Trevor Whitling, our surveyor, finished the survey yesterday at 1pm, and it was completely positive. The only recommendation was for anodes in the middle part of the boat – the wrought iron and new steel footings and baseplate being dissimilar metals- and for a disused skin fitting to be blanked off. As we had expected, we confirmed with Simon, owner of Willow since 1979, that we were certainly going to go ahead. After a cup of tea, we made a start on this most daunting and large of projects. We didn’t sit down and contemplate it, we cracked on straight away so as not to be too put off!
The very first job was to store all the tools away and organise the space. I’ve heard tales from other people fitting out that moving materials and tools around to get to the piece of boat you want to access can take almost as long as the actual work itself! To try and avoid this, we’ve bought a series of stackable, folding crates, and have resolved to have a sweep around and a tidy up at least once a day. I wonder how long that resolution will last?
The first change that we made to the boat in our ownership was to have a go at insulating under the gunwales. This is a very tricky space, far more so than on a modern boat, because Willow has about 2 inches of the original iron gunwales underneath the new, modern replacements that are very very corrugated and uneven! Although Simon had cut strips of Celotex foil-backed foam insulation, he’d not been able to trim and fit them, and so we started on that job.
In order to support the 12 volt cable loom, the conduit for the 240v cables, hot and cold water pipes (15mm Speedfit) and the 1/2″ copper gas pipe in the very narrow spaces, we popped over to the nearest Travis Perkins – conveniently right next to the boatyard! – and came away with 40′ of 2 inch by 1 inch planed softwood, to cut into blocks. Amy set to on the compound mitre saw, producing 2 inch by 2 inch by 1 inch wooden blocks from the softwood, and I set about trimming the insulation with a carving knife in two passes – step one was to cut 2 inch wide strips to fit between the wrought iron gunwale and the modern gunwale, and step two was to fit the blocks in every 18 inches with insulation in between.
I didn’t manage to get any photos of the “before”, I’ll try and get some tomorrow.
At the end of Friday, having worked on until 9pm by the light of the 240v floodlight off an extension lead run out from the workshop by the dock, we had successfully insulated and installed blocks down almost all of the right hand side of the boat, apart from a short length in the bedroom right at the back.
Saturday morning saw us up and about at 7:30 – and straight away, we had a decision to make.
Our original plan was to have the kitchen right at the front of the boat, after a 3′ long tiled hallway with storage for coats, hats, wet boots etc. However, the floor of the boat was not fitted level; in the open saloon, there is a 1″ step half way along, where Simon was going to change the flooring from wood to carpet and tiles.
In order for us to install the kitchen at the front, we would have to remove the plywood panels from the floor, and the two bulkheads attached to them, take out the bearers underneath, and use the circular saw to take off an inch thickness to drop the floor down. Oh, and also move around a number of the lovely ribbon-grained oak panels so they were able to be seen, and were not languishing behind kitchen cupboards.
So we decided to put the kitchen in a different place! You can’t do that in a house….
Now, the plan is to still have the 3′ hallway right by the front doors, but from there back have a 27 foot open saloon and dining area, with moveable sofa and table and chairs to adapt the layout, and then a 10 foot u-shaped kitchen before the bathroom. This was where Simon had had the kitchen before, and it meant we wouldn’t have to move any panels, or change the floor. We could even re-use the existing skin fitting, saving the job of drilling new ones through quarter-inch wrought iron plate! The reasons make a lot of sense, and having measured everything out and walked around imagining where cookers and sinks and cupboards will be, we’re certain that this was the best decision.
Simon came over and gave me some tuition on the oak panels. The tongue and groove of the cabin (which dates back to 1980, and has now been skinned in steel) is covered with ribbon-grained oak plywood, with more oak framings, to give a wonderful effect. The framing is held on with brass pins, and so Simon gave me a lesson on how to remove the framings and the plywood carefully with a hammer and chisel, without damaging the veneer on the plywood below and ruining the whole (very expensive!) sheet. I’m glad to say I managed to remove several framing pieces with only very minor scratches (and, surprisingly for me, no loss of blood from wielding the chisel!) , so I’ll need some more practice.
We did decide to move one of the bulkheads slightly to allow us some more space in the bathroom. Again, you can’t do that in a house! It was a simple matter of unscrewing a few screws and moving the partition wall forwards by 13 and a quarter inches, giving us a 7 foot by 7 foot bathroom, slightly larger than the 7 foot by six foot before, so that we can accommodate a beautiful Victorian wash stand which we acquired from Oxfam and that we want to use to support the sink in the bathroom.
The rest of the day was spent making blocks, trimming and fitting insulation under the gunwales, and sanding old grout and tile adhesive off the bathroom walls. I also had a go at filling in small gaps under the gunwales with expanding foam, which was very messy but has filled in all the gaps along one part of one side. We’ve fitted the insulation as far back as the bathroom on the left hand side, and need to finish that off tomorrow, and finish removing the old adhesive and grout from the walls of the bathroom.
Bed calls! Very long day.