When we arrived at the boatyard (1.5 hrs late because we missed Manchester on the M6 and drove 30miles too far North) we were greeted by a smiling Chris who introduced us to the whole team.Chris and Stuart the boat-builders, Ryan the most dedicated volunteer and Pete a skilled craftsman volunteering when he can. After an essential safety talk and the issuing of safety shoes and in my case overalls we were immediately put to work. After explaining our general ineptitude and stupidity in missing Manchester on the M6 Chris handed out the power tools. David got an electric saw and I got an enormous drill. David cut slots between the bottom planks whilst I drilled holes in them. How this is meant to keep the boat afloat was to be revealed to us later.
The atmosphere in the boatyard is wonderful, different people all working on one big project with everyone making a valuable contribution to the end goal, a restored boat to benefit the community. It is a massive credit to all the chaps there that David and I both felt immediately part of the team. Ryan made us tea and then shared the cakes amongst us all. I must note that the cakes had been generously provided by Diane – a member of the team whom we did not meet but we understand is a valued fund raiser – maybe next time!
As soon as we had a few holes drilled and slots cut the job was revealed. Each hole was to be filled by a massive spike and the slots were needed so that bottom planks could move and be jacked into position tight against the first side board. Hammering the spikes in, from underneath the boat where you hardly have room to swing a hammer, is an energy sapping job that requires strength. All too often I had to get the Herculean Chris to finish off my spikes, all this computer programming (the day job) is not good for the biceps. On the other side of the boat Stuart was spiking away as if the effort was nothing, wielding his hammer like a modern day Thor. Meanwhile Pete the master craftsman was chiselling beautiful slots so that the protruding spikes could be bent over and recessed into the wood. We all continued doing this until the light faded, we tidied up and left the yard. Apart from Stuart who had to zip off because is daughter had fallen over and driven her tooth into the roof of her mouth, a more painful version of spiking.
Ryan showed us to our digs for the night, aboard the boats Southam and Forget-me-Not. These are two wonderful wooden boats at the museum that weary volunteers can use to rest until work begins again. Ryan got the wood stoves lit and stayed for a couple of well deserved beers and good old chat, it was a great night and we sorted out quite a few of the worlds problems, in theory at least.
The next morning back at the yard we continued spiking and David picked up the master craftsman’s job of chiselling the holes to recess the spikes. At the end of the day we, all of us, the whole team, had finished spiking the bottom planks to the side boards. Everyone played a part and we all felt a sense of pride that we had completed a vital phase of the restoration.
Now both David and I have great memories of a fun weekend and aching limbs from the efforts us mortals put into it. So thank you to all at the Wooden Canal Boat Society for welcoming us so warmly and letting us share the build. We hope to see you again soon, as soon as our wonderful wives let us abscond for a weekend again. Ivan and David.