Category Archives: Living in a Boatyard

Sleeping beauty


When the giant green tarp came off, a beautiful boat was revealed. She was long and slender, a classic design evoking an earlier era.

The beauty was marred, though, by the piles of dusty and mildewed gear that appeared on the ground under the boat. I wandered over to meet the new arrivals. “Looks like you’re having a yard sale over here,” I quipped.

Susie and Ron had the look of aging hippies — gray hair in a ponytail, young eyes surrounded by a network of sun-baked smile lines. Susie was wearing a path to the “free” table in the lounge, donating large jars with handmade burlap covers and labels that said things like “bulgur.”

Friendly, but too busy to talk.

A day later, their adult son, Ocean arrived, along with two of his friends. The story emerged in the form of boatyard gossip, with everyone contributing the tidbit he or she had garnered from the busy crew.

Ron and Susie had cruised Catania for 22 years, and Ocean had been born aboard. Now the parents had “swallowed the anchor,” living ashore in Maine. After six years, they realized they weren’t going to cruise on the 71-year-old boat again. Storage fees had added up to nearly the value of the boat.

I wish I knew know who came up with the plan — whether Ron and Susie offered, or whether Ocean asked. But the plan was this: To refit Catania and then hand her off to Ocean, who would sail back to St. Thomas. The timing was tight, so the young man recruited two friends to help with both the refit and the delivery.

The crew worked so fast and so hard that the rest of the boatyard community watched, astonished, with something like envy. While Barry and I agonized over tiny fiberglass patches, Catania’s crew fiberglassed the entire topsides. While we worried about painting the pads under our stanchions, they painted the entire boat. We haven’t even figured out what engine mounts to install, and they replaced their entire engine. One of them even carefully hand-painted the name of the boat on the sides of the classic yacht.

Catania’s bow

At night, the five of them, plus an aging German Shepherd, retired to a small tent trailer in a secluded part of the boatyard. We never saw them, except during daylight hours when they were working flat-out.

Finally, after about three weeks, they launched the boat, and she sat at the dock for a couple of days. The frenzied preparations continued, and the air was full of anticipation for the crew of three young men.

On a Sunday morning, the boys left Bock Marine. From the high vantage point of my deck, I watched the hugs and group photos. As they slipped the lines, Susie called out “Bon Voyage!” It was a touching moment, watching the older generation turning the family home over to the younger generation.

I ran into Susie a little later. She looked vibrant and happy; Ron looked tired. They were doing final cleanup and giving away even more stuff. We took the Britta pitcher; Blaine took the table saw. Then the truck was gone, headed for Maine. Where the boat had been was an empty space full of jackstands, cribbing, an old engine, and an abandoned windsurfer.

That night, I went into the lounge. “Did you hear? Catania is back at the dock. They had a leak.”

“Bummer,” I said, thinking of our friend, Dan, who has launched his boat four times and had to pull it back out for repairs each time. This sort of thing is not uncommon.

On Monday morning, I saw the three young men on deck, folding sails. Susie and Ron, who had been well on their way to Maine, returned around mid-day. Susie was smoking a cigarette, something I hadn’t noticed during the previous three weeks.

The Travelift came, hauled out the boat, and returned it to the original spot. What happened next left me incredulous.

They put the kelly green tarp back over the boat. Then the three young men got into a rental car and headed for the airport. It happened so fast, the gossip couldn’t keep up.

I ran into Susie a little later. “They got out the inlet, but they had some concerns. Ocean’s not sure what he wants to do, maybe come back next fall, or else we’ll sell it.” She seemed a bit shell-shocked.

“But, but, but…” I spluttered, unable to understand. By my reckoning, if they had two weeks planned for the passage, they had two more weeks available to work on the boat.

In just a few hours, the story went from heart-warming to heart-breaking. If I hadn’t been here to witness the drama, I wouldn’t believe it.

We’ve been working off and on for almost a year. Val and Gigi have been here a little longer, and Oscar has been here for over ten years. But our slow-but-steady pace allows us all to make progress, enjoying the process, without burning out.

As a reminder of this, Catania sits quietly under her green tarp, waiting for Ocean to return.

Boatyard bunny’s mail call

About three weeks ago, my Dad told us to look for the Shpongle CD he had ordered as an anniversary gift. Oh boy! A present!

A day later, my brother called to tell me he was sending a card with some photos. He’d used up a disposable camera I’d gotten him, and now he was sending me some of the prints. Oh boy! Pictures!

