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Diary September 2015

Well, well well… it’s been a while since I last sat down to write. I never seem to find the time these days. Much has gone on since last time and now I’m even under pressure from total strangers to write something! Terrible case of writer’s block, I’m afraid. You see, the format is well and truly established; then suddenly I can find nothing to rant about and that’s rather worrying. I mean, all the old stuff still goes on but these days I just think, do I care? You know, the eco-nutters still wibble about how come the world is headed for the next mass-extinction event and it’s all our fault and we have to save all our milk cartons by next Friday or the planet will fry us all in twenty thousand years’ time but nowadays I just think, so what, because according to my doctor I have about thirty years left and if the sun is shining a bit more by then and the place is a little warmer for my aged bones then so much to the good! The fools will blight the skyline with machinery as tall as a Martian fighting machine to eke a few ergs and ohms out of the wind but they wouldn’t dream of binning their iPhones or stop watching a thousand channels of crap on telly ’til daft o’clock in the morning rather than read a book. Crack on… Vets, on the other hand, still deserve a good slap before they get too far out of hand! Remember the last lot that tried to double their bill? They wouldn’t give it up either. For months afterwards I got letters offering a multitude of easy ways to cough up until I wrote to the practice owner and asked him whether he still wanted a new dog. That shut him up at last – or it seems to have for the moment. But that’s only half of the story, you see, because I have, or rather had, two dogs. The recently filleted one is quite young and doing well but the other was getting on and therein lies a tale. He was born in Coniston and offered to me as a pup because he’d proved himself the Billy Elliott of the sheepdog world, preferring sticks to sheep when it came to chasing things so I turned him down but was destined to be unknowingly reunited with him at a rescue shelter three years later. This time I got him out of jail and he spent the next thirteen years methodically crapping on my lawn and absconding at every opportunity, such that I had to bail him out of the police station and the dog-pound on several occasions. But old-age caught up with him and he stiffened with milky eyes and gradually confined himself to snoozing or ambling around the garden. His last excursion was to the hairdressers but everyone in the village knew him by then so they soon had me on the phone and I sent the kids to retrieve him. Then one night I came home to find him having some sort of seizure, foaming at the mouth and thrashing his legs. He recovered but the writing was on the wall. Over the next few weeks he shrivelled to a walking skeleton, had a few more episodes, then one day he lay on the grass, stopped eating and declared game-over. Next morning I called the vets – not the ones who can’t add up – I rang another practice up the road in the opposite direction. “Hello, I have a sixteen year-old collie that’s end of life and needs euthanased.” I explained. Now that ought to have set the tone, you’d think. After all, I’ve buried a few dogs so I know the drill. They booked an appointment for lunchtime and all set for the execution I loaded my knackered old dog onto some old towels in the back of my Land-Rover and set off. The Land-Rover has a rubber mat in the back, which is handy because when a dog dies it bursts and all manner of nasties flood the place – told you I’d done this before. What you don’t want is to carry a smelly old mutt through the surgery then have to lug its sagging carcass back to the car with juice splattering your boots. They’ll give you a rubble sack if you ask or offer to cremate your pet so you get a pot of ashes that includes bits of anthrax infected sheep but that’s horribly undignified so best to take a van so you can just open the back door and let the vet do his thing. So, soon enough, Mr Herriot was prodding and poking and telling me things I knew already. That something terminal was heralded by the catastrophic weight-loss and seizures, that the dog was old and end of life and it would be the kindest thing to ‘help him on his way’ but first we’d have to set up his records on the practice computer because I’d never set foot in the place before so none of us knew one another. “What’s the point of that?” I asked. “It’s not like you’ll be adding a lot to it.” But t’ vitnery wasn’t to be got round so easily. In we went while the poor animal heated up in the back of the van and a girl on the desk tapped in my address and phone number (why?), asked if he was castrated? WTF! and a thousand other details they needed before they could kill my dog. I’d already made it clear that I wanted the deed done in the back of the van so all the vet had to do was grab his kit so, having had my life story punched into the computer, he finally fetched a nurse, some tools and a muzzle and headed back to the van. There really wasn’t any need of a muzzle, the poor old boy was too far gone and anyways he knocked most of his teeth out years ago chasing stones. They snipped some hair off his leg, popped a catheter into the vein then, after a minute to let him settle, the vet squeezed a syringe full of Ribena down the pipe. The effect was near instantaneous and it was a mercy to watch the stress evaporate and the breathing stop. Job done. I went back inside with my debit card but Mr Herriot had hurried off to his next job and by the time I arrived there was no sign of him. “What do I owe you?” I asked the girl who’d taken my details. “Sorry,” She said. “The vet has to update your pet’s record then close out of there before I can raise your invoice and he seems to have forgotten and gone off somewhere. “The dog’s dead,” I pointed out bluntly. “There’s nothing to update, nor will there ever be.” But she was having none of it. Vet-Boy had to be located, sent to his office and sat down at his computer until he closed out of the file so that girlie could hit me for ninety-four quid. That was that. Well, sort of. Next I had to dig a bloody big hole in the garden through a layer of semi-set clay, wrap the dog in a burlap bag (at which point the ooze got me – yuk!) and plant him with a nice rose-tree on top and a few rocks so the foxes can’t have him back out of there for supper. We had a few tears from the kids but the cycle of life is well accepted and understood in these parts and life moved on swiftly, so I imagined that to be the end of the matter until they start shouting for a puppy. That was until I received a hand-written card in the post, signed by it seemed the entire staff of the vets. ‘Thinking about you at this difficult time’. They have to be joking! I only met three of them. One killed my dog as he does every day for a living, the nurse barely spoke and the other hit me for a hundred quid at what ought to have been the very height of my grief without batting an eyelid. Whoever the others were I have no idea and had any of them paid the slightest attention they’d have known in an instant that it wasn’t a difficult time there and then so it was hardly likely to be one a week later. Their card should have read- ‘Thinking of how to hang onto a customer.’ Vets – bloody mercenaries, every one of them. But having had a second vet experience I took the time to re-read the last diary to see where we’d left off. Basically, we’d mostly sorted the sponsons leaving us the upper fairings and a thousand other details to finish. Although they’re the same to look at, as a rebuild the sponson tops were very different, mostly because we had lots of Righty and almost none of Lefty.

