Thursday, December 6, 2012


Our chainplates are finally done and installed!!  Let me tell you, this was not a cheap upgrade, but the peace of mind this brings us is truly invaluable. We had all the pieces fabricated through Dutchess Metal in NY.  They did a great job, and though there were times when the pieces themselves were imprecise, they were good enough businessmen to fix their mistakes.  The project took as long as it did because we had to ship the originals back to NY and each one usually took about 2-3 weeks to make.  With the sending back and forth and the corrections that had to be made, it took all in all about a year to finally get done.

After all the pieces were fabricated, they had to be polished to mirror finish.  This not only serves a cosmetic purpose, but getting the surfaces as smooth as possible prevents microscopic cracks from holding saltwater and corroding out the metal. The company we had originally worked with, Beaches Brass Polishing, was a great company, but we didn't want to pay the price of having them hand polished.  We opted to go a cheaper route and have them electropolished through a company in Orlando called AM Metal.   This was a big mistake as they came back not at all what we had asked for.  We had originally requested "Mirror Finish" and when we went to pick them up, they didn't even look polished.  The salesman I worked with told me that to get a mirror finish, it required them to be buffed out first, and then dipped into the vat of chemical.  Well, they didn't buff them out and they just electropolished them.  He tried to tell me that I should have specified to do so, and you would assume that I would've been informed of this when I asked for "Mirror Finish,"but this was not the case.  So after some arguing, I told them to redo them with them being buffed out first.  After 1 week, we drove back down to Orlando to discover that in the process of buffing them out, they scratched up all the chainplates!  I was infuriated as we had basically driven back and forth 4 times to still not get the right finish.  When I asked them why they were all scratched up, they had the nerve to tell me that it was just the nature of the metal.  Now that was true bullshit as it was clear that whoever did it just used sandpaper that was too heavy for the job, thus marring all of our plates.  After arguing with the salesman, whom I didn't believe deserve a dime, we took back our chainplates, paid for 50% of the labor, and drove back to St Augustine.  We contacted the original guy we had worked with to hand polish all the scratches off and basically redo them.  Raymond, the owner of the company, did an amazing job, and we regret ever going elsewhere.  The lesson we learned from all of this is that when you have a reputable company that you can trust to work with, stick with them because ultimately, there are far too many incompetent people out there and price you pay to learn this is simply not worth it.  As the saying goes, only fools and paupers pay twice....

Oooo La La...

Whoa, can we say MIRROR finish?

We bedded the chainplates and its corresponding bolts using butyl mastic tape.  This stuff is the best bedding compound we have used thus far as it stays soft, flexible, and sticky. It is easy to apply and very good at keeping water out.

Butyl Mastic taped wrapped around our
shiny, custom-made bolts

After installing all the new chainplates, Frank took the old backstay chainplate and was able to break it just by stepping on it.  We feel very justified in spending so much time and effort in replacing them as as I can't imagine what could've happened in rough seas.

This was broken by Frank stepping on it....
Damn you Crevice Corrosion!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Propane In The Ass

When we removed our propane locker to get to the deck underneath, Frank noticed that there was a cut in the copper line that was plugged with plumber’s epoxy. Scary….very scary, as I had been cooking with our stove for quite some time now. Propane is heavier than air and likes to slowly accumulate in the bilge, when a pump turns on, that is all that is needed to turn your boat into the world’s largest firecracker. So, we went ahead and replaced the copper line (which is no longer used in boats at all) with flexible rubber hose. It seems like the copper line was installed before most of the interior of the boat was built out, leaving little room for the new rubber hose, which is 4 times the O.D. of the existing one, thus turning a minor project into a real pain in the ass. It snakes along under trim where the deck meets the cabin top and we had to get creative with re-routing the new hose. Because of this, the job ended up taking 3 days instead of 3 hours like it should’ve. To put our nerves at ease, when we replaced the solenoid and regulator, we also went ahead and installed a Xintex Fireboy S-1A propane sniffer in the bilge. This will alert us if there is any potential leak.

Frank also rebuilt the rotted out propane locker using our the same teak that was used on our cabin-top panels.  How he built it was he used a table saw to cut rabbits in the corner pieces and the bottom and top trim as well as a compound miter saw to cut the slats precisely to size.  Our old box was made primarily of plywood and thin teak veneer.  The plywood apparently rotted out years ago and someone had used the “drill and fill” technique to prolong its life, but as you can see from the photos, it did not work.  Our new box is now  solid teak and only the plywood used is the floor of the locker.  We also reused the top as that hadn’t suffered the same fate.  We did re-caulk the seams as the Cetol has a tendency to turn caulking in complete mush. 

