Monday, August 11, 2014

My new found career as a stripper

No, not THAT kind of stripper. That kind of stripper would ostensibly have a lot more cash and not be covered in a mixture of sweat and teak dust. I have been spending far too much time stripping the little bit of teak we have around the companionway hatch and cockpit in preparation for a brand new coating of varnish.

See, Mark started the fabrication of a navpod to fit over the companion way. This will allow us to see our instruments easily, not block our view and not give us the claustrophobic feeling that a big navpod attached to the binnacle in a small cockpit would. Well since Mark was improving things around the cockpit, I thought I would continue the theme by doing something about our peeling, flaking and tired looking teak hatch trim and companionway doors.
Mark and Kitty work on the navpod mounts

The interior of Ceol Mor is kitted out in beautifully finished teak. The small bit of exterior teak was not quite so beautiful. Flaky bits of varnish lifting off the teak to display bits of weathered grey here and there to contrast with what once was beautifully finished teak. A decision had to be made. Either let it all go grey, live with a hodge podge mess of finished and non finished teak or get busy redoing it all.

We have friends who have left their teak to weather naturally. I can understand the appeal of taking the path of less resistance because redoing the brightwork is a pain in the butt. This is probably the smartest route to take but when have I ever claimed to be smart?

 Ceol Mor does not have a lot of exterior teak so just letting it go felt a bit lazy. I also have an ulterior motive. One of the totally-not-necessary-to-cruising items that is on my wish list is to have the hull painted and have our tired canvas replaced. It will be easier to make a case for going to the expense and bother of repainting the hull eventually if the teak is in beautiful, shiny condition to contrast against the aging hull paint. Always thinking ahead....

And so I have begun this project in earnest. Step one- strip off the old varnish.

Since this is my first go round of redoing the brightwork, Mark and I thought it would be a good idea to try to different methods of stripping the wood to see what worked best.

My first attempts were using Circa 1850 stripper . Now this is indeed, powerful stuff. It will strip off any old lacquer, stain or varnish. It will also eat through reputedly chemical resistant gloves and despite your best attempts to work in a meticulously tidy manner, there will be a tiny drop of stripper that will be launched by a brush stroke which will land on your skin, raise a blister and burn like a m@#h3r. This will happen more than once. If you are going to use this stuff, you MUST use heavy duty neoprene gloves. A hazmat suit would also be a good idea. Personally, I would try every other method first. This is nasty, nasty stuff. Also when they tell you it will only take one coat they are lying. Lying lying lying. There is a use for it , in small areas where you just can't get a heat gun and stripping knife in there but the toxicity of the stuff coupled with the huge, gooey mess it makes makes other methods much more appealing.

I found using a heat gun and knife MUCH much more enjoyable. Except for that one time Kitty came running up and I pulled the hot gun away to be sure I did not burn her. Instead I gave myself a brand right above my knee. That was less than ideal. Still, the heat gun is a much better method and aside from burns you don't have the worries of chemical burns or bits getting into the water killing every fish for a mile.

Mark asked me how I was getting on with the gun and was I managing to not scorch or burn the wood? See, here's the thing Mark... What you call "scorching" and "burns" I call patina. I did accidentally add a bit of patina to a thin, raised bit of teak trim on the companion way door panel but that should just buff right out. *ahem* Just a friendly reminder if you go this route to keep the gun moving on those small, tinder sized bits of wood unless you love um, patina. That's it, patina.

Once the old varnish it was time to sand.
And sand.
And sand some more. Day 4 or sanding and I am beginning to rethink my previous conclusion that Ceol Mor only has " a little bit of teak". I also begin to rethink my love of old wooden boats with gorgeous brightwork and start to think all the newer production boats with no teak whatsoever are starting to look more and more attractive.
Change to a finer grit paper and sand some more.
And sand.
And sand.
Whoopie! We are up to 320 grit paper and again with the sanding.

Once I had gotten everything sanded smooth, cleaned and degreased and stained, it was time to move on to the really scary part- varnishing. Why was I frightened? Because I am very aware that if the humidity does funky things or my application is not just so I have to go back and strip everything again and start over. Not a thought I wish to entertain. Like, ever.

After much debate we decided to go with Interlux Perfection PlusThis is after everyone near and far suggested their personal favorites. In the end, we decided to trust Practical Sailors recommendation for longevity based on their testing. We will see how it goes.

