Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Nothing Says 'I Love You' Like Sharing Your Power Tools

We continue to creep forward on the complete and total transformation if the master cabin formerly known as "the dark, cramped and icky vee berth".

Mark spent a few days meticulously cutting the cabinetry openings in the master cabin and carefully cleaning up the teak trim rings to reinstall them in the new cabinet. The biggest reason he was so methodical in sizing the openings to reuse the teak trim rings from the former forward head? The bid from the good and talented boat wright was well right at $2,000. For ONE trim ring. Yes, we want beautiful but we would like to not go broke while attaining beautiful. Fortunately, the slow but jolly boatwright was very careful when taking out the forward head so the trim rings that were in the head are all in good shape. After a few hours of careful scraping, sanding and general fine tuning they are now in perfect shape. Its time consuming to be sure, but when you weigh the time needed against the extraordinary cost of teak it becomes a very worthwhile investment.
The beautiful teak and holly sole by Superior Marine, ready for varnish

While Mark was working on items requiring fine detail, I got busy with some painting. Happily, Mark let me tackle the sanding with his honking big sander. That thing is the bomb. I only had one instance where I had it cranked up a little too high but quickly got the hang of it and got busy sanding the boards that go under the cushions in the salon and master cabin. Due to the fact that Murphy is my middle name, of course the wind picked up after I had laid the boards out carefully on raised blocks to dry. You guessed it, specks of dust, a couple of bugs and some leaves are now imbedded in my carefully applied enamel paint. No worries, it was just the first coat and I have big ole power sander to take care of it.

Maura helped out by entertaining Kitty long enough for us to get some work done until Kitty could stand it no longer. If we are doing anything resembling building, painting or construction of any sort she wants to be included. We are happy to let her "help" (knowing we will have to redo whatever it is she has put her hand to) but the difficulty is in her stubbornness.
Striding with purpose. This girl is ALWAYS on a mission
You can see the dilemma she found herself in...
While Maura was a very chilled out toddler, Kitty is the polar opposite. She wants to do what she wants to do and once she has made a decision, she will not waiver from it, no matter what. This will be a wonderful quality for her to have as an adult but in a 3 year old, it can be tough. She desperately wanted to help paint. Mark and I both told her that was not a problem so long as she changed out of her new and much beloved "Olivia" t-shirt. She did not want to remove said t-shirt. She refused. She crossed her arms. She was steadfast. In the end, she refused to change her t-shirt and did not get to paint. The next morning, she lamented the fact that she did not get to paint. I told her next time she could paint to her hearts content so long as she wore appropriate work clothes. You could see the wheels turning in her head. Life lessons...these are life lessons.

This was taken a little over a month ago, but it pretty much sums up Kitty's personality. I have to say one of the really great things about having a teen and a toddler is getting to hear the toddler's renditions of the teen's favorite songs. You have not lived until you have seen and heard Kitty singing "Single Ladies".

Monday, May 20, 2013

You Say "Tomato" and I Say "Tomato"....Yeah, it kinda loses something written out

This weekend was all about pushing forward on the master cabin ourselves in an attempt to mitigate the financial hemorrhage caused by trying to hire the work out. Yes, we should be finishing up plumbing but that can wait as the unfinished cabin is so right in our faces so we have to get it done so we can put this debacle behind us.

Mark carefully made templates of the cabinetry so that he could cut the teak staves and install them. My job was much less sexy and despite my pleas to be allowed to use power tools, Mark relegated me to the relatively safe task of cutting what seemed like a thousand pieces of tape to mark the pieces in the order in which they needed to be installed. Gummy scissors are a pain the patookus and it seemed that every five cuts, the silly blades would gum up and require cleaning. I do not think a Sawzall would have been stymied by a tiny little thing like tape but my pleas to be given more power to accomplish the job fell on deaf ears.

While Mark was cutting staves, he stopped long enough to tell me his numbering plan. If you have been reading the blog, you know where this is going. I listened intently, expecting him to tell me that each piece of cabinetry would be given a single letter designation for the group and then numbered individually. That is how I would have done it.

