Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lets Go to Wick.

Seeing as my all female crew (!) have blown my cover I may as well get on and write this.
I’m currently enduring a little forced exile at work. All boats eat money, a fact that many people who don’t own a boat (yet- but want to) don’t seem to grasp. They are the ones who say ‘oh, it must be so bohemian living on a boat’; well, unless I’ve got my history all wrong and bohemians actually do wear filthy overalls all the time, work 27 hours a day, never go to the pub, suffer near frostbite during the winter months and headaches the rest of the time, and also hemorrhage money on a regular basis before imbibing anything naughty- or even getting on board- then no, it’s not exactly a bohemian existence thus far. Wendy Ann is no exception, and because Becky and me have some fairly large plans for the very near future we’ve been quick to realize that some bugger will have to pay for them. Well, this time that bugger is me. Therefore right now I’m absolutely nowhere near my vessel, and have been for nearly three weeks, and I miss her terribly. What’s worse, I’ll still be nowhere near Wendy Ann 2 in four weeks time. There is definitely, as far as I’m concerned, a big downside to this particular fact. But on the other hand, some bugger has to earn the money. So yes, I’m in another country, doing the same thing I always do, in fact last week I was doing this:

You can take the boy out of the shipyard, but you can't tek the shipyard out of the boy. So there.

The only thing that galls me ever so slightly is that a few weeks ago, just as the date for departure loomed my work on board Wendy Ann was really going well and I was loving it. I mean, I was seriously fucking shattered, but boy was it looking good, and it was with a very heavy heart that I dragged myself away for the last time before this period of necessary abstinence.
I’m very happy that Becky is minding the vessel closely while I’m away, and I’m even happier that she’s roped a gang of her attractive friends into helping out.I just wish I was there to enjoy the privilege. Our boat is so much a part of my life that she’s ingrained herself under my skin indelibly, so it’s obvious that I find it so hard to leave her (this probably has something to do with all my blood, sweat, tears and money sloshing around in the bilges) but while I graft away in a foreign country for another boat shaped dream I’m reassured that my missus is deriving some pleasure from our creation that is, well, distinctly her own.
Meanwhile, whilst away from the boat my own experience of life has turned into something about as comprehensible as this:

Mind you, sometimes I'm wonder if it's always been this way. Hopefully things will soon be back to normal, whatever that is, and I’ll be back before you know it for the big plan. Then I promise I’ll make all the girls swab the decks. Naked.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Here come the girls

Yes we do and with style, laughter and muscle power to rival the boys.

Firstly, hello darling. Now before anyone gets excited that was just for Seb- currently away on work and left me in charge of Ms Ann, with would you believe it a list of ‘should you have time’ jobs. Oh, and I should mention at this point instructions on how to varnish and teak oil (in case I hadn’t done it before the cheeky ****). For those unititiated of you the opportunities for me to get to the boat of late have been very sparse due to starting my own business (ours really because there is no way I could have done it solo), so the idea that I can get down to look in on Wendy let alone work is, looking at recent history, laughable. However I had my own ideas and although the teak oil and varnish will get a look in, the girls and I had bigger plans…

Have a guess; when thing one disappeared one of the few remaining parts were the wheels from the gangplank. Well here they are, back on dry land, how strange, how did they get there? Why go into the mud to retrieve them unless you were down there anyway?

Here are some clues; we needed a car, a trailer (which in itself presented a problem seeing as Seb has the car with a tow bar) some muscle and a plan. This aforementioned plan involved two day trips a week apart, borrowing Jon’s (Jenny’s dad) Land Rover Discovery, a people carrier, a lot of dangerous manoeuvres, three planks, ice cream and a stroll on the beach. Oh, and ropes…

Can you tell what it is yet?

Oh yes, we have removed both empty IBC’s

Plan A wasn’t really a plan so we winged it and got into a spot of bother. The trouble was not getting the IBC out of the boat but getting the damned thing off of it. We hadn't accounted for the logistics of actually getting this huge thing up the deck to the walkway, going over or around fixed obstacles such as bollards. So we threw it overboard. Great, it’s buoyant we thought. However it won’t float ashore on a fast ebbing tide will it. Hence the mud, you can imagine the laughs and the hours it took to drag it round to a low part of the shore so as we could drag it out again.

