Those of you who have stood on the jetty at Coniston Pier awaiting the first Gondola sailing of the day at 11am may think that the crew have only just turned up, flicked a switch and sailed Gondola serenely round the bay from her berthing point at Pier Cottage.
Oh no, no, no. If only it was that simple. Like a prima donna actress, it takes quite a lot of organisation and effort to get Gondola looking her best and ready for action in a morning.
The crew turn up at 8am to start the day’s work. Admittedly, the first task of the day involves switching the kettle on, but whilst we drink our tea we sort out the allocation of duties, discuss any items for special attention that day and review the latest communications from National Trust HQ.
No sooner have we done that than it’s time to open up Gondola.
We have to get the fire going early for the steam engine so the first job is to remove the chimney cap which keeps out any overnight rain.
And then build the fire with screwed up paper and small pieces of the environmentally friendly blazer logs (it’s not rocket science!).
Whilst Dave, our new volunteer engineer, takes on the job of firestarter, our other new recruit Jack makes the place look spick and span, firstly with the hoover
And then he begins cleaning the brasses.
Meanwhile Greg and Paul load two barrow loads of blazer logs.
And Jack cleans more brasses
Peter fixes the steam whistle to the chimney, attaches Gondola’s bell and puts out the red ensign.
As Helmsman for the day, Peter has overall responsibility for the boat. He runs through a series of safety checks, tests the PA system and does a VHF radio check with our local coastguard at Liverpool.
Finally, it’s time to pop back to the Gondola office for another cup of tea whilst the crew change out of their civvies and into their Gondola-branded outfits, and (you guessed it) Jack polishes the last of the brasses.
And then we’re ready for the off, as another day finally ‘begins’.