Tuesday, 18 December 2007

FMC Dove

to see the restoration of ex-FMC narrow boat Dove click on

Dove, the home coming

On the 26th of August 2006 Andrea and I cranked up Achilles, and set off to Ricky. The purpose of the journey, to collect a boat, a boat called Britannia formally FMC Dove and owned by a well known character called Albert Jones. I could digress, because Albert can tell a tale or two, but that will have to wait until another time.

We arrived at Ricky the following Thursday 9am, had a test run? Handed over the cash and set off back to Fradley Junction.
Dove, as it will now be known, had a Lister SR3 under the 8 foot Cruiser deck, it was a proper conversation stopper, the noise!!!! At Batchworth lock I found the first little problem, to get it out of forward, you have to put it into full reverse, then to neutral really quick or the dam thing stops and will not start until its ready. As you can imagine the lock got a bashing. After that, we decided to breast up and let Achilles do the work, ( that’s what she was built for ). There is another thing, Dove has an “anti-brat device” that is, she has no Gunwales or Handrails so boarding and alighting has to be well judged.
After a few more mishaps, bumps and bangs, our boating skills were now being tested due to Dove running out of diesel and becoming a Butty and now under tow, at least it was quiet.

The journey back was interesting, what with gale force winds at Grafton bridge (57) and other boaters racing for bridge holes making life a little difficult, but all in all it was a good trip. One thing Andrea noticed, while she was steering Dove, that all you butty people take for granted, is the quiet and the lap of water going through bridge holes. (romantic isn’t it).

Arriving back at Fradley, on the Thursday 7th September, having completed 258miles and 204 locks and ready for a pint or two in the Swan. While there, we arranged with Geoff to pop Dove in the dry dock ( and that cost me some more beer ) to see what was what. George Wain came down to cast an eye over things and offer his help and advise, I suppose that will cost me even more beer.

After a serious dig round the hull, I decided it was best to put Dove on dry land, due to one or two dubious areas.
I arranged to take her out at Teddesley Boat Co. at Penkridge, there I under took a full out of water survey and thickness test of the steel bottom. Ultrasonic thickness testing the iron side wasn’t that accurate with my tester, so it was down to the old fashion method, 2lb hammer. However, I think the trip from London was test enough.

It was found the counter was completely rotten and the lower side plates just forward of the swim, and as George Wain said, I noted this rot was from inside and not from outside. The rest of the boat seems in good condition, with a new 1/2in steel bottom fitted in 1984 now down to 3/8th at the engine room area and, being re-footed full length.
Due to having a full length cabin since the late 70’s most of the insides and the knees are in good condition, just a few rivets to replace where they have been scuffed off the outside.

Dove, the repair

Firstly we had to remove everything that wasn’t Yarwoods, well, nearly everything, then start to take her apart, piece by piece, doing this, gave us a clue on how she was put together when built. It became quite obvious that the steel rule, centre pop or sharp drill wasn’t in the Yarwoods tool cupboard, there isn’t one rivet hole in line or at definite centres and it’s long since I saw a figure of eight drill. This meant we had to use most of the old plate as a template and drill through what was there and guess the rest. When we de-riveted the plates and angles, we found what looked like a linen type material in the joint. This turned out to be Boilermakers Felt.

By the end of November all the plates were shaped and drilled, and the chine angles rolled and bolted in place ready for riveting. The 3 x 3 x 3/8th angles had to be, firstly cold rolled into a radius by Angle Ring Ltd. We had then to heat them up on site and adjust to line up with the original ellipse of the counter.
The first weekend in December saw the side and back plates cut to shape, then rapped around the chine angle. These were then ready for drilling through.
The following visit wasn’t until mid December due to my other hobby ( re-pairing steam locomotives ). Andrea had zillions of holes to drill and I set too and formed the deck support angle. Everything had to be ready for the Christmas week so we could have a riveting session to tighten everything up.
I must say, building boats this way, seems easier than when we built Achilles. There isn’t half as much plate wrestling and no weld dressing afterwards.
After the Christmas festivities and the Turkey was digested we packed up the van with everything we just might need for a weeks work and set off to Teddersly on Boxing Day. Wednesday, we finished off drilling the remaining holes and countersinking the one’s that needed to be flush riveted. We also had one or two practice rivets, to get the length right.
Thursday, Dave and Mag’s, friends of ours, arrived to lend a hand for the day. We got set up made a plan of action and made a start. After a few mishaps Dave soon got the hang of backing up and things were looking good. Until!!! Calamity, I accidentally touched the trigger on the Hammer and rivet tool shot about fifteen feet, straight in the cut. It’s funny how things happen in slow motion but, you still can’t do anything about it. After a few expletives, I had to go and find it, I can assure you hanging upside down in the canal, in December, is not a good experience.
I found the tool and we were back in business and finished the day with well deserved beer. It was noted that, the new rivets look more like welded on washers and was all this hard work worth it? The answer, yes it is, just to be able to say you did it.
The following few day’s, progress was slow due to the inclement weather, I’m afraid electric drills and grinders don’t mix with wind and rain, not in my hands anyway.It’s now 2007 and it back to work, to earn some more penny’s for the new cabin.

