Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Our little nativity scene on our starboard deadlight is both lovely and space efficient. It has the added advantage of staying put when 50-knot gusts rock the boat.
Merry Christmas everyone. We are having a wonderful holiday both on and off the boat this year. Hope everyone else is too.

Brandon and Virginia

A Seafarer’s Christmas Poem

by Robert Louis Stevenson

First published in the Scots Observer in 1888

The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seaman scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor’wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But ’twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops’l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:
So’s we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every ‘longshore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it’s just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard’s was the house where I was born.

O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother’s silver spectacles, my father’s silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china-plates that stand upon the shelves.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.

They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
‘All hands to loose topgallant sails,’ I heard the captain call.
‘By the Lord, she’ll never stand it,’ our first mate, Jackson, cried. . . .
‘It’s the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson,’ he replied.

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.
As the winter’s day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.

And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

(Thanks to John Kohnen, the King Coot of the Western Oregon Messabouts, for reminding me of this great Christmas poem from my favorite author.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Settling in for a winter aboard

The new cockpit enclosure will make living aboard much nicer this winter.
Life aboard Oceanus is good. We continue to check projects off of our to-do list. (I will post more on that later.) One huge project Virginia completed was to sew not one, but two enclosures for Oceanus's 10-foot cockpit.

While we were hauled out in Toledo and securely in the paint tent, Virginia took advantage of no wind and scaffolding to make patterns for the enclosure. While we were at the dock in South Beach she was constantly frustrated in her efforts to pattern the side panels for the enclosure by the northwest winds that blow all day every day during July, August and September.

The plan was to make the enclosure out of Sunbrella View, a shade product. This is pretty neat stuff. It keeps out most of the sun, insects and even a lot of the wind and provides privacy: when it's sunny, you can see out, but people can't see in. We first learned about the fabric when we watched a series of videos about the makeover of a 43-foot Hans Christian sailboat named Galetea in Olympia, Wash. Sunbrella made the videos featuring professional dodger and boat-canvas makers. We thought an enclosure with side panels made of View would be just the ticket for Oceanus.
The Sunbrella View fabric enclosure provides privacy as well as wind and sun protection.
Several months ago when Virginia tried to buy Sunbrella View from Sailrite, she found that it was no longer available. She quickly searched the internet and found an outdoor fabric store that had 20 yards available in our toast color and she bought it all.

As soon as we got the boat back to her slip in South Beach she went to work on it. First, she modified the connector piece that joins the aft end of the dodger with the forward part of the bimini. By making it more hourglass shaped, she was able to make it tighter and flap less in the wind. She then sewed the five side panels out of the View fabric. She figured they would  make a good pattern for the more expensive vinyl enclosure. It took her about a day to make each panel.
The View through the enclosure.
The enclosed View cockpit was wonderful! It kept the wind out, but still breathed and gave us privacy. When it rained, the View fabric kept most of the rain on the outside. But when the wind blew during a rainstorm, it drove water through the fabric. So Virginia replaced one panel at a time with a vinyl one. Now we have two enclosures: one for our cold, wet Northwest winters and one for summer and warm, sunny climates.

The clear vinyl enclosure makes life aboard much more pleasant, especially when it rains. Things in the cockpit stay dry and when you come in from the rain you can strip out of your wet gear before going below. It is also much brighter than the View enclosure.
Inside the new enclosure it's dry and warm.
 This will go a long way toward making this winter bearable. As I write this rain is coming down in sheets and the wind is gusting to 50 knots, in other words, it's a typical winter day on the Oregon coast. Inside the cockpit enclosure it is dry, except for a little rainwater that trickles down the backstay.

Friends of ours who spent the winter aboard last year turned their boat so it pointed north giving a southern exposure to their vinyl enclosure. They lounged in the solar-heated sun room in t-shirts even on cold winter days.

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 http://www.columbia43.com with all the specs and lots of photos, or someone can email me at svserendipity@gmail.com 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.

