Page updated 12 August 2023
Today the gearbox was due to be returned to the boat and Kathy, from Moonfleet Marine, had booked the BSS Examiner. There'd be be no space for me on board so I had planned to do a task that could be done at home. While on board the boat last week I was alarmed to see something I had not noticed before. The Formica was peeling away from the shower room door. It had been warm and the afternoon sun had been streaming in the window. On the hinge side of the door the Formica was bowing with the edge an inch clear of the plywood body of the door. Checking on the other side of the door I found a similar problem but less severe.
A couple of days later and all looked well again, but gently tapping all over the surface of the door revealed that much of it was no longer stuck to the plywood and would bow again as soon as heat and humidity encouraged it. As a result I had brought both internal doors home and planned to see what I could do to fix things with the aerosol Evo-Stik I had ordered and had arrived in Friday's post.
Over the weekend I bought home the shower room door. We'd had a surprise last week when we discovered that on both sides the Formica was coming away from the plywood.
My first thought had been to spray the adhesive in the gap around the edges and then press and clamp the two sides together. However, as I started the job I discovered that much more of the door than I had found last week was affected and I had started to try to prize the whole panel off the door, then stopped to take a photograph.
As I was was taking the photograph my phone rang. Kathy, from the boatyard, said she'd like me to come and see. The BSS examiner had found a problem with the fuel tank. I was at the yard within 15 minutes. Once there I was shown how the examiner had unscrewed a small ventilator panel, one of three, by the tank.
What the BSS Examiner saw once a ventilator on the hull had been removed.
A photograph taken the following day from inside the boat after moving the fridge.
"Did you have a survey?", I was asked. "Yes", I responded, "and it made no mention of an issue with the tank." I was invited to take a look. The photographs show what was there. Clearly an original, 45 year old, unpainted mild steel tank that was rotting away. "I'd have a word with your surveyor!", said Kathy.
We discussed the options. There are plastic tanks available off the shelf but they may not be suitable because they come in particular sizes and its possible none will be a of a dimensions that would make a suitable replacement for the original steel tank. That led onto problems with keeping steel tanks painted. They are often found with just the visible side with any protection. The best tanks are stainless steel, I was told, but they can be expensive and prices have been up and down like Yo-Yos in the last couple of years. The last one Moonfleet have been involved with had cost over £900, but it was a bit bigger than ours probably was.
Added to that were various options I hadn't even considered. Certainly, we'd need a tank with outlets for both the engine and heater. Would I want a fuel gauge sender fitted, I was asked. I hadn't considered that. There is no fuel gauge in the instrument panel. I'd been expecting to come across a wooden stick that the previous owner had used as a dip- stick. There was, after all, no need for a gauge when Singing the Blues was built. The boatyard would just top up the tank ready for the next holiday maker and that would be sufficient for a couple of weeks cruising.
But it wasn't a simple matter of ordering a tank. We'd need to get the old one out first, to check its size, and that meant removing all the galley furniture and fittings and the cabin lining behind them. The one clear decision was that I'd do what I could to take the galley apart, but I wasn't happy to remove the cooker. I was just a little wary about disconnecting the gas pipes with the tools I had. They looked thin and easily snapped. Luckily, they had a man spare and he was able to do that job in the afternoon.
Once home a quick Internet search suggested that Aluminium could be another choice for the tank material too, but I was more interested in exactly what my survey report said. I got it out and found that report summary said:
Items listed under Main Defects are Boat Safety Scheme/MCA structural integrity related. Items under Observations/Recommedations/ Defects are of a less serious nature however may effectthe usability of the vessel.
The section on the fuel system said:
The fuel system consists of a fuel tank, pipework, shut off valve, hoses and various filtering equipment. The system was checked for leaks with no faults noted.
There is no mention of any part of the fuel system in either of the sections headed "Main Defects" or "Defects / Other Observations / Recommendations" and no wording anywhere to suggest that the surveyor had been unable to check the condition of any part of the boat because of inaccessibility.
Kathy emailed the BSS failure notice to me. It is item 2.5.3R that is relevant here:
Are fuel tanks, including seams and openings, in good condition and free of signs of leaks?
The failure notice says:
steel diesel tank, showing heavy rust. in poor condition, showing moist at the bottom
With the decision made that Moonfleet would remove the cooker, I turned up on the Tuesday morning, with camera in hand. The first thing I did was take a picture of the newly refitted gearbox, perhaps the one positive of the day. However, it had been the plan to get the boat in the water and test that all was well with the repaired gearbox. That was not now going to happen.
