Friday morning dawns, and there’s still lots to do. Yvonne arrives with the flags and the old bowsprit is taken round to the boat as a temporary mast to dress her overall. She also has bunting for the inside. Chris has very kindly let us make use of his empty tent for storage since the launch of his boat a couple of weeks ago. He’s also happy for us to make use of it as a reception venue, so this is also dressed up and trestles laid out with drinks and nibbles.
The launch is scheduled for around high water at 1050 and people begin to arrive as the preparations continue. It’s great to see so many people coming to help us celebrate. The party goes on all day, and into the evening with another musical gathering to round off the night. Throughout the day, we’ve also received messages from as far away as the Baltic and South West England – thankyou to everyone who’s supported and encouraged us on this rather long journey. There’s still quite a lot to do before we get out on the water, so keep looking out for the next instalments of our story!
After collecting the lead from Pete and Clare’s on Wednesday, the weather deteriorates even more, with high winds, storms and rain, but the forecast for Friday is better.
Derbyshire friends arrive early afternoon and park up the campervans near the tent, and after Steve pressure washes all the lead, there’s a human ‘chain’ to load it aboard.
With all the preparations done, it’s time for a relaxing evening before the big day.
It’s launch week, and getting quite exciting! Mark, Tidemill Manager, has been making the plans which we keep a little bit secret . . . she’s going to be taken out of her tent on Wednesday, and dipped in with the travel hoist to check everything’s OK.
On Tuesday afternoon, Mark, Steve and Andy take out the props, which have been holding up her hull for nearly ten years and gently set her on the trailer, ready for the trip round to the travel hoist in the morning.
At 0800 sharp on Wednesday, 2 August, Mark, Steve and Andy return with Henry to take her round to the travel hoist. It’s quite a long drive, over somewhat bumpy ground, but from his stance on the stern, Steve is surprised to report how smooth the passage is! First challenge is to check that she’ll actually fit under the top bar in the tent . . . taking the lower bar out certainly made the tent even less stable than it has been of late, especially with the stormy weather this week. She fits with about a foot of headroom, and starts on her journey round the Marina.
So, out she comes with a better idea about where the lead should go . . . there’s a trip to Pete and Clare’s tonight where the lead has been safely stored for the past ten years.
Steve and Jim spent a long day last week making final tests on the engine which was fully refurbished with Jim’s help in 2011 and put back into the boat in 2014. Find the full engine story, with videos here.
Last week, they set up all the fuel lines, replaced all the electrics and set up a new starter battery ready for the launch. Peter checked it all out, along with a modified arrangement for the exhaust, on Monday 31 July and gave us the final go-ahead that it all seems OK for Friday . . . Steve also fitted a sacrificial anode, to protect the propeller from electrolysis.
One electric and a manual bilge pump have also been re-fitted. The manual one is more convenient to use and, for now, the electric pump is sired from the starter battery ready for launch day.
We still remember the phone message from Mark, back in December 2006: “Hi Steve, your boat’s sunk!” Watching the bilge pumps, as she takes up, will be Steve’s main priority next week!
Steve fits our Transport Trust ‘Red Wheel’, awarded way back in June, 2010. ‘Cachalot’ received one of the Transport Trust Restoration Awards of the year, 2009. We were most grateful to receive the grant, sufficient to purchase the majority of the planking.
Sincere apologies must go to the Transport Trust for taking rather longer than anticipated to finish the work! In our proposal, we indicated she would be ready to join the Return to Dunkirk in 2015. Hopefully, she’ll be able to join the Return in 2020.
Once work on the engine was finished when Jim came to help last week, Steve installed a bracket for the main battery unit and fitted the new depth sounder and prop. Having stayed at home to work on the house project, Bev returns to Suffolk with Simon, who joins us for a few days. He's the first person to sleep aboard since we bought the van in 2007! He has to manage with a cushion directly onto the sole boards. The interior isn't scheduled until after she's launched.
Dave and Moray arrive to check out the 'fit' of the chainplates, and make some final tweaks to the curves. These are now all firmly fitted in place, and looking good.