Monday, September 29, 2014

We finally get to see her beautiful bare bottom

The cast-iron keel of our Columbia 43 needed to be sandblasted, so I had Roberto do the whole hull.
As week three of the haulout comes to a close we are finally ready to do some painting. The cast-iron keel of our Columbia was in bad shape and really need to be sandblasted to clean out the corrosion before we faired and sealed it with epoxy filler. Since we were setting up for sandblasting anyway, we decided to have the yard's painter, Roberto, sandblast the entire bottom.

There was about five layers of old bottom paint on the boat. Another one would not be a good thing. Furthermore, the current bottom paint was ablative and I wanted a hard (non-ablative) bottom paint. You can put ablative over hard, but not the other way around. After struggling to remove all those bottom paint layers from just the boot stripe, I was not going to sand the whole bottom. The whole sandblasting operation was almost a thousand bucks, but worth it. There's nothing like a beautiful bare bottom.

For the last several days my wife and I have been sanding and filling, sanding and filling, rinse and repeat. We finally finished with the keel and the bottom and she looks great. Yesterday we gave the boat a good scrub to get rid of the last black dust from the sandblasting. Today was rainy so all we did was clean some more and tape off for the barrier coats. If the weather improves tomorrow we will paint!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hauled out!

Yes, the boat is that big and my wife is that cute.
Friday, Sept. 5, was a historic day for Oceanus. It was the first time she left the dock under her own power since 2005. That was the year she was trucked up from California. Jason and I took her up river to the Yaquina River Boatyard for a long overdue haulout.

The engine and new prop performed well and we motored into the slipway with no drama. It was a great comfort having Jason along. He knows the engine well and was constantly checking on things. He's also great company and a very competent hand.

There were no big surprises when the boat came out of the water -- another blessing. She looks good for a middle-aged beauty. No blisters, although her iron keel needs a lot of work.
Sanding bottom paint off the bootstripe. I know barnacles sometimes attach themselves to the boot, but bottom paint should remain on a boat's bottom. Use a scrub brush now an then.  
Here's what we've done so far:

  • Pressure washed the bottom,
  • Sanded the entire topsides with 80 and 150 grit,
  • Removed three unused plastic through hulls and a vent in the transom area,
  • Filled and fiberglassed the remaining holes,
  • Pulled her 60-foot mast,
  • Sanded and epoxied the spreaders,
  • Filled about a dozen small (less than dime sized) dings. 
Unless you've hauled out a boat this size you might think we haven't done much. If you think that you are WRONG! This big boat is kicking our butts big time. We come home so tired we can't even talk. We shower the dust off our sore bodies and fall into bed. The next morning we do it again. But we are happy with the progress and excited for the big payoff next week when she gets painted with Awlgrip paint.
We sanded down to the original gelcoat cove and bootstripes. The cheap plastic throughhulls in the stern are history too.
One exciting thing for me is sanding off all the stupid stripes someone painted on most likely in the 1990s. Once we got rid of them and sanded the bottom paint off the bootstripe, the beauty of the hull came alive. We plan on painting her like she was originally, but with black boot and cove stripes, instead of navy blue.

Monday, September 8, 2014

It's been a tough few weeks for the Oceanus crew

We've had a tough month and a half. We completely moved out of our house, which meant giving away, selling or throwing away a lifetime's worth of junk. That was harder than we anticipated. We also moved (mostly) on to Oceanus, which my wife made look easy. Amazingly she found places for our pared down belongings and about three months of food and still had space left over. The sale of our house has been a real roller coaster. The closing date has changed so many times I lost track. In the middle of all this Virginia needed a root canal.
Oceanus's new prop.
Consequently, Virginia and I felt like throwing up most of the time.

