An Art Gallery on a Boat? You Must be Mad! Part Twelve

These days we take the internet so much for granted. If I want to know how to do anything, I go to Google and YouTube and, so far, they have never failed me. Almost nothing need be a mystery. I have consulted the internet to show me how to repair my car, how to do work on the central heating system on my house and even, how to play my banjo, a 60th birthday present from the family (I bet they regret that one!). It takes only a matter of minutes to find anything. Admittedly, I doubt that DIY brain surgery is quite as well covered – but almost everything else is. I recently heard that there is a whole generation out there, who don’t remember a world without Google, let alone before the internet!

It is sobering to remember just how difficult it was to gain access to any form of specialised knowledge, back in the 1980s, or should I say ‘ back in The Olden Days!’

I needed to find information on how to insulate a boat effectively. Days were spent in the Central Library, trying to find answers. It could take hours just searching card indexes, trying to find which books might contain useful information. When I eventually did find the necessary books, they were completely contradictory. Some said insulate every square inch, others said insulate nothing at all, and there was every possible configuration between the two! The few that even mentioned vapour barriers, suggested putting them outside the insulation, but that just didn’t make any sense to me.

In the end, I ignored it all and tried to work it out logically for myself. I came to the conclusion that I should insulate the cavity between the steel hull and our inner lining. Then fit a vapour barrier behind the inner lining, but inside the insulation. I reasoned that the vapour barrier would be then at the internal temperature of the boat and so it shouldn’t cause condensation. If it was outside, any moisture that penetrated the insulation would not only reduce its efficiency as insulation, but also allow condensation to form on the vapour barrier which, being on the outside of the insulation, would be as cold as the steel hull, thus rendering it pointless.  We never had any condensation problems, so I guess I got it right.

The second problem was the mains electrical system. Even in those days, I could usually eventually find out from a book how to do something, but in the case of electrical systems, every book that I could find said the same thing, “Get a professional”. Well, we couldn’t afford to and that was that.

Then I had two lucky breaks. The first was when a friend lent me a book which explained household electrical circuits and how they worked. The second was meeting an electrician, whilst having dinner with friends. This chap was an absolute gem. He had the knack of explaining all the bits I still did not understand, in a clear and concise manner. Even better, his experience enabled him to understand exactly what would be required. Although, with the help of the book I had been lent, I was beginning to grasp the basics, designing a safe electrical system from scratch was still something of a tall order. Thanks to him, it all became clear. The most important advice he gave me, after I had explained the rough layout of our boat, was that I should run all the wiring from its entry point in the fo’csle, where the main switch and fusebox should be located, all the way back to the switches at the foot of the stairs and then back along the gallery for the lighting system. In this way, he explained, although it would require more cable, if there were any problems, they could only be at either end and would not require getting at junction boxes behind the panelling.

I installed the wiring with the book in one hand and a screwdriver in the other! As with the insulation, in the nine years we had the Glevum, it never gave us a single problem.

Insulation and floor

Insulation and floor

Our next major milestone was getting the floor laid. Walking on a real floor, after months and months of stepping from rib to rib (and often barking our shins when the boat was rocking and we missed our step) was sheer luxury. Another came with the building of the stairs: until this point access to and from the hold was by ladder.

Utter luxury - stairs!

Utter luxury – stairs!

It was now the end of the summer and all hopes of catching any summer trade when we opened were long gone. At the same time our budget was shrinking so rapidly that we could not afford to delay our opening until the following spring. We would just have to open as soon as possible and hope for the best.

One evening, two of our closest friends, Doug and Myrtle, invited us for a meal. Myrtle was a seamstress of the highest order and a talented artist. She also made applique pictures as a hobby . They asked if, when we opened, we might be interested in exhibiting some of Myrtle’s work. We explained that although we would happily do so, we had no idea of when we might be able to open, upon which they offered to help us finish the work, an offer we gratefully accepted.

Their commitment was amazing, they were there every day and, bringing fresh enthusiasm with them, were able to re-invigorate us. From here on in, with four of us working, progress was rapid and, in a short while, we were confident enough to set an opening day.

After much discussion, we decided on 24th of October, 1984. There was still much to do, but sometimes it is necessary to announce these things publicly and then one has no choice but to make sure everything is ready. I had been so busy with the barge for nearly a year, that I had very few paintings to show and so we would open with an exhibition of Myrtle’s applique work.

To be continued.

Next Post 6th September.

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