Friday, September 27, 2013

Making our Columbia 43 comfortable

A big step away from the onboard camping lifestyle: our new refrigerator.
"Would you like a cold beverage from the refrigerator?" I asked for about the tenth time in two hours. For the tenth time I got a smile and giggle from Virginia. Yes, Oceanus has a refrigerator. Finally.

It's one of the things we did this weekend to make our Columbia 43 a more comfortable home. We stay on the boat one or two nights a week now. So far it's been a little like camping, but gradually the livability is improving. In addition to getting and installing an Isotherm 4.6 cubic foot refrigerator we made improvements to our double bunk that made it irresistibly comfortable. I think I slept better last night than I have in months.

First the refrigerator: When we bought Oceanus a little over a year ago she didn't have any kind of an icebox and the galley was just roughed in. That gave us the freedom to design it to our liking. Too much freedom is a dangerous thing.

I originally planned on building a super well-insulated icebox with a stainless steel interior and add a refrigeration unit. Virginia wanted to put the sink where I wanted to put the icebox so it made us rethink my idea. Then I talked to a friend at the marina who had built several boats, including a 47-foot Perry-designed sailboat. In that boat he spent about $10,000 -- according to him -- on a large refrigerator with a large freezer, with an engine-driven compressor in addition to a separate compressor that ran off the battery bank.

"If I had to do it all over again I would just get one of these," he said, opening his small Isotherm refrigerator in his current boat. "It uses less energy than that 20-watt light and it was about a tenth of what I spent on my other boat."

I was already overwhelmed with the number of projects on Oceanus. This looked like a good way to save time and money, since it would cost less than the refrigeration unit alone, not counting making the box for it. We finally ordered the Isotherm last week.

The day I took it to the boat was the only day this week that was sunny and dry. I should have been working on our list of high-priority projects on deck. Instead I installed the refrigerator under the counter top in the galley. It was worth it just to hear Virginia giggle later when I handed her a cold beverage.

Virginia makes up our super-comfy bunk.

Our bunk a year ago.
The other big leap forward in livability was the improvements to our bunk. Originally we planned to cut down our queen-sized foam mattress we sleep on at home. It's super comfortable, but heavy and about 10-inches thick. It would have been a bear to wrestle into place and once it was in the bunk it would have severely restricted our ability to access the large lockers under our bunk. If it ever got soaked -- something that occasionally happens on cruising sailboats -- it would be tough to get dry again.

At first we started with 5-inch medium-density foam, hoping it would suffice. It did not. We both woke up sore. It was in two pieces and it's pretty light making it easy to move, but we needed more comfort. This week we added a single piece of 3-inch thick memory foam on top and an Ikea waterproof mattress pad. For sheets we used our microfiber fleece sheets that feel warm even when they are not and wick moisture away from your body. The results were as close to perfect as you get in this life. And all the parts and pieces can be hauled up on deck to dry out should they get wet.

I was hoping the waterproof mattress pad would prevent the condensation that occurs when the warm, moist air from our bodies hits the cool plywood of our bunk. When I checked under the foam in the morning I could feel some moisture. I don't know if there is a better solution than airing out the mattress each morning, but I'll keep looking. I'm hoping when we are in a warmer climate condensation won't be the problem it is here in the cold, wet Northwest.

This livability advance from an unlikely source. For years Virginia knitted the dish cloths we used at home. They worked great, but had a fatal flaw: after a day or two they really stunk. This wasn't too much of a problem with a washing machine just a few steps from the kitchen, but the boat is a different matter. A fellow blogger touted the benefits of Scrubr, a non-absorbent dish scrubber. We tried a pair. They didn't stink and did a great job scrubbing dishes, but they weren't good for much else. Don't even try to wipe the counter top with them. Spill something? Forgetaboutit!

Our Dollar Store find. Two for a buck is hard to beat.
While in the Dollar Store we saw some Microfiber Stripe Scrubbers that looked interesting. It had microfiber on one side and a nylon mesh on the other. A two pack cost a buck, so we bought one. After using one for a week it didn't stink and we were delighted with how well it worked, not only on washing the dishes, but wiping up the counter top as well. We went back and bought several more. We found them at two different Dollar Stores, so they might be fairly widely available. They look like they will hold up well and, as if it can't get any better, they come in a color that matches the colors on the boat.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Project updates: Painting, hunting and gathering

Making a maple cutting board for Oceanus - total joy; finding a machine screw - total PITA!
Virginia and I spent Saturday painting the deck house and the water channels on Oceanus and she is looking good! We are using white Interlux Brightside polyurethane paint on the glossy parts of the deck and topsides. That will be followed up by an industrial non-skid paint for the parts you walk on.

