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.
The final planks have to ‘herringbone’ into the counter stern, which calls for some careful deliberations about how best to do this, leaving space for the rudder stock. Paul and Steve ask, ‘Where’s the old photos from when we first took the paint off?’ At last, the plan was drawn up, this is going to be one of the more tricky places to get it all in line.
It’s almost becoming a contest to complete the planking on the port and starboard sides, working towards the ‘shutter’ planks at stem and stern. There’s one or two periods of frustration for both Paul and Steve, as a plank splits at the last moment, or just won’t be persuaded to take the curve. And then we find the extra board, sourced from Pete’s remaining stock for ‘Transcur’ ten years ago, has woodworm! So out that goes, quick as a flash, and it’s back to getting the last couple of planks out of existing stock!
Beverley is sent out to town to buy the whisky, this really IS the final plank, and it seems to be going OK. Paul Masters joins us on Sunday to finish nailing up, as Beverley’s hurt her back and can’t hold the ‘dolly’. All the planks are securely nailed with roves and butt blocks. The inside is all cleaned out and we can declare the hull complete!
Steve’s had a few tentative tests at fairing, that will certainly be a back-breaking job prior to caulking her up. Just in time, as the weather forecast is gale force winds and even colder nights than we’ve had since Friday, so its back to Derbyshire for the warmth of our house on the hill!
Round trip to Woodbridge and St. Osyths, 21 June 2012
Andy had cut the larch boards, and they needed collecting, but the weather was still too unsettled for a return to Woodbridge. Steve drove the car to St Osyths, to save on fuel, taking advantage of Martin’s kind offer of a loaned van to transport the larch to Woodbridge, returned the van to Martin and drove back to Derbyshire.
He did the 500-mile journey in the one rare day when it wasn’t forecast to rain! By all accounts, the trip was quite an epic, with the long boards tied to the roof, but the larch is now safely ‘sticked up’ and ready for the next trip to Woodbridge, when it stops raining!
Another wet month in July
It was another two months before we were in Woodbridge again, and the ‘summer’ continues cold and wet, with weather forecasters providing little optimism for change. Steve’s fortunes on the work ‘front’ changed though, resulting in five weeks gainful employment in Chesterfield during July and early August. Determined to get down to Suffolk for the OGA August Classics, we eventually made it, towing ‘Cachalette’ with both bikes on the back! A phonecall from Paul, saying he’s available for work, money in the bank from Steve’s Chesterfield job, so we can say ‘yes’, and there’s plenty of Old Gaffer friends dropping by to see how we’re getting on. There’s better weather forecasts than we’ve had all year, things are looking up!
Dropping the keelbolts!
We’ve been thinking about this for a while, so let’s do it today! Paul and Steve drop two of the bolts, and check them out carefully.
They came out clean, but will need replacing. This prompted us to call Adrian, the surveyor, and he popped round to take a look while there’s still some missing planks to peer through into the hull. We’ll be off to see Moray MacPhail at Classic Marine for the new ones in due course.
Final few frames
We’ve said it before, but these really ARE the last frames, and if the weather stays fine, we should get all the planks in, with Paul working as well. There’s four planks to do on each side, just hope we don’t run out of wood again!
With the return of torrential rain, we had to resort to working inside the tent, watching the puddles grow and closing up the van. Its passes over, and at least not too cold, so planking continues, ready for Paul to join us on the final haul. The boards from Andy at St Osyths vary quite dramatically in thickness, apparently he had problems with his saw. The rain has stopped though, and Steve’s getting on well with sorting out sufficient boards for the last few planks.
The weather brightens up and Paul starts work, there’s some careful planning about how to deal with the last few planks. With nailing up to be done as well, we need to get more nails, roves and screws.
Beverley’s set the task of working out how many more we’ll need, and converting the number of nails into kilograms for the order from Anglia Stainless! How many times did she revise her calculations before calling?
Steve and Paul get started in earnest, just two full lengths to do on port and starboard. Ben from Anglia Stainless arrives with the order, and getting the bill reminds us just how important it is to keep the scraps of copper and bronze. The screws are coming up at £1 each. The nails aren’t cheap either, especially when you think about the bit you nip off every time you put on a rove!