It all came down to how the boat hit the water. Because Original Lefty hit first the skins were obliterated but those adorning Original Righty’s top were blown away and fluttered harmlessly to the lakebed, a bit crumply but mostly available to us as you can see above. Took a bit of straightening, though. Mending them is like sitting watching a clock. It definitely moves but you just can’t quite seem to see it doing so.

Many hours of careful pushing, welding, patching, tweaking and shrinking and you look and think, when did we do that?

The noses of both sponsons are new-build, unsurprisingly, as both originals stayed with the sponsons, crushed horrifically flat. They’re a very tricky shape so they took a bit of thinking about, not to mention many rounds of modifying. In actual fact we built four of them and worked in the best two. Aft of the nose, the next two panels on Righty are original. The one where the front spar passes through and the next one aft that used to say ‘Do Not Stand Here’ on the top, which is removable-

The chunk aft of that where the main spar passes through is new but the end-cap is back to original as are most of the formers underneath.

Although the shapes look about right they’re only roughed out at this early stage and that section of sponson top with the infinity symbol scribbled on in Sharpie was destined to be cut and shut a time or two more before the shape was deemed correct, which is all a little pedantic when faced with Ken’s drawings of how he wanted them to be and the pictures of what was actually built. But the shapes were challenging and there was no excuse for not rising to it. You can also see some repairs going into the end cap. See where a triangular piece has been grafted in at the bottom? We noticed later that a portion of the missing piece was left clinging to the recovered sponson.

