Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Two Piles

Not so long ago, I saw some good advice in the Tiny Liveaboard Facebook Group. Someone suggested that in preparation for moving aboard a small boat one should make two piles. One pile of all the things that you don’t really need; things that you haven’t even touched for months. In the other pile place all the things that you feel you can’t live without. It is important to take time to carefully consider each item and which pile it belongs in. Most important of all, once you have everything carefully sorted -- throw away both piles.

I lived aboard a very small boat in the 1990s, and I should have known how little I could have brought with me. Still, I showed up in North Carolina after cleaning out my space in Dad’s basement – AND – having emptied a storage unit in Florida near my last boat project. I have a small trailer here full of stuff that I thought I couldn’t live without. Some of what I have is boat-worthy, but not much. I did actually find a couple kitchen items that I threw in a box years ago that have become quite useful in the campervan galley while I’m waiting to use them on the boat. But many of the things in my pile(not yet two piles) are things that I valued some time ago. I am a different man and a different sailor than I was then – and I’m working on a different boat.

Some decisions are easy and quick. I opened a box recently and couldn’t decide if it had been apartment stuff, truck stuff, or boat stuff. It had been years since I had laid eyes on any it. Just looking at the top layer, I knew none of it was needed in my life today. I also knew that handling each individual thing would be such a temptation to keep some of them. I closed the box, picked it up, and marched right to the dumpster. Such a satisfying clunk when it all hit the bottom.

My issue is books. I am a voracious reader and I’ve been collecting books for a long time. Some were resources to have on a boat. Others were books that I was looking forward to digesting when the pace of my life slowed; like “The Essays of E.B. White.” Many were just my favorites; favorite books, favorite authors, favorite topics. I just can’t take them all. I probably could not have taken them all on my last boat which had almost double the displacement as Ruth Ann.

Nevertheless, I have made some recent progress in lightening my load. I’m loath to confess that a few books went into the dumpster too. It was a shameful thing to do, but in this time we’re in, the schedule I’m on, and as isolated as I am right now – it was just a cold, hard fact of my life. Lots of goofy trinkets I’d been saving are gone. Duplicate items and things that I know now that I won’t need are gone. There are three tubs in the nose of my little trailer that I have yet to go through. At least two of them have more books! A great majority will be replaced by ebooks.

Then there are tools. I have a pretty good collection of tools for a vagabond. Many will be necessary to properly maintain my boat. As I work on her now, I’m sifting for which tools I really need and which I could do without. Some of the bigger things are going to be hard to stow. My sewing machine will not only allow me to fix my own sails and do my own canvaswork, but I should be able to make a little money doing the same for other boaters. A shop vac, even a small one, however, is not likely to make the cut (I currently have two).

Perhaps the biggest benefit to all this work minimizing doesn’t pertain to “things” at all but to my life. In making decisions about what things I might need, I’ve had to repeatedly consider exactly what my life is going to be like. How would I know what types of things I should keep if I hadn’t already considered, in detail, how I was going to live?

When I first started this plan to escape on a boat, it was mostly about bikinis and booze; chasing the former, encouraged by the latter. For a few years now it has become more about a quiet lifestyle; more like a personal retreat than a party. I’m looking for peace and a simpler life. I’m looking forward to days with nothing pressing when preparing coffee and a simple but delicious breakfast might take a few hours to accomplish. I am already very content and know my priorities and aspirations very well.



I am currently buried in boat stuff. Two weeks ago, I ordered a bunch of stuff for Ruth Ann. It’s all arrived now. I’m set for boatwork chores well into June. Barrier coat and bottom paint should go on the hull next week, if the weather cooperates. While the weather is not cooperating, I have been rewiring the boat working inside. I have solar panels, wire, brackets, fittings, lights and lithium batteries to install. By the time you read this I will have gone up the mast to remove the last shackle of the furler. While I’m up there I’ll measure the stemballs, a mast fitting, so that I can order them. I’m hoping that the mast will come down in the next week or so. That depends on the schedule of the boatyard. I am so close to getting all I need done that if the boatyard doesn’t have time, I will do as much as I can by climbing the mast. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 27, 2020

The Other Boat

Boatyard Neighbors at Sunset


An unusual thing happened that made me notice something else had settled. It was apparent that I was just perceiving what had already baked in; was already done.

Hanging around a boatyard is being with my tribe. We have disparate opinions about politics, power vs. sail, and all sorts of things, but we can talk about boats for days. I was describing to my neighbor a trip I had taken down the U.S. East Coast, crewing on Eleanor, a Westsail 42. [The telling of that whole story starts here.] I had said that if money was no object and I could have any boat, I would likely choose a Westsail just like Eleanor; even though they haven’t been produced since the late 1980s.

This neighbor occasionally tries to convince his wife that they should have a sailboat rather than their curiously beautiful British workboat turned cruiser. Just then, he remembered having looked at a boat nearby that was like the one I described. He thought it could be had for cheap.

