Sunday, May 31, 2009

My Dad Doesn't Mess Around

When it comes to designing and building stuff, Dad is the guy to call. After at least 5 minutes of figuring in his head and dictating a materials list, he managed to create this to replace the rickety ladders we were using to get on and off the boat:

My first thought is "Thanks Dad!" but then I think, "Hey, that's a pretty permanent structure you got there. You don't have a lot of faith in the 'short timeline' version of this refit project, do you?"

Still...WAY better than defying death on ladders. This will make driveway sailing with Pabst Blue Ribbon a far easier chore.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

To Do: Everything

So far we have:
  1. Purchased the boat. Check.
  2. Moved the boat. Check.
  3. Emptied the boat of the previous owner's crap. Check.
The truth is, I'm not much of a list maker. And when I do make lists I'm not great at sticking to them, which makes grocery shopping an adventure and large projects a bit of a Charlie Foxtrot situation.

That fact is going to make getting started on this boat refit a serious challenge.

Last weekend, while we chemically fought the wasp invasion, I started cataloging the various projects that were coming our way.
  • New Galley Design. We're planning to replace the existing alcohol stove with a gimbled propane version, which will require extending the countertop on the port side, and which will lead to...
  • New Port Side Settee. The existing settee/single berth will get resized into a generous single seat to accommodate the remodeled galley, which will mean...
  • New Dining Table. The existing table will need to be resized and redesigned to fit the new galley and seating arrangement.
  • Propane System. There isn't one now. But there will be, in part to run a new propane heater.
  • Fresh Water System. The existing hand pump will be supplemented with a pressure pump, accumulation tank, and water heater. A hot water shower in the cockpit is on the "maybe" list.
  • New Electrical System. What is there is a joke. A couple of auto batteries and some lamp wire. The plan is to rip the whole damn thing out and start from scratch. AC shorepower, charger, batteries, wiring, panels, LED lighting all around. This is going to be the second biggest job.
  • New through-hulls and hoses. Not a small job. So far I don't see any reason to not go to Marelon for these. Why have underwater metal if you don't need it?
  • New prop.
  • New cutlass bearing.
  • New dripless shaft seal.
  • Rigging? Furler?
  • Engine? What the hell to do about the engine? Replacing it would be ideal, but pricey. It does run...maybe we just clean it up and replace it in a couple of seasons? I'd rather do the whole thing now while we have it out of the water and are doing all the plumbing and wiring projects anyway...Anyone have a nice Yanmar 2GM they want to donate?
What we need to do is find something small to add to this list so we can get it done and check it off. Success. So let's add this:
  • Kill wasp nest. CHECK.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On Wasp Queens, 1970s Pharmaceuticals and Structural Moss

Hayden here...

I didn’t learn much about boating yesterday, despite spending several hours in and on an actual boat. I guess you could say that I’m far enough along in Cape Dory 101 to follow simple instructions like “put the FENDERS in the LAZARETTE,” but the mechanical and nautical terms still often escape me. Further, I’m simply not genetically programmed to be passionate about “torque.” But I’m trying.

Here’s how I earned my keep:

1. I successfully identified our new boat as a condominium development for the area’s wasp population. Not WASPs, mind you—those I understand. I’m talking about the insects. They love our boat, and their queen established herself in one of the STARBOARD (we’re nautical now, baby) storage areas. Thanks to a spray that apparently short-circuits wasp brainstems, I think we’ve rid ourselves of that particular queen and her colony.

2. I also rid the interior of a collection of cobwebs and detritus by commandeering a rag and a bucket full of boat soap from the V-BERTH to the GALLEY. Among the treasures I found in my cleansing pursuits? A container of mysterious white capsules, each with the imprint P42. These are clearly not Tylenol, but I fear that we’ll know neither the original prescription nor the current street value of said 1970s pharmaceuticals, since the whole batch wound up in one of the bags destined for Archie’s next dump-run.

