Little Ship, Big Story

HMY SHEEMAUN

Dr. Rodney Pell - rodney@sheemaun.com

Maura Pell - maura@sheemaun.com

  • 0 Bad News and Good News

    • by Rodney Pell
    • 25-06-2019

    For many years past, in heavy rain and wind, there been a drip of water from a beam above the shower tray. Last year some discolouration and bubbling of paint on an area of the internal pine cladding at the rear of the wheel-house indicated there was something bad going on. A few weeks ago I found the likely point of water ingress in a most unlikely place just under the aft wheel-house roof over-hang. Last week, now Summer has arrived (well if I discount the current severe thunderstorms and yellow flood warnings). I started with much apprehension to hack out the rear wheel-house internal panelling. Oh what an awful sight greeted me! Great mushrooming wet-rot fungi stared back. After several days of chiselling, sawing and hammering I have deconstructed the rotted frame (once beautiful pitch-pine by the look of it). Litres of Cuprinol® have been sprayed. I anticipate a few more weeks will be needed  for  'hacking out'. The good news is that I have bitten the bullet, opened Pandora's Box, found the trouble and now can plan the localised re-build.  Other good news relates to an email from a former Journalist - "Dear Rodney, I have just had a holiday in Italy, and took with me Little Ship, Big Story. I have to say I am full of admiration for the work that has gone into it. As an ex-journalist, I know how difficult it can be to link together a wide variety of events into a single coherent narrative, and you have managed this with flying colours. I was born in South London in 1940, so I found that the description of the London Riverside and the bombing raids on London itself, stirred many memories. Our own house was bombed out, and we moved into a shared requisitioned house where we remained until materials became available for rebuilding, in about 1948. Happy days. Your story is so much more than the history of Sheemaun, and a pleasure to read. Best wishes," M R    

  • 0 Skipper makes a Splash!

    • by Rodney Pell
    • 18-06-2019

    Well, it was a fine sunny day and Your Skipper had been helping his wife Maura on her 15 ton motor ketch Le Daneka berthed only 20m from Sheemaun. Unfortunately, while leaving LD,  a missed footing and Murpy's Law led to YS taking a tumbling roll onto the pontoon. As Murphy's Laws states, 'Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong' and then YS went on to prove Sod's Law in so far as when it goes wrong it will do so in the most inconvenient way. My body spin was anti-clockwise and so into the 'oggin I went. Fortunately I went on to confirm Archimedes' Principle and found I was floating, so a short swim enabled me access a nearby safety ladder. Various lessons were learned. The most significant was that the considerable amount of water trapped in my clothing must have almost doubled my weight, hauling myself up the steps required all my strength. So remember that if you should ever have to save an MOB, say of 10 stones, his/her actual weight could well be more like 15 stones.   Oh yes, the smart-arses chided me for not wearing a life-jacket. Of course I wear a life-jacket whenever under way, but whoever dons a life-jacket to step off a boat moored to the pontoon?  On reflection, I think an inflated life-jacket would have made it much more difficult for me to use my arms in pulling myself up the safety ladder. Anyway, aside from a grazed knee which became infected, all ended well. I have had some fascinating contacts from former cadets of the 1980s.  One recalling how when Sheemaun was off Broadstairs, the CO ordered cadets to be flung in the sea because they smelled bad! The Old Pangbournian website has some relevant Blogs - 'Anyone here on the infamous Sheemaun trip from Pangbourne to Paris (and back) in the Summer of '86? I've stumbled across the 'New' owner and thought I'd like to compile some notes about the trip..... I need some memory jogging though.' AR  8/5/19   'I wasn't on that trip but remember many strange incidents about Sheemaun. I though Kirton had sunk her! JH   'Enjoyed many days on Sheemaun, but that was probably 82- - 83 .... Portsmouth & Solent as well as Le Havre. Certainly remember blowing things up with French petards (bombs RP) and making bread and butter pudding with the left-overs at the end of each cruise.' AD                                 ......................................................... I still have much work to do on Sheemaun's interior, this is clearly going to be a major refurbishment but very necessary and the old girl deserves it. It seems our book is attracting a lot of interest. Only the other day a gentleman drove past in a tender and shouted across that he had read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it ... a first class read! RP

