Charity unlocks revenue stream with new ship bar

Volunteers at Glasgow’s Clyde Maritime Centre have made and installed a ship bar in the Tall Ship Glenlee, a three-masted museum ship which operates as a visitor attraction and events venue. It’s anticipated that the bar, made with Entropy Resins, will help the charity to recover from covid, and other challenges like the current cost-of-living, by attracting more events like weddings, parties and corporate functions.

Glenlee, built on the Clyde (once one of the main shipbuilding rivers in the world), took up residence in her current location in 2011. She’d been rescued by the then Clyde Maritime Trust as part of the 1990s rebranding of Glasgow as a city of culture.

Since launching 126 years ago, she’s enjoyed an incredible history including ownership by Italians who installed her engines (under the name Clarastella). She spent sixty years with the Spanish Navy (under the name Galatea) before being abandoned in Seville in the 1980s. In the late 80s she sank after a fire onboard, and the Spanish Navy was close to scrapping her, but in the end, it sold her at auction. She was bought by the Clyde Maritime Trust. In 1993, after spending nine days under tow from Seville, she was ‘patched-up’ in Greenock and regained her original name – Glenlee.

Even though she was lovingly brought back to life in Glasgow, Lachlan Cunningham, workshop manager, says the ship suffered during covid furlough as she needs constant attention. In four months she was devastated with water seeping through her deck. Cunningham says she’d “gone to wrack and ruin”, as constant re-caulking is required to keep the deck’s integrity.

Prior to covid, Cunningham was running a volunteer programme to teach traditional maritime skills. The focus, working with six different charity partners to help build volunteers’ confidence and skills, had been on building a variety of boats like traditional clinker dinghies, St. Ayles skiffs and a 40ft motor cruiser. Those projects were using a lot of West System epoxy, supplied by Wessex Resins which also manufactures Pro-set and Entropy Resins epoxies under license from Gougeon Brothers Inc.

Post covid, money became tight with visitor funding streams gone so the decision was made to switch the volunteers to doing capital improvement projects rather than building traditional boats. These major projects to secure the ship for the future were mainly utilitarian – like adding a sprinkler system, and an awning system to protect Glenlee from UV, but the bar top, an aesthetic project, was welcomed as a great challenge.

“When the ship first came back, the first thought was that it should be returned to how she was when she was made,” says Lauren Henning, learning and museum manager. “But, the ship survived all these years because she adapted. We need this bar to help generate income which means we can tell her story and keep her life going. Adapting means we can carry on her history.”

The bar top – measuring 4 by 0.6 metres – was made from “a chunk of timber from five and half years ago,” says Cunningham. “We previously made a captain’s gig from scratch, using Scottish Larch. The bar is the other half of the keel of that boat.” The latter currently sits on the main hatch of the Glenlee.

He says he was excited to use Entropy Resins Clear Casting Resin and had done a little trial, making an inch-thick coffee table. But for the bar top, the pour was considerably bigger.

“This was a 28 litre pour, 54mm deep (right on the depth borderline). It took three days in total for the resin to cure.

“We decided to varnish instead of oiling the top as it’s a bar top and is going to have constant spillages – we can’t plan for what people will do, so we decided to tie the entire top together with gloss and yacht varnish.” This was after sanding to 240 grit.

“As soon as we wet it with varnish, it popped. It was incredible watching it come to life.

“The varnish took two weeks to apply using a two-part high-build sealer topped with a high-performance two-part yacht varnish, for a total of eight coats.”

The carcass of the bar was built in the workshop. The top was bolted on in the vessel and it features LED strip lighting on, and under, the bar top. It also features a mirrored box underneath the epoxy river which lights the whole piece uniformly.

“From an aesthetic point of view we didn’t want a spaceship in the middle of the ship.

“So it uses tongue and groove cladding to tie the bar into the existing walls. You forget it wasn’t always there,” says Cunningham

“At night it’s a different landscape, with fairy lights and candles. The bar leans into that.”

The team used a metallic pigment as the staff consensus was that it needed to shine. All staff including volunteers came to watch the pour and the team says they’d love to build another one. “But I need a reason,” says Cunningham (the workshop takes on contracts for projects, with money going back into programme).

In the meantime, the bar takes pride of place in the depths of the ship. “The sailors would have loved it,” says Henning.

Cunningham can’t praise the team from Wessex Resins enough for the help and support which was given during the bar top build – and previous projects. “They’re always at the end of the phone,” he says, “or here in person to see how we’re doing. The support is like the products they manufacture – phenomenal.”

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