Saturday, March 30, 2013

Do it fit?

The table project isn't done yet, but we took some of the parts we do have finished out to the boat for an initial fit. If it didn't, this seemed a pretty good time to find that out. There are still details to figure out, but I will admit to being moderately pleased with how its looking so far. The cabinet will actually be about 1.5 inches lower when bolted to the bulkhead, but this is as close as we could get to the correct height using a pile of parts boxes. And I wouldn't be in the picture detracting from the view except someone needed to hold the table up. As of yet I haven't finished the legs.

There were others laboring toward the new season as well. A team of two was replacing a damaged side panel and rub rail on the house boat they brought in near the end of last season. It looked to be a pretty good sized project. Another friend was seen carrying a bottle jack down the dock. It seems a bulkhead had rotted out of his pride and joy, the jack was needed to lift the cabin top up enough to install the new one he had fabricated over the winter. I didn't see it but Deb says it
is a beautiful bit of work.

The marina's newest newly weds are refurbishing a boat off site, the sale of which will help finance a trip to France. This is in addition to their on-site boat which is a multi-year cruising project of its own. Close to their dock another friend is replacing a badly warped chain locker lid with a new fiberglass unit he fabricated over the winter.

Up on the hard yet another boat is in the final stages of having its cabin sole replaced, a job the owner knew was needed when he bought the boat.
In our marina is a boat the owner bought as basically a hull. He then built a ketch rig with a custom deck just because he wanted one. At another slip sits another ketch rig built from scratch. At least one custom rudder was fabricated and installed over this season, to go along with a custom built bowsprit for off-wind gear. The intent for all this effort is to have the fastest, best-handling, Catalina 30 in captivity.

None of this is like changing the oil in the car or mowing the grass at the house. I'm not even sure this falls into the category of efforts by even the hardest of hard core hobbyists. Drive trains, rigging, hull integrity, structural integrity - sailors are some seriously handy people. Add an endless stream of sail repairs, canvas work, splicing lines, tending to hardware ... in a society dominated by people sitting around watching TV most of the time, it is all pretty refreshing.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Other people's mistakes

The Z-car is, by any normal measure, a terrible car. I can't take a grand kid in it since Father State has decreed that all children must ride in a back seat while belted firmly into another seat. The Z-car has no back seat. Behind the seats is an open kind of trunk area that has a placard in it explaining just how to fit two sets of gulf clubs. It looks like a tight fit. (What it needs is a placard explaining how to fit tools, project parts, and and a weekend's worth of food in there.) It burns through tires, is noisy, and sprung stiffly enough to make Deb car sick - though that may have more to do with my driving then it does spring rates. And it doesn't like snow. (It is also the only car I have ever owned that I actually liked.)

You might have heard that, last week, we got a lot of snow. With trips this week ( it will be three hotel rooms, three rental cars, and sighting most of the Mississippi river from top to bottom before I get back to the boat) it would not have been good to get snowed in at the boat. Since the table project still not finished (but coming along nicely, thank you) the deck monkey stayed in the city and played in the shop all weekend. I like cold weather better than hot, but do have to admit that sanding away on parts while making clouds of vapor with my breath is getting old. It is better than having the sweat drip off my nose but, "sólo un poco más cálido, por favor?"

Not making it to the boat last week and traveling most of this week, it will pure joy to step aboard Kintala once again. It feels like I haven't been home in a couple of weeks which, come to think about it, I haven't. While on this trip I read a book called, "Overboard" by Michael Tougias. It wasn't a pleasant read for a wanna-be sailor, two expert captains who made decisions that cost them both their boats and one of them his life. My take is that these guys made a series of small but crucial decisions and seemingly minor mistakes that, added together, made it impossible for them to weather the storm. In the aviation world we call this an "accident chain". In these cases the chain could have been broken at the very first link if they had not been on a schedule. I swear I am going to ban calendars from Kintala. It is one of those books you read to learn from others mistakes.

Another link in the chain was that the boats were simply not set up for the beating the storm laid upon them. The resulting broken parts lead to them taking on more water than they could bail. (Electric pumps failed when the batteries went under and there were, apparently, no manual bilge pumps deployed.) That has me thinking about our new table. This thing has to be SECURE when it is up and latched and I'm not sure I have figured that out yet. (We also need to find a way to secure the floor boards, cupboards, batteries and nav station top.) As unwarranted as this may be I think I can make better weather decisions then was made by those in this story. Still, our "house" can get dropped down the front of a 30 foot wave and turned butt end over tea kettle. It shouldn't be if we can make the right weather decisions, but planning for what might happen is how one breaks accident chains before they wrap up a boat and take it to the bottom.