I waited about four days, and then I started going into the office. Every day, I’d stick my head in an ask, “Any mail for us?” “No, not today.” After about ten days of this, I was a little embarrassed to ask. And I was starting to worry. What if both items were delivered on the same day, and the mail got stolen out of the box? It’s not a very secure mailbox.

Finally, I got a sheepish email from my Dad. He’d accidentally put his own address as the ship-to address. Just as I was writing him back, teasing him about his “senior moment,” my phone rang.

It was my brother, also sheepish. “You don’t have to look for that card any more,” he said. He’d put insufficient postage on it, so it got returned.

I sat back, laughing. Here I was, all excited about getting a couple of goodies in the mail, but they were just a tease — both senders had sent them to themselves!

On Friday, I had another “Oh boy! A care package” realization. I poked my head in the office. “I’m expecting another box…” I said. “Oh, sure, they probably sent it back to themselves,” Anique teased me. “No, really, it’s…” I broke off. I was afraid that if I told her what I was expecting, I might never see it.

Finally, I sort of mumbled, “It’s a box of homemade wine.” I didn’t tell her that it’s excellent pear, grape, and cherry wine from Yelm, Washington. But Anique’s reaction was completely unexpected. “You like homemade wine? Really? I have a jar of it in my car!” I looked at her askance, wondering why she would have a jar of wine in her car in the parking lot at work. I guess if she breaks down, like we did in Iowa, she could give it to her Good Samaritan instead of an inflatable space alien.

As it turns out, Anique and her boyfriend have a pear tree, so they made a batch of pear wine. They couldn’t even use all the pears, and they still ended up with a lot — a whole lot — of wine.

Boatyard bunny

Since it was Halloween, I went back to the boat and put on my costume — a big boatyard bunny, complete with Tyvek “bunny” suit and dust mask decorated with a Sharpie marker. The ears were real, though. I hopped across the yard, surprising a lot of serious, hard-working folks and making them laugh despite themselves. Nobody in the yard had any candy for me, so I played Easter bunny and gave candy away instead.

But when I got to the office, I got lucky. I held out my bag and said, “Trick or Treat!” Anique had fetched that promised jar of wine, which sure beats candy corn and little packages of Lifesavers.

I’m still waiting for my “Oh boy!” care packages — Dad’s Shpongle CD, and Hank’s card with the photos, and Tom’s excellent Washington wine. But the consolation prize, sweet North Carolina pear wine in a quart mason jar, was fabulous, and that makes the wait worthwhile.

Cheerful Dan’s rubber boat

The excitement is contagious when one of our boatyard friends launches their boat. Barry and I take note of who is in the slings, and if it’s someone we know well, we’ll go over and watch the proceedings.

A couple of days ago, Barry popped his head down into the boat and said, “Guess who’s in the slings now!” When I came on deck and looked across to the ways, it was Arima, the rubber boat.

Just kidding. Arima is fiberglass, just like us.

Like us, she came from Hilton Head — Dan even stayed at the same marina while he was getting the boat cleaned up and ready for the trip north. He arrived at Bock a week before we did in May. For his summer boatyard escape, he crewed on a boat to Ireland, arriving back a day after we returned from our Burning Man trip.

At 35 feet, Arima is about the same size as Flutterby, but outfitted very differently. She’s a distinctive white sloop with green canvas and classic lines. And except for the side trips and surprises, Dan would have left long ago.

His first launch date was a Friday in June. It was the last day to be launched before the yard closed for a week’s vacation. I saw the Travelift pick him up, and as he touched up the bottom with paint, I snapped some pictures. It was Dan’s big day, and I thought he’d enjoy the photos later.

Dan tied up at the dock and said farewell to the boatyard employees. He planned to leave the following morning. That evening, Barry and I stopped by with a tiny (1-1/1×2-inches) homemade bon voyage card.

But it was not to be. Water rose in the bilge, and his bilge pump ran often to keep up. So he sat there, at the dock, waiting 10 days for the employees to return. When they did, they plucked him out of the water and put him a new spot.

Anyone else would have been despondent, but Dan took it in stride. He went to work on his cutlass (or is that cutless? nautical terms are weird!) bearing, laying on top of the engine with his head down in the bilge. It was uncomfortable, and I know he was frustrated, but he never complained. He’s a good example that way.

