A bit of a blow to progress!

Well two bits of good news, and two less positive points, for this entry….

Positive #1 – She’s in her berth at on Windermere

Ready for the tow to Windermere, she makes quite a long train – but now has her “SY” prefix being a real Steam Yacht!

So, having dispensed with the medical matters (see below), we set about trying to complete the list of 60+ jobs that needed to be done before we could put her back in the water (some of which were discussed here….

It is amazing how many items find their way onto these lists, and (as we now know) adding a mast, sail and rigging to a steam boat extends this list considerably….

Here is a partial list (click to expand!):

…most of the jobs we needed to do to launch her….

Perhaps the most notable items were:

  • Fitting 300kg (a third of a ton, for our colonial readers) of pig iron ingots into the bilges to improve sailing stability, This involved making “boxes” to ensure that the iron did no bear directly on the hull planks (for fear of damaging them).
  • Undertaking a hot-washout of the boiler. We had seen some carry over of lubricating oil during the cold inspection (see here). Internet research suggested that we perform a hot washout with a solution of TriSodium Phosphate and industrial surfactant (detergent). I didn’t exactly follow the instructions, as they said we needed to keep the boiler at 50psi for 48 hours, and I am not that rich, given current diesel prices.
  • Installing hydraulic steering to allow single-handed operation. However, attempting to manoeuvre her from the slipway to the berth rather demonstrated the limitations of this –
    There are just too many things to do with a compound that’s being slow to reverse and being unable to see where you are going unless you are standing (and thus unable to operate the throttle/reverser with any precision….). Either way the two boats we hit seemed to take it OK :-/

Russell helping at the launch – 50% of the helping team…thanks also to John Maltby (out of shot!)

However we managed it, and as the pictures show she is now in her permanent location at Ferry Nab.

On the day of the tow it was VERY hot (circa 30 degC), but the Landy coped well with towing the circa 3-tonne boat/trailer over the fells we had to cross. Fortunately we dodged the green-minded folk (although probably they just could not see us through the smoke screen the Landy was laying down over the steeper hills!).

On arrival we were admirably assisted by John Maltby and Russell Clements of the SBA at Ferry Nab, who made the mast raising/rigging/launching process very painless – a BIG thank you from Louise and I to them both.

Given the heat we decided not to rig the sail that day, as it’s probably 5 or 6hrs work, and we thought we might wait for a lull in the ambient temperature.

More typical Windermere weather (1)

So we returned, Sunday to make sure she was still afloat, and got a picture of Befur in some more typical Cumbrian weather! (seemed a bit wet for rigging today!).

It’s interesting that the height of the mast seemed much less daunting when stood next to the pointy-rigged boats in the marina. Hopefully the new ballast will keep her upright – there is actually about 150kg of ballast still to go in, (we decided to try to keep the load on the hull down during the tow.)

Positive #2 – I’m still here!

I have always taken pride in the fact that on reaching 64 I had never managed to break a bone in my body, despite years of riding motorcycles and a spell of racing sidecars…but god decided that this was a duck I needed to break before my 65th birthday!

So, while I don’t recall what actually happened, I was working on the transom from a ladder – just a couple of steps from the ground…


…and then I was sitting on a step at the side of the barn unable to understand much of what was going on around me, and unable to stand….

…after a while I decided to find my phone and call Louise down from the house to help me make sense of things…and do something about the rather unpleasant headache I seemed to have acquired….

After a (very little) thought she spoke to the doctor who summoned an Ambulance, which appeared to arrive in about 2 or 3 minutes, despite having driven the 30+ miles from Penrith (I think my internal clock may have skipped a beat or two).

More Ladders – eeek!

We then made the 1st of three trips to A&E in Carlisle (an hour’s drive each way).

  • 1st trip: A&E consultant confirms I have an impressive cut on the back of my head and sends me home…
  • 2nd trip: 5-6hrs later, after the doctor has had a hissy-fit with A&E. I get two cat scans, that confirm, yes I have a concussion from the blow/cut to the back of the head, but weirdly I have also fractured my skull over my right eye, and have suffered an internal bleed on the brain….
    The current theory is I fell backwards off the ladder onto the concrete floor (which also explains the rather painful bum/spine), and then the ladder fell on my head (cracking the skull and (impressively to my mind) bending the ladder in the process!)
    – Interestingly, attempting to straighten the ladder, by standing on it,  a week or so later, caused it to shear in half!
  • 3rd trip: to attend a follow-up appointment – unfortunately they seemed to have lost my records and had no idea why I was there, but found another consultant who was very nice, and explained that what I had did not normally get listed as “concussion”. “it’s much worse” she said, – “brain trauma would be a better description”, but that given 6-8 weeks I should recover fine, so just keep taking the pills!

