So, just as I was beginning to think that the worst of winter is over, the temperatures fall and we find ourselves in the coldest of cold snaps experienced to date. We have had a week of severe frosts and there is more to come.
This isn’t a time for cleaning or painting the exterior of the boat, so work has migrated to some of the smaller improvements that can be done, sitting by the warmth of a wood burning stove.
There are some things on and about this old boat that are very practical but also very ugly. Having sanded and oiled the companionway steps into the cabin I’m very pleased with the dark orange colour of the Iroko wood. I’m less pleased however with the grey trackmark treads that had originally been glued to each step to provide a non-slip surface and, having stripped them off, I can’t bear the thought of recovering the wood with a similar replacement.
So, last week it was back to the books looking for alternative ideas. I eventually came across something in a long out-of-date work – ‘The Marlinspike Sailor’ written by Hervey Garrett Smith (David & Charles 1972). In this book he describes a number of rope mats that were made up out of old used rope to serve a variety of purposes on the old nineteenth century square-riggers. Some were known as ‘thump mats’ laid on deck around blocks to protect the wood when tension came off the rope and the block would clatter onto the deck. Others were used to protect decks in port when landsmen would come aboard bringing grit on the soles of their shoes. Some were made to provide non-slip surfaces for crew in key areas.
So, here is my solution – one of these mats for each of the steps. The first one took several attempts to make but once you get the hang of it, the pattern is remarkably easy to follow. I’m now sure yet quite how to secure the mat to the step – Hervey Garrett Smith suggests escutcheon pins (whatever they are!).