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Diary April 2014

Ever since Athelred the Angry picked up a rock and bashed his enemy’s head in with it rather than break a fingernail mankind has been using tools to make life easier, simpler and more efficient; and so one of the multitudinous tributaries of this process ultimately led to Alexander Graham Bell inventing the telephone – or nicking someone else’s patent application, depending on who you believe.

Even in my brief sojourn on Planet Earth the telephone has evolved from a chunk of Bakelite wedded to the wall with a circular dial on the front and a coily cable into something that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Star Trek when I was a kid. Nowadays’ telephone isn’t attached to anything, except by radio waves, and that’s just the house phone, the ‘landline’, a phrase that would have confused once upon a time because what other kind of line was there?

I bet the handful of youngsters capable of thinking these days have wondered where the name ‘Carphone Warehouse’ comes from… Well, thinking youngsters, it came from the fact that when the landline began to be supplanted by the mobile about the only way you could transport such a device was by bolting it to a car and having it feed off the electrical system. Yes, there was walkabout versions if you didn’t mind lugging a thinly disguised truck battery into the pub of an evening but the modern glittery job with capabilities the makers of Star Trek would have never dared suggest and more computing power than a NASA moon-shot were still a long way off.

Then there’s beer…

Invented even before Athelred picked up that rock, whilst the disciples were supping wine that Jesus had just made from water (amazing he only had the twelve of them with a trick like that) and the Greeks were inventing the honeymoon by drinking mead for a whole month – imagine the hangover – beer was being swilled by the gallon.

Beer has never been imbued with computing power, new materials or staggering capabilities that it didn’t have already. OK – the big commercial breweries have messed with the gas mixes to pour beer faster in busy pubs and invented a million ways to make a glass look huge only to have the lower half empty in three sips whilst falling over themselves to convince us that beer with only four percent alcohol is cool as hell but at the end of the day they’re still stuck with barley, water and hops and a complete dependence on the humble yeast.

Dig a little into your mobile phone and you’ll soon be swimming in acronyms that stir nothing except in the geeky soul but make beer and you touch something almost primeval. Sparging the mash in the tun, stirring the wort, Fuggles and Goldings hops – it’s a beautiful, rich poetry that’s not changed in hundreds of years – so why would these two worlds collide?

I fell out with Vodafone a few years ago. They kept calling me to tell me how I was due an upgrade. An upgrade to what, I wondered, because the telephone I had worked perfectly and I had no desire whatsoever to learn to use another one because for reasons I’ve never fathomed, technology, for all its cleverness, never seems to leave well alone when something works properly, it has to fix things that weren’t broken in the first place. My telephone once yelled for a week for an important system upgrade but fearful of what they’d bugger about with I put it off; but it meeped relentlessly ’til I gave in only to find that it had changed the colour of all my buttons from blue to green – why?

But I digress – when I eventually went to the Vodafone shop to see what all the fuss was about they just said I wasn’t due an upgrade at all so, being quite happy with that, I went home. But then they rang again so I went back to the shop where my upgrade wasn’t waiting again so I went home again. The third time, I told them to either give me the damned upgrade or stop ringing. They said they’d stop ringing… Then I remembered that I’d signed to them when I was seventeen and had therefore been a customer for twenty-three years at the time and got a tad miffed. The result of my ensuing sense of humour failure was an apologetic call from a top-bod at Vodafone followed by the subsequent arrival at regular intervals of the newest and cleverest telephone on the planet soon as it came out. Just what I needed!

So when the barman arrived excitedly at the table where I was enjoying a stoop of choicest real ale with a good friend of mine a week or two ago and asked if either of us had a Paranoid Android Podeye Samsonite Galaxy Bar I thought, yes, I qualify!

Well now, an amazing adventure was ours for the taking here because he was the bearer of good news. It seemed all we had to do was go to the app shop –that was me knackered straight away because I don’t have any of those app things. I once fancied getting one but couldn’t because I had to give my life story to Google, which I couldn’t be bothered to do, and then I’d have another password that I’d forget instantly and that would be the end of that so no app shop for me and years later I don’t seem to be suffering any particular deficit as a result.

But my drinking buddy likes a spot of gadgetology so he asked what it was all about. All we had to do, apparently, was download our app, press a few buttons and the barman would give us 20p off a pint.

“Then why not just give us the 20p off without all the buggering about?” I asked reasonably. “Why do we have to get our telephones involved?”

But he didn’t know. He’d been told to suggest this by higher authority but, equally, he hadn’t been to the app shop and installed the WTF app in his head or he’d be asking the same question I was.

At this point I elected to buy back, for a measly 20p, the irreplaceable hour of my life this fool was attempting to cost me and went and got the beers in. However, once suitably refreshed, my pal decided he’d check this out and soon had the appamabob installed – but then the trouble started. It wanted to do that location thing that makes your telephone show a picture of a moving windscreen wiper whenever it looks like rain outside accompanied by a horrid, whining mechanical sound that you’d never accept in a million years from a real windscreen wiper. What’s that all about? And why does it insist on telling you what’s going on outside in the first place, complete with pictures of clouds and such?

