July 2020 Update

03/07/2020 0 By Chris Phillips

Nobody could have imagined at the start of the year what was going to unfurl as the winter turned to spring and the days started to lengthen. After two months trudging wearily into college day after day, we were told fairly unceremoniously one Tuesday morning that the college would be closing that day, and we were to ensure we had everything we needed from the library before it did so. We had been anticipating the move for some days beforehand, the more tech-savvy lecturers testing Zoom out with us in class and preparing us for moving online, but it was still a shock when it happened. This was the week before the whole UK plunged into lockdown.

I remained in Glasgow for less than 24 hours after that, and drove home to Seil, where I have been ever since… and I can think of many worse places to be locked down.

Since then I have completed the HND portion of my course online, and have spent the last 4 weeks preparing for the all-important MCA written exams on Navigation and Stability. Unfortunately, last night, days before I was to travel to Glasgow for the exams, the Scottish Government prohibited the college from opening in order for us to sit them. So here I am, as ready for the exams as I’ll ever be, just about to have a month’s break from college, and unable to sit the exams. Now I have to keep my knowledge current over the next several weeks instead of having a much-anticipated break from studying.

Today however, I’m having a holiday, and even attending on online pub evening with Stu and his girlfriend Eli, and will get back to the books for a couple of hours a day from Monday.

In the meantime, progress has been slow on the boat for obvious reasons. The boatyard is still officially closed (although might reopen now our Dear Leader has allowed us to travel more than 5 miles for leisure purposes), but locals have been allowed to sneak in to work on their boats, so I have been able to prepare the hull and engine to launch and make the 7-mile crossing to Kilmelford at some point before next winter. I’m also hoping to get some modifications done to the steelwork here in Balvicar before I move her, as one thing the yard here is good at is steel boatbuilding. The main job in that department is moving the foremast partners, by cutting out the existing steel ring and welding a new one in about 30cm further forward, angling it 6 degrees forwards as well, to allow for the forward rake of Serchthrift’s foremast. I want this done by professionals because it is critical to ensure that its structural and watertight integrity is sufficient. I haven’t yet taught myself to weld…

The engine, temporarily boxed, with all supplies and exhaust connected

Over the next few weeks I hope to dismantle the disappointing tent, having taped plastic sheeting over the porthole apertures, thereby “weatherproofing” her, and then when the yard can extract her, getting her across to the shed, getting the work done, and then popping her in the water and puttering across to Kilmelford. Once there, she will go into their shed when the space has been freed up, and I can start work on her in earnest – finishing any other bits of steelwork first, then ensuring there is enough paint on her interior before building in the main bulkheads and fitting the joinery cleats to the hull frames. At that stage I will be able to insulate her and start building in the joinery.

In the meantime I haven’t been idle in the design and purchasing department, and have some timber earmarked for her masts (I’ll probably post more about this decision at a later date), and collecting various bits and bobs as they come available ready for fitting in due course.

One big-spend item I haven’t skimped on, having experienced a couple of near-misses with electrics, is the electrical system. Last week I placed an order for a high-spec split charging and distribution system, which is intelligent enough to cope with two alternators, solar panels and possibly a wind generator, without any user input. This package includes a ready-to-connect board with all the key components already connected up, and also some fancy batteries (not Lithium Ion – I’m not made of money), which I am assured will hibernate until I get to the stage when I install them.