A major 'essential' task is to clear the front of the tent, where the workbench and storage area has been for the past ten years. Simon and Steve get to work sorting through all the wood under the bench, with smaller pieces put aside as firewood for Claudia. Then there's all the tins of old paint and varnish, glue that's gone off, out-of-date flares and fire extinguishers, etc., etc. . . . what a lot accumulates!? Fortunately, Chris has let us have use of his tent next door for dry storage, empty since his boat was launched a couple of weeks ago. Thankyou, Chris! As the bench is cleared, it's moved to the other end of the tent and re-erected. Bev returns from a shopping trip to find that the new bench has the electrics set up almost well enough to pass a Building Inspector's visit (unlike the trailing wires we've had for the past ten years).
After fitting the stemband and gammon iron, it was time to paint the deck. I’ll let the pictures tell the story of what she looks like now, nearly ready for launch with the date now confirmed as Friday 4 August . . . the bottles of fizz are ready!
After a weekend at home in Derbyshire, Steve packs the Bongo with everything that’s been in storage at the house awaiting the time to launch! It’s quite exciting, finding all the carefully stowed parcels and packages.
There seems to be lots of space around the house as everything is brought down to our neighbour’s driveway for loading. There’s cushions for the main cabin, warps, sheets and assorted ropes which may (or may not) be serviceable, the old sails along with loaned sails from Ratsey & Lapthorn . . .
‘Cachalette’ has been collected from Carsington Sailing Club to be trailed down to Suffolk. She’s been neglected for the past year or so and is in need of some maintenance and a fresh coat of paint and varnish.
All goes well until Steve joins the A14 and notices some of the van’s instruments aren’t behaving as they should. Worried about what the problem might be, he decides to pull in at Huntingdon Services and a call to the AA results in the diagnosis – failed alternator.
After some failed attempts by the AA Service man to secure one, a recovery vehicle is called and arrives to take Steve the rest of the way to Woodbridge. It was excellent service from the AA, who tried hard to make a roadside repair and then took great care with towing the boat and delivering the Bongo to just the right place at the Tidemill beside our tent.
Fortunately, Steve doesn’t need to use the van for the next few days and has already found someone to deliver a new alternator at a reasonable price – so it’s back to plans for the launch!
While we wait for the metalwork to be returned, there’s plenty more to do!
The long bolt is drilled, and secured just above the rudder stock and rings for the mainsheets are all secured through the deck.
The big plastic box storing yards of tangled electrical cables is unpacked and instruments are checked, then fitted in place ready for the electrics to be re-installed. The bilge pumps, in particular, are scrutinised and cleaned up ready for service.
Sadly, it seems the depth sounder hasn’t survived, so there’s quite a bit of research to source a replacement to be fitted before the launch.
Steve will be returning to Derbyshire in the Bongo, via Birmingham to pick up Simon, and plans to get the deck painted with at least one coat before leaving on 14 July. The weather is kind, with a gentle drying breeze and no rain . . .
He plans each day allowing time for a few more coats of varnish and then gets the coachroof painted in Epifanes no. 24 with non-slip pearls added, to match the hull. Before the chainplates can be fitted, due to the change in design, there’s six more frames to be fitted inside the hull – a piece of work unaccounted for in the list of ‘essential to do before launch’ list!
Bev sets to work masking up all the varnished areas in contact with the deck in preparation for painting. She takes the car back home on 10 July to get some more work done on the house before Simon and Steve return at the end of the week.
We know Dutch OGA friends Rik and Celeste on ‘Cine Mara’ and Fred on ‘Morgaine’ are visiting the East Coast. We track them down while they’re at anchor in the Deben, and invite them for a cuppa – our first visitors on board, even if she’s still in the tent on her cradle!
Steve and Bev return to Woodbridge on 3 July, collecting the newly galvanised fairleads from BronzeWork, Martlesham. Along with final coats of varnish and painting the deck, fitting all the metalwork is one of the major jobs for completion before we can launch. The four renovated fairleads fit snugly and with another coat of varnish to the capping rail are looking good. Warm and sunny makes working in the tent a bit hot, but it feels good to be on the final list of jobs to do – even if it is rather long still!
Moray and Dave arrive from BronzeWork to do a ‘final fit’ for the stem head, stem band, mast band, gammon iron and chainplates. Checking out the running of the bowsprit results in some modification to the capping rail and bulwark to let it pass through the gammon iron!