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.
July 7, 2014 finds Steve and Simon in Suffolk, preparing Cachalot for caulking. Before he leaves for Berlin, Simon makes a perfect job of putting more coats of primer on the hull, and we engage Paul to start work on 22 July while we go to Berlin to visit Julia and Simon.
At the end of July, determined to join in with the Dutch OGA Cross Country Tour, Bev took her bike to the Netherlands on the ferry, joining the fleet in Haarlem to ride and sail with them to Den Helder, returning mid-August after helping Claudia to move Else. But that’s all another story . . .
Paul and Steve made excellent progress with caulking and starting with the interior and we return to Derbyshire for a couple of weeks at the end of August. After an epic furniture removal trip to help Kate and Simon (Chesterfield – Barnsley – Matlock – Birmingham – Southampton – Chesterfield in 36 hours) we return to Woodbridge as the weather looks set fair until October.
On 26 September another milestone is reached as Paul completes the caulking and ‘paying up’. We spend another week tidying up and preparing the tent for another winter, concerned as to whether it will actually survive. This really must be the last winter Cachalot spends under her tent! We head for home on 4 October.
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.
Paul’s available to do some work during August, and there’s the usual beard-tugging, sucking of teeth and considered conversations as Steve and he discuss what to do about the rudder tube, and queen plank over the counter stern. It’s all agreed and Paul starts work. As we depart for Cowes, and the final OGA Anniversary celebrations, August 2013, Paul continues working on the rudder tube, and we leave the van safely stored on Jo and Paul’s drive. We’re going back to Derbyshire from the Isle of Wight, for a couple of weeks at home.
Returning to Woodbridge in September, it looks like the weather’s set fair for us to carry on working for a couple of months. With the tent open on all sides, and the hull pretty well fair, its time to sort out the sheer.
After careful skimming with the plane, Steve and James (who’s popped by to see how we’re doing) keep taking another look, just to be sure, and the starboard side is done. With more good weather forecast into the Autumn, we’re on track to get the hull painted to protect the wood over winter.
While we were in Cowes, Paul finished the rudder tube and now its time to fit the queen plank. There’s lots of discussion about how to ensure the ‘slope’ is right for the deck over the counter to drain properly.
With a final check of the hull, there’s a few more bungs needed to be made, and glued in place. It’s an important job, to get the sheer right, and difficult to judge. So we enlist the help of Trevor and his brother this time, to help get the line just right on the port side.
Henry the vacuum cleaner has been a permanent resident in Woodbridge this summer in an attempt to keep on top of all the dust and woodshavings. Once the hull is ready, Beverley helps with cleaning it down, ready for painting with yacht primer.
Take a last look at the lovely wood, before the paint goes on! As the weather becomes more autumnal and the days get shorter, its time to go back to Derbyshire for birthday and anniversary celebrations. It’s been a good year for both sailing and boat building, we did some sailing, joined the OGA50 celebrations and managed to get the hull painted as planned.
But there’s some bad news, the tent is beginning to show its age. The battering it’s had over the past six years has worn the fabric in the roof. Now the hull’s got no drainage holes, the last thing we want is for her to fill with rainwater, so its off to buy more tarps for laying up this winter, and we create a ‘tent within the tent’ for ‘Cachalot’.
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.
The entry for 15 April 2007 declares Cachalot a ‘project’. Six years on and we’re still enjoying the challenge. BUT, six years had taken its toll on the Bongo, and she’s overwintered at Full Circle Autocare Ltd. for new wheel arches, door sill and tidying up of dents, bumps and scratches in the paintwork.
Richard and Jim have done a great job, and we’re looking forward to getting back to Woodbridge just as soon as its warm enough!!! When will the winter end??
Its the start of the OGA 50th anniversary celebrations this weekend, so we're off to Heybridge Basin to say 'farewell' to 'Witch' and 'Bonify', despite the weather, as the first boats leave on their four-month adventure.
Back in Woodbridge, we begin to make plans for this year, after another late start due to the very chilly winter . . . its still bitterly cold at night and we cuddle up in the van with extra blankets, duvets and woolly socks! We aim to get the hull ready for painting this summer, and start by thinking about the deck . . .
We turn our attention back to the deck . . . after researching the options and having some test pieces of the old teak deck sawn at the woodyard in Tansley, it's decided! The remaining foredeck will have to come off, allowing for a complete new marine ply sub-deck, a layer of glass to ensure we have no leaks, then the sawn teak will be re-laid. The Tansley woodyard has agreed to saw all the stock provided we supply it to them completely clean, with no stray fastenings to wreck their saw. So there's lots of plans and more measurements to be done. Fortunately, the inside of the tent isn’t too cold up on the deck during the day, and with the door closed and several warm layers, the van’s not too bad either.
