This n That (9th November 2013)

This n that.

In my last post I hoped that "Southam" wouldn't get stuck in a lock. Of course, she did. We set off with a boatload of sponsors and everything went fine until we got to the first lock, where "Southam" jammed. We could probably have got her through with lots of flushing and pulling, but, with lots of elderly people in the fore end, this seemed unwise. Instead we unjammed her and unloaded our guests, then worked "Lilith", the butty, through and bowhauled her to Mossley and back, leaving a couple of volunteers to mind "Southam". On our way we met a former volunteer who I hadn't seen for years. He offered to pull the boat, and helped us to bowhaul all the way back to Stalybridge after we'd winded at Mossley.

One of the sponsors said it was the best sponsors trip ever. It's funny how people seem to enjoy things going wrong.

Stuart has now left for warmer climes in India. The Hughes family are going to travel all round India before going to Nepal to build an orphanage..

Martin is making a great job of building "Hazel"s back cabin. Her hull is being caulked and today Mike Carter, the surveyor, came to have a look. He seemed pleased with what he saw. I was busy for most of the morning dealing with visitors, some of them potential volunteers. We're going to need a lot more organisational help getting the project up and running once the boatbuilding side of things is finished.

Hello Again. (5th October 2012)

Hello Again

Sorry I've been away for so long. I've just been struggling to get everything done as I am working all day on rebuilding "Hazel", then there's so much extra to squeeze into each evening. I've decided to try to do an update each Friday. There's now 3 of us working full time on "Hazel". Stuart is off to India at the end of the month so Martin Lowe has come to help finish the job. The hull is now completely replanked so it's mostly cabin building and fitting out to do. Martin is really good at these kind of jobs. He impressed us all today with the way that the new back cabin side fitted when we steamed it to shape. Originally the cabin sides were each formed of one piece of pitch pine about 1.5 inches thick. New good quality pitch pine is now very rare, but we bought a reclaimed pitch pine beam and cut it up with the chainmill. This wasn't quite wide enough to do it in one, so Martin has joined pieces together. When it's finished I doubt you'll be able to see the join.

We've got the sponsors day in a fortnight. They're coming to have a look at the boat, a buffet in the Bulls Head, then a trip up to Mossley on one of the boats. There's a rumour that "Spey" will be attending. Hazel sponsors are great people who have stuck with us for years while the boat's restoration was just a dream, each putting their contribution in each year until it grew into a useful fund. More sponsors are needed. It doesn't cost the Earth and your contributions will be much appreciated. Have a look at the website.

Stuart has been busy with what in his yachtie way he calls "flogging off" the sides. This means planing them down so that they are smooth. The side he's done certainly looks good.

Two Steps Forward (January 2012)

Two steps Forward.......

We had a great day on Wednesday with me and Stuart driving up spikes we got 24 done, a record. Making a start for a repeat performance on Thursday, everything went wrong. First of all the big drill that we were using to drill spike holes broke. The auger was in the wood so I put the Makita cordless drill on it to extract it, and the auger snapped. Stuart gave it up as a bad job at this point, but I foolishly persisted, using a huge old drill that is really intended for jobs like cutting sterntube holes. It was hard to keep such a heavy drill straight and I succeeded in breaking the other auger.

We've now replaced the augers, but if you happen to have a heavy duty electric drill that you never use, we accept donations!

Just to add to the joy of January, when I got home from work on Friday I found that I'd given myself a bad back, so I'm relegated to blogging today!

The good news is that we should get the next phase of funding soon, so the "Hazel" project won't run out of money in March as I had feared. There's still a shortfall in funding though, so don't be shy about donating

Martin Cox, Clamps and Crooks (December 2011)