A week or so later, Dan told us he was done, and the problem was fixed. The Travelift picked him up and gently put him back in the water.

This time, water poured in so fast, they lifted him out almost immediately and blocked him up again. I could no longer restrain myself. I published a limerick about his travails and began calling Arima the “rubber boat,” because she bounces out of the water when you put her in!

Dan decided he was over his head, and hired the Bock crew to repair the now-cracked stern tube. Meanwhile, he helped out another boater, an Irishman named Steven. We’d heard that Steven and his nearly-mute Chinese girlfriend were going to launch the enormous mystery vessel in the sandpit “soon” and sail it to Ireland, just the two of them.

A couple of weeks later, I was walking by Arima on my way to the bathroom. Dan stopped me, saying “Hey, can you give me a ride to town next week?” “Sure, where are you going?” I asked. “Ireland!” he said, with a huge grin.

So Dan left his boat in storage and sailed off to Ireland, blogging the whole way. When he came back, it took less than a month to get ready to go.

Last week, when he said he was ready to launch, I chuckled. “He’s like the boy who cried wolf. I hope he’s getting a frequent-launching discount.”

I didn’t want to jinx him, so when Barry told me Arima was in the slings, I kept my camera to myself. About an hour later, on my way to the office, I walked by the boat, still hanging there. Dale was underneath, looking more serious than usual as he chewed on a toothpick.

Arima in the slings

But what was this? The bottom was wet — the boat had been launched and pulled back out AGAIN!

This time, Dale and Larry and Randy were able to quickly fix two bad through-hull fittings, and Dan made it to the dock where he’d spent that first week in July. Since we know him better than when he first launched, we took a bottle of rum over and sat on Arima, enjoying the feeling of being on a boat that’s floating. “Woo hoo! A wake!”

The next morning, despite high winds and rain, Dan slipped his lines and motored away. At my request, he blew his horn as he left. We were down below, in the middle of a tricky and time-dependent fiberglass layup, so I could only peek out through the portlight. Barry managed to get a sticky, Tyvek-covered arm out the hatch for one last wave.

On my way past Dan’s spot, I took the wooden blocks and pads that had held up Arima, and the chains from his jackstands, and I wrote his name on the ground. A little memorial to the good he did here in the boatyard.

Remembering Dan

This morning, I have mixed emotions. I’m glad Dan is out there cruising, but I’m feeling sorry for myself. There have been many days when I was depressed and Dan cheered me up. Now I have to cheer myself up.

No, wait, who’s that driving into the boatyard? It’s another Dan! Dan Smith, who rescued us and took us to Raleigh back in December, has just come back for the first time in months. Here’s another laid-back Dan with a positive attitude — just what I needed right now.

Maybe my message on the ground brought him back from Raleigh? Instead of a farewell to Dan of Arima, it’s welcome to Dan of Funny Farm, and all the other positive and cheerful Dans — and people with other names — of the world.

Social flutterbies

The “lounge” here at the boatyard isn’t much. It’s back behind the office, in a cinderblock building. There’s a soda machine, a coin-operated washer and dryer, and a couple of cast-off tables and chairs. One corner has a shelf full of books to trade, and under the sink is the “free table,” where boaters can swap their unneeded junk for other boaters’ unneeded junk. Mainly, the lounge is an air-conditioned, grubby space that provides access to the restrooms and showers and a reliable old-fashioned landline telephone.

So when a small incongruous sign appeared in the lounge one Friday evening, saying “Potluck, Saturday 6 pm. BYO everything,” I chuckled. “That must be the Australians,” I commented to Barry.

Boats here in the yard come and go by way of the Travelift, which plucks them out of the water and gently carries them, in woven slings, to their assigned place in the yard. A few mornings earlier, alerted by the distinctive sound of the Travelift nearby, I popped my head out, prairie dog-style, and reported to Barry down below. “Honey Moon, Mooloolaba, Australia. Definitely a world cruiser.” We met Don and Aggie a little later. “Welcome to the neighborhood,” I said.

The two of them have been cruising for decades. They’ve been on their current circumnavigation for a few years, having done the Red Sea route to the Mediterranean and then cruised the French Canals and Holland before coming across to the Caribbean. Down in Trinidad, they were looking for a spot to store their boat while they flew home, and they heard about Bock Marine. It was just what they were looking for, and only a few thousand miles away. No problem for someone who had sailed halfway around the world from Australia.

