Wednesday, March 29, 2017


The last weeks have been far less itchy than the time spent working on my boat, but definitely memorable. Flying back to Cape Cod I saw the tip of the airplane wing orange with alpenglow.
The next day the weather made sure to point out that THIS IS NOT THE TROPICS! 
Cynthia had been working like mad to put in an entire month of full time work by mid month. We then loaded a UHaul trailer and headed to Michigan! We HAD to visit my cousin Jeannie since we never see her elsewhere, stopped to see the icy Niagara Falls
and this spire in the mists,
took a shortcut through Canada to Michigan, spent the next night with Cynthia's sister's family (and took the dogs for a very nice walk over the open fields),
and then, finally, got to "our house" in Grand Haven.

After two days on the road to arrive here, the pups took a few minutes to run through the house, then hopped eagerly back into the car, clearly saying "ok, this has been fun, now let's get back to our beloved home! We've been away too long!" We felt rather sad telling them that this is now their new home, at least for the next couple months. The next day I set them up with their dog beds on an impromptu window-seat and they seemed satisfied to sleep and wait for Cynthia to return from her first day of work.
And they certainly seem to enjoy the abundant sunshine coming in the windows here.
Lucy and I often compete for the beanbag chair.

Here we are in Michigan! How can I tell we are in the midwest? We have Meijer, Walmart, Staples, West Marine, and Home Depot within five minutes drive. We have our own coal power plant for the town. Also, a really nice thunderstorm came through at about 1am on our first morning, dropping hailstones (well, pebbles, really) that drifted up as deep as nearly an inch in spots. Tio hated the noise and sought refuge in the bathtub, so I put his bed in there with him and turned on some music. Lucy, of course, snored right through it, cuddled up to Cynthia.

So far I've fixed one toilet (while keeping Tio company during the thunderstorm) and need to replace the valves on the other. And the shower drips. Wind blows through many cracks in the basement. And, when we got to the "furnished house", we found no sign of silverware, cups/plates/bowls, utensils, garbage cans, shower curtain, etc. So glad we spent the prior night at Cynthia's sister's place rather than arriving here after dark, exhausted, with hours of work before we could rest!

So, I'm busy fixing things and taking care of Cynthia and the beasts. Cynthia has been learning and generally enjoying the new job (and she loves being able to walk there in two minutes and seems to enjoy the people). Life goes on. Life is good. Life is interesting.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Boatyard madness and sailing at last

Written Wed, March 8:

Well, bringing my boat into the boat yard was an EXPERIENCE! I planned on only knocking off the highest sharp bits on the hull, then painting right over the thin crust of years. I figured that this way I would not only avoid large costs in time and money, but also avoid releasing all the encapsulated toxins on the bottom of my boat... and breathing them.

How did this plan fare? I've heard it said, that the way to make God laugh is to tell God your plans.

That fellow I hired after he came by several times, telling me that he knew exactly what to do? Talk about stubborn as a mule! This guy knew exactly what the boat needed and, despite my repeated pushes, KNEW that I had the funds to cover it. He stripped the bottom, ripped open blisters, patched blisters and then opened the repairs when they turned out to have imperfections. I learned a LOT about glass repair, but if I made a move he didn't like (such as patching blisters while waiting until noon for him to show up) I could feel his simmering anger. Finally, after the repairs had gone from four days to ten, I did what I had to and told him not to dig into the keel as I did not have the time or funds. He stomped off in fury, taking his tarps and tools.... but I stayed even-keeled and he came back, we talked, and we resolved the issues. He even let me borrow the tarps and tools, although he worked no more. He had actually thought I would pay him more, despite my telling him repeatedly that I had a very specific and limited access to cash, despite giving him an absolute maximum...

I wondered what sort of mind thinks that alien way. Perhaps I gained some insight when we were chatting later about another job he had taken. "Skip, I worry he might not pay, but he could be my father, so I should give him respect." I think I blinked a couple times: ok, very different.

Well, back to work on the boat: now I had tools and knowledge, but had to do all the work myself. The big problem here is heat: I can not work even in shorts and t-shirt in the shade and anyone working on fiberglass wears a full-body Tyvek suit and a dust mask.
Easy solution: put ice in my pockets! I can fit about a pint of ice in each and this keeps me functional for about an hour, then I'd take a break and refill my pockets!
Everyone I told about it laughed.... and then often became a bit thoughtful. I know of at least one who tried and liked it while I was there.

So, hours of grinding out blisters and then filling them with epoxy resin and fiberglass, letting them cure and then sanding them smooth. I had to figure out how to install glass where the keel met the hull of the boat, a rather complex spot as well as being overhead. Solution? Make up a model out of cardboard,
cut all the fiberglass cloth to fit, then mix up the epoxy and install it on the real keel: this worked SO much better than trying things out on the keel, upside-down, dripping epoxy!

We went through nearly 200 plastic gloves, dozens of sanding disks, many grinding disks, $400 of epoxy resin, a few Tyvek suits, and several dust masks. Finally, I was ready to prime and paint the bottom.... and running out of time.

Three gallons of gray 2-part primer ($170 each) gave me three coats. I started at 7:30pm, as early as I could. The next coat could start three hours later, so I painted by work-light, grateful for the breeze wafting away the fumes, stomping on the occasional passing cockroach. The final coat went on at 1:30..a..m.

Now, 2:30, the paint had to go on while the primer was still tacky, but no longer came off one one's finger. Three gallons at $350 each gave the boat two coats.... and they smelled even worse than the primer. The first coat finished by 3:30 and needed 12 hrs before recoating. I cleaned up and slept, then woke and rolled on the second coat: DONE!

Painting completed on Sunday, Monday Lee brought the lift over
and plopped Dorado into the water...
and I sailed.

Dorado, her hull clean and smooth, glided through the water, propelled by the 20 to 30 knot winds, slipping along between 5knots and 6.5knots, once hitting at least 6.8!
I believe my previous record was 6.1 and typical cruising speed between 5 and 5.5. I shot homeward with a certain delight... and occasional showers of spray.

Still, issues remain: a seeping leak just forward of the rudder & rudder needs re-building, LOADS of interior work. Mosquitoes have taken up residence in my cabin while Dorado sat on the hard. And, when I tried to run the bilge pump, I found that the hull-fitting had snapped off and the float switch had gone bad... so I had to make a ferry trip back to St Thomas for parts!

They say that once you own a boat you will never have nothing to do.... but this has always been true of me. I LOVED working on her, delighting in the functional work despite the itching and toxins, and look forward to rebuilding the rudder soon.

This morning I took my first sunrise sail in weeks...

and my last for a month or so as I leave tomorrow morning for Cape Cod. There is sadness in leaving here... and there is delight in going to Cape Cod and my gal. Right now, I sit under the warm light of the LEDs and listen to the rain patter and smell dinner. Right now is good. Tomorrow and the next day will be good, too.