Of course a lot of good things happened during those weeks as well. We could not have survived without a lot of help from friends, family and neighbors. Our real estate agent, Carl, provided much support and guidance through, what he admits, is one of the worst transactions he's ever handled in his long career. Our neighbors were great help, especially my woodworking buddy Ray. Our kids came with a moving van and filled it with furniture and other housewares we no longer wanted, but they did. Neighbor Salanda kept us in delicious fresh tomato sandwiches after Virginia cleaned out the kitchen. My Turkish friend, Senar, stripped a teak door for the head in Oceanus. He also reminded me that all Abrahamic religions teach the virtue of patience. Thanks, Senar, I needed that.

Dave and Joi Hess once again came through for us in a pinch. They allowed us to live in their little guest house while Oceanus is torn apart during moving and hauled out. The boatyard doesn't allow people to live aboard their boats while their boats are hauled out.

We also received a huge amount of help on the boat. First and foremost was Oceanus's previous owner Jason. He helped me get the engine running and pulled me out of more tight spots than I can name in the past few weeks. He rebuilt the engine when he owned it, but there were still some issues with the raw water pump and the propeller, among other things. He helped me sort through those and was jolly on the spot when I ran into trouble. I can't express how amazing he has been. We couldn't have done it without you Jason! Having cute Ellie around was a bonus.

Lance, the diver, and John of West Coast Propeller deserve special mention too. Lance came back three different times to get the old prop off Oceanus and install the new one. He was a trooper and way more patient than we had a right to expect. We finally found the perfect prop at West Coast Propeller for Oceanus and her Perkins 4.108 diesel engine. It was used, but after John, the owner, trued it up it looked and sounded new. Each of her three blades rang like a bell with the same pitch.

When we look back at this time it is the many kind and helpful people we will remember, not the sore backs and frustration.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Project progress on our Columbia 43

We bent on the mainsail so we could try on the new mainsail cover Virginia sewed. It fits great! You can also see the new hatch I made and a shade cover for the dodger window.
Just a quick update on a few projects aboard Oceanus. My wife sewed up a storm over the last few weeks. Her largest project so far, at least in yards of canvas used, is the new mainsail cover. She ordered a kit from our friends at SailRite hoping it would work.  We had a mainsail cover from a mystery boat that sort of fit so between the two she made one and it is close to perfect.

A close look at the shade cover for the dodger window. It's made out of Sunbrella Panorama View, which you can't get anymore.

Virginia made this oversized pillow out of left over foam from the bunks. It will be great as a backrest in the cockpit. She also made sheet bags for the traveler adjustment lines.

She made more pillows for the interior. My favorite features a beautiful cross stitch sampler she made for me as a gift about 25 years ago. The bolster pillows feel great when you put them behind the small of your back.

I made this medicine chest from mahogany using dovetails for the case and mortise and tenon joinery for the door. I had my glass guy put a vinyl backing on the mirror for safety. 

Here you can see the dovetails.

More dovetails, in teak this time, for the replacement hatch. The lens is of 3/8-inch polycarbonate from TAP Plastics.
The new washer and dryer aboard Oceanus. They came from three different sources.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A mystery dinghy for my Columbia 43

The new mystery dinghy for Oceanus. By the way, the cooler was heavy, its not just my butt that's making her down in the bow. Which begs the question, "Does this dingy make my butt look fat?"
I bought a mystery dinghy for my Columbia 43 Oceanus. I've been looking for a Minto or one of the small Gig Harbor Boat Works dinks, or a Fatty Knees for a tender. When I saw an ad on Craig's List I thought from the bad photos it was a Minto. It's not. Mintos are 9 feet 1 inch. This boat is 8 feet 6 inches on the nose.

This boat has no maker's mark or builder plate. It also does not have a U.S. Coast Guard hull identification number molded in the stern, which makes me think it was built before 1972 when HINs became mandatory. It was undoubtedly professionally built and has molded in lapstrakes. The boatbuilder knew what he was doing, he spiled the planks so they look just right.

It has a fairly deep keel for a dinghy and a generous skeg which makes it track well and easy to row. I rowed in a fairly strong crosswind without a problem. She is so much fun to row that I found excuses to row her, like rowing the garbage to the head of the dock instead of walking. The keel will make it a little tippy after landing on a beach, but the great directional stability is worth it.