Head painter Virginia spent hours on her hands and knees for the last few weekends sanding and stripping old paint off the decks. I've also put in my time filling, fairing and sanding. The part of the project that had us concerned was getting the old paint out of the molded-in pattern on the non-skid parts of the deck. The original baby-blue non-skid was painted at least twice (grey and then white) by previous owners. The paint filled in the pattern in the non-skid rendering it non non skid.

The deck in the bottom of the photo is stripped and ready for painting.
We finally hit upon using an environmentally-friendly stripper and a stiff wire brush to get the old paint out of the non-skid pattern. It worked like a charm, with work being the key word. Virginia contributed the most elbow grease while I was doing other projects. She worked steadily last weekend while I was teaching a Family Crabbing Workshop for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The payoff was this weekend as we finished painting the deckhouse and water channels on the deck. It looks great! (I forgot my camera. Sorry. I'll snap some photos later.) We thought doing the glossy parts first would be easiest when it came time to tape them off before we applied the non-skid, which must be done with a roller.

We also spent some time last weekend fitting the beautiful new dodger Virginia has been working on for months. The cabin top needed to be painted before we attached the fasteners for it. (Virginia is working on a post, or a series of posts, on making the dodger.)
A fitting session for the new dodger. Notice the color of the dodger and the bulwarks. That is no accident. 
I'm also reattaching some of Oceanus' deck hardware, specifically her sheet winches and cleats. Most of the bolts were in the boxes that came with the boat, but I did have to hunt up some new ones that were MIA. The one that gave me the most trouble was the 5-inch, 5/7ths, slot-headed machine screw for one of the cleats. I finally found one in Portland, two hours away. It did give us a chance to hunt and gather some more items we needed for the boat, but it felt like an unnecessary trip.

This brings up something that I've complained of before when I was building Ravn, my 19-foot faering. It seems like much of my time building (or rebuilding) boats is spent hunting, gathering and making the many specialized parts required for the projects. These can be pretty esoteric and hard to find.

Sometimes it's easy and fun. Like making a maple cutting board to fit over the stove top. The wood for the cutting board was kicking around my shop for longer than a decade just waiting for a project. I knew exactly where it was and it was just the right size. Cutting to rough size, jointing the edges and glue up took about an hour, even counting mixing up a small batch of epoxy. The next day I sanded, cut to final size, bull-nosed the edges, gave it a final sand and ragged on some cutting-board oil -- maybe two hours. That's a total of three fun hours on something I know we will enjoy looking at and using nearly every day for years. (I never tire of the beautiful figure in tiger-stripped maple.)

Finding the machine screw for the cleat took days. First checking with all the local sources, then scouring the internet and catalogs until I found one. Topped off by a four-hour round-trip to Portland, and shelling out nearly 20 bucks, because you can't just buy one. All for a little, but critical, part that we hardly notice.

This frustrating, time-consuming, expensive crap is why projects on a boat are twice as expensive and take three times as long as you think they will.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Great new web site for Columbia 50s

Columbia 50
Kevin Reilly, owner of the  Columbia 50 Skylark, built a wonderful new web site about that beautiful Tripp design. I heard about it through the Columbia Sailing Yachts discussion group, of which we are both members. (Also a great resource for Columbia Yacht owners.)

Of all the Columbia sailboats I think the Columbia 50 is the most similar to the Columbia 43. They both have the same designer, the dimensions are suspiciously similar (the beam is the same on both, the waterline length is only one foot shorter on the 43 than the 50, the draft is nearly the same and the standard interior layout is nearly the same).

The boats were so similar, in fact, that Columbia Yachts could use the entire deck, including the house and the cockpit, from a C-50 on the C-43 hull number one . They just had to trim around the edges.
Columbia 50

Columbia 43

Here's wishing Kevin well on his new endeavor. Be sure and check it out.