Round trip to Woodbridge and St. Osyths, 21 June 2012
Andy had cut the larch boards, and they needed collecting, but the weather was still too unsettled for a return to Woodbridge. Steve drove the car to St Osyths, to save on fuel, taking advantage of Martin’s kind offer of a loaned van to transport the larch to Woodbridge, returned the van to Martin and drove back to Derbyshire.
He did the 500-mile journey in the one rare day when it wasn’t forecast to rain! By all accounts, the trip was quite an epic, with the long boards tied to the roof, but the larch is now safely ‘sticked up’ and ready for the next trip to Woodbridge, when it stops raining!
Another wet month in July
It was another two months before we were in Woodbridge again, and the ‘summer’ continues cold and wet, with weather forecasters providing little optimism for change. Steve’s fortunes on the work ‘front’ changed though, resulting in five weeks gainful employment in Chesterfield during July and early August. Determined to get down to Suffolk for the OGA August Classics, we eventually made it, towing ‘Cachalette’ with both bikes on the back! A phonecall from Paul, saying he’s available for work, money in the bank from Steve’s Chesterfield job, so we can say ‘yes’, and there’s plenty of Old Gaffer friends dropping by to see how we’re getting on. There’s better weather forecasts than we’ve had all year, things are looking up!
Dropping the keelbolts!
We’ve been thinking about this for a while, so let’s do it today! Paul and Steve drop two of the bolts, and check them out carefully.
They came out clean, but will need replacing. This prompted us to call Adrian, the surveyor, and he popped round to take a look while there’s still some missing planks to peer through into the hull. We’ll be off to see Moray MacPhail at Classic Marine for the new ones in due course.
Final few frames
We’ve said it before, but these really ARE the last frames, and if the weather stays fine, we should get all the planks in, with Paul working as well. There’s four planks to do on each side, just hope we don’t run out of wood again!
With the return of torrential rain, we had to resort to working inside the tent, watching the puddles grow and closing up the van. Its passes over, and at least not too cold, so planking continues, ready for Paul to join us on the final haul. The boards from Andy at St Osyths vary quite dramatically in thickness, apparently he had problems with his saw. The rain has stopped though, and Steve’s getting on well with sorting out sufficient boards for the last few planks.
The weather brightens up and Paul starts work, there’s some careful planning about how to deal with the last few planks. With nailing up to be done as well, we need to get more nails, roves and screws.
Beverley’s set the task of working out how many more we’ll need, and converting the number of nails into kilograms for the order from Anglia Stainless! How many times did she revise her calculations before calling?
Steve and Paul get started in earnest, just two full lengths to do on port and starboard. Ben from Anglia Stainless arrives with the order, and getting the bill reminds us just how important it is to keep the scraps of copper and bronze. The screws are coming up at £1 each. The nails aren’t cheap either, especially when you think about the bit you nip off every time you put on a rove!
A week before Easter, Steve set off with (hopefully) the final few frames, made over the winter in Matlock Bath. He also towed ‘Cachalette’, freshly painted, varnished and a few little repairs completed. The plan was to stay down in Suffolk for a couple of weeks, but the weather turned horribly cold and windy, so he retreated home for Easter. Sadly this meant we missed the OGA rally at Shotley, where we’d hoped to sail ‘Cachalette’ over to Harwich, but he did have time to put the frames in place . . . so we’ll be off in search of more wood for planks, and then its the deck!
The second trip to Woodbridge this year was also thwarted by the weather . . . with forecasts of gale force winds, flooding and very low temperatures we decided to travel to Suffolk by car, just for the weekend. Grateful thanks to Sue’s Dad for letting us stay at his house in the warm and dry! It was great to meet up with Rik and Fred, visiting from the Netherlands for the OGA talk about the ‘Round Britain’ event, and to see OGA members at the Nottage Institute, Wivenhoe. 16 May found us setting off to Woodbridge for the third time this year, although the weather still didn’t look TOO promising with wind and rain continuing, but the wind dropped at last. It began to warm up, in the daytime at least. The aim is to fit all the frames and floors by the end of the week, and try to source some more wood.
There’s another careful look at the depleted woodpile to sort out what is usable from the remaining planks. Steve checks it against the shift of butts plan to give the final list of what we’ll need. Hopefully this will be the last time we run out! A trip to St Osyths, and the wood is chosen from what Andy has on offer.
We took the opportunity to see how Martin is getting on with ‘Gwenili’. he’s sure she should be back in the water soon. Andy says the wood will be sawn in the next couple of weeks, ready for when we return to Woodbridge, and Martin has offered us the loan of his van to move the boards once they’re cut.
After an excellent week’s work, with all the frames and floors bolted up and painted, Steve thinks about what to do next. Waiting for the wood from St Osyths, we’re beginning to think seriously about what to do about the deck! Having carefully taken all the teak up, there must be a way to re-cycle and re-lay it, but that’s another research 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.
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.