Winter Vacation on Ms Maggie

For the last, oh, 30 years or so, we’ve taken the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve off.  There was so little work, our employees had nothing to do and they wanted to be elsewhere so we’d give them paid vacation during that week.

Our kids were in school and they always had that time off, so we’d go somewhere to get warm, like Death Valley or Palm Springs or San Diego.  Yeah, Death Valley!  Its an intriguing place and you could easily spend 4 days there hiking, off-roading, checking out the historic sites and buildings.


Closed until 2020 due to flood damage 😦                       photo from Death Valley website link above.

ANYway, this time, the kids have their own lives (oh, I’m tearing up at the thought!) and we now have a trawler, so we wanted to go where the river could take us AND where there would be fireworks!

Turns out Old Sacramento  is a (mostly) great place to go via boat.  Have you ever been?  Its another fascinating place because of a) its history b) lots of fun shops and restaurants c) Railroad Museum d) Jazz Festival e) RailFest f) historic Delta King riverboat hotel g) Underground Tours h) fireworks i) car museum j) Crocker museum and MORE!  And its right down the street from the Capitol building.  They even have a karaoke lounge, which Rick wouldn’t let me near…

So, in order to stay at the Marina, we had to put our names in a figurative hat and see if we were one of the lucky few allowed to dock there.  And we were first on the waiting list and someone cancelled, so we GOT IN!  Yay!

Day 1 of our trip to Old Sac:

We leave later than we’d like.  We drove back home from Visalia where we spent Christmas with our 2nd-born (he was on-call and stuck staying local), pulled the boat around to the house and went to the grocery, loaded up the boat with all our junk necessities and ‘boom’ its too late to leave and get very far before the sucky dark descends.


We head out anyway, we can get part-way, at least, and we are on the road, so to speak.  We decided to bring the cat with us.  We have a new litter box and food bowls and a harness and leash for him.  Just before we shove off we bring Chuck onboard.


A little skittish as we leave the dock, but he’s not freaking out so, yay!

Once we speed up, Chuck pretty immediately high tails it for the v-berth.  Its not quite as noisy up there and he can cuddle among the sleeping bags and luggage.  So far so good.

There is a huge flock of birds sitting on the water and we are headed their way.  Small birds, Coots, black with white beaks.  As we motor close they begin running on the water to gain flight.  They are so funny.  I tried to get a video of them running along but failed.  I got a stupid photo of them, which is not the same, darn it.

But LOOK, I found a video on YouTube of one little guy running on the water – now picture a hundreds of them!


From the National Audubon Field Guide

We are stuck taking longer than we’d like because one of the bridges is too low and has had mechanical failure so it no longer raises for boat traffic.  I somehow think it won’t be fixed for awhile, if ever, cuz cars would have to detour a looong way around and its a much-used road.


A common sight

We won’t be able to make it to our planned 1/2 way point of Rio Vista if we don’t try a short cut and its getting dark soon.  With spot lights and head lights in play, we make the attempt via one of the many sloughs that connects the San Joaquin River with the Sacramento River.


We are heading down one of the many sloughs that goes to the Sacramento River when Rick (me, too) feels Ms Maggie hit something.  The chart shows no danger and deep’ish water (not 30′ feet but plenty deep for us) and I’m thinking crapcrapcrapcrap.  Since we were going very very slow, Rick is quick on the throttle and puts it in reverse and we back out of the mud, thank the good Lord!  Mud!  Not on the chart but that’s the way it goes.  Gotta be vigilant – even with a depth sounder and a navigational chart, things can happen.

As a result, we are heading back down the slough and will motor a little further to our good old standby, hello Pittsburg Marina!  We arrive safe and sound and everyone is happy and relieved.


Bread with olive oil, vinegar, parmesan and a chicken salad


Back in the water!

The outside of the boat is DONE – sanded, primered, caulked, refinished, painted.  The mast is back on with a fresh coat of paint, too.

We are ready to put ‘er back in the water.

Launching has to be timed perfectly.  There are 4 important factors to consider:

  1. Schedule at Rick’s work
  2. Schedule at the Napa marina
  3. Schedule of the tides
  4. Schedule of the wife, me

Rick needed to plan the boat launch so that he could move WITH the tide, not against it—primarily because the outboard motor is wimpy with a capital W.  No sense in making the trip harder, right?

The Marina’s launch truck had to be available, Rick had to plan his work schedule about 2 weeks ahead so he could be off work AND I needed to drive him up there and then pick him up after docking at the Fortman Marina on Alameda Island.

Putting the boat back in the water is a simple process.  The specialized trailer slips between the dry dock supports.

The trailer slips right into place.

The trailer slips right into place.


The rig.   Oooh, look at our paint job!

Then the trailer’s supports lift the boat from the spindly ground supports.  The package then maneuvers around and backs onto and down the ramp.

Backing down...