A week before Easter, Steve set off with (hopefully) the final few frames, made over the winter in Matlock Bath. He also towed ‘Cachalette’, freshly painted, varnished and a few little repairs completed. The plan was to stay down in Suffolk for a couple of weeks, but the weather turned horribly cold and windy, so he retreated home for Easter. Sadly this meant we missed the OGA rally at Shotley, where we’d hoped to sail ‘Cachalette’ over to Harwich, but he did have time to put the frames in place . . . so we’ll be off in search of more wood for planks, and then its the deck!
The second trip to Woodbridge this year was also thwarted by the weather . . . with forecasts of gale force winds, flooding and very low temperatures we decided to travel to Suffolk by car, just for the weekend. Grateful thanks to Sue’s Dad for letting us stay at his house in the warm and dry! It was great to meet up with Rik and Fred, visiting from the Netherlands for the OGA talk about the ‘Round Britain’ event, and to see OGA members at the Nottage Institute, Wivenhoe. 16 May found us setting off to Woodbridge for the third time this year, although the weather still didn’t look TOO promising with wind and rain continuing, but the wind dropped at last. It began to warm up, in the daytime at least. The aim is to fit all the frames and floors by the end of the week, and try to source some more wood.
There’s another careful look at the depleted woodpile to sort out what is usable from the remaining planks. Steve checks it against the shift of butts plan to give the final list of what we’ll need. Hopefully this will be the last time we run out! A trip to St Osyths, and the wood is chosen from what Andy has on offer.
We took the opportunity to see how Martin is getting on with ‘Gwenili’. he’s sure she should be back in the water soon. Andy says the wood will be sawn in the next couple of weeks, ready for when we return to Woodbridge, and Martin has offered us the loan of his van to move the boards once they’re cut.
After an excellent week’s work, with all the frames and floors bolted up and painted, Steve thinks about what to do next. Waiting for the wood from St Osyths, we’re beginning to think seriously about what to do about the deck! Having carefully taken all the teak up, there must be a way to re-cycle and re-lay it, but that’s another research project.
Returning to Suffolk in August 2011, to join in with the OGA August Classics Cruise, we peep into the tent to see how Paul’s been doing. He’s been making great progress! The hull is beginning to take shape again, with the planks in place to the top on port and starboard, right back to the stern. There’s plenty of work for this week though, in between opportunities to sail and socialise with the Old Gaffers.
Beverley took two days out sailing, on ‘Cygnet’ and ‘Kelpie II’, and we both enjoyed a day out on ‘Cormorant’ in the East Coast OGA President’s Race. We also joined in all the usual social jollity of the August Classics Cruise!
In between all this, Steve got on well with a couple more new planks, repairs to the ones above the garboards and made finishing touches to the garboards themselves, now snugly fitting on port and starboard. Now more of an expert than when he started, Steve keeps finding things that aren’t quite up to scratch, and removed a couple more frames and floors as patterns to make new ones back in Derbyshire! With all the new planks, there was lots to do with the ‘dolly’ though!
Inside the hull, Steve had difficulty finding a stance that didn’t result in more holes in his jeans . . . while Beverley had to borrow the ear defenders to shield herself from the deafening resonance of the hammer on roves. By the end of August, another box of roves was gone and a hundred or so new nails are holding the planks in place.
Easter was late April 2011, followed by more Bank Holidays for the Royal Wedding and May Day, so Steve went down to Woodbridge for three whole weeks to make up for lost time over the winter. This paid off with excellent progress on the starboard side, but the decision to remove the garboards meant another extension to the schedule for finishing planking!
Another extended trip to Suffolk in June, and the purchase of some wide iroko boards from Buildbase in Ipswich, meant Steve was able to fit both new garboards. After carefully spiling, fitting, planing and securing the garboard on the starboard side, Steve decided to put in one last screw and was horrified to hear a loud bang. A three foot split had appeared in the for’ard end of the garboard. Following discussions with Paul, it was agreed that this could be repaired in situ.
Several conversations over recent months have resulted in sourcing two more loads of larch. The first has been brought from Mel Skeets, purchased from JK. It transpires that some more good lengths, originally purchased to restore ‘Clytie’, and stored at Robertsons yard in the care of Clarkie for the past ten years, was also available. With assistance from Paul Batey, and two trips courtesy of Paul Masters and his trailer, Steve has re-stocked the pile beside the tent. He’s returned to Derbyshire, leaving Paul to catch up with the delayed planking on port and starboard sides.
