Turning a corner, or a page or a new leaf

If you read my last post, you know that our 30’ Islander isn’t the best fit for us.  She’s lovely, but old and needs more work to handle than we (than I) am capable of.

Rick bought the Susurrus (Latin for ‘whisper’) at a time when he needed something to do.  The Great Recession had forced us to sell all our fun toys and there wasn’t a lot of extra money but Rick isn’t the kind of guy to sit around watching TV all day.  He’s a lot like his mom that way.  She doesn’t sit still either and everyone she knows have the beautiful quilts, towels, pillowcases and clothing to prove it!

Here’s a photo of Rick’s mom and our kid, Andrew, with the quilt she made him in 2010.

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But the Susurrus also had sails that needed to be manually hoisted and it was a little small for the amount of travel we wanted to do.  If Rick was going to be serious about making her exactly what we needed, he’d have to spend money on rigging, sails, and the like and it would still be a little small.  4 people could ride with us but would be in the way every time we maneuvered.

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Ingrid and Ron up on the cabin and, I think that’s Ruth in the white coat.  I think there were 7 of us on this trip.

Rick started looking for a replacement boat.  It had to be:

  • comfortable for us to live on for awhile
  • large enough for guests
  • easy to manage so guests didn’t have to be roped into being our crew, although they have to be willing to be roped in
  • able to do coastal cruising
  • not ruined by previous owners
  • cheap

‘Cheap’ was probably the number one requirement, oh wait, ‘not ruined’ had to be number one!  You would be horrified if you saw the things people did to a once-upon-a-time fine-looking boat!

Rick began checking all the on-line boat-for-sale websites, doing his research.  We went to local boat shows and visited boats that were for sale.

People will post photos of their boat that are cockeyed and fuzzy.  Sometimes they’ll post 1 lousy photo, just 1 photo?!?  We went to a boat and the owner had torn out the couch and stuck a double-bed in its place and hacked out a built-in cabinet so he could put in a full size fridge!  He basically turned it into a house-boat and it was uuugly.   We couldn’t tell any of that from the photos, of course. BECAUSE THEY WERE FUZZY!

Here’s a photo of an item someone is selling on Craigslist.  All of their photos are this fuzzy…

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Rick’s research consists of all the usual for-sale websites and boat shows, plus owner-forums.  That way he finds out that if a particular kind of boat has problems with water leakage around the windows, which engines last forever, etc.

At one of the boat shows held in February, Rick saw a 34’ Marine Trader named Ms Maggie that pushed all his buttons.  Right size, right layout inside (location of all the facilities), great condition, but a little more than he wanted to pay plus, there was another big reason not to buy a boat yet…

We had to sell the Susurrus first.  I really felt guilty about that.  You don’t know how much Rick talked about sailing around the world, from the time we first began learning how to sail while he was in college!

We had some grand times with our friends, the Gantts.  We rented sailboats in San Diego’s Mission Bay, playing catch across the water.  And we had these huge water cannons that we’d chase each other with!  Ah, yes, the fun we had pre-kids 😉

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Friends since high school!

Rick posted a ton of photos online and after a few months, a lot of phone calls, a few lookie-loos, and a sale-cancelled-by-cold-feet, another Richard called and asked to see her.

Richard loved the Susurrus and bought her after a test-run up the Alameda Estuary.  That was in August.

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This is Richard looking jaunty as the new captain of the Susurrus!

Rick and Richard also went out once again so that Richard could learn all the quirks that the Susurrus had – engine ‘walk’, outboard not centered, outboard on the ‘wrong’ side of the rudder – and how to get in and out of the boat slip with those quirks, too.  Richard was an ace at it!  He was so enthusiastic about buying the Susurrus that we didn’t feel quite so sad about selling her.

I didn’t feel sad, really, more melancholy that I couldn’t quite seem to be as enamored of sailing as Rick wanted me to be…but I tried, truly I did!

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That’s a photo of our other son, Austin, captaining a 40′(ish) sailboat we rented years and years ago.

Rick kept looking for the right boat, always holding Ms Maggie up as the ideal.  We kept looking at boats and Rick kept thinking about Ms Maggie.  Rick didn’t want to pay so much, though, so he put that thought aside.  He kept looking at boats that cost less and needed work, they needed lots of work.  People ignore maintenance for so long it becomes a huge effort to do the work.  Whether its refinishing the wood or replacing a broken whatever, its like some sort of mental spiral and they need an ‘intervention’ to stop letting the boat slide down into disrepair.

