It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses a Dinghy

Thursday February 21, 2013

It’s my dirty dinghy, and you can’t have it!

A few weeks ago I was walking by the boat and realized how nice and shiny the hull was.  It had just gotten a good buffing and polishing, but what I really took notice of was the stark contrast of our dirty and dingy dinghy hanging off the davits on the back.  This dinghy was brand new to us just a year and a half ago, and had been in pristine condition when we started our summer 2012 cruising season.  Now it’s covered with rub burns from being tied up extra tight during (short) ocean passages and just general dirt and gunk that hadn’t been cleaned up.  Both our outboard engines are not looking much better, both scraped and scuffed to hell.  And surprisingly, that’s not far off of how we want all of them to look.

The reason for this, is there are unfortunately going to be thieves in the places we’re traveling.  And thieves tend to go for the bright/shiny/new objects that they think they can get the most money from when they’re going to re-sell.  Without getting into too much detail for any potential thieves reading this (not completely impossible),  a lot of objects we own that they like to steal, such as outboards and dinghy, are in a condition that would make them desirable, but they definitely don’t look it.  And although ours are probably not the first items in an anchorage they’d pounce on, there’s still a chance they could be taken.  So this brings us to the question, what can you do to keep thieves from taking what’s yours?  A simple answer would be:  Make it hard for them.  Make them have to work for it, and therefore not worth their time.

Even if our items aren’t as shiny and pretty as the people next to us, most crimes are a crime of opportunity, so we’ve even taken extra precautions besides not having the best eye candy.  Let’s start with the outboards.  We have two, a 3.3 hp and 9.9 hp, but they look old and run down and about to fall apart at any moment.  Their covers are dirty and scratched and beat up like no other.  Back in Annapolis when we were anchored near our friends Kim and Scott on Anthyllide, they offered us a beat up cover for ours, not knowing it already looked like crap, because they said the last thing you want down in the Caribbean is a shiny new outboard.  But even if a thief saw our beat up crappy looking outboard and thought “Hmmmm, I may not be able to sell that for much, but I could still give it to my second cousin’s niece’s brother…” we’re still going to make it hard for them to do so.  Anywhere we go, even in Safe City, USA, everything gets locked up.  The dinghy, the outboard, all of it.  When we were in Detroit, we’d even run the chain through our life vests to keep them from being taken.

So that takes care of when you go to shore, but what about back at your boat?  Not that we’ve been any further than the US yet, but we’ve heard of far to many stories of dinghies in the Caribbean that are only cleated off to their boat overnight, and by morning they’re gone.  What we’ve learned from this, is to get your dinghy out of the water.  Every. Night.  There are two main ways that most cruisers can do this.  One is by having davits off the stern of your boat, which will connect to the front and back of your dinghy, and by using a pulley system, lift it out of and suspend it over the water.  The other way is to use a halyard to pull it out of the water near the foredeck of your boat, and either leave it suspended over your deck, or lower it and secure it to your deck.  If you want to take even more precautions than that, you can still lock it to your boat after following one of these steps.  It may seem like a lot of work, but while out cruising your dinghy is your car, and you can literally be left stranded without it.

Having your outboard or dinghy taken is the most common practice of thievery any cruiser will encounter, but what if worse comes to worst and someone tries to board your boat?  The chances of this happening really are incredibly low, but it still deserves attention.  As I said before, I’m not going to write an instruction manual of all the obstacles you would need to overcome to get into my boat, but let me just say that we are locked down, inside and out.  Most cruiser’s will take the precaution to lock down their boat while they’re away from it, but what about while you’re inside?, sleeping through the night.  Sure, you might have a can of Mace (or bear spray) next to your bed, or even an arm knife that your previous boss gave you, but you may also find yourself with not enough time to react to get to it.  There might be a gun at your head before you realize anyone has even boarded.  Think you still have time to use your Mace then?  Think again.  To make sure that never happens to us we’ve outfitted our boat with inside locks on the companionway, hatches, and even have a motion alarm.  I’m not saying it’s impossible for anyone to try and board our boat, but before they get inside, we’ll know about it.  And that will give us plenty of time to jump on the radio, and pull out our arsenal of Mace, knives, and flare guns.*  Wanna try messing with us now?  I think not.  Or maybe I’ll get further if I just ask nicely.  Can you please move on to the next boat?  They have much better stuff than we do anyway.

I spy a little bear spray in the eye.


*Mom, this is not meant to scare you (or any other family, friends, and cruiser’s out there).   We are aware of the dangers and keep ourselves very protected.  The chance of a breaking and entering on our boat is close to none.  I actually fear for you more while you’re walking to your car in a deserted lot at night.


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The Monkey's Fist

It’s All a Little Fuzzy

Tuesday February 19, 2013

The inside of Serendipity is finally being put back together.When I first got back from Arizona (hard to believe it’s been almost three weeks already), there was literally only one place to sit on the whole boat, and Matt had occupied it for himself. Since there were so many projects being done in so many areas, we needed access to all those parts which meant whatever had been stored there previously was now laying all over the interior of the boat. When the steps had to come off for the engine to be removed, they were nestled into the floor space under the nav station. For easy access to the engine bay in the aft cabin, most of basic storage that we keep in there was moved into the head or placed on the floor of the salon. While working on the tabbing/fiberglassing under the port settees, all of our food storage was moved up into the v-berth. And since the two settees had now become our sleeping quarters while the v-berth was packed, all of the cushion backs were now stored up there as well to allow for a few extra inches of space while sleeping or lounging. In short, of our 34′ boat, only the galley and settees have been usable living space for the past three weeks (four for Matt). That can make a small boat even smaller very quickly.

So for the past few days we’ve been working very hard to get everything back to it’s organized place as best we can. Until the engine is in we still can’t put the steps back (I guess we could, it’s just that constantly adding and removing them becomes a pain in the ass), but we could start to do something about the rest of the junk strewn around. Even though the aft cabin will most likely have to be completely re-emptied and organized once the engine is back in and squared away, we started to put back as many things as possible just to get them out of the way of our everyday living space. The tool bag, vacuumn cleaner, and random spare parts were all placed back in the aft cabin where they were out of sight and out of mind. The next huge thing for me was getting all of our food back to where it needed to be. Not that I don’t love admiring our bottles of wine while they sit on top of my bed, but I would like to get back to that bed as soon as possible. We had done a good job of a lot of the food over the past few days, all the things that are stored near the v-berth bulkhead, but the remaining canned goods that sit back near the bilge and galley could not be nestled back into place until Matt had re-worked all the hoses in that area to get them where they needed to be after fiberglassing the area.

