Monday, October 18, 2010

Such a Pretty Boat!

Thursday, October 14 - Sunday, October 31, 2010
Hi, everyone! Once again, long time, no updates. This time, though, we have a great excuse: Pipe Muh Bligh has been "on the hard" (that's "sitting on jack stands in a boat yard" to you landlubbers) for the month of October. We finally got tired of seeing the ICW mustache on the bow, the barnacles on the waterline, the hazy hull, and the rust stains on the rails. We love our boat, but we don't always show our love with copious amounts of maintenance and TLC. Our baby has been soooo neglected!

We actually had the boat hauled out on Wednesday, September 29, at the Deltaville Boatyard (DBY) in Deltaville, VA. In preparation for the haul-out, we managed to get the dinghy engine mounted on the stern rail and took the dinghy out of the water at the dinghy dock for cleaning and painting. We'd also been warned by our friend, Art, that we wouldn't fit into the boat lift the "normal" way, stern-in, thanks to our dinghy arch and radar tower. Instead, we'd have to remove the forestay to get into the boat lift bow-first. (Art has our sister boat, Destiny, and was hauled out at DBY a couple of weeks before us.) Wrench and screwdriver in hand, Rene began rotating the turnbuckle to loosen the backstay. Sixty turns later, the pressure was finally off the mast enough to disconnect the forestay and put a temporary mast support system - in the form of the jib and spinnaker halyards - in place. Art then gave us a hand getting Pipe from the pump-out dock to the haul-out slip, and John (the lift operator) and Dan (the jack stand guru) from DBY got the lift slings under the hull. The next thing we knew, Pipe was being raised out of the water with nothing but a couple of slings keeping her from falling to the ground (or so it seemed). While we know that people do this all the time, there's just something unnatural about seeing your boat suspended in mid-air! John gave her a long power-wash that cleaned nearly two years of slime and crud off the hull, after which we followed the lift (with Pipe still hanging suspended from the slings) to our new home for the next month. Thanks to our positioning in the lift, Pipe had to go "ass-in" into her slot in the yard. The persistent rains had made the ground too soft for the lift plus our 30,000-pound boat to get as far back into the slot as John would have liked without sinking into the mud. Consequently, our bow stuck out well beyond the boats around us and our ladder on and off the boat was in soft sand instead of gravel. Still, it sure made finding our boat easier!

Knowing we had three days left before leaving for Seattle, we wanted to get a jump on a few things. We knew better than to start the long-term stuff such as painting or waxing, but we managed to cross quite a few items off the list. We cleaned the dinghy from top & bottom, cleaned and polished all stainless/rails on deck, used a toothbrush to get the rust stains off of the metal work and fiberglass, and took down the canvas cockpit enclosure for delivery to Wendy's Custom Canvas for re-stitching and repairs.

Once we got back from Seattle, the real work began. We had originally planned for Rene to do the sanding and painting below the waterline, and Stacy would do the hull cleaning, polishing, and waxing above the waterline. Thank god Art told us what a great job the yard had done sanding his hull - and at a very reasonable price, no less! Rene arranged for the DBY guys to sand the boat Monday morning, so we spent the weekend in prep mode - taping along the new (raised) waterline, washing the hull, scraping barnacles, etc. Once we were ready for sanding, we knocked a few more things off of the list; Rene cleaned and taped the dinghy bottom for its paint job while Stacy got the ICW mustache off the big boat with On-Off (that stuff's caustic, but it sure works great!). Then we traded places so that Stacy could paint the dinghy bottom while Rene sanded the main and side propellers. We also got our repaired canvas back from Wendy, which meant we could clean and waterproof the "roof" before putting the enclosure back together. Pipe was beginning to look like a boat again.

One great thing about staying in a boatyard is meeting your neighbors, all of whom are also busy fixing their boats and are great sources of information. Everyone tries to help each other, lending a hand, a tool, or advice whenever needed. We got to meet Alan and Doreen from across the gravel path - an English couple preparing their Island Packet for an Atlantic crossing back home; Brandon, Carryn, and their Portuguese water dog, Bella, who were busy giving their Catalina, Sol Mate, a fresh bottom job five boats down from us; and Doris and George from the catamaran, Grace, who were awaiting parts to put their mast back on the boat. We also saw Jim and Laurie from Kismet again, who we'd first met at a Sojourner happy hour in Annapolis. Not that it was all work and no play...once in awhile we'd declare "work over" and congregate behind someone's boat with a cold beer or arrange for a BBQ using the marina facilities.

