Improvements and restoration of the houseboat facilities continues, time permitting. Relatively dry periods are especially helpful for maintaining wooden craft. In July, Heather was pulled round to Royall’s undercover wet boat shed (a scarce commodity in modern local boat yards) to carry out repairs on the main doorway and sliding roof hatch. Located on the port side, it is the principal entrance and leads into the vestibule, or lobby, where coats and hats are hung. This small space links the front and back end (fore and after part) of the houseboat.
Paul, the stoical assistant at Royall’s, who marked thirty years of service at the boatyard this autumn, removed the worn framework and makeshift threshold. With some thought, Paul redesigned the setting of the door, building a new frame, a threshold that slopes outboard and made new hardwood trim around the hatch.
The chunky, though diminutive door (shades of Alive in Wonderland) had been ill fitting for several years and much of the hastily made 1950’s woodwork was decayed. It is believed to have been cut out of the 1920’s solid cabin side, which may have had a fixed plate glass window, adding symmetry to the three window arrangement on either side of the central cabin house. The horizontal teak timbers of the door are believed to be mostly composed of recycled timber from the original Dutch flushed deck lighter ~ the utilitarian vessel conceived around a century ago. Some of the grey painted timber is visible inside the door, pictured above.
Curiously, an old brass rim lock is sandwiched inside the carcass of the door. This was removed and cleaned and new keys were cut. A simple, small steel spring inside the lock was duly replaced, enabling the catch to work; meaning the door can close properly for the first time in decades.
A new step into the vestibule is now being finished. Sitting on this and laying against the saloon bulkhead (nautical speak for wall) will be a detachable ladder. The ladder is handcrafted from spare oak and mahogany timber by retired Sprowston engineer and joiner, Graham. This should enable direct access to the roof and also provides a handle for visitors, when boarding the houseboat.