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  • Writer's pictureRhu Strand

Aft Deck Beams and the curve balls of life !!

It feels like it has taken an age to get this far, life has thrown us a few curve balls over the summer from happy family commitments, family issues and sadly the very sudden passing of Joe's mum, Elaine who played a major part in our lives, more than a mum to just Joe, she was our rock, dear dear friend, granny, great granny and was always excited to come and visit to see my daughters little one and my family, a giver of wise words, generous, supportive, non-judgemental, kind and without ego and although profoundly deaf one of the best listeners you could ever wish to meet. Elaine left an impact on all those she met, even if for a short amount of time. Elaine accepted us for all our quirks, views on life and madcap idea's, our holiday companion, and on occasion my co-driver, she was adventurous and always game to have a go, I recall her having a go at paddle-boarding and swimming in the lakes in France with my niece and I at the tender age of 73, just three years ago. Elaine was always more than happy to come wandering around boat yards with Joe and I, whilst we searched for our perfect boat. I'm thankful that Elaine had the chance to see Fortuna in the summer, but heartbroken she won't have the chance to take a trip on her, even though I know she is with us in spirit. Her sudden loss has been devastating and she leaves the biggest hole in all of our lives and hearts. - RIP Elaine we love you beyond words xxx

The Beams

After months of waiting for the wood to arrive we finally managed to start making the beams in August. The addition of an 'aft cabin' by the previous owners meant that most of the deck beams aft of the engine bulkhead had been removed. With the transom needing to be replaced the first job was to put back the integrity and structure of the hull and give her the strength she needed to do this.

Firstly we had to remove the remaining deck, we had hoped to save the original decking, but it proved to be an impossible task and we ended up cutting away the remaining deck in chunks

We used the transom as a pattern for the deck beams and created a mould fixed to the workbench to form them from strips of sapele wood, each beam consists of nine strips bonded together with Airolite glue, clamped and left for a couple of hours or overnight - the glue has a setting time of 1 - 2 hours, so we hedge our bets and left them for at least 3 or 4 hours each time.

With all the beams made we needed a thicknesser to plane them down and neaten them up, we were lucky enough to find a local charity called Oarsome Chance, they work with disengaged 9 - 19 year olds running a variety of workshops teaching them seamanship, boat-building skills and rowing, run by volunteers they have a workshop with the machinery we lack and are more than accommodating in either letting us use them, or undertaking the task themselves for a donation, very worthwhile on all counts.

Beams at the ready a strongback was make to sit the entire length of the opening, this acted as a center line and height guide for each beam to align with.

The ends of the remaining deck beams were scarfed ready to take the new ones.

The process involved

  • cutting and planing the end of each existing beam to the relevant scarf

  • temporarily fixing the new beam along side and marking the cut needed

  • cutting and planing the new beam so that is was a tight, snug fit

  • drilling and counter sinking the holes ready for the copper rivets

  • glueing and fixing the beams in place

  • fixing the copper nails and peening over the roves

I guess this is why they call this a work horse ......

Joe did the peening while I applied the weight above - this caused a few issues on the first beam as I wasn't happy leaning over and trusting all my weight balanced on nothing more that something the size of a screwdriver, over a gaping hole, clamps and other worrying obstacles - after a intense discussion !!!! we devised a plan and made a counter leaver - a long piece of wood with a handy bolt that had been discarded previously and fitted the countersunk holes perfectly. That was then tied off to the previous beam and I could comfortably and safely apply some weight to it so that Joe could peen the rivet in place easily.

So at long last we have the beams we need in place and feel like we are moving forward. The last three have been left as you will see from the following pictures the transom is in need of much work and there are no existing beams to work from anymore.

Our next phase is to remove the transom, possibly have the hull soda blasted to the engine bulkhead to address the issues uncovered, although we are expecting to have to replace most of the hull in this area too, and start rebuilding the entire transom area. Thankfully we seem to have at least one of each part to create some patterns from.

No prizes for spotting the repair job from an old door frame that included leaving the hinge recess still in place !!!

A patch discovered in the transom, held in with silicone !!

We can't wait to get on with this and really start to make a difference to Fortuna. And really hope it isn't months again before we can bring you some more updates.

With huge thanks to Oarsome for their help with beams -

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