Steve tidied up after all the work in the forepeak, so Bev took the opportunity to test out the new space . . . it’s going to be really comfortable on the re-used cushions with plenty of headroom and room to spread out!
Following extensive research into how to replace the custom-made old exhaust box for the engine, and having failed to find any suitable replacement, or means of repairing it, Steve made a new one whilst at home over the winter . . . today it was fitted, and tested (albeit in the berth, with the engine in neutral) it’s a positive result so far (ie no leaks into the super-dry bilges).
What was wrong with the engine when we went out in the river?
On closer inspection, it looks like the exhaust pipe is restricting the drive lever. There isn’t really much space and Steve decides to cut a notch in the metal frame the engine rests on. Like much of the boat, it’s over-engineered, so, with lots of sparks and noise he cuts it away making space for the pipes and good clearance for the drive lever.
It will need another test out in the river, but experiments driving forward and back in the berth put our minds at rest it’s neither the engine itself nor gearbox that is the problem.
After a great week cruising with the gaffers, spending the last two nights in Ipswich, the passage back to the Deben aboard ‘Kestrel’ was cancelled due to severe weather warnings. James spent the night at Pin Mill and we returned to Woodbridge by car, tidied up the boat and drove back to Derbyshire late Sunday afternoon. After a week at home we return to Suffolk for the Tidemill annual barbecue on 11 August. Jim joins us for the evening and enjoys an afternoon on the river with Steve, sailing ‘Cachalette’ right back to her berth astern of ‘Cachalot’.
We’ve been checking the tides carefully this week as it’s Springs allowing us just over three hours to go out and back over the Tidemill YH bar during the daytime. The weather looks to be set fair too for a short trip out in the river to pick up a buoy and hoist the sails. It would be good to have another pair of hands and by chance, Leigh pops round to say he may be around to help after collecting his boat from the Orwell. So, today’s the day we go out in the river (with sails) for the first time!
The decks are cleared and everything stowed neatly in the cabin, sails are made ready, fenders cleaned of all the slimy sea squirts that have clung to them and off we go as the mark on the bar just covers 1.5m at 1400. Gently does it, but what’s happened to the engine? It’s making a horrible noise and Bev is keen to return to the marina. However, Leigh and Steve listen, take a careful look and decide it’s OK to continue with our project down river . . . we motor down past Loders Cut and pick up a buoy. We play for a while with the mainsail then motorsail back with the staysail.
We need to make sure to get back over the bar by just after 1700. Bev takes the helm on the return trip and motors upriver, over the bar and into the marina, doing well until the last turn into the berth, when a sudden gust of wind knocks her completely off course . . . thankyou, Leigh and ‘Mrs Brown’ (Richard and Eileen) for helping to get us safely back into the berth with damage to nothing but Bev’s confidence. Once the engine’s fixed, we need to practise tight manoeuvres under power.
Following a particularly cold spell in late November, Steve began to worry about the boat. Not about leaks this time, since she’s safely ashore, or even strong winds, but about the engine. He decided not to risk it and set off for Woodbridge on Friday, 1 December for a lightning overnight visit to check everything out and winterise the engine.
Steve and Jim spent a long day last week making final tests on the engine which was fully refurbished with Jim’s help in 2011 and put back into the boat in 2014. Find the full engine story, with videos here.
Last week, they set up all the fuel lines, replaced all the electrics and set up a new starter battery ready for the launch. Peter checked it all out, along with a modified arrangement for the exhaust, on Monday 31 July and gave us the final go-ahead that it all seems OK for Friday . . . Steve also fitted a sacrificial anode, to protect the propeller from electrolysis.
One electric and a manual bilge pump have also been re-fitted. The manual one is more convenient to use and, for now, the electric pump is sired from the starter battery ready for launch day.
We still remember the phone message from Mark, back in December 2006: “Hi Steve, your boat’s sunk!” Watching the bilge pumps, as she takes up, will be Steve’s main priority next week!
Whilst checking the fit, lying in the forepeak, he knocks out a chock and it slips, the solid oak dropping 18” onto his face! Clutching his mouth and expecting to find a handful of teeth, Steve’s relieved to find there’s just bruising. Bev doesn’t find out about this incident until she returns to Suffolk . . . apart from the Samson post being completed and fitted, the rudder is at last hung and a final coat of primer applied below the waterline in preparation for Bev’s return to do the anti-foul.
More jobs ticked off the list! The rudder stock is fitted and new tiller now in place. Control cables for the engine are connected with control lever and stop button installed in the cockpit, stern gland greaser re-fitted and new capping to complete the restored cockpit coaming. Bronze skin fittings all cleaned up and replaced, along with her Dunkirk plaque, polished and back in place. We’re getting there, she’s beginning to look like a boat ready to float!
There’s pressure to get all the ‘essential’ jobs done ready to launch! After a short weekend break to meet Bev’s Russian friends in Edinburgh, Steve returns to Suffolk for a week, leaving Bev at home working on the ‘other’ project. Steve manages to complete lots of small jobs, which are hardly noticeable, ticking them off the list at last: keelbolts all dropped and replaced, water and fuel tanks secured with caps on the deck, engine exhaust box recycled, and fitted, having failed to find a modern replacement that fits in the space . . .
At the end of May we take the car ferry from Plymouth to Santander for a short trip to the Picos de Europa. We return via Cowes, Isle of Wight for a chat about sails with Steve Meakin and Andy Cassell at Ratsey & Lapthorn. With plans to launch we also need to change the insurance from ‘builders risk’, so Adrian arrives to do the survey. There’s still lots of tidying up to do around the boat and tent, disposing of all those bits and pieces that were ‘going to come in useful’, and never have! In place of all the rubbish, we need to retrieve the lead from safe storage in Ipswich in one of Pete and Clare’s sheds, bring down the cushions that have been gathering dust in a back bedroom at home and carry on working down that long list.
Once we could get outside again in March 2011, Steve started to strip the engine down. There were regular consultations with Jim, research on the internet, conversations with Yanmar dealers and French Marine in Ipswich. Work progressed well, with spare parts ordered and arriving promptly, the engine started to look really shiny again.
With the finishing touches to the engine restoration completed in January 2012 . . . it runs like a dream, with thanks to Jim for encouragement and expert advice, as it waits in the workshop for the trip back to Suffolk.
Simon helped with moving the engine back down to the waiting Bongo for the return trip to Woodbridge in July 2014, and we enlisted the help of Tidemill staff and their new JCB, to lift it back into the hull.
This feels like another major turning point in the project!
‘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.
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!