It turned out that he had seen a Tartan not a Westsail, but another beautiful, solidly-built boat about forty two feet long. It was a ketch just like Eleanor and had been featured in a magazine at one time. Apparently, it had been partially sunk but rescued by a skilled salvage crew. She had been saved, preserved, and now spends her days motoring a bit around Georgetown, SC. The story was, the salvager didn’t really know what to do with her and was getting bored. She might be headed to the scrapyard. Or … an ambitious sailor might be able to have her for the scrap value of the lead in her keel.

I saw pictures, recent ones. I received the phone number. I read the article.

Pic from the magazine, not current.
She is still beautiful; even after some trauma and benign neglect.

Not so long ago, a previous version of me would have spent the next few days sifting through the details, doing the math, and daydreaming big plans. I often did this without any real thought of trying to purchase some prospective boat. But other times I would sink into detailed planning, get emotionally involved, even discuss options with an owner, and end up heartbroken when I couldn’t pull it off.

I haven’t seen this boat in person and there are several red flags about her. Set aside that the used sailboat market is not so soft that someone else would not have grabbed a feasible project by now. I don’t know the story or the extent of the sinking. The sails are supposedly shot, but there might be another set. And a bigger boat is always more expensive; to maintain, to dock, to run. None of this, however, would have slowed me down before. Hell, I bought a boat in Miami that had no engine, from Michigan sight unseen, and subsequently sailed her over a hundred miles in the Atlantic to get her to a yard where I could work on her.

I was never really turned on for some reason, but the magazine article was chock full of other details that were not positive. The article was titled “The Geriatric Ketch” and was all about how the previous owners, an older couple, had set the boat up to assist them in continuing to sail in their autumn years. The boat bristled with gadgets and labor saving devices, like electric winches. There were modifications to the keel. Every sail was on a furler. I don’t even like furlers, but that might not have stopped the previous me. That me would have likely been obsessed with the idea that a beautiful, fixable forty two foot ketch could be had for round about $9000.00. It seemed strange, but even after all that neighborly boat talk, I was unfazed. I couldn't have cared less.

I had read the article on my phone from a lawn chair in the shadow of the boat that sits right behind my Ruth Ann. I’d been sanding all morning when I struck up a conversation with the neighbor. I set the phone down just as the sun climbed over the building behind us; splashing afternoon sun all over my boat. I’m working hard to bring her back to her glory and that work stood out in the bright contrasts. The port side of the hull was mostly smooth again. She was generally clean and finally looked like someone was taking care of her. No streaks of dirt from the rain. No moss in the shadows. No sun-eaten ropes hanging around. Halyards were coiled and stowed. They only bang the mast in the strongest wind. Her transom is clean waiting for a proper name and hail. The teak that I had stripped, sanded and oiled glistened darkly, relishing its renewal.

She had overheard our conversation about the other boat. Her trailboards quivered and her shoulders sagged against the jackstands that held her upright. I could sense that I had confused her. We have made so many promises to each other. But I felt nothing about that other boat. There was no swell of curiosity. I couldn’t even bring myself to play with the details just for the sake of playing. I didn’t look up her displacement, what kind of keel she had, or the price of scrap lead.

All I could do for Ruth Ann was get back to work. I picked up the sander, grabbed a fresh sanding disc and snapped on my ear muffs. She’ll know soon enough.

Ruth Ann is a bit small; storage is going to be a concern, but she’s mine. She is a great boat for places like the Bahamas, Chesapeake Bay, and Pamlico Sound. She can probably cross an ocean too, and she and I are going to work on that for the future. I know just what she needs and there isn’t that much. Ruth Ann and I are very close to setting off. There’s just no sense in starting over on another project; no matter how luxurious the possibilities are. And besides I can feel that I am committed. I wasn’t sure of that until now, but this is it. She and I are the plan.

This might not sound like much of a revelation, especially to a landlubber, but it feels significant to me. The analogies to falling in love are obvious but too cute. I’ve been committed to this lifestyle but have never been committed to a particular boat [‘obviously’ some of you groan]. Surely part of it is that I’ve never been as close as I am today to actually being able to push off and start to wander.

In thirteen years, I’ve never been this close to my dream. I can feel it! For the resources I have and the plans I’ve made, Ruth Ann is just about perfect. We can work together to handle whatever isn’t. Depending on how the world turns out in the near future, Ruth Ann and I will be cruising the U.S. East Coast this summer. And if this pandemic situation relaxes enough, we’ll be in the Bahamas for sure next fall and winter. Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Haiti, Jamaica, even Colombia and Panama are all also within the realm of possibility. Stay tuned.

I’ll be ordering barrier coat and bottom paint by next week. The work continues.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Fortunate One


Shine On You Crazy Diamond



In the last post, I talked about gratitude. I am in a really privileged position. My life has changed very little with all the lockdowns and other pandemic precautions happening. North Carolina is under a stay-at-home order like most other states, but boat repair facilities are considered essential and are exempt. I am therefore riding on the coattails of the shop here at Cape Fear Boat Works. I can still get the supplies I need; though I’m paying to have most stuff shipped in so I can maintain my isolation. Trips to town are much rarer and I’m relying on my reasonably well-stocked pantry to get by.

