Thursday, 29 March 2012

Almost finished

So, the Government has told the public not to panic buy petrol and diesel in advance of tanker drivers threatening to strike, but it has advised people to fill up a few jerry cans just in case. Guess what? People are panic buying! The Post Office has also announced they are increasing the first class stamp from 49p to 60p to help make the postal service viable before it is privatised but what is worse than that, the VATman has been told to charge 20% VAT on hot pasties and pies. This is just about the limit. Ruin our economy, cut our jobs, slash our education, close our hospitals, pay lip service to the environment but, for goodness sake, leave our pasties alone.

To help us cope with this serious turn of events, Kay and I were painting for another 7 hours yesterday and again today. While there never seems to be much to see for all this hard work, I know we are making progress. The walls, ceiling and bulkheads are finished having had one coat of primer and undercoat followed by at least three topcoats - that's not to mention the primer that went on the back of the T&G and ply panels. The kitchen cabinets are finished in silk buttermilk and the scotia mouldings are painted and ready for Mick to cut and fit them into the frames. Everything is looking great, exactly as I visualised it.

We primed the door/hatch inserts but didn't have time to topcoat them so I took them home to finish.

While Mick is working on the wiring - connecting the mass of loose ends to the fuse box and switch gear - there's nothing more for us to do so we left at 4.00pm and agreed to go back early next week to complete the painting. This will be fairly minor compared to what we have done over the last 3/4 weeks.

Launch date is still between 9 and 16 April. If this looks like being delayed due to the next boat being late, Mick is considering putting Skylark in the water anyway and probably from Popes Corner rather than Earith. More about that later - if it materialises.

Now I must go and fill up with Diesel and pasties.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

A fleeting visit

Today, I went back to Lincoln to pick up Jess for her Easter hols. On the way back we took a slight detour to visit the boat.

The good news is that Mick is continuing to make progress inside with the shower room, the hatches, the mushroom vents, filling gaps in the bulkheads, etc but the bad news is that the exterior paint has not taken at all. After various attempts using a electric spray, manual roller and old fashioned brush (and various combinations of these), the resulting finish turned out matt rather than the expected high gloss.

The supplier of the paint blames the hot weather but Mick is not convinced. So, the surface has been sanded down and another brand of paint is to be tried. If it works, I'll tell you what the brand is. If it doesn't we may just brush over it again! 

To be positive about this, at least the boat will have had about 4 or 5 coats by the time its finished which should give it a good life span.

We looked at some of the colour options for the scotia that will follow the frames around the wall panels. We discounted a darker green because 3 greens will be a bit over-powering. Red and orange looked too bright in our subdued colour scheme and white looked too wishy-washy. Then, brainwave - why not  use the buttermilk? I trotted off the the workshop and quickly painted a length of scotia and offered it up to the wall and Bingo - it was perfect. It obviously complements the 2 greens because it has already been used on the walls and ceiling but it adds a subtle thread of colour throughout the boat, tying the whole thing together. Further more traditional colours, such as red, yellow and blue will be introduced with cushions, carpets, plates, cups, etc.

So, tomorrow, Kay and I will return to continue the painting. I will initially paint the scotias, while Kay continues the walls. I will then complete the kitchen cabinets while Kay completes the bathroom.

Jess takes a leading 'hands on' role in the choice of colours for the scotia.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Eight more hours

Nothing much to report other than Kay and I did another 8 hours painting on Wednesday. It's only when you look at the boat inside that you realise how many walls there are, even with an open plan layout. You see, it's 60 feet long and about 7 feet high so that's 840 square feet without all the bulkheads. More painting next week, once Mick has had the chance to get on with some more internal fitting out.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

More help on board

After a brief visit to B&Q to pick up some more paint, Kay and I went to the boat. I'm not going to write much in this post as I think the photos speak for themselves...


The kitchen cabinets, sink, cooker, and fridge are fitted. The pipes are boxed in and front door and its adjoining panels are complete. My trusty assistant is togged up for another day of painting. Nice boiler suit!


Technical stuff: shower pump, water pumps, pipes, etc.

Fantastic weather for March! While Kay and I were inside painting the primer, undercoat and silk emulsion, Mick was outside applying the first coats of external paint.

The artist at work...he looks very Parisian in that tee shirt.

Ten 'man hours' today and less than a month to go to launch day. Another day of painting is planned for for us all tomorrow.

Monday, 19 March 2012

A long working day

9.30am - 4.00pm at the boat plus an hour and a half travelling. That's a total of 8 hours by my calculation - that's a long day for me! Anyway, I was mainly painting the walls again while Mick was working on the front door.

