Finally there was light at the end of the tunnel, Misterton was going into dry dock to do some essential repair work to make her ready for the trip down the coast and up the Thames to her new home in Staines. There were a few areas that had sprung leaks during our rust removal endeavours, one on the port side that appeared to be a loose rivet, the one around the rudder in the back cabin and there was a small leak Simon had found in the front cabin. These could not be fixed outside of dry dock as they were all underwater, they may have been ok to come around the coast with, but why take any chances when we had got this far.

Misterton had been moved by the team in Goole as Simon and I were both working, despite my project management on site skills driving the project forward, the school summer holidays were nearly over and Misterton still was not ready for the trip down south, Personally I was beginning to panic, now school was due back the weather would slowly turn and I believed we may be looking at another winter in Goole as the window of opportunity to move the boat dwindled. All my dreams of a summer holiday adventure bringing her around the coast were dashed and I was feeling slightly sad about the whole project, but the news that she was safely in the dry dock began to lift my spirits.

The work started to fix the leaks and we were able to get up on the Friday evening to see her. It was a Bank Holiday weekend but to my surprise the boat workers all turned up on the Saturday, there were a few grumbles about no overtime rates and so forth, but I tactfully avoided any discussion about this and instead offered everyone a hot drink and biscuits. One of the guys then showed me some photos on his phone of the rudder area where we had found a small leak. There was a waterfall gushing out through the hole that they had found in the area, and what was more it took over an hour for the water to stop coming out. Clearly there had been an enormous amount building up throughout the years. It was now patched up and strong, the rivet has also been done, that was a twenty minute job, but the biggest job was the small leak from the front cabin. When the boys had whacked it with a hammer a hole the size of a leather football appeared, the steel in the area had become wafer thin and gave no resistance, this hole was going to take some time to seal. Nightmare film scenarios ran through my head as I imagined what might have happened had the force of the ocean been pitted against the wafer thin steel and our new home was lost to the murky depths of the North Sea.  

I was reminded of the old wives tale, it’s always the small ones you have to look out for, of all the three underwater leaks the one in the front cabin seemed to be the least problematic yet it was one that was to take the longest to repair.

We only had three days left in the dry dock, but one of the men had started to clean the hull ready for the bitumen tar paint to give the boat a cleaner look and a well overdue tidy up. On the underside of the hull the boat was covered in whelks and all these needed to be scraped off. One of the guys was lying on boards underneath with protective clothing manually scraping them off before the paint could be applied. The owner of the dry dock told me that he had never seem so many whelks on a boat in a long time and he guessed it was at least 10 years since she had last been blacked. The advice is to black your boat around about every four years, so yet further proof of the lack of love she had received in her recent history. The owner also told me that they had tried to flush away the whelks, and had managed to get rid of quite a few but on the downside those remaining could become quite smelly over the next few days. I was glad for all sorts of reasons that I was not the one scraping them off.

I remembered that one of the things that the men who worked for my father always said about him was how much they appreciated him getting stuck in with the work at the coal face and being prepared to get his hands dirty. Wanting to make sure we got everything finished I thought it would help inspire and motivate the team if I took a leaf out of my dad’s book. No, I did not scrape whelks, but I did start to paint the sides of the hull with Bitumen tar paint. Despite some surprised faces. I was soon given a lesson and told I was doing a good job. The work progressed slowly that weekend but it was all moving in the right direction, and we had even brought a portapotti for the trip down south, it would not be a permanent feature on the boat, but if we made the costal trip there would be a need for a toilet, a bucket was not going to cut it with either of us.

True to tradition on a bank holiday weekend, we wanted to catch up with some family, my brother had volunteered to come and visit and for a special treat he was brining his girlfriend Lisa along. It is true that at the time of the invite we thought we would be taking the boat down the river back to Goole, all work completed and waiting for her final tow. My brother had sold the idea of a bank holiday boat trip to his girlfriend, and I had to explain to them that the trip was not going to happen, not till the Tuesday. Our visitors decided to come anyway and lend a hand to prepare Misterton for her voyage. I thought this was a testament to my brother’s girlfriend, she is a remarkable lady and it shows in all she does, I was delighted she was going to help.

Lisa and I worked on painting the deck, we were painting it with anti slip paint, it’s like normal paint but full of grit, you have to keep stirring to make sure the grip does not stick to the bottom as it’s the grit that makes it anti slip. It is very heavy to paint and must be a fantastic work out for the arms. I was hopeful we would get most of the deck finished with two of us on the case.

Meanwhile we had a special job for Steve, in a previous life Steve had studied graphic design and he had a very steady hand and sure eye for detail. We had found the original lettering for the boats name etched onto the bow, and we wanted it picked out in white paint, this would really finish the outside paintwork off if done well. I was confident Steve was the right man for the job.

He worked very patiently and thoroughly, and it took four hours to do the name on one side. Steve had given us all a go at painting a bit of one of the letters and said he was honoured that we trusted him with such an important job. Steve and Lisa both needed to get back to London for work, but Steve clearly wanted to finish the lettering off. I said we could give it a go as it was already five and the drive back was at least three hours. Lisa looked at him and said she thought if he really wanted to finish it he better get a move on, I didn’t think she could get much higher in my estimation but clearly I was wrong, she was prepared for a late trip back to let Steve complete the lettering. The second side was quicker, he got it done in three hours with help from Lisa, and it has to be said the end result was fantastic.

As the sunset and Simon and I sipped a glass of wine staring with eyes of total adoration on the handiwork of Steve and Lisa, life seemed to be getting better. Steve and Lisa had headed back to the city with our unending gratitude, and we were looking forward to taking Misterton on as trip down the river for the first time in over a year tomorrow. We were going back to Goole with a boat that any man would be proud of, she was ready for the trip to the big smoke.