Dove’s Progress

The new year started a little slow, what with the weather and the inability to find any 2 ½ inch wide rubbing band. We searched high and low, after a month of phone calls and running round, and been told “yes we do have it, how many tons do you want”? We finally found something close. It turns out a boat builder up Atherstone way, advertises 68mm (them foreign things) wide rubbing strakes on his web site. I immediately telephoned the yard and a very nice lady there said she would enquire about this product and would ring me back shortly. To my surprise, the reply was, “yes we do have it, but he won’t sell you any”. Well Mr. Boat builder, I work on the principal, what goes round, comes round and I leave it at that sir.
Time was running on and something had to be done. So we, well I, decided to make our own rubbing band. When I explained to Andrea that we would buy 40 feet of 2 ½ inch by ½ flat bar and grind it to a convex profile then drill it every 5 inches, her face was a picture. Needless to say I had to do all the grinding.

By the end of February the backend was all about finished bar one two other minor repairs, so we had to start considering the back cabin and engine room. After taking advice from all quarters, we decided to build the cabin out of steel and trim the outside with timber.

The drawings we have for Yarwood boats are a little unclear when it comes to cabin dimensions. So we had to go hiking around the country looking for a boat of the same period. As luck would have it, we found Dove’s stable mate Dragon had just been re-built at Brinklow Boats. At this point I would thank Mr Malone and especially Steve Priest for there time and pointing us in the right direction regarding cabin construction.

As a matter of interest, Dove and Dragon were out-shopped together in January 1925, numbers 295 and 296 and here they are again 82 years later. Also that month saw Monarch and Marquis turned out after their re-fit. Would be nice to see them all together again. Anyway, I digress, come on, back to work. Braunston is looming.

Now we have some dimensions to work to, we’re hacking plate up and drilling holes like mad folk, until…. we came to fit the roof and found the cabin was out of square. After throwing the tape measure at everything we’d made, and a lot of head scratching and finding nothing wrong. We investigated further and found it to be the original bulkhead angle iron’s. It turns out all the hull is askew by one inch. Must remember this when we fit the engine bearers!

We are now in the process of riveting the engine room top, we’ve got to 250 rivets and there’s more to come.The engine room top is to be as per drawing, all riveted and bolted to the gunwale timbers and complete with wooden hatch and handrails. I must say, it does make the grey matter work overtime constructing something like this without welding and, it makes you appreciate the skills and effort needed by the men in 1925.

Dove on the move (at last)

In the last episode we were on with riveting the engine room cabin sides and front. Well, they were soon completed and ready for fitting but first we need the wood for the gunwales.

We collected about a ton of Iroko from our local merchant, well it felt like a ton. It had all been cut to various sizes according to our drawing. This will do all the exterior woodwork, such as the cabin sides, gunwales and handrails, also the main structure inside the Back Cabin. Looking at some of the timber sizes, like 6x3’s for the cabin frame! Obviously, the designer went on the top side of the build spec. just look at a modern roof truss, you’re lucky to get 4x2’s.

Not having a steamer to hand to soften the timber up a bit, we just left it in the rain for day or two, we had plenty of that.

Getting the 6x2 timbers on the gunwales, which runs from the deck to just forward of the engine room wasn’t that bad, with the help of various “G” cramps, a dozen 1/2in bolts and a set of ½ ton chain blocks, it all went quite well.

