Thursday, October 30, 2014

Oceanus home at South Beach

Oceanus steams down the wild Yaquina River.
We launched about a week ago on Oct. 21.That night and the next day were rainy and windy, so I waited to bring the boat to South Beach until Thursday. It was a great trip down the river. The engine purred along and I was able to spot all the channel markers along the 11 miles of the meandering Yaquina River from Toledo, Ore., to the South Beach Marina in Newport.

The fenders don't look so great, but I was single-handing it down the river and I didn't want to scratch the new paint.
There was some current in the marina and I had to take a second run at my slip, but the important thing is I didn't scratch the new paint job.

Virginia was waiting for me at our slip and snapped these photos.

Virginia sewed coveres for our old fenders out of special material so they won't scratch our new paint.
It was nice to have Oceanus snug in her own slip because the next day we had the first big storm of the winter on Saturday. Gusts of wind to 50 knots of wind struck from the south and east and then southwest sometimes all within a few minutes. The wind had the boats bucking and dancing in their slips in the heavy rain. When the wind shifted to a steady 45 knots from west in the afternoon it was a relief. With the wind screaming in the rigging, I had a two-hour nap (I've been fighting a cold).

That night Virginia and I slept ashore and Sunday we moved aboard. We are loving it.

Back when we were hauled out at the Yaquina River Boatyard the yard employees kept saying "Boy, that's a big boat." And it is... but the first couple days aboard my wife and I felt pretty cozy with what remained of our earthly junk in the boat. We spent the first two days organizing and finding places for things. We also jettisoned more junk. I suppose this will continue for a while. But the boat is organized enough that we are moving ahead on our project list. We are loving it! Virginia is working on an enclosure for the cockpit. I'm installing a new battery charger.

The most frequent question we get is "When are you leaving?" The answer is we don't know. We were really hoping to spend this winter in the Sea of Cortez, but we still have a lot of work to do on the boat. We will have no problem completing it by this spring. If we work hard, and if there is a good weather window, we just might make a run south this winter. The Oregon coast has a well-deserved reputation for wicked winter storms so I'm not holding out much hope. What we do when we break free is still nebulous. We do want to take six months and check out French Polynesia, Tonga, the Cooks and Fiji. We also love Hawaii and want to spend some serious time there before heading back to the grandkids (and the kids) in Olympia, Wash.
  We plan on making Oceanus our home for five to ten years and cruise in southern climes at least two of those. Longer, if I have my way. But those grandkids are super magnets for my wife and I. We'll see.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Columbia 43 Painting finished

Oceanus coming out of the paint tent ready to receive her mast before launching.
Here are some photos and a short video of the new paint job on our Columbia 43 Oceanus. It only tells part of the story of our six-week haulout. In addition to the professional application of the AwlCraft 2000 on the topsides we:

  • sandblasted the bottom and the keel taking off about six layers of old bottom paint;
  • sanded, faired with epoxy the keel and bottom;
  • painted three coats of epoxy barrier coats on the bottom and keel;
  • painted two coats of Trinidad hard bottom paint;
  • removed four through hulls and repaired the hull with epoxy and lots of fiberglass;
  • installed three new through hulls;
  • replaced two old through hulls;
  • unstepped the mast and rewired it as well as taking apart all the rigging and inspecting it;
  • removed old transducer and replaced with new one;
  • removed rust and painted the mast step;
  • made rigging improvements to the mast;
  • sealed deck with epoxy around mast partners;
  • removed and replaced the cutlass bearing;
  • more than doubled the capacity of the cockpit drains.

Roberto sprays on the bootstripe on Oceanus.
There are several smaller things we did as well, but those are the main things. In all, Oceanus looked good for not being hauledout for more than 12 years. These are tough old boats and can put up with a lot of neglect, But the piper was past due and had to be paid.
Virginia unwraps the masking on Oceanus's stern.
This was a very tough project with Virginia and I working all day nearly every day from Sept. 5 to Oct, 22. We were bone tired every night and in the morning it felt like the movie Groundhog Day where we had to relive the previous days until we got it right. For Virginia is was mostly sanding, fairing and sanding some more followed by painting. While I did a lot of that too, I tackled some tough projects that were difficult and intimidating -- the through hulls and the cutlass bearing were the two biggies.
Roberto times how long it takes the Awlcraft 2000 paint to drain from a measuring funnel. He's a great guy with a lovely family in addition to being a terrific painter.
The yard painter, Roberto, was excellent. He did the sandblasting and sprayed the topsides paint. He also did an excellent job replicating the original cove and boot striping on the boat. He directed us on the prep work and the bottom painting. In all, I thought the yard workers at the Yaquina River Boatyard in Toledo, Ore., were excellent. Thank you Leo and crew.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

SV Serendipity: A great home now for sale

Tom and Samantha Gray with Serendipity in the background.
I received a wonderful email from Karen Gray after I inquired about her Columbia 43 Serendipity, which is for sale. I'm always on the lookout for other Columbia 43 owners and their stories. This is a great one and Karen tells it well.

She has lived aboard Serendipity full time for 25 years, but after the death of her husband and now that her daughter (who was raised and schooled on the boat) is leaving for college she's decided to sell the boat and downsize, but Karen tells it much better than I could.

Karen: "I am very much a fan of your blog but did not know how to contact you, so thank you so much for taking the initiative to email me! Having been through so many of the same refit efforts with my late husband Tom that you and your wife have been through (though I must say not with such beautiful results as I have seen on your blog), I get a laugh at some of your comments...most recently the pleasure you took at sanding off the "stupid stripes," which we did in Grenada in 2002, along with several other coats of paint.

