Friday, October 03, 2008

Brokeback Mountain in Eyemouth

Rather startling progress to report - the bridge and the deckhouse are now one and are sitting on the hard next to Isambard Kingdom Brunel's dredger.

The steam dredger is on the left, and the deck structure for Heroine is on the right, in aluminium.

This is a perfect Autumn day in Eyemouth, lots of warm sunshine and a gentle breeze, the sea is lapping the silky sand and there is a hardly a cloud in the sky.

We have finally moved here to Scotland; it has been a very long slog dealing with some awful family stuff, and we still have some dull business things to take care of down South, but our bodies as well as our hearts are now here full time.
The drive up the A1 from Newcastle is always a pleasure, being stuck behind lorries with speed-limiters means that I can soak up the views and the details of each of the buildings along the wayside; it seems to me that there is not a duff one along this stretch.
On one of our first nights out we were amused to hear (from inside the dredger) two young male voices doing an enthusiastic Brokeback Mountain impersonation, almost a duet. Now, I must say that for those of us who escaped our fair share of avant garde productions at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre this might have been shocking, but instead I found myself appreciating the acoustics of the inside of the old iron ship and wondering if the two lads might actually have some thespian talent because there was a suggestion of convincing passion in the performance...
This picture above shows the deckhouse structure and in the background on the slip-way is the "Rebecca", a really lovely local trawler, whose bridge shows a strong resemblance to ours, and is, in fact, pretty much the same size. The skipper has not my enthusiasm for a "faux-bois" effect, similar to the Rebecca's, on our wheel-house, but having seen it used all over the place up here, and not just on metal deckshouses, I am pretty sold on the idea.
Of course this picture is real wood - a close-up of the hull just below the water line on front left of the boat.

You can just make out the scratched lines (running slightly up in this picture) where the original water line was, so compared with the white line above, this shows that Heroine was floating rather "low on her marks", or somesuch, since she was first launched. Probably to do with having a 10 ton aluminium shelterdeck added in the 80s.

All the old stuff between the planks is being removed and replaced with fresh oakam and then some kind of orange putty which actually smells just like linseed putty.
A huge amount of progress has taken place since our visit in May before our second Summer Horribilis, and it now it looks as if the boat will one day float and be moved by her propellor.
There is a coat of primer going on the hull, in a rather flashy silver, but will eventually be a traditional red colour.

You can see how Heroine does not quite fit into the boat-shed, and how the primer for below the water-line is coming along.

During a chat with the ever-expert Jim about eels (I fancy catching some) he told us about his days on the boats when they would catch eels in the harbour; they would be fishing even when they were having time off from it. The best time for catching eels apparently was when a boat had been repainted and floated - they clustered around the hull for some reason (I'm thinking linseed oil) and could be caught by the bucket-load. No idea why they disappeared.

This is a picture of part of the hull where the planks are very thick - these will be pretty much where our bilge-keels will be fitted. Taken rather close up so that the planks look ridiculously large. They are anyway, but not as big as this picture makes them look.
The propellor is looking lovely, rather sculptural, and the great wooden structure supporting both it and the rudder have been reinforced with steel, which is very reassuring. There was a bit of damage caused by various wildlife and as this bit is critical to keeping the rudder on for steering it is good to see this bit solidly in place. In this picture, the steel has red primer so looks non-metallic, and the Skipper is looking lovingly at the new propellor and dreaming about it churning through the clear blue water of the Mediterranean.

This pic also shows the lovely curves around the stern, and the top of the Skipper's head is still about a metre below the water line.

The yard want us to take the spare propellor with us, which might be a bit tricky. Of course, it makes perfect sense to have a spare in case we ding the one fitted, but just where do you keep something 6 feet in diameter, 2 feet deep and weighing about half a ton? It's not as if we have a shed. Although it would make a beautiful, if rather impractical, low table with a sheet of glass..

There is still caulking to be done on the stern section, and here you can see the grease tube (tiny pip below the Skipper's hand) for the rear bearing of the shaft, so where the propellor turns on its shaft, and the shaft meets the boat, the grease forced into this joint stops the water getting in the guest cabin. Not an area for making savings.
This picture on the right shows off the beauty of the propellor - and the bow of the Rebecca in the background.
The two different colours on the blade of the propellor are where it has been fettled to make it the right shape for the boat and the speed of the propellor shaft. There are all sorts of things which can be used at this part of the boat to help reduce the snagging of old nets, and other debris, such as a tube to fit round the propellor like a nozzle, but I think we are just going to hope for the best and learn to hold our breath underwater.

In fact, the nozzles sometimes create more bother than they save, because sometimes stuff gets caught between the prop and the nozzle itself; when we were moored at Buckie on the way to Eyemouth, we gave cups of tea and cake to two divers who had been removing an old tyre from the nozzle of a trawler in the harbour, something that would have been unnecessary if there were no nozzle in the first place.

Looking forward under the boat we can see the renewed keel-cooler, a long section of copper pipe through which water runs to cool the engine.
The whole thing has been taken off and sorted out and the rotten planks behind it replace and given "the treatment".

The lovely thing about keel-coolers is that it is fresh water that runs through them, cooled by the sea, and they straight back into the engine, nice and simple. As the keel-cooler is tucked under the boat and is not far from the massive keel itself, it is in a fairly safe position and protected from all but the most unlucky collisions. Obviously if anything happened to the cooling water the engine would suffer and we'd be paddling.

On a less butch note, the new planks on the deck are looking lovely. The best thing is that as they are walked over, they are getting to be the same colour as the old deck, nice. The planks are fitted and bolted down then the bolts are covered with bits of wood which look like bungs, then trimmed flat with the deck. All so much better for walking on barefoot.

Between the planks is usually pitch - but because we are planning to be visit places warmer than Eastern Scotland, we are going for the more expenisve option, Sikaflex, which will not melt when the sun gets hot. It's going to be black, so will look right, but before that goes in, all the oakum has to be wedged between each and every plank to keep the deck "tight".

These two pictures (including one above) are of where the old deckhouse used to be. Here is a pic of the port-side fuel tank, in position down in the engine room. The beams across are part of our cunning design to create a hatch so we can get the engine out if it goes properly "bang" in the future. The hatch means we don't have to take the whole deckhouse structure off.
In the corner of the picture you can see the first bit of planking going in, and soon the whole hatch will look pretty much like the rest of the deck.

Where the old trawl winch (which became our anchor winch) was, there is now some new decking - it's all looking so much better.
Here is a closer view of the bit of new deck and the Skipper admiring it.

With Heroine in the shed we have a rare opportunity to take some photographs from unusual angles, and this one shows some of the beauty and incredible skill in the construction of the boat's great stern.

The back of the boat is such a lovely shape - there are other boats out there with rounded sterns but they often have more of a canoe shape, which means that the curve of the deck is more exaggerated. We are very fortunate to have the best of both; a lovely shaped stern and somewhere to sit and sip pink gin.

Part of the work to replace some of the bad planks along the hull results in the next plank needing replacing, not sure why this happens but is something like chasing the plank, ish.
This picture shows the planks being replaced and how the primer looks up at the bow. There is also lots of the putty going in between the planks.

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