Storm Damage Repair
The insurance company, Navigators & General, appointed Malcolm Braine to survey the damage [see the "Storm Damage" page] and he agreed with Simon and Rex the extent and value of work required. I ran the boat into the maintenance yard lock at Lapworth for Malcolm Braine to inspect it and then set off for Brinklow at which I arrived 2-3 days later. Simon and Rex then had the time to perform a more detailed inspection than they would have been able to do by visiting Lapworth. With the inevitable to and fro between the insurance company, its surveyor and the team at Brinklow, approval to proceed with the repair was not received until the end of March or beginning of April so that, instead of it fitting neatly into a slack work period, I had to content myself with being "fitted in".
The engine controls, vertical exhaust, fuel tank breathers, battery bank, much of the electrics in the engine room and the above-gunnel panelling and insulation had to be stripped out before the cabin side and roof could be removed with a plasma cutter. Work then commenced on rebuilding the steelwork.
I took advantage of this opportunity to have a second set of engine room doors installed on the right hand side with wooden panelling to prevent condensation problems. Rather than have a hatch cover over these extra doors, I opted for 'not quite full height' doors with a rain lip over them. This brought a huge amount of extra light into the engine room. Likewise the existing doors are now steel clad to improve security. The pigeon box was bolted to an upstand rather than being welded in place and, although not a very noticeable modification, this will be very advantageous when repainting it.
Much more noticeable was the addition of a back end beam across the front of the engine room and its associated drainage channels through the handrail. This is a big improvement cosmetically and makes the boat look even more authentic as an ex-working craft. From a functional point of view it channels off the water running back from the domestic cabin roof before it reaches the fuel vents and thus dramatically reduces the risk of water ingress to the fuel tanks. A steel, rather than wood, hatch over the existing side doors completes the 'extras' and improves security.
The steelwork was completed by 18th April 2005. The Brinklow set-up is a number of craftsmen working at one location who are largely self-autonomous. It therefore does not follow that the completion of one type of work dovetails with the availability of the next 'trade' needed. The carpentry to line the interior of the engine room and clad the inside of the doors did look like being possible until the end of May or sometime in June and I further learned that Jury Service could have wiped out two weeks of June! Even worse news was that the paintwork could not even be contemplated until September/October which would have wiped out my ability to cruise at all in the summer months.
This was before considering my own needs at that time. For instance, I had indictated that I might join the IWA/BCN campaign gathering at the end of May 2005 and, even more positively, that I would join in the Russell Newbery 2 week campaign cruise around much of the BCN network. Thereafter in mid-June I was expected at the RN rally at Parkhead.
In the event I didn't get to the IWA/BCN event but instead used the 'bottom road' to get to Cambrian Wharf in the centre of Birmingham where some of the RN boats (I was the first) were going to assemble for their campaign cruise.
Eventually I returned to Brinklow, stripped out the temporary electrics and controls which I had installed and left the boat for the engine 'ole linings to be put in. I anticipated quite a delay before the paintdock would become available and so, when the linings were completed, I reinstalled the electrics and controls in a more permanent way and took the time to sort out the wiring loom, clean up the engine and polish up the engine plumbing.
I had hoped to get the painting done in the spring of 2006 but there was a misunderstanding with 'Robert the paint' so I did not get a 'slot' at that time. How I wish that the whole British economy were as vibrant as that on the canals, with quality craftsmen being booked up a year in advance! A diagnosis of bowel cancer at the end of 2007 saw me expressed into hospital and thereafter to bed at home for almost 18 months. For this reason I am still running around in 2011 with the back of the boat in 'red oxide' or equivalent. I occasionally get asked whether I have had the boat lengthened.