Last week, while I was away up north, Mick really made some significant progress fitting the shower room, kitchen cabinets and worktops, and boxing in most of the pipe work. As I didn't take my camera today (oops), I will report more fully tomorrow following another fun packed day painting.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

S2S Report

Did I complete my bike ride from Scotland to Suffolk? Well, yes, almost.

Sunday 11 March - Train journey from Suffolk to Edinburgh. Arrived at 4.22pm. Rode to Mortonhall Camp site on the southern edge of the the city - 6 miles of potholed city roads avoiding buses and cars. Bought a Chinese take-away. Arrived after the site staff went home.  Set up tarp using the upturned the bike as a ridge and settled down for an early night. Very windy but dry night.

Monday 12 March - Early start into a light head wind. Followed A7 and A68 to Galashiels, my expected second stop over. Decided to go on to Jedburgh. TIC advised me of a small camp site called Jedwater about 3 miles south -about 45 miles today. I was the only camper as the site had not officially opened. Cold but dry night.

Tuesday 13 March - Another early start heading SE again towards the Scottish border. Steep, dramatic climb to the border but then a long downhill ride into England. Very undulating road - tiring. The brisk southwesterly wind caused further discomfort often hitting me in the face. Booked into the attractive Wheatsheaf Hotel in the centre of Corbridge - about 45 miles today. Again, I was the only person staying.

Wednesday 14 March - Left after a Full Monty. Undulating road through foothills. Took slightly longer detour towards Durham to avoid further hill riding. Booked into B&B in southern part of Darlington - about 50 miles. Repaired a puncture to rear tyre. The new 'puncture resistant' tyres could not cope with a 1" nail! Quiet night but woken by an owl at 4.00am.

Thursday 15 March - Took the A167 towards Northallerton then the A19 to York - 50 miles of flatter riding. Booked into the old-fashioned Greenview Guest House, 10 minutes walk from the northern edge of the old city walls - again the only customer. Starting to feel like Billy No Mates.

Friday 16 March - York to Lincoln via Selby and Gainsborough. Long day through fairly flat countryside - 73 miles today. Spent the early evening with Jess including a huge burger each. Weather forecast predicting rain and more wind over the next few days so I decided to call it a day. It would not be enjoyable riding through Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk under these conditions so booked a train ticket from Lincoln to Stowmarket.

Saturday 17 March - 12.23 train from Lincoln, arriving home at 4.00pm - approx 125 miles. The ride from Stowmarket to home was only 4 miles but it was in a cold, driving rain - horrible. My decision to abort was the right one.

Conclusion - Of a total distance of just short of 400 miles, I cycled about 273 miles, an average of about 55 miles per day. I had set myself the challenge to cycle from Scotland to Suffolk aiming to average about 40 miles a day and that, crucially, it should be enjoyable. I knew it would not be fun in the true sense of the word and I told myself it was not a competition so I would not need to rush from one place to another. Until I reached Lincoln, all was going well but it was really the weather that stopped play. I felt the forecasted wind and rain would not be enjoyable so I decided to complete the last 125 miles or so by rail. The rain arrived during the train journey and the final ride from the Station to home was very unpleasant indeed.

What did I enjoy most? All the people I met were friendly and interesting; on the trains, in the B&B's, in the pubs and shops. I enjoyed the countryside in the Borders - much more dramatic than the flatter countryside to the south. I enjoyed my stop-over with Jess. I enjoyed the overall challenge and, even though I did more miles each day than I planned, I don't think I'd pushed myself too hard. I enjoyed eating high carb/calorie foods (pasties, pizzas, chocolate, chinese, nut bars, etc) to keep my energy levels up.

What didn't I enjoy? Far too much roadside litter. Potholes. Poor road surface. Broken tarmac around drain covers. Cycle ways that start then disappear for no reason. Some drivers passing too close. The constant head wind. Aching leg muscles. I didn't lose any weight (the pasties and beer probably didn't help). And finally, it wasn't all down hill as most people had told me.

Would I do it again? Yes but it would not be the same.

So what would I change? It would be more enjoyable if the ride were a bit shorter, say, 100 - 150 miles with only 2 or 3 stopovers. The route could also be made more interesting by following, say, a coastal route. It would be better a little later in the year but outside the spring/summer holidays to get warmer,dryer weather - maybe April May, June or September.

