When I glanced at the mirror, I was shocked and surprised at my resemblence to a coal miner. The whites of my eyes still shone out, but everything else was totally covered in rust. It took a while to scrub it all off, but my eye sockets are still black. Making me look like an eye-linered up panda.
Sheena said i would need a Michael Jackson mask. I said "no.. it won't be that bad". She was right. I was wrong. Next time I will listen.
It heaved it down with rain all night, and i was despairing of being able to get outside at all today. But there was a three hour break of sunshine at lunchtime, and I got stuck in with the grinder again. Completed the port side, and broke the back of the work on the starboard side, before it started heaving it down with rain again. One good day, and the majority of the limescale will be history. Then I can whizz round and finish up any little bits I may have missed.
Haven't smoked out the restuarant yet. And nobody has walked past the boat coughing.
The day didn't start so well, as it was chucking it down with rain. It soon cleared up though, and I was able to emerge hobbit-like from the rear hatch to ask Steve about borrowing his grinder. Black 'n' Decker. Ultra reliable. With noticably less vibration than the Chinese tool, and more comfortable to use for longer periods.
Thankfully, I did not break it.
Did a couple of hours grinding, until more rain stopped play. Estoban (from the cruiser 'Lee Val') said "We're all very impressed that you're doing the hull work yourself, let me buy you a pint at the Bounty sometime". I was well chuffed with myself. But didn't have the heart to tell him we're too skint to pay somebody else to do it.
Did an hour's handscraping, and then moved inside to tackle the job i'd been putting off for weeks.... the stove glass. It took about an hour of huffing, puffing, and twisting of metal before i managed to sort it. But now it's done. 100% safe. and i'm looking forward to testing it out this evening. Let's hope it doesn't crack.
Babylon cruised through the marina, and gave everybody a suspicious stare from the warmth of their patrol car, but like the rain, they didn't hang around for very long.
It's also been "dog central" here today. Everybody in Bourne End who owns a dog, must have been out walking it. Golden Retrievers won. Outnumbering everything else, 3 to 1.
So, this is what I arrived to find. Dogma out of the water, and 108ft of crusted on limescale to remove. Before we can even think about undercoating with red oxide, and slapping the three coats of black stuff on.
Didn't even pause for coffee, before I got stuck in with the hand scraper. Spent a couple of hours flaking off the gunk, before Peter (on the widebeam 'Big Baloo' next to us) took pity on me and brought out the angle grinder. Wehey!
It worked great. For about an hour. Until I broke it.
The bits that I did get to clean (about 20ft), came up all shiny smooth, ready for sanding down and undercoating. Peter (bless him) popped out with a tin of red oxide and touched up Dogma's rusty patches. I thanked him. "That's what it's all about", he said.
Though my first encounter with 'man tools' didn't go very well today, i managed to clean up enough of the hull to be optimistic about completing the whole job myself. And I got to make a hell of a racket and cause sparks (legally). So, not all bad then.
With a hand scraper, it would have taken me 3 to 4 days to play 'ring-around-the-dogma'. With a grinder (that doesn't break), a few hours. The hull looks pretty sound underneath, given it's age. Three weeks seems adequate time to complete the job. Though, I'll have arms like popeye by the time it's finished.
Forgot to mention... Out walking, on the way to Spade Oak, tucked away behind an old Lychgate, we discovered Noddy's House! "The Old Thatch", where Enid Blyton used to live. In the summer, the Gardens are open to the public, but it costs four pounds to view them. So we peeped in over the hedge.
No sign of Big Ears. Perhaps he's moved on.
It's a lovely old thatched building. Very large, and imposing. More a 'saxon hall' than 'quaint cottage'. A book review of the property says that it used to be a seventeenth century inn, previously called the "Rose and Crown". It also says that a lot of her 'mystery' stories were set in and around Bourne End, but she added fictional placenames.
Managed to squeeze in another week living on the boat, before we're moved back closer to the marina, and hoisted out of the water. Don't know when we'll experience such an impressive, breathtaking view again, so we wanted to make the most of it. An oak boat from the bronze age was found when they sank the foundations for the nearby railway bridge, and there are roman forts, Iron age settlements and burial tumulii scattered all around. With the mist on the river at night, it still feels incredibly ancient. The complete silence is the most beautiful thing. It's easy to imagine things will be exactly the same 2000 years in the future (if 'man' doesn't mess things up).
Flow wise, we were lucky. It hadn't rained very much upstream, so the thames was trundling along at a much more sedate pace, than when we last visited. The level had also dropped significantly, and no boats appeared to have floated off anywhere they shouldn't have. The houses built on stilts have escaped flooding this year. We noticed that there's more river traffic now, and a whole bunch of people out rowing, preparing for competitions, from the nearby sailing club. In T-shirts! Rather them than me.
The people in the houses on the other bank seem to think nothing of 'popping out shopping' on their small boats every day. We were very impressed with their boat handling skills, especially at night. I suppose it's safer than venturing out onto the roads, where people drive at 60MPH up each other's backsides. And I guess, they get lots of practice.
We experienced the full range of english weather, while we were there. Sunny one day, snowing the next, and pizzling it down with rain the day after. Sumo found himself a beach, and though it's a very little beach, it made him very happy. Deployed the stretchy lead to stop him swimming off after seagulls. Dogma is on the far bank, top right.
We get lots of people walking past and pointing at us. It's the boat, i think, rather than us. I guess it must be unusual for a narrowboat to be moored here for any length of time. Especially with it's stove on, and a dog onboard. We're well pleased with the emissions, though. It can be 'full on' and blazing inside, yet there is barely anything visible coming out of the chimney.
On the next visit, our boat Dogma will be out of the water (on wooden support beams), for three whole weeks. So now the hard work begins. There is lots of grinding, chipping and painting of rusty stuff to be done. Sumo is staying in Dorset, because it will be too much work to hoist him up and down a stepladder several times a day (though the marina staff kindly offered).
It will be strange, being on the boat, and it not moving. We got the 'boat wobbles' in the Co-op the other day, whilst browsing the fruit section. They must have thought we were drunk. Swaying about like a couple of lushes.