I've gotten the first coat on the companionway hatch trim. Coats 2 and 3 will be applied today, then 4 and 5 tomorrow followed by 6 and 7. Then it's on to the doors, then finish up the stripping of the hatch on the boat. I doubt it will all be done until after we return from an upcoming trip (to escape the heat) but fingers crossed it will all be done by mid Sept at which time I will post photos.

Until then, I am off to sand some more.

Friday, August 1, 2014

What about that boat baby?

We are putting in some serious time in our big push to get many items ticked off our list  and to get the boat ready to sail before late August. Why late August? That is when the temperatures become absolutely unbearable. There is about a 2-3 week window just before September when the temperatures go nuts just before they return to a sane 90 Fahrenheit or so. We work in the early morning until about lunch time, when we knock off until after 3 when things cool down a bit and then we are back at it until dinner sometimes around 7:30 or so.

My friend Cindy asked me what Kitty was up to while we are putting in the sweat equity. Well, since you asked...

Kitty goes with us everywhere. She has several jobs she takes very seriously. The first is to be the resident Dock Star. Nobody walks by without a hello from her and a lightening fast barrage of questions ranging from "are you working on a project?" to "what is your boat name?" to "do you like cotton candy?" to "who is your favorite My Little Pony" and everything in between.

Kitty manages to squeeze in a work out every day. This is because there is rigging on the boom which is just the perfect height to work on chin ups and inversions.

When we head back to the workshop to work on projects, Kitty is right beside us ready to work on her own. She is a little annoyed that she has to share our tools as she wants her own "sparkle pink" tools and could she PLEASE get her own drill, a real one.

Our evenings are spent taking her for a swim, or a walk or just watching her perform her latest song and dance routine. She seems to take it all in stride. Mainly because she is absolutely part of the action. Every time her dad declares a project complete she asks the same question "are we going sailing now?" Soon sweet Kitty. Very, very soon.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Deck Hardware Mounts Are Sexy

No, really. I am serious. If you've ever had to recore a soft spot in a deck or had to try to work around a winch handle that continually fouls itself on the bimini frame, or man handle genoa sheets that run along the deck in an undulating fashion you will agree with me. Custom deck hardware mounts are DEAD sexy.

I know a lot of people bag on newer production boats, but they do seem to come up with some ideas that make things easier. Things like deck hardware mounts that are molded in, keep the running rigging nice and tidy and with a clean run through the sheaves to the winches and fewer leaks. I love my old, sturdy Nassau but it had the old school method of mounting deck hardware. Namely, putting a teak base under the winches with screws that will inevitably leak and will require maintenance and varnish to keep looking spiffy. Molded in deck mounts are a big improvement. We like big improvements around here.
Planning the new layout
So Mark spent what seemed like forever carefully planning out the deck hardware. Checking the angle of the organizers,clutches and winches. After drawing it up in CAD, redrawing it, moving the winches, adjusting the angle of the clutches, redrawing it again he had The Plan.

With the plan in hand he carefully checked the layout with a mock up of all the deck hardware in scale. Once he was satisfied with the hardware he had chosen and the layout, he began working on the mounts.

Each mount was cut from fiberglass, carefully mounted and epoxied with West System. I got to sand and sand and resand. Every tiny air bubble on the outer side of the epoxy was filled and resanded and resanded again. I am getting pretty darned good with the Dremel though my taping skills leave something to be desired (In Captain Perfecto's OCD world, anyone else would appreciate my attention to detail even if I did choose to lay the tape horizontally as opposed to vertically. :P )

These things are taking a long long time to get perfect but the prospect of having all the running rigging actually RUN unimpeded is pretty exciting. It's exciting because it means that Ceol Mor will be a whole lot easier to handle while under sail. In my heart of hearts, I am a lazy sailor and will take a easy over an old school tug of war any day.
Oh yes, the hand rails are getting new mounts too!

It's time to sand the prime coat again as we work on our painting skills, then its time to paint with Awl Craft and then DEAD SEXY HARDWARE INSTALLATION BEGINS. New red hot deck organizers, new luscious oversized winches and some foxy sheaves.

I call this all DEAD SEXY because the reality is we are working our butts off in late July in the subtropics. We are sweaty, smelly and tired. Quite the opposite of anything remotely resembling sexy but soon, very soon we will be sailing once again and I want to remember how rotten it was sailing with the old deck layout and to remember to appreciate all the long weeks that went into making Ceol Mor the easy to sail boat that she soon will be. Sexy indeed.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Insert Clever Title Here

It seems as if every time I start to think that we are ready to really get into a routine and tick items off our list the Universe likes to throw a curve ball. If I were trying to divine a reason, it would be that we have yet to learn the lesson that there really is no such thing as a plan and schedules are like unicorns. Mythical, elusive and something that people have heard of but no one has actually seen.

