Steve’s very pleased with the varnishing, all still protected by the winter cover, and has masked up ready for painting the deck, starting with the rather grubby cockpit and cabin entrance!
After another good stretch of fair weather allowing plenty of work to be done, we decide it’s time to find out what’s going on in our other ‘home’ and drive back to Derbyshire on 21 May, stopping at Wicken Fen for afternoon tea.
Owned by the National Trust, it makes a better place to stop than the services on the A14 and we take a stroll along the boardwalks through the tall, swaying sedge grasses.
Alongside the 'other' winter project at home (a radical extension to the kitchen), Steve has a few boat-related tasks in mind. After setting up in the front room to varnish the skylights and coachroof hatch, he makes a start on the new tiller at the beginning of December, where it's warm enough to glue up the laminated wood.
The planing and sanding has to be done in the top shed, but it's brought back into the house again for the varnish, then takes pride of place along with the restored coachroof skylights and cabin hatch, awaiting the trip back down to Suffolk.
With the hull painted, deck finished and all the spars ready, there’s plenty of smaller jobs to do to get her ready for launching next year.
The coachroof is not being replaced, but the skylights are in need of some attention so are brought back to the house for the winter, along with the hatch cover. The sitting room with a table set up is dry, dust-free and warm – the ideal workshop for stripping them down and varnishing!
12 October, 2015 finds us back in Derbyshire and a sense of being ‘in limbo’ sets in after so long away. What are we going to do? There’s little interest in the house in Matlock Bath, and as we scour for sale listings in Suffolk and Derbyshire, we realise there probably isn’t a better place to live, after all. Following a ski trip to Val Thorens in late January, the decision is made . . . pay off the Estate Agent, take the house off the market and plan some serious ‘home improvements’!
The workshop at the top of the garden becomes a hive of activity again over the winter months, with the smell of tallow, varnish and leather, often brought back into the kitchen when it becomes too cold or damp outside. Steve turns his mind to the standing rigging . . . shrouds, backstays, forestays and new dead-eyes are all complete, re-served and ready for the launch day.
We take a short break for a trip to Holland at the end of February 2016, meeting up with the Dutch OGA for a weekend of baking bread and learning to splice ropes. Inspired by both bread-making and ropework, it’s back to Derbyshire. After seizing in the new thimbles the blocks, made nearly ten years ago when the project didn't seem to be quite so big, are ready for use. Steve experiments with the lathe for a new set of parrel beads. Made from some ash felled in our own garden, he’s really pleased with his example of ‘tree to sea’, as they fit neatly onto the gaff.
Next it’s the gaff spar. The jaws are completely shattered, so new ones are carefully crafted from oak during a sunny spell in mid-March. It then turns too cold and wet to varnish outside, so, leathered and gaff is fixed to the spar, it’s brought in through the sitting room window and just fits the length of the room for several coats of varnish. Taken outside again, it's awaiting transport back down to Suffolk along with another of the ‘bits and pieces’, the refurbished cover for the rudder stock, gleaming with new varnish and polish.
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.
Our trusty Bongo, due for it's MOT in May, has to have more welding done in order to pass. This means another late start to work in Woodbridge, but there's been great progress in the Derbyshire hilltop workshop!
Steve's been working on the cockpit floor, engine box and cabin sole, using the reclaimed teak from the deck.
With all the patterns carefully made before leaving Woodbridge, and brought home to Derbyshire, the winter project was to make the engine box and sole.
After a few experiments with the teak reclaimed from the deck, and various options for 'holly', the final decision was made and Steve started work in earnest.
Many chilly hours spent in the workshop resulted in a wonderful varnished engine box becoming part of the living room furniture in February, and by Easter, the sole was complete as well!
It’s April, Easter weekend, and we’re off to Suffolk for the first time this year for the OGA Tollesbury Rally.It’s still too cold to stay long enough to do much on the boat, and we need to get back to Derbyshire anyway where we’ve left Neil and Joe tree-felling in the garden!
