January to March 1973
Well, where do we start? It’s the first working day and 10 members have signed in. It’s cold and there is KC’s rusting hull lying on the slipway. People of differing backgrounds and abilities have come from across a wide area of the South East. A small workman’s shed has been provided by Mr. Knight and the group congregates there. Significantly, the group includes June Bushell, Gary Evans, and Mike Spring, who are destined to stay with KC for many months to come.
Restoration Log Book - Saturday 27th January 1973
With the blessing of a fine day, the hut provided for our use was cleared out and made habitable for use as a shore and mess hut. The Kingswear Castle was cleared of loose material on deck, the coal bagged, and stored in front of the bridge, and the decks thoroughly scrubbed
On Sunday 28th a different group attend, including Pete Trigg, who became another long term member of the team. In February we welcomed June’s sister, Pat and Andrew Patrick and several other new faces.
Over the next few weeks, some basics were put together – organising the tools in the work hut, with a sink and benching installed, and housing some tools on board. Fitting fire extinguishers, fixing up some lighting and power on board, hosing and cleaning the slipway and improving the access to the ship are all necessary. The slipway is tidal, which means it dries out for the majority of the time, but the ship just about floats at high tide. Whilst different people come each weekend there is some continuity, and Lawrie Beal’s ability to make everyone feel wanted and able to contribute helps to provide a good atmosphere. A start was made on chipping off rust and painting various accessible steelworks such as deck beams.
Early on came the decision that PSPS would spend £1,000+ on professional shot blasting of the hull.
From Paddle Wheels No. 53Preparing the hull tor the shot blasting last month was one of the first big jobs tackled by the Society volunteers The job involved removing rubbing strakes, hawse-pipes and scroll boards at the bow. Many nuts and bolts were in a condition good enough to be unscrewed with a spanner and penetrating oil, but chipping hammer, cold chisel and hacksaw were needed for awkward customers.
The log book shows that on the weekend of January 27th and 28th the hut kindly made available by Machin, Knight and Co. for use as tool room, workshop, store and even ad-hoc canteen, was made useable with a sink and benching installed. The slip was also hosed down and swept on February 3rd. Earlier KC was cleared of debris and the coal from her bunkers bagged and stacked under polythene. The plates over the portholes were removed along with the steering chains. On February 3rd the forward lavatory was made useable and fire extinguishers brought on board. Then electric lighting was rigged and this was essential as chipping and red leading of the deck beams in the forward saloon commenced. In the engine room both cylinders were opened to put in freeing oil, but this apart little attention to the machinery will be necessary until the project is much further advanced. Virtually no rust was found when the valve chests were opened although any odd spots will have to be removed before the engines are turned as even a speck causes expensive scoring in accurately machined faces. Removal of the woodwork prior to the shot blasting started on February 8th, 9th and 10th and fore saloon chipping and red leading continued. To assist the latter the starboard lockers and matchboard lining were removed. It is very encouraging to see what has been achieved by those who have been able to get to KC so far. The initial appearance of the ship is discouraging for the varnish is all gone from the woodwork and above decks. Exposed to wind and rain, the steelwork plating and framing is very poor. What matters is that below deck line the hull is good, the engines are alright and the boiler sound.
During March a first milestone was reached when the hull was professionally shot blasted. The log book tells the story, a week’s activity supported by dedicated volunteers, notably John Dimond from Herne Bay and Patrick Taylor from Broadstairs, among others taking part in a rota to ensure each day is covered by a team that quickly painted the treated areas. Shot blasting did an effective job where conditions were good, but underneath the hull with restricted space was a problem, and even with angled lances the operators found it very difficult. Painting required lying down and inching under the hull and doing the best possible.