Saturday, 26 March 2016

LIGHTSHIP CORMORANT / LADY DIXON - Chapter 141



While I struggle with the Byzantine machinations of Swanson/Thompson during the 1962 GBOK period, when they were trying to make Lady Dixon into a pirate radio station, Simon has been making great strides cleaning up below deck (Photo 1411). 
    He has abandoned the air-driven nail gun and settled for a drill-driven wire brush. The result is a clean, but not rust-free surface, which is all that is required for the application of foam insulation. The drill is heavy and it is very arm-aching work (as was the nail gun).
 

      It also produces a lot of dust and Simon has rigged up a ‘curtain’ to keep the dust from drifting up the spiral staircase into the kitchen. The curtain is one of several side panels from a marquee which he acquired for free some time ago and has been keeping just in case they proved useful. They have! (Photo 1412)  Very sensibly he is also wearing a face mask, but from time to time he has to take a break and let the dust settle so that he can see!!



     When he reached the stern post, where for a long time he has had a large sheet of plastic in place to catch the condensation drips (no longer required now that the deck is insulated), he was very disconcerted to find a very damp area where the two transoms at deck level came together. They were joined by a large ‘nose piece’ of what was once solid oak, but now was black, rotten, smelly wood.  To investigate further he levered at this block to remove it, but stopped when water oozed out from beneath. This being below water level, he paused for thought and sought advice. He had a very uneasy night and had dreams about being trapped in a room rapidly filling with water!


   The next day, with a fellow boat owner, he waited until the tide was out and the ship safely settled on the mud, then levered out that block. Yes there was water trapped below it, but cleaning and drying out the cavity showed that there was no obvious ‘hole’ in the hull. It seems that, in the two years since Simon bought the ship and put the plastic sheet there, all the condensation had run off and gathered in that area from whence there was no escape. We do not think the block rotted that quickly, but being bathed in water must have added to existing damage and created that worrying impression that there was a leak beneath.
     Having eased his mind on that area, Simon then worried about more dampness nearby on the port quarter, which could not be blamed on the plastic sheet. Investigating the underneath of the upper deck, he found that where the old frame met the new steel plating, there was a cirular hole about 5 inches in diameter. It was plugged and had not been noticed when the steel plating was done. Taking out the crumbling plug revealed the underneath of the upper deck insulating sheets and the position was right up against the port gunwhale. (Photo 1414)   A bucket is there to catch the water - evidence.

As the gunwhale has crumbled with rot in places and ‘repaired’ with cement, we guess that rain water gets through voids in the wood/concrete mixture, into the area between the deck plating and the insulation/ roofing felt layer. Some of this (most we hope!) escapes down the mystery hole. Due to the run of the iron ribs, the water has not contributed to the pool where the transoms meet, but wets the sides and the deck where it runs down into the bilges.
    The leaky area of the gunwhale must be traced and sealed of course, but why is there a circular hole in the deck?  I thought at first it was a deck light, but there were none in that area of the deck. There is a clue down below.  Exactly below the deck hole is a concrete block set rather awkwardly into the ribs (Photo 1415) and it has a hole in it which is the same size as the deck hole. 
    So something like a long, circular pole has been added to the structure at some stage, but there is no trace of any likely pole in the 1943 plans or any of the photographs of the ship over the years.  Any ideas anyone?
David