3. In the process of unburdening the LIFE LINE of the eyesore that was its safety netting, I encountered organic material that appeared to be more structurally valuable to the boat than the mottled and decomposing epoxy that the manual claims keeps the whole thing afloat. GVB’s subsequent pressure-washing of the DECK (does it still count as “swabbing” when the mechanical advantage is so overwhelming??) revealed that the moss and decay had made its stand even in areas invisible to the naked eye… Now that it’s all washed away, I hope the HULL is intact when we make it back for our next visit!

A side note: In boat renovation, ladders are great, but stairs are better. The materials list for the spiral staircase has been generated, and the stairs themselves will probably miraculously appear by summer.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Step Two: Get Her Home.

Here's where she is now. Not a bad spot. She even has a view of the water she will sail in someday.

Getting her there was something of an adventure. Come along...I used my year's allotment of F-Bombs on this one.

Buying a boat is one thing. Write a few checks, sign some paperwork. Getting that boat from the marina slip it has been sitting in for five years to a driveway 30 miles away is another issue.

I'll just go ahead and start with the obvious thesis here: a lot of things have to go right to get a boat hauled, onto a truck, and onto the jackstands as planned. And because we are talking about something related to boats, very little ever goes as planned. Also, because we are talking about something related to boats, the checkbook was going to get a serious workout.

The first challenge: finding a day to do this job. The nameless new/old boat was sitting in the marina in Port Townsend. We do have jobs, it turns out, and kids, and pesky things like that. Finding a time we were both available proved pretty much impossible. And in fact, with the closure of the Hood Canal Bridge looming it came down to one day that would even remotely work. So I started calling...

The second challenge: getting the Port of Port Townsend to put me on their calendar for a haul out. Having only one open day didn't exactly give us a lot of flexibility, but with a little bit of begging and a "promise" that we would be able to haul the boat directly onto a truck instead of taking up time and space in the boatyard, I got them to bump someone else so we could get her out of the water. Now about that promised truck.

As far as I could tell, there are three companies that transport sailboats in the Puget Sound area. The first number I called connected me to a guy named Terry or Kerry or something like that. If you want him to move your boat, I can give you his number, and he's "pretty sure" he can move your boat just fine. He's got a pretty big truck and a trailer that he's hauled some big boats on before. Just don't ask him if he's insured. He'll hang up on you. True story.

The second number I called connected me to an actual business. But by the time they asked the right people the right questions, it turned out that they couldn't get a truck to Port Townsend that day. Uh oh. One more shot.

Associated Boat Transport, and their trusty owner Jack came to the rescue. He already had a truck on the Olympic Peninsula that day anyway, and they could pick us up on their "way home." Cool by me. Jack even offered to sell me some jackstands, and 150% of retail cost. So nice of him. More on Jack and his jackstands later. I took his offer tentatively, though, and told him I would try to find my own stands in the meantime. No luck on that. I called every boat yard I could find. No one would sell me stands.

The last variable (I thought) was getting a crane to pull the mast. Does it seem odd to anyone else that the Port of Port Townsend doesn't have their own boomtruck or crane? I mean, even the Port of Everett has their own crane. You would think a boatyard the size of Port Townsend would have such a thing. Nope. I had to call a guy named Shannon, who knew a guy who knew a guy who had a boomtruck.

Outgoing Message on Shannon's phone: Hi it's Shannon. I'm out of town until the first of June. If you need help with a crane, you should call Joe inaudible last name at 360-blah blah blah static static.

Awesome. I have the haulout scheduled, a truck coming, and getting the mast out of the f-ing boat was going to be the thing that derailed me? F-word. Another half hour of calling around and I finally got the name and number of that guy that someone knew who had a boom truck. 10 a.m. on the do-or-die day? Schedule it.

Sweet. Now nothing could go wrong.

Except the tide tables. For no apparent reason, I decided to check the tides for the day of the haulout. Minus 2.8 feet? When I see this I remember that the boat is moored in the cheapest section of the marina, between the outside of the float and the breakwater. At low tide, it is trapped in. Even at mean tide, it looked like a pretty serious adventure to get out of there.