Would I camp, B&B or do both? I enjoy camping (especially ultra-light wild camping) but carrying a tarp, sleeping bag and mat does increase the weight you have to carry. B&Bs are fairly cheap at the moment (about £30 -50pppn) so are well within grasp. Doing a bit of both is certainly possible, as I did, but the novelty of carrying camping gear when it's only used a few times starts to wear thin after a while. So it really comes down to balancing your aims and objectives against weight and cost. In future, if I go out of season I would opt for B&B unless cost really did preclude it. For the warmer periods, I would favour camping with an odd B&B just to freshen up.

Friday, 9 March 2012

The Apprentice

I had an assistant in the boat today. Kay joined me for a bit of painting. We stopped off at B&Q to buy a couple of pots of paint to test on the walls and we started as soon as we got to the boat. Almost iimmediately we decided the two tone green approach complemented the buttermilk just right - so went on to paint as much as we could in the time. At the end of another 5 hours painting, Skylark was looking fantastic. Many thanks go to Kay for all her hard work - she's hired!

Mick was still working on the kitchen, making finishing touches to the sink cabinet and worktop. No photos today but I can report that this part of the build is looking very good indeed. I'll take some more snaps when I get back from Scotand.

I leave on Sunday for my bike trip. I went over to Woodbridge yesterday, a round trip of about 38 miles, made much harder by the head wind on the return journey. Under those circumstances, even cycling down hill can be hard work!

My bike is ready to go, complete with packed panniers bags and my first night is booked in Edinburgh. I thought it would be good to book into a camp site on the first night as I get in to the city at 4.20pm. With only about 2 hours light left, I felt a short trip to the outskirts and the relative comfort of a camp site would be the best approach. From then on, the real hard work will start and places for over-night stops will be decided as I go along.

I won't be blogging until I get back but there will be lots to report on, so, bfn.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

A sad day

Today, the country is mourning the loss of 6 British soldiers in Afghanistan - the highest single loss in 5 years. A very sad day indeed. And only two weeks before my youngest son Ben goes back there for another tour of six months. A moment for private thoughts...

While I was listening to the news and various interviews on the radio, I was busy brushing more undercoat in the boat. Mick was working on the kitchen cabinet. Earlier this morning, while preparing Kay's first cup of tea, I realised that the cabinet didn't have a drawer for cutlery, etc. I mentioned this to Mick and he casually said he would fit a drawer inside one of the cupboards. This meant the overall symetrical design would be kept and the need for somewhere to keep the cutlery would be satisfied. Mick then went to work sorting it out. The following photos illustrate the result so far. What a star!

This will not only be a very functional piece of fixed furniture (one of the only pieces in the boat) but it will also look fantastic - I keep in mind our aims to keep it simple, going for quality and making it look traitional.

The back of the cabinet shows how 'bomb proof' it is.

When I got home, Kay and I looked through the various paint catalogues I had picked up from B&Q. We plumped for a couple greens; a light green for the wall panels and a darker green for the frames. The plan is to purchase a litre of each tomorrow and we will both go up to the boat on Friday to test them on a single panel.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Panels and painting

The wall panels on Skylark are almost complete so I went over to carry on with the painting. Mick had given most of them a coat of primer so I applied a second coat of white primer/undercoat. A few panels at the stern required priming so I did these too. After five hours of arm aching exercise, I ran out of paint so decided to call it a day. The following photo gives an impression of all the hard work that's gone into getting to this stage - much more still to do.

While I was painting, Mick was in his workshop fabricating the kitchen cabinet that will house the sink and carry the main worktop. Before he started gluing and screwing, he asked me to see if it was what I had in mind. It was. It fact it was exactly what I had in mind - how does he do it?

The shower tray and its glass door should be arriving later this week, the portholes are almost ready to go in, the exterior painting is waiting for a break in the wet weather but, before all that happens, Mick is continuing the rest of the fit out.

I am planning to do as much painting as I can this week, before I head off to Scotland. As there are still loads of things I should be doing to help get the boat finished, I may shorten the time I am away. I will be able to do this by taking a few short hops by train - decisions as go along.

Anyway, we now have to give some serious consideration to the colour scheme for the panels. Because all the T&G surfaces are painted in buttermilk, the panels and their frames must be another colour otherwise the overall effect will be like sitting inside a giant banana! We still favour 2 tone green - a very pale green for the panels and a darker green for the frames. This will complement the pale yellow of the buttermilk and link to the dark green on the exterior. We think a test run is called for - I would not want to paint the whole thing just to find out we don't like it!

Before we complete the panels, I confirmed with Mick and Gena that I want a thin moulding around each panel. This will complete them in a simple yet professional way. Mick offered up a couple of samples from his workshop and we decided a 12mm beading was needed.

