Monday, November 26, 2012

Bees & Boats

Bunches of Bees on the shrubs in our marina.
I don't know if the bees have always been there and, living in a house, we just don't SEE them...  But it seems as if there are an increasing number of bees in my life since moving aboard Dos Libras.

I'm not afraid of bees and am not particularly "allergic".  I do have a healthy respect for them however and like to keep them happy.  I've had several encounters with bees beginning with nearly slurping one down as it hid inside the bottle of wine cooler I was enjoying on the veranda (back deck) a few weeks ago.  That ended with a mouthful of bee and Sangria being spit all over the deck!  No sting though... I was lucky.

I haven't been quite so lucky since then... My next encounter was catching a bee between my thighs which ended in a nasty whelp that lasted for weeks.  My most recent was today... I felt something on the back of my neck and absentmindedly swiped at it which caused a sting.

Now I am no Physician and make no claim to medical advice whatsoever... but I think that my daily dose of Zyrtec (antihistamine) keeps the majority of the reaction down.  I also use a spritz or two of Lanacane which seems to stop the pain INSTANTLY!  I keep it on the boat for just such an event.  It also works on Jellyfish stings.

All of this bee action reminds me of a post I read by one of my favorite Bloggers, The Boat Galley, about bees on boats. If you have a boat with water tank vents and you notice a bunch of bees buzzing around... you might want to click on that and read Carolyn's article.  Maybe they are buzzing around looking for a water supply... so what's that Wine Cooler Bee's excuse?!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012


I borrowed my Mother's sewing machine about a month and a half ago.  I've been glaring at it for that long...  I haven't sewn anything in recent memory and am feeling a bit nervous about starting a project  I would like to cut down some of my favorite bed sheets to fit the v-berth and aft centerline queen beds on the boat.  So far, the project is just swirling around in my mind.

Jezabelle has to help with all projects...
A recent blog entry I read on Pacific Sailors blog lit a fire under my butt and got me going in another direction.  I've had some storage issues lately.  Too many extra clothes that I don't want to offload but can't fit into the drawers.  Another cruiser made throw pillow-sized covers and stuffed them with the extra clothes, towels and sheets.  I found some cheap material and finally... today, I got brave enough to bring out the sewing machine and set it up in the salon.

I found a manual for the machine online and downloaded it.  I used it to learn how to load a bobbin and thread the spool and bobbin correctly.  From there I had some trouble with it jamming up and had to call Jan from Merlin for some help.  She got me straightened out and I was ready! 

I just got out my Granny's scissors and started chopping up material.  I had an idea but no pattern.  Jan came back over for a bit and helped me pin it together so that it would work and I was down to the sewing.  

It really did a fine job of sewing and I had it zipped out in no time.  Once I was done, I stuffed it with swimsuits and coverups (I think I have about 20) and still had room for some t-shirts and a couple of pair of shorts.  I could still get some more stuff in it but I needed to figure out a way to close it.  I think it would look great with some big buttons but between Jan and I... we couldn't get the sewing machine to make a good button hole.  

So, I'll be buying some velcro to sew on to make a closure, then I'll probably put some decorative buttons on the outside.  I'm very pleased with the way it turned out and really hope I remember how to do it again... I bought a LOT of material.  Maybe I'll make some curtains instead...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Marina Life

One Week Aboard!  I have not been inspired to write about our week aboard but feel that I should.  It seems longer than a week.  Maybe it's because it feels like a continuation of days and weeks past when we've pretended to live aboard.  

We have yet to feel any sense of routine, other than that we've followed before, largely due to the lack of refrigeration.  Our lives are disrupted by living out of an ice chest  We haven't made real dinners, mostly just warmed up leftovers.  

I have not finished stowing everything away but have a plan.  Our clothing situation is still in an uproar.  I think that's going to be the most difficult system to refine.  The problem is that this time of year, we have cold and warm days… I need warm clothes in the mornings and then switch to shorts and T-shirts in the afternoon, only to flee back to the warmup pants as the sun sets.  I think that I'll cull some things once I develop a routine.  If I haven't worn it in two weeks, it goes!  (at least to storage for a while)  

Work clothes present some problems.  Our original plan was to continue doing laundry at the townhouse.  We have since decided that it would be too restrictive to plan for a laundry day in town.  We bought an iron and one of those stubby ironing boards for the boat and will do laundry either here at the marina by the load, or at the laundromat up the road.  That way we can get it done quickly when it's convenient.  Ironing will cease once I quit my job. 

The Cats have settled in, well at least Jezabelle has…  Jetsam continues to search periodically for her "closet".  She has some favorite spots to sprawl but still goes through periods of pacing the length of the boat pawing at locker doors.  Any time I open up a compartment, she comes running to see if it's a possible hidey hole for her.  She was waking us up early, two am, three am, four am…  She's let us sleep three nights in a row now with only minimal meowing.  Things are looking up.