I call the marina office.

"Hey, I have a mast pull and a haul out scheduled for Monday, but the low tide will make it so I can't move the boat on that day. Is it ok if I move it to the other side of the dock for the night?"

"No. That's what you get for mooring your boat in the limited access space."

"Gee. Thanks. You're very helpful and kind."

"If you want to move it to a different spot you have to pay transient moorage for the night."

"I just though since I was already paying to use the work float to pull the mast, you might just let me slip over there 12 hours early. No one will be using that space overnight."


"Hey thanks!"

I know better. The lesson I re-learned here is that you can't do a damn thing over the phone or on the web.

Hayden and I drove up to the marina the night before the haul out and walked into the port office. Could we move the boat tonight and leave it at the work float overnight? Sure? No problem? Don't worry about paying? Wow. Maybe you should work the phones.

So we started up the engine (yep, it runs!) and drove her around the marina. Thunka thunka thunka thunka. Nothing quite like a 30 year old single-cylinder Yanmar diesel to rattle the fillings out of your teeth. And there we left the boat, waiting for the adventure to begin.

Hayden had to work and miss the festivities the next day, so I conned Skipper Krumm into joining me on the chaos. If anyone loves tinkering with sailboats more than Krumm, I've never met them. He's a good guy to have around if you need help with anything boat related. Hey Dennis, want to spend a couple of hours (all day) helping me haul the boat out of the water? Sucker. (Seriously though, Thanks Dennis!)

We had all morning to get the mast ready to be lifted off the boat. No problem. I'd done this twice on the old O'Day with no problems. Take off the boom, undo the standing rigging, and lift her right up. That's Krumm there on the bow monkeying with a turnbuckle or something.

Problems. The bolts at the gooseneck of the boom are 30 year old stainless steel threaded into aluminum. So those aren't going anywhere. The flange on the gooseneck also kept us from just folding the boom up against the mast for the hoist, to be dealt with later. Nope. We had to get that damn thing off. No dice. Short of drilling out the bolts (which we didn't have the tools to do) it wasn't coming off. So we had to lift the mast with the boom attached and swinging around. Good times.

Boom truck arrives. We attach the mast, get some tension on the cable, and undo the turnbuckles. These actually came undone! Wow. Ok. LIFT!

Nothing. The damn crane actually started lifting the whole boat up out of the water by the mast. If anyone has any question about the reinforcement for the mast step in the Cape Dory 27, I can attest to its strength. Holy crap. So let's review. The mast is complete detached from the boat. It is just sitting on the mast step, and it isn't moving at all. 30 years of corrosion have essentially welded the mast to the mast step. We tried rocking the mast, pulling it forward, pulling it backwards, shaking it, pounding the living shit out of it with a piece of 4x4 lumber. Nothing. Insert long stream of F-bombs here. If we can't get the mast down, we can't move the boat. If we can't move the boat, we have to pay to leave it in the yard in Port Townsend until June, when the Hood Canal Bridge opens again.

Dennis leaves to let me swear to myself, ostensibly in search of some magic tool that will free the mast. While he's gone, I sacrifice one of his screwdrivers and use it like a chisel at the base of the mast. The crane is still attached (of course it is, he's charging me by the hour here...) and there is some tension on the cable. When I chisel my way around the mast step one quarter inch at a time, I think I see it move. Hope! First Obama is elected President and now this! Hope is alive! I keep chiseling. More movement! Yes we can!

And just like that, a mere three hours after we started, the mast just lifts right off the boat. Magic.

Never mind that the boom is still attached. We'll deal with that later. Let's get some lunch. Then we'll figure out how to deal with the rest.

During lunch the truck arrives, so we have that in the hopper. The only other variable now (I stupidly thought) was getting her hauled out.