This is the ineffective drill and fill.
Corner pieces, old and new
Side pieces, old and new
Going together
Bungs in!
New regulator and solenoid

No propane refit would be complete without…..A BRAND NEW STOVE!  The nail that sealed the coffin on our old stove was when we went to remove it to access the propane line, one of the burners fell apart.  We knew that this day was coming as the burner was not functioning the way that it should and was leaving little flakes of rust every time we cleaned it.  Why didn’t we just replace the burner, you ask?  Well, since the GSI stove was close to 30 years old, and this is an apparently common weak point, a lot of people tend to be looking for the same parts, which are no longer in production.  The only way to find this would be finding a used GSI stove with the same burners and taking it from that.

Although this was an extremely pricey purchase, this is our home, and we plan on doing a lot of cooking.  We opted for a 3-burner Dickenson Mediteranean Stove with oven and broiler.  We narrowed our choice down between this or a Force 10, which was slightly cheaper, but the highest output burner on the Force 10 was 7000 btu versus the 11000 btu burner on the Dickenson.  Our decision was heavily swayed by the idea of having to boil a big pot of water for lobster and not being able to get it to a full boil or having it take forever in the sweltering tropic heat.  Now that’s what I call dreaming!  Better to plan ahead than be sorry.  This was by far my favorite upgrade to date.  I know this is going to sound stereotypical, but Frank’s love is the engine, and mine is the stove. 

Decked Out

A while ago, we decided to start on the side deck-remodeling project.  In one of my previous posts, I had talked about how our decks had a serious case of osmotic blistering and how it delaminated the top layer from the decks.  After much research, Frank decided that the smartest thing to do would be to strip the delaminated layer, re-fiberglass it, fair it, prime it, mark out where we wanted our non-skid, paint the wetted areas with Awlgrip, and nonskid our panels with Kiwi grip.

The first thing that needed to be done involved removing the top layer of delaminated chop strand.  Frank used a 7” angle grinder  with a 30 grit disc and ground it down until it was good fiberglass.  From there, we measured and cut out the 32oz fiberglass cloth so that that it could be laid in a solid sheet from forward to aft on each side of the boat.  He then used West System epoxy to wet out the fiberglass. This was not an easy task as he went solo on the mission (I was at work).  After it had cured, Frank made risers for all of our deck hardware to help elevate them from the deck slightly in hopes to keep as much water off the joints as possible.  He cut ¼” thick donuts out of fiberglass board using a hole saw and epoxied them to the deck.  Afterwards, we scrubbed it off with dish soap and water to get rid of the anime blush.  Anime blush is a side effect of epoxy curing that is often waxy, and will gum up your sandpaper and also prevent adhesion between layers.   We then sanded it, and in order to make the decks smooth, we used Interlux 404 two-part epoxy fairing compound. This product has a thick marshmallow-ey texture and is easy to trowel.  The entire deck was covered with this and from there sanded down with a random orbit sander.  We then refilled the low spots with more fairing compound, and again more sanding.  We did this about 4 or more times until it was as smooth as we wanted.  In some of the more intricate areas, we hand-sanded and to be honest, once you get into it, it’s a lot like sculpting. 