It’s a sliding scale: cost vs condition, right?  Cost goes up as the required repairs go down.  That’s true with almost everything.

We’ve seen some boats at the Alameda Fortman Marina that haven’t moved in years.  Why are they still there?  Why are the owners paying slip fees and not just selling the thing or dumping it?  It’s a puzzle.  Maybe elderly parents can’t sail anymore but the kids don’t have the heart sell it out from under them?  Maybe its cheaper to pay slip fees than it is to dump it?  I dunno.  If you know, let me know…

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So sad…makes no sense to me.

Finally, Rick realized he didn’t want to have another boat that needed quite the level of extensive work like the Susurrus had required.  The Susurrus was a mess, remember?  He didn’t want to spend time, money and energy fixing stuff already rundown.

Here are a couple photos of the Susurrus before Rick got his capable hands on her:006019

 

 

 

 

 

The outside woodwork on the Susurrus was stained PURPLE!  Seriously, some people…

And here are a couple of her afterwards:

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The cushions were made for us by Cindy Trupski, she is one genius sew-and-sew.  And that gorgeous pillow is by Rick’s mom, Jan.

So…we bought Ms Maggie…a full year after seeing her for the first time!   I’ll give more info on that whole process soon.

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I suppose I need to rename this blog “Tales from the Dark Side” since most sailors will be horrified that we switched to a ‘stinkpot’

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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.

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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.  😉

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!

Swan!

Swan!

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 😉

One little letter makes a BIG difference…

Today’s post is about wenches, no wait, that’s not right!  This is a wench:

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Today’s post is about winches!  These are winches:

Little winch, big winch

Little winch, big winch

Winches are used to help pull the sails taut.  The ropes, I mean lines and sheets, wrap around the winch to reduce the load (pressure, strain) so that your average non-Popeye can haul sails up or trim them.  If sails are ‘luffing’, kind of billowing along the edges and make a flapping noise, then they aren’t being efficient.

 My dining room table was covered with winch parts!  Rick took them apart to get them working again.  Some of these babies cost over a hundred bucks!  Apiece!  But, since this is a ‘budget’ yacht, we don’t just slap down hundred dollar bills willy-nilly!  No!  We try to fix them first.  And by we I mean Rick.

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Amazingly enough, Rick was able to get them all working again!  One of them had small organic bits in it, like seeds, that were keeping the action from turning (I say ‘action’ because I have no idea what to call it really.  Rick kept putting oil on it and finally in exasperation took it into the back and pounded on it mercilessly until it gave in.

...a preponderance of winches and pulleys...

…a preponderance of winches and pulleys…

All the winches from the boat.

All the winches from the boat.

The mechanism is simple.  The wench rotates around a gear on a spindle – or maybe it’s the other way round.  You pull on the rope and the wench turns and the sail tightens.  As the wench turns a sticky-outy thing called a pawl is pulled over each notch but it will slip back into the notch stopping the wench from rotating the other direction.  It’s sort of like the gears in a watch, you remember those old-fashioned wind-up kind?

Here’s a picture of a type of winch used to pull boats onto trailers, it might give you a better idea than my sad description of the thing.

The gears make it easier to pull up the boat, hey, physics works!

The gears make it easier to pull up the boat.  Yay, physics works!

Once you have the sail or boom or whatever where you want it, you secure (tie off) the line.

Part of Rick’s dilemma is that he’d really like all the winches to match, be from the same manufacturer.  You and I may not care but it niggles at him that they aren’t all matchy-matchy.  He can’t see dropping money for a part that works perfectly well, though, so he’ll put the non-matching winches on the mast, where they aren’t as visible.

Look again at the pic above to see the size difference of these winches.  And this is nuthin’ compared to those on bigger boats!

Rick spends hours wandering around the internet looking for parts.  He found some at Lowe’s.  What is Lowe’s doing selling boat parts?  It seems they only sell stainless steel items near marinas, so if you know of a Lowe’s near water, you can go online and see if they carry what you’re looking for.  So Rick saved about 70% buying stuff there.