Spooky or what? Interestingly, the reason the end cap didn’t just pop off intact is due to an error in the drawings that Samlesbury didn’t spot and we very nearly followed suit. The drawing calls for both side skins and the bottom sponson skin to extend beyond the final bulkhead by an inch to allow for attachment of the end cap, which is joggled in behind it. But the drawing has this misrepresented and it’s easy to get it wrong, though a careful study makes it beyond question what was required. But they missed it first time around leaving the only option to squeeze the end cap skin between the outer sponson skin and the aftmost bulkhead with lots of rivets and oodles of yellow Yak-Poo sealant, all blended in- very roughly- with lashings of filler. Thus secured there wasn’t a hope of it getting loose in one piece so we didn’t get it all back. We built to the drawings this time. Then as we progressed our top covers, and with perfect timing, one day this bit of tangled tinware turned up on eBay, of all places-

We all immediately recognised it as very likely being a genuine piece of the boat, and the seller was a sound chap and weighed it over FOC when he realised that it had a rightful home to go to. It was local to our Jordan, who was despatched to collect it, and upon receiving and flattening it out somewhat we knew without any shadow of a doubt that it was from the boat.

Note the thin canvas, used all over K7 in conjunction with the Yak-Excreta to seal all the joins. The next question was, where did it come from? With the sponson tops so well in progress we were already extra familiar with what we had, what had been recovered in ’67 and what was missing. Mike was in his element, swiftly narrowing down the location it had come from. Turns out it was a piece of the right hand sponson top, the second section which covers the front spar.

Not only was it a perfect fit, but astonishingly, torn fragments that were still trapped under the screws fitted perfectly back into their holes in the outer, spar closing plate.

From there on it was just a matter of fully flattening the piece, blasting it clean, reinstating the joggle and welding it back where it had come from. Marvellous!

That was that for the first round of Righty mending. We have a sort of an unwritten code in our workshop that says that when you get bored of something you just park it and do something new. It all gets revisited and finished off in the end and the result is way less boredom and morale-sapping drudgery than if we were doing this for a day job. So we wandered around to Lefty. Not much to play with over there, I’m afraid, so we had to build much from scratch. The nose was all new… and the keen-eyed will notice the addition of the lower plate under the front of the sponson in this shot, but more of those later.

Initially, the next section aft of the top cover was new too. That was until we enjoyed a last flutter of ‘reverse conserveering’. It’s likely the final time we’ll do it. For those new to the party we invented the term ‘conserveering’ to describe the fusion of good museum conservation practice and practical engineering in order to bring an otherwise dead machine or components thereof back to life. The museum people hated it for its suggestion of change and advancement and all sorts of other forward-thinking but we liked it. Reverse-conserveering meant building something new then using it as a sacrificial tool to conserve the old material. How it works is this. You make up a brand new part then partially push the old scrap you dragged from the lake to the shape it used to be then let it into the new panel where it steadily supplants the beautiful part you just made. Richie was justifiably proud of the new panel he made but was blissfully unaware that we had all that lovely original tin waiting in the wings…

It’s a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster of a panel but at this point most of Richie’s carefully crafted new skin is in the scrap bin and the old stuff, retrieved from where it had clung to the end of the front spar in the crash, has been reinstated near enough to where it’s supposed to be that we can shrink and planish until it’s spot on. Then, once again, the job was shelved so we could assuage the boredom with a change of scenery, namely the removable top cover.

This, again, is all new-build right down to the internal formers but at least these new parts are quick and relatively easy. We could have rolled this in one but to be sure of getting it spot on it was rolled in two pieces with a weld along the spine. The next section back is also new.

It might look like a straightforward shape but, believe me, it isn’t! If you study K7’s sponsons carefully you’ll see that the radius on the inside is much tighter than the outboard one. Ken – why? By the way, it’s all built with 1mm material so there’s no use in trying to get it close then grinding and sanding and filing as you’d be through it in no time. The shape has to be right in the first place. The former in the back was new-build on this side too so that only leaves the end cap. We made a tool from the other end cap but a minor manufacturing error in Lefty Sponson (that you’ll never notice in a million years) meant we had to make a mod’ or two before we were happy.

Here the side has been cut out again. It was built once then deemed no good so out it came. There’s also a chunk of the former missing but it was all very soon put back with a better result next time. We’re only building one of these so it’ll be right and you’ll all just have to wait.