We’re getting used to being back in the water now, and at high water can walk across the pontoon back to the bank where the tent was for the past ten years.
With the bunks now in place, it’s time to make decisions about the galley, and final positions for the batteries, fuel cylinder for the Taylors stove, pump for the water etc. There are limited choices, but we spend some time thinking through all the options, trying the stove in different positions.
Lists, and more lists . . . what to do next? Now she’s back in the water, and seems to be taking up OK with the bilge pumps kicking in at ever increasing intervals, Steve asks himself, “What are the priorities for ‘fitting out’?”
The damage caused by the winter storms is top of the list, after fitting the base for the second bunk, so we can both sleep aboard in comfort. The broken porthole is polished up, reglazed and re-fitted. All the damage to the deck and coach house roof are also made good and repainted.
He decides that the mast will be OK, bearing the scars of the winter storm, but the bowsprit is taken ashore for rubbing down and another coat of varnish.
Those best made plans . . . we were the third boat due in the travel hoist on Tuesday. First it was the Dunkirk Little Ship from Ramsholt, ‘Maid Marion’, who had been leaking badly since going back in the water after her winter ashore. She was coming up to the Tidemill to hang in the hoist while her seams were recaulked. Was this an omen? The next boat, ‘Rosebud’, was being lifted out as she was leaking badly and needed to come ashore for repairs.
Once ‘Maid Marion’ had set off back to Ramsholt and ‘Rosebud’ was settled on her cradle, it was our turn. Andy and Steve loaded her into the hoist and drove her down to the dock, Steve climbed aboard and she was lowered into the water . . . he went below, and after some time came out with a worried look. There’s a small waterfall from one of the seams and the pumps won’t take it. What to do? After a bit of consultation, it’s agreed we can stay out in the hoist overnight, recaulk and be ready to go back early in the morning.
Steve rakes out the offending seam (yet another different one, quite low down) and leaves it to dry overnight . . . we sleep in the van and at 6am Bev wakes to hear the gentle knocking of a caulking iron. By 8am when Steve and Andy arrive, she’s ready. We’ve asked to borrow a mains pump this time, just in case. Second time, and there’s just a trickle as expected, so Steve motors round to our berth.
As Bev waits on the pontoon to take the lines, he seems to be going very slowly – no, he’s aground as it’s still low water! Gently does it and eventually she’s secure in her berth, back on the arm below where the tent was. We’re expecting more visitors today, Joe and Angela are coming down from Derbyshire for a couple of days, so we book a table at the Anchor and Steve sits on board to check the bilge pumps are doing their job.
Bev returns to Suffolk in time for supper at the Sorrel Horse on Saturday night, after a surprisingly quick drive down from Derbyshire (given it’s Bank Holiday weekend) to find we can now sleep in the boat. Steve’s made it quite cosy while she’s been away, with a temporary light and electric heater as the nights are still quite chilly. It’s so much more roomy than the van!
No galley yet though, so Bev perfects cooking meals in the van that can easily be transported up the ladder and into the boat. We don’t risk bringing the electric kettle on board though, with no flat surfaces yet to make a brew. That’s Steve’s job in the morning, back down the ladder to the van to make morning coffee!
The weather’s been ideal for painting and once James had done the re-caulking, Steve’s been getting on well, so the boat is booked to go back in the water on Tuesday.
Bank Holiday Monday is spent checking everything is ‘shipshape’, especially the bilge pumps, electrics and connections for the engine.
There was some more lead at the house, which we’ve brought down and added to the bilges, some reclaimed from the renovation works and four good pieces given to us by Mike and Sue, saved from when they changed the engine in ‘Ro an Mor’ (or was it ‘Letitia’?). Thank you, anyway!
Now that she’s been in the water, it’s clear we didn’t get the waterline quite right! After carefully marking up the line there’s quite a bit of antifoul to remove, so Steve experiments with various methods to do this. It’s a pretty unpleasant task, and he wears the classic yellow ‘Marigold’ washing up gloves! Takes a long time, but it will all be worth it when she’s back in the water!