 Rick feels  guilty every time he spends money on the boat – its a cheap little thing and so easy to put more money into it that its worth, but honestly he pours over catalogs and online sites to find the best deal and he really knows how to pinch a penny!  The boat needs to be serviceable and that’s about it.  Plus, not only is Rick the ‘gotta educate myself about things before I make a move’ kind of person, we just lived through a horrible, horrible few years of ‘economic downturn’, which is political-speak for economic hell.  We were fortunate (our accountant says we are the poster-children for doing things right and managing our company through the ordeal) but I don’t think we will ever think frivolously about money again.

I was at our niece’s grad college party on Saturday (YAY RONI!).

Congrats to Roni!

Congrats to Roni!

A friend, Shelly, and I were talking about how we no longer feel we need a 4000 sf house and she said something that resonated with me.

She said that the crash really ‘knocked the ugly out of us’.  Shelly is right.   We relearned what is important.

During those years, I’d tell people:  We have a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, gas in our cars and our kids are doing great.  What more do we need?

And ain’t it the truth?

Except I keep flashing back to that hilarious Steve Martin movie ‘The Jerk’.

I don’t need anything…

…except this lamp…

…and this chair…

😉

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The story of throughputs.

They’re called ‘throughputs’.

 But since removing them was frustrating, backbreaking work at the butt end of the boat, I’m more inclined to call them … well, you can guess…

Holes across the stern, just above water level.

Holes across the stern, just above water level.

There are five of them.  Four are brass and the fifth is plastic.  Throughputs are like casements for the actual hole that goes through the hull and are held in place with nuts that screw onto the end of them…which after years of neglect are practically welded to the throughputs >sigh<  Various pipes and hoses are hooked up to the throughputs for things like motor exhaust and bilge pump.

Rick is down in the lazarette (aka glory hole (?), on his side, trying to maneuver the wrench into place, while I am on the outside, trying to hold the darn throughput still – to keep it from turning as he turns the wrench.

Its at a goofy angle, but the top brightness is the open hatch of the lazarette and the dark is Rick's arm...he is a champ, I tell you!

Its at a goofy angle, but the top brightness is the open hatch of the lazarette and the dark is Rick’s arm…he is a champ, I tell you!

Utter failure.  The screwdriver I’m using just slips off.  I try a pipe wrench and learn from Rick how a pipe wrench works:  Something about angles of the teeth and starting at the top and rotating downwards, which side to use and way more info that I wanted to learn about pipe wrenches, which doesn’t work anyway because there simply isn’t enough of the throughput sticking out.  No way to grip it effectively.

Rick notices a wasp nest has been built in the lazarette of the boat.  Lovely.  He is watching two wasps watch him.  Tension builds.

you lookin' at me?

you lookin’ at me?

Very corroded, its gotta go!

Very corroded, its gotta go!

We have traded tools back and forth for about 30 minutes now, when a neighboring boat owner tells us that there is a special tool for removing throughputs.  Well, of course there is…  It’s kind of like a key, but heavy and pyramid-shaped.

He is gracious enough to loan his key to us, along with a huge wrench AND a pipe that slips onto the handle of the wrench so lengthen it and gain more torque.

So, now Rick is holding onto the nut on the throughput, on his side, watching the wasps watch him.  I place the wrench on the key and insert it into the throughput and pull down on the pipe wrench til its vertical, then push the pipe wrench upwards, down one side and up the other, like a pendulum going from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock on a dial.  Then I have to pull off the wrench and replace it on the other side and do that again, 40 times per throughput, at least.

I am running into the rudder with the pipe handle which hinders my being fully effective at this job.  I’m whining about it and Rick tells me to push it out of the way…um, yeah, it’s a rudder, rotating is what it does for a living!  Now, I’m really able to get a good swing with the wrench.  Put in place, pull down, push up, pull off, put in place, pull down, push up, pull off.  Over and over and over and over and over.

On one of my pulling/pushing travels, I notice a price sticker on the tool – it cost $50.  Wow.

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2 down, 3 to go.  Roadblock.  The tool doesn’t fit the middle throughput!  This one looks different than the others and there is a different tool, for each brand of throughput.  Well, of course there is…

So we can’t get the middle one off.  It’s less corroded than the others.  In fact, it’s not corroded at all, just grimy and tarnished.  I’m all for saving it!  Just a little polishing up and it will look good as new!  I hope.

The other 3 come off just fine, although the plastic one had to be cut off.  It was easy to do.