It weighs between 80 and 90 pounds. I can carry it fairly easy onto my shoulder and carry it to the water. I can also lift it into the back of my pickup alone, but a helping hand is always welcome.

There is plenty of room on Oceanus's foredeck for a hard dinghy of this size. Using a spinnaker halyard and the spinnaker pole, it shouldn't be too difficult to bring her aboard.

It came with the fancy stainless hardware to mount it on the swim step of a trawler yacht. I took it off and it's available to any blog reader who wants it. My guess is that the dinghy spent most of its life decorating the stern of a sea pig.
I bought 8-foot oars. Shorter ones would work, but the eights feel great. I love to row this boat!
It needs some work: the teak on the gunnels is beat up and cracked in two places and most of the screw plugs are missing in action. There are no quarter knees or  a breasthook, which makes it look a little funny to my eye. It also needs paint and filling the holes left by the fancy hardware I took off. I have more pressing projects aboard Oceanus, so these projects may have to wait until we are in the Sea of Cortez.

The good news is I bought it for $150. The bad news is I went to West Marine after and spent $195 on these two wood club things they claim are oars and some oarlocks. The oarlocks look passable, but I may have to do some whittling on the oars before I can stand to look at them. I bought 8-foot oars, 7 or even 6 foot would have worked, but the eights feel great and they'll be long enough to stand and scull.

So, what do you think I have? Who made this little gem? I've been looking around on the web and nothing seems to fit. There's a good article on Cruising World's web site about dinghies, but all the fiberglass ones with lapstrakes in this article are the wrong size.
She doesn't spin like a flat-bottomed pram, but she's still very maneuverable.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Shop time: finishing touches for our Columbia 43

Making joints in the shop. On top is a dovetailed hatch frame, which is sitting on the medicine chest for the head. Next to them are the rails and stiles of the medicine chest door, which will be put together with mortice and tennon joints.
Lately I've been spending more of my boat-work time off the boat and in my garage shop. My goal is to finish the last bits of unfinished storage: a medicine chest for the head and six drawers for under our bunk.

These will be made primarily with dovetail joints. It's the best joint for the job, they look fantastic and, once I get going, I really like cutting them. There's nothing like getting it right and having the joint go together with a piston fit. Sometimes I get so excited that I call my neighbor Ray over as a witness. Once the joint is glued together the moment is gone for ever.

Ray is a great friend and a great woodworker. He spent most of the previous Saturday helping me resaw and plane what seemed like hundreds of board feet of mahogany and maple for the doors and drawers. That is just plain hard work. You can understand why master cabinetmakers assigned their apprentices that task.

Some of the mahogany and maple Ray helped me mill.
We ended up with a nice stickered pile of beautiful lumber in the thicknesses I needed and half a pickup load of wood shavings and cut offs.

This weekend, while I was in the dovetailing mood, I also cut the joints for a new hatch frame for Oceanus. The old one was an ill-fitting replacement made of cheap mahogany that had gone to rot. The new one is of teak and will fit perfectly.

I bought the teak several months ago and I've been working up the courage to make a hatch out of it. If I botch any part of it I'm out about $100 for the wood, not to mention my time driving to Portland to buy it and then making it. I'm much more fearless butchering the African mahogany I use on interior projects, which I can usually get locally for $4.50 a board foot. The teak costs $27 a board foot and I must drive two hours one way to get it. That's six times as expensive, if my feeble math skills are correct.

Oceanus has seven hatches. Two of them I built and four others I rebuilt. All the latter were rotten and leaked. The largest hatch in the forepeak seems to be in good order and is original to the boat. I may yet replace it, but it's low on the list of things to do.

Monday, June 9, 2014

New non-skid for the decks of our Columbia 43

Weeks of hard prep work finally pays off as Virginia applies the first coat of our non-skid.
Weeks of hard work on her knees last fall finally paid off when Virginia rolled on special non-skid paint on the deck of Oceanus last weekend. The decks look beautiful! To my eye they look even better than new.

