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.