Martin Cox, Clamps and Crooks

Martin Cox was an excellent boatbuilder and excellent person. It must have been about 1978 that I first met him. He was working as an HGV driver and about once a month drove a tankerload of wine to somewhere near Ellesmere Port where Gill Wright and I were living aboard Lilith. Martin would park up for the night near the museum and come to talk about boats and all things boat related.
I don’t recall if Martin actually had a boat at that time, but he had already done some boatbuilding. For many years he owned the small Ricky motor Grus, which was also known as Almighty, a name given to it when owned by the Salvation Army. The number one motor Benevolence was largely rebuilt by Martin, as was the BCN tug Christopher James. For about the last 15 years he followed an alternative career as an Alexander Technique teacher. When the funding for Hazel looked like it might be on the cards I tracked down Martin via the internet to see if he might be interested in working on her rebuild. He was very interested in the whole project, but with a partner and child living in Bristol wasn’t able to move away to work on it. He asked me to keep him informed and he might come and give us a hand some time.
I put Martin on the newsletter list to keep him up to date but heard nothing until this August when I got a ‘phone call from Colin Bowles who has owned Sweden for many years. He told me that Martin was in hospital with a terminal illness and had some big boatyard clamps rusting away in his back garden that he would like to give to the WCBS.
Martin actually passed away just a few weeks later. It was in November that I got a call from Hattie, his partner, to say that I could collect the clamps and possibly some other tools. We eventually arranged this for November 18th.
In the same part of the world I had arranged to collect some crooks. You may imagine that I would have no problem finding crooks in Greater Manchester, but these are special ones. They are slabs of oak that has grown to just the right curve to make knees for Hazel. I was buying them from a little sawmill called Boatbuilding Timber Supplies near Usk in South Wales.

Having arranged to have the van for a couple of days, I hired a car transporter trailer from Fletchers Trailers in Ashton and headed South on a Thursday afternoon. My first port of call was Ed Sveikutis’ old farmhouse at Knypersley, Staffordshire. Ed is a first class blacksmith. When I first met him he had a forge in the Etruria Industrial Museum beside the Trent & Mersey Canal. Over the years he’s made a few bits and pieces for our boats. He later moved to little industrial unit in Biddulph. When I tried to contact him about making spikes for Hazel I found his ‘phone number dead. A search on tinternet brought up only reports about him losing his little forge to a huge new Sainsburys store. Nevertheless, I managed to find him, retreated to a shed at the back of his hobbitland house, and he made the spikes for Hazel. Most of these were delivered in August, but he had a few more for me to collect. Along with the spikes, Ed gave me a copy of Inland Waterways of Britain by L. A. Edwards. We discussed the sad decline of craftsmanship, always a pre-occupation of Eds, and I climbed into the van, carefully manoeuvred the wide trailer through narrow gateways, then made for the M6.
By the time I reached Bristol it was dark and it was rush hour. I needed to find somewhere nice to park up for the night, but had no idea where. It was not really possible to stop and consult a map without causing traffic mayhem. Seeing a sign pointing to Clifton I decided to follow it. I surmised that there could be a car park for visitors wishing to view Brunel’s famous suspension bridge. There was not, and I soon found myself driving up to the toll booth to cross that fine structure. With 50p in the slot, the barrier lifted and I carefully drew the trailer along the narrow wooden road across the Avon Gorge. On the far side I found a quiet little road heading downhill towards the river through broadleaved woodland. I parked the van here and, making sure everything was locked, set off on foot to look for food.
My route took me back over the suspension bridge. On foot I could appreciate its slender grandeur, soaring high above the deep gorge, its high towers like something that the Romans might have been proud of, but its wrought iron chains speaking of the fiery industry of Victorian times. On the approaches are notices about the Samaritans, for sadly it’s a favourite spot for suicides. There is a tale that, when it was first built, ladies in crinolines would sometimes survive a leap from the bridge as their skirts acted as parachutes.

