Update on Restoration
Up to May 2020
Following receipt from Heritage lottery that we could start the project, the Trust has been working towards the time when our shipwright, Kevin Finch, of K J Finch Shipwrights Ltd can start the repairs.
The work undertaken by the Trust has involved some 23 volunteers working to remove all deck fittings and stripping out the accommodation below deck. This was undertaken over the Autumn, Winter of 2019/20 and was completed just prior to the Coronavirus epidemic.
Winches and other fittings have been carefully removed and as required repaired and repainted ready to be refitted once the deck work has been replaced.
Below deck, all her accommodation and galley have been removed ready for work to begin. New accommodation and galley will be fitted as part of the project so that the Trust can offer up to date facilities to those people who wish to come sailing with the Trust on weekends or charter he for longer periods.
Timber was ordered and the first load arrived at the shipwrights in January.
Pudge Project Update - June 2020
As soon as Pudge was made fast alongside the Quay at Fullbridge on the 12th March, the three shipwrights got to work opening up a large enough area of the main hatch to enable them to clear Pudge’s hold of items which had been stowed and were ready for storage on site. First, they craned out the two large water tanks which we had previously been disconnected. At this time there is not a final decision as to whether to keep or dispose of them, so they have been stored alongside the shipping container that the Trust had already had organised to be delivered to the Yard a few days earlier. Everything else which we had stored down below was lifted out and transferred into the container. All the items that we will not need for some time, such as galley equipment etc. have been placed at the back and towards the front are all the deck fittings that have been made ready for the shipwrights to re-fit as soon as the new deck and hatches are in place. These include the winches, windlass, ventilators, chimneys etc. The diesel fuel tank has also been craned out and stored near the container also awaiting a decision on whether or not we need one of a larger size. With everything in place, it was finally time for the reconstruction work to begin. Kevin Finch started with the main beams, using the oak trees which had come from France. The Oak “Boules” which came from France were the result of a great deal of thought, effort and expertise on the part of Kevin Finch. The selection of suitable logs involved exchanges of emailed photo’s over several weeks and then, during a 3-day visit to France, the final choice of logs to buy was made after visiting several very muddy log yards.
It was an agonising time for Kevin involving a great deal of discussion on the merits and demerits of individual logs and their potential suitability for essentially different purposes, according to which part of the barge they were intended for.
The sawing of every log was supervised by Kevin and involved meticulous positioning of each log on the bandsaw carriage in order for example to maximise the yield by taking advantage of the natural curves in the logs which he had earmarked for curved beams, necessary due to Pudge’s heavy deck camber.
Also sometimes changing the instructions as to the next thickness of cut required, in order to maximise or minimise any defects revealed as the sawing proceeded.
The logs were the maximum weight and length for the bandsaw carriage and we were fortunate in having a very amiable Head Sawyer who allowed our time-consuming antics.
At one point the slab coming off the saw tipped in a different way than expected and was in danger of sliding into the spinning sawblade and being so heavy probably pushing it off the top wheel. The sawyer said in a calm, conversational tone of voice “poussez le bouton rouge s’il vous plait” – “push the red button please!)
There was a great deal of measuring to be done to determine the exact shape, size and positioning of all the 9” square, curved beams that span right across the inside of the barge at deck level. These beams will be fitted at fixed positions to ensure that the barge keeps her shape. Also, when in position they determine the placing of both the main and the fore hatches. Nine beams have been fashioned, all of slightly different sizes and they have each been craned into Pudge and laid out on the ceiling ready for fitting and final rounding off and finishing. Alongside them are the 30 carlings which have also been made. These are the short beams, which have one end fitted to the frames at the side of the barge with the other end fitted to the underside of the hatches. They are designed to support the side deck planks.
It’s an impressive sight to see all these beautifully shaped new pieces of oak laid out down below out of the sun and ready for the next stage.
In the meantime, Kevin has re-organised the timber piles again (a never-ending task) and has selected the best pieces from which to fashion the windlass bitts, the lodging knee etc. and work has begun on measuring and shaping up these next pieces. Pudge is expected to go into dry dock later in June and the removal of the old decks can then be started.
Pudge Project Update - July 2021
VIEWING GALLERY LAUNCHED WITH HELP OF PLUME ACADEMY PUPILS
The Thames Sailing Barge Trust are pleased to announce the launch of their viewing gallery at Chandlers Quay, Fullbridge, where the historic sailing barge Pudge is undergoing its £738,000 restoration and refit.
