The art of avoiding distraction…..

07/09/2020 0 By Chris Phillips

So, another month has passed since my last post. Seems to be becoming a habit…

The reason for this is probably known to my regular reader, and that of course is that I have been continuing my studies towards my Chief Mates unlimited ticket, and, ultimately, my Master unlimited (Master Mariner). It is a long, hellishly dull occupation, and I am look wistfully at the sea whenever I see it, and wish I was back out there doing something vaguely useful with my time. Yes, of course my ongoing training is useful, but somehow one feels one’s day has been wasted when you barely have the opportunity to leave your office chair during the day, briefly to stop staring at the multiple rectangles of other human existence that form a Zoom screen. The most exciting thing that happened today? No, it wasn’t talking about a particularly fascinating regulation, or reminding myself of the intricacies of the Inert Gas system on a tanker: the most exciting thing today was the brief conversation I held with John, the Log Man, through my study window as he passed by on his round of deliveries – even if all I had to say to him was that I didn’t need any logs this month.

I am fed up with studying. It has completely taken over my life since January and it’s about bloody time it ended. Fortunately, I heard on Friday that the MCA have given me a date for my oral exam in about a month’s time (I’m not going to advertise the exact time and date, just in case it all goes horribly wrong), so the next few weeks are going to require some concentrated effort to brush up my knowledge to a suitable level where I stand half a chance of passing. Therefore don’t expect another post for another month or so!

That said, I have been visiting the boat on Sundays over the past few weeks, and doing what is known in the trade as “pottering”. The one major achievement has been the doghouse-ectomy. The ugly and poorly-proportioned plywood doghouse was cut off last weekend and now resides on the floor under the boat. This was achieved after the quite scary experience of sawing round it with a reciprocating saw – if you’re not sure what one of those is, think of an electric bread knife which has been possessed by the Devil and you’d be pretty much there. The thing actually wants to remove digits and even limbs (to all of which I am quite emotionally, and physically, attached) and is perfectly capable of doing so without so much as a by-your-leave.

Beelzebub’s Bread Knife

That said, it’s also a rather useful tool for removing things you don’t like, quite quickly… as long as you are not trying to do so with any degree of precision or accuracy, that is. So I closed my eyes, held my breath and pressed the trigger and off it came. Editor’s note: for those of you with an interest in health and safety, the foregoing statement does not mention the fact that the author was, in fact, wearing suitable breathing and eye protection, even if he did hold his breath and close his eyes. Iron gauntlets might have been handy (get it?) as well, but none were available. Before I knew it, the doghouse was separated from the rest of the boat, sitting on a neat row of little blue plastic wedges (necessary so that the weight of the thing doesn’t trap the poor saw blade as it reciprocates along its path of wiggly destruction), and not long afterwards was lowered to the dock bottom to meet it’s eventual fate of being a bin, or an attractive garden feature, or perhaps being cut up and butchered for some of the nicer bits of wood it contains.

This is only half of the job, however, as now, having removed the bulk of the structure, it has left a slight upstand and the peripheral framework which need trimming back to allow for the carlines and half-beams I need to install for the new, pretty deckhouse. I had a go at doing this yesterday, and didn’t get that far.

Doghouse removed, but annoying bits remaining.

I have spent a disproportionate amount of time considering how exactly to do this, and came to the conclusion that I should just make sure I have all my power tools to hand and try them all, one at a time. My initial plan was to use my power planer to plane the upstand and stubs of vertical framework (there’s no denying that the damn thing was heavily-built) flush with the deck, then simply taking my circular saw to it. Trouble is, there is a substantial fillet of epoxy around the base, and my planer soon decided that it didn’t like this, and the blades blunted as soon as I tried attacking the fillet. Next, I decided to use the angle grinder to grind away the fillet so the planer would be happier. This created a lot of dust, but the planer still wanted to take all week to remove all the material that needs it. The plate of the circular saw is a tiny bit too wide and as a result I can’t cut as close to the upstand as I want, in order to leave sufficient framework to graft in my new half-beams and deck. So, out comes Beelzebub’s Bread Knife again, which has a small foot which is supposed to allow the wielder to maintain some vague sort of control over the bucking Beast. This is narrow enough to cut to the required line, so I thought I’d have a go. Starting in the middle (of course, where else?), I started to drill a series of holes to chisel out into a slot into which the blade would insert to start the cut, and… clunk! I met steel. Hang on, thocht I, there shouldn’t be steel there! So I drilled lots more holes, broke a drill bit and waved a big chisel at them and found that inexplicably there was a tongue of steel extending just where I wanted to cut. Bugger. Try cutting in the other direction then… I started making a nice wiggly line (never try to cut to the line with those things!), and then came up against a solid object. So, the original builder only removed the visible screws after the epoxy cured, not the hidden ones… Change blades… This is going to be a slow process! By this time is was 1600 and time to stop before I got sucked into a long drawn-out job. I shall attack it again afresh, with a combination blade in the bread knife and in the circular saw, and eventually the job will be done.

However, before that, there is the small matter of a highly-important professional exam to revise for and sit, so I shall be putting a pause on any Serchthrift-related activities (except some daydreaming planning, I expect) until after the orals – with the exception of the couple of days learning how to weld with an experienced welding teacher (who also happens to be my god-children’s grandfather), which I had already programmed in. I shall be back, therefore, in early October, with ever more deadly power tools, to bring this task to battle and win!