Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Meanwhile, Back at the Office.

It seems to never rain, but pour. We’ve currently got this rather sweet little dutch barge on the slip. She’s in for some extensive doubling (overplating) of the hull, and a whole bunch of other works besides. But the doubling part of it is all mine. In four days flat me and my two trusty Nepalese labourers have managed to get eleven plates tacked into their proper position on the bottom of the boat, and we’ve done a decent job of it too- I’m well pleased at the progress. Of course, if she were mine we’d have to cut the whole lot out and start again replating the proper way but economics dictate that we don’t have, um, four years. Instead I’m told I have three weeks from Monday gone. I’m really looking forward to plating round the bow partly for the shape that the doublers will take up but mostly because doing so will mean that I don’t have to scramble around in this space:

It’s just a wee bit tight under there folks, each day has already become an steadfast exercise in contortionism and seriously athletic to boot. I’m considering asking my osteopath if he can have me fitted with a flip-top head and Stretch Armstrong back to make life easier…

Boats, you gotta love ‘em.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


They exist. As a pair. And they are equally as unfinished as one another, because I was careful to work in mirrors. What I did to one I did to the other.
And it’s only taken me three days. And then some.
I’m lucky, having just been granted some arbitrary annual leave, so have just spent a good proportion of it making a real, sensible stab at making some actual built in furniture that’ll A) accommodate nooks and crannies B) be removable at a pinch in whole or part C) hopefully utilise top notch craftsmanship or D) as near as I can get dammit. Maybe I can squeeze in E) be useful too.
Being skint is the mother of all bastards but contrariwise, at least it has the capacity to make you patient, even occasionally inventive. So these are made from a real wood jumble. Battening, 24mm mahog ply, inch birch ply, teak, 12mm WBP, pitch pine, 5mm AA birch, and a couple bits of celotex, they’ve got the lot. And I still have to do the nosings on the shelf bits, god only knows what they’ll turn out to be made of.
The pile of ‘useful’ wood stock on board (and, to my shame, off) keeps growing. There’s all sorts in there and it’s in danger of becoming the woodpile that grew tentacles and tried to take over the world.
Lacking a handy pocket Godzilla with which to deal with this I’ve decided that the only way out (apart from having a very expensive bonfire) is to actually make some of the things that have hitherto lurked in the dark recesses of my little brain, mostly for some time.
Built in the hardest corner of the boats interior I could think of working in, which required constant crawling in and out of the compartment to measure, mark, measure again ‘cos I forgot which side the half mil goes on, template, cut, assemble, disassemble, block plane, headache; here they are, my half finished bedside cabinets. Tweedledum and Tweedledee. All I need now is a Walrus. Oh Maaaarrk…

Monday, November 14, 2011

Propped up.

Not sure how I feel about the use of such a dreadful pun, but what the hey.
Moving this bugger required the invocation of the spirit of Kingdom-Brunel as it weighs something around half a ton, luckily all concerned still have the full prerequisite of toes, so that’s nice.
Pleased with it, looks good. Although a certain captain may be about to remind me that the propeller is supposed to go on the outside of the boat…
My thanks to Sleepy J and Lover N for their ingenious assistance.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kate Winslet.

Imagine my surprise when the following week after our little chainsaw massacre I returned to the boat to find the carefully stacked woodpile had been spread all over the island that wendy is moored to. As I arrived after dark it took me a while to understand why this had happened. At first the local youth got my indiscriminate blame, but as I gathered the bits of wood back together I realised what had actually gone on. The old boat had been constructed using bronze roves- effectively great big rivets, and someone had removed them all from my woodpile. Non ferrous metal of this nature commands a high scrap value, and indeed Jan and I had already rescued a bucketload of these from the ashes of the big bonfire the previous week. I realised that someone had invested some time in gathering a bucketload or four for themselves as well.
Feeling a bit sheepish I first cursed my own idiocy and wondered how much cash I’d just let slip away. Then I reasoned that it would’ve taken whoever did it some time and effort to achieve. Philosophically deciding that if they had the time and were desperate enough then I’d done them a big favour, generating a source of cash that probably paid their rent or whatever for a month at least. I’m lucky to have a steady job at the moment, and whilst it doesn’t pay so great, at least I can cover my debts and obligations each month. I ruefully reminded myself that I hadn’t had the time to get at the roves the previous weekend, nor had I come down this time to salvage them, being too preoccupied with my preferred state of dreaming about the next bit of Wendy’s line-out project. So I wrote the lesson off to experience and prayed that whoever the culprit was wasn’t having a good laugh at my expense.
I finished rebuilding the woodstack and told Jan all about it. He seemed only too happy to arrange a return to Wendy for a second weekend of wreck processing.
I wanted to get something at least for our efforts, so we decided to chop all the wood into foot long logs and lay it in as winter firewood for the woodburner, an effort which would remove the pile from the island and make everything nice and tidy at the same time. As we were getting into this we discovered that in fact not all the metal had been spirited away, just the easiest, biggest prizes. We dealt with each piece by knocking out the remaining roves before putting it through the chopsaw. Again the gnarliest bits found their way onto the bonfire, but by lunchtime the tide was on the flood and we realised that we were about to see it extinguish our fire. I was less prepared for the eventuality of a floating fire though, as burning logs suddenly started to wander away in the tide I hurriedly squeezed into my wellies to rescue them before they floated off to start fires of their own god knows where, I had these visions of other boats being torched to the waterline and your truly making the local paper for all the wrong reasons. When the panic was over I discovered that I could engage in a messy sort of ‘panning for bronze’ effort while the ashes of the fire were still submerged. At the end of the day Jan and I reckoned that we had more than doubled our ‘penny jar’ scrap metal pile. So this week I weighed the whole lot in, learning that our haul added up to 52 kilos before our labours were rewarded with a small fistful of hard cash, a welcome boost to what is still a very tight shoestring budget that we have to work on Wendy Ann with. And all the remaining wood is now neatly stacked on Wendy’s foredeck in what looks a deceptively small bundle, but it should be easily enough to see me through the coming winter.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Wreck Eaters.

