Saturday, August 09, 2014

Decking the sail

So I have a new decksail, otherwise described as a raincoat for my barge. And I'm very happy with it. It looks so much neater, cleaner and just simply better than the older, but very expensive canvas one I mistakenly bought two years ago, thinking it would look more authentic. In the end, it just looked a mess. And leaked.

I really need a decksail at the moment because my hatch boards are not sealed and I have no steel roof under them. However, I have to say it's been quite an adventure getting the new one in place - what with my limited transport means on one hand and the torrential rain we've recently had on the other.

I ordered the decksail a few weeks back from a company based in the north of Holland (the province, not the country). It arrived at our boat yard in the Oude Haven in a big box last week, so I went to the post room and looked at it in some perplexity. Trying to lift it proved beyond me - it was not only heavy, but very bulky, so I came up with another solution. I have one of these shopping trolleys that lots of elderly people use. I barely used it for ages, but I now know why they are so useful.

They are brilliant (both the people and the trolleys) because they can carry all sorts of stuff quite apart from shopping - a real boon if you have to move of things around without the help of motorised wheels. In most cases, this includes things like the weekly washing and materials for the re-cycling bins. In my case, I decided mine could carry my decksail from the yard to the barge. Luckily, one of my neighbours, the benevolent Bas, was there while I was wrestling this loosely rolled length of brown pvc out of the packing box. Given that it was rather like manhandling a drunk and out-of-control snake, I was really grateful he was there and he very obligingly helped me control the beast and get it into the shopping trolley ready to transport to the Vereeniging.

This is what it looked like:


So then I wheeled it down to the Vereeniging and managed to load it on to the gangplank. To my delight, both wheels fitted neatly between the sides of the plank and I could push it carefully down to the end. Then I lay it on its back, nipped back up to the quay and went down my neighbour's plank so that I could lift it onto the deck from its recumbent position on my own plank. I know none of this is all that interesting in itself, but it goes to show how patient you have to be with some of these things - especially when you're on your own (Koos was busy with other things in another part of the country). Getting it inside would have challenged me just too much if my daughter hadn't turned up and helped me heave it through the hatch and down the stairs. It stayed in a corner until this last Thursday, which I dedicated to the day of the decksail.

The first step was to remove the old one - another exercise in problem solving. I had to get the mast out of the way and move everything off the hatch boards before I could take it off. As I'm not all that strong, moving the mast proved interesting. It involved a five pound hammer and a good deal of grunting peppered with wild expletives. Removing the chimney from my stove was much the same except I avoided the hammer for this stage of the proceedings. The risk of polluting the whole harbour with carbon from its rather encrusted lining was enough to incur a several thousand euro fine. Lastly, I took off the roof window, which needs some repairing anyway. This required the help of a large screwdriver which I used as a mini crowbar because all the screws holding it in place had rusted solid.

Eventually I managed to clear everything and clean the underlay ready for the new decksail, which I heaved out of the hold and spread out. But then the Dutch weather decided to play its usual summer card. Up to this point it had been sunny and warm as the men on the news had predicted, but as if from nowhere, a huge black cloud sneaked over the buildings behind us and deposited its load directly onto my barge. Leaving the decksail untied and unfixed, I threw everything vulnerable inside, grabbed Sindy, who'd been snoozing on deck, and rushed for shelter. We spent the next half hour in the yard post box chatting with a charming old gentleman who'd also taken cover there while we watched the deluge going on outside.

So much for the forecast of a dry day.

When I made it back to the barge, I was much relieved to find nothing had blown away, so I continued fitting and fixing my wonderful clean, shiny, neat and very brown new (but wet) decksail into place. It took two more downpours before it was done, but this time I stuck them out getting totally soaked in the process. As a result, its arrival on the my barge's scene feels like something of an achievement.

So, in honour of the first day on show, here are a couple of photos. You might not notice much difference yourselves, but to me, it's quite magnificent. And at least it won't shrink or fade (much). Or get mouldy. Or be difficult to clean. Altogether now…a huge sigh of relief!

Note the still wet decks. In fact we had three downpours
during the afternoon.