After leaving Woodbridge in early June, confident that Paul would be able to complete most of the planking as he’d just finished his previous commission, there was a series of phonecalls . . . The strong winds at the end of June meant Paul left work early one evening, returning to find that all his power tools had been stolen overnight. He was then told to dismantle his own tent, since it was empty, and, to ‘add insult to injury’ in the process of struggling to do this alone, he fell from his ladder . . . fortunately, he’s not injured, and we hope he’ll be able to start work again soon.
The exceptionally cold winter really set us back with work on 'Cachalot' but April 2010 found us in Woodbridge at last, with all the frames now in place . . . and after final touches to the stem, the next visit we’ll certainly be making a start on planking in earnest on our return in June. Paul is still busy on his other project, but offers guidance and advice as the first plank is measured up, planed, placed - and soundly rejected. Try again, and Steve gets the ‘OK’ from Paul, and by the end of the week there’s several new planks shaping up from stem to counterstern!
As its well into the sailing season, we joined in with East Coast OGA events, had visitations from several members, an invitation to tea with Paul and Jo as well as the invitation to crew on 'Kestrel' again in the August Classics Cruise.
Another extended trip to Woodbridge included an OGA event in Southwold, a short sail up the Deben in 'Cachalette' and lots more visitors. The crew of ‘Nyula’ introduced themselves, another Dunkirk Little Ship visiting the Tidemill. Barry and Lil, OGA members visiting the Tidemill on ‘Random’ called by to see how we were getting on. On Sunday afternoon, there was an invitation to afternoon tea on ‘Great Days’, another East Coast Old Gaffer taking a sojourn up the Deben! All this moral support is most valuable as the project continues.
After a failed attempt to scarfe a short plank, Steve is now becoming quite proficient with planking. Next time, we'll begin to hone our skills with the ‘dolly’, following instruction for Beverley from Paul. After clearing space on the port side to start work in September, planks are coming off and new wood going in . . . she’s really beginning to take shape at last!
Whilst there’s still the occasional damaged frame that needs repair or replacement, it’s beginning to feel more like a ‘clear run' for the hull.
However, the original estimate for planking didn’t account for replacing the stem and stern, resulting in the need for a serious reassessment of the remaining wood stock. Obvious conclusion . . . we’re running very low on timber. Next question . . . where and how do we source more wood? During a stroll up-river, Steve has met JK, just completing restoration of an Albert Strange in Mel Skeet’s Yard. After another rather chilly and wet week in Woodbridge late October, Steve decides to engage Paul to get five more planks on before winter sets in, just about finishing off the remaining timber. We return to Derbyshire for the winter.
After much discussion, measuring up, marking which planks will stay (and go), sucking of teeth, visits to woodyards and costing up the options, the larch has been ordered! We're assured that it will be delivered to Woodbridge ‘soon’.
True to their word, a call from Somerscales, Grimsby, confirm delivery of the planks early in October. At 11am, the lorry arrived with an understanding and helpful driver. Despite the lack of available assistance, the wood was offloaded and all sticked up before dark!
After long discussions and lots of research we decide to remove all paint and anti-foul from the hull. Kevin arrived on another bright Spring morning in March 2007 to start work. After a day’s concentrated work spraying with ‘volcanic sand, freshly heated water and low pressurised air’, ‘Cachalot’ was looking very different, there’s no going back now!
We spent the evening as new members at the East Coast OGA Annual Dinner, Royal Burnham YC, and had a most enjoyable time meeting lots of new people from the local area.
We return to Derbyshire, leaving Paul to do some exploratory work during March. As more planks are removed and frames inspected, it becomes clear that the problems extend to more than just the counter. We’ll always remember the night Paul phoned to tell us, with some hesitancy in his voice, the bad news as he took more of the rotten wood out: archboard, beam shelf, frames, deck beams and probably worse as we expose more of the hull. There’s been more long and anguished discussions about what to do: shall we just call it a day, forget about her and do something else, put it all down to experience? No! We all agreed to go ahead and restore ‘Cachalot’ – so where do we start?