I was looking for a chip shop, but Clifton turned out to be far too upmarket for such an establishment. There were bistros galore, but my funds would not run to that. I bought a couple of pork pies from a posh co-op foodstore and picked my way downhill between grand old terraces, munching my pies as I went.
From the bridge I had seen that it was low tide. The river was virtually dry, with expanses of mud glinting in the streetlights. A little way upstream I had seen a lock, entrance to the floating harbour ( so named not because it floats but because ships can float in it at any state of the tide) and I thought I would go and have a look.
My meandering route through alleyways and down steeply sloping back roads brought me to a busy traffic island at Hotwells. Once upon a time this was the terminus of a railway that ran through the Gorge alongside the river from the Avonmouth direction. Long ago its route was converted into the A4 road, but still some blocked up single track tunnels through rocky outcrops can be seen.
I crossed the bridge over the harbour entrance. I was looking for a place where I could park for the night as I liked the idea of being near water. I crossed another small bridge to get to the lock, and even thought about parking on the lockside. I then thought about what a nuisance it would be to be woken by a bored policeman in the early hours and discounted the idea. I wondered if it might be possible to park facing the sea in nearby Portishead, and decided to return to the van to drive over there and have a look.
Portishead was a disappointment. As I entered the town I came to a roundabout. To the left was the town centre, to the right the industrial park, and straight ahead “The Haven”. Straight ahead seemed most promising, so I headed for “The Haven”, only to discover that it was the name for a posh housing estate with red brick roads. With some difficulty, and to the consternation of other road users, I turned round my little rig in one of the side turnings and headed back towards Bristol, parking up a little further down the little road next to a viewing point and interpretation board. I spent an hour or two enjoying planning an itinerary for Hazel, using the book that Ed had given me as a guide.
The front seat of the van is remarkably comfortable, so I slept well and awoke to a bright morning in a jumble of coats and sleeping bags. The flask that I had made before leaving home was still hot enough to drink, then I got up and enjoyed my breakfast standing by the interpretation board looking across the gorge.
I had told Hattie that I would arrive between 9 and 10 AM, so I set out about 8.30 with only a vague idea of the location of her house. My route took me alongside the Floating Harbour, with a fine view of the Great Britain across the water. This time I found myself in the milling traffic of the morning peak and had to keep my wits about me to haul the wide trailer along the maddeningly crowded urban tarmac without incident. I found myself in St Pauls, of which I knew only its reputation for riots connected with local dissent over the siting of a new supermarket. There were indeed very prominent No Tesco Here signs plastered on buildings, but rather than a dangerous concrete jungle, it appeared to be a very friendly place. Much more welcoming than the conspicuous affluence of Clifton, it had a post revolutionary utopian air, rather like Clifford Harper’s early drawings.
Navigating with the aid of friendly pedestrians I entered an area of tall terraced houses separated by narrow streets of parked cars. I became very aware of the fact that the trailer was somewhat wider than the van. In places The gaps were so narrow that I had to inch through with an anxious eye on each mirror. I began to wonder if I would find myself stuck at an impossible gap at the end of a long road with nowhere to turn.