To seal in the fairing compound, we had to prime it with Interlux two part Epoxy Primekote. This was the most annoying portion of this project as it had was heavily reliant on the right weather. With this product, the substrate temperatures had to be between 50º and 85º and the ambient temperature no more than 95º with a 10 to 12 hour cure time within these temperatures. Not only that, but the humidity had to be below 80%. In Florida, having perfect conditions like this is like seeing a shooting star, it happens, but rarely. If it’s not too hot out, it’s humid, if it’s neither, it’s raining, if not, then dew forms early, and so on. Another one of those boat things, I guess. In order to try and beat the system, we opted to prime the boat in sections so that we would have enough daytime conditions for the stuff to properly cure. Waiting sometimes for a week or two for the day without a chance of rain, just to get a section done. When we finally did get the right conditions, we had to shade off the areas of the deck so that the sun wouldn’t heat up the substrate too much. We learned this the hard way when we tried to prime the bow without shading it and the product kicked almost instantly, leaving heavy messy brush strokes everywhere. From then on, we made sure to tarp of the areas before priming and also measure the temperature of the substrate before applying any primer. This is going to sound ridiculous, but what also helped it from getting too hot was holding a beach umbrella over the area, as Frank rolled. I felt a little silly, but it really helped! Once we got the technique right, we primed the first coat, let it cure, and again, sanded with 80 grit paper. A lot of this was done by hand as the orbit sander was too strong and took off too much primer. We then put another coat of primer, waited for that to cure, sanded AGAIN, and marked out where our non-skid patterns would be. Frank, once again, ingeniously created a device that would allow us to trace out an even 1” edge all along the non skid. What he did was cut a semi-circle, measured the radius 1” from the edge, and poked a hole so that that you could insert a mechanical pencil and run it along the curved edges and get an even measurement all around. We measured and marked out where each panel would be and taped out all the edges to be painted. The taping took about 6 hours made quicker by the fact that Frank cut a roll of tape in half and precut the radius so that it was just a matter of peeling and sticking the tape anytime we had a round edge around a corner. We did this the day before we planned on painting as we knew that we needed to start early to beat the dew.


The next day, we went to paint and noticed that dew had ruined some of the tape, and it was in the process of removing this soiled tape that our day got even better.  Apparently, the second layer of primer didn’t adhere to the first, and it started coming up with the tape!  That really, really sucked and we have decided to postpone the painting until the spring as winter temperatures set in and acceptable days for painting become fewer and further between.  We are moving on to other projects and will hopefully finish the rest when the right weather comes.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Whether Windows

The most frustrating thing about all-things-boats is that everything depends on weather and whether…

With sailing, you wait for the right weather windows to take a passage.  You try to time things so that you get the best conditions for the type of sailing that you’re doing.  Be it a daysail or a long passage, one waits patiently for the right window.  Ironically, this is also the case for the rest of the damn boat stuff.  When doing boatwork, one waits patiently for the right weather and whether window.  Whether it’s going to rain or not so you can paint.  Whether the humidity is above or below a certain percent so that the whatever it is that you’re waiting on can properly cure.  Whether the tools and supplies you need are at hand or it’s at the West Marine 40 miles from home. Whether or not the person you’ve entrusted to remake the chainplates could do it right and make it fit after the third time.  Whether the 30 year old thing you just broke is still in production so that you can get the replacement parts because the ones you have on hand have corroded through.  Whether the bolt you are replacing was custom threaded or not.  Whether or not you can find a place to custom make them if they are, and whether or not you can afford them after you go through all the trouble. Whether or not you can problem solve and fix or jerry rig it.  And whether or not everything you are doing is correct so that it holds up regardless of the weather you are going to end up sailing in.  

I always think about how strange it is how much a boat can really teach you about yourself.  I kid about how it’s some cosmic joke that someone is playing to test my patience and will, but at this point, I sincerely wonder why there isn’t some boat church making human sacrifices to Poseiden just to keep him appeased.  Most times, it feels like there is someone is poking you in the ribs, asking you if you really want this, playing tricks on you to keep you from doing anything right the first time, or even the second time…or even the third.  Until you’ve owned a boat can you truly understand what the heck this is that I’m talking about.    These boat jokes are too real to ignore and our list of them is kind of funny, in a sad sort of way.   Once you learn to accept that this is a truism for owning a boat, you learn to expect it, and though it may grieve you, simply knowing this detail can give you a little bit of relief.  It shows you the importance of perseverance and learning that without the bad, you could never appreciate how good the good really is.  I guess this simple truth is what having a boat will show you time and time again, because when things do go right, the feelings of liberation and elation are intoxicating.  When you see a sunrise with the perfectly pink clouds reflecting off the water, the smell of the ocean, the sound of the birds and waves…when you see your family and friends after missing them for so long, or when the rain stops just long enough for you to get another coat of paint on the decks; these little joys can overwhelm you.  You learn to love the little things that you have taken for granted day in and day out.  You gain an awareness of all of this, and learn to make the effort to just look around and appreciate what you have right now at this very moment….even if it is still raining outside…

