Underfall Yard Volunteer writer Andrew Radford has been keeping abreast of the latest developments…

I visited the yard in February to see how the Slipway Restoration Project was progressing. The sun was out, the aroma of bacon rolls was emanating from the Underfall Café and the sound of power tools was resonating around the yard.

At first sight the Slip looked much as it did when last I was here with the cradle out of the water and resting at the top of runway.  But a pile of bogies and wheels and a bucket of enormous bolts, used to join some of the huge timbers, were evidence of great activity. I could also see that several of the nine-metre Greenheart beams had been visited by men with power saws, planes and drills.

Will and Olly at work Feb 2022

Will and Oli hard at work.

I found Will and Oli of Star Yachts on the quayside, both fully equipped with ear defenders, masks and goggles, and each working on separate beams, shaping and fashioning the end sections so that they may find their place in the jigsaw of timber that is the slip cradle. Measure twice and cut once is the old adage, but as Oli says, with each beam costing around £1200, it’s a case of measure twenty times and cut once! They are both experienced boat builders and used to handling beautiful and expensive wood, but even so, these timbers require extra care and attention.  Will mentions that a number of interested passers by had asked why we were using Greenheart rather than Teak.  The answer is availability and cost – an equivalent nine-metre beam in teak – if it could be found – would cost around £20,000.

Win Cnoops, who is masterminding the restoration, had said when we first met that he expected the cradle base structure, which is submerged for much of the time, to be in better condition than those parts which are sometimes in water and sometimes exposed to the air – and so it has proved. We talked about the timbers which are being replaced, for it is evident that although damaged and having lost their structural integrity, they represent a potentially valuable resource which could be put to a variety of future uses.

Whilst wood is the main material component of the slip, the movement of the cradle depends on metal and the cast wheels and bogies which carry the cradle and its passengers – the boats coming in for attention.  Initial inspections had discovered a number of damaged wheels and some cracks in castings, so a dozen replacements were ordered and are here and ready to be installed.

All in all, the project seems to be going well and according to plan with completion expected in late March.  With a list of vessels waiting their turn on the Patent Slip, including the Matthew the sooner it is back in action the better.