Monday morning we tried to stay out of the way while the DBY techs sanded the boat. They managed to do in under five hours what would've taken Rene two-plus days (not to mention some very sore muscles) to accomplish. Talk about money well spent! That out of the way, it was time for barrier and bottom paint. Stacy hand-washed the hull to remove any trace blue dust from the sanding (imagine cold, blue-colored water running down your shirt) and taped the hull to create a template for a new layer of barrier paint at the raised waterline. Rene got a head start on the gel coat repair on the bow. Our anchor had chafed through the line affixing it to the pulpit during a crossing and had gone overboard, leaving gouges along the bow. Alan came by to compare notes about gel coat repair with Rene, and loaned us his Dremel to soften the worst of the gouges. It worked like magic! You guessed it...a new "toy" will soon be added to Rene's toolbox. The best part of the gel coat project, however, was the tape. Most of you have probably used or at least seen the blue masking tape labeled "painters tape". Well, the same tape works perfectly on fiberglass. Use it to outline whatever you need to paint/sand/fix, and pull it off when you're done. No muss, no fuss. In outlining the gouges that needed gel coat repairs, Rene created a work of art on our bow. As one neighbor said, "it looks like you have a shark face tattooed on the front of your boat."

So some of you may be thinking that painting a boat is no big deal. It's just like painting a house, right? Well let me tell you, dealing with barrier paint (think "primer") is like going back to Chemistry 101. Mix pot A into pot B at a 1:3 ratio; make sure you let paint dry for at least X hours but not more than Y hours before applying a second coat; if you let Z hours go by before applying the bottom paint, you're completely screwed and have to start over (or at least sand the last coat down to have any hope of the next layer bonding). And by the way, X, Y, and Z all change depending on temperature and humidity. No pressure, though! And what, exactly, is gel coat? If you want the gory details, there's probably plenty of info online. For the rest of us, it's basically the outer shell of the boat - as in the visible part that sticks out of the water. It's generally bright and shiny when the boat is new, but things sometimes happen (such as fuel or marina docks, runaway anchors, or naked people dragging into you) that damage the gel coat. Not to worry, a You Tube video showed how easy it was to make gel coat repairs. Woo hoo! We were off to a great start - we had a bucket of gel coat from Catalina. Score! Oops, we were told that we had to mix it with a hardening agent. Huh?? No problem, we found a little bottle of that in a gel coat repair kit from West Marine. Beautiful...but how much? Well, depending on which internet source you believe, somewhere between 4 and 20 drops of hardener per ounce of compound is required. Of course, adding too little or too much messes up the whole process and your gel coat repairs will be a bust. Aaaarrrrrgggghhhh! We finally settled on 10 drops (a little more than the Boat US guy said, a little less than Mr. You Tube), and Rene applied the first layer to the gouges on the bow. Success! Well, sort of... The repaired spots were still a little sticky after 24 hours of drying time, but Alan told us about the wonders of acetone. Brandon even had some handy, and Rene was back on track. After a second layer and more drying time, he sanded like crazy. 200 grit, 400 grit, 600 grit...all the way up to 800 or 1200 grit. Rene still wants to put another layer on a few of the deepest gouges, but our bow sure looks better than it used to.

Applying the bottom paint was a comedy of errors. We had purchased coveralls, shoe covers, and gloves for sanding, but never got them out for the paint job. Duh... Anyway, Rene painted from the waterline down to the underside with an extension roller, and Stacy worked on the tight angles, corners, and keel with the hand-held roller. (Speaking of working on the keel...there's something unnerving about working underneath 30,000 pounds of boat. Even though you know it's on stilts and won't come thundering down on your head, it's still a little creepy!) Rene didn't get too covered in paint while he was armed with the extension pole, but Stacy looked like a spotted smurf thanks to the back splatter from the roller. (Rene got his own coat of paint after the extension rod broke. What's that about payback??) And since we were using hard paint, it didn't wash off as easily as ablative paint. We both took showers with scrub brushes, and finally reverted to acetone baths. Ah, the glamorous life!

Once the paint job was done, it was time to make our girl bright and shiny. On-Off took away the brown stains from the ICW, and Collinite 925 got rid of most else. We had gathered info about polishes and waxes from friends and publications, and in typical cruiser fashion, everyone had a different opinion of what worked best. We finally went with Star Brite's Premium Marine Polish with PTEF for the first coat, and Meguiar's Flagship Premium Marine Paste Wax for the final two layers. Carl and Debi had loaned us their polisher/buffer, which cut the work in half. The polish got rid of a few remaining spots, and the wax shined her up like new. It was a lot of work but well worth it, and we felt like having a party when we finally got to take the tape off the hull. In the interest of "full disclosure", I have to disagree with the chat sites that said polishing without a follow-up wax coat would be enough to bring the shine back. Maybe our gel coat was just too far gone (i.e. oxidized), but the wax made a huge difference over the polish alone. If anything, we should've bought a polish that contained a cleaning agent for light oxidation to really make Pipe sparkle. Oh, well...she looks pretty good for our first DIY attempt!