I found myself on Hattie’s street almost by chance, then accidentally turned off it, only to realise that I was actually passing her back garden. A car was coming the other way and there was absolutely nowhere to pass. A rare parking space became apparent and I drove the van into it, stopping centimetres from the bumper of the next car with the trailer still blocking the road. As I started to fumble with the trailer lock the car began to hoot. Before I had fully released the trailer from the van, its smartly dressed lady driver came over to politely inform me that I was blocking the road. It did occur to me that she was also blocking the road (and could have pulled over with far less difficulty), but instead I explained the manoevre that I was attempting to clear her way. I released the trailer, swung it round and backed it in by hand to sit behind the van and clear the way for the polite lady. There was just enough room for the trailer, but it was blocking some lines painted on the road with a notice saying “Keep Clear”.
It was bang on 9 AM, so I rang Hattie to explain where I was. I was a little apprehensive about meeting Hattie. I had known Martin for over 30 years and had a high regard for him, both as a boatbuilder and as a person, but we had only met a handful of times. This often happens with friendships on the cut. I had totally lost touch for a long time and knew nothing of Hattie, or Rueben, their son. I am very aware of the phenomenon of circling vultures after the death of someone with items of value, and had no wish to be seen in this light.
Hattie emerged from the rickety back garden gate and greeted me with a smile, which put me at ease. She knew the man who had painted “Keep Clear” on the road to make space for his electric wheelchair and knocked on his door. There was no reply so, with no alternative parking places, we decided to simply keep an eye on the situation. She led me up some steps into the little back garden. A huge beech tree had recently been felled, letting light into what must previously have been a rather shady patch. She showed me the huge old clamps, seized with rust, lying in a corner of the lawn, and asked if I would also be interested in the various bags of nails and spikes that were with them. Having just spent thousands on spikes for Hazel and still not sure if we had enough of some categories, I answered in the affirmative. She went to make coffee as I started to carry the clamps and bags of spikes out to the van.
Over coffee we talked boats. Hattie asked if I knew anything of the wooden boats that she used to live aboard. Irritatingly, as I recount this, I can’t remember the name of one of them. It was a wooden butty which, unusually, had been shortened by taking a section out of the middle and fitting the two ends back together. No mean feat! The other was the small ricky motor Isis, also known as Jimmy. I remember this boat being on the Bridgewater briefly in the 1990s but have heard nothing since. Another past owner contacted us about it a few years ago but we could find no trace, so the chances are that she has become firewood.
Hattie led me up two stories to a spare bedroom that was piled high with old fashioned toolboxes. She started opening them one by one and asking about which tools would be most useful. We selected a range of useful items, but it was obviously a little difficult for Hattie as she juggled between wanting to send the tools to a place where they would be useful and wanting to keep things that connected her to Martin. After a while she went downstairs to make more coffee and left me sorting through a box of augers. It felt very odd to be rooting through Martins tools.
I remembered that I hadn't checked the van for a while. I went down to have a look and found the old man who had marked the road standing in his doorway looking confused. “I can't get out” he kept repeating in a high hoarse whisper that was barely audible. Luckily another parking space was now available and I manhandled the trailer out into the road and back a carslength to slot it into this new vacancy before another vehicle filled it.
After another cup of coffee, Hattie and I carried the boxes of tools that we had selected down to the van. I hooked up the trailer again and carefully negotiated the narrow streets of Montpelier.
I decided to head out of Bristol down he old A4 through the Avon gorge rather than by the motorway. As I drove along I noted the remains of the old Hotwells branch, then followed the still active commuter line out to Avonmouth and Severn Beach. Feeling hungry, I turned off the main road at the beckoning of a sign that said “Fish & Chips 80 yards”. The distance quoted was inaccurate, and, after at least 200 yards I parked up and paid £1.50 for the worst bag of chips I have ever tasted. Vowing never to go there again ( I probably wouldn't anyway) I returned to the main road. Passing Avonmouth Docks I remembered a conversation with John Gould. He told me that, as part of his campaign to keep the Kennet and Avon open he once loaded a pair of boats (presumably Colin & Iris) with grain at Avonmouth and had the unnerving experience of waves coming over the butty's stern and flooding the cabin as he headed upriver towards Bristol.
Following the meandering road across low lying ground, part agricultural, part industrial, I eventually came to Severn Beach, then reached the roundabout that marked the way on to the Severn Bridge. After driving across a vast expanse of tarmac I reached the toll booth, paid my dues, and set off across the great bridge. Big sister of Brunels pioneering structure that I had crossed the previous day, it spans not only the Severn Estuary but also the mouth of the Wye. On the Welsh side of the river I left the motorway and, after skirting Chepstow, set off along a B road through arcadian countryside. This brought me to the town of Usk, but I had a problem. I remembered that Boatbuilding Timber Supplies was on a road out of the other side of Usk, but I wasn’t sure which road. I plumped for another B road which meanders towards Abergavenny.
I was pretty sure to begin with that I was on the right road, but after a couple of miles my confidence dwindled. I decided to turn round, but had to find a suitable place. Eventually I diverged up a tiny lane, then turned round by backing into a farmyard. When I had nearly got back to Usk I pulled into a gateway and rang Gavin who runs the sawmill. He said he had seen me drive past, just before I went up the side road. I had been so busy looking for somewhere to turn round that I missed the sawmill. I turned again and soon I was carefully backing the trailer between stacks of timber towards Gavin’s crane.
The log that I was interested in was sawn into 4” thick slabs. One by one Gavin lifted them with his crane, a hiab mounted on a bare lorry chassis, so that I could examine them and select the ones that I wanted. The three that I wanted were then swung forward, with the crane at its full reach, and placed carefully on the trailer. With the load tightened down with ratchet straps and a wad of cash handed over, I carefully drew the heavy trailer out of the yard. Gavin took photos for his website as I left but they don't seem to have appeared yet.
I thought I would head home the pretty way, and check out another sawmill on the way. I had been told of a sawmill at Whitney on Wye, so I turned left on to the road towards Abergavenny, then carried on into Brecknock, driving between high dark mountains, then into the gentle Wye Valley which goes in a great loop via Hereford before it reaches Chepstow. Going via the book town of Hay on Wye I carried on along a winding road, then crossed the river on a timber decked toll bridge, the piers of the old railway bridge standing parallel to my left. I had been racing the lowering sun as it was now past 4 PM, and soon it would be finishing time at the sawmill. Whitney on Wye seemed to be off to the left somewhere according to the map, so I looked for left turns. I didn’t have to look far, as a tarmacced lane running uphill announced itself as the entrance to Whitney sawmills.
I parked up and walked towards a forklift truck that was loading some sticked timber into a drying shed. The driver got out and greeted me. We discussed different kinds of timber, prices, availability etc and gave me permission to go and look at the logs that they had in stock. It was certainly an impressive place, though the prices are slightly higher than sawmills that I’ve dealt with before.
Curiosity satisfied, I set out again into the fading light, driving North across country. Leominster, Ludlow, Craven Arms and Church Stretton, then on to the Shrewsbury ring road and sheared off to cross the Shroppie at Market Drayton. Via Newcastle under Lyne and Congleton then a little bit of the M60 I got back to Ashton and, after checking the boats at Portland Basin, arrived home, where Emuna had a meal ready for me.
Next day I took the trailerload of wood to Knowl St where Ryan , Stuart and I unloaded and stacked it before I returned the trailer to its owners.

