Thursday, 18 December 2014

Ben's splinter removal By Abbey Molyneux

As I’m sure you can all imagine, splinters are a hazard of the job here at Pioneer. You can don your most fashionable PPE for all the other flying objects and big bangs but splinters are the invincible villains of the workshop.
Mick, our wise (old) shipwright AKA Mick Allen The Great even after years of experience was signed off work with a splinter that swelled up like a sausage not so long ago. Although there were many rumors
flying round the town about alligator attacks and spider bites…to set the record straight it was indeed just a splinter. Yet another splinter incident was when Charlie got a biggun stuck under his fingernail, Charlie being Charlie though could not just pull it out like a normal person…he had to drill into his fingernail to relieve the swelling pressure, hoik it out and then parade it round the workshop while a few of us were quietly vomiting in the corner. Oh the joys of carpentry ey.

Luckily for us we now have Ben The Big Friendly Giant. His mum is a nurse and he is famous for being a little bit anal about cleanliness in the yard. He even showers twice a day! With all this in mind we put our heads together, used our initiative and set up Bens Splinter Removal Surgery. It probably wouldn’t pass any Health and Safety checks but hey the yard has saved a lot of money on plasters since (needless to say this blog is probably the first The Management have heard of it)!  Now when the time comes we know where to go. He also offers a finger removal service for serious cases although Aidan is the only one to have this service to use so far.

I had an appointment with Dr Ben last week, all suited and booted with his mask, latex gloves and his biggest Sorby chisel (bearing some resemblance to a medieval torture set up) I walked up to him and put my hand on his custom made extra tall bench. Turning away, wincing, cursing and stamping my tiny steel toe caps on the floor Dr Ben got to work. “Abbey, I haven’t even started yet…have a can of man the **** up”. Either way it was a total overreaction, it didn’t hurt at all although it did give Charlie a reason to mock me for a few days. With his steady hand, finely sharpened chisels and a few antiseptic wipes he had it out in no time! With puss oozing from my humongous wound a bit of masking tape and tissue was applied and I continued building our famous rowing gigs. Dr Ben saves the day again! 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

So Who's the Boss of the Backbone? asks Jake Anderson (with Julia Jones)

(JJ) I was warned when I first visited Harker's Yard that there was a certain amount of 'banter' between the apprentices. I began to get a flavour of that in The Great Oar Race (Liam's blog) so when I went to interview his rival, Jake, I wasn't entirely surprised when Jake pointed out that the final photo of oars on Liam's blog were actually HIS oars and also Liam hasn't yet finished (because he's making an entire extra set). 
So I'd better get these photo captions right....

Liam's oars -
with their varnish drying in the winter sun
(and a little bit of help from the central heating?)
Jake's oars -
a complete set destined for the gig 'Mehalah'

Jake is making yet more oars but is also hard at work on the backbone for the next gig - number 14, I think. Even there all is not peace. I asked him to explain...

Jake, pointing to the stem, apron and forward knee,
 three of the nine components of the backbone
Jake: Making the backbone is a fun, yet slightly challenging, job. There are nine components to the full backbone. Each has to be made separately and then it has to be put together like a big jigsaw puzzle – with only one piece being fitted at a time.
Jake begins to explain how it will all fit together
Jake: It also does help that I'm currently making a whole new set of oars whilst Aiden, who is working with me on the backbone, is repairing a broken oar from a previous set. I say he is working with me – actually there is an amusing dispute between me and Aiden about who is leading the operation to make the backbone. Aiden believes that he’s leading it as he started the job and made the keel. I believe that I am leading it as I have already made one backbone. Dunstan, the gig manager, has backed me up – much to Aiden's disgust.

Aiden, who made the keel,
tells Jake he's doing it wrong
(Don't worry Aiden – it's your turn to be interviewed for the blog next month – JJ).

Jake: The backbone, for those of you who don't know, has nine different components: the stem, apron, forward knee, keel, hog, aft knee, deadwood, stern post and transom. The stem, forward knee and aft knee are all made from laminated mahogany, glued together on a jig. This is because they all have a large curve in them that would be hard to achieve from solid timber.

