Sunday, 27 February 2011

First full weekend

If you have insomnia, get a lightship.  A few days work will sort out any sleep disorder.  Having had 2 hours sleep Saturday night I needed 2 cups of coffee to get me into shape Saturday morning.  But I managed to drag myself down to the ship.  First stop though was Screw Fix for yet more essentials.  I had already purchased the broom, mops and bucket from the local hardware store (which was cheap than anywhere online, go figure that) and so just required some rubber gloves and a few more bits and pieces.  I also had come armed with my pressure washer.  Lots of fun to be had with that.

Job one on the ship was to get everything up a ladder onto the ship.  Not easy.  But Ikea came to the rescue.  Those blue Ikea bags are indestructible.   In short, rope over the said of the ship.  Fill the Ikea bag, tie it on and hoist it up.  Easy when you know how.

The condition of the ship good but the place is dirty.  And it is amazing what happens when one cleans it.  So out with the pressure washer and start blasting.  It took most of saturday to clean half the lower deck area.  Luckily the day was broken up with a visit from a good friend.  Always eager to give the tour  I spent an hour wandering around the place.  Never get bored of that.

Sunday was spent doing much the same.  Except today the sun was out for the first time and the birds were singing as I arrived.  Blasted off a ton of dirt from the other side of the ship and started on the helipad deck (top deck).  That was harder and exposed a lot of deck issues.  Whatever they cover the decks in (seems like an inch of rubber compound) has split badly in a number of places and exposed rusted metal was showing through.  I will need to get that up, treat the metal and find out how to replace the runner compound.  Sounds like a job for the paint manufacturers.  They should know.

One annoying thing was that a number of the drains on the top deck were completely blocked.  So that is this week's challenge.  Find a way to unblock an 8 ft drain pipe with 2 turns in it.  Probably full of solid dirt and rust.  That will give me something to sort out during the week.

The approach works well actually.  I can start to see a pattern that should work.  Go to the boat with a job in mind.  Do that job and also find 2 other problems that need solving.  Then during the week you get time to browse the web, sort a solution, purchase and get it delivered ready for the following weekend.  If I limit myself to one job (compulsory) per visit then it should work out ok.

I mopped the floor in the main corridor.  It came up fine, I did not realise how bad it was.  But it is winter and of course it did not dry.  So big boot prints all over it within the hour.  But its a start.  Another bash at the toilets.  One is sparkling now.  The other still has some history under the water line that it won't let go of.  Hmmm.  It was hard not to vomit while tackling that one for the second time.  Ill give it one more chance and then I may just weld up the door (not really).

So dirty jobs done.  On top of my plan to try and accomplish one thing per visit I also try and learn one thing about the boat per visit.  The first week I worked out where the toilets were.  Today, I had a go at trying to understand the fuel system.  How hard could that be?  Well it turns out that it is quite hard.  But luckily there is a diagram in a frame in the engine room.

Basically, there are 4 very large fuel tanks (wall of building size).  These feed one main engine feeder tank (which is smaller but still very large).  Put it in perspective.  The 4 main tanks hold about 12000 litres of diesel each.  If you bought it from the local garage it would take about 65K pounds to fill up.  Gulp.  Luckily I don't have to do that and anyway, heating diesel is largely tax exempt.  But even then I would not be able to fill it.

The 4 holding tanks have a fuel filling pipe which goes up to the top of the boat (I think.  It's hard to tell as lots of pipes go to lots of places and they are hard to follow up through the various rooms and walls of the boat).  But I think I have worked it out.  One main filler pipe puts fuel into the 4 main tanks.  Then a fuel transfer system moves it (and filters it) into the main engine feeder tank.  Which then feeds the fuel to the 4 generators.  Easy?  No.  There are valves and pipes all over the place and it is hard to work it all out.

The challenge is also that the tanks are still not empty despite the pump out.  Bugger.  I have found a solution though.  There is a thing called a big brute.  It is essentially an industrial size wet vac.  But one so powerful it is basically a water pump that can pump just about anything from solids to liquids.  So I get one of those on order next week (do not ask how much!).  But it will mean I can use that to suck up any oil, seawater and dirt from anywhere on the ship.  I hope.