This was nearly two months ago now, and incidentally one of the best weekends I’ve had for ages. But blow me, could I get the words together to explain it all? No, and I was sorely tempted to just publish my notes on the matter and let you, the reader, try to make sense of them if you will. In fact, that’d be a bloody good idea. Except for all the scribbly bits in the margins, which don’t really type all that well and even I can’t remember what they’re supposed to mean anyway.

Do you remember that unprovoked Indian summer’s friday night at the end of September? Three of us took an overnight bike ride from London to Littlehampton in honour of Jan’s birthday, the joy of cycling and, well, because we could. I chose a hilly backroads route that ensured dark, starry solitude, a few nasty big climbs and LOTS of screaming into the darkness long fast descents. Total distance for our route, about sixty miles. Jan (who as I’m about to illustrate is clearly insane) did this fixed, a feat which ten years ago I would’ve gone for, but these days must say I prefer gears, a freewheel, and brakes, touring in style. The last couple of miles home from the back of Arundel were the best descent of the lot, and we therefore arrived at Wendy at 3.30am experiencing a sweaty sort of sense of glee. We used to do these kind of overnight country rides all the time, although having my own boat as a destination is a new one. Since giving cycling up as an, um, profession (?!), I’m sorry to report that my legs aren’t what they used to be but still, I loved it all the same.
It’s what we did for the rest of the weekend that I really want to write about though.

There was a wooden 60’wreck laid on her beams alongside our own vessel. It had clearly been there a long time and I’d recently noticed that it was starting to break up. This bothered me, so I’d made the decision to break it in a controlled manner before tidal action did it in a less predictable way. (and on the Thursday prior to the bike ride had made a mad preparatory dash in convoy with Becky to deliver large amounts of tools, wellies, beer and a car to get home in on Sunday when we were done.)
As soon as everyone was properly awake and had rubbed their knees a bit we took Becky’s chainsaw to the rotten old hulk. Dismantling the bulk of the teak, oak and pitch pine wreck was a lot easier than I’d imagined it would be. This was probably because when Jan got hold of the chainsaw I glimpsed that faraway look in his eyes that means it’s probably time to stand well back for fear of losing a limb. So I did, quickly deciding that perhaps I should instead gather up some of the flak that he was rapidly creating. I got the waders on and happily sploshed around for hours; first in the mud, then in the advancing tide, shepherding bits of wood back to a growing pile on the shore. It was a belting sunny day and everybody, already sticky from overnight cycling quickly became coated in a mixture of 2 stroke exhaust, sawdust and mud. We tied ropes to the bigger chunks and when the tide came right in they were floated around our vessel and piled up too. At high water everyone downed tools and we wandered down to the beach for a welcome swim in sea. I’m still not sure why everyone found the fact that I’d taken a bar of soap in with me so amusing though.
Back at the boat. With the sun going down we built a big fire of the worst bits of wreck and it was time to ingest beer. Later we barbequed burgers on embers and at some point after that I showed my age by conking out in front of it, sorry boys. Sunday morning rolled around and unsurprisingly I woke first, found the embers still glowing so stoked them up, made some coffee and warmed myself while picking fluff out of my bellybutton and considering the universe in that ‘I’m the only living boy in West Sussex’ way that I love so much about sunrise at the boat.

Sunday was more or less a repeat performance, with Jan determined to carry on being a one-man deforestation problem, except by now he was running out of wreck. At least, he was running out of bits that were not completely submerged in the mud or full of concrete. I know he was having a good time, I know this because since then I’ve lost track of the number of conversations we’ve had that revolve around getting at the rest of the wreck and cutting that up too. Due at least in part to this, there’s a part two to this little story, coming next.