Friday, July 30, 2010


Regular readers of this blog will know that over the years of doing this boat restoration malarkey, Becky and I have been bigtime blessed by our various friends and their frankly humbling enthusiasm to get involved on board with our epic task. Indeed, we couldn’t have done most of it, or stayed relatively sane without them.

An old friend from my past life of cycling the city recently expressed an interest in coming along to see what all the fuss is about, so last weekend she did. I’d previously thought that she would be amongst the last people to come visit but boy, was I ever wrong. It turns out that Ranka has a fondness for doing woodwork, so amongst other things it seemed like a good time to install the floor in the cabin. Yep, we used those ‘some-kind-of-mahogany’ boards that I’ve been trying to find the right home for hmmm, shall we say, some time. The boards required their T&G scraping out, and ordering nicely but apart from that they just needed cut to size before they were good to go. We fitted them, screwed ‘em down and plugged the 36 screw holes in less than a day; all we had to do then was wait for the glue on the plugs to dry overnight before planing and sanding them flush. Another dear friend, Mark, bequeathed me the 1/2 inch plug cutter that we used for this some time ago and it’s still one of my favourite little toys.

The plywood ‘L’ shape that you can see round the back is where a fitted set of seating will be going one day soon, so there’s no point putting mahogany there and anyway, there wasn’t enough.
It’s very nice to have dealt with another pile of hardwood, very nice to have another finished floor to admire, and after getting some varnish onto it yesterday we can actually stand very nicely on it too.

The next day we faced the interesting issue of how to go about showering before work, as after two hardworking days on board we were feeling a wee bit sticky. Ranka suggested a novel solution for us both, which went as follows… Get up early, take towel and shower gel to beach, stand in surf soaping up and wave to the bemused local dog walkers, tuck shower gel into sarong wrapped around head, swim off suds, clamber out and wander back to boat feeling very relaxed and about three sizes smaller. Works a treat, although I wouldn’t like to do it in February.
I should probably say that Ranka is from Croatia and survived the civil war there, therefore there’s not much that fazes her, so industrial camping on board doesn’t seem to present any obstacle to her enjoyment. And I should also say that I have a feeling she’ll be back- and most welcome she will be too. As we grow older, old friends remind us of what it’s like to be young once again.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Weld on hinges.

On the generator room hatches X 4. Just add paint, and grease. Grrrrr.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Nest Building, part one.

Wendy Ann’s steering room, or bosun’s store is going to be our main bedroom. It’s the only compartment on board which does not have full head height so it seems like an obvious choice. Since the rebuild it has had no floor, or any bearers whatsoever; so the space has been pretty much out of bounds as to occupy it means climbing the walls like a frog in a bowl.
Two weekends ago we changed all that. It’s one of those jobs which we’ve been meaning to do for aaaages and the steel for it has been kicking around getting in the way for a similar length of time. So finally I paid one of Becky’s helpers to cover for the day at the farm and we got the burning gear out on board. Simples really, Becky and I spent the day cutting, positioning and tacking all the pieces before she left me to weld the whole lot up.

Here it is before I painted the steels.
Photographs are funny things, sometimes they cover a multitude of sins and make stuff look better than it is. And at other times, like this one, they're A) crap and B) just can’t sum up the awesomeness that such a simple change has effected. Well, it’s a small space and a camera phone has limits…
The bosun’s store now has a steel ‘sled’ arrangement placed to fit no less than a queen size mattress, and there are floor bearers about a foot lower to take some nice thick old pine boards that I’ve been busy with in the workshop. The mattress itself will be supported on a frame built over the set of 6x2 timber inserts that you can see in the picture (they're notched into the steel sled so it's a little unclear what their dimensions are from the pic). The reason for this is because under that frame is a large empty space, and eventually we want to occupy that with a water tank, so the mattress base will have to be removable for when the time comes.
I need to lay my hands on some nice thick plywood to cover the thing before I can finally kiss goodbye to every night pumping up an airbed and sleeping surrounded by tools on the forward accommodation floor, then packing it all away each morning before my bed fills up with sawust/metal dust/varnish/whatever- an arrangement that has seen us through (gulp) five years of working on Wendy Ann 2. Going to get a real mattress too soon, oh ja…

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Resurrection?