Getting Everything in Place 11th December 2011

Getting everything in place.

Over the last couple of weeks Stuart has been busy cutting and planing planks whilst I've been working on the sternpost. The stempost is now up and I could get the sternpost fitted today, but I've noticed that Janet, our neighbour, has just hung a line full of washing out in the sun. As I will have to heat some chalico on the stove to fit the post and the wind is blowing in her direction I think I'll put it off until tomorrow.

We've a new volunteer, a retired sheet metal worker called John. He's been grinding the knobbles off the knees, which are now back from being shotblasted.

For several weeks "Hazel" has been looking very bare. Her new bottom is in place and the moulds are up to give a skeletal trace of her shape, but she has no sides and only the apparition of a cabin propped up on sticks to remind us of the boat that she was, and shall be again.

Soon we'll be putting the knees back in place, then steaming the bottom strakes or garboards to shape, and so a new boat will rise from the crumbly rottenness of the old, new wood, but the same shape and the same spirit.

Talking of wood, we don't have quite enough of it. To make up for the shortfall I've found some oak trees that are to be felled in Cumbria. I will be able to plank them with the chainmill, but transporting them is proving to be a problem. They never completed the famous Taunton & Carlisle Canal. In fact, the nearest the canal system ever got to Appleby where the trees are was Kendal. Now that waterway is truncated by the M6 at Tewitfield, and anyway, our boats are all 10' too long to access it. There'es really no choice but to use lorries, and they're expensive. So, if you happen to have a lorry long enough to carry 30' lengths of timber, give me a ring on 07931 952 037.