We needed a plan B seeing as we were now filthy, exhausted, mildly traumatized and running late to do evening stables back at home.
So, week two. We checked the time tables, realised that it would be low when we got there so went prepared with three long planks with which to make a temporary gangplank on the uncluttered part of the deck. We lifted the IBC from the engine room, carefully onto our gangplank and pulled it ashore, rolled it to the trailer and away. Plan B worked so well that we were caught by surprise and left with nothing to do but go for ice cream.

This is a major job on Wendy Ann done and I couldn't have done it without the 'girls army'. The recruits being- my sister Victoria, who travelled down from Nottingham twice to take part, Paula, who managed to juggle motherhood of 4 around helping out and Jenny who managed to fit the last trip in before starting her new job- congats! All of whom worked so hard with a fantastic sense of humour, I couldn't have asked for a better team of friends.

The pictures speak for themselves really so enjoy, we certainly did and I am far too excited and pleased with myself to edit this blog further so apologies. The last piccie is for Paula; it is of her two cool dogs having a run on the beach. I had the pleasure of dog sitting them a few weeks prior to this madness; say hello to Bear and Pumpkin.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Phantom Flan Flinger.

As I promised myself, I managed to finish work, climb down from those perilous ladders and whisk myself away to Wendy for Friday morning. The downside of pushing myself so hard was that by the time I made it on board and embarked all the tools, absolutely smash and flake it I was. I tried coffee, then I tried sitting around enjoying the view (yup– still there.) I tried another cup of coffee whilst admiring the view. But in the end it was the arrival of the fishermen next door back from a mornings work that galvanised me into action. Because I was dog tired I had one of those days, you know, the ones when everything you attempt seems cack-handed, even if it’s not. I did however manage to survive the day without losing a thumb or gouging out an eyeball or anything, which is always a winner.
The plywood panels in the timber part of the structure were already lined behind with celotex and after last weekend now had all the electrical conduit in place, so I moused the wires through it before lifting out the panels and having a fight with the final layer of insulation that was to go in. I’m not sure how I feel about rockwool on boats because of it’s propensity to absorb water. I certainly wouldn’t put it on it’s own next to bare steel because it’d be guaranteed to soak up condensation and be a soggy mess in no time, but I’ve had these rolls of thin rockwool kicking around for a while and had long decided to fill the void between the celotex and the ply lining on the timber sections with it. As long as I put in a vapour barrier on the inside face to prevent water absorption, and also allow it to breathe out, the science says I should be ok, and I’m doomed to hope it’s right. Fitting it was easier said than done whilst single-handed. For each section I cut the rockwool to size and cut damp proof membrane to fit too no probs. The battle started when I tried to get everything to sit just so in position before attempting to slide the plywood lining back into position. Bloody nightmare, I discovered I needed the arms of an octopus and the patience of a saint. At the last minute something would always shift, bulge, or succumb to the laws of gravity. I tried all sorts of ways to pin, tape, staple or glue everything in position but nothing really helped. In the end it was a case of get it all into place, quickly, and shove. Consequently I only managed 4 1/2 of the eight panels which make the sides before giving up in frustration and awaiting the arrival of miss B, who walked across the gangplank to supper, a glass of wine and a comfy bed at quarter to midnight, which gave me plenty of time to batten out the details which I found I’d forgotten in preparation for the next day. Becky and I subsequently discovered that if the rockwool is cut just the right amount too big it can be persuaded to sit happily in place for long enough to down tools and make a cup of tea, but cut any bigger or smaller and it’s on the floor before before you can say ‘nowadays I like yorksh… bollocks’

Anyways, that dealt with the cabin walls, but the aft wall below those windows, and the floor were both bare steel. For months I've had most of the after wall chocked in with leftover bits of celotex, which certainly helped but the floor has been a big fat steel heatsink ever since the demolition of our old cabin. The plan was to sprayfoam it all out and neatly sidestep any condensation issues. We are aiming to sprayfoam inside the whole boat at some point (like, when we can afford it) so a small area like this inside the cabin makes a good test bed for our plans.

