Elvis is not dead. I say again, Elvis is not dead…. And by Elvis I mean me, your favourite Captain of disaster and mishap, weaver of words and hilarity and all round, well, you get the idea. I have to apologise for my somewhat extended break from the blog. In short, new job, new county, house move, new child. Pretty much covers it….
Anyway, not that you want to know my excuses for such shoddy attendance in the blog-o-sphere but I thought I would bring you up to speed on recent development with Zee. For the first time in some considerable time I was able to get to Sharpness (now a 3 hour drive) in order to try and carry out some more fairly rudimentary work on her.
I had asked the shipyard some time ago to remove the 1000 litre fuel tank from the engine room. It was far too big to be of any use and from personal experience of having my head stuck in there for an entire day in Penzance, it wasn’t in great condition. I emailed them some time ago (a few months) but heard nothing back from the shipyard (a common thread running through the whole process) so was a little surprised when I arrived that they had done as asked and the crappy old tank was out. What was left was a yawning chasm of available space where the tank used to be. I need to put my devious little brain to the question of how best to utilise this space but suspect it will house two of the four large batteries currently residing on the floor of the engine room, the charger, a smaller stainless steel tank for the engine and a day tank for the generator and engine. I might be able to get the air pump for the biodigester in there as well which would be good. I suspect there will be some more room available but will wait and see what is needed in there first.
The steel work behind the tank is in pretty good nick although there is some flaking of paint (hardly surprising) so a new paint job is on the cards if only to halt any potential rust.
The big news is that we no longer have a mizzen mast.
We decided that removing the mizzen for the benefit of a larger wheelhouse was a fair swap. The barge has undergone many changes in its history so this is merely a way of keeping her suitable for the needs of her new owners. We will have to reduce the size of the main boom and get the sail altered in shape but I am hoping there might be an easy fix for this by just sheeting it in - if so, winner…. The main mast seems to be ok but could do with a few patches in in. I think I know how to do it but it needs rubbing down fully and then I can see the extent of any damage which will need cutting out and replacing with blocks from the mizzen mast.
Having seen the state of the mizzen and how some sections of the mast had very deep cracks in it, I suspect it is for the best that we did not put the mizzen back up.I remember when I drilled into it to put the stainless lifting eye on it that there was a considerable amount of water in it and this was I think due to the large crack soaking up the water and retaining it in the mast.
I have cut some of the mast into plate/bowl sized pieces so will be looking to fire up the wood turning lathe when I get it back to the garage at home. In the meantime I am leaving the wood to dry out in the garage in preparation for me teaching myself how to wood turn. Standby for more hilarity/trips to A&E.
The wheelhouse is going to be built off site. I am getting a friend of mine who owns a narrow boat company to build it and then we will arrange for Zee to be brought alongside in the flooded dry dock and we will cut the top off her, lower the new wheelhouse on and then weld her up. Et voila, new wheelhouse. It’s going to be that easy too…. snort Once that is done we will get the wheelhouse and surrounds painted, windows in and get it weather tight. That will be a massive step forward and will hopefully kick start the real building of the barge rather than the destruction. Getting it done off site using mig welding rather than stick welding on site reduces the man hours required immensely so it made sense to do it this way. Plus I can see how it is progressing slow time and if necessary we can make tweaks as it goes along.
The skipper's cabin seems to have done ok over the last few months. I managed to remove some more of the old flooring but the water tank still need to come out. With no diesel tank I won't be able to use the generator on board which is a bummer, but I will try to get a portable tank for this in the coming weeks just so I am not reliant on shore power. The troubles I have had and the time it takes to sort this sucks useful time out of the day so the generator is a much better plan. Working in the skipper's cabin is a bit like the Crystal Maze only you don't get anything for winning and if you lose you are rewarded with either a major contusion, gash or tetanus. Some may say that is better than watching the current series of the TV programme....
Something which is dead (not Elvis obviously) is my work trousers. Give them their due, they have taken some serious pounding but I think given the number of draughts I can feel around my nether regions and the fact the seam gave way which covers my ar$e crack, I thought it best to retire them for the sake of everyone else on site. Shipyard workers are a fairly hardy bunch (understatement of the century) but even they need to be spared that. Fortunately I have a brand new set waiting in the wings to be pressed into service.
The hull seems watertight now (at last). We do have to be dry-docked one last time I suspect in order to change the prop. The old aluminium one is in pretty bad condition and suspect would be a bit of a liability to travel any considerable distance with (ie over a mile). A new bronze one is the order of the day (about £1200 but then we need to add the dry docking to it) and I am in discussions with the shipyard about trying to get a slightly coarser blade on it to improve the speed just a tad. Dry docking always has the tendency to shift plates and make rivets seep which is never great so I am loathed to put too much of the flooring down or ballast back in place before she is afloat for the last time. Fortunately there is so much else to do I won’t be short of work….
I did sneak a quick look into my berth buddy's engine room while I was there (just out of interest). She is a veteran of D-Day and I believe she towed some of the Mulberry harbour across the channel. She has a distinguished history but is unfortunately looking in a poor way. I am not sure if she has been bought or is being renovated but she does look a bit sad. However, I digress. Below is a picture inside her engine room...
I thought my engine was big but it pales into insignificance when compared to this. For scale the ladder on the side is about 6 to 8 feet long. The whole engine is probably the size of a Humvee...
I also met this little chap in the toilet at the shipyard. When I say little, he wasn't that little. Quite literally scared the cr@p out of me - possibly what caused the last seam to go in my work trousers.
For those who are still with me on the blog, kudos for sticking with it. More to come. Until then shipmates I wish you adieu and bon voyage.