  • 0 At last Summer is here

    • Main
    • by Rodney Pell
    • 30-05-2019

    Well, for the past few weeks we have been dodging between winds. showers and occasional fair weather.   I have hot-gunned all the old failed and peeling varnish from the main-mast and the halyards have been laundered and look like new. Six coats of International Woodskin varnish have been applied as recommended by Skipper Ian Ruffles. The mast looks good. It was an amazingly quick and easy exercise to haul it upright again using a 3/1 tackle and the anchor winch. Much work remains to be done. The spars - main boom, main gaff, square yard, mizzen boom and gaff still need attention. They're not too bad due to their being mostly covered by sails and sail covers so IO have to choose between just sanding off the patches of varnish failure and re-varnishing,or face up to hot-gunning of all the varnish and re-varnishing with 'Woodskin'.  I guess that I'll strip one spar and 'Woodskin' varnish then just touch up the others with standard varnish, then later, as opportunity comes, strip the others one at a time and re-finish with 'Woodskin'.   This afternoon while I was lying on my side in an undignified posture dealing with deck issues, a very smart yacht tender was motored past Sheemaun and the skipper called across to say that he had read the book, thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a great read and could he bring his copy for me to sign! Wow, that was a  great transaction, quite spontaneous and unexpected. Maybe now that the book has been nominated for the prestigious Mountbatten Literary Award I can take that as a good omen. I must confess that having to do so much in the way of re-fitting and restoring, does impact negatively on the opportunities to sail off to Festivals and just potter around or go ditch-crawling etc, but then Sheemaun is not a modern GRP sailing boat such that after a quick wash down and polish is ready at the beginning of the season, she is an elderly classic wooden boat and needs constant attention and maintenance .... but oh, what a splendid, unique and fascinating history she has! Now where did I leave that scarper? Cheers all. Your skipper.    

  • 0 Latest up-date

    • Main
    • by Rodney Pell
    • 25-04-2019

    Well, the tidy-up has commenced. A good wipe-down of all surfaces inside has removed the patches of damp and mould. Pictures mounted on the bulkheads have been removed prior to making good the surfaces and getting ready for painting. Ian Ruffles, Barge-Master and skipper of the Thames Barge 'Cambria' came down from Maylandsea and lowered the mainmast. Ian made it look so easy. Using the main-sheet and its pulley system he demonstrated it could be achieve single-handed! We have received an email from Nick Stephens e who was a Pangbourne College Cadet on Sheemaun in the 1980s. "I'm the Nick Stephens, from Pangbourne, and spent many happy hours either stuck in the engine room with Doyne (Doyne Ditmas) trying to clear the weed traps of Hayling Island mud and silt to stop the old David Browns overheating, or flat on my back on the gratings with Doyne ant-fouling with read lead! No Heath and Safety there, we came out from under the bilge keels looking like post boxes!   Doyne is restoring classic boats and ships in the USA, and James Morley is now a Rear Admiral!  We all learnt to love being at sea on good old Sheemaun, God bless her and Rodney for the restoration! Best wishes to you both." Nick Stephens   I find it fascinating that in the 1980s  Sheemaun's wheel had been handled by so many Pangbourne Cadets, now men in their late 40s/early 50s, and that one of them, James Morley is now  a Rear Admiral. It was in the 1970s that Sheemaun was owned by Rear Admiral G.T.S. 'Peter' Gray CB, DSC, also an Old Panbournian.   Yesterday we had an email from the Maritime Foundation to say that the book 'Little Ship, Big Story' has been nominated for the Mountbatten Literary Award. That's amazing and what an honour. Of course there's a big difference between being the book being nominated and being short-listed. I was unaware of the Mountbatten Award and having looked it up I see that it is 'An award made to the author of the work of literature published in English during the qualifying period that, in the opinion of the Awards Committee, has contributed most significantly to public awareness of maritime issues.' 'Eligible work must have a maritime focus, and includes scholarly or popular non-fiction on a technical, scientific, environmental, economic, industrial, legal, administrative, social or defence-related theme, as well as works of biography, history, fiction and poetry.' Well, as I've said before, it was Sheemaun that whispered her stories to me, all I did was to write them down. Certainly the book ticks quite a lot of the boxes, so we will keep fingers crossed and wait and see! Now, as I look at the varnish tin,  lets see what the weather forecast is!   Cheers all.   RP 

  • 0 It's been a long refit!

