Lunacy of my purchase
Today as I look at Pea Green it is difficult to remember the detox and fixing that has taken place, since August 2016. In hindsight I am incredulous that I bought a boat that was such a mess, and slightly amazed that I could see through the slopped-on pink paint, 8 layers of dirty carpet, wobbly floor boards, a dangerous gas oven and 25 litres of water sloshing around in the engine bay!
Of course in my usual anxiety driven OCD world I was incredibly naïve and wanted everything sorted out immediately. I had no idea that timelines and budgets associated with boats are as fluid as the water in the cut.
Papering over the cracks
I had already spent days removing rubbish before leaving Cosgrove and many more bags followed once at Welford. It did feel as though junk and dirt was breeding in my small boat. I also began to realise that the general approach of previous owners was to ignore problems rather than finding a long-term solution. Fixes appeared temporary and ineffectual, like the tonne of newspaper stuffed under the gunwales to soak up water from a leak – fairly pointless in wet UK weather, as they just got wet again. Or the small pieces of felt folded and stuffed under window catches to make the windows close. This felt fix didn’t work and every time the window catch was moved the felt fell out. Even better was the layering of more rugs on top of mats to hide the dirt and the wobbly floorboards.
The chaos continued beyond the décor as there was also a total lack of logic to where anything was stored; for instance mooring pins in the bow, rather than by the stern door, – useless for a single-hander. Just you try jumping off the boat pulling her in, then having to rummage in the bow for pins… Every cupboard seemed to be full of half-full bottles of loo blue and every crevice had random old newspapers were stuffed in. And of course everything was lovingly held in place with copious amounts of Blutak.
It was difficult to know where to start, but as the dust harbouring carpets were giving me asthma and I was fed up with wheezing like Darth Vader, it seemed logical to detox and attack them first. I have never been a fan of carpet, they just seem so dirty and difficult to keep clean especially on a 32ft boat with no vacuum cleaner. I do appreciate carpets add warmth on a narrowboat, but to be honest I would prefer to be colder, have rugs, and not have the asthma inducing carpet.
I began de-carpeting at the bow doors of my single cabin boat, binning numerous loose carpet tiles, car mats and other mini mats. Beneath these I found a very large (wider than the boat) wool, patterned Ikea rug. It was a beast to get out as it went under the sofa-bed and half way up the cabin wall. It was hellish to drag out and took me multiple attempts. Little wonder the previous owner had complained about the difficulty of pulling down the click-clack bed. Now the sofa bed is on lino I can move it with one hand!
Happy Carpet-less Dance
With the top layers of carpet gone and fighting through another layer of mats I finally hit a blue-green fitted carpet – circa 1990 judging by the colour. I had begun to wonder whether the steel hull wasn’t actually steel but some sort of composite carpet that floated. As I attacked the carpet with a Stanley knife I found it had been professionally fitted with underlay. I am sure it looked lovely in 1991, but along with
big perms and ‘Neighbours’ it was past its use -by date. Finally, I reached a piece of old
vinyl flooring and then floor boards. Similar amounts of carpet also filled the stern end, which bizarrely included carpeting over the shower tray and under the loo. With the carpet gone I wheezed my way through sweeping up the grime and did a little dance that the carpet, its dirt and dog hair were all gone.
New flooring down
Over the following weeks I bought cheap vinyl for the cabin floor and somehow managed to lay it, manoeuvring the beast of a sofa-bed and trying to unroll the vinyl underneath it. There was a Mr Bean moment as I was trying to hold up the sofa with one hand and a knee whilst manipulating the new flooring underneath to the wall. The stern end was so much easier with no sofa to move, and once finished the shower was usable once again.
Wall Detox Begins
With the carpet gone, my next detox were the walls. Panelled with classic 1970s pine from floor to the gunwales the bit above and the ceiling are painted. The pine, though probably not my first choice, is a real feature of Barney boats and because of that I have kept the original pine varnish. As I stalk the internet looking for Barneys for sale the wood panelling is often a dead giveaway of a 1970s Braunston ‘Barney’ boat. On my boat the walls above the gunwales were ‘painted’ pink. I say ‘painted’ as perhaps better verbs would be daubed, thrown, dolloped or even slung. The paint was everywhere, splattered on the wood, splashed over curtain fixings, you get the picture.
Added to the matt emulsion (which always gives me the nails-on-the-blackboard reaction) was a line of small, red, foam reindeer stuck on the wall, along with solitary blobs of Blutak, revealing where other things had been stuck. (Or perhaps these random blue blobs werean attempt to create a modern art installation?) Further texture was added to the walls by the splatters of rock-hard, translucent, fibre- glass globules, no-doubt from when cabin was fibre-glassed over (and slopped inside the through the window holes). The pink of the walls was further enhanced(?) with curtains made from a dark red chenille throw, each complete with its tassels.
A fine line
The overall effect was a weird mishmash of would-be-bordello with a child’s craft room – those curtains and the pink gave a definite ‘feel’ where as the paint echoed a child gone wild with a can of emulsion. Clearly for me, as someone who is perhaps a little OCD – my sister would say majorly- all of this was very disturbing and had to be dealt with.
The ceiling wasn’t much better, but as the boat was going to have its lights replaced I knew there was little point in painting the ceiling until the lights were done – even though they drove me mad. Nevertheless, the walls could change, and I set about with a bucket of white emulsion, and after the 5th coat the walls were finally white, clean and not a spot of pink, or Blutak was to be seen.
Next time on Pea Green and Paint
With the walls and floor being sorted out I have gradually worked my way through the never ending list of other things that needed to be fixed. More of this next time as I post before and after pictures of all the other work I have undertaken, as I am sure you would probably prefer to see it than hear me ramble on about it.