Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter in the Tropics of Baltimore

After our family cruise on Easter Day (aka. Me Voy Day) aboard our recent family addition, the sailing dinghy Miss Gen, the  storms began.  Unlike the typical rain and wind bashing we usually tend to receive here, these were more like tropical storms, with heavy, wet rain and no wind. The rain falling on the surface of the water had the curious sound of  raindrops on leaves, magnifying the tropical rainforest  feel already hanging in the air.

Miss Gen all put to bed

A steady, warm rain, poured from the above, running colors together into a Monet - like vision everywhere. The  sound of the rain was steady and there were none of the usual dock line moanings or fender squeeks to be heard. Strangely absent was the typical clanging of the haylards  and the splashing of water against the hull. It seemed the rain was lulling each boat to sleep.  All was silent except for the big blobs of a thick, warm rain falling onto the surface of the water surrounding us on all sides.  Just the rain falling and the boat barely moving. 

We sat in the aft deck, watched the world melt and listened to the rolling rumbling of thunder late into Easter night. It was a beautiful night to be on Earth. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Cruising

Chopper enjoying the Patapsco from the bow seat aboard Miss Gen.

It was four years ago on Easter Sunday, that Maggie and I became the very proud owners of Me Voy. At that time we were fairly certain that within a few short months of week-end work we would have her ready for cruising. We soon realized the scope of the enormous project we had undertaken and our education officially began. Now we are both well versed in all aspects of boat restoration and repair, and I have even risen to the status of professional yacht technician. We have learned a lot from our time with Me Voy, and the education is only just beginning. 
Chopper helps keep watch.
 Easter is a special holiday for us. I am a preacher's son, so I know very well, the meaning of the day. Jesus was put to death and arose from the grave a new creation three days later. It seems only fitting that we would have acquired Me Voy on the day of resurrection. She was alone, and dead in every way. It has taken several miracles to bring her back, but today she is almost better than she ever was. Completely resurrected.
Leaving the marina in our wake.
 I would like to be posting pictures of a day on the water aboard Me Voy, but there are some issues that could not be taken care of in time. It seems the raw water pump for the engine, has begun leaking badly. I managed to take it all apart, and I found the shaft is badly pitted and needs to be replaced. This is fairly simple unless you are dealing with a 1979 Perkins 4-108 that was manufactured in Spain. Everything is just different enough to be impossible to find. So, we decided to take Miss Gen out for the day. So Here's the story.
Maggie likes to hang on
 It was a perfect day for sailing. Wind was SE 10kts steady. We had planned for a short sail, but with conditions so good why would we stop? So we decided we would sail for Fort Mchenry. History buffs my know this as the fort that was being bombarded when Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem.
Miss Gen Catching good wind
 We were sailing up-wind against a strong current, but Miss Gen made good headway, and handled beautifully.
All smiles as we leave the home front
Chopper is a very good lookout

Fort Mchenry
 After a few hours of beating into the wind, we made it to the Fort. Still perfect wind we decided to turn into the harbor and head for the Korean War memorial park in Canton.
Nice beam reach heading toward the city

Docked in Canton
 This was now officially a cruise. We stretched our legs, pooped the dog, and headed on out. The clouds were beginning to gather and the breeze had started freshening.
Spirit cruises passes wide of us in front of the fort.
 After leaving the park, it really started to blow. Our steady 10kts had started gusting to 20kts plus. This is not bad in a yacht, but it can be fairly frightening in an 8 foot dinghy. I managed to hold her to the wind all the way around the fort, all the while digging my fingernails into my palm, as I tightly gripped the main sheet. We passed dangerously close to the rocky sea wall that protects the fortress turned park. As my fingernails sank deeper into my palm, a lady yelled from the shore, "Don't you got no motor? I'd be so scared!". I guess we looked like we weren't scared, but at that moment, I was concentrating too hard on staying off the rocks to even give a reply. The waves thundered against the seawall, the wind howled, and we shifted to windward holding our course, wondering if it would be a good time to put on life vests.

Maggie takes the downwind home stretch
After rounding the fort, we could finally turn downwind. We had a good laugh, and surfed the waves, making good time homeward. Maggie took over at the tiller and brought us home just before the storms started. 

