Part 19

Spring arrived, and with spring the opportunity to carry on welding, it appeared that all the holes in the main area that had been found so far had been welded, but I was perplexed, still there was water in the hull. Where was it coming from?

‘Its rainwater,’ Simon said, we’ll get rid of that and it will soon begin to dry. What we need to do is start at the front of the boat and clean all the rust flakes and rubbish out of the bilges, then we can take the water out and she’ll begin to dry out. I looked around the boat, she was one big open space with a lot of rust flakes in the bilges and it looked like a huge task.

This feeling was now becoming familiar to me, it had taken a long time to scrape rust and now it was finished I felt a sense of achievement and believed we were really making progress. When Simon explained the next task was to clean out the bilges and then paint the floor, I realised there were a lot of big stages to this project, and the end seemed no nearer than it had six months ago.

I managed to layer myself up with clothes, full thermals to help keep the cold out, and gloves that went over the edge of my long sleeved top. Experience had taught me that these rust flakes managed to get everywhere. I worked methodically taking a pair of frames at a time, and working on one side of the keel. I begun to brush out the rust flakes and other crazy rubbish I found in the bilges, the occasional packet of pills that must have slipped under the floor when the previous owners weren’t looking, I would then fill up the bucket with the rust flakes and once full carry it over to the big bins in the boatyard. Once all the rubbish was out what was left between the frames was a pool of very dirty water, Simon gave me a small hand pump that could then be used for pumping out the water. I pumped the water into the same bucket and this worked quite well for the top layer. Unfortunately there were small rust flakes still in the water as I got down to the end of the puddle, the flakes would clog up the pump and it would stop working. In order to get the last of the water I used a dust pan and brush to sweep it up and also a sponge to soak up the remnants. It took one weekend to do about a third of the boat, and I knew this was going to be a laborious task.

We were however developing our social network in the area, a retired fireman and his wife, Dennis and Jean from Leeds returned for a second visit to see how we were getting on. They had been passing by in the autumn when we had the range going, and he had told me he liked the smell of a coal fire, and thought it was fantastic project we were undertaking. He was awaiting some major surgery but managed to climb on board and have a look at the inside. He said he would be returning to monitor our progress, and true to his word he and his wife had returned.  It was very fortuitous timing as I was beginning to feel like we were working hard most weekends and every school holiday and not getting very far, but Dennis said ‘you have made tremendous progress since we were here last time,’ and Jean nodded her agreement. It cheered me up that other people could see the progress.

I realised that the process of restoring the barge was similar to the process of directing a show. After a certain point a director gets so close to the show they begin to find it difficult to see if the show they have directed is one that they are proud of. That is when as assistant director is needed to either critique or affirm the work that has happened. The same was true of Misterton, we were so close to her it was hard to see the progress, but to others the progress was becoming noticeable. We needed to keep this thought in our heads.

On the third weekend of cleaning out the rust flakes I got to the workshop area at the back of the boat. This contained a small pond of water. The boat has a keel down the centre and is designed so that the back of the boat sits lower in the water. Any water that is collected in the boat should drain to the back and then is pumped out through the bilge pumps in the engine room. This was what would happen when we had cleaned the boat out and would prevent further water stagnating in the bottom. Ideally once all the welding was complete there would be no more water coming in, but as Simon said there still may be some condensation from time to time.

The pond in the back was about a foot deep, and I sat down with the battery operated hand pump and started to fill the bucket and empty it over the side. I filled the bucket again, and again, and again, and again, in fact 23 buckets later the pond had been emptied. Simon and I were both amazed by how much water there was there. I was curious to see what would happen next.

On the following weekend when we opened the boat, there was a different smell on board, it no longer smelt damp and dirty, in fact it did not have any distinctive smell at all. We climbed down the ladder and walked up and down the frames inspecting the hull. It was bone dry, I was delighted!