When Oceanus came out of the Columbia Yachts yard in Costa Mesa back in 1971 she had robin-egg blue non-skid areas with off-white water channels surrounding them. I'm sure they looked groovy just a couple years after The Summer of Love. Over the years the decks were pierced with vents and deck gear that now are long gone. They were beat up and painted two or three times, first with grey then with white paint. By the time we purchased the boat the decks were an ugly mess.

Worse still, all that paint filled in the texture of the molded in non-skid pattern making it unsafe. For two or three days each week for several weeks last fall Virginia was on her knees stripping off the old paint with Citristrip and wire brushes and lots of elbow grease digging down to the original robin-egg blue, diamond-patterned non-skid. It was a lot of hard work: she came home beat. It was also a classic it-looks-worse-before-it-looks-better project. Way worse.
Oceanus's deck taped and ready for non-skid.
When she finished the stripping and sanding, she painted two coats of white Brightsides polyurethane paint in the water channels bordering the non-skid areas. Things started looking better. But just when she was ready for the big payoff -- painting the non-skid -- the Northwest rains descended. Since October there hasn't been the three days in a row of good weather she needed to apply the special non-skid paint. That changed a couple of weeks ago and things started looking better.

Before she started this project last year Virginia researched several non-skid paint options and finally decided to use a coating called Ecoprocote Eco-Tuff Flex Formula Fine Aggregate in the wheat color. It's a low-VOC, high-traffic, rubberized non-skid industrial floor coating that has ground-up recycled tennis balls to make it grippy. The makers, Eco Safety Products, describe it as "The highest quality 100% Acrylic emulsion and Urethane dispersion with advanced bio-based technology that offers outstanding abrasion, hot tire pick-up, chemical, water, and weather resistance for interior or exterior use. It is a breathable self sealing, uniquely hard yet resilient rubberized non-skid coating that waterproofs, protects, and provides a non-aggressive barefoot friendly texture." I think it was the barefoot-friendly texture that sold us.
Virginia applies the special primer for the Eco-Tuff non-skid coating.
The special primer for the Eco-Tuff looks like skimmed milk, goes on thin and drys tacky. Virginia had half a gallon left over when she finished coating all of the boat's non-skid areas. The non-skid coats must be applied within 48 hours of laying down the primer.
The cockpit get's its first coat of non-skid. The teak strips on the sole of the cockpit are taped off.
The final coats are about the consistency of thinned oatmeal and must be stirred well every time before filling the paint tray. The stirring part is important to get a consistent look to the surface. To apply it you need a special roller cover you can buy from the Ecoprocoat folks. (The coating is water soluble so cleaning the roller between coats is not hard. We bought three roller covers just in case.) This stuff goes on thick so it doesn't go very far. Two gallons of the final coating covered two coats on the non-skid areas of the deck and in the cockpit. We ordered a third gallon so we can apply a third coat as recommended for high-traffic areas.
After two coats of non-skid Virginia removes the tape.
We struggled with the color selection. We didn't want something too dark that would be hot in the tropics but we also wanted something that was easy on the eyes. The Wheat color turned out to be the right choice for us: not too dark and it looks good with the color of the canvas and bullworks. They didn't offer it in groovy robin-egg blue -- not that we would have picked that.

The best part about the new non-skid is way it feels. Your footing is secure both with bare feet and while wearing our Keens (the best shoes and sandals you can buy, in our opinion). In bare feet it feels soft and a little squishy, like the soft matts sometimes used in children's play areas or the running surface on a high-tech track. The Eco-Tuff folks also claim it has some insulative qualities, which won't hurt when the sun is beating down on Oceanus's huge deck.
Beautiful decks at last!

We couldn't be happier with how it looks and feels. Now we will wait to see how it holds up during actual use. Here's hoping Virginia's hard work pays off long term.