I did a quick survey of all the cabins as well.  Found a huge number of keys and stuck them in a drawer for later consideration.  The cabins are in good condition.  They will need some bespoke mattresses eventually and all the woodwork will need to be sanded and re-varnished.  Will take some advice from father on that as he is excellent at wood restoration.  Same for the outside doors.  The portholes will need to be put back in or it will be simply to unpleasant and claustrophobic to stay in them.  A few portholes that open would do the trick.  You are only going to sleep in them so do not need vast amounts of light.  Most of the lighting in the place can be described as industrial.  Kind of lights you see in car parks or warehouses.  Change the lighting and give the place a paint and it will be fine.  New floors all round as well as most of the lino is dead and the carpets are close to crawling out on their own.

Final part of the day was the inspection of the water tanks.  I have just about worked out that there is a water pump in the engine room.  But thats about it.  There are some big tanks under the cabins.  They will need to be opened and cleaned.  Not easy.  But the ' big brute' should help as it means I can pressure wash them and then drain them and chlorinate them.  Still need to work out where to put a grey water tank.  I did feel guilty flushing a toilet with bleach type stuff into the river which had waders walking around the mud nearby and gulls eating small fish.  I know it is no illegal (yet) and all the other boats do it (even though they macerate, it does not remove the chemicals) but I think it is just wrong.  So I will be fitting a tank and finding a pumpout solution.  Maybe one of the water tanks could be converted as I probably don't need that much water stored.

The good news is that Dave is going to build me a gangway platform for the ship.  Costs an arm and a leg but not as much as the gangway that connects to it (gulp gulp and, christ, how much?).  But there is no choice.  Its that or ladder for ever more!

Short video of the ship on its mooring.  First time the sun had come out.  It was an wonderful sunset the night before but I was too tired and dirty to film it.

Now the engine room is lit I have managed to get some clearer pics (and another video).

So next week's challenges

1) Find a solution to unblock the drain pipes
2) Get the insurance for the boat
3) Get the gangway ordered
4) Get the big brute ordered
5) Get some degreaser for the engine room before I slip and kill myself
6) Put covers over all uncovered ventilation holes.
7) Buy 3 more padlocks
8) Need to find out what kind of stuff the deck is made from
9) Need to find a good rust 'converter' (stuff you paint on rust to stop it getting worse).
10) Tackle the removal of the water heater.

Future things to think about

1) Seals for the tanks inspection hatches.  Where do I get those from.
2) Start thinking about grey water tank solutions (and pump out)
3) Need to start working on the metal doors and hatches to free them up
4) Nets on helipad need removing and cleaning and struts replaced
5) Need to get the buckled railings cut off and various odds and ends removed from the deck
6) Free up and mend the light tower trap doors.

Then paint the ship end to end (that's a sumer job, probably two summers to be honest).

Still lots of other stuff to consider.  I need to work out what to do with the chain room and the coal bunker area at the front (yes, ok bow) and several below deck areas at the back (stern I think :->).
The kitchen needs to be thought through.  It is probably going to go where the current galley is now.  Do not need a big kitchen there.  Big space where the current electron oven grill thing is can be a place for the new oven/hob etc.  It has ventilation above it so easy to fit an extractor.  Then rip out the sink area and try and find a way to minimise the impacts of all the pipes etc that run through that area.  Fit standard cupboards from B&Q, fridge freezer and dishwasher.  Washing machine will need to go somewhere but not figured that one out yet.  Maybe there will be room in the kitchen. Who knows.  There will be slightly more space as the water tank heater is there at the moment and that can come out (over the next few weeks.  It is beyond dead and anyway it is electric.

