A Special Builder's Notes


The Special Builder's Breakfast Club

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24 March 2020


I was working up to dismantling the front suspension on the Riley chassis when the call came through to get up to Hartlepool to load the Living Stone with 80km of wind farm inter-array cable.

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Janecki z Krakowa and I motored up in the works van and arrived just in time for the sun to set over the Royal Navy Museum. Typically, the one instance when I would have some spare time to pop in (the ship wasn’t due until the following evening) the museum would be closed.

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Nonetheless, we were up bright and early to set up our kit and forage for supplies as the hotel’s catering facilities had been shut down. The Living Stone is sister ship to the Flintstone, both of whom started out as rock dumpers and have been retrofitted with carousels and cable handling and laying gear. They’re equipped with massive hoppers amidships that in their normal duties would be filled with granite boulders from places such as Norway. Then they sail out to sea, get in position over the site where the turbine or other structure is going to be built and open the bomb doors – so to speak. I’m not sure how they make things tidy on the ocean floor; presumably with some heavy duty Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV’s).

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The Living Stone is so huge that she had to come into the harbour sideways, there not being enough room to manoeuvre into position nearer the dockside.

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From my office, I had quite a nice view of the Headland and harbour entrance before she moored up and blotted out the sun.

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Going back to ROV’s; I had an extra bit of welding to do before I left for Hartlepool. In the demanding work of inspecting the sub-sea structures of oil rig platforms, ROV’s can get thrown about in the currents and clang into unmoveable objects. In order to protect the buoyancy aids and sonars that sit on the top of them, a framework needed to be constructed before they were thrown in the deep end. There being practically no room for the TIG torch, welding 50mm diameter circular pads onto the ends of the short stalks on the top rails was not my best work.

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The PS Wingfield Castle forms part of the Royal Navy Museum’s exhibition. Wingfield Castle’s sister ship is the PS Tattershall Castle and, moored on the Embankment in London, functions as a floating pub. Both paddle steamers worked as ferries up and down the Humber Estuary. A third Paddle Steamer, the PS Lincoln Castle (it eventually dawned on me what 'PS' stood for) built six years later and to a much-improved design, completed the East Anglian theme though I gather only parts of her survive. I wouldn’t have made particular note of the Wingfield Castle but for the fact that I sometimes bump into the owners of Wingfield Castle in Suffolk. I’ve whizzed a picture off though I can’t think that they would be unaware of the ship’s existence. I wonder if there's a connection?

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