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for the New Mast

Update 2011
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Update 2010
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A Mess in the Mess

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in Rochester

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Into 2010 on the Ross Revenge.

The Paintathlon continues.......

Having undertaken much work to the exterior of the hull and the interior of the ship over the past couple of years, 2010 saw us set to work on much of the superstructure and deck fittings. The engine room hatches on the rear deck, the funnel, main deck hatches and "mushrooms", plus large parts of the exterior "white" parts of the ship were long overdue for attention.

During the middle part of the year, with negotiations for a new mooring looking positive we started to think about what would be required to re-open to the public on a permanent basis. To this end, and in association with our insurance company we commissioned a marine surveyor to visit the ship, and provide us with an inspection report. The results of this gave us plenty of little jobs to tackle, and at least two major headaches to contend with....

However, during the New Year broadcasts into 2010 we had a slightly more pressing issue. For some time we had been suffering blockages in the fuel filter on the genset, so we decided it was about time we inspected the main high level header tanks.....

Above: Having removed the inspection hatch for the diesel tank, Graham takes a peek inside..  
And this is what we found. About a 2 inch deep puddle of mud and sludge in the tank! Presumably, as the ship would normally roll, the sludge would end up dropping into the sump well in the middle of the tank base, from where it could be pumped out from time to time. However, as the ships movement is now very little, the sludge just accumulated everywhere - no wonder we kept sucking it into the filters. It was a case of drain and pump off as much clean diesel as we could from the surface, then mop and brush the sludge into the round sump well. Remarkably, there is no drain cock on the bottom of the well, so once it was full, we have to use the hand pump to pump it into some 25 litre drums for disposal. The only way to do this is to take a deep breath, then reach far into the tank with a mop and brush, slosh the sludge around so it falls into the well, then extract onself from the tank, take a few beaths of fresh air, then do it all again. Having cleaned out Number 2 tank in this way, we left number 1 tank until the following New Year - perhaps it will become something of a tradition. Each of these two tanks can hold about 2000 litres of fuel, and from here the fuel can gravity feed to all machinary in the engine room, as well as to the AC generators at the for'ard end of the ship. The tanks are replenished by pumping up from the main bunkers which are below the engine room lower plates - storing the bulk of the fuel at a low level improves the ships centre of gravity and stability.
Above: Tommy starts to chip rust off the feed through insulator hatch, whilst others members of the team get stuck into another deck hatch. There is always on-going painting work to be done.

The insurance inspection highlighted a number of areas of concern which we have attended to. On the side of the ships super structure were two loading arms, remnants of her trawling days. A small arm, which had not been moved for years, and a large boom arm, which could be manoeuvred over the side of the ship we used for heavy lifting from a quayside or tender, onto the main deck. Current regulations require that all lifting equipment has to be inspected and certified on at least an annual basis, and having not been inspected nor certified for 30 or more years, the surveyor asked that we took the arm down for further inspection of both arm and its mountings. Both tasks were relatively straight forward jobs, but still required some elbow grease and lots of rope. Along the centre of the ship, from the for'mast, a further boom rested ontop on the transmitter room doorway hatch, and is used for lifting heavy loads into and out of the generator room. On top of the hatch, the arm rested on two ventilator "mushroom" cowlings, which had slowly corroded away, and, as well as strengthening the supports for the arm, it was recommended that both cowlings were refurbished.  

Fleur and Jeremy manhandle one end of the large boom onto a makeshift platform to support its weight, whilst, on the right, the pivot pin has been removed from the shaft, and with some elbow grease on the straps and everyone standing clear, the boom can be lowered to deck.


The small arm is cut free from its supports, and held by ropes from within the portholes, and then gently lowered down to the deck.


The rusted ventilator mushrooms are cut away with the angle grinder, to make way for a new rolled plate to be fitted.  
One of the new mushroom cowls, partly primered, almost ready to be fitted. Crew member Cris kindly arranged for the cowls to be made and rolled into shape at a steel fabricator plant adjacent to his own place of work. On the right Graham and Ian paint the ventilator shaft with primer once the top has been cut away. Ian joined the crew for one day on a visit from Toronto, Canada, and happily got stuck in to the dirty work.


Ian and Alan manhandle one of the new cowls into place, which is then finely adjusted into position with the aid of a medium sized hammer.


Tommy paints one of the new cowlings prior to fitting, whilst Phil practices his guitar technique.... A fully primed hatch and mushroom ready for top coat painting.

