Monday, 27 February 2012

Fitting out

After a 24 mile bike ride this morning to help prepare for my Scotland trip, Kay and I went up to West Row to catch up on progress.

Mick has really moved on with the fitting out. His skills as a  carpenter (not to mention engineer, painter, plumber, electrician, etc, etc) are obvious. The bedroom wall was in (I really must start calling these walls 'bulkheads') and both the wardrobe and bed were complete. The two metal front doors had also been welded into place.

Without a wide angle lens it's difficult to get much in to each shot but this shows the wardrobe at the foot of the bed. The steps into the engine room are to the right but this will soon be closed off with a door. More painting awaits me.

The bed base is in. It's got four sections enabling access to loads of storage underneath. We will take the memory foam mattress with us next time and see if the bed needs a short extension flap along this right hand side so we can move the mattress away from the outside wall. Gena says the wall can become quite cold but I'm not convinced - not only is the wall well insulated but the central heating pipes are located right below that edge. We will probably leave it in this simpler form and see how we get on. The front end of the main bedroom will also have a door. The only other door inside the boat will be the one to the toilet and shower room.

Further along the boat we came across this interesting piece of carpentry. It is where the last wall bulkhead is located between the toilet/shower room and the dining room. So what's going on?

After a bit of leg-pulling, Mick explained this is how he forms the exact size and shape of the bulkhead before marking it out on the final piece of ply. Crafty or what?

While going through this process, he discovered that Skylark is about 50mm taller (from floor to ceiling) than the last boat he built. He's not sure how this happened as the ballast and insulation is the same depth so he guessed it happened at Graham Reeves' workshop. This is good because it will not only give us a more spacious feel but will hopefully make the purchase of the shower door easier. Apparently, most doors are 1800mm high which would have been a bit of a tight fit. With an extra 50mm to play with this should not be a problem now. 

So, it's all starting to fall into place and we are geting a real feel for what Skylark is actually going to look like. Fortunately, she is looking just as I imagined. So long as we keep this up, we should get exactly what we want.

I have to say, the process we have bought into is not at all like buying a new (off the peg) or second hand boat where you can see exactly what you are buying. If you end up with something that is not right, then you only have yourself to blame for not seeing it earlier. 

When building from scratch, it's all about having a vision, doing your research, putting that vision on paper and being able to communicate it, getting the detailed specification right, budgetting carefully, finding the right builder (one that you not only trust and respect but also someone you like and can communicate with - vital ingredient), and regularly supervising the build to make sure your original vision is turned into reality. I also think open-mindedness and flexibility are vital. As we have moved through this process, we have learnt what works and what doesn't. Mick's knowledge of narrowboat building and life on the cut is vast. His advice and opinions have been sought after and more often than not taken. He has also been tollerant of our requirements and we have worked through our ideas in a very profesional and workmanlike way. Like building a house from scratch, our plans have had to change a bit but the overall vision and our 3 principle aims of quality, simplicity and traditional character have guided us. Fingers crossed that we can keep this up!

Later this week, Mick aims to clear the deck of all his stuff, and bring in the cooker, fridge, sink and stove so we can make sure they all fit in together. We'll discuss the detailed design of the kitchen cabinets and work tops, and whether there should be an additional porthole above the sink. This process is vital to get right because it's all very easy to sketch this out on a 2 dimensional A4 plan but getting it right in 3 dimensions and in actual size is a whole different ball game. I certainly don't want to start changing things too much once it's all in place - I'm happy to repaint areas that need it but I certainly don't want to move wiring, stove pipes or portholes!

We were pleased with progress and Mick and Gena are still confident of compleing on time. It's also good that they are finding the build satisfying. They appear to like the design and are even considering transferring many of the design principles into their next boat - a compliment indeed!

Now, I need to lie down as my legs are aching!!!

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