Meanwhile much, much time has passed and reading a novel in my beach chair is not the long, lazy afternoon I planned but only about 20 minutes while Rick is making huge amounts of noise and dust with the saw, cutting off the plastic doohickey.  And I’m too tired to read, so I take a power nap.

But, the job is finally done and we are left with raw holes in the boat, so more wasps can find their way in and build nests!

It is interesting that you can leave something alone for less than a week and return to find spider webs and wasps’ nests and bird poop all over it.  Ah, nature 😉                                                                                          btw, Rick just read this post and told me they are called “through-hulls”.  Through-put must be a carry-over from my IT management days!

The deck isn't this bad...but birds sure are messy!

The deck isn’t this bad…but birds sure are messy!

Fussing with the mast

The past couple of weekends have been spent fighting with the halyards – those are the lines that go inside the mast to pull the sail upI sound so knowledgeable, don’t I?  You’d never know that I just now had to ask Rick what halyards did.

The lines inside were hanging up on something so he couldn’t get them out, it was very frustrating and he was racking his brain trying to figure out how it’s done.  I mean, it’s not as if he’s the first person on the 7 seas to have run into this, right?

 He decided to see if his electric fish could be of help.  And you know it isn’t an actual fish and isn’t actually electric.  I pictured a little oblong thing with a battery that scurries down a pipe dragging a line behind it to the other end but NO!  It’s a stiff wire used by electricians to pull the line, etc, etc…  So it’s an electrician’s fish.  hmmm…

a much more interesting fish http://www.aquahobby.com

 

see how boring?  although they do come in bright colors, just like the neon fish!

see how boring? although they do come in bright colors, just like the neon fish!

So he was fiddling with the fish and realized that the end of the mast had a bump on it and as he peered more closely and  Lo! And Behold!  He discovered that the spot was a plug for a hole previously drilled to get the halyard out!  Minutes later, he drilled out the plug and used the electrician’s fish to pull through the new halyard!  Ta-dum!  …little happy dance…

Rick finished putting the forestay, backstay and shrouds back on the mast.  Those are wires that keep the mast upright.  Why the shrouds aren’t called sidestays is a question for the ages, I suppose.  Shrouds.  Doesn’t that invoke a mental picture of a pirate ship like the one on the wall in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland?  Tattered sails blowing in the storm…  and again I digress…

I was looking for a pic of the ghost ship at Disney's Haunted Mansion and came across this guy who will paint a haunted picture of your house...pretty fun... www.HauntedStudio.com

I was looking for a pic of the ghost ship at Disney’s Haunted Mansion and came across this guy who will paint a haunted picture of your house…pretty fun… http://www.HauntedStudio.com

And there are ‘spreaders’ near the top which are used to spread (hey, a name that indicates what the thing does!) the stays out of the way, so they ‘stay’ out of the way, ha.

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Spreaders are the crossbars. See the yellow tip? And you are getting a preview of the gray primer coat!

Rick has installed some extra lines so that he can fly flags and also put some work lights up there that aim down at the deck.

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Flags flying…

Last Friday the mast was put back on the boat!  Did you know that the yard charges us $50 a month to have the mast sitting (actually its resting on sawhorses) beside the boat?  Now you do.  When we walk around the boat yard it’s astounding how many derelict’ish boats there are.  I suppose the mast-sitting-around-fee is to encourage people to get ‘er done.

Last weekend Rick sanded the dinghy and put a grey coat of primer on it – isn’t it lovely?  Such an improvement from the poor old thing he purchased off Craigslist, isn’t it.  Next is the dark blue on the outside with a yellow strip up near the woodwork at the top.  The inside’ll be white.

Gray primer on the dinghy

dinghy 'before' picture... dinghy ‘before’ picture…

This weekend, more sanding and painting of the Budget Yacht is on the menu.  I’m actually going up there on Saturday to help pull plugs out of the hull – one person inside and one person outside.  After that little task, I’ll be sitting on my deck chair under a parasol watching traffic – birds and boats – and reading a trashy novel 😉

traffic at the marina ;-)

traffic at the marina – can you see the ducklings?

On The Hard

That’s what they call it when a boat is dry-docked.  And our little budget yacht is finally ‘on the hard’.

