Part 23

The mooring was agreed, the holes were being sealed up one by one, and the most important task to focus on next was the insulation. Months back Simon had had an epiphany and realised that the fibre glass insulation was not worth saving, and helped me to take it bin bag by bin bag to the dump. Through discussions with Alan, the boat builder and Simons research skills the decision had been made to spray foam the insulation.

The positives about spray foam is that is sticks to the hull directly, and will mould itself to the shape of the boat, despite the awkward shapes caused by over 80 years of adventures on the waterways. As it sticks to the hull it means there are no pockets of air and oxygen can not get to the hull, it is the oxygen mixed with the steel and the damp that causes the rust. The theory is that with spray foam and all the steel treated for rust before it’s applied, the return of rust will be a long drawn out affair, and one we should be able to monitor with ease for the coming years.

The negative side to spray foam is that once it is applied then no more welding can occur as the welding will burn away the spray foam and it is not that easy to replace. The other negative is that it is the most expensive insulation, but the long term view has to be what will make our home warm and dry.

We had cleaned and dried out the bilges as the biggest holes in the deck had all been fixed by the boat builder team,  but there were still holes along the side that needed fixing and in some cases finding. Until this was 110% complete there was no point putting in the spray foam.

Simon carried on needle gunning and brute force attacking areas to ensure all holes had been found and I began painting the bilges with bitumen tar paint. It was a dirty, smelly job even with the fabulous odour eliminator mask we purchased from the local DIY store. The purpose was to stop the bilges from rusting; when the boat was first made in 1923 the bilges would have been covered in bitumen paint, now in 2009 this was probably a little tired and needed rework. Simon helped me scrape off the old tar paint and clean up the mess this created and when the preparation was complete I begun to paint. The work was all on the floor level and as all the frames had an underside you could not really see it also involved me contorting myself into unusual positions to ensure every spot was covered. This was work that was excellent at creating very sore muscles and aching backs.

The painting has to take place over several weekends and after the second I was feeling slightly jaded at the prospect at further tar painting, so whilst cleaned up the side of the hull ready to be rust treated, I decided to have a day scraping the back cabin for a little treat. (I’m still not quite sure how scraping rust has turned into a treat, maybe the boat work has ground me down so much that I now feel that scraping rust in my own room is a luxury. I decided to book a pedicure for the following week to get me back in touch with reality)

As we had had plenty of time to think about the layout of the boat we had decided to become more ambitious with the interior design and introduced levels into the boat. There is a keel that runs the length of the boat and this is like the back bone, but dropping the floor one side of this in any areas instantly gave us a great deal more headroom. When we had first scraped and then primed the sides for the spray foam we had not thought about lowering the floor, as a consequence there was another foot in places that needing cleaning and rust treating before the spray foam arrived. Simon was working on some of this whilst I working in the back cabin.

At lunchtime we stopped for a break, and as we sat eating our quorn burgers I noticed a trickle of water on the side.

‘What’s that from Simon,’ I asked innocently.

Simon looked and then stopped eating. He went over to the damp patch and sat and stared for sometime. I began to worry if he would ever speak again. In the end I just could not help myself as the silence was not golden but was filling me with fear.

‘What’s wrong Simon?’

‘It’s a leak under the waterline, it’s not good.’

I looked around the boat to see what was the quickest route off and wondered if Simon and I would have time to re-enact the famous titanic moment as Misterton went down.

‘Should we go and get help?’ I suggested.

‘He’s coming to see us later, we can ask him then, in the meantime I won’t scrape around there anymore, we may as well get on.’

I retreated to my back cabin treat and carried on tapping away at the rust, slightly anxious that there was no easy escape route, I was sure Simon wouldn’t let me drown but how long would he keep me working in a leaking boat. I was not sure how long the boat would take to fill up from a leak that size but it would fill up of that I was certain.

As I tapped away at the concrete in the back cabin I suddenly realised there was another little trickle occurring and it was coming right from the heart of the concrete. Surely now we would have to evacuate?

‘Simon there’s another hole,’ I shouted. I dropped my tools in a hurry, abandoned my treat and ran to find Simon.

Half an hour later I felt calmer and returned to my rust removal treat altering the movie in my head from the titanic to Robison Crusoe. We would not sink but we may have to devise ways to keep dry for awhile. Simon and the boat builder had explained that the hopes would not sink the boat as they would rust up again very quickly, but they would have to be mended before going around the coast as the strength of the currents on the boat could make the problem a lot worse. Both of the holes were underwater the boat would need to go into dry dock for this to happen, and we were already on the waiting list for this to happen.

The following weekend we arrived in Goole, despite the reassurance about the rust resealing and so forth, I was still relieved to see Misterton still afloat. That weekend my younger brother Steve made his first appearance at Misterton. I was delighted to welcome him as he was going to help complete the bilge painting.

We gave him the tour of the boat and he appeared suitably impressed and declared himself ready to help. Simon explained that the frames needed to be chipped and cleaned of the old tar before the new coat could be applied. The area left to do was the future kitchen and dining area. Steve selected his chipping tool of choice – he found a great big hammer with a three foot handle and began smashing away.

Momentarily Steve stopped, ‘should I be more careful as this floor is the only thing between us and the canal?’

‘No worries,’ Simon replied, ‘if there’s a hole to be found lets find it.’

Steve carried on smashing away with glee; he even appeared to enjoy the bitumen tar paint despite the smell and the dirt.

The following day when we returned from work there seemed to be a commotion on the canal side and quite a crowd was gathered (by crowd I mean a crowd for Goole, so a dozen or so people, I’m not suggesting a Wembley arena crowd). Moored down from our boat was a beautifully restored Sheffield Keel – Southcliffe – we had watch her arrive the previous weekend and been envious at the state of the boat. Southcliffe had a sail on her as the original boats would have done, and the crowd seemed to be watching as some of them fiddled with the sail.

Steve is a keen sailor so wandered down to have a look, I decided to join him – no point working solo when you were meant to be in a duo for the weekend. We got talking to Chris, the owner, and he explained how it had taken a few years but he had restored the boat. He had then decided to add the sail back where it would have been originally and today they were going to raise the sail for the first time.

Chris even gave Simon, Steve and I a guided tour of the inside of his boat, we all loved it. This was a boat that has been done with love and attention, and in a style that we all thought was fabulous. I hoped that at a later date I might be able to take some photo’s as there were some inspiring ideas for us, when we got to that stage on Misterton.

That day not a great deal of work got done by us, but constantly we were stopping and watching the progress of the sail. The sail was finally raised and I looked at the face of the owner and I could see a look of pure contentment and joy, I’ll remember the way that face looked for sometime. One day, in the not too distant future, I think I’ll see that face in the mirror.