As we previously noted, our insurance company requires that every 5 years the steel hull of the ship must be measured by
ultra-sound to verify a minimum of 3mm. If there are areas in which the hull is thinner than the minimum we are obliged to
weld another steel plate over the area.
As we said in Part I, there wasn't any required plating for our insurance, but we opted to put 2 6mm plates on and take
advantage of extra thickness of the hull. One plate at the bow above the waterline and one in the stern under the wheelhouse/
engine room area. Though the bow plate was much smaller than the stern one, it turned out to be the most difficult. You see,
there were multiple curves that the workers needed to calculate. If you look at the first shot in this series, you'll see what we
mean. There was not only the curve of the hull from the edge of the green paint down but also the curve of the hull from the
bow aft. The process was incredible to watch and the workers had to abandon the first massive plate they cut as they had
miscalculated. Ouf, that's heavy and a big loss at the price of steel now-a-days! For the bow plate, they built a framed wood
template and then cut and bent the steel in the shop before crane-ing it into the "pit". Next, they welded on two tabs at the
bottom of the area to hold the plate somewhat in place. They burned off and tar that may interfere with welding.
...continued below the photos
(You can see in the first shot that they left the area to be plated un-tarred) With the 6mm plate resting on the tabs they then
take the steel bar that has a ratchet and position it at a spot where they will pressure the plate to the hull. The trick here was
finding firm footing for the steel bar as the ground of the "pit" is mud. They ratchet the plate to form to the hull and then take a
giant sledge hammer and physically beat the plate in to place. This was probably the most unnerving experience for Lisa as the
whole barge would trembled with each blow, and the sound! This went on for what seemed to Lisa, forever. Then another
worker comes and grinds all the edges of the plate so they are clean and will take the bead of weld that he will run around the
The stern plate, though almost 3 times the size went on in what seemed to be a minute. The same basic procedure was
followed, just on a much larger scale. The plate was craned in to the "pit". The workers had set up stands to hold the plate while
they ratcheted it into place. Though there wasn't much room under the plating area, it was easier in this respect because the
leverage was straight up as opposed to angled with the bow piece. The grinding and welding a bead process was then
performed. The staff of welders was incredible at Vankerkoven. There was a welder for each stage of the plating. Two to
position and get it started and then one that just did the grinding and the beading. It took all day for the final welding of the aft
plate. These guys would sometimes start at 5:00 to make sure they got their work done. Usually everyone quit at 16:00.
Our life in the "pit" was exhausting. Normally the yard workers hours were 7:00-16:00 Monday thru Friday. The operation was
so massive they had a factory whistle that sounded for tea break in the morning, lunch and quitting time. We originally thought
that we would have the weekends to rest and have some quiet time during our stay in the "pit". It was not to be, as many
mornings we were awakened by sounds under our hull. A few times we were awakened by a flash of light coming in our
windows in the pitch black of night (actually like 5:00) from the workers turning on spots to illuminate their work areas so they
could work before day break! And, as always is the rule when in the yard, no matter the size of your boat or project, one must
always, always be present (yes, even at 5:00 in the morning!) to make sure things are going right or you are available for any
questions or discussions on the work that is being performed. Frequently we found ourselves in our "pit" boots under JoLi'
discussing things in the dark before sunrise. Being non-early risers, it made our days even longer and we were absolutely
exhausted by early evening.
We settled in to our pattern in the "pit" of rising early, discussing, or watching the workers as they started for the day on JoLi'
and then sanding, de-rusting, and finally painting JoLi's hull above the water line. Since there was still the bow transformation
work to be done, we did not do any upper decks painting (the white super structure or the grey side-decks). We knew that the
welding that would take place during this project would cause damage to those areas so it would be pointless to work on them
until after the project was complete. Little did we know how massive a project the bow transformation would be. Read Part III
for that phase of yard work.