A couple weeks ago, Monday, Rick and Austin motored the Susurrus up the Napa River to the Napa River Marina.  And great news!  The motor didn’t conk out!  More great news!  There was enough gas in the tank to make it all the way without getting towed!  Until the turn from the Sacramento River into the Napa River they were fighting against the tide and it was extremely slow going…at that point, they were sure it would take 4 hours to get there!  But after the turn they started going with the tide and they flew, if by ‘flew’ you understand that they were going about 3.5 miles an hour – the GPS system gives MPH, too.

I drove up to get them and drive back to Glen Cove for the truck, then home again, home again, jiggity-jig.  The very next day Rick was back on the road because they’d scheduled the haul-out to be at 3pm on Tuesday.  Lots of miles getting put on Rick’s CNG pick-up.  Thank heaven CNG is way less than $3/gal…yeah, it is, really…PLUS he has a carpool sticker!

Now Rick has been up there on Saturday and Monday of the Labor Day weekend!  Sunday we went to San Francisco to watch the America’s Cup Series and the Blue Angels (fantastic, btw, we had a wonderful time – took BART up there, and walked to the America’s Cup Village – well, we did take a pedi-cab for a bit – and saw the Series’ awards ceremony and the Blue Angels, then walked back to Cioppino’s for dinner and took a trolley to the BART station, then homeward with the crowds and crowds of happy people).  It was a perfect day, actually.  The weather was so lovely everyone was in a terrific mood.  There were tons of people but we were always able to find a seat or a viewing spot and the City of San Francisco really knows how to direct crowds and cars and even puts out plenty of Port-a-Potties (which is, frankly, one of my main concerns).

We couldn’t see the race very well, as it was on the other side of a pier.  But we had high enough seats to be able to watch the big sails going back and forth.  And the mass of boats on the water!  Talk about crowded!  It was shore-to-shore with boats of all sizes – tugboats, fireboats, ferries, sailboats big and small, mega-yachts, fishing boats.  A carpet of boats on the water watching the race and waiting for the Angels.

Back to the haul-out…here is a plethora of pictures.  The marina has a long trailer that you push the boat onto and the trailer has a hydraulic lift which raises the boat out of the water.  Then they drive the trailer over to the boat’s storage spot and maneuver it into place – the Susurrus looks dinky between two 50’ boats – set up the supports, chain the supports together for safety (yet still looking very precarious to me) and VOILA!  It’s ‘on the hard’.  Why do sailors have so many goofy names for things?  Ropes are sheets – or lines, just to be even more confusing – the potty is the head, cockpit storage is a lazarette, port is left, starboard is right and such like that.

When the boat was on the trailer they gave it a quick power wash and all the slimy stuff came off, leaving only a growth of mussels along the keel which you can see in the last picture above.

They told Rick that the hull looked pretty good, no big blisters in the fiberglass or visible damage anywhere.  That’s a relief since we didn’t get a survey when we bought our cheapie little project.  Rick was also worried that the propeller might be bent.  Particularly since whoever owned Susurrus before were obviously not that great at taking care of it.  But, its ship-shape (pun thoroughly intended)!

When Rick is working on the boat, picture him standing 4’ in the air on a homemade scaffold consisting of ladders and boards or scraping old caulking from around the windows and various bits of woodwork at least 12’ off the ground – with all the side rails, aka stanchions, removed (!!!).  He’s driving 90 minutes up and back at least 1 day a week, usually Saturday.  Sometimes he’ll be able to spend the night and work on Sunday, too.

He ordered the paint a few days ago.  He figured that he’d buy the cheaper stuff since he’s doing the job himself and he’s never done it before – plus the fact that it’s a dusty environment and won’t be the best of paint jobs from the get-go.  And if you see it, you will exclaim with enthusiasm how beautiful and well-done the paint job is…won’t you…yes, you will…

We are going with deep blue body and a yellow pinstripe, with dark red at the bottom.  We can’t use light blue, psychologically, because that was the color of all boats we rented down in Newport when Rick was in college and, again, when we were getting certified to sail at Spinnaker Sailing in Redwood City.  And we see plain ol’ white boats everywhere so we wanted to do a different color.  The topside will still be white – bright, glaring white.  I’d rather have a dark green hull with a beige top but Rick talked me out of it.  I can’t remember why but it’s his project, so it seems only fair that he gets to choose the color – well, within reason…

Our budget yacht is a lot of work but Rick is happy as a clam and we are both excited to think (hope) that by the time Fleet Week rolls around next year, we will be ON the water watching – and trying to avoid getting run over by the mega-yachts 😉