After being forced back to Derbyshire by gales at the beginning of May, we set off for sunnier climes in Italy. Travelling by train via Derby, London, Paris and Milan then to Siracusa, Sicily (with the train boarding the boat to cross the Strait of Messina), we returned by overnight ferry from Palermo to Naples, flying back to Gatwick after a few days sightseeing in Rome.
Progress having been seriously delayed this year, Steve spent just over a week in Woodbridge in early June, achieving his Springtime goal of getting the whole of the hull interior painted at last! ‘Henry’, the hardy and generally trusted vacuum cleaner, did need the smile wiping from his face when he fell from a deck beam knocking a tin of (very expensive) paint into the bilges! With grey bilges and white above the sole, she’s looking good, and another step towards putting on the deck.
Mid-June found us back in Derbyshire for the Eroica Britannia at Bakewell Showground. Much colder than last year, the weather didn’t dampen our spirits as Beverley joined Steve and Rob for a most enjoyable (and challenging) 55 miles up hill and down dale along with 3,000 ‘heroic’ riders on classic pre-1987 bicycles.
4 July and it’s off to Suffolk again, taking the Bongo and the car for the ‘long haul’, with no distractions until August! The tent's become somewhat untidy, leading to some ‘home improvements’, clearing out old wood that ‘might come in handy’ as patterns and extending the workbench to full-width of the tent: total cost, one bag of nails at £2.49!
After more discussions, sucking of teeth and research into the definitive plan for the deck, it’s decided: marine ply and glass, painted to provide the look of canvas. Now the decision's made, Steve's fairing the deck beams and finishing jobs it’s easier to do without the deck on, and ordering the ply, of course. Water and fuel tanks are thoroughly cleaned, and securely installed along with a new fuel filter.
22 July: ten boards of plywood arrive on a large lorry from Lathams. After stacking it safely, we depart for Yarmouth, Isle of Wight for the weekend to say 'bon voyage' to the OGA fleet sailing to St Malo. On our return, we find Marion and Ian are stormbound on 'Eleanor' in Ipswich, they cycled round to see the boat and invited us back for supper. Yesterday, Trevor, Peter and Paul were in the Tidemill on 'Gromit', so we all repaired to The Anchor for an evening meal.
Its the first week in June, and the weather looks set to stay cold, wet and very windy. Our plans to go to Woodbridge seem to be thwarted yet again as we watch the TV coverage of a wet procession of boats on the Thames for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Parade.
Shall we just stay at home? NO! we decided to brave the elements and drove down to Suffolk on Sunday evening, arriving just before midnight. For the first few days, we had to put duck boards to walk on inside the tent, and the wind howled around, dragging at the canvas and forcing us to keep the Bongo roof down, day and night.
We became used to the incessant noise of clanking halyards and flapping canvas, snuggling up with extra thick socks, blankets and fleeces to stay warm at night! Steve started to do small repairs, as he couldn’t do anything that meant leaving the shelter of the tent. Is this really ‘flaming June’?
The somewhat extreme weather conditions, particularly given that its June, meant working outside was impossible, and we’re still waiting for Andy at St Osyths to cut the larch we bought last time we were here. Beverley busied herself with various tasks that could be done inside the van.
Steve took the opportunity to look more closely at the boards which weren’t being replaced. Carefully crafted graving pieces and splines were made up, glued in place and sanded down. The weather brightened for one weekend, briefly, and Deborah came up to visit from London. We were even able to open up the van and put the awning out to sit in the sunshine! Not for long though, and we still hadn’t heard from Andy to collect the larch. As Steve continued with the ‘final touches’ to frames and floors, the weather turned for the worse again and we decided to head for home, well satisfied with the work done, despite the weather. As we crossed the Orwell Bridge, there’s a phonecall from Andy, ‘Your wood’s ready to collect’. Too late to turn back, so there will have to be an alternative plan.
Early March 2009 finds us in Nantwich, combining a trip out to the garden centre at Bridgemere for Mum with collecting an 8 foot long piece of sawn opepe from Anderson Sawmills, Doddington Park Farm, destined to be the new stern post. Safely installed in the Bongo it’s taken down to Woodbridge while Steve considers options. With the engine removed, it was clear that lining up the sterntube would be quite a challenge.
After a trip to Robertsons, just up the Deben, to enlist their help in drilling the hole, Steve started to measure up and fashion the stern post.
In April Paul starts work on the planking, and makes good progress! Its good to see the curve of the renowned elliptical counter taking shape again with three planks right up to the stern by the end of the month.
However, after more discussions, sucking of teeth and considerable periods of thinking around the options . . . the momentous decision is made to remove the stem, meaning a forced break in planking until we’d re-assessed the scope of the project. This was going to be a big job, and Steve went in search of wood again, finally deciding to laminate with idigbo. The wood was sourced at the beginning of May, and sawn into 30 strips for laminating, at Gregory’s of Tansley, near Matlock.
A month of hard work results in a brand new stem, just right to fit into the Bongo for transport down to Woodbridge! After carefully scarfing the oak into the idigbo laminate, the final piece was too heavy for Paul and Steve to handle. Yes, they had to cut it before fitting in place at the end of August.
Once cut to size and aligned, the stern was taken to Robertsons in October for drilling, and after a couple of days an excellent job was done! Its in place by the autumn, fitting snugly up against the repaired (and new) planks and garboard, all painted with red oxide. November and December found Steve in Woodbridge, still making excellent progress, despite the sub-zero temperatures!
In the Spring, we’ll be ready to continue planking after all the setbacks this year! The new frames are at last in place and the spars have been re-sited in the roof of the tent to make room for working on the port side.