For the next hour I bent over with half of my body dropping into the area where our waste basket normally goes (a full tall kitchen size, I LOVE it), yanking, pulling, and holding hoses in place while Matt arranged, clipped and clamped them. There were a few frustrating moments where our bilge hose had become so stiff that we could barely work or bend it, and Matt had sweat dripping down his back while trying to manipulate it to where it needed to be. Finally between a little luck or teamwork, all hoses were back in place and now our cans could be as well. Is it sad when one of the highlights of your week is that you don’t have to step over 12 cans of tomato paste anymore? Either way, I was so happy to have the rest of the food out of the way and an open floor space to walk upon again. Still on a high from that little victory I even went to work I went on to tackle the job of cleaning up the v-berth and making it into a suitable sleeping space again. All cushions went back to the settees, blankets and sleeping bags were rolled up and put away, and I even brought down our memory foam, which has now taken about 10 days to fully dry out after washing it, and placed it on top of the cushions and covered it with a set of fresh sheets.

Satisfied with the work done that day, I finished just in time for Yu to pick me up for a run to the grocery store. For the past six weeks her and I have been talking about having an oyster night on their boat before Matt and I left. Just up the road from both of our marinas, all the shrimping and fishing boats come in and we’ve heard that you can buy oysters fresh off the boat for a fraction of the price. Since her and I are always trying to go to Scarlet’s on Wednesdays to take advantage of their $0.50 oysters, we thought of how nice it would be to sit on the deck of their boat on a sunny afternoon and shuck our own raw oysters while sipping on some beer or wine. We could be leaving any day now (fingers crossed), and so we had to put this plan into action before it was too late. But Matt being his ‘non-fish/seafood’ person, said he’d only go if we cooked up burgers for him so he didn’t have to eat oysters. That was fine by me, as long as I got my oysters.

When Yu picked me up she said that Frank had already gone up the road to pick up the oysters, and since we wanted to eat them while they were as fresh as possible and not have to put them on ice, we’d eat as soon as we got back from picking up burger supplies for Matt and Frank, and lots of wine for us girls. She also mentioned that the only size they were able to purchase the oysters in was one bushel, and a bushel….had 150 oysters!! It was $40 for that, which, price per oyster isn’t bad, but we were happy that Zack and Alex were still around to help us eat everything. Yu figured out that between the 4 people planning on eating oysters that night, we’d still get about 35 per person. Remembering that I made a whole meal out of them back in St. Mary’s, I had no worries that my 35 would be more that enough to fill me. We picked up some Rose and Sauvignon Blanc to drink, a few burger patties and buns, and went back to Moitessier where Matt had walked over to meet us, to begin the feasting. Thinking that the burger patties would just go straight on the grill, as I would normally do it, Yu prepared them with bacon, fresh basil, fennel seeds, and a bunch of other things that I would never think to put together, but honestly made one of the best burgers I’ve ever tasted. I don’t know how I never got the skill to randomly put together amazing meals like all of my cruising friends do. Is it something that’s inherited?

Taking our food outside and to ground level, we all got our burgers down in record time, and started Frank on shucking the oysters. There was only one shucking knife, and even though I had brought one of our straight screwdrivers hoping it would do the job, it unfortunately did not even come close. So Frank would shuck, and one by one, set each new open oyster on the table we made that was filled with lemon wedges and cocktail sauce, and the oysters would be picked up and eaten as soon as they hit the table. At the rate we were able to eat them, usually one every 5-10 minutes for each round of people, it was a good thing we also had the burgers to keep us from going to hungry or getting too drunk on the wine. We were having a great time enjoying the warm weather outside, eating the freshest oysters one could get, and sipping on glasses of wine. I’m hoping it’s not the last time we see Frank and Yu before we get going, but what a way to go out it would be.

It was only a few moments after this that Matt reminded me that we had brought laundry with us to do (the only other place is three miles away on Anastasia Island), and so I trudged the bag to their laundry facilities to get a load going. After it was started I went back to the group where everyone was spread out on the ground below, all full from our food and just enjoying the company. By the time I had to go back to unload from the dryer and fold the clothing, it had gotten cool enough though that everyone had moved indoors. Since I had been gone from the action for so long, ‘perfectly’ folding our clothing to fit back in our bag, Yu was sweet enough to check on me and even bring me a coffee mug of Rose`. I had been getting tired enough again to be ready to fall asleep, but once on the boat I pounded the can of Monster I had bought at the grocery store and was able to get a little bit of a second wind. We turned the salon into a dance floor and posed for photos with silly sunglasses. A good portion of time was also spent trying to name my intoxicated alter-ego, and after the culmination of what has been weeks of deliberation, Yu finally decided on Cabernet. I guess I’m a little bit trashy, and a little bit pimp ‘n ho.

It didn’t take long for my second wind to die out though, and once again, before midnight was even upon us, both Matt and I were ready for bed. I’d really like to think it’s because we’d been going since five o’clock in the afternoon and not because we’re coming down with mono or something worse. Cause even if I’m half asleep when this boat launches, heaven help me, I will be going somewhere. I love you St. Augustine, but I am ready to get out.

The Green Fairy

Monday February 18, 2012

So yes, I had a run in with the green fairy.  But first, yesterday’s work.  We’re really getting down to it now, almost in the water, but there are still a few jobs that need to be tackled.  One of those was getting the rudder lifted back in place.  It had been installed on Thursday along with the keel, but had not been lifted into place and the bottom was resting on a piece of plywood on the ground instead of sitting about 12-14″ off the ground as it should have been. The rudder itself is not terribly heavy, about 70 pounds, so lifting it back into place and securing it should not have been a problem.  But every time we lifted it up to try and shimmy the post into it’s hole, it was so tight!  When we did this last spring back in Muskegon it had been a 5-10 minute job with Matt pushing from the ground and me in the lazarette, ready to tie it off as soon as it was in place.  This time however, we were both below pushing up and were making little to no progress.