We could now fit the engine room cabin, using our patent home made crane the sides and front were soon in position and bolted down. Now for the roof, this is where we had to take our time. Due to the step in the cabin sides, where the timbers finish at the engine room doors, the roof sheet has to step out at this point, just the thickness of the timber.
Cramping a 2x2 angle iron full length of the cabin at roof level ensured a nice continuous curve. We could now measure the roof sheet and the three support angles. No sooner said than done drilled and fitted.

The hard part now, was riveting the roof, with just the two of us, it came apparent that I had to be some kind of athlete, I think it’s the industrial version of the pentathlon. I was taking the rivets from the oven, putting them into the hole inside the cabin, Andrea then backed it up while I climbed onto the roof to rivet it over, all before they went cold. I was up and down like a brides nightie most of the day. Mind you, Andrea got the noisy end, I suppose you can imagine being in a tin can with, some idiot on the outside with an air hammer

Fixing the timber to the side of the cabin proved to be just a little trying to say the least. Persuading 6in wide timber, to go where it doesn’t want to go, did take a few swear words. However, by the time all the side timbers and handrails were on, I was quite pleased with our efforts to say “I don’t do wood” and it was looking more like a working boat now. While Andrea plugged all the bolt holes and started to sand down, I went to fit the engine bearers.

Remembering things aren’t too true at the backend, I decided to fit the refurbished stern tube complete with propshaft, this would give me a line to work too, and as it worked out, it was a good move. The bearers are nowhere near in line with the hull centre.
Time now to slide the engine into position, which turned out to be easer done than said….?
We could now fit the bottom half of the front bulkhead…….engine room complete.

Thinking ahead a little, getting a hull survey sorted out might be a good thing, seen as Braunston is only six weeks away. I’d already chalk marked most of the repairs needed up the front end and, tested all the ironwork with my thickness tester ( 4lb hammer ), but, you have to have the piece of paper and I thought Malcolm Braine was best qualified for this. Malcolm turned up as agreed and went for a wander around the vessel prodding and poking here and there. After a complete lap of the boat and Malcolm being a man of few words, just said, “you must be a brave man” he then proceeded to tap his way round the iron work with his toffee hammer, listening to the ever changing tone and making even more chalk marks.
While waiting for the report to land on the door mat, we set too and got on with the repairs, basically it was few rivets that were scuffed off the outside and where the odd knee had blown.

Unlucky for us, Malcolm was busy with Cactus in Liverpool, which delayed the report, so, no insurance, no Licence, no Braunston. However, we did get her launched and proved the engine and gearbox works and everything was in line.

This delay must have been fate, as Viv Scragg needed a crew for Monarch and Grimsby to get to Braunston and it looked like we were it. Very interesting outing and learned quite a bit about steering with the unbalanced vertical rudder. Has you may note from the photographs, Dove has the same arrangement.

The gear box is a Gardner No.2 cone type, similar to the one in Skylark. This needs the prop shaft to slide backwards and forwards to engage drive. Then the thrust of the propeller holds it in drive. Having never fitted this type before, I was a little concerned that if the stern gland was too tight, it wouldn’t slide and, if too loose it would leak. As it turned out, everything worked a treat. However, it does take some getting used to, as there’s no detent for neutral and you can easily go from forward straight to reverse. This can get a little embarrassing especially when you’re off the boat and holding a rope by this time.

Dove made her maiden voyage to Fradley Jct on Sunday 8th July without incident, well, mechanical incident anyway, we did have a bit of a do at Great Haywood jct. When one of the intelligent boating brigade decided to do a full power manoeuvre, just as I’m coming round the junction and put my bows into the bank. We arrived at Fradley in time for a pint or two and let the Swan boating committee survey our efforts.

Now at Fradley and on the water, we are able to fit out the back cabin. The problem with having a steel cabin is you have to work inside out, that is, you have to put the side boards on then put in the support frame. This has proved to be quite awkward, having to fix in 6 x 3 timbers to the sides and 3 x 3’s to the roof and, make it look right, especially, when the middle frame has to be askew by 3 inches, this makes for some fancy angles.

The floor frames went in very easily due to all the original angle iron brackets being still in place and now with the floor in and covering the shaft bearings, I’m keeping my shin skin a little longer and reduced the swearing.