The Trust in partnership with the Plume Community Academy have installed information boards and a leaflet, which give details on Pudge’s history (she was a Dunkirk Little Ship), and tell the public about the work that is being undertaken whilst she is at Fullbridge. The public are welcome to view the conservation work from the gallery as it takes place. The display boards and leaflet have been designed by Ashleigh Collar, Anna Roman, Holly Buckingham and Kyeisha Bright. The pupils worked with the Trust in discussing the layout and design and have captured the historic nature of Pudge’s involvement in the Dunkirk evacuation.
Mrs Helen Bush, Subject Leader for Graphic Design, Design Technology at Plume Community Academy said ‘Working with The Thames Sailing Barge Trust was an exciting opportunity for the students. Especially for them to be working directly with a client and to be able to respond and act on feedback given. It gave the students a great insight into designing for a client outside of the classroom and a little example of designing in the real world. It is something I am very happy to have been able to support and I am very proud of how the students conducted themselves, and given other commitments they had at the time, they didn't fault at getting work completed for the given deadlines’.
John Rayment from the Thames Sailing Barge Trust expressed his thanks for all the hard work that the students put into the project and hopes the Trust will be able to work with pupils from the Academy again in the future.
Pudge Project Update - August 2020.
Following the Thames Sailing Barge Trust's last report, Pudge was all prepared and just waiting for the dry dock to become available. As soon as she was inside and had settled down in position her bottom was cleaned. Kevin Finch and his Team, which now includes a shipwright trainee, fixed steel cables, rigging screws and Acro props across the inside of Pudge and over to the side of the dry dock to ensure that she kept her shape when the deck planks and the structural wooden and steel beams were removed. The rudder and the steering gear, both masts and the sprit were removed. The wooden masts have been stored safely on the bottom of the dry dock, underneath the barge to keep them out of the sun.
The next stage was the removal of the cargo hatches. Pudge does not have her original lift off hatch boards that she had in trade as they were removed when the hold was converted into accommodation and were replaced with a fixed boarded top. As there was nothing traditional left worth saving it was all broken out and disposed of. They have kept the fore hatch skylight which will be replaced after some repair work and both sliding entrance hatches.
The coamings, the name given to the sides of the cargo hatches, are normally made of one piece of good quality hardwood 5 inches thick. This gives them the great strength needed to carry the weight of the inner edge of the side decks which are fastened to their undersides. Removing them showed that there had been a number of repairs over the years whilst she was in trade. The starboard side was actually made up of two separate thicknesses of timber. Plus the whole of the hatch had been raised by adding pieces to the top in order to increase the cargo space. All this had allowed it to bow along its length, sinking down in the middle and taking the deck with it. This was the major cause of all the deck leaks we experienced. We do know that Pudge had two collisions during her trading days which led to some major repairs, but we have no record of the actual work carried out.
After both the main and the fore hatch coamings had been removed, all the deck planking was carefully stripped out. They have retained the engine room hatch which was in good condition and also the entrance to the skipper’s cabin which has always acted as a skylight and held the compass binnacle. That is at present is being restored by one of our volunteers and will be re-fitted in due course.
This just left the 9 wooden beams and the 5 steel beams left in position. Each of the wooden beams was taken out and replaced with one of the new ones that had already been fashioned (see previous report). They have been positioned and fixed to a specific height to give the correct contour and camber to the deck.
We had previously examined the 5 steel beams in situ and although they knew that some repair work would be needed, we thought that would be the way to go. However, when the deck had been removed and we were able to have a much closer inspection, they discovered that they were in a worse condition than we thought. On investigation they found it was going to be much cheaper and also better long term to have new ones fabricated. So patterns were made and a price agreed and we are now awaiting completion and delivery.
They knew that the saddle chock, the low rail which goes across the stern above the transom, had quite a lot of rot in it. They were concerned that the rot would have travelled down into the transom itself. However, when the shipwrights removed it they found that the rot had stayed within the transom and the transom and the corner knees were still in good condition. All that was needed was the replacement of a small wooden pad behind the rudder centre gudgeon iron.
Whist all the stripping out was going on quite a lot of small metal items were removed which were part of the main structure and therefore the volunteers had not been able to remove them previously. These include the batten hooks which are fitted all round the main and fore hatches and hold the hatch cloth, battens and wedges in position. There are over 50 of these altogether. Also removed were the 4 large brackets which are used to locate and support the hatch boards and the two snatches (fairleads) from the transom. All these need to be chipped and cleaned back to bare metal, de-rusted and repainted. Due to the virus we are still unable to bring the volunteer group into work yet, but several of them have volunteered to work on items at home.