Ah, where should I start with Serendipity. She was purchased by Thomas Gray in Boston in late 1986. At that time her name was Swallow. I believe Tom was her third owner. I know little about her history before us, except that she was definitely out of the Virginia plant, and Tom was told she had crossed the Atlantic to the Med and back under a prior owner. Tom had Serendipity laid up in a yard in Winthrop, Mass., stripped of her mast and rigging, when I met them both in 1989 (my little Catalina 22 was a yard neighbor). A retired Navy chief and electronics technician, he was in the midst of replacing all her electrical wiring and electronics when I joined the crew. Serendipity has been my full-time home for almost 25 years.
The Grays added extra storage, counter top space and a nav station in place of the dinette.

In 1989 we ditched the propane heater in the main salon and headed south to Florida, where we began what was essentially to become a ten-year refit (and you thought things were going slow on Oceanus!). I realize the C-43 could accommodate a racing crew of six, but there were just the two of us back then, and we were living aboard and planning extended cruising.

We didn't need the large dining area opposite the galley; we wanted the nav station and all electronics aft, more accessible to the cockpit; and we needed lots more storage! Other changes were dictated by our "grow your own crew" program - our daughter Samantha was born in 1996. So below decks, we converted the U-shaped dinette into a nav/computer workstation and lots of additional storage space for provisions. I like to cook, so I appreciated the extra counter top space.

We closed off the galley completely from the main salon with bulkheads port and starboard, and a dutch door (so we could close the bottom half when we were in the cockpit and still keep an eye on the youngest crew member securely below).
Serendipity's main salon with a fold-down table.
We kept the upper/lower berths in the salon to port, but added a drop down table (for dining and schoolwork) to starboard. Stowed up it secures the vertical bookshelf next to the mast and opens up lots of space in the salon (important when your six-year-old invites all of her friends over to play).

We also used the underneath of the table as a whiteboard/blackboard combination. The original nav station opposite the head was converted initially into a built-in crib, then a toy box. And we added more enclosed, shelved lockers to the V-berth for clothing storage (without cutting down on sleeping space). To brighten up the entire interior we added two deck prisms in the salon, and a light oak herringbone parquet cabin sole throughout. Tom did all the cabinetry and cabin sole work himself.
Tom and Samantha at the helm. Note the custom radar arch in the background.
To prepare her for cruising (the Eastern Caribbean was our destination), we replaced her Perkins with a new Yanmar 63 hp turbo in 1999, and had a custom boom gallows and radar arch/dinghy davits constructed (the welder who made them for us owned a C-43 in the West Palm Beach, Fla., and used his own boat as a template, so everything fit together perfectly). To these we attached four Siemens 99-watt solar panels and a Four Winds wind generator. We also fully canvassed the cockpit for sun protection and to create additional 'all weather' living space.
Serendipity's all-weather cockpit.
Then we went sailing. Tom, Samantha and I cruised aboard Serendipity from Florida to Grenada and back for eight years. In Grenada, her topsides received some much needed TLC - lots of fairing and a spectacular Awlgrip job that still looks good today. We also discovered a corrosion issue with her 60-ft. mast at the keel step, and had the bottom four inches removed, and the mast step reconstructed and raised four inches (so the mast no longer sits in a wet part of the bilge), with no net change in the rigging dimensions. Her standing rigging was replaced at the same time, and the mast has been dry and corrosion-free since then.
Serendipity under sail.
Serendipity has been in Florida (we returned as Tom was ill and passed away in 2007). My daughter and I have continued to live aboard when we are not crewing with friends in the Eastern Caribbean half the year. And we continue to work on her. Two years ago, we replaced about 70 percent of her cored deck (which had gone soft in a number of spots). We cut out the deck surface, removed the rotted core, dried the area then painted it with West System epoxy resin, layered new epoxy coated balsa core and woven glass (heavier weights in stress bearing areas), faired it to a smooth finish then resurfaced with Interlux Interdeck. A huge project, but worth the effort.

 Last year, after a lifetime aboard and 12 years of boat-schooling, Sam started college. It's time for another couple, or perhaps a young family, to enjoy Serendipity. Like many land-based empty nesters, I've decided to down size. She is in the water in Titusville, Fla., for sale but not listed with a broker. I've created a website for her with all the specs and lots of photos, or someone can email me at for more information or if they'd like to take a look at her."
Serendipity's optional skeg-hung rudder.
Brandon: Serendipity has another rare, I believe, feature; a skeg-hung rudder. According to a flyer of standard features and available options for the Columbia 43 from about 1969, a skeg-hung rudder was offered as an option. It looks to me more like the standard rudders on the Columbia 45, which has basically the same hull as the 43. The rudder is just another cool feature of a really cool Columbia 43 called Serendipity.

If I didn't have Oceanus, I would be on a plane to Florida with a check in my pocket. I hope Karen can find new owners who will take care of this classic as well as she, her daughter and husband have.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Columbia 43 Sailboat Bottom Tour

I thought a short video would give a better appreciation of Oceanus's beautiful bottom. I've really grown to appreciate her fine lines as Virginia and I have sanded and fared it. It's been a long process but this week we put two coats of grey epoxy primer on. I'm very pleased with the results.
Before sandblasting, faring and epoxy coating.
Roberto also shot primer on the topsides. He did just one coat so we could see where we needed to do some final faring. Pictures of that soon.

This haulout is, of course, taking much longer than I anticipated, but it will be worth it. At some point you just have to quit counting the costs.