Pictured here is one of Wendy’s two ‘original’ batteries. Together they could theoretically produce 620Ah of power. The only problem is that as you can see from the strata of dust they’ve lain dormant through the whole rebuild- almost since we purchased the vessel all those lifetimes ago. The last time they were used was during our first tow from Plymouth to Southampton, when they powered a bunch of lights overnight. Indeed the only reason they didn’t get scrapped just like everything else was that they were just tooo heavy to move and we weren’t about to pay for more craneage, so I’d always just thought of them as handy ballast.

Anyway-because of things like wanting to get some sort of security lighting set up I’ve been sidetracked into the brave new world that is twelve volt power. I remember talking to Tim months ago about his batteries on board Lady Jane and have got around to wondering if there’s a way to save these old batteries of ours. Knowing that there was every chance that they might be buggered, last weekend I gave them a top up, tested them and discovered to my relief that they had about 9 volts in each of them so stuck a crappy little halfords charger on one for a day to see if anything would happen. Sure enough at the end of the evening the meter showed 11.5 volts. So it seems they’ll take a charge, and my hope is growing that they may indeed be salvageable. If they are it seems silly to go to the expense of buying new ones, when the answer has been under my nose all along. These batteries of ours might possibly be in fairly bad condition, or they may be fine- I dunno. So I’m wondering how best to proceed with the whole show of getting them up to scratch, and also just how long it might take if they are a bit on the knackered side.
There are obviously plenty of reasons to have reliable 12v power on board, and I’m practically salivating at the prospect of being able to run domestic lights and stereos without the expense of burning fuel oil. We have been lucky and have had a very cheap source of pink diesel lately but this will not always be the case, and because of our vessels location we need to be completely independent in our power generation. And although it’s nice to have an engine running on board, it’s also nice to enjoy my evening beer in peace and quiet with just the gulls for company.
So I’ve gone a bit mental on a well known internet auction site and bought various things, including a fancy automatic charger, then completely lost the plot and picked up a solar panel too- figuring that there’s plenty of sunshine available down in Littlehampton. This is the reason why Becky usually has to ban me from perusing ebay as I can’t help buying stuff. Now the only problem is that I’m a bit daunted about how to put the whole lot together. Yet another thing that I’m almost an absolute beginner at. Although I did study ‘electronics’ at school for GCSE technology, I’ve obviously forgotten pretty much the lot- but I do remember enjoying it, so that’s a start. This weekend I hope to at least put the basics together and get some charge into those big batteries. Hopefully it’ll grow from there.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Radiate Everything You Are.

I’m just waiting for Captain Cautious to keelhaul me for this one.

Love it or hate it, this is a minor personal alteration that I’ve wanted to make for ages, and indeed with its sea-pup theme was originally planned for around the launch of our tug last year but things got a bit, hmmm, messed up so it had to wait until the time seemed right.
After being so pissed off about broken windows and all that I decided, well, now the time just seemed right- I suppose in a funny way it was about getting the episode out of my system. So yesterday I toddled along to New School Tattoos and enjoyed a brief moment of mild pain with the aim of doing myself up. A rather cool lady tattooist called Naomi made sure that my hands changed forever, just the way I wanted.

Tuesday was Becky’s birthday and Saturday will be mine, so this weekend we’re off to the boat with a few dear friends to celebrate being twelve again. We’re not going to do a stroke of work, which is something I may or may not find difficult depending on how many bottles of bubbles we manage to get through. Instead the plan is to enjoy just being there, take in Littlehampton Carnival, and fly kites on the beach before barbequeing something tasty for tea. Can’t wait.

Keep Calm and Carry On.

As promised, here’s a (bit blurred, sorry) snap or two of that oak ceiling, the one that I decided the installation of which would cheer me up. It worked. The wheelhouse ceiling is now 99.9% complete, requiring just the final cut pieces on each side, some beading and the teak ‘false’ purlin covers (that I’ve already made) to finish off. Oh, and a couple coats of finishing oil too.
I bought myself a cheap 240v nailer to do this from screwfix to help speed up the secret nailing process, and it behaved immaculately throughout, which makes a nice change.
This is what I love about wood- the material that this ceiling is made of started out looking like a load of old shit that was destined for the bonfire, and all it took was a bunch of work to end up with a ceiling that even in my humble opinion, looks a million dollar.
I am obviously rather chuffed with the results, and feel all the effort was rather worth it. By Christ I’m glad I hand sanded the stuff before I put it up though, as it was I spent the weekend wondering if they sell flip top heads in screwfix too…

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

How to Break our Hearts.