She was right – by week 5, I had mastered the “walking about without holding things” trick, and could open the curtains and was down to a few Paracetamol a day – and now I feel fine (but am a bit more wary of ladders!).

The only other “pain” was that while I was admitted for 48hrs observation, on the 2nd trip, the hospital administration accidentally decided to put two covid-positive patients on to my “tested clear” ward…they realised this at around midnight and so put me in a new ward with a number of  “possibly positive patients”… at which point (1am) I decided I was safer at home and self discharged! So, we just had to endure the two weeks required isolation…

the motto: REALLY, REALLY take care on ladders, even if you are only two feet from the floor….

Negative #1 – That damn knock returns!

One of the big jobs we wanted to fix  over the winter was a persistent knock from the LP cylinder.

How do you operate this lubricator?

Last year’s analysis was that this was a worn “little end” bearing – so we made a new one.

Testing on the bench showed that this had not fixed the problem…

Some inspection and head scratching caused us to conclude it was “slop” in the slide-ways, and re-machining and refitting this stopped the knock, Hurrah!… but only until we got her on the water when it returned with a vengeance grrrrr. More investigation needed…

Inspection showed it was the LP top bearing (small end) that had acquired a few thou of slop – there was also some excess clearance in the slide-ways. Re-machining the slide-ways did not make any difference, but pumping oil onto the small end certainly reduces the noise. So, we are making a new pin, and putting  higher capacity Lubtech pumping units onto the slideway/small end feeds – we are going for the black ones (0.1cc/stroke).

Negative #2 – Someone stole the vacuum

One of the other issues we addressed over the winter was the lamentably poor vacuum we obtained last year… Inspection showed that the condenser had considerable sieve-like tendencies with MANY small holes on the tube plates/tube solder joints (and a loose flange).

So we fixed these and got a much better vacuum when bench testing….. but (naturally) on firing her up at Windermere this had all disappeared 😦

… so our conclusion is that it must have fallen out on the tow (strong letter to Cumbria highways on state of potholes required!)

Found this too, the clack installed on the condenser to allow any over pressure to be released had stuck and was leaking – closing the in-line ball valve restored this to some extent, but again demonstrated that you need quite a lot of cooling water to get a solid vacuum. 



6 thoughts on “A bit of a blow to progress!

  1. Annie

    Oh, well done getting in the water. I am so envious and we’ll worth a bit of concussion and the risk of catching the Virus. You must be so pleased tons till have plenty of summer ahead of you to enjoy playing with boat, engine and – I hope – the rig. Best of luck (and a lovely blog).

    1. sybefur Post author

      Annie, thank you for your nice comments. ..there is a serious sense of relief her (“….and breathe “) we are also hoping to have some fun and get an education. We’re had her out once, in light airs, and the creases disappeared 🙂 and went where we intended (abeit rather slowly. We had trouble getting her through the wind when tacking , a bit more skill and wind will hopefully improve this, but a few seconds of steam saved the day 🙂

  2. Martin Sluimer

    Dear mr. Duckett,
    Thanks for your boiler pictures! It’s moral support for me that I’m on the right track.
    After dreaming for 40 years it’s finally coming to the point of realisation. Lots of contemplation on choices to be made result in the Leak compound (drawings already ordered in the 80’s) and since the beginning of 2020 the Harrie type boiler WTB3b Size 2. So again, thanks for the confirmation!
    Best regards,
    Martin Sluimer (joined SBA last week).

    1. sybefur Post author

      Excellent! The SBA is a great community. There is lots of Leak Compound in the blog and notes on issues with the drawings.

  3. Peter Lawrence

    It’s good to hear you’re almost back to normal, I hope it’s going to be worth all this work you and Lou have put in. A good alternative to your ladder would be a jet pack: now that would be worth seeing . . Keep up the good work,


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