Under our boat are tons of little 2x4s and other pieces of scrap wood.  Working with all of our might to get the rudder lifted two inches off the ground, we’d slide a piece of wood under it and take a break.    Panting and lifting, we did this routine again and again, each time trying to slide a few more inches of wood under the rudder to hold it in place. After nearly 45 minutes of work we had finally gotten the rudder to where it needed to be, and found out that it wasn’t sitting right with the bushing. Down it had to go again.  Matt went back into the  lazarette to do a few more adjustments (sorry I don’t know what they are, but you can e-mail him if you’re curious) and then it was back to trying to lift the rudder a second time.

 Except this time proved even harder as the post seemed to be even tighter in it’s hole than last time.  We were struggling with every centimeter of progress we made.  Once it was up again, Matt went to check it in the lazarette and found once more that it still was not sitting right with the bushing.  Once more it went down, and once more we were breaking our backs trying to get it back up.  After the third time of finally raising it and it still not fitting properly into the bushing, we realized that the bushing that had replaced our old one when the rudder came back from being straightened is not the right shape for our rudder post and will need to be replaced.  We called defeat and promised to have a talk with the service manager the next day.

And as we’re finding as we’ve been slaving away these past few weeks, working earns needs playing hard.  Which is why when Yu told us that friends of her and Frank’s were in a town for a few days and they were all going out, we jumped at the chance to join.  It wasn’t set to be an extravagant night out, we’d just meet Yu at Casa Monica and have a drink there while she was finishing her shift, and then we’d head over to White Lion for their Monday $1 specials.  Frank picked us up in his Subaru hatchback, and while squeezing two more people into the car, we were introduced to Zack and Alex.  They knew Frank and Yu from New York, and also have done a fair amount of traveling in their time.

Turns out they had spent some time on the water as well, but not quite in the way that any of us are used to.  Traveling to India they gathered a group of close to 20 people and built paddle bikes that they then took all the way down the Ganges River, pulling off to the side to camp each night.  Talk about hardcore traveling!  While finding all this out about them, we had entered Casa Monica and took a seat around a couch while Yu waited on us.  I had been dying to try this martini she had on girls night out, a French 75, but she also had another surprise in store for me.  Knowing that I have never had Absinthe, and having it behind the counter, she brought out a glass of that for me as well.  I even got to partake in the tradition where you light a spoonful of sugar on fire and then douse it in water, slightly watering down the drink as well.  I may have gone a little crazy on my ‘splash out’ and ended up with water all over the table, but I think with some real practice I could get it down.  I was so excited to drink Absinthe and experience the green fairy for the first time, until I took my first sip and realized it tasted like black licorice.  Probably my least favorite flavor in the world.  I still wasn’t going to let that stop me from enjoying my very first Absinthe though, and continued to sip it with a sour expression on my face, quickly chasing it with my very tasty martini.  I guess in some circumstances, double fisting is necessary.

As soon as Yu got off work, we made the walk down St. George Street to the White Lion, hoping we could still show our faces there again after all the crazyness that ensued on Frank’s birthday a few weeks before.  Luckily the same bartender was not working and we did not have to feel embarrassed about all of our dancing on stage and literally through the whole bar.  I think they did have posters with our faces somewhere though, lot letting us have access to the jukebox, because the whole time we were there it was not operating for money and the only music playing through the speakers was controlled by the bartender.  I can’t believe they don’t want us playing our random collection of techno and folk and rap music.  The bar was just as empty as ever, so we took it upon ourselves to mill around it, moving from tables inside to ones outside and back.  I feel like Matt and I are starting to come down with something though, because after only one drink there and the clock having struck just past midnight, we were about falling asleep at the table and ready to go home.  Promising we’d ‘continue the party’ at Moitessier, we got everyone back to the car and then forced them to drive us back to Serendipity.  No 3 am parties tonight.  That’s ok though, tomorrow we’re doing oysters and cocktails and should be rested enough to stay out all night long.


It Takes Four to Tango

Saturday February 16, 2013

(Photo courtesy of Four 2 Tango)


I have been racking my brain trying to remember what we did yesterday, but I can’t come up with anything.  My guess is that we ran more errands, nothing interesting happened, and that’s why I can’t remember it.  The only thing I do remember is that I made a kick-ass chicken stir-fry for dinner.  It was soooo good.  The other thing I remember, is that while taking a quick bathroom break while the rice was cooking, I met a really nice family out in the yard, on the way back to their boat.  We started chatting, and it turns out, they knew who we were!  What?!  Or I should say, they knew of our story and how we ended up in St. Augustine.  They even told me, “We specifically avoided the St. Augustine Inlet and went down the ICW instead because of what happened to you”.  How interesting that our fate could have the impact to change other cruisers plans.  In any sense though, we all laughed at what a small world it is and decided to all get together the next night over dinner and discuss our cruising disasters.

Before we could make it out for dinner though, we had to spend the day doing…more boat projects.  And for me that meant…more sewing.  Ugh, the dreaded sewing.  Yu still hadn’t come back to get her machine yet, I think she was enjoying her time away from it as much as I was starting to dislike having it around (for the sole purpose that I couldn’t get out of my work now, the machine still rocks), so I had to tackle the job of the pucker I had put into the bimini while trying to fix a not even noticeable ‘taught-ness’ on the sides.  The good news was that since it was the weekend I had the shed to myself with all the space necessary to work, but on a downside, there was a huge dip in temperature so it was freezing out along with 20-25 knot winds blowing all around.  Since there was no one in the yard and no one to impress, although, who am I really trying to impress anyway?, I stuck it out in my sweatpants and bundled up in long underwear and winter hat.

Trying to set my materials down on the picnic table by the vending machines, the wind was so strong that it kept trying to pick the bimini up and turn it into a sail.  We already have enough of those on board, so I wanted to stick to the project of making it pretty and giving us shade.  Moving to another picnic table around the corner I spread the cloth down but still had a nice breeze cutting around and getting in my way once in awhile.  Getting to work, I didn’t follow the rule of three and honestly thought it would be a 30-45 minute job. I mean, I just had to rip out a seam about 8 inches on each end, let the fabric out a half inch, and stitch it back up.  Nuh uh.  This caused a ripple in the fabric that I didn’t find until it was already stitched.  So back to seam ripping it was.  Except this time I had to take out the whole length.  I don’t know why it wasn’t working out, but try as I might, I could not get rid of the ripple and was going to have a small bunch of fabric somewhere.  Finally I decided that I’d put it close to the center where the solar panel would hide it and called it good.  I don’t know why I didn’t just leave it as it was the first day.  To me, it had looked perfect.  Close to 4 hours of work later I was finally finished, and also famished.

