No, not Willow’s 9hp Petter engine but my 1931 Singer sewing machine! I inherited it from my dad, who got it from his dad, who was given it by his sister-in-law, my Great Aunt Cissie. I’ve written about it before, when I used it to make bunting for the River Festival, but after that it had gone back into its box and not been out again, until a few days ago when James needed a “Greek” costume for school. I decided to sew a simple tunic out of an old sheet so got it out and reminded myself how to use it. I managed to make the tunic but the machine creaked ominously whilst doing so and I resolved to spend a bit of time giving the machine some tlc.
Here are a few “before” photos. Every metal surface was properly rusty and covered in grime.
I removed all the little metal bits and the screws holding them on, including the bobbin winding mechanism, putting sets of bits which belong together in little plastic bags with labels on so not to lose them or get confused. As I took it apart I photographed all the parts to help me put them back together! The plastic bags I pricked holes in then dunked all the bits in a tub containing cola overnight, to loosen the rust and grime and bring them up shinier before reattaching them.
Then I set to the body of the machine and the bits which wouldn’t come off and cleaned and polished them all up, using wire wool, a rag, a toothbrush, some WD40 for the innards and Peek metal polish for the outside. It was extremely satisfying to see it all come up looking shiny and clean. Yes, it still has a few scratches and the veneer of the box is coming away in the corners but it is looking much better, and more importantly the mechanism is running beautifully smoothly now. Soon, I hope to find time to make new curtains for the living room and bedroom windows, and it’s great to know that I’ve got a machine ready to use for the task!
We’ve had a few people asking about how our newest crew member is settling in, so I thought I’d write an update. Thea’s been on board for nearly three months now, and she is settling in well.
She and Lyra have one end of the boat each, with Thea’s territory being the bedroom and bathroom, and Lyra’s being the living room. We’ve seen various wars played out in miniature: first, it was like the Battle of the Somme, with the kitchen being no-man’s-land and neither venturing behind enemy lines. Then was saw the Vietnam war, with Thea being the Vietcong, occasionally popping up in Lyra’s territory and being firmly quashed (but only when she was spotted!). Now, boundaries are beginning to blur, and we have more of an Afghan Soviet/Taliban situation with Lyra making advances into the bathroom as well as Thea continuing to pop up and cause mischief in the living room while Lyra’s asleep or not taking notice. The closest the two have got to peace is when Thea sits under the armchair in the living room (her safe place, especially when the engine is on) and Lyra sits on top, unaware of the fluffy interloper below!
The warmer weather means that Lyra is spending more time outside, allowing Thea to explore the boat while she’s out, so we’re hoping that their scents will be getting more mixed and that they will slowly get more relaxed with each other. We still have a few fights (mostly hissing and the occasional thwack from Lyra rather than out-and-out bloodshed and warfare) but I think both are for the most part happy and we are seeing gradual improvements. Thea has yet to venture outside despite encouragements, except for 30second midnight excursion when all was quiet on the Common, but she’s showing more and more interest in the world outside the window. Thea’s very playful and naughty – all cat treats have to be carefully hidden to avoid being woken up in the night by rustlings as she finds her way into a drawer left partially open with treats inside. She’s also proving to be an incredibly non-fussy eater, enjoying everything from oatcakes, to lettuce, tomato and mushrooms! At the moment they are still eating out of sight of each other and with Lyra’s bowl being beyond Thea’s normal advances into her territory, as Lyra tends to leave part of her food for later, which Thea would take advantage of if she came that far! We’re also feeding Lyra a new “Light” catfood as she had put on a fair bit of weight over the winter. We think it’s having an effect, but that may also be down to the warmer weather encouraging her to go outside and exercise more! Anyway that’s enough rambling about the cats, hope everyone has a lovely weekend!
Racing along “our” stretch of Midsummer Common meant that throughout Sunday, we had to move our boats from the Common for the day. As usual the Council failed to inform us in time, so although the rowing club did it’s best to let everyone know via flyers this wasn’t backed up with an official notification until we prompted it a few days before… Same old, same old! This time, unlike last year when we moved four other boats, we only had Loldia to help move along with Willow. On Saturday night we put Loldia by the Fort pub visitor moorings and we doubled moored alongside Pyxis – they’re only a few feet shorter than Willow so it worked out well. Pyxis is a beautiful RW Davis boat, originally a modern working boat with an open hold and now converted to a fabulous live aboard with a tug deck. It was nice to catch up with neighbours at that end of the river, and we had a sociable evening in the pub. There’s a little back and white cat who lives on Pyxis, called Marvin, so Lyra had another cat to contend with! They had a proper staring contest through their kitchen windows!
The next morning we went down to the waterpoint to turn round as well as use the facilities there. Once back moored up by the other way around, James went off to cox a race (they lost unfortunately) then we were off up to Stourbridge between divisions of racing to meet up with some more boat neighbours for a BBQ. We moored alongside Berengaria, another ex modern working boat which is a replica River class, with a lovely conversion from open hold to full cabin live aboard. After a lazy sunny afternoon with our boat neighbours from Stourbridge, we headed back into town just in time to moor up back on the Common after the last race.
We don’t have a licence to moor in a particular spot, just one which allows us to moor somewhere along Cambridge’s riverside public spaces. But we do like our spot, and our neighbours, so we wanted to get back to it. We also had a couple of other boats to shift: Dan on Wild Thyme was away and had asked us to move his boat back for him, and Ian on Loldia just wanted a hand moving it as he’s new to this boating lark. Soon, other boats started to arrive back, and we’re nearly back to normal now, just a few more boats are still to return to “their” spots
We had some traditional fenders made for Willow last year, but as they’re natural fibre we couldn’t attach them until they had been treated to prevent mould and moss growing on them.
This involves dunking them in creosote for a week then hanging them up to dry. We used a large “gorilla” tub as they didn’t fit so well in a dustbin. The first tipcat is now hanging up to drip into the tub and the second is soaking. The buttons will be next. All this is going on in the garage to avoid smells and spills on the boat!