Sunday, April 29, 2012

Keeping The Boat Afloat

My friends Hardy and Layla live on a boat.  It's not only their home but also a full-on historical restoration project somewhat akin to an upside-down barn conversion, their "homeymoon" destination/accommodation and their floating wedding list.  It's an inspiring project and one that I've been dying to photograph for a while.  

The Northern Sky is a 58 foot larch on oak Scottish fishing boat built sometime around 1937, and she's designed to carry up to 22 tonnes of fish which, with no fish in the holds means that there's ample space  for some very unique living quarters.  Make no mistake, when they bought the boat it was in an absolute state, even being sold complete with a flea-ridden ships cat, and Hardy has spent much of the last two and a bit years working day and night and every hour in between trying to restore the boat so that she won't sink with all of their possessions aboard, and then once that's done, turn it into a home.  No mean feat.  

Captain Hardy in the port door of the wheelhouse, which actually serves primarily as Layla's country style kitchen where tea-towels hang to dry off the ship's wheel.

Ahoy!  Layla looking out of our bedroom porthole with a nautical scaffold platform below, showing past work below the waterline and one of the jobs "to do" painting topside.

Hardy has slowly but surely been replacing the majority of the oak frames that make up the skeleton of the Northern Sky;  after buying curved sections of sawn oak (from where the branch meets the trunk) he has to cut them down into beams and then take complicated multi-angle measurements of the section to be replaced, cut the replacement to fit and then swap them out.  

The aft cabin will eventually be the main bedroom.  You can see all of the work that has been done replacing the frame of the boat, and work yet to do above the waterline where there are holes in the planking big enough to stick your fingers through.  Last winter, during all of the snow and cold weather that we had in Cornwall, Hardy was sleeping in here and was woken up by rain being blown through the gaps.  Luckily there are no such holes below the waterline.

This illustrates perfectly how much hard(y) work has gone into restoring the good ship hardship:
That square nail is called a galvanised dump; each one is 150mm long and Hardy reckons that each whack of a 25lb (11kg) sledgehammer sends it 1mm further into it's hole.  So it takes roughly 150 whacks to hammer it in.

There are 60 frames running the length of the boat (2 sides) with 40 planks on each side.  Each plank is secured onto the frame by 2 nails (dumps).

60 frames 
 40 planks 
 2 nails
 2 sides of the hull
 150 whacks of the hammer
 2 because Hardy has only re-planked the Northern Sky up to the waterline and still has the topsides yet to do
 720,000 swings of a sledgehammer out of a total of 1,440,000.

To complete the re-planking of the Northern Sky Hardy will have swung his big sledgehammer almost one and a half million times, and there is no easier or faster way of doing this job.

The multi-purpose ships wheel.

Living on the water means getting friendly with all of the wildfowl.  Layla has been adopted by their local swan. 

Hardy rowing their tender back towards home on sunny evening, April 2012.  Refurbishing the little rowing boat will be nothing compared to the work done on the mothership.

The Northern Sky dockside on a Spring low tide.  

Hardy and Layla are forgoing a traditional wedding list for their upcoming marriage at the end of August and are instead asking friends and family who might wish to celebrate their marriage with a gift to donate towards the "restore and refit" coffers.  They have started a blog to allow friends and family to keep up to date with their progress and hope to arrive at their wedding reception on the Helford River in their homeymoon vessel, blasting the foghorn and trailing a couple of tin cans in their wake.
Check out the past stories, see how far she's come and see what's being done on their blog "Keep Our Boat Afloat", it's wonderful, inspiring and makes me want to live with funny shaped walls and round windows too.

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