this time and effort) greasy undersides of the frames out first but my fancy borrowed pressure washer just wouldn’t deliver the whack I knew it could. Robin gently pointed out that the tap I’d connected it to probably didn’t draw from the mains, and after only a little bit of head scratching we discovered that the tap on the other side of the yard most definitely did run at mains pressure. I connected the shipyard hose to mine own with a little connector I’d brought along almost as an afterthought thinking, well, I might need it. Need it I did, and I began my attack of the bilges in earnest. Scrubbed a load of (frankly crap, it turns out) detergent based degreaser vigorously into all the corners and hidey holes and turned the pressure washer on in the early afternoon.
Wendy Ann quickly became inundated, and within minutes rivers of filthy water were pouring out of the bottom, only feet from where robin was working on the starboard side rivets and pits welding. Fire on the outside, water on the inside, it struck me that this arrangement of elements is definitely the wrong way around, but maybe strange things happen to ships that stay out of the water too long or something. I kept going, scrubbing more degreaser in (hardly worth the skinned knuckles) every now and then, and several times I indulged in the bizarre sport of lying underneath in all the soupy black stuff whilst attempting to get at the really difficult bits, with the inevitable result that I rapidly became extremely wet.
At this stage it didn’t really bother me, After all I used to spend entire weeks riding a bicycle for money through February downpours, and that was easily worse than just a few hours enduring a sort of indoor rainstorm in June. So I cracked on until about 9pm. The point at which I discovered that two corners still had bloody grease lurking in them was also the point at which I thought ‘sod this, where’s my cigarettes?’ so I sort of stopped a bit arbitrarily saying pooh to degreasers and was absolutely fine until I ventured outside the boat tent to tidy away the hoses, where exposed to the gentle late evening breeze I almost instantly began to quake dangerously, as my senses quickly caught up with the idea that I’d been immersed in cold water for several hours. I ran, chattered and shook my way through putting those hoses to bed and sprinted for the shower, whereupon I stood thawing beneath water of an entirely different nature (needless to say temperature) for some time. Hooray for shipyard showers. My boots however have seriously taken the hump at this sort of treatment and had collected an inch of dirty water inside them, because Goretex can keep water in just as well as they say it keeps it out, so now my boots were wet for the rest of the weekend, this simply daft oversight on my behalf made me feel just a wee bit stupid as I squelched around in them preparing my tea that night .
Next day after splatting some paint around on my collection of new hatch covers and removed floor bearers (from forward), I poked around the scene of the previous days monsoon and after a very strong coffee decided that my ordeal had after all yielded fruit, and indeed most of my bilges were now not greasy at all, but instead were already beginning to consider the idea of going rusty.
Bugger that- thought I, and set to with airhammer and grinders, this two pronged attack proved surprisingly rewarding, it did however necessitate the testing of my ability to get up close and really personal with both devices, the arrangement of surfaces down there is intricate and they’re collected into a series of very tight spaces, so I often found myself kneeling on the yard floor grinding around rivets inches from my nose. No problemo for a bilge rat like myself so pretty soon a small section (the length of a full plate of new steel) gleamed all bashed silver and pristine. The best bit was being able to get at the tiny layer of scale on the faces of the frames to which the new hull will fit, can’t say much cleaner than that, this joy wasn’t even dented much by my discovering it’s amazing just how many bruises you can self-inflict during a days work. Things went so well that I started to mentally calculate how long it’d take me to do the entire engine room bilge to the same standard, then I took a tea break during which I encountered the reflection of my ghastly visage in the mirror in the gents. I was seriously Filthy again. Hello Wendy.
Oh dear, so in for pennies and pounds I went mad and broke out the joy that is Rustroy.. This odd liquid makes grand claims about substantially extending the life of any chosen paint coated over the top of it by binding the microscopic layer of surface rust together with the steel surface and converting the lot into something called a tannate compound (eh?), creating a stable base for any paint you like, in other words, slap it about all over the place (it seems hard to get wrong) and get almost as much all over yourself whilst scrambling around on the filthy floor under the boat. Then stand back and watch as the weird science gets to work and turns your chosen bit of boat a really cool deep black. Opinions differ as to this stuff’s usefulness, I know a few people who swear by it, and an equal number of people who completely disagree, even saying it’s a bit mickey mouse- but truth is I have already applied a small amount in the darkest corners of the forward accommodation and forepeak, which all now lies hidden underneath Steve’s fancy paint job, figuring it can’t hurt as long as the steel’s dead clean first. So sign me up for a pair of those big black ears and call me Walt I guess. In the case of our engine room though, it’ll be a few months before it receives it’s royal paint treatment so in the meantime I figure it’ll help preserve those tricky bilges as I finish each one, thereby demanding less work in the long run as well as giving me a kick as each weekend stint of work draws to a close. Cross fingers anyway. It’s difficult to weigh up all the advice and I’m beginning to realize that sometimes you’ve just got to try it to form your own opinion, and that’s probably the only one that counts in the end.
I know I’m supposed to be dealing with the temporary floor forward and the staircase and the winch and the chain and bridge floor and bolting the sodding bridge down (definitely another story) and about a hundred other things, but I only have two arms, no time, and a brain, which occasionally needs a good kicking. But I promise one day there’ll be really really longwinded stories in the blog about all this too.
Now…where’s that wine?