First Planks Steamed 9th December 2011

First Planks Steamed

It was still dark when I arrived at Knowl St at 5 past 7. I opened up the container, switched on the lights and started to gather fire lighting materials and get them arranged in a crude fireplace. At 7.30 I put a match to the pile of paper, cardboard, shavings and sticks. When I could hear crackling noises, indicating that the wood was starting to catch, I started piling on bigger pieces of wood.
When Stuart arrived at about 8 AM the flames were climbing up and licking around the old oil drum that serves as a crude boiler. I climbed on top of the pile of scrap wood and started throwing pieces down to Stuart who piled them on to barrows for transporting to the fire. I learned my lesson about not keeping the firewood near the fire many years ago at Ellesmere Port where the fuel pile once caught fire when I was steaming a plank for Lilith.
I had asked volunteers to try to get there for 9, and people started to show up from 8.30 onwards. Wisps of steam began to rise from the steambox at 5 minutes to 9, so the time for bending the first plank was set at 5 to 11. A plank has to spend an hour in the steambox for every inch thickness.
Soon a goodly crowd was assembled, though with little to do except stoke the fire, fetch more wood and drink tea. Steaming planks requires a good crowd for just 10 minutes per plank, when it’s actually being fitted. The rest of the time there’s not much to do except be sociable.
Stuart had the excellent idea of doing a dummy run, using one of the planks for the fore end. We manhandled the plank through the boat and then carried it back from the steambox then forward into the hoodings, the people at the other end of the plank having to walk on a temporary platform sticking out over the water. Stuart clamped the plank into the hoodings and everyone pushed the other end towards the boat to bend it. I was just expressing concern about the amount of pressure being put on an unsteamed plank, when a bang from the sternpost end confirmed my worst fears. A bit of short grain near the end had failed and about a foot had broken away. I looked at the broken plank in horror, but Stuart was smiling. “It’s OK” he said “The plank starts behind the broken bit, I haven’t cut the end yet”.
We put the plank away near the bow where it belongs and got on with getting clamps etc ready. As the water boiled away in the oil drum boiler and the fire grew steadily more intense so the steam rising from the steambox grew thicker and hotter. Rather than using the electric kettle we brewed up by placing an old kettle on top of the brick furnace next to the boiler where tongues of flame were constantly playing.
Time ticked by, and at 10.50 everyone assembled around the plank. When time was called,Stuart undid the tarpaulin shroud that was stopping too much steam from escaping at the steambox entrance. We pulled the plank out and dropped it on to a row of trestles while Stuart screwed a block near the end to hold the clamp. We then picked up the plank, pushed it into the hoodings and, once Stuart had it clamped up, bent the plank so that it touched the knees. Getting the bend is not as tricky as getting the twist. Ryan manoeuvred the heavy planktwister into place and screwed it against the lower part of the plank to bend it into the V shape between the moulds and the bottom. The plank then had to be forced downwards by bonking it with a big rubber mallet. This didn’t quite do the trick, so we tried forcing the plank down with a hydraulic jack pushing on a piece of wood screwed to the knees for this purpose. It was to no avail, the plank stayed with a stubborn gap under it, which will have to be removed by planing away some of the lower edge of the plank where it does touch the bottoms. Other than this, the plank fitted really well.
With the first plank in place we began to prepare for the second one. Ryan unscrewed the small bung from the oil drum, producing a jet of steam. This soon settled down and, once some priming problems with the pump were resolved, it was refilled with cut water, the bung screwed back in and more wood put on the fire. We then had to carefully move the steambox to the other side of the boat, insert , the plank and steampipe, then close up the steambox entrance and wait for the water to come to the boil.
With a good fire already in the hearth and everything hot we had steam up in half an hour, and the time for bending the second plank was fixed at 5 past two. Time for everyone to have lunch and enjoy more beverages. As Steve the Viking had arrived there was proper coffee for those who wanted it.

The second plank was more straightforward than the first and, with the day’s tasks accomplished by 2,30, people started to drift away. A few of us stayed and enjoyed potatoes and sausages cooked in the embers, before packing away the tools and dousing the fire.

25 Days. 3rd November 2011

25 days

I was surprised to see, when I logged in, that it has been 25 days since I last wrote anything. How remiss of me! The fact is that I don't seem to have had the time to sit down and write. I did have a bit of time off. Emuna and I went to Llandudno for a couple of days for her birthday. Stuart has been away too. He had a weeks work in Belgium.

When I returned from Llandudno on 13th October I found that Stuart and Ryan had spread the oak boards out on the ground as a sort of flat pack boat. Stuart started laying out the spiling boards and selecting the timber for the new planks. It turned out that the logs that I had bought were rather too straight and this restricted the amount of planks that we could get out of them. "Hazel"s planks are curvier than I thought.

Meanwhile, the sides of the boat were steadily being removed until there was virtually nothing left of them. Just the new bottom with the 1951 conversion propped up on sticks. We decided to get the knees shotblasted, so they went off to a shotblasters, then to another as the first one nearly tripled the quoted price after they had done one knee. The idiots also removed the identifying marker that Stuart had put on the knee, despite being firmly told not to. It's a good job they only did the one, or we would have been totally unable to work out which knee went where.

Stuart thinks we need timber for 5 more planks. I heard of some trees being felled in Cumbria and so had a day out looking at them. They're mostly too thin, but there are a couple of useful ones. I just have to arrange transport now.

With the stempost in place I started work on the sternpost. Now that is nearly ready.

We have a few new volunteers. Jake is travelling regularly from Lincoln to help. Bernard has started taking care of the tools. Nick is coming for a day each week and Rita joins us when she has a day off from social working. At the moment Reg is up from Rugby, carefully planing bevels on the edges of the bottom strakes. What we need now are some fundraising volunteers to magic up the rest of the money that we need. Any offers?