Keen not to miss her ballet class, and to catch up with other jobs around the house, Bev returns to Derbyshire for a few days, leaving Steve to get on with painting and antifouling . . .
Thursday 17 May we drive back down to Woodbridge, with the car all bright and sparkly after it’s trip to the bodyshop.
Steve assesses the work to be done before going back in the water. The main area of concern is where the stern post is leaking at the seam with the only old planking he didn’t replace . . . it had been bedded in with Sikaflex, which had failed, and there’s been quite a bit of shrinkage.
He decides to rake out the whole seam on both sides, spline the gaps and engage James to re-caulk. He’ll be here next Wednesday afternoon.
With no jobs on the boat for Bev, she spring cleans the Bongo, making a few modifications to over-tired bits of upholstery. She also measures up to make covers for the skylight and forward hatch.
Most work on the electrics was done last July, before the launch, but we’re also having shore power, easier to install before she goes back in the water.
Steve spends Friday and Saturday wiring it all in so it’s as unobtrusive, but accessible as possible.
After several false starts, we get down to the boat at last on 10 May . . . thwarted by bad weather, more work on the house project, van repairs and bringing Cachalette back to the house for some long overdue maintenance, April seems to have disappeared! It’s just a quick ‘long weekend’ to make plans for how to work now we don’t have the tent. First priority is to get Cachalot back in the water as she’s dried out a lot, being out of the tent exposed to the elements all winter. It’s strange to set up our camp on the ‘other’ arm, but there’s plenty of space to test out the new awning which Steve and Simon installed on our hill in Derbyshire. After the third or fourth attempt at mending the bent poles, we decided to invest in a new one, exactly the same as we know it fits, and we’ll take more care to peg down the poles and tilt the roof when it rains!
On Saturday night we had our first visitors to sleep aboard! Annie and Will were boat-viewing in Mistley and stopped overnight . . . there’s still only one bunk, not fully secure, but they managed OK. More friends from Derbyshire with an East Coast connection.
After a couple of reminders, Suffolk Sails in Woodbridge confirm they have supplied and fitted a replacement cover (at a very reasonable price) so we hope there won’t be any more problems before the weather improves, allowing us to return to Woodbridge and tidy up the damage before getting ready to go back in the water . . .
Having sorted out the boat, we’ve had plenty to keep us occupied until Easter (early this year, today, 30 March, being Good Friday): finish the kitchen, order a skip to clear all the rubbish and get the house ‘shipshape’ for a family gathering to celebrate Penny’s 90th birthday, drive to Paris with some of Simon & Ricarda’s stuff en route to Val Thorens for a week ski-ing. The van is becoming a mini-project, showing her age and we have more welding done to make sure it passes the MOT to serve us as ‘home from home’ for another summer until the boat is fully fitted out!
With stormy weather lashing the country, we scour reports and forecasts for the East Coast hoping that everything is OK in Woodbridge. On Tuesday, 13 February Steve receives a phonecall from the Tidemill whilst in Southampton and enjoying being ‘grandad’ . . . “Steve, your boat cover has been shredded in the storm and there seems to be some damage to the deck and coachroof.”
What to do? It’s a long trip, but Kate lends him a sleeping bag and he sets off only to be caught in long traffic jams on the M25 to arrive cold, tired and in the dark just before 8pm. After a fine meal and a pint at the Anchor, he settles down for the night, cosy in the warmth of the fan heater, loaned sleeping bag and comfy on the new bunks. No damp inside the boat, and it will all look less bad in the light of day.
It seems that a warp had tangled itself round a belay pin, ripping it out and using it to flog the deck, mast, coachroof and bowsprit, smashing the glass in one porthole. Having no workclothes, tools or varnish, Steve called at Larkmans and James lent him an ’emergency maintenance bucket’ with everything he’d need to make a temporary fix. A call at Suffolk Sails resulted in the possibility of a temporary cover being made in the next few weeks . . . a long drive back to Derbyshire and Steve’s now at work on finishing the kitchen!