Saturday, 31 October 2015


Perhaps not quite so gloomy this week. Simon showed last week’s photographs to a neighbour who has had years of experience with wooden vessels. His opinion is that the damage is all in the bow doubler and the hull is minimally affected, if at all. Simon also has contact with a boat repairer who will visit and inspect at close quarters (or as close as tide and mud will allow).
   The idea of a spell in dry dock is becoming more appealing – to make absolutely sure the hull is sound and to get the teak cladding ‘pointed’ (as they say in the building trade) and painted. This would not be easy, even on the now uncluttered starboard side (Photo 1201), unless walking on water (or mud) catches on. 

 It would be very difficult on the port side (Photo 1202). 

    Tony Lane made reference to ‘firing jibs’, which I did not understand. He has explained that Tonite explosive charges were used on most CIL vessels as fog signals rather than sirens or reed horns.   The fog jib was basically shaped like an anchor which could be rotated.  From the two arms (or flukes) are hung electric cables and to these are attached the charges and detonators.  These would be attached in the lowered position and the ‘anchor’ would then be rotated vertically into the firing position.  He suggested that the two brackets attached to the forward companionway shelter may well have been the mountings for two jibs, as he guessed that the shelter had previously been located aft. 
    I think this was true of the early vessels, but certainly in the early 1900s they did have foghorns – evidenced by several contemporary photographs (Photo 1203).

Friday, 23 October 2015


Simon has taken advantage of some fine weather and a gap in workload to have another look at the state of the hull – particularly around the bow. At first sight the damage seems to be confined to the bow doubler just below the starboard hawspipe (Photo 1191).   

The bottom edge of the doubler seems to curve upwards as it approaches the stem, but looking from the front (Photo 1192) ... is possible to ascertain where the doubler bottom edge should run – in a fairly straight line.  So I would guess that at some point this area of the bow has been damaged, the protective Muntz sheathing torn, allowing the dreaded Gribble Worms to start work all along that bottom edge of the doubler – areas A, B and C (Photo 1193). 

It would not surprise me if that bottom edge is completely gone and only the damaged Munz sheathing is maintaining the shape along A and B and towards C.

   The important question is how far this has affected the hull underneath the doubler?  It is very difficult to get close enough to the hull when the tide is out far enough to reveal the holes, but Simon is going to have to devise some way of doing it – with a ladder clamped to the hull and some sort of platform to sit on the mud. The only photo he has been able to take from the canoe raises more questions than it answers (Photo 1194). 

A proper dry-dock inspection may be necessary, but very expensive. Still, having seen what has happened to poor old Ena, expensive is a relative term!

   So, for the moment at least, he can at least enjoy the benefits of life on board on the Medway (Photo 1195).


Sunday, 18 October 2015


In between chiselling rust below deck, I poked my camera through a hole in the floor boards, sorry, deck, and took a photo of the nether regions (bilges?). It revealed a bulkhead on the right and two large tanks on the left, the nearest of which has a ‘tap’ (top left) with a shaft down to the bottom – presumably to make it accessible through a trap-door in the deck (Photo 1181). 

Next time I visit, I want to carry out a more careful survey (photo) of the bilges through all the holes I can find.
   Simon has found a Victorian firelighter to get his stove going quickly. Well it may not be Victorian, but it is certainly ancient and in keeping with the ship (Photo 1182). 

The stove now heats a radiator in the living room (Photo 1183), one on the spiral staircase (Photo 1184), one in the bathroom (Photo 1185) and one down below. That last one is temporary, just to get some warmth down there until he starts refurbishment in earnest.


Wednesday, 14 October 2015


I have been without the internet and telephone now for 10 days, so this week’s post is actually last week’s – thanks BT !!
   Three days last week were spent down with Simon working on the ship. I had expected to be helping him lay that very large seagrass carpet I delivered to him a few weeks ago but, taking advantage of the good weather, he shifted all the furniture out onto the deck and laid it himself before we arrived. It looks very good (Photo 1171).

   My main task was much more basic – and dirty!  I used the air compressor and nail chisel gun to strip an area below deck. Much of the crud is old, peeling paint (Photo 1172) and this comes off fairly easily.

 It is arm–aching work, especially trying to reach into corners when the step ladder cannot be moved closer. In overalls, a bobble hat, face mask and goggles, it is also warm work! Of course there is a lot of rust down there too, but the aim is to get off the loose stuff and leave a firm surface (Photo 1173). 

    The plan is to spray these surfaces with insulating foam (the sort that is used to ‘fix’ tiles and insulate roofs), wherever there is contact with the outside shell. This will also reduce condensation.  Not having any spray foam, I painted it with Hammerite to keep it stable until everything is ready down there for a complete job (Photo 1174). 

     Meanwhile, Tony Lane, who visited Simon a few weeks ago, is puzzling over a number of things he found. I let him have copies of the 1943 blueprints to study and he has been comparing them to photos of the ship at her Belfast station. The plans seem to show the anchor windlass mounted on the poop (what anchor can you lift there?), whereas the pictures of Lady Dixon have the windlass mounted right up on the bow over the hawse pipes.  I can only guess that, with no need of the huge anchor chains which were standard when stationed out on the ocean, in the sheltered Belfast Lough she would need only normal anchors and the windlass on the poop was used for hoisting stores aboard.
    Tony also noticed from the photos (not on the plans) an interesting purchase or preventer hung off the bowsprit, which would take some of the load off the mooring cable and reduce jerking if the water was rough and also reduce the strain on the windlass brakes.
   Finally (an apt introduction) it looks as though Ena is getting ready for her final journey Photo 1175). 

The tide is coming in and the hearse (dry dock) has arrived alongside, but Ena will stay sitting on the mud until they can get her to float one more time. Then the dock will be sunk; Ena moved to a position above it; when the tide next goes out she will sink onto the dock; the dock will be drained and made watertight; then the next tide will lift them both; and it’s off to the graveyard. That’s the theory anyway!


Saturday, 3 October 2015


Oh dear! Poor old Ena has had it – it’s a death sentence!  Regular readers will recall Simon reporting a neighbouring vessel in the marina was having trouble staying afloat when the tide came in. She is/was an interesting sailing barge built in 1906 and a registered Dunkirk little ship. Well the owner has thrown in the towel and she is doomed. Once a proud working barge (Photo 1161); restored as recently as 2002; and for sale (starting price £85,000) in 2011.

She is being extensively stripped to lighten her as much as possible prior to loading on a floating ‘dock’ for transportation to her grave. This will probably be a site further down the estuary where there are already numerous skeletons rotting away (Photo 1162).  Sad.

   On a brighter note, Tony Lane has been digging in his archives and he found some interesting stuff about Cormorant. In a document dated 1934 there is a description of the lightships owned by the Commissioners for Irish Lights. These vessels used incandescent oil burners, with a candle power of 70,000 white or 28,000 red.  They were fitted with submarine bells (Photo 1163) and firing jibs (explosive fog warnings).

In this document there is no mention of a diaphone foghorn and the first reference Tony has to diaphones Tony has is in the Admiralty List of Lights for 1951, where the initial diaphone signal is referred to as 1943. Certainly the 1943 blueprints I have show the revamped Cormorant as having a diaphone. Tony’s document states that the light at this time is 2,000 c.p, fl. 15 secs, so obviously all the high-powered IOB installation with its compressed air and oil cylinders had been disposed of.