Once they were established in the yard, they launched into their list of projects, Aggie toting vast quantities of laundry on a small folding bike to the lounge. Whenever I walked past the washing machine, her distinctive koala-print bag was sitting on top. Don stayed close to the boat, working and supervising the sandblasting and welding. But they’d been through this process before, many times, so they paced themselves, allowing time for a social life. Hence the potluck.

That Saturday evening in the lounge, we discovered a number of people living and working in their boats who we hadn’t met. Albertine and Joop, from the Netherlands, were parked right next to the Travelift. Walter’s boat is near the bridge. We knew Dan, whose Alberg 35 is over in our area, but we hadn’t yet met Kevin, on Dynamic Duo. His catamaran was next to Dan. There’s a fellow named Steven, whose Irish accent is almost incomprehensible, and his partner, a woman from Taiwan who never speaks at all. They’re working on a huge mysterious sailboat back in the “sandpit,” as Steven calls it.

In addition to the folks at the potluck, I knew of five others who hadn’t attended. That meant that even on a Saturday evening, when the boatyard was closed, there were about 20 people working and staying on their boats here. We are all grinding and sanding and painting and building, and at the same time, we all have to sleep and eat and carry things up and down a ladder a hundred times a day. It’s a crazy lifestyle, and it’s nice to know we’re not alone.

After the potluck, the ice was broken. Every few evenings, we’d hear laughter coming from one boat or another, evidence of a little get-together. Albertine and Joop invited us to dinner on their boat, along with Don and Aggie. We watched the sun set over the water from the cockpit, enjoying drinks and Indonesian food. It was just like having dinner in a little marina, except for the 10-foot ladder. The next day, the Travelift picked them up and dropped them back in the water, and they headed north to New England.

Kevin launched a few days later. He spent the first night tied to the dock, and we went aboard for beers and conversation. What a joy to be on a boat that was actually floating!

I wanted to host a gathering, too, but our interior is so bad, we’re not even sleeping in the boat. So I hauled the barbecue out of storage and invited Gigi and Val and Don and Aggie over for hamburgers. There were two challenges: Where to attach the marine barbecue, and how to deal with a 25-knot breeze. I parked the van sideways as a giant windbreak, and then we rolled a 10-foot-tall scaffold over to it. Barry clamped the barbecue onto the scaffold (marine barbecues are designed to attach to rails or pipes and don’t have legs), and we spread our fixings and watermelon and beverages out on the scaffold. Then we made a circle of chairs and sat under the stars, eating and talking in the shadow of the boats.

When a boat goes back into the water, it’s a happy time. But it’s hard for me, because it means another friend is gone. What I find most depressing is when friends leave, but their boats stay here. I was depressed for a couple of days when Don and Aggie flew home to Australia, leaving their boat silent and tarped. And for another couple of days when Gigi and Val drove north to Quebec. This week was the worst, when the yard workers took their summer vacation as well. I miss the smiling faces of Randy and Larry and Dale!

But we are not completely alone. Over in the sandpit, we often see Steven working at the top of his mast, the tallest in the boatyard. He’s strangely attired in full foul-weather gear as he reeves halyards and adjusts rigging. Last year, he says, he went up unprotected and discovered a wasp’s nest. “The bastards never die, they just kept stinging me over and over, all the way down,” he complained.

Dan, on Arima, hurried to launch his boat before the yard closed for the week. But the next day, he found that his shaft was leaking, so he didn’t actually leave. He’s tied to the dock, bilge pumps running, waiting for the yard workers to return. I’m sorry for his misfortune, but it’s nice to see his smiling face around the place.

The best company in the boatyard right now is not even human. I don’t mean the palmetto bugs — we had a fat brown 2-inch visitor to the boat last week, and I could do without him. I mean the kitties.

When we arrived, the boatyard had three cats. Now that Gigi has gone north, I’ve taken on the job of feeding them early in the morning — 5:30 am, to be precise. “Hello, kitty!” I sing, coaxing a white-and-gray calico closer with treats. She nervously stuffs herself with dry cat food, her belly close to the ground. Then she stands up, looks around, and begins to make a strange meeowing-yowling noise.

It’s a kitten call! From across the parking lot, four babies tumble out of the “kitten hole” a small irregular opening that Dale cut for them in the wall of the steel work building. They scamper out and hide under the crane, and the black one ventures halfway across the parking lot. Then a big scary garbage truck comes by, and Mom quickly leads them back to safety.

