Skokholm Work Party April 2018

15th April 2018
It's that time of year again, the island having suffered the ravages of the autumn and winter storms needing to be brought up to standard for visitors. Considering how much of the country suffered, the buildings rode out the winter very well indeed. The lighthouse was not so fortunate, however...

Friday 30 March
A small group of volunteers who had piled luggager and supplies on the rocks at the top of the jetty caught the Dale Princess from Martins Haven at around 15.30. The work party numbered eight volunteers including myself. Anne who did the (very much appreciated) cooking, two long term volunteers Michelle and Ellie, and Ian who was doing a wheatear survey completed the number going over. Loads of food was brought over (a wise choice as it turned out).
A large raft of puffins was there to meet us as we entered South Haven. By 17.00 everything was unloaded and we were ready for tea and cake and to listen to Richard the warden about the planned work for the week. Storm Ophelia in November 2017 had caused a wave to force in a window from the upper floor of the lighthouse, drenching everything with salt water and splattering the walls with seaweed. Bearing in mind that the window was something around 40 metres above sea level that was some wave!
Some guys got the scaffolding out of store ready to take up to the lighthouse the next day. The outlook was for a stormy week. After settling into our rooms we had our evening meal at 19.00.

Saturday 31 March
Most of the work party volunteers were at the lighthouse. Myself, Ron and David started on the cleaning down of the lantern room (good views) in the morning and the second storey in the afternoon. This involved wiping down the windows and walls to remove salt and dirt and mould, ready for future painting.
Henry worked on rewiring the solar panels at the cottage, replacing the controller in order to make more efficient use of the power being generated by 30-40%. That'll make a huge difference on duller days.
Barry worked on the window that had been blown in and others worked on the door to the lab (also known as the generator room when the lighthouse had a generator). The two long term volunteers spent time decorating the guest rooms. Geoff and John worked on repairing the Gator as the handbrake was stuck on and the battery was flat.


Barry working on the window


Ron cleaning the lighthouse


Henry working on the solar panels

Sunday 1April
It was very windy from the east, so that meant cold, too. Most people were up at the lighthouse again. Oh for working inside!
The corridor walls on the first floor were cleaned and the window placed in position. John scraped loose paint from the walls surrounding the spiral staircase in the centre of the lighthouse.
There was hot tasty soup for lunch (as there was every lunchtime I have to say) which was very welcome. By mid afternoon, the strong winds were joined by driving rain.


Rob working on a window


John working in the lighthouse


Teabreak

Monday 2 April
Everywhere was very wet. New ponds had appeared. The track to lighthouse was awash in many places and many Manx shearwarter burrows were waterlogged.
Work involved more wiping of walls and scraping of paint including in the battery room. Henry worked with John and Geoff on the Gator and it turned out that a loose spark plug was the reason the engine failed tp start. By the way, the ignition doesn't work properly so the Gator has top be hot wired.
Henry installed new LED panels in the lab and David cleaned down the ceiling tiles. More work on the window. Barry continued with his carpentry.
Vegetable curry for evening meal.


Wet


Working on the Gator

Tuesday 3 April
We woke to a bright and sunny morning but it was still very windy and the sea was very rough. The windows and doors were opened in the lighthouse in order to help the drying out process. It was possible to clean down the walls and floor of the 'window room' now that the window had been replaced and fixed. Plenty of loose paint was removed from the walls of the lab. Rob worked on replacing the glass in two windows of the lab, scraping mastik off the beading which had a consistency like chewing gum so it wasn't a pleasant task.


Ron applying Danish Oil to furniture

Wednesday 4 April
After cleaning the lower flight of the spiral stairs in Lighthouse myself and Ron took tools and paint tins back to the workshop and garage in two runs in the Gator. David cleaned the lamp glass from the old lighthouse lamp which had been sat gathering dirt in the lab.
Later I spent three quarters of an hour photographing puffins in Crab Bay before evening meal. I was spoiled for choice as I was surrounded by hundreds of puffins, some as close as two metres away. I was joined by David. Even when you've taken loads of puffin shots before you just have to take some more.


Barry doing more carpentry


Anne preparing food


David cleaning the lamp

Thursday 5 April
The weather was sunny and the wind had died down so it was decided to get as many hands as possible on limewashing the cottage and buildings rather than continue working in the lighthouse.


Michelle limewashing the cottage

Friday 6 April
We were due to get the boat back to the mainland but as the weather was bad and the sea had a huge swell it was decided to wait another day and review the situation on Saturday. This meant more painting cleaning and tidying could be done. The food situation wasn't desparate which was good news.
A last bit of radiator painting and tidying in the lighthouse meant Stan the Man could say spik and span. A door needed to be brought down from the lighthouse so me and David lashed it to the Gator. This was wise, as given the wind we could have taken flight over North Plain and over to Skomer, so it'd have been a great photo opportunity for someone. What we didn't do was measure the width of the gateway. Fortunately there was 10-15 cm clearance so we got away with that one!
The highlight of the day in terms of birds was the close view we had of the merlin that had been sighted at various points around the island over the previous few days. It made an appearance on top of the rocks behind the accommodation block.


Ellie and Michelle moving furniture


Henry working in the library


Merlin

Saturday 7 April
This last week has been the wettest anyone can remember in recent times, and for the time of year has been the windiest in both strength and duration for many a year.
I spent the first part of the morning with Rob tidying the plastic piping and other bits and pieces in the Red Hut. Later I joined David painting the walls of the bird toilet (so called because in its previous incarnation the walls were adorned with paintings of rare migrants to the island which were sadly lost when the lime mortar on the walls had to be replaced).
We waited until 15.30 for confirmation of the boat, and up until then it was touch and go whether we'd make it off or have to wait another day. It arrived just after 16.00 with the next work party volunteers.

A quick unload of their gear and food, on with our stuff and we headed back to the mainland knowing we'd had a successful week despite the weather.

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