I had planned to return from a week in Dallas with Maura and my mom to get the house packed up and moved in a few short days. What I did not plan on was a rare summertime outbreak of Influenza Type A at the Dallas hotel that felled so many people the CDC had to be notified. Who gets the flu in July? I do. That's who.

I managed to escape getting sick in Dallas only to return home and to cook up an impressive case for myself and Kitty. Maura apparently has an amazing immune system and escaped infection. I have been laid low for a solid week. So much for getting anything other than sleeping done. Kitty had the good sense to wait for me to begin recovering before succumbing herself. Fortunately we have some flexibility in our moving date so my viral induced slug like momentum was accommodated.  Mark wisely has avoided contagion by staying on the boat moving the refit forward.

Mark has been painstakingly going over every inch of the deck, seeking out any and all soft spots and crafting a raised base for all the winches. Lifting the winches and mast collar off the deck by just a few millimeters might seem like a whole lot of work for such a small measurement but we are really hoping that this along with bedding the hardware properly with butyl tape will ensure that this time, the deck core stays dry. I am hopeful because I never want to have to go through this again. Like Ever.

Yucky. Seriously yucky.
This week, it was chase down a leak at the mast, recore a soft spot in the deck and tidy up the mast collar. You can see in the photo below that attention to this area has been needed for sometime.

Since I have been holed up all week fighting the flu, Mark thoughtfully did a bit of content creation documenting the before and after of the mast collar project. A big thanks to him for taking the time to grab some short video for me.

So the word of the day is "Spartite" and the theme for the month is "Schedules and other mythical beings" and we continue onward...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Time For Some Changes

We are gearing up for some big changes. The kiddos are finished with school. Maura has her big event coming up next week and then its time to move on to the next chapter of the story. The house is sold, we are just waiting for Is to be dotted and Ts to be crossed and to finalize everything at the closing.

In a few short days, we will be leaving our little house in the suburbs for good and moving to the Chandlery full time to finish up the boat. The girls are understandably nervous what this next step will hold. I am anxious about several things. In the forefront are worries about keeping the kids engaged and starting to homeschool a high schooler while serving as Captain Perfecto's full time assistant  all the while ticking off the to dos on my own list.

In addition to helping Mark finish up the deck hardware, redoing the running rigging, installing new electronic gear, redo our anchoring set up, bottom job, replacing our refrigeration and fitting out the nav station I have my own list. I've been sorting through "must dos" and "be nice to dos" and have come up with my own work load.

1. Clean and commission water tanks
2. Get paperwork together- FCC ships station license, register new MMSI numbers for new VHF and Epirb, Coast Guard documentation renewal, Texas Parks Clean Water permit, renew passports figure out which mail forwarding service to use.
3. Finish new berth mattresses and soft furnishings
4. Sew weather and lee cloths
5. Sew ditty bags for gear in the cabins
6. Sew storage/pillows for salon
7. refinish galley counters (getting to the nice to haves !)
8. replace faucets in head and kitchen
9. refinish the salon table
10. get busy in the head to make it less ugly.

That is the easy part. Well, maybe not easy but straight forward. Leaving the suburbs is going to be a bit tougher.

I've never been a huge fan of our house. It served it's purpose and I have lived here longer than I have ever lived anywhere else but it was never my dream home. It's not the house I will miss, its all the things around it.The garden full of roses and crepe myrtles that Mark and I worked to create out of nothing? Hard to leave. The neighborhood tribe of sweet little people that Kitty absolutely adores? Hard to leave. Maura's friends will no longer be easy to hang out with at the Starbucks and YMCA around the corner. My parents will no longer be 10 minutes away. Neighbors I am very fond of will be missed. I will miss our walks through perfectly sculpted landscapes to a safe and well maintained playground. The workers at our local grocery who know my girls by name and whom Kitty runs to hug as soon as she spots them, then chatters at them about her adventures as they patiently listen intently. All hard to leave.

I suppose when you look at it dispassionately, the things we are leaving behind could be found anywhere. I am ready to leave. I have felt for some time that my life has been on hold and I am ready for the next chapter to begin. You can not begin the next chapter without finishing the one before, but it's harder than I imagined it would be. So for the next two weeks its a crazy time for us all and there is really no time for to get settled. It's time to move and get busy but there are lot's of little things that I will indeed miss.

