It’s launch week, and getting quite exciting! Mark, Tidemill Manager, has been making the plans which we keep a little bit secret . . . she’s going to be taken out of her tent on Wednesday, and dipped in with the travel hoist to check everything’s OK.
On Tuesday afternoon, Mark, Steve and Andy take out the props, which have been holding up her hull for nearly ten years and gently set her on the trailer, ready for the trip round to the travel hoist in the morning.
At 0800 sharp on Wednesday, 2 August, Mark, Steve and Andy return with Henry to take her round to the travel hoist. It’s quite a long drive, over somewhat bumpy ground, but from his stance on the stern, Steve is surprised to report how smooth the passage is! First challenge is to check that she’ll actually fit under the top bar in the tent . . . taking the lower bar out certainly made the tent even less stable than it has been of late, especially with the stormy weather this week. She fits with about a foot of headroom, and starts on her journey round the Marina.
So, out she comes with a better idea about where the lead should go . . . there’s a trip to Pete and Clare’s tonight where the lead has been safely stored for the past ten years.
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!
Once work on the engine was finished when Jim came to help last week, Steve installed a bracket for the main battery unit and fitted the new depth sounder and prop. Having stayed at home to work on the house project, Bev returns to Suffolk with Simon, who joins us for a few days. He's the first person to sleep aboard since we bought the van in 2007! He has to manage with a cushion directly onto the sole boards. The interior isn't scheduled until after she's launched.
Dave and Moray arrive to check out the 'fit' of the chainplates, and make some final tweaks to the curves. These are now all firmly fitted in place, and looking good.
A major 'essential' task is to clear the front of the tent, where the workbench and storage area has been for the past ten years. Simon and Steve get to work sorting through all the wood under the bench, with smaller pieces put aside as firewood for Claudia. Then there's all the tins of old paint and varnish, glue that's gone off, out-of-date flares and fire extinguishers, etc., etc. . . . what a lot accumulates!? Fortunately, Chris has let us have use of his tent next door for dry storage, empty since his boat was launched a couple of weeks ago. Thankyou, Chris! As the bench is cleared, it's moved to the other end of the tent and re-erected. Bev returns from a shopping trip to find that the new bench has the electrics set up almost well enough to pass a Building Inspector's visit (unlike the trailing wires we've had for the past ten years).
After fitting the stemband and gammon iron, it was time to paint the deck. I’ll let the pictures tell the story of what she looks like now, nearly ready for launch with the date now confirmed as Friday 4 August . . . the bottles of fizz are ready!
After a weekend at home in Derbyshire, Steve packs the Bongo with everything that’s been in storage at the house awaiting the time to launch! It’s quite exciting, finding all the carefully stowed parcels and packages.
There seems to be lots of space around the house as everything is brought down to our neighbour’s driveway for loading. There’s cushions for the main cabin, warps, sheets and assorted ropes which may (or may not) be serviceable, the old sails along with loaned sails from Ratsey & Lapthorn . . .
‘Cachalette’ has been collected from Carsington Sailing Club to be trailed down to Suffolk. She’s been neglected for the past year or so and is in need of some maintenance and a fresh coat of paint and varnish.
All goes well until Steve joins the A14 and notices some of the van’s instruments aren’t behaving as they should. Worried about what the problem might be, he decides to pull in at Huntingdon Services and a call to the AA results in the diagnosis – failed alternator.
After some failed attempts by the AA Service man to secure one, a recovery vehicle is called and arrives to take Steve the rest of the way to Woodbridge. It was excellent service from the AA, who tried hard to make a roadside repair and then took great care with towing the boat and delivering the Bongo to just the right place at the Tidemill beside our tent.
Fortunately, Steve doesn’t need to use the van for the next few days and has already found someone to deliver a new alternator at a reasonable price – so it’s back to plans for the launch!
While we wait for the metalwork to be returned, there’s plenty more to do!
The long bolt is drilled, and secured just above the rudder stock and rings for the mainsheets are all secured through the deck.
The big plastic box storing yards of tangled electrical cables is unpacked and instruments are checked, then fitted in place ready for the electrics to be re-installed. The bilge pumps, in particular, are scrutinised and cleaned up ready for service.
Sadly, it seems the depth sounder hasn’t survived, so there’s quite a bit of research to source a replacement to be fitted before the launch.
Steve will be returning to Derbyshire in the Bongo, via Birmingham to pick up Simon, and plans to get the deck painted with at least one coat before leaving on 14 July. The weather is kind, with a gentle drying breeze and no rain . . .
He plans each day allowing time for a few more coats of varnish and then gets the coachroof painted in Epifanes no. 24 with non-slip pearls added, to match the hull. Before the chainplates can be fitted, due to the change in design, there’s six more frames to be fitted inside the hull – a piece of work unaccounted for in the list of ‘essential to do before launch’ list!
Bev sets to work masking up all the varnished areas in contact with the deck in preparation for painting. She takes the car back home on 10 July to get some more work done on the house before Simon and Steve return at the end of the week.
We know Dutch OGA friends Rik and Celeste on ‘Cine Mara’ and Fred on ‘Morgaine’ are visiting the East Coast. We track them down while they’re at anchor in the Deben, and invite them for a cuppa – our first visitors on board, even if she’s still in the tent on her cradle!
Steve and Bev return to Woodbridge on 3 July, collecting the newly galvanised fairleads from BronzeWork, Martlesham. Along with final coats of varnish and painting the deck, fitting all the metalwork is one of the major jobs for completion before we can launch. The four renovated fairleads fit snugly and with another coat of varnish to the capping rail are looking good. Warm and sunny makes working in the tent a bit hot, but it feels good to be on the final list of jobs to do – even if it is rather long still!
Moray and Dave arrive from BronzeWork to do a ‘final fit’ for the stem head, stem band, mast band, gammon iron and chainplates. Checking out the running of the bowsprit results in some modification to the capping rail and bulwark to let it pass through the gammon iron!
Steve and Moray, at BronzeWork, have regular chats about the metalwork, in particular the stem band which must be fitted before she’s launched. There’s also the conversation with Richard at the Tidemill about the practicalities of getting her out of the tent, and setting a date of the launch. It’s now agreed, provisionally, for five weeks time: 28 July, 2017.
Look out for your invitations!
As promised, Bev drives back to Suffolk and the weather is almost perfect for the somewhat unpleasant task of anti-fouling. ‘Flaming June’ has arrived with temperatures into the 30s and a light breeze, excellent! We have another tidy up under the boat, removing all the stored wood and other paraphernalia – what a difference it makes! We open the tent all round for ventilation and Bev dons protective clothing to start applying the red anti-foul. First coat is easy, painting over grey, but the second coat’s more of a challenge as it’s drying almost before it leaves the roller! Steve lends a hand to speed the job up, and we finish the whole hull, she’s nearly ready for the water!
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.