The new cowls, fully fitted and primed, plus the new support frame for the load arm.   And, a while later, Johnny Lewis takes a break during the August broadcast weekend to paint the previously primed hatch and mushroom cowls.

Of all the tasks and concerns highlighted by the surveyors report, two filled us with more apprehension than all the others combined. After years of having previous surveys question the structural integrity of the broadcast masts the time finally came when they said "enough is enough". Built at sea, with piecemeal materials, by an inexperienced crew, and now having stood for 20 years with no professional maintenance, we were in somethng of a dilemma. Although the surveyor was more or less happy for the masts to be taken down, professionally inspected by X-ray or ultrasound, and, assuming their integrity was acceptable, for them to be rebuilt professionally and certified it didn't strike us as a realistic or economic option. Whilst we started to fear the worst - having to take them down, and never putting them up again thus ending up with a mastless radio ship something most remarkable and unexpected happened. You can read all about that on the New Mast pages!  
October 2010, Dave Lockyear uses the Bosch chisel hammer to break the concrete around the original mast stumps as the task of preparing for the new mast begins.

The second point on the survey which filled us with apprehension was what the inspector found down in the keel, right down at the lowest level of the forepeak. During her original trawling days in Iceland, the forepeak area housed the bunks and accomodation for her fishing crew, spread across deck level, and one level below - around 35-40 persons in total. When Ross Fisheres bought the ship in 1963, they operated her with a reduced crew, and the for'ard accommodation was no longer needed. Most of the bunks and quarters were removed, and the area largely used to store nets and ropes and other tools for use whilst trawling. During the Radio Caroline offshore era, one part of the forepeak was used to house several chest style deep freezers to allow her to keep ample stocks of frozen food between tender visits. Other parts of the forepeak were used to store ropes, spare rigging materials for the mast, and various other parts. This continued after her offshore years came to an end, and the forepeak areas are today used as a small workshop, electrical, mechanical and paint stores, plus various ropes and tyres for use as fenders. One level down in the forepeak area, traditionally lit by a couple of 60 watt bulbs was fitted with new lighting a few years ago, and has been gradually fitted out with racks and shelves for storage purposes. Below that level, through a small door in the corner, down a wobbly vertical ladder is the chain locker. This is where the anchor chains are wound to by the anchor winch. The aft end of the chain locker is fitted with more shelves, and in the floor was a very small trapdoor, leading to the very bottom of the ships keel. Only a very small person could actually get through the door to crouch into the cramped space under the floor, but that was not necessary. Our surveyor simply laid on the floor, popped his head through the hatch and shone his torch round. To say we had never inspected that area in the 20 years since she was fully surveyed in Dover would be a fair comment. And it was not a pretty site. Much of the underside of the floor had rusted away, and there was about 40 centimetres of compressed rust and dust sitting on the keel. The hull plates of the ship were heavily covered in loose scale and rust, such that just gently tapping it caused large quantities to fall off and add to the pile. It was impossible to get through the floor to gain access for closer inspection, and ultrasounding through the layers of rust and grime was not an option either.
There was no alternative but to cut away the floor to expose the entire lower area, dig the rust out by hand, carefully scrape away to the hull and keel, whilst forever looking for signs of damp or incoming water. It was not going to be easy, quick or pleasant, and if we found the worst, that would pretty much be the end of the Ross Revenge. Oh yes, and we also had to install some decent lights to replace the 60 watt bulbs, paint the place white to get some brighness, install some ventilation to get some fresh air and dust extraction four levels below the deck, and strengthen the wobbly ladder.

With a hole cut in the chain locker floor, and new permanent and some temporary lighting in place, work can start on cleaning out the accumulated rust. The only way to remove the rust is by hand, using scrapers and spatulas and putting it into old paint cans. Altogether, between 50 and 100 cans of rust were removed. This picture is orientated looking towards the rear of the ship - the generator room is behind the bulkhead wall. The floor level of the generator room is probably about shoulder height in this picture.

Here Lee is standing on the very keel of the ship, about 4 metres below sea level. Having previously cut away sections of the floor, we were startled to return to the ship one weekend to find one of the shelves had collapsed through a part of the floor which appeared to be structurally sound! The shelf contains spare rigging, guy wires, and insulators from the original 300 foot mast. They didn't look heavy, but it took 4 or 5 crew a good while to remove the materials to another area. Strangely enough, the shelf had already been earmarked for removal, to allow more floor to be cut away, so the self-induced collapse did save us a little effort!