Me and Billy relaxing on the back deck
It was another great day. Maggie and I spent the rest of the evening talking about the past, and the future. We toasted the last of the Chivas to four incredible years and watched the storms pass from the comfort of Tara's back deck. Perhaps next Easter we will be sailing Me Voy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Old and New of Friendship and Boat Collecting

Me and Cami have proven to be timeless friends, picking up right where we left off.

This past week-end, we were visited by my best friend ever, Cami, and her husband, Bill. It seems like a memory from another lifetime when I think back to the time she gave me a place to stay when I needed to end a bad relationship, without the support of my family or other friends. We would stay up late drinking Jagermeister in a smoke filled farmhouse apartment, talking about life, love, and God, while singing songs and giggling together. She was the best therapy that I could have had. Even though we have not seen each other for nearly eight years, it seemed no time had passed since those good ole' days back at the farmhouse.
I had met Bill previously, but had never gotten the chance to hang out with him. He's a really cool guy, who both Maggie and myself instantly hit it off with.

Bill proudly accepts his new relationship with "Little Hooch"
 The reason for their visit was to pick up Bill's birthday present, Little Hooch. Now that Maggie and I are getting closer to cruising time, we have decided to reduce our boat collection and get a dinghy to be used as a tender for Me Voy. Cami sent me a message on Facebook a few weeks back asking if I had a solo canoe she could get for Bill for his birthday, and I told her about The Hooch. She showed the pictures to Bill, and it was love. His grandfather was a fantastic woodworker, and one of my early inspirations, so Bill has a real eye for anything wooden and varnished. Easy to see why we hit it off. He was so thrilled to get this boat. He will be paddling her on the Shenandoah River, near his home in New Market VA. He is an avid fisherman and needed something to help him outsmart the big bass. They have a small son, who I have not met yet, who will fit nicely on the second seat I installed for Chopper.

Me and Chopper figuring out the rig aboard "Miss Gen"
 Now that we have depleted our boat collection, it was time to get shopping. We have been researching and measuring, and imagining, all sorts of different options for our tender. We want something that we can stow on deck; we like to drag up over rocky shorelines littered with glass shards, so it can't be inflatable; and we wanted something that sails, rows, and motors equally well. It seems the answer came from the source of all such answers, Craig's List. This Dyer Midget, named Miss Gen, came with the barely used sail rig, and oars, AND the ever elusive title, so we can actually legally use a motor. This is good, because I am a terrible oarsman. We picked her up on Monday, not 24 hours after saying good-bye to Little Hooch. After getting her home and rigging her up, we spent the remainder of the day sailing the Patapsco, and exploring rocky, garbage covered shorelines. She sailed fantastic, and seems to be more than adequate for the two of us plus dog and gear. Maggie and I agree that Miss Gen is a solid addition to our family.
Billy watches us come in under sail, completely unimpressed.
I am beginning to think that life is just one big soup of old friends and new friends, old boats and new boats.  We meet, we love, we share memories, and we have each other for the rest of our days, even if we don't see each other as often as we would like. There is not a single friend from my life that I don't still cherish, and there are no boats that I have shared time with that I don't still love. If only our lives, and storage space, were big enough to spend more time with those who have impacted us so deeply. But we just can't keep all of that goodness for ourselves alone, that wouldn't be right. We have to share the people and things we love with others, so that they can have new experiences, and so that we can make more friends and meet new boats. The world is our oyster! I have enjoyed the trip down memory lane, and I am enjoying looking to the future. What do I see in this future? Cami and Bill, going sailing with us on the Chesapeake this Summer. Bring the kid. It will be awesome!!! We'll supply the Jagemeister.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

BoatLIFE sux

This is one sucky caulk!
Caulk is one product that all boat owners have in common. On a wooden boat, caulk is used in so many different ways, that its important to make friends with it from the very beginning. Weather you are sealing around  screws, or caulking in between hull planks, never underestimate the potential of this seemingly innocent  product to completely ruin your day. I speak from experience when I say choose your friends wisely.

To prevent water from penetrating into the deck pay special attention to all screws. To reseal them, remove each screw,   scrape off old caulk, dap new caulk into the screw hole, tighten screw and wipe off excess caulk.  