Jezabelle on the other hand, has been the model boat cat.  She seems content to be where we are sometimes and to sleep away the rest of the hours in some soft spot she's found.  She comes up into the cockpit when we're out and has even been seen lying in the sun once or twice.  She sits on my lap in the cockpit while we watch TV in the evenings just like she did at the townhouse.  

We have been able to get out and ride our bikes several times and have taken some short walks.  I look forward to getting more exercise and just the act of climbing on and off of the boat should help my activity level.  Boat life is more active if for no other reason than the "inconvenience" of having to lug groceries and laundry every week.

Watching the sunrise in my jammies
It's really nice on the days I don't have to work, that we don't have to pack things up and return to town.  We just put away our stuff and get a beverage to enjoy while we watch the sun go down.  The days are short and it's dark very early.  This does cut down on the project time.  I have noticed that I've relaxed more and taken time to enjoy things… maybe I feel less "compelled" somehow, if that makes sense…  Example:  While I shook out the newly washed bedsheets to make the bed, Jezabelle did her usual thing… she scrambled around between the sheets, a most favorite cat-game.  Usually I shoo her away and lose patience when she won't go.  This time, I lingered with the billowing sheets and enjoyed her game, the reward being some laughs some VERY loud purring.  

Work days I have little time in the mornings to piddle.  We are up early anyway so no change there.  I spend an hour or so having coffee and playing on the computer, then get dressed and have a quick breakfast.  It's been leftover breads and pies thus far, but Bruce has promised to start making me oatmeal as soon as our fridge is fixed so we can have the creamer I love with it.  I leave the boat with the sun coming up and there are always critters of some sort out and about.  I stop to watch them for a few moments on my way to the car.

The drive into town is nothing I've not done before.  It just takes time.  The island road provides a beautiful, soul lifting backdrop for some designated "thinking time".  It's difficult to think about anything unpleasant with such beauty all around.  I saw a flock of Roseate Spoonbills one morning and wished that I had my camera.  I may have to start carrying it with me to work.  I had fog lying in the troughs between the dunes another morning.  It was like something off of a postcard.  Gorgeous!  The traffic isn't really bad and it's just a straight shot until I join my usual path to work from where the townhouse is.  

It really hasn't sunk in that - We live in Port A on a sailboat -… Maybe it will just be a gradual thing.  Having the luxury of storage at the townhouse helps a lot.  We haven't had to deal with getting rid of everything.  Bruce still has his garage full of tools and windsurfing gear.  Lots of boat stuff is being stored there until we are forced to find room on deck.  The life raft, the extra sails, deck storage chests, etc. can just stay there until we need them.  

I look forward to getting the fridge fixed and making some choices about the freezer compartment before I get too cozy using that space for other things.  We continue to shuffle stuff and form workflows and routines.  We're getting it figured out and it feels nice being out here.  Marina life is good!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

It Wasn't As Easy As I Thought...

Sitting on the foredeck waiting for 55 gallons of water to flow into the tank… my emotions threatened to bubble over and I pushed them back yet again.  I'm just tired, it's silly, this is what I've wanted for years.  But still… its a big deal!

We live aboard a sailboat!  When I think about it, I get kind of whiggy.  I've planned and pushed for this without letting up so that we would make it this time.  And we did it!  I think…  It doesn't flow easily yet, but it will.

Strangers came into our home and riffled through our clothes and treasures.  They walked out the front door carrying our things, having paid some paltry amount.  They looked at us like we were crazy or wished us well as we told them why we were selling out. 

I must say that I am disappointed in the turnout for our yard sale.  We had far fewer people visit than in years past.  I can't complain about the amount of stuff we sold however, because our kids took the majority of the good stuff.  I hadn't realized that they even LIKED our stuff, so there is a bit of suspicion in my mind that they're taking it to keep for us for when we "come to our senses" and decide we don't want to live on a sailboat.  I'm just glad we didn't have to let our treasures go for a pittance.  I would far rather see it with the kids for nothing.  

We spent hours this past week dragging things out, dusting, folding and displaying so that it would present well.  When it struck noon and the sale was over, it hardly looked touched.  Thankfully, my mother was on hand with a load of boxes.  She helped us pack it all up, with the exception of very little, to go to her Church's thrift store.  She drove off with a chunk of our lives.

We put the house back together and packed up some stuff to take to the boat.  We loaded the kitties and their gear and we left with the kids all upstairs napping.  That song by Fastball, "The Way" played over and over in my head.  All the way to Port A I had to keep from thinking about what we had given up for the unknown.  A nice home, lots of choices, convenience, a life of ease.  

