Sunday, September 30, 2012

Another perfect day ...

Not too bad a picture for a 3-yr old photographer!
... and this time Kintala went out to play with the rest of the fleet.  We had a couple of good excuses to skip working at the to-do list.  The best was having Daughter Eldest, much beloved Son in Law, and grand sons First and Third in town for the weekend for a family celebration.  (A celebration which included having Daughter Eldest's family gathered with Daughters Middle and Youngest, other much beloved Son in Law, grand sons Second and Newest, and grand daughters First, Second, and Third all under the same roof at the same time.)  Daughter Eldest and family are big supporters of "The Retirement Project" and so they took the opportunity to join us for a day sail to check out the sea (or lake) worthiness of the new dodger.  We didn't actually give it much of a test since the wind was light and the lake pretty flat, but making 2 or 3 knots in 5 or 6 of breeze, Kintala standing up straight and moving across the lake under a cloud of sail, almost finished teak glowing in the sunlight, grand son next-to-newest sleeping on Mama's arms while his older brother helped Grampa T with deck monkey duties?  Maybe, somewhere, some very lucky person had a day almost as perfect as ours ... maybe.

Dodger=perfect baby shelter from the cool breeze!

Chicago from 23,000 ft. at night
Of course a perfect day has to have some yang to go with the ying.  Deb and I managed a near perfect docking maneuver to finish the sail, then I had to run off for a pop-up flog of ye ol' jet northward to pick up a stranded band of company personnel.  I rolled back into the marina just shy of midnight and barely in time to toss a last few quips back and forth with the dwindling party still gathered around a fading bonfire.  Much of the day spent on the lake with family, several hours in the Z car, and a couple of more hours of night flogging in the flight levels?  Sleep was welcome and untroubled.

Photo courtesy of Kacey Kramer
We left the lake early today in order to gather under the aforementioned roof.  But we did miss some excitement.  Sadly, last week a new-to-them C&C 30 of friends sprung some kind of a leak.  During an evening dock walk by marina personnel the boat was floating on its lines.  Next morning the only thing not underwater was most of the mast and forestay.  The salvage team showed up this morning to lift the boat, but we had to head out before the deed was even started.  I've never seen a boat picked up off the bottom of a lake but I'll bet it was a show.

Of course having a friend's boat play submarine at the pier, just a few slips away from one's own, is slightly unnerving.  With Kintala floats untold hundreds of hours of labor, a big chunk of all of the money we have managed to accumulate over our lives, and the hopes of The Retirement Project.  I'll probably be checking the bilge a little more often for a while.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A perfect day for sailing

Saturday was a perfect day for sailing, perfect temperatures, perfect winds, perfect waves, even perfect blue water reflecting a perfect blue sky.  We know this because everyone who was out on the lake and who walked by Kintala after they came back in made it a point to tell us it was a perfect day for sailing.  But it was a perfect day for other things as well.  For example it was a perfect day for getting another coat of finish on the toe rail before winter sets in.

And it was a perfect day to finish the dodger project!  After an eleven hour thrash Deb zipped the starboard side into place and buttoned it to the deck.

It was a perfect fit.

I think you will agree that she did a pretty spectacular job.  In fact, in my humble opinion, the dodger project tops my V-drive travails as the job we have done on Kintala so far.  I just had to find good parts to bolt in the place of bad parts.  She pretty much had to make this thing up from scratch.  And with that Kintala looks a whole lot more like a cruiser's boat.  And I think, though there are still before-winter-gets-here projects that need to be done, I think we will go sailing next weekend if the weather holds and there is still water in the lake.  You know, just to test out the dodger.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Roller Coaster Ride

the thunderbolt
Photo courtesy of Lilly Laemmle
We spent a good bit of our growing up years in Pittsburgh, PA which, among other things, was the home of Kennywood Park claiming the title of "roller coaster capital of the world" from the 60's to the 90's. We used to go to the park at least once a year, it being the location for most school  and church annual picnics, and the roller coasters were the main attraction; the Racer, the Jack Rabbit, the Dipper, the Thunderbolt...whatever the name, the feeling was always the same. The slow, jerky clicking of the chain as it hauled your car up the steep incline leaving you feeling heavy in your seat...the slight sheen of perspiration on your forehead and palms as you anticipated the top where you would be hit with the wind from the surrounding hills...the weightlessness as you crested and hurtled down the back side, with not even the illusion of control.

I was thinking today about how big boat projects are a little like roller coaster rides. The planning, the materials acquisition, the first steps all being that slow, heavy clacking up the hill, but at some point you reach the crest and the project picks up speed and all of a sudden you're looking at the end of the ride and you're thinking, "Wow - that was really fun and terrifying and long and short and...".

