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!
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!
Whilst checking the fit, lying in the forepeak, he knocks out a chock and it slips, the solid oak dropping 18” onto his face! Clutching his mouth and expecting to find a handful of teeth, Steve’s relieved to find there’s just bruising. Bev doesn’t find out about this incident until she returns to Suffolk . . . apart from the Samson post being completed and fitted, the rudder is at last hung and a final coat of primer applied below the waterline in preparation for Bev’s return to do the anti-foul.
More jobs ticked off the list! The rudder stock is fitted and new tiller now in place. Control cables for the engine are connected with control lever and stop button installed in the cockpit, stern gland greaser re-fitted and new capping to complete the restored cockpit coaming. Bronze skin fittings all cleaned up and replaced, along with her Dunkirk plaque, polished and back in place. We’re getting there, she’s beginning to look like a boat ready to float!
There were two weddings, another ski trip to Val Thorens and the kitchen project to occupy us from January to mid-April 2017, but Steve made time to write a long list of all the jobs that need to be done in preparation for getting in the water this year!
There’s new sails to be made, and Ratsey & Lapthorn have been engaged to make these, so we’ll be off to Cowes later this month.
Moray McPhail, at BronzeWork in Martlesham, will be making the new keel bolts and sorting out all the other metalwork for us. Following discussions over the chainplates, it was agreed to have a channel to carry the shrouds over the bulwarks so, on our return to Suffolk at the end of April this was the first job to be done, port and starboard.
After joining the OGA at the Tollesbury Rally on 29 April, we returned to Woodbridge but the incessant wind forced us back to Derbyshire by the end of the week!
Alongside the 'other' winter project at home (a radical extension to the kitchen), Steve has a few boat-related tasks in mind. After setting up in the front room to varnish the skylights and coachroof hatch, he makes a start on the new tiller at the beginning of December, where it's warm enough to glue up the laminated wood.
The planing and sanding has to be done in the top shed, but it's brought back into the house again for the varnish, then takes pride of place along with the restored coachroof skylights and cabin hatch, awaiting the trip back down to Suffolk.
With the hull painted, deck finished and all the spars ready, there’s plenty of smaller jobs to do to get her ready for launching next year.
The coachroof is not being replaced, but the skylights are in need of some attention so are brought back to the house for the winter, along with the hatch cover. The sitting room with a table set up is dry, dust-free and warm – the ideal workshop for stripping them down and varnishing!
First week in October and it's still mild enough during the day, though the nights are rather chilly. The bulwarks have several layers of varnish and the last coats of paint are applied to the hull. There's plenty of tidying up and sorting through all the tools to take home for winter projects in Derbyshire.
Finally we tie down the tent as best we can and hope there's not too many storms before the Spring.