5th June 2001
It's been a bit of a while since the diary was updated but it's been a bit of a fraught time with one thing and another. We just about remained afloat in the Sunday press with a scathing attack in the Express balanced by Gina's contribution in the Times. It was more or less expected. If I'm to be absolutely honest, I did once say to Tonia that I wouldn't look for Donald but I never made any promises. Gina asked the team to "Find her Dad" she said "I want to put him somewhere warm" How could we say no? Gina was abroad when her Dad was killed, by the time she returned he'd simply ceased to exist and she's never had a chance to say goodbye to him properly. We were all touched by this and we were in an excellent position to achieve what Gina wanted. There is no justice in this life and we knew that we'd upset someone whichever way we turned, but the bottom line is that wives can come and go, an only Daughter and her Dad is a slightly more enduring relationship. There really was no contest. Against all the odds, we successfully recovered Donald's gold St Christopher from around his neck. Gina had asked us many times whether we thought we could get it back. All I could say was "don't hold your breath". After all it was a tiny gold medal on a piece of cord. It was inscribed "To Donald from Daddy, Nov 1940". When we brought it aboard the boat, five grown men cried. As long as I live I will never forget Gina's face when we gave her that little gold medal on the end of the jetty at Pier Cottage from which her Dad had left 34 years earlier. Of course there are a few bitter and twisted individuals who have attacked us but they still seem to check the website regularly and feel the need to write in our guestbook. Don't suppose they'll watch the documentary though.
We're hoping that when the Coroner is finished, Donald can be buried in the cemetary in Coniston near to Connie Robinson and her family. It's generally agreed that she'll be able to keep him in order and there will also be a place where his many admirers can pay their respects, place flowers, spend a quiet moment or whatever. He deserves a fabulous send off, long overdue and much deserved.
We haven't forgotten the boat in all of this. Work on her is still going ahead. Now that the lower hull is clean and shiny, we've turned our attention to the upper sections. There is corrosion on the underside of both the tail section and the engine cover though the material is essentially sound.
We were asking Tony James and Bill Vanryne about their work on the boat in 1966 and in particular about how the exposed aluminium surfaces were treated prior to painting. They used a chemical which they called "SH 1T" and horror of horrors it was green! despite the fact that Donald hated green, he was totally surrounded by it every time he got into his boat. After much asking around the paint industry, we discovered that SH 1T, is in actual fact a two pack phosphate acid etch primer or something. To cut a long story short, it's lethal. As we've endured enough danger to our health during the course of this project, it was decided to go for a less harmful chemical. The underside of the tail has been cleaned off (300 toothbrushes later) and two coats of our new type SH 1T have been applied (Spose we ought to call it SH 2T). It comes in a particulary appropriate brown colour. When it's dry we'll give it a coat of silver paint and it'll be as good as new. someone can bugger about for a week with a finishing tap in all those thousands of cruddy threads so that the bolts will go back in without the struggle. We'll use Leo's spanner to tighten them down and if it gets dropped back in the hull, it's staying there!!
Well, wasn't that documentary a fantastic piece of work? All we did was to run the project as best we could whole these irritating individulas with cameras and what appeared to be a dead sheep on a pole followed us about. They would make our boat handling difficult so that they could have the sunlight where it suited them and they would wait until we'd just concluded an in depth planning meeting before saying "could you just have that conversation again?"
But what a result! the finished programme had over 6 million viewers and from what I can tell, they all cried when we brought Donald ashore. The project was beautifully represented, the documentary showed it exactly as it happened and for that we must thank our producer man, Mike Rossiter who spent the whole time bundled up in a strange red hat (almost as strange as mine) saying either "what's going on?" or "what we gonna do?" It seems that he knew what he was doing all along.
As for the project, next we have to wait and see what sort of send off our hero is going to get, hopefully it'll be truly spectacular, it should be a true celebration of everything Donald ever was. We've still got some stuff to do to the boat and now that the Coniston end of the project is over we can arrange for some of the volunteers who've offered their services to come over and give us a hand. That should be fun! Our friends Novie and Paul can come up and get their anoraks dirty!
19th June 2001
Bit of a slow week in the Bluebird dept. Last friday we brought Predator back over to the North East. She's a very sorry boat after 9 months of abuse in the Lakes. We'll have to give her a good going over before we start our activities in the sea.
At the moment I've got the street looking like a yacht marina, we'll have to get it sorted before the neighbours come back off their holidays or there'll be Hell on!
I had a good old chat with the Coroner this week, we're about a fortnight or three weeks away from a result on the DNA testing. Although there isn't any real doubt that we recovered Donald, the Coroner is going to perform his duties very thoroughly so that there will never be any controversy about the matter again. Can't balme him for that. This DNA testing business is interesting, it seems that it doesn't actually prove the identity of the person so much as lengthen the odds of it being anyone else to such an extent that you got to believe it. It works best if samples can be taken from two very close relatives but it is also dependent upon the pathologists being able to extract enough source material from the person being identified. If the testing proves inconclusive for any reason, the Coroner will have to open an inquest and the divers will most likely have to give evidence to support the identification. That ought to be fun.
We've had an offer to repair the damaged pitot head from the tail by the company that manufactured it in the first place. For those of you who don't know already, we went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the tail came out of the water undamaged. When the top of the tail came up between the bags there was not so much as a scratch on the paint. We reckoned without a low branch on the way home though, and our precious pitot head ended up bent. If we can remove it without damage it's going to be properly refurbished but as with everything on the boat it's held on with the regulation 3 million screws
Predator comes home for a refit after months of abuse on Coniston