The bathrooms are easy.  They will be stripped out (probably the toilets too, there is nothing romantic about toilets of yesteryear).  New floors in, tile the walls, plasterboard the ceilings (or wood, or anything other than metal).  New lights.  Same for bathrooms.  Out with rusty old baths.  In with new floor, new shower cubicles new sinks etc.  Plasterboard and tile the bathrooms and then plasterboard the ceiling.  New lights.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


An interesting day and one that started fraught with worry.  When a boat sits on flat mud for the first time it makes itself a seat.  Like when you put your foot in the sand by the edge of the sea and the sand under your foot pulls away and your foot sinks.  The same happens for boats.  So it is vital that Gannet sat in the right place while she created her groove.  Once created, every time the tide comes in and she floats she will settle back down in the same position each outgoing tide.

The issue is to keep a 600 ton in position while it creates its groove.  The plan was that if she continued to shift about then they would need to us eyes welded onto the hull and use wire or chain to keep here in position.  This was worrying because in order to weld something to the outside of the hull there is a strong risk that you will set something on fire inside.

The issue is that the pylons that need the eyes to hold the boat against are right by the cabins.  Which meant that there was a risk of fire in the cabins or we would have to rip out interior.  Luckily the boat seems to be holding position with the ropes.  Fingers crossed it stays that way.

The picture above gives some idea of the scale.  At the moment there is no gangway (the one on the left goes to the boat next door.  To board the Gannet at the moment at low tide (seen here) you need to climb a ladder about 2 stories to the deck level.

The day's activities (as there was no welding to do) involved getting power and water onto the ship.  With water I could clean the heads (oh, my, god!) but under all that mess were two perfectly clean and good toilets.  Spent most of the day cleaning the boat (removing old rubbish), removing the pumps from the pump out and getting the temporary wiring and lamps in place.  We now have light in the engine room (photos next time), the cable room and the main living areas.

The down side of the day was that there tanks that were pumped out probably still have some way to go.  So a new plan is required to get the diesel tanks cleaned out.  This will not be a fun task.  My hands stink of diesel today and that was just from a brief visit to the engine room.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Finally Gannet reaches her new home

I have to say that I was a little nervous today.  And so was the crew of the tugs who were going to move Gannet.  I was nervous that they would scratch her.  They were nervous because she is indestructible and if it went wrong Gannet would demolish the marina and anything she hit.  Think of it as losing control of a tank on a Mall car park.

Denis (marina owner) rang to say today was the day.  The pump out had worked, the tide was going to be one of the highest of the year.  The wind was low.  If it could not be moved today, it would not be moved at all.  Yesterday was cancelled as their was a yachting race.  When I turned up this morning there was another race on.  I did panic a little.  Would the racers stop the ship from moving.  Luckily it did not.

The tug crew set about doing stuff with ropes which I will neither try and describe or pretend to understand.  And then she was off.  The photos and videos below show the progress.  It was all over very quickly.  Essentially it was either going to work, or not.  Nothing in between.

A big thanks to all those involved in getting her to her new home today.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Pumped Out

Well, job done.  I am led to believe the pump out has been completed and has raised the boat 15 inches (woooooo).  But that should help a lot.  The tides are about the highest they ever will be so now we just have to hope the wind is low enough to allow us to move it tomorrow or Monday.

Fingers crossed.

I am still a little nervous that the boat itself will never actually float again.  Apparently it will settle into the mud and float when the tides come in but will so little water and such a large boat I am not sure whether it will ever float again.  Time will tell.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Pump out

It looks like the pump out has begun this week.  Progress is being made.  Thanks to the guys who are doing the work.  Turns out that nothing ever is as simple as it should be.  The tanks have no access at the top and so pumps are having to empty the tanks over 60ft.  Apparently getting them primed to work is taking ages.  One pump is already busted and the electric one is making the lights dim across Kent.

Fingers crossed they will be clear this week.

On a different note, the Commissioners of Irish Lights have sent a copy of the last dry dock contract that outlines all the work undertaken in 2004.  Very useful as it states all the paints that have been used in some detail.  That will save some time and effort.

So thanks to Robert at CIL for his kind help.