The Steam Tug Kerne Preservation Society Ltd


January 2019

Posted by Allan Hickson (Mod) on February 16, 2019 at 5:55 AM

January saw the Kerne team press on with our two major projects; the Boiler re-tubing and the Wheelhouse rebuild.

In respect of the former, progress has been slow and steady with our younger volunteers providing much of the muscle whilst we older hands provide the encouragement and advice. To assist with this somewhat strenuous job, we are hoping to procure a hydraulic drive that can be used to rotate the taps in the tube holes to clean out the threads to receive the new tubes. The benefit of a hydraulic drive rather than a pneumatic or electric drive is that this can be set to a pre-determined tension which greatly minimises the risk of damage to the taps if they over-tighten or jam in the threads. As these taps were bespoke to our boiler and would cost in the order of £1000 to replace the pair, we are keen to make sure they do not get damaged!

Turning to the Wheelhouse, the new steelwork has been treated and painted, and the joinery manufacturers who are building the new structure have carried out their initial inspection to measure the steelwork. This is to establish the correct profile of the curvature of the top of the Boiler casing and to check the measurements between the welded uprights to which the Wheelhouse will be secured, as these may now differ from the original diagram measurements. Meanwhile the wheelhouse door has been stripped and varnished and the bilges beneath the Boiler have been cleaned to remove the dust and debris that accumulated during the replacement of the casing top. In a similar vein, the anchor chain has been hauled out of the fore peak locker for cleaning. This compartment required the air within to be pumped out before volunteers wearing protective clothing and masks could inspect and clean the space. Apart from some rust and sludge, the compartment was in surprisingly good condition, the platework and bulkhead having been daubed with grease last time it was inspected. It will be similarly treated before the chain is lowered back down.

The cutting and welding that has taken place over the last few weeks has not done much to preserve our lovely clean decks that had been freshly painted for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service Ceremony, so it was out with the power washer which removed much of the debris, but it looks like a re-paint will be required.

Down in the Engine Room, work has re-commenced on the Low Pressure Slide Valve, scraping and filing being carried out on the face of the engine casting to remove the wear and tear, and labelling of the Engine Room cupboard is in progress which, hopefully, will mean we will now know where the various tools are!

Moving to the Aft Cabin/Galley, we are looking again at the small, but annoying, leak into the bilge. The aft peak tank has been filled with a testing dye, and we are now looking to see if there is any seepage from there into the bilge.

Ever eager to expand our Kerne archives, we have recently purchased a fantastic colour photograph of the vessel taken in June 1964, whilst towing a barge on the Mersey – this can be viewed on our Facebook page.

On a sad note, we aboard Kerne were deeply saddened to hear of the death of the popular BBC North West presenter Dianne Oxberry. To celebrate Kerne’s Centenary in 2013 we sailed to Manchester, berthing at Salford Quays for several days. On the second day we were approached by a BBC producer who suggested that they could incorporate a piece on the vessel within the Weather Forecast slot. Dianne and her crew duly turned up and she apologised and explained that due to an additional article they had to run, the piece involving Kerne would be shorter than planned. Keen to give us the best coverage in the time allowed Dianne asked me to give her a history of Kerne that she could open the piece with. I gave her a quick run-down, after which she said ‘Got it’. She kicked of her shoes, walked up and down the deck, and on cue, she started by reprimanding Roger Johnson for his introduction, in which he referred to Kerne as ‘a trawler’ rather than a tug. She then repeated my history to camera before moving on to the weather; all done without notes. As the crew were packing up she told me that she was now finished for the day, and was going home, but had misplaced her mobile phone, suspecting that she had left it on her desk. I held out my phone and suggested she ring her number as if it was on her desk, someone would answer it. She said ‘You ring - my number is....’ I stopped her at that point and said that she shouldn’t tell someone she doesn’t know what her number was, to which she laughed, took my phone and rang her number. The phone was on her desk, and after thanking me for my time, and complimenting us for keeping the vessel going, she put on her shoes and left with a cheery smile. She came over as an extremely natural, pleasant person without airs and graces, and from the volume of messages of condolence that the BBC received, that is how her audience viewed her.

We were touched that part of the piece filmed aboard Kerne was used in the BBC’s own tribute to her.


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