2014 looks like it’s going to be another late start for work on ‘Cachalot’, due to the weather, but Steve’s been making good progress in the workshop at home with the component parts for the cockpit all ready to go. Now the hull’s pretty well finished, we’re also thinking about caulking and what to do about the interior, before replacing the deck.
The May Spring Bank Holiday looks set to be fair, so we load the van with the first bulkhead and cockpit sides, made of marine ply, routed to simulate tongue and groove. Carefully put together from patterns, 300 miles away in Derbyshire, Steve starts to fit them all in place. Not only is the hull taking shape, we’re getting started on the ‘fitting out’!
The other major job is to prepare the hull for caulking, filling any minor blemishes before applying more coats of primer. In search of some sunshine and warmth though, we fly off to Italy for a week on the Amalfi Coast at the beginning of June, back in time for Steve to take part in l’Eroica Britannia based at Bakewell Showground.
Although all the planks and frames are done, there's still lots to do before the hull's finished. Thousands of bungs, carefully made over the winter, have been counted out into coffee tins. These need glueing carefully over the fastenings, with the grain going the right way, of course. Beverley's banned from this task, as she just can’t get the grain going right! There's a bit of repair work here and there, as well as checking over knots and glueing bungs to replace them if necessary. The excess putty needs cleaning from the seams at all the butt blocks. Beverley's role in all of this is to keep everything shipshape, get the provisions in, maintain the archive, keep the business going, do all the cooking and a few of the less skilled work on the boat itself.
With the weather still cold, we stay in Derbyshire, catching up with work in the office. There’s a trip to Dublin in May, to meet the OGA Round Britain fleet on passage, so it’s June before we get back to the boat. Beverley stays in Derbyshire, as her Mum’s in hospital, and Steve makes a good start on fairing the hull. Despite the back-breaking nature of the work, he’s not suffering too many aches and pains either!
After ten days sailing with James on ‘Kestrel’, in the OGA Jubilee Cruise from Ipswich to Brightlingsea, we return to Woodbridge in beautiful sunny weather, at last. As its set fair, we can open up the tent to work in the fresh air and Steve gets into the swing of fairing the starboard side.
After a couple of weeks in the sunshine, with the tent opened up, Steve’s pretty well finished fairing the hull, another important milestone! There’s been more visitors than usual to keep us chatting, locals as well as yachtsmen from further afield. They’re attracted by seeing what’s beginning to look like the hull of a beautiful boat in the furthest corner of the Tidemill. It's known to some as ‘death row’, as we’re very close to the bonfire and the neglected boats ashore gathering rainwater in their cockpits.
‘Anything I can do to help?’ asked Trevor from ‘Gromit’. The OGA August 2009 Classics fleet was waiting for enough water to leave the Tidemill Yacht Harbour for the ‘drift’ down to Ramsholt and the evening meal at the pub. Trevor had come over to see how Steve was doing, and while away an hour or so in the sunshine . . . ‘Well, I could do with getting that engine out!’ Steve replied. No sooner said than off Trevor went to get blocks from ‘Gromit’ to set up a pulley system and, after quite a bit of hauling and heaving, the engine was resting at the side of the tent.
Having completed lots of work planking the hull during the summer, October 2010 found Steve looking to the engine as a ‘winter project’ back in Matlock Bath . . . with help from Pete and Paul, he managed to load it into the Bongo and drive back to Derbyshire with it onboard. The challenge was how to get it up to the house, and then, of course, where to put it, since it was much too heavy to take up to the top workshop.
As usual, next-door neighbour Dave was keen to lend a hand, and after a lot of chin-scratching, tugging, heaving and heavy hauling the engine was carefully extracted from the Bongo onto a makeshift trolley and brought up the steps into the back yard.
Next plan . . . build a ‘lean-to’ in the back yard to double up as a garden store and covered workshop! This project went well, providing an ideal workshop area and doubling up as cold store for food when we had everyone to stay over for Christmas 2010. However, no sooner was it built than the snow came in abundance! From early December and into January 2011, there was little chance to do any work outside, even under cover! The same was true in Suffolk, so Paul didn’t make any progress with the planking either.
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!