"This is my good side"

A beautiful pair of historic barges

23 comments:

  1. Wow that looks fabulous and I cannot believe that you did that by yourself, I wouldn't have even dreamt of tackling it alone. I really admire your skills and determination. We have had similar weather over here, mainly because Pete is trying to fit the wheelhouse windows. Recently a chap tried to take down his mast on his own, unfortunately his boat was in the club car park and he totally wrote off my friends car when he dropped it xxx

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  2. Oh Fran, what a disaster! How awful. Just shows there are limits to what you should attempt on your own! I hope Pete manages to get the wheelhouse windows in without getting too wet! xxxx

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  3. Looks lovely. I can safely say that I wouldn't have had a clue as to how to manage all that. I rather think my decksail, should I have had one, would have ended up in the harbour. I might well have thrown myself in, too! ;) Wishing you well for the summer and the refit. :)

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  4. Thanks, Christina :) I have just learned that I'm doing an Anglicism in reverse by using the term 'decksail'. Apparently, I should be talking about my tarpaulin! But that said, it was touch and go at times. We might both have ended up in the harbour :)

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  5. Aw, don't those two barges look sweet and stylish together! Super effort on your part, Val, getting that decksail/raincoat home and onto the barge. I would have given up at the first obstacle. Well done!!

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  6. I am truly impressed, Val. And it gave me a thought - did you read Swallows and Amazons as a child? And did you pretend you were a Swallow or an Amazon? (Your efforts here put you in the Amazon camp!)

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  7. She looks lovely Val, like a Grandma with a new dress! Well done as that tarpaulin is VERY heavy and awkward.

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  8. Wow, looks great and like it will withstand water a bit better than canvas! No kidding about attempting to do things on our own, I try as well and then...reality!

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  9. Oh Gosh this is all getting very technical. My li'l ol' brain can't cope. Bad enough sticking gaffer tape to the 2CV!! Hahahaha

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  10. Patricia, there are three together really, but I couldn't get the third in shot. It's also beautiful! And sometimes I think I should just give up, but the bull in me won't let me :)

    Jo, I did! I know I loved them, but cannot for the life of me remember them now. Maybe I should read them again…

    Carole, thank you :) I like that image of a Grandma in a new dress. Lovely. And I think you know all too well how awkward these tarpaulins are to manhandle.

    CarolStar, which part did I lose you at…the 101 uses for a shopping trolley :) I wouldn't be without one now! And gaffer tape is very important for keeping vintage vehicles together. I use it round the base of my chimney :)

    String, I'm so relieved I have this now. The canvas one was such a disappointment. And yes, about reality…phew!

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  11. A barge really is hard work. You say you're not strong but you must be to do all the things you do there. The barges look so lovely and now you'll be dry as well as pretty. I told hubby that I'm getting a shopping trolley when we move as I'll be shopping local. He thought it was so funny,wait til he sees the new funky shopping trolley I'm thinking of buying,lol!

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  12. Anne, shopping trolleys rock! You go for it! Actually, I remember noticing in Spain that most women use them and some of them are quite stylish!

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    http://asthecrackerheadcrumbles.blogspot.com/2014/08/sites-to-see-386.html

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  14. I would be all at sea (no pun intended). Well done!

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  15. Fine work there! I did look twice at 'decksail', though figured it out! What is it in Dutch? -my boat probs are relatively small, proportionately with the size of my narrowboat; but the cratch cover needs replacing, and I'd been looking round for a replacement; tailor made ones are norrible expensive, and I've seen sone nice home-made ones around. A neighbour was 'decksailing' a shed he'd mounted on an old British Waterways workboat, using an old lorry tarp; I really liked the result, and begged the leftovers from him. Now really must do the cutting and gluing....

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  16. Haha, Dru. I'm getting linguistically confused these days. It's actually dekzeil in Dutch and I just forgot that we call them tarpaulins in English, so 'anglicized' the Dtuch word. Stupid really because 'dek' simply means 'cover', and is quite a generic word for all sorts of things including a boat's deck, although in this case it has nothing to do with the deck! :) Good luck with your cratch cover! I'd love to see it when you've made it!

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  17. Hello Val, I have only just realised that what the 'dekzail' does to your barge, is that it maintains the old commercial appearance of a working boat.
    I fear that I'm a bit slow in copping on at times..... it must be old age :)

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  18. Nice to see it all 'ship shape' and 'bristol fashion'.

    Heather :)

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  19. Talk about a tremendous DIY project! It really looks wonderful, and you should take great pride in your accomplishment!

    Julie

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  20. I take my hat off to you Val. I can't imagine doing that, but needs must...the end result looks great. :)

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  21. Thank you Mel, Heather, Julie and Denise! Mel, it was me, not you, so rest assured your not getting any older :)

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  22. It's like having to remodel your entire home in order to re-roof.
    Wild expletives, indeed! xo

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  23. After reading this, I shan't brag about getting the dog's bed cover back on the foam bolster ring after I've washed it. Nope.

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