With the second coat of wax complete, we arranged a date with Debi and Carl to have a dinner together and to return their buffer. We were excited to see them again one more time before we headed south, and headed back to the Galley restaurant to see if we'd have another great experience there like we'd had with Art. Dinner was fantastic again, but we had a little more excitement than expected; we'd been so busy working on the boat that we hadn't paid any attention to the weather. There were three separate thunderstorm systems passing through the VA area bringing tornado watches and warnings! We managed to stay dry until Debi and Carl brought us back to Pipe, at which time the heavens opened. We were lucky enough to avoid serious lightning strikes or tornadoes, but the wet ground proved to be a nightmare for Brandon and Carryn on Sol Mate. The block of wood under the keel sank into the sand, and the boat shifted on its blocks. The shift caused the jack stands to grate against the newly-painted hull all the way down to the barrier paint, and they had to re-paint the areas under the stands from scratch. Their week-long haul-out had become a two-week endeavor, and they were anxious to get back into the water and on their way south.

Besides all of our do-it-yourself work, we also took advantage of the experts in the boat yard. Rene had noticed some damage to a seal around the prop, and it turned out that we needed the cutlass bearing replaced. Now this is a huge chore in itself - not something we wanted to try ourselves. It took the DBY tech nine hours to get the job done, and she had the right tools for it. We're talking about removing the propeller with a hydraulic prop puller, banging on the shaft until it came loose, replacing the bearing, putting everything back together, and finally realigning the shaft to prevent vibration once we were back in the water. We also had a rigging inspection and tuning done by Southern Bay Rigging, who discovered a crack in the weld near the mast furler. They assured us we weren't in any imminent danger of losing the mast, but we had them fabricate a brace to prevent any widening of the crack in the future. The riggers also cleaned and checked our winches, and Rene was able to play student so he could handle the maintenance himself the next time around. All in all, we felt really good about the work that was done, and would certainly recommend DBY to anyone needing boat repairs.

After a month on the hard, we finally reached "splash day". We'd agreed to get the boat put back in the water on the last Thursday in October. That would give DBY another work-day to do the rigging tuning and align the shaft, and then we could head south over the weekend. John and Dan got Pipe back in the lift, and Rene touched up the paint under the blocks while the boat rested in the sling. It gave us goosebumps to follow Pipe in the lift and watch her slowly descend back into the water. Just one hitch - we couldn't engage our engine until after the realignment! Leave it to John; he and Dan got us back in the water, and they managed to spin us around and against a dock two slips over using lines alone. At one point the wind caught us and started pushing us away from the dock, but John never lost his cool. We came to a gentle stop against the dock behind a mega-yacht, and were able to stay at the dock until our departure on Sunday.

So why didn't we leave on Saturday? To have more fun in Deltaville, of course! Our new friends, Carryn and Brandon, told us about a Halloween festival being held at the Deltaville Maritime Museum on Saturday night. Sunday's weather looked great for the trip to Norfolk, so it didn't take much to twist our arms. Alan and Doreen joined us, and the six of us - plus Bella, all decked out as a beautiful princess - walked over to the museum. What a terrific display! All of the local businesses sponsored booths and set up a kid-friendly journey through the "haunted woods". The costumes were adorable, and the decorations were really well thought out. We couldn't convince the keepers of the candy to share with the grown-ups, but we enjoyed our own big-kid treats once we got back to the lounge.

All in all, we had a great experience at Deltaville Boatyard. We worked incredibly hard, and are thrilled with the results. There really is some extra satisfaction in knowing you did the work yourself, and we'll try to give Pipe a little TLC on a more regular basis. In the meantime, we're finally beginning our trek south to warmer climates. We've had gorgeous weather for boat work, but the nights have gotten colder. We're ready for shorts weather again!

Before we sign off, we have to send a "shout-out" and well wishes to our friend, Art. Art was supposed to be joining the Caribbean 1500 rally from Hampton, VA, to Tortola, British Virgin Islands, the first week in November. A few days before we returned from Seattle, Art had an accident in the boatyard and broke his heel bone. Sue is taking great care of him back home while he recovers, but we're so sorry he was hurt and had to delay his trip south. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope to see him next year in the islands.

Pictures for this Blog chapter:


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