Friday, 31 July 2015

Picking up the pieces

This post was originally drafted some time ago, but for various reasons did not get published. It has been updated at the end of July 2015.

We've owned Flamingo for some months now, and we had hoped to get quite a lot of work done by now. As is fairly obvious from our posts this year, we've had a number of other things to think about. This post is about the general progress we've made over the last few months and specifically the progress that I have been making slowly with trying to clean up and make the back cabin more appealing, without losing the historic material dating from the early 1960s.

The first month or so on Flamingo was assessment, a lot of cleaning, trying to find places to put things and our furniture, and I managed to get some primer/undercoat on the inside of the side door, and the back doors to the main cabin.

We had a sofa bed at home that really needed a new home, and we realised that it would fit well into Flamingo. However, when it is folded down the backrest becomes part of the bed, and it's quite uncomfortable, so we ordered up a new cushion in December, which I covered at home.

The cat flap is now removed and the header tank has moved elsewhere.
January, the second month of our ownership, was mostly just getting through - what with Alan's eye problems and his injuries from falling in the marina - and keeping the boat warm enough in very cold weather to make sure that the pipes didn't freeze. However, Alan managed to remove the old cat-flap and make a steel plate to cover the hole at the beginning of January, despite the problems with his eye, his shoulder and his broken finger.

February and a large part of March was making sure that Chalice was clean and tidy to be sold, and then making the journey of several days from her mooring to the broker. We took her to Dominic Miles at Rugby Boats, only about half a mile from where we moor Flamingo. We quickly got a reasonable offer, and, as the survey went through with no problems we had sold her less than two weeks after accepting the offer. This was a weight off our minds, as managing three boats really was far too much to deal with.

Since then we have tried to do as much as possible, while fitting around other engagements, Alan's various hospital appointments and even the occasional attendance at a festival.

Some time was needed to understand this, and a lot more!

Alan has done a lot with regard to assessing the electrics in the engine room, which bear little resemblance to the wiring diagram we were given by the previous owner. He has done sterling work with regard to getting the oily mess out from under the engine, although this still needs work. 

Attempts to clean engine bilge produced all these "free" tools and more!

Expensive but just not appropriate to the history.
Flamingo came to us with an overly massive and overly powerful diesel heating boiler installed in an otherwise fairly original 1936 engine room, complete with a massive additional modern gravity fed diesel tank on the bulkhead, and a very modern flue exiting the engine room roof.  This had all cost the previous owner a small fortune, but seemed highly insensitive to the history of this part of the boat, not to mention making access to some of the engine and much of the electrics near impossible.  After much heart searching about losing a secondary heat source, we decided we couldn't live with it, and it had to come out.  So we disconnected and isolated it from both the fuel system, and the otherwise coal fired central heating.  We managed between us to remove the heavy tank, but the boiler needed a visit from our sons to provide much needed muscle as Alan's shoulder has now been diagnosed as a 'type 3' sternoclavicular subluxation, and he has been told not to lift anything heavy (Hah! They obviously don't understand boating). 

Allegedly just the flue had cost a four figure sum to install.
Alan has also subsequently moved the header tank for the remaining simplified central heating system to the highest location, and been able to remove a vent that caused air to get sucked in, and stop the system circulating, and done further investigations of the arcane mysteries of the water heating system.  These are stop gap measures to get it to work acceptably, but the long term aim is to re-plumb it all entirely.

Back cabin before any repainting was started.
When the weather allowed I carried on with painting the back and side doors, as well as the back part of the main cabin, which was tired and rusting in places.  I have also spent some time assessing the state of the back cabin. When I first saw the cabin I was struck by how dark it was. The entire inside was dark scumbled, which I found quite oppressive. Because of this I had suggested to Alan that it was redone in a lighter colour. I have seen boats done in a wartime colour scheme of cream and mid blue, which I felt was light and practical. However, when the cabin was rebuilt in the 1990s, some of the early 1960s cabin was rescued and reinstated in the new, steel cabin. So, repainting the entire inside of the cabin would be obliterating some of the historic Willow Wren paint scheme - not an acceptable option for us.

Two cupboards, new scumble on left, old scumble on right
While washing and assessing the cabin I could easily see which was the 50 year old scumble, and which the 20 year old. I like the old Willow Wren scumble, unfortunately, I don't like the newer scumble, which was done with a fine comb, with a redder colour than the original, and is often in a worse state than the older scumble. The ceiling is in a poor state, despite being newer, and we had decided that it would probably be reasonable to paint that white or cream, which is what we have in Sickle's cabin, and lightens up the scumbled interior considerably.

1960s scumble on table cupboard
Then in March when we were visiting my mother she offered me a considerable quantity of dark blue material. It would be perfect for covering the three mattresses for the cross bed in the cabin, as well as for curtains. I also intend to make a cushion for the side bed, which at the moment is bare board. However, it is very dark, and I was intending to lighten the cabin.

Between the side bed and the cross bed. Old scumble in middle,
poor quality newer scumble on right and left
As I don't like the newer scumble I suggested to Alan that I repaint the new scumble as a cream, while retaining the older scumble. He was unsure, thinking, I suspect that it wouldn't really be an example of anything, either old or reconstructed wartime. However, it would retain the historic scumble and painting, and would allow a future owner of Flamingo to reinstate the scumble. It would also make the whole cabin much lighter and more appealing, and as it has to be a 'guest bedroom' this is important. It also makes more of a feature of the 1960s Willow Wren scumble, it is much easier to identify which is the old 'rescued' parts of the Willow Wren cabin.  I realised this when talking to someone about the whole of the boat - it is easy to tell the uninitiated which parts of the boat would have been there when it was working as a carrying boat - because the main cabin is separated from the 'back cabin' by a gap.

The ceiling will need to be stripped and repainted in a light colour
I would say that the old scumble is about 25% of the cabin. The table cupboard, and cupboard below, the bed hole, and the front of the side bed, the beams and little door separating the side bed from the bed hole, and finally the small cupboard above the side bed (which doubtless has a name, but which I cannot remember).  Broadly it is the stuff that was interior to the cabin, not against an outside wall.

I can understand Alan's concerns, however, I got him to agree that I would rub down some of the new scumble and paint it cream. If we didn't like it I agreed that I would find out how to scumble.

The side bed sanded down, carefully avoiding damaging the
old scumble at the front and to the left
It is taking a long time. Sanding down the 'newer' scumble by hand is difficult, particularly in some of the corners of cupboards, and my fingers have become very raw. However, while there is still a lot left to do, I'm very pleased with the results. The cabin is much lighter and I have been able to get rid of unappealing and poor quality areas of the woodwork.

The painting as it begins to emerge
Because I was getting very tired by the sanding I decided to give myself an 'easy' task and sanded down the panel at the opposite end of the cabin to the door. A shadowy pattern began to appear under the scumble. When I called Alan in to look at it he said, "It's a castle painting", and I think it is. Long since sanded down and obscured by the 90s scumble. I sanded it some more, and a few patches of colour were visible, but beyond that it is impossible to know anything about it. It has now been painted cream, too. I don't know who painted this landscape, or when it was done, although I suspect that it dates from the time of the other 1960s artwork in the cabin, and that it was probably painted over in the 1990s.

The shadow of a 'castle landscape'

Faint traces of the colour of the hill and the red frame

Overpainting the 1990s scumble.
1960s artwork and cupboard fronts on the left.
I have now finished repainting about half of the 1990s scumble, which has significantly brightened up the cabin, but for the meantime have moved onto helping Alan refit the main cabin. When I have got more done I will post some photos of the completed cabin.

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