If you had told me 10 years ago I would miss any of this I would have scoffed. This bit of wistful nostalgia has surprised me and caught me off guard. So farewell Suburbia. We have enjoyed our time here but its time to move on. Time to move on to new adventures and fill our memories with new sights, new sounds and new people. Onward and upward....

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Are You Going to Strawberry Fair?

Mark has an uncanny ability to completely botch song lyrics. It doesn't matter how well he knows a song, his brain will take a song he has known since early childhood, rearrange things and put it back together into something that somewhat resembles the original composition but veers far away into something completely new. Last week as he and Kitty were playing he began to sing "Are you going to strawberry fair"? Kitty thought he was singing a question and answered "Yes! I am going to the strawberry fair. Can we go now?". She became fixated on this wonderful "strawberry fair" her daddy was going to take her to visit. Huh.

Fast forward through a week of dealing with a major fish die off and the accompanying stench in the marina, a week of fiberglass work and a week of slow progress on the deck hardware installation prep and Mark was ready for an escape to Strawberry Fair himself. Kitty continued all week long with her insistence that she was going to Strawberry Fair because her daddy said so. Fortunately, I found that there is a pick your own farm near by. I made arrangements and we headed out on a bright, hot morning. (Mark you may thank me later for saving your street cred with the little one later)

We picked a bunch of strawberries. Or more accurately since this was a hydroponic farm- we carefully clipped berries with scissors. Kitty was delighted mostly because she has low expectations about what constitutes a fun filled outing. Being outdoors, doing what ever with us and she is happy as can be.

Once we had the berries home, Mark and Kitty got busy baking a strawberry tart. As Kitty was happily digging into the finished product, she piped up "Thank you for taking me to Strawberry Fair. Next time we will pick blueberries!" Easy enough little one. Glad you had a good time and even happier that for you, this was as good as a trip to Disney World.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Hard Stuff

Kitty fell fast asleep on the couch while pouring over her memory book from school. I think we will be laminating every single page of projects and photos of her and her little classmates and finding a place for it on the boat.

I am standing in a hallway, listening to little people's voices bubbling up with excitement. They are singing and their little voices ring with the crystalline purity of childhood. I glance at the wall to a smattering of crayon colored paper ephemera crafted by tiny hands. My eyes begin to become a bit misty.

I pop my head in the doorway and tell Kitty it is time to go. She grabs her back pack, waves to her friends and bounds out to give me a hug. She is shadowed by the most angelic little girl with long blonde hair and enormously big eyes who stops Kitty and gives her a tight , tight hug. "I will really miss you Kitty" Whitney says in a solemn tone. Kitty knew this day was coming and I think it hit her at this moment. Kitty usually is one to hug her best school friend with wild abandon, this time she was stiff and still. This is when I begin to actually cry.

Kitty has had an absolutely magical year at preschool. She has been fortunate to have good friends and a wonderful, loving teacher, Miss Suzanne that she adores. A teacher who gets who Kitty is as a person and embraces her and all her quirks unabashedly. Kitty has had the gift of friendship, laughter and lots of love. I knew it would be hard as everyone else was promising to see each other next year knowing that for Kitty, this would be a final good bye.

Kitty knows we are moving on the boat and going sailing but she has no reference point for what this means. She sees us packing up boxes, selling off the extras and she knows that things will change. While she is looking forward to having a bit of an adventure, I can tell she is having a tough time letting go. I can tell this by her insistence that our boat does in fact have room for Miss Suzanne to come too. And Whitney, Sydney, Emmalyn, Grayson,Sam, Cason and there just has to be room for Temisan as well. My heart hurts for her. Goodbyes are the worst.

It's a bit easier for Maura. To be sure, she is nervous about leaving but its much easier for a techno savvy teen to keep in contact with friends via texting, email, Instagram, etc. For a little person who only knows how to read and write her first name, its a bit tougher.

So as Kitty's school time comes to an end and we get ready for the REALLY difficult goodbye to her little tribe of friends on our street, I am full of resolve. I am resolved to get this boat done and get going because to have made her make this sacrifice without a payoff and a payoff SOON is just too tough to take. There will be other friendships made Kitty. And magical experiences and discovering new places and laughing and singing too. But there will be hard things as well and I think maybe, goodbye is the hardest.

I wonder if Miss Suzanne would like to crew...