There comes a time in every narrowboat’s journey that it needs to get out of the water and expose its bottom. This is the story of Celtic Maid’s exposure.
Given that we are about to leave her in a marine for the winter while we indulge ourselves in the love and warmth of our family and friends in Australia, and that the last time her bottom was exposed was 5 years ago when we had her surveyed before purchasing her, we decided that it was time for an inspection and bottom blacking.
We chose Springwood Haven near Nuneaton on the Coventry Canal, and booked Celtic Maid in, back in the Spring as we were heading north for the Summer. Our experience there confirmed that this was an excellent choice as the staff and other boaters couldn’t have been any more helpful.
The process involved us arriving at the Marina on a Monday morning and having the boat prepared to go onto the dry dock by ensuring that all holes that may take on water as the boat is being pulled out are sealed – exhaust from heating and drainage holes are examples. Then once we were lined up with the railway tracks and cable attached to the bow we were winched onto the cradle which held Celtic Maid carefully while the work was done. And while we lived on her for a week using a set of tall steps to get off and on the boat to undertake our share of the work.
It all started with a massive pressure wash of all areas below the water line to clear off loose paint, algae, and dirt. This gave us the opportunity to inspect how things looked and make sure there was no damage requiring urgent attention. To our relief and expectation, there were only two obvious flaws exposed.
The first was the need to replace the anodes – one each side to be welded on the front (bow) and back (stern). These sacrificial metal ingots are attached on metal boats to protect the hull and propeller from corrosion due to extended periods exposed to water. Before any painting could begin new anodes had to be welded on and the hull keyed in preparation for the two-part epoxy coating that would protect Celtic Maid for another 5 years.
The other flaw, which we were already aware of, was the construction of our rudder, and the fact that the rudder was worn and needed repairs. For some reason, the fin that usually sits on top the rudder plate was on the back of it and therefore unable to protect the rudder from spinning under the boat and potentially damaging the propeller. Additionally, the rudder bearing (where the tiller connects) and the rudder cup (where the rudder sits) both needed replacement. In short, our rudder needed an overhaul.
Thanks to the welders from Boot Wharf in Nuneaton we very soon had a reconstructed rudder, a patch welded over pinhole leaks in our diesel tank and extensions welded onto our cabin roof water deflectors. Before long the rudder cup and bearing were replaced and the whole unit reassembled. No more vibrations, no more tiller arm flying out of reach and risk to propeller damage.
Bob spent a few hours rubbing over the hull with sandpaper, keying it in readiness for the paint. Once the paint was applied (2 coats required with a couple of days in between for it to “go off”), she started to look just about new again. More than happy with the job undertaken by Springwood Haven.
We also took the opportunity, and the excellent advice from both staff and other boaters who were beside us painting their narrowboat, of rubbing back and repainting the blue below our gunwales and above the rubbing strip that marked the top of the blacking. This area takes the brunt of the bangs and scratches of narrowboating despite the use of fenders. Navigating locks, narrow bridges, and other boats all contribute to the “experience wrinkles” developed over time.
With the aid of a borrowed orbital sander that came with tuition, and advice on how to apply the paint using a roller followed by a brush to avoid an orange peel effect, it wasn’t long before this area looked almost as good as the blacking. The stern deck also got the treatment.
What a facelift, body sculpt and new do Celtic Maid has experienced!. And how accomplished do we feel with our new skills!?!
Once completed and the bill paid, we headed off along the Coventry Canal to Hawkesbury Junction. This time we turned down the Oxford Canal, restocked in Rugby and finally moored in our marina ready for our next adventure.
A few months in Australia catching up on baby hugs, playing with grandchildren, enjoying our children and friend’s company, and then we will be back in the Spring to tackle our next adventures.
All information regarding boat repairs detailed in this blog should not be taken as professional advice or guidance. The author has no engineering knowledge or experience and probably all terms and details lack credibility. But hey, give me a break, I’m just telling you what I think it was all about!!!!