Is about time to fire up ye 'ol air sled and head off to the next place.  That has me thinking about accident chain prevention in my work-a-day world as opposed to the sailing world ...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The season's first sail

...just not on our boat.  Tim stayed home to work on the bulkhead table but I needed some sewing supplies to work on the mainsail cover at home during the snow storm tomorrow, so I went out to the boat Friday morning. On the way through the small town of Carlyle I saw hundreds of King pelicans in the stream at the bottom of the dam and decided to stop in the park they have there and take some pictures.

Disappointingly blurry - it was too dark to get fast speed

They all dove for fish in symmetry - amazing to watch!

I spent the day putting a new step on the side of the boat. I got the idea from the World Tour Stories blog and since their boat is so similar to ours I decided to try it. I'm very happy with the result - it's much safer than me trying to reach the deck in one step. No problem for Tim, but for me it's always a little scary, especially when the wind is from the East and the boat is off the dock a little. The rope knot keeps the wood off the topsides and the whole thing clips to the stanchion and can be removed in 2 seconds to stow. It's nothing fancy - only a scrap piece of treated 1x8 that happened to be residing in back of the shed here at the marina, but it gets the job done.

Saturday morning a friend of ours, James, asked if I wanted to go sailing. I've learned that there are rare times when one should say no to that question, but today was not one of them. The sky had cleared to a deep deep aquamarine, the wind was flirting with the flag, and I had my down jacket and ski pants on board. Off we went for a trip across the lake and back, reaching 6.2 kts at one point in his Hunter 30. It was perfect and I felt only moderately guilty enjoying it while Tim was working so hard in the garage in the city.

It was a good two days with no pressing agenda. With the relaxing time shooting pics of the pelicans and working on the boat with Pandora running and the first sail today, I got a tiny preview of life afloat - I'm very very ready.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


We had an odd weekend this weekend. When we arrived at the lake Friday it was 73° with more than a hint of Spring in the air. By 6 the next morning it was dropping like a rock, and the rest of the weekend was spent in alternating rain / sleet / snow and freezing winds. You just have to love this part of the country.

In spite of the fickle winter, the King Pelicans returned this week, true harbingers of Spring. For the first time I can remember, they actually entered the marina behind the breakwater and were gliding down our fairway.

We spent a lazy day in the rain yesterday holed up in the "Man Cave", a garage behind the marina office into which has recently been installed a pool table, fortuitously near a cast iron wood stove. Tim and I used to play pool a couple times a week in 2007 B.B (before boat) and although we were never very good at it we really enjoyed ourselves. It was a nice quiet day of 9-Ball games in a warm place while not much boat work got done. I did manage to finish filling all the parts boxes that I bought from Harbor Freight, so the tool crib project will be able to commence as soon as the bulkhead table project is finished. Toward the end of the day today I was standing in the galley drinking an IBC root beer (yum) and looking out the port when I noticed a bird on the unstepped mast two boats down. It turned out it was a Belted Kingfisher, a bird I have only seen one other time in my life. It was indeed a great weekend for reminding me that things like pelicans and Kingfishers are one of the reasons we're doing this.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bulkhead table progress report

When I suggested to Mr. Johnson that he had added another two week item to our to-do list, back at the Chicago boat show, I was clearly not thinking straight. Just working out some basics and then ginning up drawings took more then two weeks. I like mechanical drawings, they are the future whispering hints as to which way a project will go. After looking at these I went out and added a hand router, fixed belt sander, and a few big wood clamps to my collection of tools; just to give me a fighting chance of not turning nearly $200 of hard wood into a pile of kindling. It was clear this project was going far beyond my modest woodworking skills.  (I will have to find room for some of them on Kintala. Hand router ... don't leave home without it!)

Solid pieces began emerging out of a cloud of sawdust. Most look like the drawings. A few don't. A pleasant surprise has been visits from the friendly ghosts of airplane models and High School shop lessons of many a year ago. They show up once in a while to nudge my fingers along some modest skill long forgotten, often dropping by at just the right moment to smooth the way or forestall some major blunder. Honestly, some of the mistakes I have almost made are just down-right embarrassing ... so much so that I am keeping them to myself.

But they are reminders that I am not any one's definition of a cabinet maker or wood worker. Plans get modified once a project gets underway, the real unfolding differently than the imagined. So far I haven't lost my way thanks - in no small part - to some good ideas from Deb. As I said before a real wood smith would have done twice the job in a quarter of the time, but I am not disappointed with the effort.