In and amongst doing the inside we’re also getting some paint on the outside. We’ve decided to have the black and white livery, I don’t know if this is historically correct for a 1925 boat, but I’m sure we will get to know if it isn’t.
It’s been a long 12 months! But, we’re getting there.

Dove goes on tour

Right then….. where were we…. Ah yes, paint. I put a bit of paint on the cabin at Teddersley just to stop the weather getting in but, it needed a lot more. We didn’t want Dove to look brand new, it needed to look just a little used. However, my attempt at painting made it look a lot used, so Geoff from Swan Line Boats took it in hand and, in his spare time did us a cracking paint job. He also arranged for Jim McCormack to do the sign writing, and that is definitely something to watch.

While all this was going on outside, me and Andrea got on with the back cabin interior, this wasn’t too difficult to plan due to having practiced on Achilles. We got all the frame work fixed, a Bed cupboard (without hinges), a few shelves and a side bed. Then the day before we set off to Shackerstone I put the Ash deck on, bolted down the side rails and planed the camber on the back timber. By nine ‘o’ clock that night the fenders and a dolly were fitted and ready for business. We always seem to be on the last push, but we made our minds up, Dove is going to Shackerstone one way or another!

Thursday afternoon, we finally got underway, well, not quite. What you can’t do, is come out of Geoff’s dock forwards and turn right down the Coventry. You have to go into the lock mouth, reverse back in front of the Swan pub and the audience, then turn down the Coventry. I’m sure every boat on the cut was waiting for me to do this, because when I set off, the Junction was empty, half way out, there must have been a dozen boats appear from all directions. Of course, you guessed it…. Chaos!!! Then Hyperion appeared out of Middle lock and came to join us. I was quite amused with all this. However, some of the shiny boat people weren’t that happy rubbing gunwales with us, can’t imagine why, we had a brand new paint job too.

After a while, the unofficial gathering dispersed and we got going, Hyperion leading the way. This turned out, not to be a good thing, everytime a boat came the other way, they were that busy looking at Hyperion they collided with us. “This weren’t half testing my rivets”! We spent the night at Atherstone bottom lock and arrived at Shackerstone in one piece the following teatime.

Over the weekend it was suggested that we took Dove to the Black Country Museum gathering. This meant we had to get a little more organised for cooking and sleeping. But there was only two and bit weeks. “Here we go again”, I took some time away from work and set too making a table cupboard, collecting and fitting the Epping and, making a chimney, also generally finishing off things from the last mad rush.

Andrea thought it would be good a idea to go to Birmingham via the Staffs and Worcester, then up through Stourbridge and the Delph, nice steady three days. I assumed with Jacko’s regular coal run the Staffs and Worcester would be quite deep. However, Dove found the bottom quite often and at one point came out of the water by a foot then went over sideways by 30 degrees, Andrea, who was steering at the time, was little concerned by this to say the least but she kept on going and things settled out.
The New Main line proved interesting, watching the reeds bow down to us as we cruised through at an energetic pace, plenty of water to play with. We gained some time here and arrived at the BCM early evening.

After a very interesting weekend moored next to Henry and Phyllis on Cactus and Pete on Hadley also having fender making lessons from Joe Hollingshead, we set off back to Fradley, this time via Farmers Bridge and Aston. This was the first time we’d been this way with a 70’ boat. Now we know why the cill stones are cut away coming down Curdworth locks. Don’t know how the GU boats go on.
Dove is now back at Shadehouse lock, where work will continue over the winter. There is still loads to do, so I may have some more jottings next year, that’s if you’re interested.

(or Christmas day in the workhouse)

Now we’ve had our playtime we must now settle down to some serious work but, winter is upon us and we have to pick our jobs according to the weather. Arriving back from the Black Country we got on with more of the back cabin, this was basically making doors and drawers. Working in the back cabin is now getting a little cramped, there just isn’t room for two people, two four foot sash cramps and a ton of saw dust, so it looks like some of the work will have to be done at home. The only thing is, this means a two hour round trip if I get anything wrong.

We are deviating from the plan a little with the design of the back cabin, like with the engine room door, in Dove there are two and they open into the engine room, not as per drawing and into the cabin.

