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.
As we make progress with the ‘winter project’ of extending the kitchen back in Derbyshire, in quite reasonable weather for the time of year, we keep an eye on the forecasts for Suffolk as Storm Doris approaches with warnings from the Met Office of gale-force winds and “. . . potential for a shortlived core of very strong winds to develop.”
Sunday 26 February we receive a text from Jeff, skipper of the boat next to ours at the Tidemill: “Your roof is ripped over the forward part of your boat, not sure if you’ve been kept informed.” After a phonecall to confirm the extent of the damage, Steve enlists the help of Joe and they set off for Suffolk early on Monday morning armed with strong ropes, tarps and cable ties – not sure what they will find and if they’ll be able to repair the damage. Hoping their repairs to the tent would survive the winter Steve and Joe returned exhausted after their 500-mile round trip.
First week in October and it's still mild enough during the day, though the nights are rather chilly. The bulwarks have several layers of varnish and the last coats of paint are applied to the hull. There's plenty of tidying up and sorting through all the tools to take home for winter projects in Derbyshire.
Finally we tie down the tent as best we can and hope there's not too many storms before the Spring.
Before the bulwarks can be varnished, several hundred bungs must be made, glued in place and sanded off. It’s beginning to be a race against the weather as we get out extra blankets at night as October approaches.
28 September finds us driving back to Derbyshire for a meeting with the architects about the ‘other project’ . . .
We return on 1 October as the weather looks set fair for a week or so to finish varnishing the bulwarks and wrap her up well before winter sets in properly.
We bring the restored gaff spar back down from Derbyshire, on the roof of the van. A gaff on top did get a few strange looks from other motorists at the service area when we stopped for a coffee!
The new bowsprit, made at Larkmans by James, is now hoisted up onto the deck for safe storage over the winter. James is still working on the boom, which will be ready in the Spring.
The weather for the first week in October is mild and ideal for finishing the varnish and painting.
On Sunday, Steve decides the final two pieces of capping rail may not be good enough, so wants to wait until Monday when Thorogoods will be open . . . so what can we do to avoid wasting the day?
As it will never be seen, Steve suggests Bev may like to paint below the waterline with Primocon, so at least that is ready for the winter . . . the deal is that he will sand it down and she’ll do the painting.
As Steve prepares to paint the hull, he realises the waterline doesn't seem to be level after all the moves since 2007.
Using a long plastic tube filled with beetroot stained water, he works out the line and jacks up the boat fore and aft . . . then she also needs moving port/starboard.
Just to be sure, we find a photo of her as she came out of the water in Spring 2007 and compare it with her now in the tent.
Work in June had to fit in with returning to Derbyshire for the third Eroica Britannia in Bakewell on the 19th and to vote in the EU Referendum on the 23rd. The weather wasn't really 'flaming' though, and continued to be unseasonably cold, wet and windy.
There's the added problem of dust and noise as construction work at the Tidemill Yacht Harbour is seriously delayed. With dumper trucks moving heaps of soil and mud past the tent every half an hour, it's not an ideal working environment for keeping anything clean, especially as the next job after finishing the deck will be painting.
Work must go on though if she's to go back in the water this summer. So, now the deck is glassed and sanded with all the trims in place, Steve lays the king plank on the forward and aft decks.
Once the deck is finished, Steve's keen to start getting the hull painted with undercoat, despite the continuing dust and noise. He fairs and undercoats the starboard side, but begins to wonder about the waterline. Where exactly is it?
After conversations with Tidemill Harbourmaster Mike 'the Pipe' and experiments with a plumb line, it becomes clear that the boat is not actually sitting 'true' on her cradle. This must have been the case since being moved to the North Arm to sit under her tent when the new toilet block was being built back in 2007!
The storms in early June did no more damage to the tent, but the frame is seriously buckled and, once it's opened up, the lean from the vertical is clear to see.
Back in March 2008, Steve made a new rudder, having sourced some elm from a Derbyshire woodyard. Constructed in the newly-built garden workshop at home in Matlock Bath, it seems such a long time ago now. Those were the days when we thought the project would not be quite such a 'long haul'!
But at last, after storage under the boat in Suffolk for the past eight years, it's time to set the rudder in place.
Returning after a couple of days in the Derbyshire warmth, Steve set to work on the rudder in early June, 2016.
There was some tidying up of the rudder stock to do and fitting the 'boot', then hanging the rudder to make sure it could swing freely.
With the beginning of May looking promising, Steve goes down to Woodbridge. Departing much later than planned on the 11th, he didn't arrive 'til nearly midnight! Bev stays at home, still hobbling around, looking forward to some advice from the physio about what she can and can't do . . . Steve's first job is to make more repairs to the tent. It has a serious 'lean', several degrees from the perpendicular, with the poles bent at alarming angles. Apart from the ripped section in the side, there's several holes along the top where the poles have rubbed through the canvas . . . an inner tent made of tarps is a necessity whenever rain is forecast now.
The tent fixed as well as he can manage, Steve concentrates on the boat, removing all the 'peel ply', filling the blemishes and finally sands the newly-glassed deck. Almost ready for buying the paint and a trip to Larkmans confirms the colour. James is finishing the deck of 'Charm': International Sand it is. Next job is the rubbing strake, carefully crafted from larch and fixed along both sides from stem to just past the cockpit coaming. A visitor passes complimentary comments on the fair of the hull.
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.