Play time is over, both for us and for them. But it’s a gentle reminder that it’s not all work here in the boatyard. Social butterflies that we are, we will always find company, even of the feline kind.

It’s not like I’m counting

(One, two, three, four, five…)

I have a personal vendetta against the guy who drilled all the holes in the deck of our boat.

(…six, seven, eight, nine…)

I admit, a boat needs a lot of holes drilled in the deck. Our deck bristles with interesting hardware, much of it through-bolted. There are handrails and fairleads and stanchions and cleats and clutches and winches. But the guy I want to throttle is the one who drilled all the EXTRA holes in our boat.

I’m guessing that his boss gave him a template and a drill. But he was a ham-handed idiot. Maybe it was his first day, and he’d never used a drill before. So he plopped the template down, and zippity-zap, lickety-split, he drilled a bunch of holes. Oops! In the wrong place!

(…ten, eleven, twelve…)

So he filled the holes in with some sort of goop. Not anything structural, but the paint would hide that on the top, and the headliners on the bottom. Maybe the boss knew, and maybe he didn’t. Then our ham-handed idiot put the template down again, in the right place, and drilled. Zzzzap! Oops! Crooked!? More non-structural goop, more drilling.

(…thirteen, fourteen, OK, I’ll stop now…)

No, I’m not counting. I just happened to notice that our two mast collars need a total of 16 bolt holes. So why did we find 24 extra, or 40 total holes, in the mast partners, a place that needs as much strength as possible?

The legacy of the ham-handed idiot continued when we took down the main cabin headliners. What’s this? A fairlead that needed three holes, but got six? And look, there’s a delaminated area! That’s because the rope clutches, which only needed 9 holes, had 18 — and the infamous “goop” that he put in the extra holes failed.

This is a reminder to all of us. When you screw up and take shortcuts, you can cause a lot of heartache down the road. And if your mistake is bad enough, someone might come after you later. They might sue you, or worse. What I have in mind for the ham-handed idiot is worse.

Here’s another bit of counting: Twenty-seven. That’s how long ago this criminal drilling happened. If he’s not yet retired, maybe I can track him down. Here’s what I would do: I’d drill a couple of holes in his head, and stick some bolts in, like Frankenstein. I’ll only miss-drill once or twice, but I’ve got a tube of 3M 5200 here. That should be good enough to keep his brains from leaking out. If he ever had any.

Help wanted: Rastafarian contortionist

When all our work in the forepeak is done, I’m sure Barry’s memories will be of a challenging engineering project. We took out hardware, ground out fiberglass and balsa, added fiberglass, and replaced hardware. There were challenges and bumps in the road, but the end result is a sturdy, well-found boat.

Here’s the female version of it. Be warned. It’s a lot more, er, emotional.

I knew from the beginning that the bow pulpit needed to be removed and rebedded — the first time we looked at the boat, I had crawled into the v-berth, stuck my head partway into the forepeak, and said to Barry, “Eeewwwww — what are those ugly stains?” Despite the fact that I couldn’t get my head in there, I was blissfully ignorant of the fact that we would have to remove the forward mast (ch-ching!) to do so.

OK, once the mast was out, this should be a simple, straightforward task. Ha! Not so fast, lady.

To get into this tiny bit of space, you have to lay on your back in the v-berth and slide into the forepeak through an access hatch that’s only about eighteen inches wide. Once your butt is through, you can sit up, but that does NOT make it comfortable. Your nose is now pressed against the bulkhead, and your tools and supplies are on the other side of that access hatch. If you’ve left them more than 6 inches away, you’ll have to reach them with your toes, because elbows don’t bend in that direction.

Years ago, we saw a fellow at Key West doing something he called “Rasta Yoga.” On Mallory Pier, at sunset, he would slowly fold his entire body into a plexiglass cube that was about 18 inches on a side. I now wonder if his day job involved climbing into forepeaks.

Anyway, Barry weaseled his way into the space, wearing the full Tyvek bunny suit and respirator. Then I passed the angle grinder through the hole left by the mast, and he started grinding away over his head. And feeling extremely guilty, I left. The entire boat was full of toxic dust, so I had no choice. Really.