Krumm went at taking all the rigging off the mast, except the port side spreader which, like his friend the mast, was welded in place from 30 years of corrosion. Awesome. I begged a Sawzall from a guy in the yard and just cut the damn boom free of the gooseneck. Proper tool, proper job.

The haulout was almost uneventful, except for the fact that they put the forward strap too close to the bow and almost dropped us. Good times.

To the washdown station we went and transformed this slimy, muck-covered but surprisingly unblemished bottom side...
...into this:

Check out that egg beater of a propeller. No wonder this thing is so notoriously sluggish under power. Start saving pennies for a three-bladed Max Prop!

Bring on the truck! The coolest truck ever built. Hydraulic everything. Set the boat on it, raise up the padded arms to hold it in place, tie it down, and we're golden!

And this is when Krumm inquires about getting the boat OFF the truck back at the house. It's easy, says the driver, you just take your jackstands and set them up and we lower the trailer down and drive out. "You do have jackstands, don't you?"

No. You're supposed to have them, Mr. Boat Transport and Storage Guy.

They forgot to send the jackstands! Jack, how could you? We were so close!

Remember my lesson about not doing things over the phone? Well, when I called looking for jackstands the previous week, no one had them. Now that I was there and needed them, no problem! The boys at SeaMarine (no coincidence, the same outfit that sold the old boat) came to the rescue with 4 used stands. We're back in business (and at a significantly lower price than Jack's jackstands would have been,

Off to the house. It was kind of crazy watching our boat go down the highway like that. And compared to the size boat he could be carrying on that trailer, she looked tiny!

Good truck drivers are amazing to watch in action. This guy casually backed his huge rig down our wooded, one-lane driveway, with drainage ditches on both sides and a big 90 degree turn in the middle. And he did it 6 inches at a time.

I pointed to where we wanted it in the driveway, and he hit the mark dead on. We couldn't have picked it up and set it there any better than he did.

So there she is. Up on stands and ready for some love and tenderness. We can't wait to get started, but it would be nice if they would fix that damn bridge pretty soon. It's a 3.5 hour adventure right now just to get over there.

As soon as we get back to the boat we'll post some pictures and thoughts about our first projects. The list is looooong.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Step One: Get the Boat

We didn't actually start out looking for a new boat. It just sort of happened. We had a boat. I had owned it before, got it in my divorce, and brought it with me to our relationship. And we had a good time sailing her. Hayden and I did a couple of nice cruises to the Gulf Islands and spent some days sailing around Puget Sound on my old O'Day 302. But it was clear after our last trip that it was never going to be our boat. And it was clear that with our increasingly busy work and travel schedules, we wouldn't be sailing much this year anyway.

So we decided to sell the O'Day. Piece of cake two years ago. But there we were at the end of the sailing season, in a massively depressed economy, with boats being repossessed and padlocked to the docks at our marina. Maybe selling a boat wasn't such a great plan?

Meanwhile, we started looking around for potential candidates. What kind of boat would be a good match for us? We knew we wanted a boat that was solid, salty, classic, and that had a little sex appeal to it. And we knew we wanted something small. A pocket cruiser.

One of the first boats that caught our eyes was a Pacific Seacraft 25. It was for sale in Port Townsend (still is, as of this writing) and at a good price. I called the broker and tried to work something out. I didn't want to put our boat on the market and wait. How about a trade? Our O'Day had a bigger potential market, even in the quickly dying economy. It was worth more. It had better equipment. Give us the Pacific Seacraft 25 and sell our O'Day.

No deal. The owner wanted nothing to do with it. Oh well. We tried.

So we kept looking. We found a Contessa 26 in British Columbia but it never really struck us as the right boat. To be honest, we were still fixated on the Pacific Seacraft. We tried a few more times. Trade and cash?

My dad even got in on the action at one point and offered to loan us the cash to buy the PS 25 while we waited for our boat to sell. This led to a trip to see the PS 25 with dad in tow, where learned that the boat needed at least a $4,000 overhaul to get the engine running. With an asking price of $15,000, we would now be looking at spending $20,000 and being left with $10,000 worth of work to do. No thanks.

