|Posted by Allan Hickson (Mod) on August 3, 2016 at 4:55 AM|
It is now 2 years since we started on the ‘hard graft’ element of the Heritage Lottery Project. On 3rd August 2014 we sailed into Sandon Dock, and raked out the fires for the final time before the strip down commenced. Whilst there has been any number of factors that have delayed the completion of the hull repairs and our return to serviceable condition, we had privately hoped that this could be achieved before the second anniversary of our last sailing - and we almost made it…
As we came into July, we still had an awful lot to do, but our volunteers put in a real shift with work going on almost every day throughout the month.
After filling the boiler, before we could raise steam, we have to take on coal; before we can do that, we need to have the bunker floors in; before we can fit the floors each piece of timber (and there were two ‘layers’ to install in each bunker) had to be individually cut to length and profiled to fit the hull. So we had a team consisting of one man in the bunkers producing the dimensions of each piece, with a diagram for the more difficult pieces, men on the quay sawing the timber, and a man on deck conveying the dimensions and diagrams up and passing the timbers down. On completion an appropriate sealer was applied where the timbers were against the hull or bulkhead. Coal was then removed from store and tipped into the bunkers, making a right mess of the previously applied white paint that adorned the bunker sides!! Once we have coal in the bunkers, we have to have something to shovel it onto, and this consists of the 100 firebars that fit in the two furnaces. Once again a team was required, and 8 hardy souls formed a human chain from the quay, where the bars had been delivered, to each furnace. These heavy bars were handed down from the quay to a man on deck, who passed them up to the man stood above the stokehold, who lowered them down to the man standing above the Boiler Room ladder, who passed them down to the man stood on the Boiler Room floor, who passed if through the furnace door to the poor unfortunate whose job it was to position each bar in its’ correct position in the furnace. All this 100 times. Then before coal could go into the furnaces, there is the small matter of the two brick arches that had to be built in the combustion chambers.
Whilst all this was going on a multitude of other tasks were being performed, completing the painting of the forward deck and boiler casing, re-fitting and rigging the mast, installing the steering chains, repairing and re-wiring the wheelhouse, re-fitting compass, navigation lights, GPS and VHF, re-fitting the Boiler Room ventilators and re-commissioning the telegraph to name but a few.
As part of the Lottery Project, we had looked closely at our safety equipment and procedures that we felt were in need of updating. In order to do this and to comply with regulations needed to be granted appropriate certification, we purchased new First Aid equipment, new Life Jackets, ‘Man Overboard’ cradle and an EPIRB (an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), which sends out a distress signal and position to the Rescue Services in the event of an emergency. With this equipment aboard, training of volunteers in the use of it, and after a thorough inspection of the vessel by the Surveyor, we passed the essential Maritime Survey.
So it was that on the 26th July, fires were lit again for the first time in two years, and over the next 3 days, the boiler was gently warmed through and steam was raised to 100 PSI to enable our steam pumps and generator to be test run successfully. There are a number of jobs to complete before we raise the boiler to full pressure and run the main engines, but we are close; very close.
As the month drew to a close, the 14 volunteers who were aboard on Saturday 30th July, whilst slightly disappointed that we didn’t quite make our 1st post-repair sailing, could be satisfied with their efforts. This determination to see the project through will continue until the work is complete, by which time we can reflect with pride on the monumental contribution of over 6,000 hours of volunteer’s time, the value of which will not only match, but will certainly exceed the Grant Award itself.
August 2016 is becoming a very exciting month!