    • Main
    • by Rodney Pell
    • 01-03-2019

    The short, dull and often wet Winter days have made things difficult but the warmest February ever allowed Steve and James to make good progress. The new planks are in, caulked and hardened up and after four coats of undercoat are looking good. Steve did a fantastic job of laminating the BC Pine to perfectly fit the compound curves of the hull.  Work can now commence on tidying up the interior but that is easier said than done as Sheemaun is still on blocks and access is via a twelve feet long ladder! Invitations to festivals have been coming in, so far Sheemaun expects to be at - Oostende voor Anker 23-26 May, Escale Calais 21-23 June, Fete de la Mere Boulogne 11-14 July and Queenborough Classic Boat Festival August 31 - Sept 1. The book - Little Ship, Big Story - This now seems to be taking on a life of its own! I can now find it listed in the UK with - Foyles, Blackwalls, Waterstones, Revaluation Books, Monster Bookshop, Ria Christies Collections, The Book Depository International, Books2Anywhere. Internationally it is listed with Amazon, Ebay, Kenny's Bookshop Galway, Kenny's Bookstore USA, WFL Holstrills USA, Great Book Prices USA, Barnes & Noble USA etc. Yours Aye Cap'n Pugsley It seems to be popular in Kent where our local bookstores have asked for more copies. Very exciting! The Little Ship Club London posted an excellent review and the Old Gaffers Association will be reviewing it in their Spring magazine.     But, the priority now is to get Sheemaun back in the water where she should be and ready for crossing the Channel.

  • 0 A Winter's Lay-up and Re-fit

    • Main
    • by Rodney Pell
    • 04-02-2019

    Summer-time is of course when we can best enjoy and use our boats. For Sheemaun, Spring is the time for fitting-out, hosing off the winter's grime from her decks, checking equipment, cleaning and dusting the cabins and wheel-house, checking the engines, electrics and tanks etc. in readiness to be off for the fantastic May Oostende voor Anker Festival, then in June and July there are the Cote's d'Opal festivals. August sees the Kent and Essex barge races and September brings the St Katharine Docks Classic Festival and the Queenborough Festival. In reality the damp, cold Winter weather lasted so long that by the time Spring came there wasn't time enough to get the old boat fully 'Ship Shape'  for the first May channel crossing. The 2018 Summer was particularly hot, day after day of hot sunshine saw varnish cracking and peeling. Planking dried out and seams opened. Maintenance on a wooden boat is a perpetual need, but in the long, hot Summer of 2018  many jobs became impossible. It was just too hot, colours faded and paint dried on the brush! So it was deemed that September would be the month when Sheemaun would be lifted ashore for her 3 yearly overhaul, hull painting, ant-fouling and anode change etc.  That was when reality struck. A number of topside planks were showing signs of softening due to a combination of fresh water and hot sun.  The decision was taken to strike before the deterioration spread. What was expected to be a couple of weeks work now looked like a couple of months work! Expert shipwright and good friend Steve was however already 'up to his eyes' with commitments, wood and materials had to be ordered. By October the weather had deteriorated and was now cold and wet and the daylight hours reducing.  It had been a big job to remove the planks. The large gaping hole that resulted was covered first with plastic sheeting, which was shredded in the gales. Then hardboard sheets were screwed in place, but driving rain pouring off the scuppers simply ran down behind the hardboard and into the boat.  The resulting mess inside was utterly depressing and several times I had to pump out many gallons of water from the usually dry bilges. Illness, holiday periods and continual poor weather made for slow progress and it was not until the end of January 2019 that the new planks were in and a very fine job too, but at what cost in terms of time and further interior deterioration. Hopefully the seams will be caulked by mid February and weather permitting, six good coats of paint will go on.