The oak breast hook that sits behind the stem under the deck was found to have rot in it, so a new one has been made and is ready to fit. At the time of writing the shipwrights are completing the making and fixing all the other and various knees that help support the beams and keep the corners in position.
Pudge Project Update - October 2020.
The steel beams that we awaited have now arrived. These beams go right across the barge at deck level to support the forward and after ends of both hatches known as headledges. However, this gave the shipwrights the opportunity to work on another necessary job at the bow.
For some time we had been concerned that some cracks in the timber of the stem had been getting wider and had already purchased a piece of timber to fashion a new stem. To remove the old stem it is necessary to first remove the stemband. This is a steel bar around 4” wide and 1” thick which is fastened right up the front of the wooden stem. At its top end it has a forged eye to which the forestay is attached and bolt holes spaced along its length for fitting it to the stem. The shipwrights have now fashioned and fitted the new stem and are waiting for the blacksmith to complete fashioning a new stemband which will be changed slightly in design in order to give the new stem a longer life.
It was also necessary to make some repairs to the inside edge of the covering board, the deck plank that goes all the way round the outside edge of the barge, covering over the top of all the framework and to which the rails are fastened. We knew that in places there were small amounts of rot along the edge of the covering board which would need to be repaired before deck planking could begin.
The new beams duly arrived and as Kevin Finch had made patterns of all the bolthole positions in the old beams he was able to transfer them directly to the new beams using a magnetic base drill. This speeded up the process and they were soon being craned on board into position and bolted in place.
The shipwrights were then able to start work on the deck planking, beginning with the mast deck. All the deck planks had been previously cut to length with caulking grooves running down the side. Thicker and stronger timber is used under the mast, which also sits on top of a 9” square wooden beam with a steel pole going down to the keelson. This ensures that the deck can take the extreme load and pressure exerted by the mast, especially when sailing in heavy weather conditions. As each area of decking is completed all the caulking seams are covered with tape to keep out any dirt, shavings etc. and they are given a coat of primer.
In the latter weeks of September the weather began to change. Fortunately Pudge already has a purpose built cover which was immediately brought to Fullbridge Quay by a few of our volunteers and under the guidance of the Trust’s ‘tent erector in chief’ the shipwrights soon had it in position and bowsed down firmly. This enabled work to continue on the deck at a pace and in the dry.
The next area to be tackled was the foredeck, but before that could be started the windlass bitts, which had already been prepared in the yard, had to be put in place. The bitts are the large timber posts on each side of the anchor windlass which hold all the operating parts in position. Normally only the upper, above decks section of these timber posts are seen, however for maximum strength they go through the deck and right down to the bottom of the barge. Directly in front of them is the last of the five new steel beams which have been fitted. We call this the thrust beam because it helps take the thrust of the massive force that the anchor can place on the windlass at times. Once the bitts were completed it was time for the majority of the foredeck to be laid from the stem back to the forward headledge of the forehatch.
The shipwrights followed on by completing the afterdeck in the same manner from the transom up to the after headledge of the mainhatch.
Once these three areas of decking are complete it is time to fit the king planks. The king planks are the double width deck planks that go right along the length of the barge from stem to stern and also act as a base for the sides or coamings of the forehatch and mainhatch. At the time of writing the king planks have been cut and laid in position on both sides. The scarfs have been cut and are in the process of being glued.
Pudge Project Update - December 2020.
At the end of our last report in October, the king planks were cut and ready for gluing. These have now been fitted. These two planks are now both continuous from bow to stern, and are supported by the main beams, and deck carlings. The carling inner ends finish flush with the inner edge of the king planks, and eventually will be bolted through the coamings. This will stiffen up the whole barge structure.
The main event taking place since the last report has been the laying of all the remaining deck planks. To enable the work to proceed safely, Kevin, our shipwright has spread a safety net just below the deck level. Also, the aperture for the focs’le scuttle was cut through the foredeck to allow access below deck by ladder. The apertures for the Skippers skylight, and engine room scuttle have yet to be cut. Deck work started with the planks next to the king planks and working outwards towards the covering boards. As the sides of the barge are not straight, the parts of the planks abutting the covering boards have to be shaped to fit. The nearest deck plank to the covering board requires the most fettling for a good fit. Kevin and the boys have done an excellent job with this, and then got stuck in with the time-consuming job of caulking the decks.