It was at this moment that Mark's Left Brain kicked in while my Right Brain was wondering why on Earth he was making this more difficult than it had to be. It was also at this time that I realized while we both ostensibly spoke English, in reality we have only some vocabulary in common. We speak completely different languages.

Mark asked me to identify each group with a single letter- C for cabinet, D for Drawers and S for sides. He then further asked me to identify each stave over the large letter with a number 1,2, 3 and to further identify the top, middle and bottom of each piece with an A, B, C. Okay, I got this. I happily began marking tape on the staves confident that for once I kind of knew what he wanted and would be able to move things along more quickly.

Things were going well, until I came to the side cabinet template. This particular piece started with a piece that was at waist height as opposed to the one I had done previously which started at the cabin top. "What are you doing?" he asked. "Why, I am marking the tape as you requested" I replied cheerfully. He shook his head "No, No, you've put an A at the top of this piece!" he exclaimed. "Yes, its the top of the piece and the top pieces are A" I said innocently. "No, the A designation is for the first piece in the series. What would make you think it should be an A?" he quizzed. "I thought the A was for the roof line" I responded. "No, the middle length is the first piece and should be A". Okay, whatever I thought. As he went back to cutting more staves, I thought to myself "Self, I have no idea why A is now at the mid line of the wall but so be it. That means B is at the bottom which would make C the cabin top. I don't get it but its his project" and I continued to mark the staves.

Mark came over and took a peek "Why have you put a C here?!?!?!" he asked. "WHY!! What letter do you think should go here?". I could see his lips moving and I could hear what I thought were words I recognized. I had the realization that he is from Left Brania where nothing makes sense to anyone but other Left Brainia citizens and I am from Right Brain Land where nothing is perfect but everyone is pretty cheerful in their mess. I smiled a wide smile at him as he repeated his question "What letter should go here?" "Well" I replied "you could have a K for kiss my... or if that is not to your liking how about an F...".

We did manage to get the pieces all labeled and numbered. Mark managed to get the pieces installed. We learned that some things really are lost in translation. We learned that we should never do projects together where Mark comes up with a clever numbering scheme for me to follow. Most importantly, we were reminded that even though we speak different languages we still really like each other. So much so that we are compiling conversational Left Brain and Right Brain guides for each other. Coming soon to a bookstore near you...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Well THAT turned out well.

Aww look! Its a new noxious chemical to play with.

I have to giggle ruefully when folks email us to tell us that what we should do is pay someone to work on the boat for us. I've gotten several emails from people who are of the opinion that we haven't cast off the dock lines yet because we are DIYing it when the obvious answer is to just throw money at someone to do it for us. Oh, oh how sweet and naive they are. As I read their emails, I imagine them with bright and shining faces full of trust and hope. I also imagine the only work they've had done thus far is to have their bottom painted by yard staff or to have a rigger out to rig their boats. Oh how adorable you are, you cute little salty sailor who thinks a refit means installing new electronics and slapping on bottom paint.

Bottom paint, rigging and electronics do not a refit make. Rebuilding the boat basically from the keel up does. Okay, so maybe I am indulging in a bit of hyperbole but we are in the process if redoing every single system on the boat so it feels at time as if we are completely rebuilding. We have put aesthetic projects at the bottom of the list as we work our way down our punch list- soft deck repaired, chainplates, chainplate bulkheads, all port lights and hatches and surrounding deck repaired, all wiring, plumbing, engine mounts, deck hardware, rigging- both standing and running,  refrigeration, air conditioning, water maker, navigation equipment, communication equipment and sailsyou can see why we moved the aesthetic items of a master cabin remodel, galley refit and head remodel at the bottom of the list. Now about that master cabin remodel...

I long thought our boat would function much better with the forward head ripped out. After a few nights on the hook, Mark agreed it would make life much better but since he already had an enormous work load on the boat (see above), we decided to put it off until further on down the road. When we had a friend recommend a boat wright who was available, supposedly had the necessary skill set and was keen to go to work we decided to bite the bullet and have the work on the forward cabin done thinking it would move things along for us. This turned out to be a very expensive mistake.