My house, office and car all have clear panels in the outside skin through which I can observe what’s going on in the natural world so I certainly don’t need it imitated by a gadget in my pocket. But the gloves were off now and even if it meant the momentary appearance of a windscreen wiper we were going to have our 20p, and so it came to pass, after about half an hour of twiddling, the telephone finally displayed something (I never found out what) that if shown to the barman would cause him to deduct the 20p he could have deducted in the first place.

It wasn’t my round so my telephone-toting companion went to the bar triumphantly equipped with the secret password only to be told by the numpty who’d set all this in motion in the first place...

“Ooh, you can’t have 20p off tonight – the beer is already discounted as it’s Monday

We only ever go in there on a Monday and he bloody-well knew that all along! Idiot!

As a postscript, I heard later that through the week the telephone had meeped as my mate drove through town to say that it knew where he was and if he looked to the right he’d see a pub selling a delicious pint of beer. So, basically, they’ve designed a means to invite the weak-willed to drink and drive!

Is it me?

And so to the point… we had to move a ton of boat and adjust it for level and height without dropping it on anyone’s head or breaking it and herein lay the question of how best to proceed. Now then, we could model both boat and workshop and everything in it with our fancy CAD package and render both in 3D then fiddle with the positioning of all the bits in cyberspace whilst drinking tea and arguing about it, or we could wonder how the ancient Egyptians knocked up a pyramid and see what was to be learned that way.

First lesson was from good old Archimedes – he invented the screw, don’t you know. Good lad. But before that it’s best we explain the reasoning behind the move in the first place. For the past eighteen months or so we’ve worked pretty much exclusively on our new sponsons. They’re absolutely faithful copies of the originals made to the drawings with all the twiddly bits inside that Ken thought he’d need including alternative and never used mounting positions for the spars.

What’s seldom appreciated is that a sponson is a small boat in itself, not merely a shape to be reproduced and made to work. Its design lends to it a carefully considered centre of gravity and poise that then contributes to the overall balance of the complete craft, which is in effect three boats performing as a single system.

This left us with lots of tricky bits to make and assemble and very little to write about for what seems a lifetime but we had a pair of very impressive fabrications at the end of the day.

This is ‘Lefty’ as only a ‘core’ and in no way is it perched atop a modified shopping trolley. That is, in fact, a specialised piece of tooling known as a TTST. Yeah, OK, it stands for Tesco Trolley Sponson Transporter. Wouldn’t it be a hoot if their lawyers came after us for vandalising a trolley.

There’s something like two hundred fabricated parts in a sponson core and so that it mates to the wedge and the shoe (the machined alloy surfaces that bolt to the underside) it has to be within about half a millimetre over twelve feet and the fact that both sponsons do actually meet this tolerance is mostly down to John and Richie who became so obsessed with accuracy at the peak of the sponson build that the rest of us began to fear for their mental health.

Righty-sponson moved ahead of Lefty in the construction stakes and was clothed some weeks ago. It’s a straightforward, if laborious process. First-off you mark on the carefully positioned skin where all the underlying structure is to be found. This in itself can use up a workshop session or two as it must take into account such things as where the parts making up the core actually meet so you don’t try to shove a rivet right next to an edge or into an impossible corner – remember that these are bespoke items and even Ken’s notes are filled with instructions to make things fit as you go or design to suit. One of our biggest problems is that he wrote down half the instructions then carried the remainder around in his head because he was there to oversee the build so we’ve had to learn his ways then project ourselves into his mindset when filling in the blanks.

Whoever is marking out also has to consider where the bolts lie that secure the wedge and the shoe because if you drill through the skin and hit one of those you snap your drill and then there’s no room to set a rivet later so mapping out where to drill is a careful job and once planned we then use a Sharpie and small templates with drilled holes to mark the required rivet pitch in the right places.

Next, someone goes around putting a small pilot hole only a millimetre or so deep in the surface at each rivet position with a 3/32nd drill. This makes sure that when the next person arrives with a 5/32nd or 3/16th drill it always starts in the right place without skittering off over Bettablast’s lovingly applied powder coat. The biggest holes are ¼-inch diameter so we drill them to 3/16th then finish them to the final size with a quarter drill. Once drilled we countersink each and every one of them.

Don’t forget that each hole then must be deburred on the back as well as all the corresponding ones in the core – takes another while, does that – but once done it’s time to run around the back of the skin and the outside face of the core with an orbital sander to key the paint before applying the inevitable choccie – whole tubes at a time.

I well remember Ken telling me that the originals leaked like sieves so they’d poured them full of expanding foam to try to beat the ingress problem. Now that we’re building a pair of the things for real it is difficult to see how they could ever leak to any bothersome extent. The design is such that there’s immense scope to keep them dry inside. The workmanship must have been truly awful for these to ever let water in and, according to our calculations, the expanding foam will have added at least 36kg per sponson – just where extra weight wasn’t wanted. It appears from archive photos of the post-crash sponsons that someone also opened holes in the lid to admit foam to voids that were supposed to be closed forever. We’re having none of that so our sponsons are thoroughly sealed front to back and top to bottom with the best gloop in the business.

