‘Free’ is still on the hard standing. We’ve managed a couple of visits down to see her this year but to be honest, it seems to have been a struggle to get motivated with her.
The weather has been miserable. It’s winter, in England, which means it’s cold and wet. And there’s little usable daylight. These are all feeble excuses, but to be honest that seems to be all I need.
The biggest hurdle seems to have been the discovery at the end of last year that the bilge was filling up with more water than we were comfortable with.
About 80 litres in a fortnight on the visit before we pulled her out onto the hard last year.
It makes me realise that we’re going about things in all the wrong order. What’s the point of trying to make her warm, bright and pleasant if she’s slowly sinking.
So mid January we went down and emptied the bilges once more. That’s about all we did. It was too cold and miserable to get motivated to do much more.
I was finding the 3 hour drive at a weekend each way too much of a bind for the little time we got to spend on the boat too. I was definitely having some kind of slump…
This last weekend we booked a 5 day weekend and meant to get on with things in earnest. We didn’t leave until Thursday afternoon, driving through some absolutely horrendous weather. We parked up on Dartmoor in fierce winds and horizontal rain. I really like sitting in the van with the stormy weather rattling on the roof and windows, the Eberspacher heating us nicely. Insulated from the worst of it but connected nonetheless.
The next day, Friday, I wanted to do some shopping for bits to do the jobs I’ve been putting off. Captain Tolley’s Creeping Crack Cure, (an optimistic bodge to stop the windows leaking until I have the budget to fix them properly), some stainless steel screws for reattaching the curtain rails, and some epoxy resin from Reactive Resins who were particularly helpful. Roger Ball sings praises about their epoxy here..
I was gradually removing all my excuses for not tackling the job that’s daunting me: The Keel Bolt area on the bilges.
I’m thinking that this is the most likely source of the water ingress. One of the starboard bilge strengthening webs has cracked and come away. ‘Free’ has been sat on a borrowed drying mud swing mooring for a year and I’ve come to accept she needs better than that. It doesn’t look like its been doing her any favours.
Buying the epoxy and some glass matting left us in Bodmin on Friday night, so we found a suitable spot to camp in the VW alongside the Camel Trail near Padstow. Another good meal, a game of Cribbage (I won) and we settled down for another windy, rainy night.
Saturday dawned bright and sunny and feeling cooped up for two days already in the van we decided to walk the small portion of the Camel Trail to Padstow. It was good to blow off some cobwebs and great to feel the winter sun at last. We had a little mooch around, a good pasty, peered in Rick Stein’s restaurants and even bought a spatula from his cook shop (which I was pleased to note wasn’t any more expensive than online) and then headed back. We’d arranged to meet my brother, who lives nearby, on Saturday evening, but thought I still had an opportunity to actually get to the boat back to the boat and drop off all the bits of boat-stuff that were filling the van up. So we hauled arse back to Plymouth. These aren’t long distances, about 45 miles. But some of my readers might not be aware that a Cornish Mile is longer than your standard mile. Longer even than your Country Mile.
We got to the boat with just enough time and light for me to lift the bilge cover and inspect the bilge. I had secretly been hoping that the water coming in had been rainwater. We’d had so much rain since our last visit in January I’d hoped that I would see a good couple of inches in the bottom.
That means it’s coming in through the bottom. Either the Keel Bolts or the Stern Gland. Or possibly a weeping sea-cock. Sigh. Not off the hook yet.
We traipsed the 35 miles back to my brother’s and were treated to a lovely Chinese meal and a shower. That’s a luxury we don’t get to bother with on a 5 day visit usually. After seeing him and his family we set off back toward the boat to another free stop for the night, fresh and full.
Sunday dawned, cold, grey and wet. We eventually got going to the boat. I dropped her off to walk for the last couple of miles and got breakfast cooking. I’m never normally this reluctant to get on the boat.
After breakfast (about 2pm) I eventually get on and take the bottom of the kitchen unit off to explore the starboard keel-bolts better. I tentatively prod and poke with a screwdriver.
I go and see if I can borrow the right sized sockets from the boatyard, as the one I’ve brought with me is nowhere near man enough. He has a few that might fit, but don’t, so I occupy myself with soldering the LED light that I managed to break whilst moving some cushions about whilst She gets that last coat of paint on a remaining piece of the foam insulation.
We call it a day there.
Monday dawns blowing a gale and raining like we started the escape on Thursday. We get to the boat, I head off to try and find some better sockets for these keel nuts.
Roger, the resident marine engineer, rummages around in a box of sockets, bringing out each candidate as big as my fist and three times as heavy. I’ve asked him for 40mm sockets and of course these Westerlys were built when milimetres were knee-high to a short thing. Turns out 38.5 was what I should have asked for. The real measurement in fractions of an inch is too far lost behind 50+ years of ‘patina’ for me to read.
But it does the trick. I manage to remove the keel bolt nuts. Far too easily for my liking. I remove them (one at a time) and then re-tighten them to a comfortable level. And then try to undo them again. Much better.
I’m hoping that a combination of epoxying the broken webbing and just tightening the nuts will stem the ingress. It’s a job that needs doing regardless, even if it doesn’t turn out to be the source of water.
I’m optimistic that I’ve overcome the inertia I’ve been experiencing.
I’m sure it’s down to a combination of crappy weather, lack of sunlight/daylight, wariness of the unknown, worry that I’ll make things worse, unfamiliar materials and practises. Lots of excuses.
I guess the moral of this long rambling story is this:
Sometimes you just have to take your tool in hand and give it a good tug!
P.S. The Photo above is Her at Whitsand Bay in January.