We were ready for the main event by lunchtime, having removed the panels and temporary insulation from the after wall, cleared everything out, pushed the hoover about a bit and indulged in some fairly industrial masking off.
After a fair bit of research we had invested in a small sprayfoam kit from x-pandifoam, which would theoretically cover the area we wanted to a thickness of two inches. The foam comes in two pressurised parts which need to be kept at 20-30 degrees C, the manufacturers suggested that we keep them in warm water baths to get them to the right temperature prior to use, so this is what we did.
I had been warned that for a small area the process of emptying the tanks would be extremely quick, so when everything was at the right temperature and each tank had been shaken one final time for luck it was time to don the teletubby costumes, take a deep breath and go for it. I immediately discovered that spraying this stuff on was bit like a cross between throwing cake mix at the wall, and one of the messier moments from Tiswas; and within minutes everything we wanted to be, and some stuff we didn’t was covered in creamy goo.
What I hadn’t bargained for was just how fast this stuff goes off. I’ve used tinned sprayfoam plenty on sites before but the foam we were using is different and sets by chemical reaction so within minutes it was more or less solid. Wow.
Bummer of the day was that the tanks ran out just as I had moved position to the tiny area of exposed steel at the bottom of the wheelhouse. So we sat around in stunned silence for a bit before working out what the hell to do next. With the benefit of hindsight I’m increasingly convinced that the stick on thermometers that come with the pack are not exactly quick to register changes in temperature, and, as the tanks depressurised and rapidly cooled we failed to realise and compensate. Therefore I’m becoming sure that we could’ve extracted a bit more yield from the kit if we’d understood this better. But because experience is just another word for learning from mistakes I’m trying not to stress about it.

With the steel all covered in splat, the process of unmasking and cutting back the inevitable overspray could begin in earnest, and the winner of this weekends Random Handtools That No-one Tells You About award is: the super sharpened kitchen knife. This puppy cut the dense foam so much neater than a saw, or various scraper type devices that we tried. I was gifted this knife at eighteen as a leaving home present, and I never thought it’d be used for this, but it worked pretty well.

That evening B had to go home to be ready for work early the next day. After waving her off with sadness I plugged in the tiny fan heater that has been used as life support over the years and within moments had to do something that has never, ever happened before on board. I had to turn it down. I’m not used to these levels of luxury, and was so stunned by this discovery that I turned it back up again, removed the larger portion of my clothing and stood around in the lovely warmth enjoying my drink and the (by now rather quieter) rumble of the generator just for novelty value of it. When I recovered my senses I was pleased to note that the space remained warm for a good while if I switched the heater off, and I soon began dreaming of a toasty boat when the whole thing is insulated. I think the heat must've gone to my head.

Sunday was a three coffee morning, and even with that hefty dose of stimulation my poor little brain felt like it was leaking out my ears. But it was time to put the panels I’d already made back in and then make the little ones that line the lower sections closest the floor. They are the darker squares in the pictures, being made from 18mm ply. Eventually most of these will form the inside of some fitted furniture but that’s a way off yet. By the end of another day of measuring and dust making and back aching I was able to see completed walls, all the way to the bottom. I began putting a protective coat of varnish onto my nice new cabin, using well thinned yacht varnish to penetrate deep into the wood- unfortunately this is the one step of the progress that I do not have pictures of, by this point being so utterly exhausted that my remaining reserves of energy were required for packing up and getting home for 24 hours of absolute rest.

For anyone who’s had the patience to actually read this far I apologise that it has been such a long and winding piece of writing, I’m really excited, particularly because all that remains to do (uh oh- dangerous phrase alert) is to install the ceilings and the floor before we have a fully lined space. The ply panels will eventually be covered with a rather prettier exotic lining, but that will have to wait- for like a year or two. Until then, we're more than happy to live with what we've got.