Drizzly Day 11th August 2011

Drizzly Day

I had a few jobs to do in Ashton before starting work on "Hazel" today, and had a pumping crisis to deal with at Portland Basin as "Elton" was trying to play submarines as a result of a faulty pump. When I eventually arrived Stuart was already busy strengthening up the moulds for shaping the fore end planks. I had a look at the job of fitting the stempost, which I had removed a few days earlier to do a bit more work on the hoodings where the top strake fits in.

I trimmed a bit of old planking away to make it possible to slide it right up to the end of the new keelson, then thought about bringing it over and offering it up. I wouldn't be able to carry it on my own and Stuart was still busy with the moulds, so I decided to go and work on the sternpost.

After a little while alternately cutting with the power saw and hacking bits out with the adze to rough out the hoodings on this post.

Ryan arrived, apologising for his lateness. He and Stuart had been to a charity pie tasting at the buffet bar the previous night.
He got stuck in to sorting out the electrics on the 3 phase table saw that we recently collected from Ashton Canal Carriers.

It is run from a 3 phase converter, enabling it to run from a single phase supply, but had been running backwards. Ryan tried swapping wires around until eventually it ran smoothly in the right direction, then blew a trip to cut power from the whole boatyard.

Giving up on this, there was some discussion about other jobs that Ryan could do, but none of them were quite ready to be started. I had reached the stage of preparing to cut another slice off the sternpost with the chainmill, but decided to leave this and get Ryan to help offer up the stempost. In fact all three of us worked on this and soon had the stempost in place and fitting quite nicely. When Stuart checked it though it was way off centre at the top. This seemed to be because the right hand (starboard ) side of the bow had moved and was pushing the stempost out of line. Ryan and I started cutting away the other side so that we could get a prop in place to adjust the side of the boat. Part way through this job Ryan's mother arrived and we stopped for tea and a chat. When we had finished, Jessica, Adeline and Elouise, Stuarts wife and two daughters arrived and we were surprised to see that it was nearly time to go home.

All day the grey sky had been crying a constant fine drizzle over us. It was the sort of rain that gets you really wet without you really noticing until it's too late.

The Lost Knee

The Lost Knee.

Stuart was busy cleaning up, organising and labelling "Hazel"s wrought iron knees while I worked on the new sternpost. He started to look puzzled. We discussed shotblasting and rustproofing the knees, still in remarkably good order after 97 years. Obviously the number of knees was an important issue in pricing the work on them. There should have been 26, 13 for each side of the boat, but Stuart could only find 25. A search of the boatyard ensued. "I did hear a plop" said Stuart, "but it didn't sound big enough to be a knee". He started investigating the canal alongside the boat with a rake, but found only bits of stone. We went home with the missing knee on our minds.

Tuesday was a rare day as neither me or Stuart could be there. I had a meeting to go to and Stuart a funeral. On Wednesday the hunt for the missing knee resumed, Ryan entering into it with his usual enthusiasm. He progressed from using a rake to a grappling iron. After many fruitless throws the iron was thrown once more, but Ryan forgot to hold on to the piece of string.

There was now nothing for it but to get in the water and recover the grappling hook, whilst at the same time feeling about for the knee. We lit the gas heater in the main container and Ryan stripped off, emerging clad only in his blue overalls. He leaped with gusto into the water and began feeling around with his feet. He soon found the grappling iron, and a G clamp, which Stuart thought was probably what caused the plop that he heard, but still no sign of the knee.

Eventually the cold and frustration at finding only bits of stone drove Ryan out of the water to dry off in the container. I began to wonder how much our excellent blacksmith, Ed Sveikutis, would charge to manufacture a new one.

As going home time approached Stuart elected to have one last go at finding the knee. He got in the water, wearing red overalls, and worked outwards steadily from the previously searched areas near the bit of boat that the particular knee came from. He moved into increasingly unlikely waters until he reached nearly to the fore end of the boat, far from the source of the knee. He bent down, reached his arms into the water and triumphantly lifted the piece of curved iron out of the mud with a yell, before climbing out on to the bank with his prize.

How the knee got there we will never know, but at least we now have a full set again.