Ready to feed that appetite, we went to visit our new friends.   At 7:00, we boarded Tango, a 35 ft Tobago Catamaran owned and operated by Andy and Robyn.  Traveling with them are their two daughters, Madi and Peyton, who greeted us at the salon table as we sat down.  Also at the table was an awesome spread of homemade salsa and guacamole.  Cracking a beer I began to dig right in.  Let it be know that there are always manners among cruisers, but when it comes to food, it’s a free for all. So while sitting there and eating some amazing and fresh salsa with a few tortilla chips, we began on the conversation of cruising and our trips thus far.  Not before we could be gifted an adorably cute vase that Madi had made for us earlier that day, and even collected flowers from the field across the street to fill it.  Cruisers, I have to tell you, are some amazing people.  While learning more about each other, we found that Andy and Robyn had left in October from the Chesapeake.  Turns out they were practically on our tails, having left just after Hurricane Sandy.

We joked about our troubles so far, and how we both swear that there was a bad weather cloud that followed us all the way down the east coast.  I don’t know how many times each of our boats had heard, “It’s unusually cold right now, I swear, it’s never like this around this time of year.  It was so nice just before you got here.”.  We both agreed that hearing that gets old very quick.  And then it was on to the topic of groundings.  They already knew all about ours, so there wasn’t any new news there, but they did have their own to tell back from when they were in North Carolina.  It was something where they eventually got off by themselves, but the kicker is when they hailed they boat they just moved out of the way for to say they were grounded, all this boat came back with was “Bummer”, and then sped off.  But I’m sure we’re all learning so far as we get further into our adventures, is when issues like this happen, even if they piss you off at the time, they’ll always make for great stories later.  Cause what fun is it getting together with other cruisers to swap stories if you’ve only had smooth sailing?

Andy and Banyan.

Love Actually is All Around

Thursday February 14, 2013

Valentine’s Day in the yard, and even though it’s cold and raining out, the feeling of love is all around.  Ok, maybe it’s only emanating from Matt and I.  Not because we’re so in love (although we are), but because Serendipity is literally being pieced back together.  After a few delays getting the keel on earlier this week due to bad weather, we’re finally going to have a boat again that can move through water.

The skies were still a little gray this morning, and when we woke up we had no idea that the keel was still planned to be put on, thinking that any chance of rain might keep the 3M 5200 compound from setting.  This is what’s getting slabbed on in the cracks, a VERY strong adhesive, so it was important to us that it set properly.  We were actually sitting on the settees when I saw the travel lift on the side of the boat, and I thought they were putting in a new boat next to us.  But then my mind comprehended that there is no space for another boat next to us on our port side, and so I looked over to starboard and saw the other side of the lift on that side.  We quickly hopped up and raced out onto the deck.  I don’t know why I only thought this would be a 1o minute job, but I did, so only grabbing a fleece and slipping on my flip flops, I climbed down the ladder.

Getting a little snap happy with my camera, I started treating it like my kid’s first day of school, taking a million photos and hitting the record button each time the engine on the lift would fire up.  They got her up in the air pretty quickly, but then there was a lot of other work to be done on their end before the keel could actually go back on.  We stood there for a few minutes, kicking at the sand, without much to do.  Starting to take a little walk around the yard, I realized that we hadn’t eaten all day (I was just starting to fix lunch when the travel lift came) and I needed to have food.  Well of course in our rush to get the process started we had left our bike keys up on the nav station, and now with Serendipity hovering 15 feet in the air with no ladder attached….walking seemed like the only option.  Except our boatyard is a mile from the main drag in the historic part of town, and the only thing there is a Subway.  Not that I think a one mile walk is out of the question, but I knew on foot it would take me close to 45 minutes round trip, and I didn’t want to miss out on any of the action of the keel going back on.

I had almost resigned myself to hearing my stomach growl for the next hour or two when we remembered that our friends Patty and Terry had left another bicycle to the yard, after it had taken a little dip in the ocean, and Patty replaced it with a new and fully working one.  We weren’t sure about the brakes, that were now supposedly a little suspicious, but it wasn’t locked and I only needed to take it down a dirt rode.  Walking it from the shed into the yard, I tried to have Matt lower the seat for me, but that was also now a little rusted and not going anywhere.  I figured I’d stand if necessary, but I needed my food, and I needed it quick.  Getting out to the road I noticed the tires were also nearly flat, making this a very, very difficult bike ride.  I was tempted to set it on the side of the road and start walking instead, but even this slow flat tire bicycling was faster than my walking.  When I got into the Subway I was so sweaty and out of breath that the guy behind the counter had to ask me if I was alright.  But after a few minutes of panting I was able to get my order out, and upon receiving my sub it was back to the bike for the exhausting conclusion of my ride.

Arriving back at the yard I found Matt hovering by Serendipity, watching as a thick, gloopy coat of 5200 was spread across the keel.  We took our sandwich to the picnic table which was just out of the howling winds that were beginning to pick up, and kept stealing glances over to our boat to see if anything big was about to happen.  Nothing did while we were eating, so when we finished, we wandered back over to check on progress.  There was a light drizzle coming down now, and our big fear that the adhesive compound wouldn’t set was coming back up, but we were assured that it would be fine, although it put a giddy-up in their step, and work was happening much quicker now.  Wanting to make sure everything was still completed today, Matt asked if the rudder was still going on, since no one was paying much attention to it.  It was probably a project they were going to save for the very end, but with the rain coming down now, we wanted to make sure it wasn’t skipped in lieu of getting out of that rain.

