It’s generally too cold to start work this early in the year, but we’ve taken the plunge, and ‘upgraded’ the trusty Bongo for a 6 metre Fiat Adria motorhome! After 12 years, the Bongo was still a good van and, having passed the MOT (with a little bit of welding), we decided to sell and buy a van with insulation, heating and separate sleeping/sitting areas.
It was sad to see the Bongo driven off by her new owner last week, but lovely and cosy to cook, eat and sleep in the Adria, without having to change the layout of the van.
Parking above the boat at the Tidemill means Steve can get started with fitting out the forepeak while Bev makes the new van our winter ‘home from home’. We’re still discovering all the options which include hot & cold running water, fridge, cooker and a great heating system!
Back in August, we started to think about the area behind the chart table and how best to use the space. The beautiful piece of teak, reclaimed from an old wardrobe for the chart table, has been treated with several coats of varnish, and is ready to fit.
There’s been a change of plans for siting the switch panels etc., and last month Steve did some rewiring of the compass, chartplotter and echo sounder, with the switch panel no longer going behind the chart table . . . he’s been making a double set of cupboards with four drawers (also reclaimed from that wardrobe with good solid drawer backs from our old kitchen units).
Meticulously constructed in the shed at home, from carefully drawn plans, the door fronts were varnished on the kitchen table as the weather got colder and set into the frame. We brought the van back to Woodbridge on 1 November to take more stuff back for winter storage at home and Steve set to work assembling and installing the units before Baz arrives at the weekend to fit the cover.
We can’t find any suitable brass fittings for the drawers, or catches for the doors, so for now, there’s temporary handles made from leather so that at least we can use them. We now have storage space for all the pots, pans, crockery, cutlery and everyday ‘culinaries’! At least three less bags to trip over in the cabin . . .
Having agreed everything with Baz at the end of September, we talk with the Yacht Harbour staff as he’ll need to be able to have access to both sides of the boat.
The North arm of the Tidemill, where we’re moored, will be dredged this winter, so we’ll have to move to the South arm at some point in the autumn. Bill, a bit further down from us, is going to move round in early October, and is happy for us to have his ‘corner’ berth.
With everything planned for laying up, we drive home for Bev’s birthday, returning a week later. It’s not just laying up that’s to be done, Steve’s determined to get a backrest for his bunk in place before we go back to Derbyshire again, and make templates for the area behind the chart table and other ‘flat surfaces’.
Woodworking is more of a challenge without the tent, but he’s set the ‘Workmate’ up on the pontoon and manages pretty well – but there’s more scope for accidents, with one or two items slipping into the water! He borrows a ‘Seasearcher’ from Henry one day and finds not only the small plane but a large drill lost a couple of weeks ago!
While he’s working on the interior, there’s no room for Bev, so she’s happy to go out visiting and finding other things to do in the area (including the shopping to make sure there’s always something good to cook for supper). She’s also the one who ensures we can fit everything into the car – quite a challenge this time with the mainsail and toolboxes as well as bits of wood to take home!
We motor round to Bill’s berth on 16 October and make her secure, enjoying a last night in this new spot, before driving home to tidy the house up for a long weekend with Katie, Giacomo and Roberta, travelling ‘up north’ for half term.
Steve reserved a lovely piece of teak (salvaged from an old wardrobe a couple of years ago) for the chart table. After cutting to size we spend time checking out how best to design this area to accommodate storage for charts and books, the switch panels, VHF radio etc. We count how many switches we’ll need, and it’s more than the old 8-gang panel, so another item on the ‘research’ list of those more expensive items, along with the fridge options which we’ve been thinking about for a long time having discovered that a small one can cost as much as a huge domestic fridge freezer, and then there’s the issues of keeping it charged without draining the batteries . . .
From chart tables to plumbing . . . We decided a long time ago to have a water tank, rather than water carriers. Installing the foot pump and faucet came to the top of the ‘to do’ list – after several discussions and trial runs about where to site them, or even to abandon the plan altogether!
After connecting the foot pump and experimenting with the faucet, Steve came up with the ingenious idea to secure it to the bulkhead where it’s at the right height and can be twisted out of the way when not needed. After a bit of testing for water levels, the pump works perfectly to fill the kettle and washing up bowls. We’re not having a sink with plug hole, preferring the ‘bucket and chuck-it’ option. We’re not re-installing the heads either to keep the number of ‘through the hull’ holes to a minimum.
After just over a week at home, catching up with life in Derbyshire, jobs around the house and getting the OGA Gaffers Log to press, we return to Suffolk with the promise that the sails will have been brought to Suffolk Yacht Harbour for our collection on Monday.
As she seems to be taking up, Bev is tasked with cleaning the bilge and we drain it completely, fingers crossed she’s settling down now!
We’ve been doing lots of research into all the other ‘bits and pieces’ we’ll need, so combine the trip to collect the sails with quite an expensive visit to the chandlery, funded in part by Bev’s first State Pension payment! A special purchase, along with the essentials like the radio and water pump is a fine new clock with matching barometer. We also call at Larkmans to order cordage for halyards and sheets . . . lots of it!
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.
During a short trip home to catch up with some finishing touches on the ‘house’ project Steve completes the winter maintenance for ‘Cachalette’. He also prepares the remaining larch planking for use in making the interior.
The bunks are now in place so it’s time to make decisions about the galley, chart table and final positions for the batteries, fuel cylinder for the Taylors stove, pump for the water, switch panel, VHF radio and storage options. There are limited choices, but we spend quite a bit of time thinking through various ideas, and trying the stove in different positions.
Finally, with the stove now in place, it’s great to cook with everything we need on board, rather than rustle up a meal in the van that can then be transported down to the boat at any time of the tide!
Our first guest to eat aboard is Claudia, but there’s still plenty more to do on the ‘fitting out’ front . . . so the list is still very long. We ponder, and sometimes joke about Rik’s wry comment when he came aboard before the launch last summer. “Now we will find whether Steve is a boatbuilder, or a sailor!”.
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.
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.
The old bunk cushions, stored under our bed in Derbyshire for ten years after being carefully washed, are still in excellent condition. The new bunks are made to fit the cushions, with some improvements on the underlying wooden structure
It’s a great moment when we realise that, after all this time, we’ll now be able to sleep aboard again!