Sunday, 1 March 2015

Laid up for the winter

Cosy under her covers 
Bonita spends the winter under her canvas covers at the excellent Ironwharf boatyard at the head of Faversham creek. The picture shows her in her accustomed berth, alongside the sailing barge Mirosa, which has a much more substantial winter cover with a steel frame, corrugated sheet roof and canvas sides. The photo was taken at high tide: however much of the time there is virtually no water in the creek and the boats rest peacefully in a soft muddy ooze. Almost everything portable has been taken out to be stored ashore.

There are always plenty of jobs to be done, even in the depth of winter. There is cleaning out of all the accumulated grime and some internal  painting. Cuprinol wood preservative, sometimes mixed with boiled linseed oil, is sprayed into all accessible crevices and corners.

Knee replacement surgery

This year I found some decay in one of the lodging knees up in the bow. These are wooden blocks, more or less right angled, that give stiffness to the hull against flexing.  I wondered at first if it would be better or easier to replace the old fitting with laminated wood, stainless steel, or some other modern material. Eventually I decided, as I usually do, that its best to replace it with the same material that worked fine for over a hundred years. And so a new oak lodging knee has now been shaped up and fitted. This one is held in place with bronze and stainless bolts though; its predecessor was fastened with galvanised iron.  

All the gear that has been taken ashore also needs overhauling, or at least drying out and checking over. This month I have been trying to resuscitate the Avon dinghy which seemed to be leaking more air than ever. This dinghy fits nicely on the cabin top, and I would be reluctant to get rid of it prematurely. It has some sentimental value too. Originally bought for the 1974 Old Gaffers trip to Holland, it has twice been taken (overland) to the Mediterranean. Once on a trip to Northern Ireland during 'the troubles' it was blown off a sea wall by the downdraft from an army helicopter - a hazard I had not anticipated. The trusty Avon was also a key element in a very stressful, but ultimately successful, 'man overboard' recovery in the middle of the English Channel. On Bonita age is not in itself a reason to get rid of something, more likely the reverse.
Decayed Avon mushroom valve
The main fault seemed to be that the air valves all leaked, and an oddity of the early Avons is that the valves cannot be changed as it is impossible to get at the inside of the valve housings which are glued in place. Perhaps fortuitously our Avon was vandalised about 20 years ago: someone had thought it would be fun to slash open each compartment with a knife. Presumably they found it an enjoyable experience.  I had made a repair by gluing patches of dinghy material over the cuts and it seemed none the worse. So now I peeled the patches off to enable access to the underside of the valves. All of them were badly decayed: the picture shows the best of the three, the other two disintegrated as they were being removed. Luckily these rubber mushrooms are used on several other types of dinghy and are still easily available for a couple of pounds each. 

The underside of the valve seats were cleaned up from all the adherent bits of sticky valve material, new valve mushrooms put in, and the patches glued back in place.
Will this be enough to give the old Avon a new lease of life?  We will have to see....


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