The guy working the keel assigned two other guys to work on the rudder, one to lift the boat back up a little, and one to position the keel for when it came back down.  Yes, visible progress again!  It wasn’t long after that the keel was now ready and with the travel lift up and running again, and a few hand signals, Serendipity was placed back down perfectly on top of the keel that she had been missing for a month.  There was still the work of getting all the bolts tightened, nothing that we could help with or even see, since all the work would be done on the boat, so we went to the office to get warmed up.  I couldn’t watch the rest the rest of the work, but I was still as happy as could be.  I can actually taste how close we are to leaving now. Getting Serendipity put back together was the best Valentine’s gift I could ask for.  It definitely beats out the Valentine’s Day a few years ago where we spent the evening running speaker wire for our home theater system.

I’ve Got a Gun to My Thread

Monday February 11, 2013

It’s finally happened.  I had to do the thing I’ve been dreading and putting off for months.  Canvas work for the bimini.  Ugh.  If there is one thing I hate more than anything else, it’s sewing.  The pattern making, the trying to make everything fit together, and then ripping it apart and starting over when it doesn’t.  Not to mention that 80% of the time my little Brother sewing machine craps out on me.  I don’t even know how many times I’ve seen the E6 error message pop up on screen because my thread has gotten tangled, and this usually ends with me pulling my hair out and about to drop my machine overboard (or out the window back at home).

But there was no getting around it any longer.  Now that the end is finally in sight we need to tackle all those little projects we’ve been putting off and I could’t escape mine any longer. Adding to that time crunch, I was given a blessing and a curse.  Yu owns a very saught after Sailrite sewing machine which she’s currently using to do her own canvas but said she could break away from it for one day to lend it to me.  It was fantastic news because these machines can literally sew through 20 layers of fabric (Yu has tried), and the bimini fabric is so thick and tough that it’s broken many a needle of mine before on my own machine.  But….I only had the one day to finish everything I needed to do.  The sewing machine was dropped off to me just after noon, and that didn’t give me a lot of time until the sun went down.

The issue with the bimini and why it needs fixing, is because back in July when we went to add the two solar panels that sit on top of it, we had to reconfigure the shape a little bit to get the panels to lay properly.  New bars were added to actually support the solar panels, but we also had to change the angle of the bars that were already there, bringing them closer together.  This ended up causing lots of loose fabric to hang low into the cockpit, and has been a vexation to us ever since.  Originally not wanting to reconfigure the fabric as well, and take the chance of ruining it forever, we left it alone.  We even toyed with the idea of ordering a new hard bimini, but it would have been white and I was afraid it wouldn’t match the rest of the boat.  But with only a week or two before we leave (I mean it this time!), something had to be done.

So with time running out and no other options, it was decided to go the route of taking apart the current bimini and putting it back together, taking out about six inches from the front.  A few days ago Matt and I had pulled the fabric tight to where we wanted the new seam to be and I marked that line with chalk.  Then I took the whole bimini below and with a soldering iron, cut off the front part that contained the zippers so I could just move it back the few inches we need instead of having to remove the zipper and put them back together, as well as lose the very nice and strong seam already at the front.  After Yu left and I had the machine all set up, I grabbed a cold Mt. Dew from the vending machine behind me and I was ready to get to work.  Having to go back and re-mark all my lines that were now becoming faded, I pulled out my double sided tape and began running it along the line.

I was being oh so careful and precise, and within 30 minutes I thought I had perfectly lined up the entire length of the canvas and was ready to sew.  Matt happened to be walking up to check on me and I proudly showed him my work.  I was so content that I had done something right on the first try, until he pointed out a fatal flaw to me.  I had stuck the fabric together on the wrong side.  What I had put on top was supposed to be on the bottom.  Noooo!!  The curse of sewing was striking again!  He left while I sat there now discontented, having no idea how I would remedy this, since my chalk lines were apparently on the wrong side as well.  In the end it only took me a few minutes to find out that I could fold the fabric to still make it work, and I was on my way again.

Finishing that part up for a second time I realized I’d never eaten lunch and didn’t want to take on the sewing machine on an empty stomach.  I quickly devoured a hefty sandwich and cracked open an energy drink, ready to go strong.  Yu had already gone through the steps of helping me wind the bobbin and thread the machine, so once it was time to go, all I had to do was bring the fabric to the needle and press down on the peddle.  And it was…easy.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  Effortless.  Fluent.  The machine just took the fabric and made perfect little stitches from one end to the other.  No snags, snarls, broken needles, or error messages.  I was in love.

Now feeling much better about the remaining work, I happily plugged along, cutting off the extra fabric that I had overlapped and smoothing that seam to sew as well.  When it got late in the afternoon, Matt and Georgie came to bring me a coffee and watch me while I worked.  I finished with still close to an hour of daylight, and when we went to zip the bimini back on, it fit perfectly! Hallelujah!  For once a sewing project finally had gone right and I was able to enjoy the rest of my evening without having a meltdown on how no sewing projects ever turn out the way I want.

So yesterday was great, I was on top of the world.  Today…not so much.  Because of all the caffeine I had chugged to get myself to work as hard as possible, I was also up until 4:30 am with insomnia.  It got to the point that I was going through the phonetic alphabet and trying to spell out our name as well as all our friend’s boat names. I had already gone through Serendipity, Rode Trip, Hideaway, and Hullabaloo, and was on Anthyllide when I finally started drifting off.   Waking up just a few hours later was not fun.  I was hoping my sewing would be done, but Yu was kind enough to lend me the machine for another day, so I was able to move on to the project I was really dreading.  Taking the connecting piece between the dodger and bimini and adding fabric so it would now make up for what I just cut off from the bimini.

I know it doesn’t sound terribly hard, but because of the curves, the only information I had to go with is that I needed to add 10 inches in the center and have it curve down to 7 at the end.  If I was smart I would have purchased some cheap fabric that I could have held up to both ends, and marked and cut to make a template.  What I did instead was lay out our old sailcover that we steal scraps of Sunbrella from, and pinned the existing connector to it.  From there I measured 10 inches from the center and marked straight lines until I knew the fabric started curving.  This is where the really hard part came in, those curves were really throwing me off!  Thinking that if I had a stroke of genius and that if the new piece I was adding needed to have the same curve as the current piece, I moved the pinned piece down to match my new lines I had begun drawing, and just followed the pattern of the current piece all the way to the end.  So smart!