All caulk is not created equally. For years we have used Boat Life caulk, mostly because it was what the pros used, and, since it also happened to be the most expensive caulk, we figured it must the best. Its NOT! Last year, by accident, Travis purchased the West Marine brand of caulk, simply called Multi-Caulk.  It has become our best friend ever since!

All screws have been resealed and caulk neatly wiped off.
Its not often you find a product that is both cheaper and better then its more expensive competition, but that is exactly what we discovered with the West Marine Multi-Caulk.  At $11 per cartridge, compared to  $18 per cartridge of Boat Life, this caulk seems firmer and much much easier to control then the runny and gooey Boat Life. This is important because caulk can spread like wild fire, ending up in strange places, like the end of a Q tip for instance, which can not only ruin your day, but throw off your balance as well.  This leads me to the next and probably most important positive quality of the Multi Caulk- its ease of clean up. This stuff wipes off easily with paint thinner, both off the boat and off your skin.  This is in sharp contrast to Boat Life which only seems to smear around both your hands and the boat, oftentimes leaving hands dirty for days.

Notice the lack of frustration as "the wiper" cleanly removes excess caulk. 
As a final straw, you would think that Boat Life, after the mess and the boogery hands, would at least reward you with a nice end result. But the kicker is that over time, this stuff has yellowed!  So I officially say- Boat Life Calk- you suck!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Le Papillon

Le Papillon beached on Fire Island.
If you're a little geeky about boats, you may have heard about Le Papillon. This vessel, previously known only to the few who loved and/or gawked at her as she floated in our marina, is now rather infamous on cruisers forums and other blogs.  All this because the owners son, loaded a cooler and together with a couple of friends decided to sail her to Maine, without permission, or much experience. Unfortunately it didn't end well. Le Papillon is now beached on Fire Island. The crew was safely rescued, but there is no guarantee of their safety once the enraged father gets a hold of them!

For full documentation of  the wreck, its current status, and pics of Le Papillon being built (courtesy of our neighbors Art and Linda Benson) check out Will's blog called Tugster. He's got some amazing pictures of the sand now nearly swallowing this massive ship.

Le Papillon floats during winter 2010 as the dock goes under water. Photo courtesy of Art and Linda Benson.

Le Papillon was a steel hull vessels built in Baltimore. She has circumnavigated the globe, and was last floating at our marina only a couple of weeks ago. We are  saddened and shocked, and have decided to never leave the dock again.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Countertops, floors, and the thrill of progress

Travis used templates to cut out countertop for Me Voy
The wait was finally over. The floor has dried and Travis was able to get started on the countertops. We chose bamboo for the countertop material. The product is called Plyboo. Its a three layer laminate of horizantal grain bamboo. I love love love it. Its durable yet lightweight, and its bamboo, which means its a renewable resource which can be grown ecologically.

Before I knew it the countertop pieces were cut and we were hauling them to Me Voy to see it they fit.
They fit!
Plyboo comes in a variety of colors from natural, which you see here,  to a darker tan to a striped variety resembling tiger wood. I love the look of the natural bamboo, especially next to the darker mahogany. It brings some much needed light to our galley.

An old paw at boatwork, Chopper isn't celebrating just yet.
I was amazed how fast Travis cut out the countertops and how well they fit. The key to this was making good templates which he did the previous day, spending four hours templating all the surfaces. He used strips of luan and hot glue to mock the final shapes of the countertop, taking into account the size of the companionway and matching the sections of the countertop in such a way that the grain of the bamboo would match and the pieces would fit thru the "doorway". Quite a thinkpiece this was that he made look too easy!

There is still much to do to properly fit in the countertops. Chopper understands this and is taking notes.
Ah the places these feet have seen!
This was the first time in months that Chopper was allowed back onto Me Voy. He couldn't believe it was the same boat, and had to sniff every corner, nook, and open cabinet  there was. It was hard to get a good picture as mostly he was a white ball of curiosity.

The refinished floors were so clean and shiny I had trouble believing it was the same boat. Only one more coat to go!
Chopper admires new overhead
Chopper was very impressed with the newly painted overhead, so white and shiny! Another example of a Bilgekote application . I love that paint.

Overhead painted with Bilgekote

Disappointed that we didn't come to play Ball, Chopper finally laid down and took it all in. I was right there with him. Ahhh the thrill of progress!