WHILE I was swanning around having a truly memorable holiday in Hawaii, my lovely brother, Alan, was working his fingers to the bone, up to his elbows in grease and diesel fuel, refurbishing bits of the engine on Terra Nova, our old Seamaster Admiral cabin cruiser.
Last year, we took the old boat all the way down the Thames to the estuary and then up the River Medway but we encountered two problems – the engine kept over-heating and we discovered it was leaking a lot of fuel into the bilges.
Now my bruv is never one to shirk a challenge and despite all my protestations and warnings of impending doom – ‘we’ll never find the right parts;’ ‘we won’t be able to get it back together;’ ‘it’ll never run again;’ etc, he forged ahead and completely rebuilt the engine cooling system and the fuel delivery system.
I had to admit, looking at the 1968 Perkins diesel when he’d finished, that it looked what my West Country friends would call ‘a praper job.’ But the acid test had to wait until she went back into the water.
So a couple of weekends ago, we got our overalls on and laid on our backs underneath the boat to give her bottom a fresh coat of blue antifouling prior to the re-launch.
In passing, I should say that this is not the most pleasant of jobs. The boat is suspended in the boatyard cradle which is capable of holding boats more than twice as big as Terra Nova but as you lay with your nose about 12 inches from the gently swaying hull you can’t help wondering when was the last time the cradle straps were inspected for wear…
And apart from that cheerful thought, you also end up covered in blue paint – hands, arms, glasses and hair – the lot. Very becoming.
Anyway, at last the moment arrived and the old girl was finally reunited with her true element and she sat, bobbing gently in the wash from passing boats.
Having bled the diesel system, my brother turned the key and the engine fired immediately. Note to self – never doubt bruv’s engineering ability again. So there we are, back in the water and ready to make the most of the summer cruising up and down the river. Lovely jubbly.
I WATCHED the newsreel coverage of the trip by the Dunkirk Little Ships back across the Channel to the scene of their greatest triumph with a full heart. I applaud all the owners of these craft who sink considerable amount of time, money and effort into keeping them running. They are a part of our history. It was fantastic to see so many of them make the crossing and wonderful that they were able to carry some of the few surviving members of the British Expeditionary Force that they helped to pluck from the beaches.
I hope lots of people will turn out to welcome them once again when they undertake their annual trip from Kingston to Weybridge later this year.