News from Ivan Corlett for December 2013

  • Play is suspended, but work isn't!

    10:45 23 December 2013
    By Ivan Corlett

    Think of Wimbledon and you probably think of Andy Murray, strawberries and cream, warm summer days, grass courts, hawkeye, and if you’re old enough, Robinson’s barley water.

    You might also think of rain delays and the covers going on.

    But what does all this have to do with Steam Yacht Gondola, I hear you ask?

    Well, the company that makes the covers for Wimbledon, Stuart Canvas Products of Warrington, also made the cover for Gondola - if it’s good enough for the aristocracy of tennis we figured it would probably be good enough for Gondola.

    Obviously we don’t bring out Gondola’s cover every time it rains which is a good job given the changeable nature of the weather here in the Lake District.

    Gondola’s cover is only used during the off-season to provide protection to the boat through the harsh winter months and allows us to work in the dry whilst carrying out repairs and maintenance.

    In preparation for the task of covering the boat we first have to assemble the framework.

    Framework for Gondola's cover

    We were a little late getting started this year, partly because we ran our cruises for a couple of weeks longer than usual, but also because the cover was back at Stuart’s for repair - last year, whilst we were shot blasting the engine room in readiness for repainting, the cover took some ‘collateral damage’.

    Anyway, as soon as it arrived back with us we got on with fitting it to the boat.

    Unfortunately, you can’t just line up half a dozen men and tell them to run the cover straight across Gondola. Those Wimbledon guys don’t know what an easy life they have!

    The cover is a 90ft long one-piece heavy canvas. Putting the cover over the boat requires some careful planning and certainly involves a fair amount of manhandling.

    Cover going on

    It took six of us the best part of two hours using rope and bare hands to get the boat covered before the arrival of the gales and torrential rain that were forecast that night, but eventually everything was secured in place.

    Inside Gondola's cover

    Now that Gondola is tucked up in her winter outfit the real work can begin in the dry and relative comfort of the covered interior.

    First job – varnishing the engine silencer lagging.

    Varnishing the engine silencer lagging

  • Start of the Gondola Winter Refit

    12:02 17 December 2013
    By Ivan Corlett

    Late autumn signals the time of year when Gondola comes off the water. However, there’s no time for the crew to put their feet up and look forward to a cosy winter by the fireside.

    It's time to start the winter refit so it’s all hands on deck, so to speak, on the day the grand old lady of Coniston is hauled out of the water and up the slipway at Pier Cottage.

    Hauling Gondola out of the water

    The big day brought beautiful, clear weather. The sun shone all day long, but at this time of year with a chilly north-easterly wind to freshen things up it was cold work for all involved – if only we could have fired up Gondola’s steam engine to keep us warm!

    The stunning weather did bring some compensation in the form of wonderful views of the Coniston Fells and the sight of snow on the summit of the Old Man.

    Old Man of Coniston

    Last year’s refit was a major overhaul, so this year‘s plans are somewhat less daunting, although there’s still a huge amount of work to do – all neatly detailed on the project plan lovingly plugged into Microsoft Project by Gondola manager, Peter Keen.

    Gondola refit project plan

    The aim of the winter refit is to put right what's wrong, fix the things that need fixing and give the boat a good old makeover. This means a bit of weight loss to start with - one and a half tons of lead ballast is removed along with the decks and all of the ships fittings.

    Dismantling of the helm

    It’s a significant task so practicalities take over. For example, ‘Sidney', the boat’s twin-tailed sea serpent figurehead suffered a little indignity as he was removed for his winter renovation. He usually gets treated with a little more respect, but needs must!

    Sidney the sea serpent

    The other big task at the start of the refit is the engine room strip-down. This begins with pipework, valves, gauges, fittings and the steam dome being removed.

    Engine dials

    And all that just on the first day! We'll keep you up to date with our progress over the winter.

News from Ivan Corlett

Photo of Ivan Corlett

Steam Yacht Gondola Crewman.

While working as a Fix The Fells volunteer on the upland paths, cold & soaked through, I saw the beautiful sight of Gondola way below on Coniston Water, so with a background of deep sea marine engineering and steam I thought that would be a nice, warm, dry place to be!

I applied to join the crew in 2008, got the job and have never looked back. I absolutely love it, but the real pleasure is meeting and talking to so many lovely people from all around the world.