Posts in Category: The start 2005-2010

After a slow start, 2010 sees good progress again

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.

Decision to replace the stem and the stern

2009 and the project gets bigger . . .

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.

  • Making the frames . . .
  • New frames and planks, April 2009
  • First of the new planks going in, April 2009
  • Removing the stem
  • Making the new stem
  • Fitting the new sternpost

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.

Frames, knees, bends and sisters, bolted up for Christmas 2008!

Making progress by Christmas 2008

After an enjoyable evening at the OGA AGM, held at the Orwell Yacht Club, Steve spent the following week fitting all the frames on the starboard side. Its beginning to look like progress at last! Adrian and Paul both called by, with encouraging comments. It's been a good year.

As winter takes hold, sleeping in the Bongo on the edge of the Deben seems much less attractive, even snuggled up in two sleeping bags. However, purchase of a small fan-heater has overcome that little problem! Another week’s work (in sub-zero conditions at times) has resulted in a very secure ‘feel’ to the starboard side, with all frames bolted in place. Leaving 'Cachalot' wrapped up for the winter, we return to Derbyshire.

Measuring up for planking

October 2008

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!

Deck beams, archboard, frames and the rudder

Into the New Year, 2008

By March it really feels like progress! Paul's finished work on the counter, which is now fully restored in terms of new deck beams, archboard and frames. Steve's nearly completed the new beam shelf on the starboard side, steaming it into place and fitting it up to the new frames and knees.

The new workshop back home in Derbyshire is really coming into its own as a boatbuilding shed, and attracting quite a bit of interest in the neighbourhood. Matlock Bath is probably just about as far from the sea that you can get in mainland England, and there's bemusement as to why Steve's also started to build an 11' dinghy in clinker ply. Whilst seeking out suppliers for the planking, Steve found a woodyard in Grimsby with elm ideally suited for the rudder. On inspection, the rudder had proved to be beyond sensible repair, so sufficient elm was brought back to Matlock and the rudder is now ready for fitting and painting!

Up with the deck!

Autumn into winter, 2007

Advice from Adrian meant Steve and Glyn could make a start on the frames. After measuring up and making plywood templates, a couple of visits to Grimsby resulted in several pieces of good oak bends being brought to Matlock, where Steve started to fashion the new frames on the kitchen table! Beverley started thinking about an alternative solution.

Returning to Woodbridge the frames could be put in place, at last, some new wood going in rather than rotten wood coming out! But then, there are more long deliberations. What can we do about the deck? Repairs to the counter stern are deemed impossible with the deck in situ.

So, careful slicing between the teak planks and extraction of the screws means that we now have a large pile of teak in pretty good condition, albeit in need of a good clean-up! The ply deck was lifted to form a pattern for future reference and the teak marked with chalk and stored in neat bundles.

At last, Paul will be able to see what he’s doing and have space to work!

Back in Derbyshire, the kitchen table is proving rather too small for the task in hand, but there's a solution. We decide to proceed with plans for a workshop in the garden, which necessitates constructing a large deck.

Planning applications submitted to Derbyshire Dales District Council, are eventually accepted, so we’re ready to proceed with a ‘winter build’. Dave was engaged to build the deck, with Simon helping and Beverley keeping everyone happy with mugs of tea. From the workshop or deck one has a spectacular view across the rooftops to the other side of the valley, providing an excellent vantage point and place to work!

Moving to the North Arm: summer 2007

As the planks came out, it became more and more impractical to sleep onboard – so we looked into buying a camper for our Suffolk accommodation. Would it be a VW? After looking at a few  within our price range, the answer was certainly a resounding ‘no’, as that would be another project. So, after lots of research travelling around the Midlands and beyond to look at vans with Rob, we invested in a Bongo.

'Cachalot' becomes very fragile as more rotten wood is removed, May 2007

‘Cachalot’ becomes very fragile as more rotten wood is removed, May 2007

Beginning to realise the enormity of the project we’re now taking on, Steve starts to strip out the entire interior to expose more of the areas we need to check out more closely. The covering boards, coaming, boom gallows, bulwarks and cockpit are all removed and carefully piled up to form patterns for the future. The famous counter stern becomes more and more vulnerable as the real extent of the rotting timbers in the stern emerge. When will we reach some sound wood?

Now that she’s very clearly a project, Tidemill YH Manager, Richard, wants us to move over to the North Arm, overlooking the Deben. She’s been drying out quite badly too, despite the loan of a tarpaulin from Paul and Jo which we’ve been using since earlier in the year, and a liberal coat of undercoat.