It was good to see that they had managed to re-fit the gearbox yesterday.
The cooker, as promised had been removed and placed on the floor in the saloon.
Before I started the day's real work I had a go at reminding myself of how things were meant to appear in the galley. I got the engine cowling and shelf from the saloon, put them loosely in place, and took a photo. Immediately after that the waste bin, engine cowl and shelf were all removed and put back in the saloon.
The shelf wasn't fixed in place. In fact, I don't recall seeing the screws that would have held it in place.
The state of play at the end of Wednesday's session at the boat.
When you look at the final photograph it doesn't seem that I achieved too much. However, there was more to it than shown in the photos. Not only was the shelf supporting the cooker gone but the shelf at the other end of the sink unit too. You'll notice that the fridge now resides in the shower room and not only is the shelf above the fridge space gone, so is the plinth on which it stood.
The next stumbling block was the sink and taps. I don't have the tools that would allow me to quickly and easily disconnect the taps or waste pipe, so it was another job that I asked the guys at Moonfleet to undertake.
With that I packed up for the day, taking home the shelves and plinth so that I could give them a good clean.
The first thing I saw on entering the boat was the sink, resting upside down on the bed. I moved it to join the other bits and pieces in the saloon, as the bed is supposed to be a "clean" area now.
Armed with the freshly cleaned shelves, I returned to the boat on Wednesday. I was relieved that the sink had been successfully removed as it meant I could continue with trying to remove the base unit from the galley.
After removing the blanking plate in front of the sink I took the first of three photos before starting work on dismantling the base unit any further.
For the time being the shelves and plinth were found a place in the saloon. Then it was time to look at how to make progress taking the base unit apart. It was solidly built with mahogany framing to the front of the cabinet and all the panels in 9mm plywood. The drawer beside the sink had been removed when the sink top was taken off. I was pleased to see that the blanking panel beside it was held in place with mahogany turn-buckles so that was simplicity itself to remove. Then I took my set of three "Before Work" photographs.
The drawer runners would need to be removed before the internal shelving could be extracted.
I had been warned that many boat builders would use glue and screws in fitting out a boat. At first I thought that was the case with Singing the Blues. The brass screws proved incredibly difficult to remove and once out the two drawer runners still did not lift away from the cabinet. I took to hammering a paint scraper blade between the pieces of wood to prize them apart. Only after I got the first one free did I discover that it was varnish that was holding everything together and that was also what had filled the slots in the screw heads making them near impossible to turn.
The first of two views of the "end of work" situation.
Some three hours later I was relatively pleased with progress. The shelf that had been over the fridge, which I hadn't taken home and cleaned the day before, was packed in the car along with the floor and shelf from within the base unit. The shelf was almost certainly a later addition added by some previous owner. It was of much thinner plywood with no Formica facing and supported less well than the rest of the cabinet. All were to be taken home for a good clean.
During the morning I had spoken with two different members of the boatyard staff to get advice on how to do the next bit of the job and was pleased to find that both commented very favourably on the construction of Singing the Blues, one saying it was the best ex-hire boat he'd seen and the other impressed that the cabin floor had been laid after the galley unit had been built.
The second "end of work" image shows the 240v sockets disconnected and shelf and floor within the cupboard removed.
At the end of play the left hand end of the base unit was free of the cabin lining. The right hand end was loose, but not completely free at the bottom. It seemed wedged but may still be secured by an as yet unseen screw.
What had put me off going any further was that the back of the cabin lining had some fuel pipes fixed to it. Some were definitely diesel pipes, perhaps to take fuel to the heater unit in the aft cabin, but others, possibly redundant gas pipes to run the fridge, had been cut off and the end squeezed flat. As with the cooker, I wasn't happy to deal with them and would be calling in Moonfleet staff to tackle the removal of the lining.
There had also been discussion of a further factor. While the water pipes running up the face of the cabin lining were connected, beneath the floor, by short lengths of non-metallic pipe and could be easily separated and left attached to the lining, I was concerned with the sink drain. It empties below the water-line and and the rigid pipe rises well above the water line. Almost certainly needs to be removed before the cabin lining is lifted out.
That raised another issue. When it gets re-fitted should a valve be added. I was told that the BSS now requires hire boats to be fitted with one when the hole is beneath the waterline, and there's always the fear that it will, at some point, become a requirement for all craft.
However, it was decided to leave that decision till later. At this stage I am leaving it with Moonfleet to sort out the removal of the base unit as that might as well be done while disconnecting the water, oil and gas pipes from the lining.
The story continues with the boat being gutted and the superstructure cleaned.