To assuage my guilt, I volunteered to vacuum up the mess when he was done. At the end of the day, he peeled off the bunny suit, which no longer looked so cute and clean, and slouched off to the showers with a tell-tale red mark around his face from the respirator. I climbed into my own bunny suit and immediately started to sweat like a pig. The fit was lousy — the crotch was hanging somewhere around my knees, so I had to shuffle with my feet together. That didn’t matter, since I had to crawl on my hands and knees to get into the v-berth anyway. Then I rolled over on my back and slid into the forepeak, using the technique described above.

Damn. There I was, nose against the bulkhead, with no vacuum cleaner. Even if it was close enough to grab with my toes, I couldn’t fit it through the access hatch. So back out I went. I stuffed the vacuum in, slid myself on top of it (ouch!), then twisted around until it was on my lap. There are a lot of things (and people) I’d rather have in my lap than a wet-dry vac! And a screaming baby would have been much quieter.

When I finally came out, I have never felt less glamorous. I gave off clouds of fiberglass dust, and I felt like a toxic Pigpen. When I caught sight of myself in the mirror, I was horrified. The worst part was the hideous knit thingie we call the “head sock.” Bald would be prettier.

This trade-off continued for days, Barry, then me, then Barry, then me. Finally, Barry set up his mixing station on deck, creating batches of epoxy, painting them on the fiberglass pieces, and passing the resulting mess down to me through the mast hole. This was partly because of my guilt at letting him do the grinding, and partly because of history.

Back in 1990, we needed to make some repairs to our daysailer. We bought fiberglass and epoxy and read the instructions, and either of us could have applied it. But Barry was wearing contacts that day and had no eye protection. I had seven stitches in my thumb from a bagel-cutting accident, but we talked it over, and we knew that the one who applies the fiberglass wears gloves, anyway. And so our roles were established: Barry-the-mixer-of-epoxy (who only gets it on his gloves) and me, the-one-who-applies-the-fiberglass (and ends up wearing it everywhere).

I call it “toxic decoupage.”

Unfortunately, I hadn’t applied a lot of fiberglass since 1990, and I’d never applied it upside down, in a space only suited to a Rastafarian contortionist. And I’d never applied it in the dark — we were so desperate to put something IN instead of grinding stuff OUT that we started at dusk.

The result was a mistake. No, call it a learning process. Actually, it was just a huge mess. I had dripped epoxy everywhere — my arms, my head, my face, my chest. I’m surprised I could still breathe through the glop-covered respirator. I’d carefully donned safety glasses, but somehow had gotten epoxy on my eyelashes! And although I managed to emerge clean from the bunny suit, the suit itself had to be trashed. When the epoxy hardened, the zipper was history.

Worse, we discovered in the daylight the next day that the layup was just about useless, full of air bubbles and voids. Barry suited up, picked up the grinder again, and removed most of my work. I nearly cried, but wrote a limerick instead.

Me, an emotional, whining complaining female? Nah, just the willing victim of a challenging engineering project.

It’s the wrong bunny suit, Grommit!

It started with a deck leak where the bolts hold the bow pulpit onto the boat.  Then we removed the bow cleats and two big bolts holding on the anchoring platform. Then the grinding began, wearing full protective gear.

Barry wearing the wrong bunny suitI’ve had much better times in a different bunny suit…and Meps had a great time with just the head a while back. But this is a different time, and it calls for another kind of bunny suit.  I actually like it, especially the riot police style facemask which lets me both see and breath at the same time. And while this stuff isn’t fun, it really improves my life/health while I’m grinding fiberglass and doing fiberglass and epoxy repairs, which has been job #1 lately.

Actually, the balsa core wasn’t damaged far from the bolts, but it was kinda rotten for an inch or so around the bolts.  I have to call that “good news” since it means that the water and rot didn’t migrate very far.  Unfortunately, it was still a pretty big grinding job because where some of the bolts go through, the core was angled at 45 degrees, which made for a very poor place to bolt something on.  So I had to grind it out in a much larger area to make a flat-ish area under the bolts, then bevel the area around that.  Up in the forepeak, this is even more grinding, because there are two layers of balsa core (about two inches think) for extra strength where it holds the main mast up, so the bevel just goes on and on and on.

This makes it sound like a simple job, probably done quickly.  But of course, it wasn’t–first, the grinding happened in three or four strages as I figured out how big my problem was and how much bevel I needed, and that coarse sanding disks on my grinder work better than the abrasive disks for this job….with about four trips to the hardware stores trying to figure out exactly which attachments I needed for the grinder. (Thanks again for the grinder, Tom!)  Then there is the fiberglass and epoxy layup.