I could call it all off right now.  Just turn around and go back.  Changed my mind!  But I told myself that this is what we've planned for, what we've worked for.  It's our dream!  All I have to do is get through the next six months of limbo and we're FREE!  

So, as the water flows into the tank, thoughts of Port A and boat life rise to the surface, replacing the worries and stresses of the past fourteen hours.  I began to relax and let go and feel lighter.  So what if our fridge isn't working.  We'll get it figured out.  It's just another part of the adventure that is now ours.  We made it.  We're THERE.  You will see our shadows wandering off somewhere… we won't make it home but we really don't care… we wanted the boat life, we're happier there today… TODAY!...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Boatyard Days...

Our plans for knocking this job out were dashed by a rampant stomach bug that took Bruce down for a solid two days.  He wasn't able to even consider going back out to House of Boats until the following weekend.  

Cleaning the hull
We arrived there mid-day on Saturday feeling disorganized and scattered.  Bruce and I bounced from one job to another.  Each time we began work on a particular project, we found that we either had unanswered questions or lacked some vital tool or supply to do the job.  I became very discouraged… neither of us felt very good and the job seemed to grow before our eyes.

Two hours work with a Scotch Bright pad
I worked for a while on removing the scum left on the bottom where the straps had been but it seemed as if I was going nowhere fast.  The good news was that our bottom was in pretty good shape.  No blisters at all, just a few spots that had no paint that needed to be fared and filled.

Tiny Sander would take DAYS!
The truth of the matter is that we don't have the appropriate tools to do this job in a reasonable amount of time.  Something has gotta change…  We packed it in early and returned home thinking we would attack it again in the morning…

Things weren't going any better on Sunday.  There were some questions about doing the bottom and the gel coat that we needed answered.  Bruce and I had a moment of truth.  We were going to have to not only consult the experts, but enlist their help if we were ever going to get this boat back into the water.

Ricky my new BFF
Ricky to the rescue!  He wheeled his cart over while we stowed away our supplies amidst promises of having the bottom sanded within the hour.  A miracle!  We walked around the boat with Rick showing him the problem spots.  He waved them away saying he would take care of all of them.

Look at the white strip under the red
He brought out a bottle of Aluminum Bright and gave me a little taste of what this magic elixir could do to the ICW beard.  I was blown away!  We have spent countless hours and dollars on stuff to try to get the brown shadow off our hull.  This stuff made it a memory nearly instantly!  

We left the boat congratulating ourselves on our sound decision to let the experts do this job before it got really ugly!

Filled and Fared
I got a call from Bruce on Monday which relieved me of my fears.  Rick was worth every cent we paid him and more.

Gouges repaired and waiting to be sanded
Not only had he done everything promised, but everything Bruce started working on, Rick swooped in with either advice, help, tools or just took over and did the job himself.  This guy is unbelievable.

They got the entire hull cleaned and the Max Prop polished.  

Tuesday, Bruce got the first coat of paint on the bottom.  He used up two gallons and called me to order another.  This brings us to five gallons.  Bruce also repacked the stuffing box on the prop shaft… a job that can be done while the boat is in the water, but thankfully it wasn't... The packing material he found on the boat was not the right stuff…  It wouldn't have been pretty.  

Wednesday Bruce applied a second coat of paint.  It went much easier and he used a smaller nap roller which used less paint.  Those of you who are unfamiliar with bottom paint may be wondering why I dwell on the amount of paint being used... the reason is that bottom paint contains copper, which makes it to be expensive.  We were thrilled to find this paint for a mere $240 per gallon.  It looks SO great!

Bruce was considering replacing a stainless steel through-hull... but decided to leave it.  He was also pleased to find that the cutlass bearing didn't need replacing.  It was done at the last haul out prior to the boat going up for sale.  He figured with as many miles as they put on the engine in bringing her to Texas from Rhode Island, it would need to be replaced.  But it's in good shape so we're going to pass.

Thursday Bruce came home reluctant to discuss his day.  He worked on some minor gel-coat repairs...  Should I be afraid?  I finally got him to talk about it.  He had trouble mixing the gel-coat and the wind was a problem.  After several starts, he did make some progress and feels pretty good about the color match.

He had trouble with the zinc anode on the Max Prop and had to order one online..  It won't be here until Tuesday.  He is also having issues getting the right grease for the Max Prop.  He has that worked out now...

One thing that DID go right:  The pads got moved so that he could apply a first coat of paint to the missed spots.  We should have the final gallon of paint by Saturday so that we can get the bottom paint finished.

No work on Friday or Saturday.  But on Sunday... we had some help.  Michael was visiting us and offered to lend a hand.  We found his height to be quite the advantage in taping the borders for the third coat of bottom paint along the waterline where it gets the most wear.  Michael taped the whole boat in no time!  Thanks Michael!