Monday, July 23, 2012

Generating Frustration

Now that the lift muffler has finally arrived, we asked the yard to pull our new engine back out again so that we can get to installing the rest of the components of the engine.   First we bolted down the lift muffler by screwing down squares of cutting board material onto our wooden stringers and attaching the lip of the muffler to these squares.   We then started to route the 3" exhaust hose through the boat to the stern where it would meet with a gooseneck and out the engine exhaust through hull.  Of course, when we tried to do this, we realized that the new hose would not fit.  Problem was, because our new hose is a good 1/2" around in diameter larger than our old hose, we weren't able to fit it through at the narrowest spot. We discovered this by taping a rope to the end of the 20' hose, while one person hung upside down in the "clubhouse" pulling the end of the rope, the other person pushed the hose through on the other side.  While we were doing this, we got to a point where it just would not budge.  We pulled, pushed, and yanked and since it was in the bilge under our floorboards, we could not see what it was getting stuck on.  After a frustrating 15 minutes, we decided to stick a camera under the floors and took a photo of the area so we could see what the problem was.  One look at the photo, and we saw that the damn hose was not going to fit.

Lift muffler finally in!

Of course, the narrowest spot happened to be directly under our generator, an inaccessible part of the boat, and in order for the 3" hose to fit through; we would have to remove the generator and either cut away the shelf wall that it sat on or figure out a way to circumvent this narrow space.   Either way, the damn 400 lb generator had to come out!  As usual, I was in utter denial (when am I ever going to learn?) that this was the case.  I just couldn't believe that we were having yet another one of those "boat jokes" played on us, so of course, I stubbornly tried to jam the hose from the stern of the boat and  feed it from our lazarette.  Frank had told me this was not going to work, and after 3 hours of hanging upside down and sweating and cursing in the clubhouse, I conceded that it was not going to fit.  No matter how hard I tried, no amount of wishing was going to get that thing in without moving the generator!  Frank was right, but my stubbornness blinded me, and I learned my lesson the hard way.  After climbing out with scratches, bruised arms, and a bruised ego, I discovered that the hose that I had jammed half way through was stuck between the lazarette and steering quadrant!!  So another hour wasted, hanging upside down and feeding the hose back out inch by inch all the while cursing Frank for being so pragmatic.  Grrrr.....

After this fiasco, we (or should I say I) came to terms with the fact that we had to figure out a way to get the generator out.  This was not going to be an easy ordeal...We had decided a while ago that we were going to sell it as the space that it sat in made servicing the engine next to impossible.  If you were able stick your hand between the wall and the generator, you had a about 2cm of space of either side.  This meant that it had to be removed from the space just to change the oil, a ridiculous idea as it is a 400 lb beast.  

The next day, when I was at work, Frank decided that he was going to tackle removing the generator by himself.  He had spent the night before removing all the bolts and screws securing it to the floor of the "generator room" to prepare for this task.  I don't know how he figured it out, I think perhaps in his sleep, but he had devised a plan where he was going to take a crowbar, lift the generator up off the shelf, and from there, put it onto wooden blocks.  Then somehow he was going to create a ramp (as the shelf was about 5" off the floor), where it would come down off of and onto a plywood board with 2 2' long 3/4" PVC pipes that would act as "wheels" and simply roll it into our living room.  From there, it would be lifted out via crane by our yard through our butterfly hatch.  Imagine my surprise when I received his text at work with photos of the generator out.  I couldn't believe he did it on his own, and I'm so proud that he macgyvered his way out of what seemed an impossible solo task.  I'm truly impressed and wish that I could be half as resourceful as him.  Instead, I have a slew of bruises covering my arms, proving that not only am I not resourceful, but hard-headed as well :(


The empty generator room
PVC "rollers"

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mirror Mirror on the Wall....

While we were awaiting our custom lift muffler to be built, Frank got really antsy and decided to make Moitessier prettier. He hates waiting around for parts, and I find that he gets really grumpy (and mean) when he's not working on the boat and towards our dream.  So to stay occupied he decided to take on a couple of cosmetic projects inside our home.