Backing down…

Slowly being lowered into the water...

Slowly being lowered into the water…

She's floating!

She’s floating!

...empty slip...

…empty slip…

We get the boat gassed up at the Napa marina’s floating gas station and I wave to him as he motors down the river.  Bye, Rick!  See you in Alameda.  😉

The dingy little dinghy is launched!

After months of sanding and painting and sanding and staining and polyurethaning and painting and sanding, the dinghy is done!


Look how nicely it fit in the back of the truck…notice how dingy it is…blechhh…



Doesn’t it look like a raggedy mess?


Here it is during its makeover.  Wood sanded, stained and polyurethaned, bottom primered.

The dinghy is finished but the sailboat isn’t, not quite.  Rick decided to bring the dinghy to our place in Discovery Bay, where we can at least we can go rowing in the Delta.  Its either that or store it in our backyard/parking lot.

Back in the truck it goes, with Rick whining all the way ‘its getting scuffed!’.  And us praying that it doesn’t slide out when we go over hill and dale to its temporary home.

After grunting and groaning it out of the truck and down the side of the house…


…and up these steps…



…and over the handrails, somehow…across the deck and then down a whole flight of stairs and a ramp to the dock.

…which didn’t happen.  The whole flight of stairs, that is.  Not that day, with only Rick and me to do the deed.

We ended up waiting about a month, when we knew some strapping young men would be to our house for Superbowl Sunday (no comments about how long it takes me to write a blog post, thank you very much).

There is nothing like a bunch of young men to traipse a dinghy down a flight of stairs.Image

They made short work of it.



Ta-da!!   😉

From ugly duckling to beautiful swan…mostly…

ugly duckling

Ugly duckling

Painting the exterior of a boat is difficult.  Well, maybe ‘difficult’ isn’t the right word.  Expensive is a good word … awkward is another one.

First comes all the sanding.  What a messy job.  Rick rented a sander from the marina and it had an attachment that keeps all the dust from blowing around.  Marine paint isn’t environmentally-friendly.

Since we are on a budget – as you may have noticed – we had to do the painting ourselves.  Primer, then sand, then primer, then sand, then paint and paint and paint again!

The process involves scaffolding, which involves scrounging around the yard looking for A-frame scaffolds and long wide planks which go between the scaffolds and upon which we stand.   I’m a klutz so standing on a plank that’s about a foot wide?  Hey, there’s a reason I didn’t do the balance beam in gymnastics!

The paint is expensive and we pour in an additive to make it more fluid so we don’t get unsightly brush streaks.

Which leads me to the real difficult part.

Boats are glossy and shiny,  In order to get glossy and shiny boats, we must paint the boat (after 3 coats of primer) standing side-by-side; 1 of us rolling on the gorgeous blue paint and the other doing something called ‘tipping’, which doesn’t involve money.

You take a sponge-brush and, tilting the brush about 45 degrees, lightly, lightly!! wipe the paint that has just been applied, first in one direction then in another.  Horizontally then vertically, then horizontally…  The point of that is to keep the paint from having obvious brush strokes and visible lines separating sections of rollered-on paint.

Tipping is an art which my husband is good at and me, not so much.  So I got to roll on the paint.  I mustn’t roll it on too fast nor too slow, I must just keep ahead of the tipper, trying not to paint over each others’ hands as we go, trying not the step in the paint tray or step off the plank and trying not to get my hair in the paint.

Its windy, its hot and its dusty from people driving by on the gravel road…aargh.

Also, its surprising how many bugs love fresh paint.

We had to keep spraying and taping up tiny holes to discourage wasps – yet, they built large hives anyway!

Rick and I enjoy ourselves, despite the heat and the mess and the mess and the heat.  A boat owner came by and she said she had wondered if a husband/wife team could actually work well together on a project like this, but when she heard us laughing all the time, she figured we were doing OK!

By the time we got to the last coat on the last quarter of the boat, it was looking pretty good!



So, we abide by the 20/20 rule.  If you are 20 feet away, going 20 miles per hour, the boat looks pretty good.  Even if we do say so ourselves 😉

A hubby with a hobby is a happy hubby!

I have a very happy hubby. 

Rick is the type of guy who always has a project, working with his hands, researching this and that, reading up on repair, refinishing, installing, best buys, best product, on and on and on and on and on.  Naturally, with all his researching, I learn stuff, too.  Sometimes more than I need or care to know but I’m a good sounding-board, if nothing else.

He spent the whole day Saturday doing boat-related stuff.  Online he found out about a guy who was parting out a salvaged Islander and went to his yard sale in San Leandro.  Unfortunately, the floorplan of that Islander didn’t match ours, so the cushions and carpet wouldn’t have fit, but Rick did buy a stainless steel bracket for an outboard motor – paid $25 and they are over $200 new…it needed some spiffing up so, Rick spent the rest of Saturday night and some of Sunday taking Brasso to it.  I took a nap.  All his energy wipes me out. 

oooh, side note:  I think I’m gonna need one of these hammocks on the boat!  What a lovely way to nap!