Having it fully marked I began cutting the fabric and pinning it.  This was a case where the zippers had to be taken off and moved.  Using a seam ripper to remove them had actually taken up a good portion of my morning and early afternoon, so now the sun was beginning to set and I hadn’t even broken out the sewing machine yet.  Moving the picnic table to the area that had the best light and still had an outlet, I was now basically blocking the bathrooms inside the shed that half of the people living or working on their boat use.  I couldn’t worry about that, I needed to get my work done!

Having done a few stitches it was now way into the night and I was too hungry to carry on. Having Matt bring over the leftover General Tso’s Chicken I had spent an hour and a half making the night before, we heated it up in the shop’s industrial size microwaves and I took bites between pinning fabric together.  Pinning that took f-o-r-e-v-e-r.  When I was still out there at 9:00 at night, a guy working on his boat in the shed came over to lend a battery powered lamp to help shed a little more light on the machine and fabric.  More pinning and more sewing.  When I finally made the last stitch I was completely exhausted and ready to fall asleep on the picnic table.  It was now 11:00 pm and I had been working on this project for over 12 hours, and on only five hours of sleep.  When Matt asked if I wanted to put it on to see if it fit, I told him I wouldn’t be able to take the failure if it didn’t. My sewing worked out yesterday and I wanted to think the same thing today.  He was so intent on seeing it up there he goes, “Well I’ll throw it on, and I’ll only say anything if it does fit.”  “How is that going to work?” I asked.  “If you come down and don’t say anything, I’m going to know it has to be redone.”  “Oh”, he thought for a minute, “I guess you’re right.  Look at the brains on this one.”.

LOVE this machine!

Check out our cool bikes in the background!


The Great Escape

Saturday February 9, 2013

After Thursday I was afraid it would happen, and it has.  We’ve raised a little escape artist. Georgie has found out that she can climb down the ladder.  There were a few times on Thursday when she would begin to jump down one rung on the ladder, and we’d quickly swoop her up and set her back on deck along with a scolding.  But then yesterday when both of us were distracted getting the dinghy down off the davits so it could get a good cleaning, she hopped all the way down to the ground.  I caught what she was doing just moments after she got down, and was able to quickly grab her and once again set her back where she should be.

From that point we said that we’d no longer let her run around on deck at night, one of her favorite things to do before bed to blow off steam.  It seriously sounds like a race track up there sometimes, with her sprinting lap after lap.  But now we couldn’t trust her to be up there alone and promised her only deck time would be during the day where we could keep better tabs on her.  Except, last night the sun went down and we both got distracted, forgetting she was out there.  After hearing nothing but silence from up above for quite some time I turned to Matt and asked, “Where’s the cat?”.  We both looked at the companionway which was sitting wide open.  Oh, s&*t.

Throwing on headlamps we scoured the deck, looking in every nook and corner and under the cushions that were still drying, trying to find any place up there she might be hiding.  Nothing.  So then we brought the search to the ground.  I had brought a bag of her treats with me, and we began to walk the yard, shaking the bag and calling her name.  I was on one side of Serendipity while Matt was on the other when I heard a yell, “I found her over here!”.  Running over to assist him catch her, I heard a loud noise and then a yell of pain from Matt, quickly followed by yells for me to quickly get my ass over there.  As I came up behind him and saw Georgie in his hands, and thought that maybe she clawed or scratched him as he tried to grab her.  Nope.  What he didn’t see as he was running full speed to get her, was a metal chain that ran the width of the boat next to ours, and ran smack into it with his face.

Grabbing Georgie out of his hands I climbed half way up the ladder and pitched her on deck as I tried to catch up to Matt who had stumbled to the men’s bathroom to check out his face.  It was not a pretty picture.  The nose was most likely broken, he had to snap it back in place, and covering his nose and forehead were cuts and bruises.  He took it pretty well, and back at the boat, although I knew he was in a lot of pain, I couldn’t help but look over at him and giggle a little bit.  He looked like he had just stepped out of a hockey ring without a helmet on, but when people inevitably see the damage and ask what happened he’ll have to reply with “I chased my cat into a chain link”.

Today has been back to work on both projects we couldn’t start until this point, and ones we should have done once we first got here.  Since the dinghy was lowered yesterday, that was given a nice cleaning, bringing it back to close to it’s original white shade.  Gotta love MaryKate On & Off.  I swear that stuff is like a Magic Eraser for anything boat related.  Then it was on to faring the prop shaft area and getting that ready to install.  A little time spent with 3M 4200, and lots of time afterward with vinegar and acetone, and we were ready to call it a night.  Knowing what’s in store for me tomorrow though, I’m not sure I’m ready for this night to end.

I think all the trouble started here, during her first walk.

V-berth cushions drying up on deck.


Gone Today, Here Tomorrow

Friday February 8, 2012

I think one of the most exciting things of us being here in the yard has just happened. The keel bolt issue has been fixed! Can you believe it? And you were probably sitting there having no idea it was even being worked on. You know why? Because it took less than 48 hours for us to start a conversation with the person who was going to fix it, to having it completed and delivered back to us. Amazing!, right?

Ok, let me back up a little bit. If you’re not familiar with the whole story of the keel issue, this is how it started. We took the keel off back on January 10 only to find out that a few of the bolts had crevice corrosion and would need to be replaced. This bummed us out as it was now one more project to add to our never ending list. What bummed us out even more, is that as soon as we began searching, we could not find a soul anywhere near us to do this kind of repair. And only being a few hundred miles from ‘The Boating Capital of the World’ no less. We thought we were going to have to ship the whole keel up to Canada or Rhode Island to have it repaired as they were the only capable people we came across. Not only would that have taken a lot of time, but it also would have cost a lot of money. So we kept searching, and then came across a guy from California who actually builds keels, and would be able to fly out to Florida to do the job. But after costs kept rising due to little add ons, we canceled that deal as well. With, however, lots of helpful tips from the guy on how to do the job on our own with help from our yard.

So on both Tuesday and Wednesday when we were out running errands, we’d stop by Moitessier to talk to Frank who had lots of good ideas on how to do it ourselves, and we’d also be out scouring the aisles of Home Depot for a top grade drill press. We were all ready to make the purchases and start work when Matt had been talked into contacting the the owner of the yard next door where Frank and Yu have their boat. Ever since we got here we’ve been hearing rave reviews about this guy, how there’s never been anything he hasn’t been able to do, and how his work is always meticulous. Tracking him down, Matt had a nice conversation about what needs to be done, and the guy says, “Sure. I’ll have it brought over tomorrow, and have it finished by the end of the day.”.

