Adventures with Lottie by Nick Salt or How a Blowtorch Saved the Day!

I've been quite keen to fit a bilge pump to Lottie as she is moored at St. Pierre Pill in the Severn estuary at the moment and each time I visit I have been having to bail out a lot of water and the internal woodwork is beginning to suffer.

I bought a pump, float switch, some pipe and a t-connector last week and as I had a few days off planned to work on her. My plans were almost scuppered when my car had to go in for work but I decided to cycle there and back, sleeping on board for a night or two, and my friend Pete kindly offered a lift there with the dinghy, bike, boat bits etc. in his van, and he wanted a look at Lottie too. Bonus.

We arrived at the Pill via a greasy spoon cafe and a walk through muddy fields mid-morning, me wearing wellies, and Pete impressively managing to keep his baseball boots dry during the walk. Luckily Darrel, the yacht club vice-commodore, was on the pontoon bailing out various floats and boats, and he kindly offered to scull us over to Lottie using one of the punts, which avoided me having to inflate the tiny dinghy and squeeze two grown men and all my kit aboard the little green plastic '2 man' inflatable.

As we were making the voyage from pontoon to mooring, I took the opportunity to practice sculling as Darrel is somewhat adept at it and I was keen to pick his brains. What you do is fit a long oar to a row lock on the transom and swish and twist your wrist in a figure of eight motion, which, if you do it properly, propels you at a quite impressive pace and with good control over steerage. I need to practice quite a bit more yet though, as I can get the forward motion but as soon as I try to steer it all goes wrong.

At this point we were all getting along, Darrel making fun of the newbie sculling, Pete sitting at the bows chuckling and me learning a new skill, 3 men in a boat, when we noticed a section of the west pontoon had collapsed so we sculled over to investigate. We found a float had made its way from beneath a section of pontoon and was in danger of making its way who knows where, down the pill, into the estuary and off on a voyage across the Atlantic maybe to beach on a far away shore where all the floats and fenders that have broken free of slavery congregate to celebrate their emancipation. Of course this wasn't on, and the usual comedy of coaxing a floating object back to servitude ensued, Darrel and I happily splashing in wellies, and Pete looking on with dry baseball boots and making comments about the inverse relationship between boat owning and sanity. Eventually we teased the float back under the pontoon by roping Pete into standing on a high bit of pontoon whilst the float was pushed under the submerged section.

The pontoon now shipshape and Bristol fashion we noticed the punt had settled at a difficult angle and we all set to the task of bringing it alongside so we could jump on and cast off. Unfortunately this was the point where the float decided that the fabled promised land was a better option than keeping the pontoon above water and made a mad dash for freedom leaving the pontoon to arrange its own affairs. The pontoon promptly sank, not immediately, but about the speed where a man might realise what's happening, realise his friend isn't wearing suitable footwear, and just at the point the man laughs at his friend's unsuitable footwear, settle an inch above the height of 2 pairs of rapidly filling wellies.

Things settled down after this, and a more subdued, damp, businesslike, float rescue and boat boarding followed. Of course the boarding of Lottie led to another bout of bailing, followed by a pouring of water from wellies, which allowed Pete a chance to gloat about suitable footwear, which he graciously declined to exploit.

After Pete and Darrel left the Pill I settled down to work fitting the bilge pump, fitting the mast tabernacle, making myself comfortable and enjoying the peace and quiet and gentle swaying and rocking of the boat.

My stove was out of gas, but I managed to press a blow torch into service, which worked really well, providing me with hot tea and noodles on tap.

The only other adventures were a bruised knuckle from starting the seagull outboard and my biggest adjustable wrench being offered to Neptune.

The cycle home was pretty epic, great weather and winding through the dyke and ditch filled flatlands stopping at the Rose in Redwick for some lubrication. All in all a good couple of days, considering no actual sailing has been done yet!


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