Tuesday, 1 June 2010
When I was taking my stroll along my usual haunt at Ayr beach, where I go on nice days, not only to get some exercise, but to look out to sea to find some inspiration for my next post, I passed the hull of the Watchful (mentioned and pictured in a past post)and was pleasantly surprised to see that she had been given a nice new coat of paint, paid for by the local council.
Having been standing, as a tribute to Ayr's once thriving fishing industry since her purchase by Ayr county council, on a concrete cradle where Ayr's old slipway once was, having been neglected and sore in need of some loving care and attention, I was glad to see her sitting more proudly than she had been for some time, looking more like her old self.
The site of her beaming in the sunlight, fresh paint glistening, and the smell of it's odour still hanging in the air brought back memories of the times we spent caring for the vessels we sailed in, slipping them at least once a year to overhaul the engines, repair any woodwork (or metal if that was the case) that had been damaged, worn or rotted through its working year, and get all the safety equipment, from life rafts to lifebelts and flairs checked to ensure as best as we could our safety in the coming year.
Although every fisherman knew this work was essential, we would rather the shipyard workers carried out the maintenance, mainly to allow us a well earned holiday, but also to escape the work and smell of a shipyard that held no pleasant memories for us, as when these smells hit our nostrils all we could think of was scrapping keels, hulls, wheelhouses, and getting covered in all sorts of paint, more going on us at times than the boat, such was our incompetence and hatred of the job.
Arrrgh! The thought of it still haunts me, with the smell of wood, wood shavings, paint, putty, and hot metal, along with the sounds of electric wood saws cutting away, metal grinding and hammering by an army of men amid a flurry of organized chaos as soon as you entered the yard, and to think that these men do that every day of their working lives and think nothing of it.
There were times when we left the boat in the capable hands of the shipyard workers, but more often than not, to save the owners money, the crews would be left to do the jobs, which were done as quickly as possible so we could get back to sea and earn some real money, doing the job we loved, our holidays being staggered during the summer months with one crew member at a time on leave, being covered by a temporary crewman while the boat worked on.
We would go through the ritual of clearing the decks of all our working gear, sail to the nearest available yard, (Girvan mostly) which allowed us to travel home each night to sleep easy in our in our own cosy beds before carrying out the drudging depressing duties that although necessary were dreaded by all of us.
The scraping of the keel was one of the worst jobs then, with barnacles and green slime glued along every quarter, but that has been made more easy now with the help of power washers and new chemicals that take away the tiresome manual labour, although great care has to be taken not to remove any of the caulking between the planks on the wooden vessels when using the power washer,(no problem on the steel boats) a lesson learned when we first started using them.
As I said, it was as quick as we could get the job done and back to sea which did not always meet with the approval of the manager of the yard who took great pride in the work carried out by him and his workers, and was as proud as we were when we seen our boat take to the water again, shining like a new pin.
One day with only the deck to be painted, the launch due next day, the manager happened to walk past me as I was covering my part of the deck with the thick grey paint that provided us with some grip underfoot in storms thanks to a sandy element mixed in with it.
He noticed, to his disgust, that I had not brushed the deck before I started to paint, and was painting over a bundle of sawdust left from some woodwork carried out by his men, which brought out his remark, "who's this making porridge on the nice clean deck" to which I replied "ach it will help with the grip, anyway it will be worn off in a couple of weeks."
Not the words he was wanting to hear, as it was his intention to make me clean it up and give it a smooth clean coat of paint, living up to his standard of perfection, and was disappointed when this young fisherman just carried on covering everything in sight. If it was on the deck it was painted grey, and I knew the deck paint was the first thing to go once the hard graft of fishing began in earnest, and any other bits of the boat missed, like the parts that were covered by the ropes attached to the cradle we could not access at the time, and were supposed to be painted after we were off the slip would never be completed, but would tone in soon with the new paintwork as the sea and the elements took their toll in the weeks ahead.
The most important part of the overhaul was the engine and the safety checks, the paintwork, although helping to preserve the wood was only decoration to us, and the gloss would soon fade, not so the shipyard manager's memory though, as the following year he caught me doing exactly the same thing, and remarked, "still making porridge I see."
No chance of me getting a job here if ever I leave the sea I thought, as I carried on covering everything in sight.
He did not know that I too was a bit of a perfectionist, and think I still am, but there are limits to what even I would consider worthwhile, and paint that is going to disappear before long is not one of them, although my standards in other departments do not slip, and are still as strong, unlike the non-skid paint we were issued with.
The sight of the Watchful brought mixed emotions, but every time I pass a shipyard, the smells that enter my nasal passages stir memories of dreaded times spent away from my beloved sea doing unfamiliar jobs that are best left to others.
AH! "Give to me the life I love, the lonely sea and sky."
The small picture "top" is Girvan shipyard.
The large picture is the Watchful in need of a paint, I'll try and get a picture of her as she stands proudly now.