Even that night (Wednesday) as we planned for the keel to be taken from us the next afternoon, we sat and thought really hard about the directions we’d give him on how to perform the job. Sister in a few new bolts? Take them out and replace them? We were still figuring this out when there was a tap on our hull. We climbed out to see a neighbor of ours, Terry from m/v Island Girl, coming over with a dinner invitation. Having met Matt a few times while I was away, Terry thought Matt was still living the bachelor life and might need a hot meal. Although I did happen to be back, that hot meal was nowhere in sight from my end, so we took them up on their offer to join them for burgers on their boat.It was so nice to be on a boat that’s on the water, and we were able to enjoy a spectacular sunset from the windows in their salon. The burgers were delicious, the company was great, and it was a much needed distraction from all our boat work.

Yesterday afternoon we were just doing little projects here and there, more fiberglassing for Matt and washing the cushions up on deck for me. The guy to fix the bolts stopped by and said that after some preliminary work that morning, he figured that replacing any bolts would be better than sistering in new ones, so we decided to go with his judgement. A few hours later he’d be back to have the keel brought over. After he left, Georgie started her routine of crying out to us while we were on the ground, so once more I strapped her into her harness and leash and let her roam around the yard. She’s doing much better now on the rocks, walking and even running through them without issue. I think she’s still getting used to the fact of being on a leash though, since she did try to chase down a random piece of paper in the yard, and was yanked back in mid-air as she tried to make her leap. The even bigger issue though, was when we put her back on deck and I caught her two times making her way one step down the ladder. I could see that causing some big problems in the future.

After we had finished our little jobs and were running out of things to do, our yard manager showed up with a fork lift to get it ready to take over to the yard next door. Securing some heavy duty chain to the front and back bolts, the keel was lifted a few feet off the ground and we waved to it as it made it’s way out of the yard. Both of us would have been really interested in following it and watching the progress, but the owner next door doing the work gave strict instructions that no one was to disturb him for the rest of the afternoon while he worked on it, not even his employees. But we were just happy that it was gone. A month of just trying to figure out what to do with it, at least now something was happening. In a construction site, one should buy crane warning lights on the site.

Then this morning Matt ran over to see how the progress was going. We’re used to having things go wrong, having things delayed, or at least two more projects coming from anything we start, so we were thinking it would probably be over there through the weekend and a couple of days into next week. When he got back I asked him how it was going. “It’s done”, he replied. “What do you mean it’s done?”, I asked. “It’s done”, he said said again. “And it was done right?”, I gaped, “Like it’s actually ready to come back and be put on?”. He just smiled. For once, we finally got it right. Four weeks of anguish and a four hour remedy.

It was delivered back this afternoon with a shiny new bolt sticking out of the lead. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything prettier. Well maybe when the boat is all put back together, but we’re not at that point yet. For now this is more than sufficient. It means that very shortly we can start putting the boat back together. Finally light at the end of the tunnel. Finally I can let myself believe we might get back in the water.

Terry and Patty (photo courtesy of Island Girl Cruising)

I Do My Little Turn On The Catwalk

Monday February 4, 2012

The painting is, dare I say, done.  At least for the areas that have already been fiberglassed.  It was a lot a long process, and a lot of time spent in small spaces, but now it’s one more thing checked off our list.  The process wasn’t hard, although we had to split it up over yesterday and today in order to do two coats.  Yesterday we washed down the whole area.  While waiting for it to completely dry out, we ran some errands on the bike.  Trying to fill the fridge again with at least two or three nights of meals we walked through the aisles of Winn Dixie before jumping across the street to Home Depot. We’re trying to find the right fittings to connect our grill to our propane tanks, and no matter what we buy it never seems to fit.  Hopefully today will be different.

 Errands ran, we got back to the boat and wiped down the now dry areas with Acetone before painting. Then it was the squeezing into small spaces.  The only area I had to do yesterday was the bilge running from the mast to the galley.  I thought it would be easy, it’s painting.  I like painting.  But I guess what I really like, is painting in areas that I can see.  Plus I was given one rule (besides don’t get paint on the floor or settee), and that was Don’t get paint on the wires.  So what happens as soon as I get my brush wet and stick it under the floor boards? I get a big ‘ol splat on one of the wires.  Ooops.  Looks like I didn’t tape them away quite well enough.  Then there was also a little more trouble while painting in between open holes in the floor where I couldn’t even see where my brush was making strokes, but after dousing the area I’m pretty sure it’s covered.

 Matt painted the engine bay, which at first I felt really bad about because he had more square footage, but then I realized his area had much easier access, and then I didn’t feel so bad for him. Then today was a day for the second coat of paint.  Once again we had to wipe down and Acetone the areas, but this time we first had to take sandpaper to what was already painted so we could rough up the surface a little and give something for the paint to grab on to.  Once again Matt tackled the engine bay while I did the bilge.  But in addition to that, I was also given the project of painting the remaining storage areas under the port settee.  I thought it would be a cinch compared to the bilge, because like Matt, it was a much larger and more exposed area to work in.  What I wasn’t counting on, again, where wires and hoses.  It was very hard to work around them and I didn’t finish until more than two hours after Matt.  He was probably sitting around on his computer watching me and thinking “Ah, so this must have been what it was like for you last week while I was working”.

My expert work didn’t finish there though.  We had taken one of our water tanks out weeks ago to make room for the fiberglassing, and while it has been sitting on our deck since then, we were ready for it to go back.  But not after a good cleaning.  I asked to take the hose to it while trying to get the most pressure possible to blast the sides of the tank with.  I tried once and it didn’t work too well.  What I did find out though, is my arm is somehow small enough to fit in whole, so with a few paper towels I was able to give the entire inside a thorough wipe down.  I think I’ll feel much better drinking our water now, after seeing what the inside of the tank had previously looked like.

Also, I hate to admit it, but we have become ‘those’ pet owners.  While browsing through Amazon I came across this cat harness and leash, and thought it would be a good idea to have for Georgie.  It still worries me a bit that she won’t know how to handle herself right away on deck with the rocking motion of the boat when we’re back in the water.  It will probably be more of just a training tool for a little bit, or if she demands on being outside when conditions get just a little bit rough (only in the cockpit of course).  But we also feel so bad for the times right now while we’re on the hard and we’re running around on the ground and she sticks her head over the side, mewing, and basically asking if she can come with us.  So today, we let her.