I’m back from working in France, and I had a much more positive blog entry in mind than the one I’m going to write, but that’s life I suppose. Having been back for over a week, I’ve been on board our boat several times since returning. But on arrival to work early Saturday morning I was greeted by the sight of this.

And this.

(I know, the bronze needs a polish)

Some poisonous vermin have vandalised Wendy Ann 2. My mind managed to flee through violation, shock, anger and resignation even before I called the police, which was more or less straight away. After speaking to them I let the Harbour Board know what’d happened and it wasn’t ‘til I got off the phone to them that I cried.

The little wankers- for I’m fairly sure the culprits are likely to be a group of males between the ages of say, twelve to fifteen (and we know what boys of that age like to do when left alone), smashed one of the engine room skylights and threw a shoe (??) through the hole, they also tried to break two of our engine room portholes, the ones we spent a fortune replacing glass on. Luckily the glass we used was 1/2 inch thick toughened stuff so although I think they used a piece of scrap metal bar which was found at the scene, they only managed to severely crack these. The engine room is absolutely covered in broken glass from the skylight, I’d only tidied the place up on Wednesday for god’s sake and I know the vessel needs ventilation but this is just not the way to get it. But the damage is going to cost money to fix and of course take precious work time away from real progress. Before you ask, of course we’re insured, but that’s not the point.
I mentioned tears falling already. What upset me was that whilst the authorities were sympathetic, a lack of witnesses and so on means that the likelihood of catching these brainless, selfish fucks and holding them to account is unfortunately close to zero. The police eventually called back and declined to visit the scene to dust for fingerprints or even just send a uniformed bobby down to show a reassuring police presence, a response which I was (shall we say) disappointed by, and I was eventually asked to take the items that may have fingerprints to the local copshop. So much for the community policing pledge boys.
Stupid thing is that apparently there’s an increasing problem with this sort of thing locally but the sergeant I spoke to tried to feed me the excuse that ‘it’s a long drive round to that side of the river’ when I suggested that a regular, visible police patrol just might begin to serve as a deterrent to idiots. It isn't, I do it all the time and it takes less than five minutes. I listened agape to this feebleness, before being subjected to a couple of horror stories (break in to yacht club and theft of distress flares, theft and burning of vessels etc) by the same sergeant. He seemed slightly mollified when I explained that this was really not what I needed to hear right now, before going on to politely suggest that maybe the local constabulary should try actually doing something rather than scaring the shit out of people who were already trying to deal with having just suffered a crime, but I doubt that I made any difference whatsoever. It’s a shame, because Littlehampton is a nice place full of decent people, but naturally now my faith in it all is severely shaken.
Inevitably, the upset gave way to anger and I knew I’d be in trouble unless I let the whole thing go pretty quick, for I found myself glaring accusingly at every gang of teenagers that wandered past the vessel on the way to the beach, which was not only unfair, but unhealthy too. The damage is so wanton and pointless that it near breaks my heart to think of it being done. I don’t expect kids to have any idea what it means to dedicate every fibre of your being to saving an old boat for over half a decade of your short life, but I would hope them to have enough basic respect not to smash it up for the fleeting, destructive fun of it. Call me naïve, but clearly I have hoped in vain. I keep telling myself that it could’ve been worse, and might be if it happens again.
The only thing to add is that we won’t be beaten by nasty setbacks like this, we’re tough, adult people who are blessed with the resource of fortitude; so all the upset and anger of Saturday will only serve to make us more determined to get somewhere this summer, I promise. It's only glass, and glass can be replaced, but unfortunately faith in oneself and human nature cannot.

Anyway, by the time the phone calls and so on were all done I’d lost a fair few hours. I decided to cheer myself up by doing something really, really satisfying- so I spent the rest of the weekend installing the oak ceiling in the wheelhouse, which meant working past ten at night for two nights. It looks brilliant, but it deserves to be unsullied by the filth of what’s written above, so I’ll give it a blog entry of it’s own, next.