Since I had put on the full suit of gear and started grinding away in temperatures too hot for the job, Meps took the uncomfortable job of climbing into the forepeak laying on her back and fiberglassing over her head while I mixed epoxy and saturated cloth on deck and passed it down.  The first time it seemed easy, but that was before I took a careful look and then ground out quite a few voids.  The net result was that the first layup didn’t actually leave much on the boat, but we learned a lot:  1. Don’t lay up fiberglass at dusk, when you can’t see it.  2. If you are doing it overhead, use plenty of resin so it saturates well.  3. Grind those holes smoother so it won’t make voids at the transition points.  4. Start with thickened epoxy in the corners like a fillet to help with those voids too.

So I went back to grinding, then Meps went back to glassing.  Ultimately, if I remember correctly, there were three more gooey upside-down layups with glass cloth and epoxy.  Then I realized that the new backing plates wouldn’t sit flat.  Oops, I neglected to mention that in addition to the angle under some bolts, there were only fender washers underneath, and we didn’t think that was up to the job….so we made backing plates from 3/16″ aluminum plate…I know 3/16 is overkill, but that was the size of the scrap available in the boatyard. So back to putting the backing plates on–the flat area that was supposed to be above them was smaller than they were, so first we tried putting on some layers of chopped strand mat with epoxy to build up a flat area, but that didn’t do enough.  So after letting it cure and grinding it for the next coat to stick, we added a layer of thickened epoxy. Still the backing plates didn’t quite fit flush.  Grind it again so it had a little more tooth, and move on.

Then came the next step–fitting the bow pulpit back on.  It got bent a little in its history somehow, and that is probably why it wants to spring its feet apart–when you attach one foot, the other three don’t want to go where they belong any more.  So with a bit of wrestling, I got some holes drilled that were almost aligned–I could get all 12 bolts through, and they didn’t ALL bind up at once, at least after I had re-drilled three or four holes to enlarge them.  Then we tried to fit the backing plates onto the bottom….I mostly ground those holes larger with the Dremel instead of re-drilling them.  Finally we cleaned everything up, waxed the bolts and nuts, and added a last layer of thickened epoxy to both fill the space and glue the backing plates to the underside of the deck.

When that was done, we removed the bolts and drilled the holes out again (the epoxy had formed threads on the bottom, and I wanted open holes to put nuts and washers on the bottom). Then one last grinding job — removing the frozen epoxy “goobers” — and a very careful final cleanup.

The bow pulpit is now installed, mounted with expensive marine caulk and 12 brand-new 316 stainless steel bolts, nuts, and washers. Finally one thing is ready to go back to sea–way too much of the work so far has been in the direction of taking things apart instead of putting them back together.

The true badge of a liveaboard boater

Years before we counted many liveaboards as friends, I was very reluctant to buy a boat large enough to live aboard. Thus we chose the 25 foot Northern Crow, which was obviously too small for two people to live on. This was my insurance against being begged, nagged or pushed into moving aboard before I was ready.

We have lived aboard for several-month periods before, but never on our own boat. The longest period was seven months, with Brian on Cayenne, and shorter times on Vger, Complexity, and Indigo. We even lived on Flutterby briefly while we did insurance company-required repairs and transported it from South Carolina to North Carolina. But we always had our “home” elsewhere, or if not an entire “home,” we had something like 75% of our stuff in storage.

This time, it is different. We don’t have anything but a few boxes of photographs, wedding china, and other irreplaceable memories–we have all the things we need right here with us, either on the boat or packed up inside the Squid Wagon. And this time, moving aboard took us by surprise–we thought we knew what living aboard is all about, but life always smacks you in the face with a lesson pretty quick.

Before we arrived in the boatyard, I had been thinking of all the projects we had to do to make Flutterby ready to cruise, starting with re-finishing the bottom and fixing leaking hardware in the deck, along with any damage it had done. It has now been four full days and the only project we have completed is plumbing the icebox drain so it gets pumped overboard instead of draining into the bilge.

What have we been doing? Trying to carry our stuff up the ladder from Squidley into the boat, and find a place for it inside.

It didn’t take us three days to succumb. In fact, we would have done it in two and a half, if our cellphone had better signal in the boatyard. We are now the proud renters of a storage unit. I hope that when we are ready to sail we can fit everything aboard, but for now, this is the cheapest way to protect our sanity that I can think of.