The dodger project has been a bit like that. This is without a doubt the biggest project I've taken on for Kintala. Not as big as Tim's battle with all things V-Drive, but by far the biggest one for me. It's also the most expensive one, and a totally custom one, which made me use every bit of self discipline I have to slow the process, to plan carefully, to think, walk away, come back, look again, think some more, walk away, come back and finally cut, so as not to have to replace very expensive materials from stupid mistakes. We did buy a Sailrite kit, but the kit was for a different style dodger so we are merely using the materials (or most of them rather) and doing our own design. It's turning out remarkably well (if I do say so myself) and it's coming in about the dollar budget I expected and many less hours than I expected. I had budgeted 120 man hours for the complete project including Tim's part, and at the moment we have 20 hours for Tim and 54 for me, and I expect to be done in another 16 at the most. These figures are only estimates because it's a little difficult to parse out the many chunks of 3-5 minutes that I end up standing on the companionway steps talking to passersby who want to ask lots of questions and make lots of comments about the project. This is the difficulty of attempting something like this on the main dock, which is unfortunately the only one we fit on.

At the moment, we have the top done as I showed in a previous post, we have all three forward panels sewn and zippers installed and we're ready to begin putting the fasteners in the deck to fix it down. Pictures will be forthcoming I promise.

As an aside, I've had quite a few bloggers ask about doing their own dodger, and I'll pass on my answer to you here as well: If you don't have (1) a LOT of sewing experience and (2) a walking presser foot sewing machine such as a Sailrite that can easily sew through eight layers of heavy Sunbrella, I wouldn't attempt a project like this. Re-skinning an existing bimini or dodger for which you already have a frame installed can be done by any fairly competent person who can follow one of Sailrite's many excellent videos, but building a frame from scratch and making a custom dodger is one of those projects that you might want to consider leaving to a shop to do unless you really have the experience. I'm not trying to discourage anyone from trying, by all means do if you're determined, but if you have never liked riding roller coasters? I'd skip it and leave it to the professionals.

Weekend thrashing

The forecast was for little to no wind this weekend so it looked like a good time to give the to-do list a serious thrashing. There are 4 sizable projects in the works, dodger, exterior teak refinishing, rotted wood / leaking port repair, and leaking hatches. Having them all finished before winter sets in seems like a worthy goal so Saturday morning thrashing began. And the wind began to blow, a perfect wind, on a perfect day, with perfect temperatures, with two extra feet of water still in the lake. Everyone was loading coolers, gathering up crew, and tossing lines. A glance out across the lake spotted sails, sails everywhere, more sails than I think I have seen on Carlyle in the 5 years we have been hanging around the place. Everyone who walked by (and because of our place on the dock that means everyone who was walking out to a boat) asked if they were going to see Kintala going sailing.

Alas, the answer was, "No". We also threw in some "Love to's" or "We wish" but there was no getting around that we were working on the boat rather than sailing the boat. It helped to remind myself that we hope to be doing a lot of sailing on the boat one of these days, to places pretty far off. For us that is, if not so much for the circumnavigators out there. But since Kintala came into the picture as The Boat I have been way more a boat mechanic than I have been a sailor.

So it came to pass that the weekend's thrash came to an end. Much had been accomplished. Thread just flew through Deb's machine as bits of fabric, facings, and zippers were stitched into a near complete whole. When not working with Deb holding this or helping her decide about that, I practiced the art of Boat Zen, cleaning and putting finish on what seemed like endless board feet of teak. I was walking back toward the boat after a victory lap to the trash can and thinking I was so tired that going down the steps hurt. Half way to the bottom I took a look at my Tartan of Travail and was stopped by an unexpected thought, the boat is starting to look like a cruiser's boat. Big purposeful looking dodger almost done, bimini hard braced, tools all about, helm stowed on the rail for access to the back of the cockpit, a boat obviously being prepped for more than a day sail. I'm sure it was all in my head, but Kintala had an air about her. Middle aged classic plastic she may be, a bit silly looking maybe, on this tiny, land locked, mid-western lake. But it seemed to me even a casual observer would look at her and think to herself, "That boat isn't going to be around here much longer."

I wish we were sailing today, but I'm glad we were working.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Even Brown water is a good thing

A glance at the depth gage showed 12 feet under the keel. Twelve feet! Yikes! With that much water under her Kintala could sink nearly to the cabin top. Surly this is some high risk sailing, now where did I stash that life vest?

