What a triumph of teamwork and sheer determination from the guys at The Phoenix Shed to produce 18 new rowing boat rudders for the St. Gemma’s Hospice 35th Windermere Row, that took place over the weekend of 25th and 26th June.
St Gemma’s fundraising lady, Nicola Harkess, asked Phoenix Shed member and trustee, Chris Freeman, if he could help with new rudders for this year’s row and Chris promised to help in any way he could.
Chris roped in fellow Shed trustee Eddie Moss to help and the two of them tried to source a sponsor for the traditional material, 12mm marine plywood, but without any success. Then a chance telephone call for help from a close friend of Chris’s sparked a chain of events that led to that friend, Dave Elliss, sponsoring some rather special uPVC sheet.
Dave is working on a project to replace kitchens in the flooded properties in the Calder Valley and he agreed to donate enough sheet uPVC to make 18 new rudders. This is a first for this type of material; no one has ever used it in a marine environment and working with it proved a challenge for both Chris and Eddie, but they succeeded and got the job done. Helping along the way were fellow Shed members Geoff and Hugh.
After three weeks of working on the rudders nearly every day at the Phoenix Shed, the project was completed at the stroke of 5pm on Friday 24th June, just in time for delivery Saturday 25th at Windermere. Along the way there was some brilliant thinking and innovation to make the whole project come together.
When Chris arrived at Waterhead, Windermere, on the Saturday morning just after 8am, the rudders were quickly whisked away to be fitted to the rowing boats. In fact they all went out at least twice on Saturday, with an afternoon row as well as the morning row and then again twice on Sunday.
Chris had previously made 12 rudders in marine plywood in 2014 and they were also pressed into use many times over the weekend; much appreciated by the crews who borrowed them.
The rudders were made to an original design that Chris produced for his own team’s rudder, way back in 1997 and modified to work with the uPVC material. That original rudder is still going strong and proved it’s worth again this year when the John Mercer and friends team that Chris has been part of since 1995 won the 10 miles Men’s row on Saturday 25th in a staggering 1hr 44mins, a full 28mins ahead of their rivals.
Not content with that, the team went out again on Sunday 26th and undertook the 21 miles row, which they completed in a fantastic time of 4hrs 48mins in quite atrocious, windy weather and nearly an hour in front of the next best team. Not bad for a team whose average age is 64¼ yrs.
The Phoenix Shed is more than about projects like this though, with a wonderful social area where guys over 55yrs can relax with like minded others.
Social membership is only £20 a year and that covers full access to the social area that has comfy seating and a fully fitted kitchen, so tea and coffee are always on the go, but something hearty can be cooked up as well. We are currently open Mondays and Wednesdays, 9.30am to 4.30pm. Why not drop in and have a look, you’ll be impressed.
The workshop area is available to any member, subject to a health and safety check and community projects, like this one for St. Gemma’s will always be needed. (We already have another in the wings, to help the rugby union club at Ovenden Park) Even if chaps are not overly handy with tools, but want to make something or just help out, there are plenty of other guys more than willing to teach the required skills.
But there’s even more than that, with loads of other ideas on the go. Computer skills, photography, chess, draughts, jigsaws, and even using a sowing machine. Yes guys, we have it all – well most of it anyway.
The Phoenix Shed is easy to find, as we are in the Threeways Centre off Nursery Lane. Turn into the Meadow Dale Medical Practice entrance and follow the driveway around to the back car park. The shed faces you as you enter the back car park and we have signs in the windows. We are in the unit on the far left as you look at the building. There is disabled access direct from Nursery Lane, via the green gate about 15yds above the Meadow Dale entrance.