Back to Black.
Just before we got started on this I did get a bit silly about the new paint, even spending my first day there after SBS had finished the job tiptoeing around in my socks, because the finish was just so pristine. What a sight I must’ve looked, as I minced around gawping at the sheer silver wonder of it, scared to even touch lest I defile the virgin surface. What a bloody idiot. I’m relieved to report though that I got over it, and this state of play didn’t last long at all.
After all the excitement- and aforementioned (probably inevitable) reverie, brought on by all that lovely painting, we’ve finally found ourselves able to move our steelworking attentions on to the final third of the vessel. This comprises of a compartment known as the ‘bosun’s store’ and the actual stern itself, which was once used as a trim tank, filled with raw seawater to adjust Wendy’s attitude whilst towing. The raw seawater bit is a good indicator of just how buggered the stern really is, but we’re used to replacing perforated, wafer thin steel by now, so I’m undaunted.
It does however feel for all concerned, a bit like ‘once more into the breach dear friends’ but in a couple of weeks we’ve not made too bad a start I reckon. As you can see from the pictures, Robin has already made all the cuts necessary in the hull itself, including removing a large area which had a doubler plate (big steel sticking plaster- for the uninitiated) on the starboard side. The gap between the doubler plate and original hull was still full of rusty water, which made it seriously worth removing, and also made me swear never to recommend doubling, or overplating as it’s sometimes known- to anyone. Anyway, the upshot of all this cutting action is that our bosun’s store now sports a dramatically large hole in the bottom, big enough on one side to easily walk through, but I’m still undaunted. In fact, today the first new plate actually went back IN on the port side, which can’t be bad progress considering it’s still just about January. Robin has been attacking the rivets and platelines on the port side, and in spite of the fact that he’s now swearing about them (I hardly dare suggest to him that he’s nearly there), he’s already done more than a quarter of the remaining rivets on the entire hull…
Meanwhile, with the bottom off the boat again, I’ve seized the opportunity to do what I’ve learned-the hard way- to do best. Yep, I’m fully reacquainted with the airhammer and wirebrush, and I’m clambering around in the bilges (again) trying my damnedest to get all the otherwise inaccessible frames and corners properly clean. This process is taking some time. I spent the first weekend of my exertions being rained upon by great clods of grease, bitumen, rust, flakes of paint, chips of concrete, you name it, the bosun’s store bilge has the lot, and I confess I started with that familiar doomed feeling of ‘bloody hell, I’ll never get it done’ at which point I had to take myself outside and give myself a good talking to. But after a couple of days effort I’m finding my stride and the rate of finishing areas is gathering pace.
On a postscript for this entry, I believe that my dear (and only slightly eccentric) mother deserves a special mention, winning as she does my ‘first parent to don overalls for the greater good’ award. She invited herself along to help out on Sunday, all the way from France, where she now lives, and she very kindly shovelled many buckets of the crap I’d been knocking out of the bilges all weekend into the bin, as well as having a go at tidying the chaos that is the forward accommodation. Thank you Mum. Note the incongruously glamorous choice of scarf and headgear she wore in the photograph I took of her, that’s my mum all over really.