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.
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!
One last trip down to Suffolk in November finds us staying with James for the weekend of the East Coast OGA AGM. We check everything out for the winter, and hope that the old boom cover will afford sufficient protection against the weather until the spring.
After the launch, the bilge pumps were set and timed regularly – it all seemed to be going OK so we went sailing with James on ‘Kestrel’ with the East Coast OGA, setting out from Waldringfield for the August Cruise to Brightlingsea on 11 August. Andy agreed to keep a watchful eye on the bilge pumps, so Steve didn’t need to worry (much!) and could enjoy the sailing and a bit of relaxation for a week away . . .
On our return, the priority was to be the mast, but the bilge pumps were still running rather too frequently. Reluctantly, it was agreed this was more than just ‘taking up’, despite all the old tricks of sawdust under the hull . . . she needed to come out for a better look below the waterline. We could have had her lifted at the Tidemill, but a better option seemed to be the short motor up river to Larkmans, where James could have a look at her seams and do any work while she was left in the slings for 24 hours. The tides were just right, with high water around midday, so Steve motored up river on 23 August.
There’s still lots to do, but it’s not all work . . .
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!