The bottom drawer is for silverware. The bottom shelf takes our 10' plates and a stack of cups. The middle shelf is fit to the smaller plates and matching bowls. On the top shelf goes our fat-bottom boat mugs and something-to-be-determined. (What ever fits and is looking for a home on the boat.) Some sort of fiddle will be added to the top so still more items looking for a home on board can find one. (When the table is folded up those items will be hidden as the table is - will be - slightly longer than the cabinet is high.) Come to think of it we will probably have to keep these dishes forever, since the cabinet was built around them. There are an unknown number of hours yet to burned up with final sanding, cleaning, staining and clear coating ... and I haven't actually started the table yet. Two weeks? It is going to be way longer than two months. So far it has been good time. Here's to hoping it will also end up as time well spent.

ps. A good friend reminded me of an old shop saying, "Wood putty and paint make up for the carpenter you ain't."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Singing Sailrite's praises

I had a reader ask about my boat sewing kit today and it got me to thinking about a couple things that I thought I'd pass on.

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First of all, for any of you who sew for a boat, or want to sew for a boat, I just can't say enough good things about Sailrite. I have an LZ-1 machine which we bought at the Annapolis boat show a few years ago on boat show special, and while its weight is a big pain in the you-know-what, it's that heftiness that makes it so reliable. Those of you who have followed this blog for a while know that the Sailrite machine will sew through the many layers of fabric, trim, and 30-mil windows that a dodger requires, and yet can turn right around and sew lighter weight cushion fabric. I am eternally thankful that we had the foresight to purchase this machine and remind Tim of that every time he has to move it up our eight companionway steps, off the boat and to the clubhouse for those bigger sail repair jobs.I have no affiliation with
Sailrite other than being an incredibly satisfied customer that is continuously wowed by the quality of their product and the consistency of their customer service.

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In addition to the machine, I have some really well-thought-out storage boxes that we've added to our boat for sewing supplies and hardware and small parts. I found them at Harbor Freight but they also have them on Amazon. They come in 8-bin, 15-bin and 20-bin and I think there might be other sizes out there as well. There are several qualities in these boxes that make them perfect for the boat. First of all, they all stack no
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 matter what size. The 15-bin ones are half the size of the others but two
of them are the exact size as one of the others so they still stack. They
lock securely with flip latches and a safety latch, the dividers are actually removable bins so you can pick out the bin you need for your project and take it topsides without risking losing the whole storage box overboard. They are plastic so they don't corrode, they have a clear lid so you can
see what you want before you open it, and they have a carrying handle that you can use without spilling the contents of the bins into the other adjoining bins. After using these I give them a big thumbs up.

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Some other tools that we have found invaluable are my new fabric / rope / webbing cutter which I slightly modified to use Sailrite's Engle hotknife blade, and a good wallboard T for measuring out large pieces like for cushions and sail sacrificial covering. I also have my old electric knife on
the boat that used to cut ham and turkey and now is cutting foam for cushions. Works great.

Some indispensables in the sewing kit: Seamstick in varying widths, sail repair tape, spares for every fabric fastener on the boat, a Press-n-Snap tool (if you're going to spend money on something I would say that this is the one to do it on), a soapstone marking pencil, a grease pencil, some good art erasers ( work well to lift thread bits off that you cut with a seam ripper) and high-quality scissors.

Sorry if this sounds like an advertisement. That is not my intent, only to pass along what I know works after many many many hours at this. If you have any questions about what we use for sewing on the boat just leave a comment and I'll be happy to answer. Remember that my sewing kit is set up for sewing as a business so we have many more spares on the boat than you would need to have for sewing just for your boat.

Monday, March 11, 2013

At the boat...but my project's in the City

Another weekend with me at the boat and my project back in the city. Which means the deck monkey wasn't very productive, though the dodger is sporting three new snaps so the side panels don't flap in the breeze. Back in the city good progress is being made on the table project during the week, so all is not lost. Sadly while there is progress on the project in the city, the project of getting out of the city isn't going near so well. We have had a pretty good parade of people looking at the house but no one has offered us any money. In fact we haven't even gotten a low-ball offer to refuse. One of these days someone is going to buy the house ... then the fun really begins.

One of our friends at the marina asked Deb about the table project, specifically he was curious as to when I became a cabinet maker. She rightly replied that I am a sheet metal mechanic pretending to be a cabinet maker. I think the project is going okay, but I'm sure a real wood worker would be doing the job twice as nice in one quarter the time. I glued the last piece on the bulkhead cabinet this morning so, with any luck, by the end of the week that part will be stained and clear coated. The material for the table itself is in shipping.

