- by Rodney Pell
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.