Layers of mahogany
Jake: The apron, keel, deadwood, stern post and transom are all made from Iroko. This is the main wood that we use for making and fitting out the rowing gigs. Lastly the hog is made from Douglas Fir. The hog is the component that nearly all of the mahogany planks which we use in the gig hull are attached to. It's an important part to make correctly as it ensures that the shape of the hull is true.
Jake ignores Aiden
 and fits the stern post, deadwood and aft knee to the keel
JJ You  come from Dorking. You'd never done any sailing so how did you arrive at Harker's Yard?
Jake: I'm in my second year of my apprenticeship here at Pioneer and I arrived in an odd sort of way. I left school after GCSEs and was at a college in Surrey doing carpentry and joinery at levels one and two. I wasn't really enjoying it very much as the teaching wasn't very good so I didn't want to stay for level three. I was looking around for alternatives but I wasn't having any luck.

Suddenly my Nanny found an article in one of her women's magazines for a boat-building course in Devon. I got in touch with them but I found I wasn't eligible for some reason that I can't remember – I think it was that I didn't have my own boat. However they told me to get in touch with the Pioneer Sailing Trust which I did.
I was invited for an interview, which just happened to be on the day I arrived back from a holiday in Turkey and soon after I heard back from them saying they would take me. I was extremely nervous at first. I'd been living inland in Surrey and I'd never even really thought about boats. After the first month of starting I knew I'd made an extremely good choice and I've learned more there that I ever did – or would ever have done – in college.

JJ: What Next? 
Jake: I'll be finished at Pioneer in July and that's beginning to feel rather soon. I asked the owner of a boatyard in Turkey for advice on my next move and he told me to travel and get jobs in boatyards throughout the world.
So that's my plan. When I finish here I'm going to apply to boatyards in a variety of locations and stay maybe six months in each. I plan to do that for about three years. I think I might start in Oz....

The Harker's Yard gig, Matchless,
showing off her pretty transom in her winter cover

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The Priscilla discovery Fred's Blog

The Priscilla discovery... 
So the time has finally come to put years of planning, organising and excitement into the next big project at Pioneer, Priscilla. She was built as a general 2nd class sailing smack in 1893 at the “Stone Brothers” of Brightlingsea and is the oldest “Stone” built vessel in existence, well, hanging on by a thread!

She’s had a mixed life, originally working out of Brightlingsea fishing during the winter months until she was lengthened from her original 36ft to 43ft overall which enabled her to perform at a faster speed. In 1931 she was sold and operated out of West Mersea and used for oyster dredging and to some extent Stowboating for sprats. The sailing rig was removed in 1933 and engine fitted. She held the Colchester registration of CK 437 for the first part of her working life but was changed to MN 76 in 1970 while still in operation. In 1975 she went into retirement and carried on as a leisure vessel after restoration and a new rig. By 1981 a final attempt to prolong the life of this prestigious vessel was undertaken by the addition of a Ferro Cement “skin” and kept her on the water till she was recovered in a derelict state from a boatyard in Bristol in 2003 by the Pioneer Sailing Trust.
Throughout my time at the PST I’ve known of Priscilla and after seeing what could be done to rebuild Pioneer itself I’ve always thought it would be great to tackle something of similar interest. Through a lot of help from all members at Pioneer that time has come. After months of seeing this boat sitting in the yard waiting patiently for her next step and we have now taken a huge step in completing the breakdown, analysis and plans for restoration with the new keel timber on site ready to be shaped accordingly!

One very exciting find from what remains of her was probably the smallest item to be a part of her, something that could have easily been swept away with the rubble, something seemingly unimportant but is all but that. It certainly looked that way on first glance as a rough, brown clump, but due to its location on the old mast step we knew it wasn’t. After carefully cleaning and washing away the years of corrosion I discovered what can only be assumed was the original coin placed under the mast when she was first built over 120 years ago! It’s an 1893 Silver ½ Crown portraying Queen Victoria and was placed under the mast as a sign of good luck, common among most vessels still today.

As it has served her well for the past 120 years I will replace her under the mast and hopefully she will do her job for the next 120!

I’m really looking forward to the restoration of Priscilla with Mick Allen and apprentices over the next few years and although we have a long way to go, this coin will be a reminder of what needs to be done, a goal in the future of this boat and my own ambitions as a carpenter.