So, more big decisions about what to do and where best to continue the work. Should we try to bring ‘Cachaolot’ back to the Midlands, or take her to another yard in Suffolk? She’s so fragile now, it’s hard to envisage moving her at all, so we invest in our own tent, made to measure by Brackenbury’s, and have it erected with long ground-screws on the North Arm of the Tidemill. Hopefully it will stand up to the winter winds.

More and more of the boat is dismantled, photographed, catalogued and carefully stored either under the hull in the tent or brought back to Derbyshire for safe-keeping, cleaning, renovation or reconstruction. Our thanks go to Pete and Clare, who have provided us with safe storage space in Suffolk for items less easy to transport home!

Stripping off, and it’s more than the counter!

Paint stripping by Process Media Tech Ltd., using the Farrows System

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?

‘Your boat has sunk!’

The night she sank!

Late at night on 15 December, 2006, there was a phonecall from Mark at the Tidemill Yacht Harbour, "Steve, your boat has sunk!"

'Cachalot' was hauled out of her berth in the marina, and put in a cradle ashore, following a call from a passer-by to the Tidemill staff that she seemed to be ‘lying a bit low’ alongside the pontoon. Why had she taken on so much water so suddenly?

Was she telling us something? She’d been booked to be lifted out for work on the counter and seams just two weeks later, on 10 January 2007!

Positive thoughts, early 2007

Having brought a lot of the smaller ‘bits and pieces’ home to Derbyshire, Steve took great satisfaction in doing a few ‘small’ woodworking jobs well-suited to the kitchen table! The blocks are made from pieces of ash, sourced locally . . . the seizing awaits completion, it's not really a priority now, as things are turning out! Whatever else we were going to do, the mast certainly needed attention and was duly lifted by Richard and Mark at the Tidemill on a beautiful, crisp February morning. At least the weather was on our side, although chilly, the stove in the boat kept us cosy and warm and it didn't rain. Steve rubbed the mast down to reveal just one small area of rot at deck level, which could be easily repaired by scarfing. Another positive outcome!

January 2007: lots of discussion

After inspection of the soggy mess, in a dismal January visit, we removed all warps, cushions, rigging and halyards, mainsail, foresails, spars, anchors, chain and lead in preparation for a careful assessment of what to do about the hull. The whole experience was quite dispiriting, but there was some good news! Although the batteries were a write-off, water didn’t get into the engine, so at least that is probably going to be OK. Following long discussions back in Derbyshire throughout January, we eventually started to make some decisions. How much work should we do? Should we take off all the paint? Who should do the work and, perhaps most perplexing of all, what had caused her to sink? We tested various options for paint removal and did some research on caulking.

Starting to sail with ‘Cachalot’

Summer 2005

Having seen her for sale on eBay in early summer, 2005, Steve discovered that the sale had fallen through, and the seller was prepared to consider his offer (subject, of course, to survey). So what should we do? As we drove to Suffolk Yacht Harbour, Levington, Kate phoned and implored her Dad ‘not to do anything rash’, but he fell in love with the boat and our story of ‘Cachalot’ unfolds from there! With help from Mike, as skipper, Dick, Glyn and Beverley sailed her from Levington to the Tidemill Yacht Harbour, Woodbridge, Suffolk, at the head of the River Deben where we'd secured a berth for her. We first heard about the OGA when staying overnight with East Coast members, Jo and Paul.

Maintenance plan and getting started with sailing

We drew up a maintenance plan based on advice in the surveyor’s report, intending to do it in stages working with Paul, a local boatbuilder. A Day Skipper ‘ticket’ was required in order to satisfy the requirements of the insurers to take ‘Cachalot’ out of the Marina, so we signed up for that. We also needed a means of getting ashore, but what would be the best option? The first choice was certainly not suitable, a pretty little clinker dinghy that looked the part, fitted neatly on the cockpit roof but was much too ‘tippy’. The Seagull outboard also looked the part, but was hardly reliable, even with Jim’s expert advice. In the end, a flubber and outboard seemed to be the best solution.

Sailing in the Deben, summer 2006

After an excellent week on our RYA Day Skipper course with Rob, just after Easter, 2006, we needed to get plenty of practice in handling 'Cachalot' before going out of the river. We started by carefully manoeuvering her in and out of the Tidemill YH, over the sill, taking care to check the tides so that we could return later! Sailing (or motoring) up and down the Deben to moor at Felixtowe Ferry or Ramsholt gave us plenty of opportunities to begin to learn about pilotage and how to sail - to get it right and, of course, to get it wrong at times! Like everyone else has done at least once, we did spend six hours aground, when Kate came out for a sail with us.