Luca Belfioretti preparing to apply chunam to the hull

Luca Belfioretti preparing to apply chunam to the hull

Luca Belfioretti

29th November 2009

Luca Belfioretti, Site Manager, Jewel of Muscat

After the launch we had to face another delicate process – to dry the boat we had to bring her out of the water again!

The boat had to stay in the water to let the wood swell and absorb water before the traditional anti-fouling solution, called chunam, could be applied to the hull.

The chunam is prepared in the traditional fashion, the only way to do it, is to mix animal fat and lime together above a flame. While this method is very well-known because it is still used in a few places in Oman like Sur or Alashkara, the recipe to use is approximately 60% lime to 40% animal fat.

But it is still a process of learning because we are missing very important knowledge of the materials. One of the problems we face is that we cannot judge the quality of the materials before we begin the process – someone with a lifetime’s experience of working with this mixture would be able to see the problems before we can – for us it is all a matter of experimenting.

For example, this morning we started to heat animal fat but it wasn’t good enough quality and was too watery to make good chunam. A couple of days ago before Eid we tried to use the same product and the result was pretty bad, the anti-fouling preparation was brittle and it was impossible to apply to the hull – it simply wouldn’t stick!

About two or three months ago we tried to call a specialist from Sur to teach us how to prepare the chunam but it was difficult to give exact measurements because the quantity produced was too little, the way he worked was to mix a bag of lime and a tin of animal fat! We’ve got some information from our Indian workers as well and tried to compare the two very similar methods.

Now we have almost finished covering the hull below the waterline with chunam and in the meantime some of our carpenters, led by Babu, are making the two masts and the spars at the shipyard in Qantab. If we keep to the schedule, six days from today, on the 5th December, the boat should be launched again and towed to her new home in the Bandar Jissah marina ready to fit the masts and the rigging. I can’t wait to see her ready to sail.

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