There was a long discussion about which method was best to use for this. Modern materials have provided alternative methods, but, as one the Trust’s aims is to continue all the traditional skills associated with sailing barges, we have chosen to stick the traditional method of deck caulking, using oakum sealed with tar. Our plan was for this job to be done by our volunteers, but Covid-19 put paid to that. As a result, Kevin and his team had to take it on. All the deck is now caulked, and looks to be a great job. The tar is still proud, but, will be smoothed down before painting starts in earnest.
Kevin has taken a great deal of care to restore the deck shape to where we think it was as original.
Sailing barges, like most other water craft are not flat. The decks have camber, and sheer. The camber is like a road, so that the centre of the decks, are higher than at the sides. For Sheer, the decks are higher at either end with the lowest point being abaft the mainmast. Unfortunately, the old starboard main hatch coaming had rotted in the centre along with the associated supporting deck carlings. This caused the starboard deck to have a reverse camber, and any water on the starboard deck formed a puddle alongside the coaming when the barge was upright.
To restore the deck’s shape, Kevin has made many measurements, used straps, jacks, and props to correct this problem to give the fine deck shape that can be seen from the pictures.
As the boy were finishing off the caulking, Kevin has been shaping up the two main hatch coamings These two coamings have now been clamped in place. They are slightly higher than the finished height, and the top inner edges will be rebated to create a ledge for the hatch boards to sit on. The coamings are impressive pieces of timber (Iroko), and appear to have no serious flaws in them.
Pudge will certainly be stronger when all the new coamings, and headledges are jointed together and fastened to the decks and beams.
The team have towards the end of December been working hard, and have removed all the Fo'c'sle ceiling, the forward part of the Keelson, and removed the three rotten Floor timbers. The new Floors have been fashioned, and the first two are in position. Kevin Finch the shipwright is going to put new keel bolts through the new floors. Those bolts through the Floors forward of the new ones will be reused.
Pudge Project Update - February 2021.
At the end of the last report back in December the shipwrights had shaped up the two main hold hatch coamings.
Soon after, the main hold head ledges were made, followed by the fore hold coamings, and head ledges. The corners between the coamings and the head ledges are jointed together by half dovetail joints, such that the ends of the head ledges clamp down on the ends of the coamings. This together with the through bolts, holds them down to the deck and beams below, to make a stiff box around the hold. The coamings and head ledges have also had their Batten hooks put in place.
Pudge had a makeshift tie beam of steel half way along the hold to support the fore and aft hatch support beams when the Trust purchased her. At this point the deck carlings on either side are of larger section than the others. It is possible that originally it may have been a continuous wood beam right across, as some other barges. After discussion with Kevin Finch our shipwright, we have decided to fit an oak beam/head ledge between the main coamings to tie them together. This beam will be supported down to the keelson with a steel stanchion, as before. This job will be done after the coamings have been completely fixed down.
The saddle chock has been fashioned to fit the deck, and the rails, and a trial fitting has been completed. We have decided to reinstate 2 hawse pipes through the saddle chock, as originally fitted. Holes have been cut ready for these. Also, we have asked Kevin to carve in her PLA no. on the starboard side of the saddle chock.
Whilst waiting for new bolts and other sundries, Kevin decided to start removing the ceiling, so it can be replaced. It had degenerated into a mixture of odd short planks, and there is rot from rainwater leaks in various places.
The majority of the floors below were found to be in reasonable condition, except for the first three aft of the raised fo’c’sle ceiling. The first of these was rotten in the centre, which had been below the old saloon stove’s chimney. The second was rotten between the keelson and port chine keelson.. The third had a sheared diagonal split right through on the same side. It was decided that we would replace all three with new oak floors. To remove them the keelson had to be cut just aft of the three floors, and removed along with its fixing bolts. The fo’c’sle ceiling had to be dismantled to facilitate this, as well as two short lengths of the lining. Three new floors have now been fitted, and the keelson welded and bolted back in place.
When there was a few dry days Kevin and the boys fitted the new stem and stem band back in place, together with a new knee abaft the stem, bracing it to the deck and beams below. Two new knees to brace the bitts have been partially fashioned, and trial fitted in position. The final shaping will be done when the windlass is being refitted.
Another job completed was re-hanging the rudder with a new slightly reduced diameter pivot pin, as the old one was too tight.
The next job was to remove the old inwales. This has been done, and a few frame heads on the starboard side that had split or were soft have had new wood grafted on. New planks have been cut and put aboard the barge. Now Kevin has started the tricky job of fitting the new inwales.
There are many other small jobs being done in parallel. One that has been started is making new pads to bed down the mooring bollards. These will be needed soon as we are hoping Pudge will leave the dry dock in March. More of that in the next report.