In the early morning and aft of the clock watchers end, the dock floor is moist and cool. At mid day dining time, again she’s placid, humidified by the latent pools and the gentle cascade edging by the outer caisson. The sheer thermal mass of a structure, that when completed, at the eve of peace in the 1944, could house any vessel afloat, ensures a mild clime, while Onslow’s constant shadow gives respite at midday to our more freckled fellows. At these times there is only the interval led, discordant pop of the compressed air relief valves, not too far removed from a croak, to disturb the air. But these are only moments among many and the sudden vision of a soul, accompanied by paramedics, being hauled aloft in a yellow cage through the vacant blue, reminds you that when you’re down and out at the bottom of the dock there’s only one way out; forty five feet up straight up. He’ll be okay, the pain killing shots have subdued him and after a couple of weeks of physio he’ll be back but for the rest of the day you’re left hypersensitive to the need to know, to be sure of every placing of the three points of contact, to follow the rules, to know that some one else knows where you’re at, for on the irregular floor of the dock, strung out with hoses possessing their own dynamism, with multiple bobcats and remotely driven cherry pickers all beeping out a warning that builds to a Doppler cacophony, then splits into asymmetric chaos of sound, to be heard, to be seen, to be safe, is never guaranteed.
The sub, has of late, adopted the manners of a chameleon, changing at every new glance. The preparation work left the hull with a temporary psychedelic camo. pattern that the merry pranksters would be proud of. Within a day it disappears below a coat of sealing primer, green / bronze in hue on the steel topsides and a stark white primer for the GRP fin. Seven men work as one to progress the painting. The ever smiling Humphrey coordinates the process from the dock floor; he has two colleagues at his side supplying a continual flow of the synthetically sweet smelling liquid to the basket of each cherry picker. While the sprayer applies overlapping two meter runs the driver perched beside him directs the platform through three dimensions so as to offer a fresh surface to the sprayer on each pass. Roughly apace of each other, the long necked vehicles, on either side of the sub, seem locked in a reptilian dance, advancing only after numerous jolting rocks of their body.
Now that the majority of the prepared surfaces have been sealed, work can commence atop of the pressure hull, readying the more intricate areas for paint… well not quite yet. If you recall, the last blog post detailed the candy pink desertification of the dock, well those pretty little grains of garnet have entrenched themselves in every nook, every possible crevice and improbable cranny and yet again cheery Humphrey’s and his team appear, ready to do battle. Like an unseen army of banister brush ants they push forth mounds of earth, mined from beneath the casings, onto the tank tops from where it topples down like pink rain. Days and days of rain spray out from the teams nozzled hoses in a laborious attempt to depose any remaining gem grains tenaciously clinging to there setting. While the wash out continues little progress is made on painting, the only obvious change is the handy work of a isolated couple elevated to face the fin, filling each of the hundreds of bolt holes with a Laminex green, epoxy filler. There could be problems, the liberal application of the bog will multiply ten fold the sanding needed to gain a flush surface and at this point, time is not a commodity we have an abundance of.