Spare stay wires, rigging and insulators from the 300 foot tower.

From one level higher, the air duct, connected to a powerful blower motor brings fresh air down into the chain locker, and ultimately into the keel space. Without fresh air it becomes very suffocating down there, especially when dust is distrubed. Face masks and ventilators are the order of the day, as were plenty of fresh air breaks on deck. With the floor cut away, Chief Engineer Peter Clayton kneels down in the tight space, and with the aid of a small trowel inspects, and carefully scrapes away the rust.  
Once the area had been cleared of the loose rust and scale, and the larger, looser lumps had been removed from the structures, the area could be ultrasounded to ascertain its integrity. The good news is that the survey was successful, and the steel of the hull and plates was deemed to be in excellent condition for its age. However, it was obvious that many of the ribs and and bracing in the area were in poor condition and would need to be replaced. Accordingly these were carefully cut-out and the area prepared for new parts to be welded in. Meanwhile, with sets of careful measurements taken, suitable steel plates were manufactured to the correct specification. On the left picture above, we see a new triangular plate, approx 1.2 by 0.5 metres being lowered into the keel space, where it will be welded into place by Peter Clayton to form a new rib. On the right picture, Roland is standing on the keel, and having cleaned the area of rust scale, some of the pipework and structure has now been primed in red oxide primer.

A close up of the ships hull, showing an area where the rust scale has been carefully removed. Almost one hundred 5 litre paint tins similar to that shown were filled with loose rust to be hoisted up three floors and onto deck, where they could be taken from the ship for disposal.

Here is Lee again, cramped under the floor, scraping away some more rust. Thee whole area was quickly nick-named the "Rustmine" by the crew, as it seemed to have a never ending supply of rust to be excavated! The Vacuum cleaner turned out to be one of the best means of removing the loose rust, though it did tend to need to have its filter cleaned out several times a day.

Of all the tasks undertaken by the various volunteer crews on the Ross Revenge over the past 20 years, the rustmine, along with the engine room pipework replacement and the initial inspection and cleaning of the water tanks back in 1992 probably rate as the most dirty, awkward and delicate tasks. It's just a shame all the sweat and hard work will be under the floor, three decks down, where no-one will get to see it. Top marks to the many crew members who spent their weekends from the Spring of 2010 through to late 2011 in such cramped and dirty condition to work on this task.

There were many minor items highlighted by the insurance survey - for instance, our inspector questioned the integrity of the forepeak steps. We spent a while with the needle guns to remove the rust and flasking paint, to find, indeed, that the steel was badly corroded and the strength of the ladders was weakening. Compared to the ongoing work in the forepeak rustmine it was a relatively simple matter to take measurements and arrange for a new set of steps to be fabricated. Again, our man Cris came to the rescue and arranged for his friendly steel fabricator plant to make up a new set which were paid for using money raised by the Southampton Support Group meetings. When they were built and assembled, Cris drove down from Dumfries with them strapped to his trailer, and they were fitted in place one weekend.  
Cris, welding a base plate onto the newly fabricated steps, and Cris, along with Dave, preparing the handrails to fix onto the steps.

The new steps, freshly painted.

Even if we are not tackling any of the jobs highlighted on the survey report, there are always thousands of odd jobs to be done, and of course, the ship cannot ever have enough paint applied to keep her looking fresh and cared for.

Lee, breaking up the decayed concrete floor of the old "Dutch" newsroom prior to a new floor being laid.

All hands on deck - with no engine power, and limited winch power, adjusting the ships six 3 inch thick mooring ropes calls for many hands and has to be done several times a year.

One of our Dutch friends, Theo, helping with a little painting.

Mandy with Theo, applying paint.

Steve Dack, our resident carpenter, having completed some gangplank repairs, applies highly visible paint to the roller cradle.

Engine room ventilation hatch, prior to treatment.....

Receiving treatment from Graham and Phil.....

Phil and Lawrence inspect the result......

Another of our Dutch friends, Fleur, removing flaking paint from a life-ring bracket.

Richard, another Dutch member of the team, with Steve Dack, attending to paintwork from the scaffold tower.

Rocking John - painting the upper bridge steps.

Roland, removing rusted paint to prepare for repainting.

New railings at the pointy end, replacing a couple of old chains.

A big thank you as always to all of the crew who give up their free time to help keep the old girl looking her best.