All we had to do from there was to slap the skin on and rivet solidly for a day.

Each skin uses mostly 3/16th countersunk solid rivets – they’re the ones you have to get on the back of with a block. There’s also a fair number of 5/32nd solids, then there’s lots of 3/16th blind rivets (they’re the ones you put in with a gun like the examples above) and the biggest, which are ¼-inch blinds. We had to go that big to get the grip length because they pass through half an inch of material on the bottom of the sponson and clamp three thicknesses of metal. With blind rivets there’s a discreet relationship between diameter and how long you can get them unlike solid rivets where you can seemingly buy 3/32nd rivets a yard long. We also use the blind rivets where the voids are inaccessible to the ‘block man’.

And don’t forget that every single hole and countersink is unfailingly smothered with choccie before the rivet goes in.

Once the bottom skin was on and sorted we put the wedge on…

These wonderful gifts from Thyssenkrupp and MKW Engineering are bloody heavy and sharp too with a forest of studs poking out that we didn’t especially want sliding about on the new paintwork. Above we’re having a trial fit because once we knew we could load and unload it competently it went down with choccie.

Even the wedge could contain a few gallons of water were it able to flood so, again, every possible ingress route was well and truly sauced to death. There’s good evidence that the originals leaked and this is not the same as the core leaking because even if the wedge filled up the water oughtn’t be able to get up into the core. Mike expertly detailed then fitted the endplates to the wedges.

A recent newcomer to the team, Barry from Grimsby, or BFG to his mates, had the endplates machined at his work and what a beautiful job they are too and then Mike added all the extra rivets and, significantly, the six water drainage bolts. Three along the lower edge of the internal voids and three more above – presumably to admit air and allow the water to drain that bit quicker. How much water was getting in!

With the sides done and the wedge fitted we made a nice shiny lid, though this can’t go on with choccie and rivets until we’ve set up the spars and such. The resulting sponson-like thing was quite impressive.

We can’t fit the shoe yet either, that’s the machined surface that bolts to the underside of the front, sloping face because it’s in the machine shop for a mod’ but we hope that making it fit will be easy – that nearly always happens (not). There’s also a sealing strip running the whole length that fixes half to the machined surfaces and half to the outer skin to seal where machinings meet fabricated core. I’ll say it again – how was the water getting in?

Lefty has lagged a little behind throughout but she’s well on…

Now where were we? Archimedes had invented the screw…

You see, now that we have two sponsons the obvious next step is to rig the whole shebang but there’s a fundamental problem. Can you see it?

Yup – the rollover jig passes straight through the hole where the main spar needs to go. The spar came out in 2006 and has been a bulky pain in the behind ever since. We’ve shoved the damn thing from pillar to post and eventually bolted it to the wall on its end to get rid of it but now we have something to dangle from its ends so the time had finally come to fetch it down and see about putting it back – after we’d moved the boat, of course.

And so, Archimedes and his bright ideas enters the fray because we had to think of a way of perfectly positioning the front of the boat in both pitch and roll for the purposes of setting up the spars and sponsons. Not only did we consult Archimedes but the navvies clearing a building site over the road made us think too and soon, K7 was ably supported by four trench-struts.

Now what could possibly be simpler? If you go to your local branch of Jewsons you can buy these baby Acrow props for about fifteen quid each. They’re rated to three tons apiece, sticking them together into a single, four-point lifting rig involved only the use of the most basic blacksmithery and one person can effortlessly lift and tilt the entire front end using quarter turns on the jacks with one hand. They push against simple plywood spreaders at the top so as not to injure the corrugated inner floor.

Meanwhile, at the other end, we can thank the ancient Egyptians for demonstrating the use of rollers. Over here we simply ran out the ground-anchors, lifted the entire jig with Alain’s high-lift Land-Rover jack and popped a half-dozen lengths of 10mm round bar underneath.

Next we were very kindly lent four jacks by Bill at Bettablast. They use these to leave your car in the air for the impressively short time it takes to whip off your alloys then return them looking like brand new, but not on a Saturday, so we nabbed them and with the whole shooting match a mere 10mm off the deck and therefore with nowhere to fall but definitely up on wheels all we had to do was give it a shove…

We only moved it this far…

…but what a difference!

Not that it made loading the spar any easier. That still involved lugging it all over the workshop and trying it in both sides before we struggled it into the hole.

It’s a long time since we had that in there and so, of course, the only thing left to do was to set up the whole job for a look.

How amazing does that look?

Next on the list is mending the outer ends of the main spar. They’re a bit cruddy because they had steel lifting loops attached and the aluminium lost. We’re still devising suitable repair schemes at the moment but grinding the corrosion pits out with a small burr then welding and dressing seems to be working, it’s slow, though. We’re mending all the gubbins that holds the spar in too. That stuff hasn’t been looked at since we stripped it out, and that’s without all the work to build a new sponson top for lefty. We have very little original from over there so it’s largely new-build. Much to do…

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