Though I was expecting the lake to go down from last weekend, the Corps had the water more than 2 feet above normal pool ... water, water everywhere. So of course we went sailing. Ah, but first we did work; Deb on the dodger and me on the exterior teak. Interior work is waiting for a special delivery of some old style wood. Something about it being cut across the gain maybe, not sure. But it sounds good. Anyway, by mid Saturday afternoon all tools had been properly stashed away and Kintala found her way out to the lake with never less than a foot showing between her and the bottom. (I know I've had more than 1000 feet under me before, and I generally have about 35,000 feet between my bottom and Mother Earth while out flogging the jet. But I've been looking a "0" on the depth gage for so long it started to seem normal.)

In addition to water we had perfect wind for a one tack romp to the dam at better than 6 knots on a reefed main and part of a head sail. Now I remember why I like this boat. We were going to spend the night in Coles Creek but bow into 20 knots worth of west wind and choppy waves defeated two or three attempts at getting the anchor to set. Deb powered us across the lake to a place called Cove 4 while I recovered from hauling the anchor up and down several times. Cove 4 is on the west side of the lake and we were well protected. The anchor set first try, we had a near perfect night on the hook, another perfect sail back to the pier come morning where ... we went back to work. Deb on the dodger and me on the teak.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

One step forward...3 or 4 back

Deb’s description of our day off the pier can’t be topped, and it was a much needed reminder of why we bought a boat in the first place. But …

… several days of relentless rain made it impossible to ignore the amount of water finding a way into our living area. The main hatch in the salon leaks so badly that Deb made a waterproof cover that just managed to slow the flow to something livable. Annoying, but it looks to be a pretty mundane repair … pull the glass, re-bed with massive amounts of sealer, spend a day cleaning up sealer spugned out everywhere. Like I said, annoying.

The one that had me most curious was the leak that appeared to be coming directly out of the wood up high in the galley. The port nearby was the obvious source, but water squirting out of the wood when I pushed on it with my finger? Can’t be a good thing.

The rain let up so I pulled the port to find wood mush under the port and radiating aft. That mush used to be part of a big trim piece glued to the inside of the cabin side. Changing the whole thing is not really an option so a scarf repair is in my near-term future. I haven’t done one of those in a long time and have never done one on plywood veneer this thin (3/8s is what it measures). There is a spot that looks just as bad on the other side of the cabin, if I screw this one up badly I’ll just call it “practice”. In the meantime the inside of our boat is partly disassembled yet again.

So after a brief reminder of why we are dong this and a short respite from daily labors, it is back to hammering at the to-do list. Exterior teak is 3 coats away from being finished. One port is removed with a chunk of once-rotten wood now missing while another port waits its turn to go under the putty knife. Overhead two hatches sit in desperate need of sealer, dripping their discontent all over our living and bed rooms.

And winter is getting close …

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Tim enjoying the new bimini handrail
Although Isaac caused a good bit of damage for a lot of folks and inconvenience for others, he was a welcome sight to those of us in the midwest. For Kintala, it meant the water level rose to 445.5, enough for us to get out of our slip.  So instead of working on the dodger, we took an intermission and off we went, with plans to cove out if the weather held. With the unpredictable weather due to Isaac we decided to start out with a reef in the main and about 60% of the jib out so that we wouldn't get caught with everything out in a sudden storm. We hadn't had the boat out in 6 weeks and we were being a bit cautious. As it turns out, we were doing nearly 7 kts and almost no heel with the reef setup. We had a perfect close reach sail on one tack all the way to the dam, something that almost never happens around here. The sun was shining, the wind a solid 16-18 kts with a few lifts here and there, the white pelicans were soaring overhead...we were in heaven, like junkies on a high.

After looking at the radar and seeing an approaching storm cell, we decided to head to cove 1 by the dam, a cove that is much better protected than Coles Creek when the winds are out of the north or west. We had a perfect amount of time to get there and get anchored before the rain hit, except for the small detail that I misjudged the shallow spot down there and ended up plowing right into the mud. Oops. It took us about 15 minutes to get ourselves unstuck, but we managed, and we made it about half way across the lake before the deluge began. No lightning or thunder,  just heavy heavy rain coming down hard enough to flatten the waves. For a good bit of time we were unable to see the shore in any direction, and you could for just a moment imagine being out in the middle of Lake Superior instead of Carlyle. It's the hardest rain we've ever sailed in, not too cold, which was a good thing since we were both soaked to the skin in spite of rain gear. Tim was at the helm and I was testing out our dodger top, sitting beneath it on top of the companionway slider, both of us grinning like kids It motivates me to finish it as it was a comfortable place to be out of the rain even with open sides.

It was a great day, and one I needed badly. We've been sailing on other people's boats since we couldn't get ours out, but there's just no substitute for sailing your own boat, and Kintala sailed beautifully.  Next weekend I'll be ready to dig in and tackle The List. Act II anyone?