Saturday, 27 March 2010

Do I really want to restore this boat?

That's what I say I'm doing, if anyone asks. That's what I told the Historic Ships Register: under restoration. But since a brief conversation last week about how to approach the repairs to the counter, now I'm not so sure if 'restoration' is really what I'm about here.

Restore
2. (Attempt to) bring back to original state by rebuilding, repairing, repainting, emending, etc; make representation of supposed original state of (extinct animal, ruin, etc)
(Concise Oxford Dictionary, Seventh edition, 1982)

Now that is obviously what a lot of people have done, and are doing, with historic boats, and I'm very glad that they are, because the results are often stunning. But I'm no longer sure it's what I want to do with Chertsey.

What I said about the counter was this: I'd rather have an honest, possibly obvious, repair than make the whole thing look like new. I think I'm more interested in conservation, or preservation, than restoration.

Conserve
Keep from harm, decay, or loss, esp. with view to later use

Preserve
1. Keep safe (from harm, decay, etc); keep alive (name, memory etc)
2. Maintain (state of things); retain (quality, condition)

I want to preserve what Chertsey still carries of its past, not turn the clock back and turn it into a facsimile - an inevitably imperfect one - of the boat that came out of the Woolwich shipyard in 1937. I don't want to wipe out seventy four years of history; I want to respect it, even revel in it.

That means not adding anything egregiously modern, from electrical systems to plastic washing up bowls, but it also means not eschewing modern techniques and materials to repair and preserve it, while retaining its character. I want to preserve and extend the continuity of its history with a new chapter, not close the book and only look at the cover.

It means not ripping out something from 1970 to replace it with something from 1940 - because I am very fortunate in that little has been added since the seventies - and that was an important and distinctive decade in Chertsey's history that shouldn't be airbrushed out.

I want to keep it alive. Restore it to health; yes, that is the whole point. Restore its lost youth... I think perhaps not. Conserve its past as far as possible, enjoy its present, and assure its future... That's how I feel right now, anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree with you more Sarah, presrve, conserve, maintain. Old things and people look great when they have a patinia of age, complete with all there dent, scars, scratches and modifications, its all part of their charicter. That's why its great to see different boats restoredf and preserved in different ways. Yes its good to see a Woolwich looking very similar to how it came of the dock, with original livery and National Engine, but its just as good to see a boat in Waterways blue with an Armstrong Siddley or Petter Just as I like to see Regulus still looking like a BW 80's maintenance boat with 3 cylinder Lister Engine. I may be biased but I also like to see orinal conversions on boatsfrom the 60's & 70's such as Shirley, I will miss seeing the beautiful conversion on Themis, which is being deconverted. But what I like to see most is old boats finding a new life in todays world weather to live aboard, liesure boating, carrying, or canal maintenance. Keep uo the good work & look forward to seeing you on the cut

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