In the last fortnight Rich has made progress with the desk seat, bunk tops, tongue and groove, head linings and cupboards for the aft cabin and I, in the weekend here, made progress with glueing, screwing, unscrewing, scraping and primer-painting the unseen sides of the headlining that will soon adorn the ceilings of the saloon. In between I worked off two weeks of my four week notice and Rich and I talked new year’s costumes, electrics and lights (Rich has ordered the cheapest, nastiest bedroom lights you can imagine – I vow to find better ones as soon as we can afford them), and we worked together to get some of his rig designs printed up big for him and Chris Rees to talk through. But most importantly of all, on Wednesday this week, we got something done that had been waiting since January, when the fellers who dealt with the local larch were supposed to retrieve our mast, and didn’t.
I came back late Tuesday evening on the last bus, freezing and bored with a pint of bus-waiting cider inside me, to a messy mid-week boat (I knew he tidied when I came home of a weekend, I had no idea how bad it got in between!). In the morning we woke and had coffee and waited for word from dear Big Joe, who was borrowing a chainsaw and heading to meet us at the top of Maker Lane, where the road meets the footpath down into the Alpines woods. We carried the chainsaw, petrol, wedges, an axe and a lever down the path, through the taped off area advising you to go no further down the muddy track that has been widened and extended through the forest this year, leaving a scar across the hillside that is ugly and strange. It’s not far from the road to where our mast tree is and we soon saw its big pink heart, still bright since I sprayed it on nearly a year ago.
Rich and Joe had a good look at the tree and made their plan. The tree needed to land away from us to avoid blocking the path, and to fall between two others that lay in that direction. Then Joe started clearing the area so that our tree was easy to access, and cut triangular slices in to the side of the tree from below Rich’s ringing cuts from months ago down to where his cuts would be.
When the first slices had been made Joe explained to us that he was leaving a section uncut towards the direction we wanted the tree to fall – the tree needed a hinge upon which to bend to ensure its location. However, the hinge could split the wood if it was left all across the width of the trunk, so he also cut a large section through it so that only two points of contact would remain. He also cut deep down in to the root section on either side of the tree so that they couldn’t pull and similarly damage the wood. He finally cut in from the back, and, surprised that the tree didn’t fall over on its own, let Rich be the one to hammer a wedge in to the split and send it on its way – “it’s your tree”.
The tree moved slowly at first, the gap yawning silently and then with a creak until momentum whooshed it through the air and branches and down on to the earth with an almighty boom. My heart, which had been pounding with anticipation, instantly filled with delight and awe. I even managed to take some photos, though I’d hardly noticed the camera so gripped was I by this incredible spectacle. Joe, who has worked with wood his whole life and has done this hundreds of times, told us how that noise still gets him.
Soon we were all sat at the base of what was once a tree, smoking and grinning away.
Afterwards we had a look at the bits of the tree which had previously been too far up for us to see. Joe and Rich measured the length from which Joe calculated the weight. There was some heart rot near the bottom, but otherwise the tree was all we’d hoped it would be, with the full length we require falling just short of a branch that would have been a pain in the arse. While Joe sawed the section we needed to length I sat at the far end by the stump and put my ear to it, hearing from so far away with incredible clarity the buzz of the chainsaw’s motor rumbling through the wood.
From then on there was little to do but go for a slap up celebratory breakfast, leaving the tree until it can be moved to Chris’ where it will be eight-sided ready to turn in to a mast. Rich headed off for more errands in the village while Joe and I completed our familiar ritual of finishing the Western Morning News cryptic crossword, happy with a morning well spent.