Sunday, July 29, 2012

One step forward . . . .

It's really not as bad as one step forward and two steps back, but I left the boat rather frustrated today. A repair that I made two summers ago was undone - by me.

I had replaced a small spot of deck core back in 2010. To do so, I carefully cut and peeled off the top "skin" of deck fiberglass, dug out the damp balsa core, cut and planed a replacement piece out of plywood, and epoxied it all back together including the top skin. It wasn't perfect, but it was pretty good. I've been working on and off between other projects to smooth out this patch ever since.

Friday, I noticed a void in a spot at the edge of my repair. It was where I had laid some of the top skin back over good core. The easy fix was to just cut off the loose skin and fill it with fairing epoxy.

A little more grinding nearby and I discovered the truly disconcerting and bigger
problem. In my grinding and sanding to smooth the repaired area, apparently I had sanded off what epoxy was sealing a straight line butt joint between the repair and some solid deck. Water has been wicking into this seam - basically all last Summer through this weekend. The entire piece of my replacement plywood core was so damp that I could peel the veneers out one by one. The stink of wet pine is just disgusting - and in this case disheartening as well.

Today I was cutting out my repair and digging up the damp plywood. My plywood core had fit so well, in fact, that it was touching good balsa core and dampened still more. I had to cut an inch or two wider to dig out newly damp balsa core. Arrrgghh! I usually keep a clean camp at boat yard, but as the top photo indicates I was throwing damp plywood veneers willy-nilly. With all the grinding and sanding I'd done in the meantime, it made no sense to save the top skin anymore.

I'm going back tomorrow to do a little more digging and then cut another replacement piece. I just covered it up and left in disgust tonight.  I'll glass the repair in and then fair the whole thing rather than relying on the old skin for the smooth surface it ain't got anymore anyway.

This repair was several steps ago, so I don't really feel any bad continuity about steps forward vs. back. Nevertheless, it was especially frustrating as I was out shopping for paint and primer this weekend. That project has been pushed out at least week. But the work continues. A bad day hacking my boat to pieces still beats a good day at work.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Between Home and a Hard Place

Last week I downloaded the sailing movie, “Between Home” [trailer here, download here], an exceptionally well filmed documentary of a young man's intrepid journey across two oceans and the continent in between. The movie, by Jack Rath, is about human endurance and self discovery and flirts along the way with bigger questions of home and place and life. Nick Jaffe, German and Australian, found himself in Berlin searching for clues about a father he never knew. At some point it seemed like a good idea to go back to Australia; not by expensive airliner, but by an inexpensive, barely fit sailboat; a boat he named "Constellation."

At first, of course, the scenes of sailing had me nearly doubled over in existential pain because my boat is not yet in the water. It's bittersweet to see a small boat sailing on the open sea as I want to be there with mine so badly. There are days when fear and doubt and land-locked angst creep across my brain like a nagging, oozing rash. Concentration fails me as I trudge from one project to another; all the while wondering if I can finish, if I want to, if the boat will be worth the effort, etc. Nick and Constellation ended up doing me a favor.

It seems that Nick had some debts when he left including buying the boat on credit. Early one morning, he turned sea bandit and left a British marina without paying off his bill. After crossing an ocean, in the midst of Caribbean paradise, Nick was worried about money. He had also to worry about his boat. Besides being excruciatingly broke, his boat needed repairs to make it across the Pacific Ocean. Rather than sailing on to Panama, the young captain decided to head to New York, home of his stepfather, to work and raise some money for repairs and the rest of the journey. Through the generosity of several Americans, including the boat yard he had wandered into, Constellation was re-rigged and brought closer to bristol fashion. Nick was able to truck the boat to California to start his Pacific crossing. This is an epic, two year story of determination and temerity. As I understand from KTL, all debts to mariners have been settled. Still it was an uncomfortable reality for Nick as he traveled.

I'm still working on my boat which is high and dry on the gravel in a boatyard, but I'm feeling better about the whole project just now. My trip will be different. I am virtually debt free already and my boat, if I'm successful, will be stronger and ready for nearly anything. She'll be more capable than I at first. Some of the work I'm doing is inspired by Fred Bickum and his boat Fenix, who went all the way around the globe in a Cape Dory 28, same as mine. While I'm not that ambitious, my boat has benefited from the work Fred did on his. My boat will be strong, moderately equipped and well found. And for now, it seems my brain, and my heart, will have benefited from the work that Nick has done. It's slow going, hard work, and more than occasionally frustrating, but I'm doing it right. When I finally leave, I'll have not many worries more than the weather.

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Images lifted from Nick's and Jack's sites.