While the boat wright we hired is talented at some woodworking (he can make beautiful dinghies), cabinet making and time management are maybe not his strong suit. After observing the work of the boat wright for a bit, Mark realized he needed to be on hand to carefully supervise the boat wright to keep him on task, from embellishing on the design and moving forward. This means a lot less time to work on his own list. Mark had a couple of trips out of the country for work that slowed things down and when he got back, the boat wright had a slew of issues that popped up that prevented him from working on our boat.

After many months of fits and starts, the head had been removed, the teak paneling removed, the floor leveled and the frames for the cabinetry installed. This constitutes about 30% of the work required and yet due to a tendency to work at a glacial pace, our boat wright had burned through 75% of the budget. Just a wee bit shy of $8000. That is a LOT of cheese. Mark and I both had a sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs. Then there were the little issues. It pained us that it did not seem to bother our help that his tendency to drop tools where ever was gouging our teak and holly sole. The teak paneling was subject to a bit of abuse as well. We understand that bumps and accidents happen and interiors get banged up, but it shouldn't happen when the boat is tied to the dock and is a result of carelessness. The breaking point for Mark was a missing drill and broken light that the boat wright never bothered to mention.  Every one has a breaking point and its usually a tiny thing that pushes someone over the edge and this was it. So, we fired him.

It was not an easy decision to make. Firstly, the boat wright is an intensely likable person. He's very affable and we wanted to give him the work as he intimated at the outset that he needed employment. Secondly, we never would have begun this project if we knew we would have to finish it ourselves. We have other more pressing things to deal with. Ugh. Just UGH! To say we are disappointed would be a huge understatement.

There is a bit of light through the clouds though. We hired another boat wright to build a teak and holly sole piece for the front cabin  and to make the teak paneling staves. It was not cheap, but it was done on time and with a very high level of craftsmanship. Beautifully made, geometerically spot on and color matching was done very well too. No complaints here. Nothing but praise (Larry from Superior Marine) so I am reassured that its not case of us never being happy. Just wish we had hired Larry from the get go. We are licking our wounds for a little bit, but we might hire out some more work to him. We just need a little bit of time to stop the dizzying, vomitous feeling of a project going crazy and waaay over budget before we decide.

So if you feel inclined to email me and tell me how all my problems would be solved if only I would hire someone unless it is carries a big fat money transfer to my bank I will redirect you to this post.
Battling fumes for me, my hero wears a respirator. <3

Now let's be positive for a moment, shall we? The interior bulkhead between the master cabin and the salon was cracked and had a 1/4 inch gap. Mark was convinced that this would be a huge issue and the repair would not be perfect. He was also flummoxed by the way in which this defect throw off the geometry and prevent him from installing the teak paneling. I knew it would be okay. Captain Perfecto has MAD skills. Yes, it took a bit of extra effort, a new jig, a lot of fiberglass repair and a whole bunch of routering but it is looking really, really good. If only I could clone him...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

If It Was Easy Everyone Would Do It.

The exclaim I hear most often from people when I tell them what we are doing is "What about storms?". The second most common comment is "What about pirates?". The truthful answer to the first is that modern weather tracking and careful itinerary planning means we are likely to be able to miss anything really hairy and if we do roll bad odds and get terrible weather, we have a stout little boat and we are putting together a contingency plan to make sailing in weather as safe as possible. As to *pirates, well we aren't planning a coastal cruise of Somalia or Malaysia  so the odds are far greater that we would get carjacked in our hometown than run afoul of pirates. My flippant answer is if we can survive the refit and getting ready to leave everything else will be easy.

Getting a boat ready is a tough gig.Seriously. If you have buckets of money, you can throw it at tradesmen and have it done for you but then you run the very real risk of not having the work done well despite the extraordinary expense. This is largely why Mark has been doing the work himself. While it slows down the departure date, we can rest easy knowing the work is done to perfection. Its not really a money saving scheme because when Mark is working on the boat, he isn't working for the nice people who give him a paycheck. Pick your poison I suppose.