Mirror Before
First, he decided to replace our mirror in the head.  This had been something that had been bothering him since the day we got the boat.  On the forward wall of the head, there was this pathetic square of mirror that you could barely see yourself in, mounted asymmetrically on the center of the wall.  I could tell it hung in the back of his mind as to how to fix this as he would bring it up in conversation at least once a month.
Mirror After!
"This mirror is so small and stupid..." "What do you think about taking it down and painting the wall...."  "Damn...this thing is so ugly hanging here...." "I don't understand why anyone would mount such a tiny mirror in this beautiful space..."  One day, it dawned on me while I was laying in bed, that instead of taking it down and repainting the wall, that we should put up a mirror in the same size and shape of the actual space.  I mentioned it to Frank in passing and of course, he was thrilled with it.  He obsessed with the idea for about a week and finally decided to just go ahead and do it.  We were hesitant at first because we thought it would be very expensive to get a custom mirror cut, but after discussing it with a local mirror/glass company, we discovered that it would cost a mere $25.  DONE DEAL!  That same day he made a poster board template and brought it over to get the glass cut.  The mirror fit perfectly on the wall and it was pretty easy to mount.  A tube of mirror glue from Home Depot, a piece of stained molding to cover the edge (as the mirror had to be cut 1" smaller than space in order for it to be fit), and Voila, I no longer have to hear him moan about that damn mirror in the head again!  Not only does the head look so much better, but the optical illusion it created gives the impression of a larger space.  Now I can freely pop my blackheads without having to lean over our sink.   Aah....the finer things in life.

Still need to fill the missing pieces
Being as the mirror project went pretty smoothly and quickly, Frank was still antsy for things to do.  He decided that workroom needed some re-organizing.  One thing we hated having to do was rummage through an entire drawer of sockets and wrenches searching in vain for the ever elusive 13mm socket that, of course, we would need in the midst of our daily dose of engine yoga.   So he decided to mount them on the back of the instrument panel case.  This makes things easier to find as everything is right at hand  as well as free up valuable drawer space.  In the process, we discovered that we have 3 incomplete sets of sockets and wrenches with an equal amount of doubles.  Derr...

Now that the tools are nice and organized, he decided to install manual foot pumps for our fresh and raw water.  We had existing hand pumps that were beautiful and shiply, but the idea of having hold on with one hand, wash a dish with the other, all while pumping with your teeth?  This was not practical unless somehow you had a third we opted to install Whaler Tiptoe II foot pumps.  We had first used these when we crewed a Swan 48 from Bermuda to NY, and were sold ever since.  Unlike the typical foot pumps that have a protruding lever that inevitably catches                                                            ankles, these twist and lock flush with the floor.  A simple twist of the foot and they pop up ready to be used.  Brilliant!  I didn't like the idea of drilling 3" holes in the beautiful teak and holly floors in Mykitchen.  Luckily Frank was smart enough to install these while I was at work, otherwise I really would've had a fit.  They look great and utilize a space that would've otherwise been inaccessible.  Though impractical, we didnt want to let go of the beautiful brass hand pumps, so in order to keep the aesthetics, we decided to leave them in place and use them as the faucets.  We removed the innards of the pumps and saved them in a ziploc for future use.


Bowsprit turning to dirt :-(
Fortunately and unfortunately, these projects went by faster than what we're used too.  Yeah, that's right nothing is ever good enough :P Frank used this downtime to do a little poking around....Never really a good idea.  I hate leaving him alone when I go to work because I always come home to a new troublesome/expensive fix of something he decided to inspect.  This time, it was our bowsprit.  We had long known of the probability of our bowsprit having rot.  This is a nearly 30 year old mahogany timber that lives a fairly rough life on the bow.  It is not uncommon for rot to develop around screws and in areas underneath where air can't easily circulate.  We had read on the Hans Christian forums that this is a pretty common problem, especially near the Samson posts as well as where it lies against the deck.  In order to better inspect it though , the windlass had to be removed.  Of course, when this
was done, there were clear signs of extensive rot.  We were hoping that if there were some issues that we would be able to scarf in a repair.  With our luck, we weren't able to get off the hook (or off the hard) so easily.  After the initial discovery of rot, it was clear that we had to remove the bowsprit one way or another.  This naturally was not an easy task.  The bowsprit and pulpit combined weigh an excess of 300 lbs, not a small sum when it's 12 ft overhead.  We had to commission our yard to come with their forklift and carefully slide it up and out.  Fun Fun!  Thankfully, the people we have working here are really skilled at what they do and nothing too exciting happened.  Though the image of it hanging on the boat by an inch and balanced on the other side atop a ladder stacked high with wooden blocks still makes my palms sweat.  I was pretty pathetic and may have caught a fly or two when my mouth was agape during this ordeal.  The forklift operator even laughed at me and told me not to be such a girl about the whole thing.  Hehehe....oops.