Having put her in the harness for a few hours for the past few days just to get her used to it we figured she was finally ready for a little walk today.  We clipped on the leash and carried her down the ladder.  We set her on the ground,….and nothing.  She didn’t move.  Thinking she may not like the surface of the rocks in the yard we picked her up again and brought her to the little park across the street.  She wasn’t a fan of walking in grass either.  She literally just went limp on the ground.  Trying to get her moving we would pull up on the leash, but she’d still just stay limp, with her feet dangling a few inches off the ground.  It gave us a good laugh for a minute, until we felt bad.  On pavement though, she likes to move.  We can walk her just like a dog. That is, until she decides to stop and twist herself in circles, which was often.

Getting Down and Dirty

Saturday February 2, 2012

I knew there would still be projects to do after I got back from Arizona, but I foolishly thought that Matt had done the bulk of them while I was away. Maybe I just wasn’t ‘in the know’ of things still on our to-do list, but I honestly thought there were very few projects for us to do ourselves, and we’d wait for the yard and contractors to go about their work, getting us ready to go in the water. Silly, silly girl. I was allowed a little adjusting time on Friday, after having just got back, to get back into the swing of being on a boat, plus I think he wanted to spend all afternoon with my new laptop, finding out if he wanted to steal it for himself (not going to happen!). I had my heart set on going to First Friday Artwalk again, and after a little begrudging on the part of Matt, he said that if we got our projects for the afternoon done then we could go. Since I was still used to a ‘boat project’ being along the lines of making sure all the dishes are done and the galley is clean (yes, I get all the pink roles), I was thinking that whatever he had up his sleeve would only take us an hour, two at max. Still plenty of time to then clean up and then head into town.

The boat project for the day was to help Matt fiberglass the areas under the port side settee.  This sounded like a long and extensive project to me, all fiberglassing ones had been in the past, but he assured me it would take an hour, tops.  And I believed him.  Silly, silly girl.  Luckily, my part of the job wasn’t hard.  I was the mixing wench.  Which meant that while Matt was covered in ooey gooey goodness, I’d mix his next batch of epoxy.  Knowing from unfortunate experience that even though this job is easy, it would still be messy for me too, I searched through my bags to find at least one outfit I wouldn’t mind ruining.  Because that’s what epoxy does, it sets and you never get it out!  What I came up with was a Hanes white tee and some purple leggings that would have been great for Jazzercise, minus the side pony.

So there I stood, mixing one part resin with three parts hardener, and sometimes throwing in kitty hair (shredded fiberglass), and silica (thickener).  I’d hand the cup over to Matt and he’d stuff and spread the mix in the necessary areas, gloves completely torn open and epoxy all over his hands and arms.  This was a medium temp epoxy which meant that it set a bit quicker than the regular kind, but also created higher temperatures to do so.  Since some of the area he was using it on was below our floorboards, he’d occasionally have me take out our heat gun and check the temperature of the floor in areas where it was curing.  A few of the areas were getting close to 130 degrees, and I expected the plastic sheet we had set down to protect from any mess on the floor to burst into flames at any second.  But even in the hurricane state of the boat, I knew where the fire extinguisher was and was ready to grab it at moment if need be.

This one hour project turned into four hours, and before we even cleaned up there was only thirty minutes left in the art walk.  We would not be making it out that night.  But the work Matt did looked very professional, and I’ll take one step closer to leaving over a night out on the town, even if it is one of the best events around.  I really did want to make it to one more art walk during our stay here though.  But if for any reason we’re still here in March for the chance to attend again, heaven help me, I will burn this boat down.

Today was a bit more of the same, but before we could get to the fiberglassing, I was able to run some errands on my own while Matt stayed behind to get the engine bay ready to paint.  And what my errand for the day was, was to run out and get that paint that would be used for the engine bay and the bilge area.  We had spent all morning debating which kind of paint to use in those areas.  On his way back from dropping me off at the airport, Matt had stopped at a West Marine in Jacksonville and picked up a specific bilge paint from them, but wasn’t sure if he wanted to use it.  Plus there was only a quart of it. To get the best epoxy paint, one can go on this Homepage and also find out why it is way better.

The other thing he had his eye on was a high build epoxy paint from Sherwin Williams.  It came with a price tag five times that of the West Marine paint, but was two parts at a gallon a piece, should be stronger and longer lasting, plus it’s likely there will be enough left to cover the anchor locker as well.  We hemmed and hawed for a bit about the pros and negatives as well as the cost, but knowing Matt, and knowing that he truly wanted the better paint but just felt bad about spending the extra money, I made the decision for him and got myself ready to go to Sherwin Williams.  Besides, I had just been completely spoiled by my parents, I think we could afford to swing an extra few bucks on something necessary.

Getting my butt all the way to the Walmart area where Sherwin Williams sits, about three miles from the marina, I may have quickly popped into McDonald’s for an iced coffee, a usually unnecessary expenditure, before going to Walmart to grab a few items as well.  No surprise that I had come back to an empty fridge and we had no real food to eat.  Then jumping across the street I walked into the paint shop and pretended I knew what I was doing, by throwing down an envelope with some scribbles written on it to the guy behind the counter.  Along with it I tossed down the bilge cover since we wanted to do a paint match and hopefully patch that little area that Matt nicked while sanding.  It took awhile for them to be able to match the color, I think our cover was a little too dirty to get a clear reading, but soon the can was shaking away in it’s mixer.

Going to pay the tab, I don’t know if the guy thought we were with an organization and gave a contractor discount, or there was a sale going on that we didn’t know about, but the price came out $30 cheaper than we were originally planning.  That could buy me a lot of iced coffees….  After I paid the bill the guy asked if he could help bring the cans out to my car and I had to sheepishly admit that I had ridden my bike there and the cans would be going home with me in my backpack.  Wrapping them up in extra plastic to make sure they didn’t spill, we eventually got them stuffed in and I was able to put on the backpack without toppling over.  Now back to fiberglassing, and tomorrow, paint!

Georgie supervising while we work.