Then there is the emotional cost. With such a ridiculous schedule (non-stop work/boat work for 3 years. 3. Years.) and with all of us feeling so transient- not really putting down roots, not really traveling, in this bizarre state of refit induced suspended animation- tempers can get short. It happens to each and everyone of us but thankfully, for the most part it seems we don't hit the lows at the same time. It has happened a couple of instances that both Mark and I have hit a low spot at the same time and it was NOT pretty. Fortunately, we tend to bounce back fairly quickly and come back to being best friends again. Even more fortunately for Mark I am a very forgiving person and can forgive him for the fact that all of his tools are stupid tools and his projects are stupid projects and I really don't like boats anymore because they are stupid too.

And then there is the budget. We are not fabulously wealthy trust fund kids. We are able to do this adventure by carefully watching the pennies. Mark can tell you where he has spent every single penny since he was 10 years old. (naturally) I on the other hand, am not the most organized and numerically savvy of people so you can imagine the difficulty that can pop up between Mark and I on this. Numbers are not my thing and I struggle to keep track of everything while running a house with kids in the suburbs. The good news is that I am a fairly frugal person anyway. The bad news is that getting the budget ready requires more than just being frugal, it means knowing where Every.Single. Penny. is going. A mistake in budget projections can have me feeling certain that we will run out of money somewhere between here and Kuala Lumpur, we will be forced to eat the salon cushions to stave off starvation and we will be forced to sell one of the kids for diesel and beans. We are really under the gun budget wise because Mark is planning on leaving work at the end of this year to work full time on the boat. So dinners out (which were already pretty darned rare) are off the list and while we know we desperately need a vacation, it pains us and worries us to spend the money on fun when what we really need is a completed front cabin, plumbing, rigging, sails and brand new deck hardware.

Its hard on the kids as well. Kitty is young enough to just go along with everything but Maura is having a rough time. She wants to make plans for the near future, but the fact that we are leaving hangs over her head. If you ever had to move when you were a teenager, you will understand. Now add in the fact that she has no idea what environment she will be living in and you can see why she might be a bit more than nervous. You remember being 13 don't you? I know that the rewards will far out weigh the sacrifices and I keep coming back to how HAPPY she is when sailing but sometimes, it can be hard for her to keep it all in perspective when all she sees right now are the things she has to give up.

And then there is trying to get a house ready to go on the market, and deciding do we home school this last year or let the kids have as much time in a typical school situation as they can, and we really need to get a handle on budget and oh did I mention the glacially slow pace of the refit and....and... and...

So why am I writing about all of this? I am writing this because this is reality. Getting a boat ready, getting your finances ready, preparing a house to be sold, working as much as you can before you pack it all in for a few years and working on boat projects every single day while trying to keep up with a job is definitely stressful stuff. It is not easy and when the reward for all of the sacrifices everyone has made seems so far away (and has slipped FARTHER away) it can feel down right craptacular.

I am comforted by the fact that every single one of my cruising friends who have had to spend a few years getting ready will tell you that getting ready to leave SUCKS. No two ways about it. The thing that keeps me going is their assurances that they did manage to get through it all without divorce attorneys, the kids refusing to speak to them ever again and without going completely insane. They also, without exception assure me that every bit of stress and upheaval has been worth it 10 times over.

I keep reminding myself, this too shall pass. While things are definitely difficult right now, we are so, so fortunate. Fortunate to have each other and to be able to plan a dream together. Lucky to be able to cobble together a little team that will get to discover the world together. Like the titles says, if it were easy everyone would do it. Its not easy, but I have absolute, unshakable faith that it will all be worth it in the end. Mark has never, ever in his life not done what he said he was going to do. I have always been one to do completely audacious things and for them to all come out in the end. We will get there but to say its an easy trip would be an absolute falsehood.

Pirates and storms? Not what frightens me. What frightens me is the strain all of this puts on our relationships but we have looked that fear in the eye and we are still here, still friends, still moving forward, still dreaming and still on the same team.. Now bring me that horizon...

And hurry please.