Readers of these musing know that I am concerned about the amount of work required to keep a boat in shape, and am disappointed by what I perceive as the low quality of marine design, manufacturer and maintenance. On the other hand one of the things I really like about owning a boat is it gives me a reason to try things like making a bulkhead table. Projects remaining before Kintala comes out of the water include the inside cabin work, leaking ports, leaking hatches, securing the life line stanchions and replacing the life lines with spectra. (I really liked the spectra lines we put on Nomad, good looking and easy to work with. I have no faith in the plastic covered wire that is on Kintala now and really want to see it go away.) As the season gets underway, and while we wait to see how the schedule unfolds, I hope to get some "cruising practice" in by doing a lot of this work hanging on the hook in our favorite cove. We are determined to get Kintala off the dock and out on the water this year ... assuming the temperatures are not killer high and the lake level killer low. Even "lake cruisers" have to give way to Mother Nature.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

They're done. Really.

I decided to make arm rests for the settees today. The boat originally had the end pieces on it that were the same height as the backs, something of which I have never been a fan. I wanted real arm rests that were arm height to rest your elbow on while reading a book, or to lay your head on when stretching out on the settee. I did snap them to the walls like the backs just to keep them in place underway, but otherwise they are movable. Honest. I'm really done with them this time.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


There is some small hope that this will be the last weekend of snow and ice on the boat. The 10 day forecast has the temperatures up in the 50s before the next week is out. Items on the to-do list include pulling and re-bedding at least two leaking ports, (One of which leaked on Deb's new cushions ... argh!) trying to re-bed the hatch glass yet again, (I would love to hit the lottery just so I could toss these sorry bits of engineering and try something better), and working under the cockpit installing self steering gear. Each of these projects requires that the weather break before they can be started so the forecast is good news. This doesn't mean I have no projects in the works, the cabinet for the bulkhead table is well under way in the city garage. But here on the boat I don't have much going on, which isn't all bad. Last night we slept for nearly 10 hours! Deb's excuse is she is still getting over a flu bug. I don't have an excuse ... just being a bum.

At the moment I am still being a bum while Deb toils away straightening out the aft cabin for the soon-to-be-started rebuild. My excuse for typing and not straightening is that the aft cabin is too small for two to work in at the same time. I'm not very skilled in the straightening up department anyway. Still, planning and drawings will start pretty soon and I'll get to pitch in.

Those of you already gone probably worked this out already, but the constant pressure of the to-do list has me wondering about the transition from the life on land to that of being a sea gypsy. At first glance having the boat for several years, living on it as much as possible while getting ready to go, would seem a nice "half-step" from land to water. At second glance I'm starting to think it isn't any kind of a step at all. Kintala, and Nomad before her, were (are) mostly large work projects. At the dock living on the boat is just living in a very small cabin. We have AC power, shore is just a single step down off the deck, the anchor can't drag, and we don't do anything different because of weather. We don't navigate, communicate, or see anything we haven't seen before. Every hour sailing, coving out or rafted up (which is, I imagine, at least a tiny bit like cruising) is dwarfed by hundreds of hours of working on projects locked in the marina. We only spent one night on the hook during our Catamaran experience in Pensacola. (Sixty knot winds and 6 foot seas, sure ... anchor watch, sure ... but still only one night.) The week spent sailing around Long Island was a series of long day sails punctuated each night by a stay at a municipal pier. Only the trip with John involved several days in a row on the boat and away from a dock. (And, truth to tell, I think we have spent more days out in a row during long weekends here at the lake, than we did on Quetzal.) In these last 5+ years I have definitely turned into a boat mechanic, but I don't think I have become a sailor.

From what I have read it seems one must be both a boat mechanic and a sailor to be a successful cruiser. In that light maybe I have about half of what I need. I have to admit that, as we get closer to pulling the trigger on this thing, the half I don't have is starting to loom large. Knowing what I know now I'm still not sure I would have done anything differently. Nomad was a joy, the time spent with her out on the lake was fantastic. My girls went with us, grand kids came along, we had some small adventures and a lot of fun. I wouldn't want to have missed those times at all. And Kintala? Well, she is the Retirement Project now. We are fully committed to getting this boat out into big water and seeing what we see.

So on the one hand I'm starting to wish we had had the resources to put in a lot more blue water miles than we did, miles with people who had gone this way before, miles to show us what we need to know.  On the other, well, I've sure read a lot of books written by people who, if I am honest, seem lucky to have survived. For the most part they had boats much less capable than Kintala, knew next to nothing about keeping the boat running, had little or no weather and navigation experience, and taught themselves how to sail by pushing off the dock and tugging on various ropes to see what happened. Quintessential jumping-into-the-deep-end-to-learn-how-to-swim types, they managed. I guess we will as well.