12 October, 2015 finds us back in Derbyshire and a sense of being ‘in limbo’ sets in after so long away. What are we going to do? There’s little interest in the house in Matlock Bath, and as we scour for sale listings in Suffolk and Derbyshire, we realise there probably isn’t a better place to live, after all. Following a ski trip to Val Thorens in late January, the decision is made . . . pay off the Estate Agent, take the house off the market and plan some serious ‘home improvements’!
The workshop at the top of the garden becomes a hive of activity again over the winter months, with the smell of tallow, varnish and leather, often brought back into the kitchen when it becomes too cold or damp outside. Steve turns his mind to the standing rigging . . . shrouds, backstays, forestays and new dead-eyes are all complete, re-served and ready for the launch day.
We take a short break for a trip to Holland at the end of February 2016, meeting up with the Dutch OGA for a weekend of baking bread and learning to splice ropes. Inspired by both bread-making and ropework, it’s back to Derbyshire. After seizing in the new thimbles the blocks, made nearly ten years ago when the project didn't seem to be quite so big, are ready for use. Steve experiments with the lathe for a new set of parrel beads. Made from some ash felled in our own garden, he’s really pleased with his example of ‘tree to sea’, as they fit neatly onto the gaff.
Next it’s the gaff spar. The jaws are completely shattered, so new ones are carefully crafted from oak during a sunny spell in mid-March. It then turns too cold and wet to varnish outside, so, leathered and gaff is fixed to the spar, it’s brought in through the sitting room window and just fits the length of the room for several coats of varnish. Taken outside again, it's awaiting transport back down to Suffolk along with another of the ‘bits and pieces’, the refurbished cover for the rudder stock, gleaming with new varnish and polish.
After being forced back to Derbyshire by gales at the beginning of May, we set off for sunnier climes in Italy. Travelling by train via Derby, London, Paris and Milan then to Siracusa, Sicily (with the train boarding the boat to cross the Strait of Messina), we returned by overnight ferry from Palermo to Naples, flying back to Gatwick after a few days sightseeing in Rome.
Progress having been seriously delayed this year, Steve spent just over a week in Woodbridge in early June, achieving his Springtime goal of getting the whole of the hull interior painted at last! ‘Henry’, the hardy and generally trusted vacuum cleaner, did need the smile wiping from his face when he fell from a deck beam knocking a tin of (very expensive) paint into the bilges! With grey bilges and white above the sole, she’s looking good, and another step towards putting on the deck.
Mid-June found us back in Derbyshire for the Eroica Britannia at Bakewell Showground. Much colder than last year, the weather didn’t dampen our spirits as Beverley joined Steve and Rob for a most enjoyable (and challenging) 55 miles up hill and down dale along with 3,000 ‘heroic’ riders on classic pre-1987 bicycles.
4 July and it’s off to Suffolk again, taking the Bongo and the car for the ‘long haul’, with no distractions until August! The tent's become somewhat untidy, leading to some ‘home improvements’, clearing out old wood that ‘might come in handy’ as patterns and extending the workbench to full-width of the tent: total cost, one bag of nails at £2.49!
After more discussions, sucking of teeth and research into the definitive plan for the deck, it’s decided: marine ply and glass, painted to provide the look of canvas. Now the decision's made, Steve's fairing the deck beams and finishing jobs it’s easier to do without the deck on, and ordering the ply, of course. Water and fuel tanks are thoroughly cleaned, and securely installed along with a new fuel filter.
22 July: ten boards of plywood arrive on a large lorry from Lathams. After stacking it safely, we depart for Yarmouth, Isle of Wight for the weekend to say 'bon voyage' to the OGA fleet sailing to St Malo. On our return, we find Marion and Ian are stormbound on 'Eleanor' in Ipswich, they cycled round to see the boat and invited us back for supper. Yesterday, Trevor, Peter and Paul were in the Tidemill on 'Gromit', so we all repaired to The Anchor for an evening meal.
Our trusty Bongo, due for it's MOT in May, has to have more welding done in order to pass. This means another late start to work in Woodbridge, but there's been great progress in the Derbyshire hilltop workshop!
Steve's been working on the cockpit floor, engine box and cabin sole, using the reclaimed teak from the deck.
With all the patterns carefully made before leaving Woodbridge, and brought home to Derbyshire, the winter project was to make the engine box and sole.
After a few experiments with the teak reclaimed from the deck, and various options for 'holly', the final decision was made and Steve started work in earnest.
Many chilly hours spent in the workshop resulted in a wonderful varnished engine box becoming part of the living room furniture in February, and by Easter, the sole was complete as well!
July 7, 2014 finds Steve and Simon in Suffolk, preparing Cachalot for caulking. Before he leaves for Berlin, Simon makes a perfect job of putting more coats of primer on the hull, and we engage Paul to start work on 22 July while we go to Berlin to visit Julia and Simon.
At the end of July, determined to join in with the Dutch OGA Cross Country Tour, Bev took her bike to the Netherlands on the ferry, joining the fleet in Haarlem to ride and sail with them to Den Helder, returning mid-August after helping Claudia to move Else. But that’s all another story . . .
Paul and Steve made excellent progress with caulking and starting with the interior and we return to Derbyshire for a couple of weeks at the end of August. After an epic furniture removal trip to help Kate and Simon (Chesterfield – Barnsley – Matlock – Birmingham – Southampton – Chesterfield in 36 hours) we return to Woodbridge as the weather looks set fair until October.
On 26 September another milestone is reached as Paul completes the caulking and ‘paying up’. We spend another week tidying up and preparing the tent for another winter, concerned as to whether it will actually survive. This really must be the last winter Cachalot spends under her tent! We head for home on 4 October.
Once we could get outside again in March 2011, Steve started to strip the engine down. There were regular consultations with Jim, research on the internet, conversations with Yanmar dealers and French Marine in Ipswich. Work progressed well, with spare parts ordered and arriving promptly, the engine started to look really shiny again.
With the finishing touches to the engine restoration completed in January 2012 . . . it runs like a dream, with thanks to Jim for encouragement and expert advice, as it waits in the workshop for the trip back to Suffolk.
Simon helped with moving the engine back down to the waiting Bongo for the return trip to Woodbridge in July 2014, and we enlisted the help of Tidemill staff and their new JCB, to lift it back into the hull.
This feels like another major turning point in the project!
It’s April, Easter weekend, and we’re off to Suffolk for the first time this year for the OGA Tollesbury Rally.It’s still too cold to stay long enough to do much on the boat, and we need to get back to Derbyshire anyway where we’ve left Neil and Joe tree-felling in the garden!
2014 looks like it’s going to be another late start for work on ‘Cachalot’, due to the weather, but Steve’s been making good progress in the workshop at home with the component parts for the cockpit all ready to go. Now the hull’s pretty well finished, we’re also thinking about caulking and what to do about the interior, before replacing the deck.
The May Spring Bank Holiday looks set to be fair, so we load the van with the first bulkhead and cockpit sides, made of marine ply, routed to simulate tongue and groove. Carefully put together from patterns, 300 miles away in Derbyshire, Steve starts to fit them all in place. Not only is the hull taking shape, we’re getting started on the ‘fitting out’!
The other major job is to prepare the hull for caulking, filling any minor blemishes before applying more coats of primer. In search of some sunshine and warmth though, we fly off to Italy for a week on the Amalfi Coast at the beginning of June, back in time for Steve to take part in l’Eroica Britannia based at Bakewell Showground.