I used to have a hammock, in a previous house, under a lovely trellis – such a peaceful place to be in the summer, listening to the lawnmowers and barking dogs and giggling, squealing kids playing on their Slicky Slides!  Seriously, though, I had some super-duper Sunday naps out there on my green and white hammock from Crate and Barrel.

After a bit, he came into the bedroom, lay down and started talking about all the different options for a motor…I’m sure I was asleep for some of it!  In fact, I dreamed I was typing what he was saying and started laughing about a typo (I know – boring dream) which made me laugh in my sleep, which made him figure out I was not paying very close attention, heehee. 

Anyway, the bracket connects the outboard motor to the boat and allows it to be lifted out of the water when we don’t need it.  It’s spring-loaded so it will take some of the weight off the engine when we lever it up and down.  Of course, when he bought the bracket he hadn’t yet completely decided whether or not to get an inboard or an outboard – but he figured he could clean it up and fix a spring and resell it.

Rick also went to the dry-dock facility in Napa and talked with them about the logistics of getting the boat there and costs associated with taking it out of the water, loading it onto supports and then, when Rick is done, putting it back in the water.  They call that a ‘round trip’ 😉  He was very enthusastic because they have plenty of room for our boat and he can work on it there and there isn’t some firm timetable that he has to adhere to.

Anyway, he’ll leave it for a few days at their guest dock while they prep the space for it.  They have to pull it out during high tide.

OK, back to Saturday, he spent a lot of time at the boat checking out the electrical system – doing some tests on it, mapping out where the wiring is going and where he wants to put new wiring.

 It was pouring rain most of the time, which turned out to be a very good thing, because he discovered a big leak in the bathroom by the sink.  The previous owner had done some stanchion repair and forgotten to caulk the bolts, which were letting in the rain. 

 Rick caulked it all up and it should be fine, now…we hope…

 He removed the old electrical panel and tried to clean it up but it will always look a bit dingy – it’s over 40 years old, after all. 

 Today Rick’s off to Fresno to look at a 2 stroke outboard with an electrical start and no tiller.  All those things to factor in: 

– 2 stroke weighs less but you have to put an additive in with every gasoline fill-up. 

– An electrical start costs more (and weighs more) but you don’t have to manually pull on a cord to start it – something to factor in when the engine is 3’ below you and you have to bend over the transom to reach it!  Can you say ‘awkward’?

– Tiller or no tiller?  Well, a tiller means you have to turn the outboard with the tiller, no tiller means that you hook it up to the wheel on the sailboat.  If the engine came with a tiller, then Rick would have to figure out how to disconnect that and hook it up to the wheel.  Again, can’t really use the tiller when you have to reach over the transom.

 He had found some used inboard engines but they were about $1500-2500.  Not including having to pay someone to install it.  Although we did find a guy in our trade program, IMS, who could do that.  It would be nice to have a ‘real’ engine and not look like trailer-trash on the water, but the cost is incredible in light of our tiny budget.  Oh, maybe ‘trailer-trash’ is an insult?  Well, OK, we’d look like rednecks on the water…

 Once the motor is purchased, Rick and a kid (our kids are 25, so they aren’t really kids, except in our minds)  will go up to Vallejo and install it, THEN it gets motored up to the dry dock in Napa where Rick will begin cleaning the hull and installing the new electrical stuff – lights, bilge pump, motor, electrical panel, water pump (I think, although we’re still talking about that).

 We’re analyzing the stove issue – alcohol, propane, CNG, electrical?  Propane tanks need their own special, vented space, which this boat doesn’t have, so propane is out.  Electrical would drain the batteries faster.  Alcohol is less dangerous but it doesn’t heat as, uh, hotly as other means.  Since we already have a CNG truck, we’re thinking of going that route.  We know where to get tanks refilled, after all.

 I asked Rick how he’d go about refilling the tank after docking in, say, San Diego.

He said he’d pull the tank and call a cab.  I’m like “And what cabbie is gonna let you bring some big scary-looking bomb-like tank into their cab?”  And looking for a pic of a CNG tank, I found a bunch of questions on blog posts where people are asking for how-to’s on changing their stoves from CNG to propane because so many marinas aren’t carrying CNG anymore…hmmm…plus a chart showed that CNG burns less hotly than alcohol.  Aaargh, you see how easy it is for my brain to hurt!

 There are some damaged stanchions on the boat.  Because we have to replace them anyway, I’d like to have a transom seat like this one:  It’s built into the stern rail system and would be such a cool place to sit…but it’s about $450, not including the cushion and back rest, so…not yet.  Budget, I tell myself, budget!

 Yeah, for those of you asking, that’s me on the seat…well, maybe not 😉