After nearly two years of weekly struggle for meaningful work, and of course any money to go with it, I seem to have finally landed the right way up.
I’m proud to say that I now have what I consider to be the dream job I have been hoping for for a long time and have landed work as a welder fabricator at a boatyard that builds boats and houseboats from the keel up. Ever since I had the good fortune to employ Robin and Larry the idea of doing this kind of thing has been a massive ambition of mine. I know, having gone through the whole saga of rebuilding Wendy Ann 2- anyone else would probably run several miles at the prospect of having to do any of it again. So I must be a bit mental as it’s something I’ve not quite been able to get out of my head. Therefore I consider myself very, very fortunate indeed to be part of the small team that’s building this:
She’s destined to be a 23 metre houseboat, will have a five metre beam, a sensibly shallow draft, and two floors of accomodation. Unlike some this one will be boat shaped rather than house on pontoon shaped, and the only reason the pointy bit isn’t on yet is because we’re still waiting for a decision on the exact final shape of the bow, hopefully we should be able to start on this within the week.
We’re working to a series of tight deadlines, and when I started ten weeks ago this was just a huge pile of plate. I’m lucky to be working with a really good bunch of people, all of whom have absolutely loads to teach me. Clearly I’ve had to make some adaptations to what I already learned in order to get on, low hydrogen stick welding has been replaced by MIG plants, and oxy-propane burning gear by plasma cutters. But there’s a lot of familiar ground (and grinders) too. Oh, there is one big difference, much of Wendy Ann involved trying to get a lot of plates to curve gracefully in several directions at once; by contrast we want all of this to end up absolutely straight and flat. Anyone who’s ever worked with plate steel will tell you that there’s no such thing as a perfectly flat plate fresh off the truck, but the principles are the same, just in the other direction.
Mind you, having said that the hull bottom and chines on this baby are 12.5mm thick, which I think might qualify as heavy plate. It’ll bend sure enough, but it wants a lot more persuasion before it goes your way.
However, there is nothing simple about this metal bashing. I was a bit daunted when a chunk of the responsibility for getting this build right was placed upon my shoulders as the learning curve feels huge, and it’s also unusual for me to be required to tell colleagues what to do. I’m gradually getting my head round the whole thing, but am finding myself thinking around issues at work all the time that I’m not there too, just to try to keep up. Nevertheless, it should be pretty obvious that I’m loving it, and that everything seems to add up at the moment even if it doesn’t seem to leave much energy for my own vessel. Indeed it’s a rigorous physical and mental workout each day. So my targets for Wendy Ann 2 have had to go through some, er, reimagining. For the first few weeks after starting this job I came home from work every night to more or less pass out face down straight away. Luckily this proved to be a passing phase. Now that I’m finding my stamina a little better I’m getting back to working every weekend on Wendy, although I’m aware that it’ll be tough to get used to this next step too. I’m hoping that by taking things a little easier on board on Sundays I’ll be able to keep going, and if not, then I guess I can always um, try to remember how to have a lie in…