Weeks later I get a phone call from the broker representing the Pacific Seacraft. Still no deal on the trade, he says, but I have a client looking for a modern 30 foot cruiser with good accommodations. Would we be interested in selling?

Um. Yes. Yes we would be interested. Girl Child #3 (that's how we keep track of all four kids: a simple numbering system) spent a weekend offloading the years of crap we had accumulated onboard, cleaning the winter mildew off of everything, and basically getting her showroom-ready. Give an 8 year old a rag and some spray cleaner and look out, man! That boat was looking good, and I will admit that I had some momentary thoughts of keeping her now that all of the gunk was washed off.

While we did have to go back and forth with the buyer a bit, we finally ended up selling the O'Day for what I paid for it way back in my previous life. I spent a glorious February day delivering our former boat to Port Townsend and I walked away...

Boatless. No marina fees. No insurance. No maintenance. We quickly realized that this is not a bad thing after years and years of dumping money into paint, haul outs, new sails, new canvas, engine repair, and everything else.

But not for long. In my daily trolling on Craigslist (and not the "Casual Encounters" section) I stumbled on an interesting ad:

For Sale. 1979 27' Cape Dory. Inboard Diesel. Good sails. Needs some work. No email. Phone calls only. Make offer.

While on the phone with the broker who sold our boat, I mentioned the Cape Dory. He still wanted to sell me the Pacific Seacraft, but he told me that another client of his looked at the Cape Dory and thought it needed too much work but that someone could get it for a song.

I can't sing. But I can make a low ball offer.

My first visit to the (sadly) nameless Cape Dory 27 in Port Townsend was greeted with a late winter snow storm and an arctic northerly wind of the type that freezes the snot to your nose and the tears to the corners of your eyes. You can't really tell from this picture, but trust me, it was nasty and cold out. But there she is! Beautiful lines, a spotless hull, and ready for someone to love her. The previous owner, we came to learn, hadn't sailed her in 5 years. He came to the marina once a week to run the engine and pump out the bilge. The neglect showed. The rope halyards were stiff as wire, the docklines were tied in permanent knots. Every nut and bolt appeared to be welded by corrosion to what ever they were supposed to fasten. The engine, due mostly to neglect, looked even older than its 30 year age would warrant. Rust, rust, and more rust. I can see why he had trouble selling it.

But underneath the neglect was the boat we were looking for. Something we could get cheap and something that we could get back into shape on our own. Before I left the boat the first time, I was already prepping a list of projects and doing some estimating in my head. New wiring, new charger, new AC system, new hot water heater, new pressure water system, new propane system. The interior and exterior wood would need refinishing. The upholstery has to go. The stove needs to be replaced. The rigging could use an upgrade. In the 2 hours it took me to get home, I had compiled quite a list.

When I got home and showed Hayden the pictures, we realized we had found the right type of boat. Smaller than our last boat, but big enough to be comfortable on a long cruise. Easy to sail and maintain. But with enough projects to get her ready to sail that by the time we were done, we would really own the boat together.

For the second visit to the boat we went together. It was a nicer day this time to be sure, and Hayden quickly saw what I did: a great old boat that needed to be taken care of.

Boat Buying Tip: When someone has been trying without success to sell a boat for over 5 years, you can pretty much walk away with it for any price. The owner just wanted to be done. He wanted out. After a couple of weeks of thinking about things, I called him up and offered him $6,000 less than he listed it for. I couldn't get the offer out of my mouth before he accepted. Damn. Now we owned a boat again!

A week later we delivered a check to the owner (who dragged us to the bank to verify the funds and made us sign all sorts of forms he was convinced he needed...old guys are really afraid of fraud, I realize. Has this guy been taken by a few too many schemes in his day? I mean, we had a freakin' cashier's check and he still made us go to the bank with him!) and we took the keys.

Our boat.


Next up: Step Two: Getting Her Home!