So this could be my most contentious post in all the time I have been blogging. Far more contentious than some of my other musings like, "Is Trump a genius?", "The Earth IS flat and here's the proof..." and "Islamic State - not evil murderous scumbags, just misunderstood and in need of a hug".
"What could be more contentious than this?" I hear you cry. And here it is.... drumroll..... Should we do away with the rear mast in order to build a larger wheelhouse which would give us a day to day living space and potentially a standby 4th bedroom....?
This is a serious decision and I have spoken with a very experienced skipper who helped us bring her across from Holland about the technical aspects of removing the Mizzen mast and whether it would be detrimental to the vessel's safe handling etc. To the contrary he thought it might be beneficial in some ways, as well as losing 800+kgs at the rear of the vessel (although no doubt some of this weight would be replaced with the wheelhouse). It would make it a tad easier to sail (removing the need to haul another gaff) and having the weight lower down would help with the stability. Having seen what she is like in a moderate swell this is a big concern of mine.
I know the previous owner (sorry Bertus) would probably want me hung, drawn and quartered for even considering such a thing but my thoughts are that Zeelandia has gone through 2 major changes in her life. Once when she was decommissioned from a freighter and was 'cut and shut' and had the masts added and the second when she became a charter. In terms of the history, we will be keeping the engine and other character parts of the barge and incorporating them into her new role as a home.
It solves a few problems for us. We can have one made out of steel and lowered into place - removes the need for complex carpentry and we can clad it with nice wood so it has the benefit of the strength and resilience of steel but the aesthetics of wood. I was also slightly worried about getting the access down to the cargo hold in its current configuration. There is a big chunk of bracing which spans the cargo hold aft to the mast mount. If we wanted any sort of staircase that wasn't near vertical then we would have to chop through this and either risk the mast collapsing or build more bracing around the mast.
We would have to lose a little length on the mainsail boom which will ultimately mean some reduction in mainsail size but might make it a little more manageable. She will still have 3 sails and a nice wheelhouse which will serve as a living/eating area and convert to a sleeping area in extremis.
However it does solve one of the other major problems for me. Earache. My other half has been saying for ages we should put a bigger wheelhouse on but I have said up until now it's not possible as the mizzen mast is in the way. We couldn't extend rearwards or it would eat into the skipper's cabin and forward was blocked by the mast. It took a while for me to come around to the option of sacrificing a mast. Zee must look aesthetically pleasing when under sail and when not under sail so it will have to be done sympathetically not just slapped on like lipstick on a pig.
I would love to say 'artist's impression' but more like 'drunk chimp with a pencil rendering' is closer to the truth. The wheelhouse will not be a huge monstrosity but we would want it to give a seating/eating area which could be converted to a double bed if necessary.
Another major decision is that we are also considering relinquishing our mooring at Portishead. I know, I know, I shouldn't do Tequila slammers and make plans for the barge at the same time... However, if we are able to get a much cheaper non marina mooring (which may be possible and we are in discussions) then all the money we would blow on posh mooring could be spent on, well, renovations. 6 months of mooring fees in Portishead would pay for a lot of internal work or a big chunk of the new wheelhouse should we decide to go that route. Simple maths really.
So, potentially big decisions coming up. Before that, we need to find the holes in the hull and make sure she floats. Properly. It was too windy today to drop her onto the blocks in dry dock so hopefully tomorrow. Then the hard work starts. Again.