Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Fever

The three of us (myself, Cheri and Bella Houdini) spent the weekend (3/20 - 3/21) on the boat for the first time.The yard had removed the shrinkwrap and the weather was clear and in the mid 70's, perfect for attacking the long list of chores.

The first thing we did on arrival was haul our new mattress onto the boat.  Thank-you Gratitude for the portable staircase because we never woulda gotten it up that 10' ladder.  This is a double-wide, 7.5" innerspring mattress with a pillowtop that is also hinged across the middle for access to the storage area under the bunk.  The mattress was custom made (Handcraft Mattress Company) because of the location's unusual shape, not a full rectangle, with one corner cut off where it lays against the hull.  Cheri customized some sheets to fit this odd shape and they worked out really well.  We've experienced sleeping on a 3" foam mattress on our other boat and it was nothing to write home about.  This inner-spring one is awesome!  I slept like a baby.  Of course I was exhausted too, that might have had something to do with it.

With the shrinkwrap off, my #1 priority became re-packing the chainplates.  Chainplates are heavily constructed stainless steel straps that are tied into the hull during construction.  The standing rigging for the mast is attached to these straps at 3 locations on each side of the boat.  To prevent them from leaking where they poke through the deck they're embedded with silicone which allows the rigging to flex without losing the seal.  The silicone has to be replaced periodically to keep the seal fresh.  It appears this job had been neglected for quite a while because the boat had some serious leaks at these points, bad enough that during a heavy rain you could see water running down the inner surface of the hull behind the cabinets in the Main Salon.  I had re-bedded the port side last Fall but never got back to doing the other side once the shrinkwrap went on.  John Hellwege of Gratitude Yachts had given me a tube of SilPruf silicone, recommended by Island Packet because it adheres to stainless steel.  When we left the house on Saturday morning we got all the way around the block before I realized I hadn't packed the SilPruf.  We turned around and went back but I was unable to find it.  During the 5 months that passed after doing the port side I managed to misplace the remainder of the tube, not surprising considering the upheaval our home has gone through during that time.  This stuff is hard to find, and I don't mean just in my home.  It's not generally available in stores and has to be ordered on-line.  I grabbed a tube of household silicone to use as a temporary fix until I can get some of the good stuff.

Repacking the chainplates isn't difficult, just time consuming.  The chainplates come up through the teak toe rail at the edge of the deck.  To be done right you need to dig down about 2 inches to get out all the old silicone and then clean up the metal fittings before filling in the gap around the chainplate.  It's a pretty tight squeeze and requires a variety of extraction tools; screwdrivers, dental picks, needle nose pliers, flashlight,  hammer, chisels, scraper, dynamite, chainsaw and backhoe.  In some places the gap is so tight I couldn't get a small screwdriver in there.  I think the next time I do this job I'll chisel out a larger gap to allow easier cleaning and also to get more gunk in there to seal it up.  Gotta add that to the "must do" project list.

When I talked to John Hellwege on Friday he told me his crew had put up the Bimini but had left the Dodger for me to do.  These are the canvas covers for the cockpit.  They get stretched over a metal frame to give them their shape, just like the convertable top on a car but bigger.  Please note that "stretch" is the operative word here.  The Bimini is fairly straightforward and uses straps to adjust the tightness of the canvas.  The Dodger is a whole different animal.  This has plastic windows across the front and gets attached to the top of the cabin using snaps.  To get this tight requires 5 hands and super-human strength.  It's a good idea to let this thing sit out in the sun for a while before attempting installation.  It's probably also a good idea to have someone help you.  Of course, I only figured this out after I finished the job.

I started sanding the bottom (of the boat) to get it ready for anti-fouling paint.  I had mentioned earlier that I was thinking of using a product called CopperCoat.  This stuff is supposed to last for 10 years and be pretty much maintenance free.  Sounds perfect.  The alternative is to use an ablative paint that is designed to peel off when critters (barnacles) try to attach themselves to the bottom of the boat.  The really good ablative paints need to be re-done every 2 years, requiring the boat to be hauled (cha-ching), cleaned and sanded before applying a few new coats of paint.  It's a major project and a major pain in the butt.  The CopperCoat is much more expensive but by the end of 10 years I think it probably evens out in cost and you don't have to waste all that time prepping and painting every 2 years.  Here's my dilema:  the CopperCoat requires that all the old paint be stripped off before applying 4 to 5 coats of the new stuff.  When I started sanding I found that there was the remains of 2 red ablative coats and then a grey indicator coat and another red ablative coat under that.  This is the right way to do bottom paint and the idea of the indicator coat is so you know when to stop sanding off the old stuff before you take it down too far into the gelcoat.  My problem is that I'd have to sand off 3 to 4 coats of paint to be able to apply the CopperCoat.  I could have the hull sandblasted but that costs over $1000 and our funds are running short.  I don't have the time or the will to sand off 4 coats of paint.  I did one side of the rudder and decided I would use ablative paint this time.  That'll get us in the water faster and maybe keep us on schedule.  After we sell the house our money won't be so tight and in 2 years we can pay to have the bottom sand blasted.  That's the plan and I'm sticking to it, at least for today.  Due to a shortage of time I only got the rudder sanded down.  Hafta do a light sanding on rest of the hull next weekend and she'll be ready for paint.

While I was sanding and playing with the Dodger and the chainplates, Cheri was down below cleaning our stateroom and the forward head and shower.  She didn't just clean either.  Everything shines like new and smells soooo good.  The sink could be used for a mirror although the reflection makes your face look kinda funny.  She put down area rugs throughout the boat which makes it warmer and homier.  She also made curtains for all 15 ports that fit like shower caps over the oval frames.  Cheri got the idea for those from Pam Wilson on Pappy's Packet (IP420-89) but came up with her own version for La Vida Dulce.  We're going to add a blurb with pictures on this under "Projects" as soon as possible.  Check out the picture below of the Main Salon to see the "shower cap" curtains.  They look really nice.

During the previous week Gratitude installed a seacock (thru-hull ball valve) that'll be used to supply "raw" water for the anchor wash-down system.  This was something I probably could have done myself but they didn't charge much for the work and we have the confidence of knowing it was done properly.  Plus it's one less thing that has to be done before we go back in the water.  Now I can add the washdown system at my convenience and not feel pressured by any schedule.

Staying onboard overnight was so nice, even though the boat is still sitting "on the hard".  It was cool enough that we ran our little oil filled heater which really made things comfortable down below.  This was our first overnight stay and it really showed us how great this boat is going to be as our new home.  Our last boat was an Islander 28 and felt pretty cramped below.  We slept in the main cabin because the "V" berth kept us seperated.  Having the table being used as our bunk meant that only one function could be done at a time, eat or sleep.  Used as a bunk there was no room to walk past, everything was very close quarters.  On La Vida Dulce there's plenty of room to walk around without having to undo one thing to do another.  We still bump into one another occasionally but that's mostly on purpose.

The amount of storage room on this boat is phenominal.  We've brought down 2 full loads in our mini SUV and I'm talkin' "stuffed to the roof" loads.  It's all on board now and we still have gobs of storage space.  We'll be cataloging everything on a spreadsheet with each compartment identified by a number.  Everything in that compartment will be listed and when something's removed the list will get updated.  We'll be able to keep track of spare parts and stores this way.  Of course, anyone out there reading this who knows me is shaking their head right now thinking "What? Tom Ward organized?".  What you may not know is that Cheri is a professional organizer, a Project Manager.  She eats, sleeps and thinks "organized" all day and night.  If I don't fall in line with this she'll probably organize a mutiny.

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