Before I left, Mick advised me that the completion date is likely to slip by a week because Graham Reeves' steel supplier has let him down. Mick still wants to tie the delivery of his new boat in with the launch of Skylark because it will save on his transport costs. I can understand this and while I am disappointed, I am not entirely surprised. In my experience of project management, it's essential to have a plan with a clear vision, overall aims, specific objectives, a detailed costed work programme, etc., etc., but flexibility is vital to success. A delay of one week in completion will really not make any difference to anyone. If we were planning to join the Queen on the Thames for her Diamond Jubilee, I would be more worried!

However, Mick and Gena agreed to let Graham know ' their client is not pleased' and ask him to overcome the problem in some way (while keeping on his good side). Mick will continue working hard to complete his work by 9 April, rather than a week later, and we'll just see what happens.

What fun! 

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Kitchen design

Gena called us over yesterday afternoon to discuss the kitchen layout. When we got there we found that Mike had fitted the last bulkhead between the dining area and shower room. The toilet and hand basin were in the room but not the shower unit. We were all pleased with the amount of space in this room. The width is pretty much fixed to 4' or so by the fact that the boat is narrow (!) but the length of the room is optional. We opted for a length of about 6' which has proved to be a good size; not only large enough to swing a cat if we ever wanted to but there is also enough space to wash and dry ourselves without having to stand with one leg in the shower and the other in the toilet.

Mike had also brought all the kitchen stuff in and stood them roughly where we wanted them. We then started the process of discussing the precise layout with the added benefit of actually having the kit there to move around on the floor as our thoughts developed. We have always thought the Belfast (or is it a Butler?) sink had to be located on the stbd side in its own 3 cupboard cabinet. We still felt this. The photo below shows its location. It will be set in a thick wooden worktop and with a routed draining board. It's important to get the draining board forward of the sink because the bow will ride higher than the stern - need I say more?

The worktop will extend forward some 3' beside the stbd hatch to form a cantilevered breakfast bar. The 2 charity shop bar stools will go underneath. It will be nice to have breakfast and coffee breaks next to the hatch with the options to either keep it closed, open with a perspex window over it or completely open to the fresh air. 

We discussed having an 'upstand' to mark the other end of the worktop but decided it would be more functional and look better if we just extended the top by about 6'' to match the breakfast bar end. This will help to keep the open plan effect and will also provide a handy little space underneath to hang towels and/or the fire blanket. The 2 corners of the worktop will be curved to mimic the curves of the stools and it will make a smoother, more professional finish rather than looking like it's just dropped off the back of a B&Q lorry.

On the port side, we have the multi-fuel stove set about 45 degrees into the saloon. I'm not sure of the make and model of the stove but isn't it pretty? This will be set on a stone or tile hearth and have a heat proof surround. The stove pipe will obviously come out of the hole on top and follow the slope of the sides to an exit point in the roof. I can already imagine it, sitting at the breakfast bar on a cold winter's morning, warming our cockles.

The gas cooker and fridge come next. The fridge will have a work top over it to match the other side with a similar overhang and curved corner. We agreed that the two worktops on either side of the boat have to be set at the same level, just under the gunwales. To achieve this, the cooker and fridge will have to be set on a plinth.

We also had to consider exactly where the cabinets and worktops are located not only to make sure they work well together but we have also been minded that we, or someone in future, might want to section off the dining area to make it a separate room such as a second bedroom, study or whatever so there has to be room to walk between the kitchen cabinets and maybe in future put in another bulkhead. By simply moving the port side cabinets a few inches forward, we felt all this was possible.

We want the cabinets will be similar to the ones we have at home, which were build about 30 years ago by a local carpenter. Again, referring back to our aims, they need to simple, good quality and traditional looking. Note, the wine rack is nearly empty so if anyone is wondering what to buy Kay for her birthday...

 We also unpacked the mattress and put it on the bed to see if the bed needed widening. It fitted perfectly so we decided to leave the bed at it was. We off-loaded the laminate floorboards into Mick's workshop and left him the 2 brass folding steps for the outside of the hull - to be fitted after the external painting is completed.

It's great to see Mick is making such significant progress and that everything is working out so well (I love it when a plan comes together). The completion date is still looking good. We will visit again before I head off to Scotland for my bike trip. While this means I will not be able to visit the site for about 2 weeks, I will be contactable by mobile phone and, if need be, Kay can jump in the Land Rover and pop over to West Row.

Oh, I almost forgot, you are probably also wondering what the tap for the sink will look like. I know you want to see it really...