During a bit of a dry spell we had a go at the fore deck, I knew it was a bit worse for wear but, I didn’t realise how bad it was, until I started doing my archaeological dig with the gas axe. I found most of it didn’t have that iron oxide reaction I expected, it was more of a toxic melt down combined with luminous flares. It was about twenty per cent body filler and Aluminium mesh under twenty coats of paint. The repair methods of some boat owners does leave a lot to be desired. By the time you’ve messed about with filler and sanding discs, you could have riveted, or dare I say, welded, a new plate in. However, this way, they left enough original remnants to give us a clue to, how the Fore deck and Scuttle were constructed. There was even a number of pre-war 3/8th bolts and the odd rivet dangling from the bulk head angle iron and, the bottom of the original “T” stud was still rusted in position.

After removing the steel cants, which for some unknown reason, were full of leaves and grass, very odd! Revealed lots more holes, you can actually see the acid reaction where the Oak was bolted to the Iron. So this has given us a clue to the correct timber sizes for the front deck., as this does vary from boat to boat.
On close examination of the deck plate and using my dynamic thickness tester, I found the extreme front section to be quite thick, so I’ve decided to only renew from the bulkhead to just forward of the scuttle hatch. We will also, have to fabricate new angle irons in this area to support the new plate, especially near the bulkhead where the body filler has held the water.

Dove’s progress

We left you in the last episode with yet more rotten bits to sort out. After taking measurements from the existing fore deck plate, well, what was left of it, we set too to make the new one.
With having limited facilities at Shadehouse, I decided to make the plate and the new angle iron at home, good thing our neighbours are understanding.
Putting the radius on the 3x3 angle turned out quite easy, after converting my hydraulic pipe bender, but the plate proved more of a challenge.
It turned out, the original plate was quite a complex shape and took quite a bit of pushing, pulling, jacking and persuading into position. Obviously these were hot pressed in Yarwoods days. Once this was fitted and welded to the good bit I left in, we could then shape the hatch combing and rivet it in place, and also cork up the edge making it watertight.

When it came to riveting the deck plate, it was obvious that someone or something was going to end up in the drink, so we asked Geoff at Fradley if we could borrow his dock.

We laid planks across the dock and around the bows as a bit of a walkway, this proved to be the safest and easiest way to tackle the job. Due to Andrea being the weaker of the two sexes (no doubt I’ll get some flack for that statement). We decided it best to get counter sunk rivets and Andrea to back up on the outside and me put a snap on the inside, once I got the right size rivets, dam elastic tape measures! Anyway, soon rattled ‘em in once we got going, just got a little noisy in there, even for my deaf ears.

Now with the deck finished, time to fit the new cants. After the wrestling match we had with the Iroko on the cabin sides and gunwales, I decided to use the more traditional timber, Oak!
Before we did any more bent bits, I had to make us a steam box. I had full intentions of making a proper affair, however, time got the better of us and it turned out being made of some old plywood, a load of screws, humpteen yard of Gaffer tape and two wallpaper steamers borrowed from friends. Don’t laugh, cause it worked, well in a fashion.
When bending the Oak, I found you still have to watch the grain structure to avoid splitting, as we discovered when one piece exploded while cooling, which caused me to use words like “ dam and blast” and other well known phrases.

While waiting for more materials and, the money to pay for them, we got on with finishing off the little bits that got put to one side until you get a “roundtuit”. Well, I’ve got one now so there’s no excuse. (see photo)

We got to Braunston, has you may have seen, complete with new Oak cants and a more liverble cabin. While there, we had a look and compare with Owl, with it being of similar vintage. Also glanced at a few other FMC’s, looks like every bodies got different ideas how they should look. Also got talking to Barry Argent about Perch, that should be an interesting project to watch.

Arriving back at Fradley after our jolly outing, we finished off the back cabin and the following weekend Andrea got out the Ratcliffs undercoat and attacked everything that didn’t move. Then a good day saw off the Scumbling and a pint or two in the Swan to wash down the fumes.
During Sunday afternoon ex FMC Victory arrived for a spot of filming with Joe Hollingshead, so it turned into a mini FMC gathering with Dove, Monarch, Grimsby and Marquis
Next are the roses and castles? I’m afraid, I’m no artist, so for me this could be the most difficult part of the restoration.