In Their Own Words – Chris Smith
As you have no doubt read in previous articles, great progress has been made down in Rochester. However, we feel some of the lighter and more amusing episodes could also be recorded for posterity. The workers now tend to assemble on Friday evenings in our local pub, called ‘The White Horse’. Here all the major decisions are made! We discuss the jobs to be done over the week-end and any problems that can be foreseen, and, in this way, we can usually work things out so as not to all be working in one spot at the same time. The welder is given priority and we all work around him as best we can.
We divided ourselves into chippers, metal workers and painters. The chippers go in first, chipping all the steel so as to allow the welders to decide what needed replacing. Once sentence had been passed on the offending pieces of steel, the welder dealt with the execution. As he works his way along the painters moved in after him – wire brush in one hand and paint brush in the other – and all the steelwork received four coats of paint. Nobody wasted time painting something which was due to be cut out.
All the woodwork at the aft end of the ship had to be removed before any work on the steel could begin. This in itself was a major job since everything had to be carefully dismantled and stored somewhere safe. The sponson deck suited this purpose admirably, and so there the aft saloon sat for six months, waiting for the day when all the steel work was completed. In the words of our ex-Chief Steward (now on loan to the Waverley), ‘it is all one big jigsaw puzzle’. Thankfully, most of the jigsaw was back together again before he left for the Waverley. If the Society should find itself in the situation of having to dismantle the aft saloon again, we should point out that everything hinges on the door frame! To our surprise and frequent annoyance, we discovered that nothing could go back to its original position until the door frame had been reinstated as everything appeared to either butt up to it or rest on it! We discovered many little characteristics of KC and we are sure that once she is running even more will come to the surface.
One such idiosyncrasy is the forward mast _which appears to bend according to the weather. Brian Waters is convinced that he can tell just what the weather is going to do just by the angle of the mast; if it is straight then the weather will remain settled and dry; if it is leaning to port we can expect rain and if it is leaning to starboard then snow is imminent!
For many years the port lights were broken and chipped with no prospect of being replaced. It was a task which never seemed very important since the replacement of glass would be one of the last things we had to do. In a way, we looked forward to the day when they would become a problem as this would mean that the KC was about to sail again. That day has come. Various people gave us all sorts of advice. The difficulty is getting the brass ring to unscrew without breaking it. Our first method was to try gently tapping the rings around. This worked with one ring. Then Chatham Dockyard had a go, using new lubricant. This had limited success, but it took a whole morning to do three port lights – and we had another twenty needing the same attention! The answer came from one of our neighbours who made a special tool which used in conjunction with heat did get the rings off.
One evening a certain ex-PSPS Membership Secretary visited the aforementioned hostelry patronised by the KC crew. As usual on a Friday evening, the assembled crew were discussing such subjects as Mrs. Thatcher’s economic policy and the integral parts of a Worthington lubricator valve, when one of the locals asked why Waverley had to make £4,000 a day to survive. We immediately referred him to our local representative of the outfit. To our surprise, a rather heated and noisy exchange of views ensued. The questioning member of the public sat down thoroughly bombarded with facts and figures on the running of the World’s last sea-going paddle steamer. On leaving the pub apologies were offered from the gentleman involved, but he would hear nothing of it and said that it was incredible that a previously little known paddle steamer designed to cruise at the other end of the country should become such a major topic of discussion in a little village pub in Kent.
The turning point for KC happened on Monday, 18th April, when the boiler got its certificate. For many months the engineers had been testing and machining the safety valves, which were not working as they should. Many hours had been spend sitting on top of the boiler dismantling and assembling the workings of the safeties. Every time we wished to test them it meant bringing the boiler up to pressure and usually £70 to £80 worth of coal! Eventually the valves were taken to the highest authority in the land (as far as safety valves are concerned) to be inspected. He told us how much to machine them by and this was done. On the next steam test they worked perfectly and the boiler inspector was summoned. The inspection went off beautifully. On arrival at KC the inspector was given a cup of tea and then taken into a nice clean engine room. The boiler was on the brink of lifting the safeties as he got his notebook out and at 113 lbs/sq. in No. 1 valve lifted faultlessly, followed by the second at 117 lbs/sq in. They both sat down again perfectly and the inspector went home well pleased.
I hope this article has given some idea of the atmosphere on the KC and we hope to see you onboard soon.
Following completion of the after saloon steelworks, renewal of the wheelhouse floor was next priority. The wheelhouse has been dismantled, stripped and cleaned.
The wheelhouse panels were sent to a company in Maidstone, for stripping off all the old varnish. lt was quite an expensive exercise but in relation to the time and energy it saved the cost was well worthwhile. On return to the ship, the panels were sanded off and numerous coats of thinned varnish put on before four full coats were applied.