I finished the painting while Michael helped Bruce with the gel coat repairs. When I was done, there were two coats on everything (three on the waterline), except for the prop and the bottom of the keel.

Now I have been having nightmares about the keel.  Bruce said he usually ends up scraping barnacles off the keel since there are thin spots where it rests upon the blocks and can't be painted.  The keel gets painted quickly when the boat is in the sling before it goes into the water but the paint wears off quickly. All of our previous boats have had fin keels... Dos Libras has a broad flat wing keel with lots of real estate on the bottom.

I think we missed a shell.  I painted over it!
 I'm thinking that if I can get a couple of coats on, at least where there are no blocks, Bruce won't have to spend as much time scraping barnacles.  Ricky mixed us up a batch of epoxy primer which will improve the chances that the paint will stick to the lead keel.  Since I'm the one worried about it... Bruce allowed me the honor of shuffling around in the dust in 28 knot winds to prime the bottom for painting.

I was done when I ran out of primer and it was none too soon.  I was covered in dirt and could hardly see from the grit in my eyes.  This wind has gotta GO!

Bruce spent our remaining time doing some wet sanding on the gel coat.  He used 1000 grit on some of the minor smudges and will finish it off with 1500 grit. Its amazing that it does anything at all.  It's as soft as a baby's butt!  We had to call it a day and go back to town.  We are getting close but unless the weather forecast is mistaken, we won't be back out on Monday.  High winds are expected with a drop in temperature that will make our work difficult.  We plan to get back at it on Tuesday with hopes of a Wednesday splash!

Tuesday came and went without completion.  I finished painting the bottom of the keel and the prop.  Bruce got the Max Prop greased and WOW! It really needed it.  We had been having trouble getting the prop to feather, now we know why.  When he was done, the prop blades rotated MUCH more easily.  I finished wet-sanding the gel coat repairs Bruce had made.  I will say they aren't very professional looking and could have used another fill coat, but at this point, we're ready to accept it like it is.  Maybe we'll take another stab at it once I quit my job and time is on our side.  It began to rain at this point.  We tried to be grateful to have finished what we did...  Our hopes of splashing on Wednesday dashed... we drove home in the rain to work on the yard sale.  Maybe we'll get it back into the water on Thursday... we're running out of time!

It was cold - no fashion related 
Wednesday was the day to finish the hull.  All we needed to do was wax.  Bruce put me to work applying the wax while he prepared the buffer.  He underestimated my speed and I was about 1/3 way down the starboard side when he got to it.  I was appalled at the way it looked but didn't want to say anything.  It wasn't until Jeff (another male) came by to chat and mentioned that it looked kind of blotchy.  We realized at that point that we had allowed the wax to dry too long and we were in deep trouble.  In despair, I went in search of Ricky to rescue us again.

He came over and advised us.  It turned out that we already had some of the stuff he recommended.  He even lent us his variable speed buffer (ours was single speed).  He showed us how he does it and pretty much redid that 1/3 of the boat we botched.  Then he turned us loose on our own again, happy once more.

Ricky made it look so easy... but Bruce and I were quite a bit slower at it and we took turns, each doing a stretch until our arms got tired.  And our arms DID get tired.  We worked our way down the Starboard side and started on the Port side.  The day progressed and we were hopeful that we could get it finished.  We moved scaffolding and climbed and polished until I could hardly move my arms.

We weren't going to make it... the decreasing light made it impossible for us to see where we had polished and we knew we weren't doing very well.  We called it quits when we were literally three feet from the nose.  We drove home trying not to be too disappointed that we hadn't finished.

We planned to arrive early enough in the morning to finish the last bit of hull before the scheduled splash.  We were on the agenda for first thing in the morning.  We got it done and were happy with the results.  The boat looked great!  The guys loaded her onto the lift and painted the underside of the keel where the blocks had been and we were just about to go into the water when I noticed a crack where the keel joins the hull.

We consulted Ricky again... he said that he could grind it out and fill it in with Cabosil, promising that we would never have to fix it again.  It would delay us another day, but he could get it done and painted while hanging in the slings.  DO IT!  The LAST think I want to worry about is my keel!

Home we went again to work on the yard sale... Back to the boatyard on Friday morning fearing that even hoping to get the boat into the water would mess things up.  Not to worry...  We were pleased with the repair on the hull, the boat was lowered into the water, the through hulls and stuffing box checked for leaks...  All good!  We paid our yard bill (much lower than we thought it would be) and motored out into the ICW.

Being back on the boat seemed almost strange.  It took me a while to get the trust back.  I asked Bruce to check the stuffing box at least twice before I settled down and enjoyed the fact that we were finally free again!  Boatyard days have come to an end for (hopefully) quite a while!