My gratitude is leavened by the unknowns of the situation our world is in. I haven’t slept well the last couple nights. It may be all the pondering possibilities, but it might be the coffee too. I started my day today with green tea. The day started a little slow and I settled down. To reduce my own anxieties, I’ve decided that I can keep doing what I’m doing if our status quo goes all the way into August. If the country is still locked down past August and I can't sail anywhere, I might find some work and pause to save some money rather than just burning through my cash while waiting. If I am on the water, on the boat, toward the new year I’ll have to pause somewhere anyway to make a little money. Pausing to work occasionally while living on the boat was always the plan.

I’ve had some good productive days lately, but today I didn’t really want to do anything. After a slow start, and leaning heavily on my gratitude attitude, I did get to work and sanded for a few hours. Sanding over my head is hard work and a few hours is nearly as much as I would have accomplished on a good day.

The divots where I ground out the blisters on the port side of the hull are about 95% patched and filled. An order of peel ply got hung up in the postal system, and I couldn’t finish. So, I started sanding the patches and have a solid third of them sanded smooth. There are lots of projects, so with the delay on hull work, I expanded my focus. I re-bedded a couple blocks on the cabin top that were weeping a little in heavy rains.

The mainsail has full battens and was just rolled up and stowed below. I removed the battens and stretched it out on the lawn to check it out. I had not used the main at all on the trip up from Little River, SC, so I haven’t had a good look. It was purchased relatively recently and is in good condition; still stiff and crispy. I was happy to find that the hull number and a proper Bayfield logo were on the sail. Afterward, I folded the sail and rolled it up tight so it will stow better.

The Canadian company that supplied hatches and ports to the Bayfield Boat Yard is still in business. I ordered new gasket material for the portlights and now had time to work on the “windows.” The frames were removed, cleaned up, regasketed, and rebedded. While cleaning the portlight frames, I brushed my hand pretty well with a brass brush spinning in a drill motor, so I got to practice some first aid too. It’s doing fine and was really only like road rash from spilling off a bike or something.

One of the biggest projects was the head (that’s the bathroom to you landlubbers). I am a proponent of composting toilets and purchased a C-Head just like the one I had on the Westsail in Florida. With a composting toilet, there is no need for a holding tank and the odors associated with them. Ruth Ann’s old tank had to go. I could use the storage space it was taking up.

Blehhhhh
The downside was that the holding tank was not empty. I disconnected a hose that would have emptied the tank into the sea and filled a half dozen tall kitchen garbage bags with about a gallon of sawdust in each as an absorbent. The full bags were gently placed in the dumpster. Then I removed a bunch of hoses and the old toilet.

The holding tank, however, would not come out. The inner liner of the boat’s cabin was put it place after the tank – trapping it. I ended up cutting a tank-shaped hole and sliding it out of it’s hiding place (think of the Wiley Coyote-shaped hole he left after crashing through a wall).

The peel ply and some epoxy filler has arrived. I can get back to work on the hull. The port side is nearly done, but I have the starboard side to do next. I also ordered a colossal supply of 5” hook and loop-backed, 80-grit sanding discs. Two of the portlights are regasketed and rebedded, but Ruth Ann has four more.

The Tank is out!!
The work continues.






My Patreon page did go live on April 1. It was important to me to accomplish that when I had said I would. Nevertheless, in our current situation, I am not going to promote it. We’ll get to that when things are back to normal; or whatever is close to normal again. The page is operational and linked on the upper right of this page. I’m just not emphasizing it for now. Patreon is a way for people to support the creative projects that they enjoy. You are very welcome to support my adventures and the Bubba the Pirate Blog. And my content will greatly improve when I’m bragging about sailing rather than droning on about boat projects. For now, please consider supporting your favorite musicians and artists. They are really hurting and their livelihoods are nearly completely interrupted by pandemic precautions.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Isolation, Boatwork, and Gratitude

I can’t really believe that this is 2020; and here it is almost April already. It’s getting weird out there too. Last year was a tough year for several reasons; for me and for my family. It was also a much more social year than I've had in a while. I am isolated today, like most everyone else, but I have been in partial social isolation for 13 years. I left my last ‘career’ job in 2007. After that I was driving a truck; plying the highways ostensibly to make money for a boat project and to escape normal life. Most of that time it was just me and the truck. I went from a world filled with a couple hundred emails a day, constant phone calls and meetings to one where I might talk to someone at a truckstop or on a loading dock once or twice a day. Perhaps I was practicing for today’s pandemic world.

Right now for me, social isolation means a lot of boatwork. I’m stocked up and hunkered down at a remote boatyard in North Carolina. My pantry is relatively full and I have lots of supplies to keep working on the boat. Since my last post, I have lightly sanded the entire hull below the waterline, ground out a couple hundred blisters, installed four of six new thruhulls, stripped varnish, sanded and oiled more than half of the teak, and started engineering the removal of the holding tank.

I feel pretty safe where I am. I feel good about getting a bunch of work done. Most of all, however, I am feeling a wave of gratitude. I am very lucky to be where I am, doing what I’m doing. I haven’t decided how to write about the situation, but I don’t have to work right now. I am able to devote my time to working on Ruth Ann, my Bayfield 29. I am not suddenly wealthy, but I able to get by for now, carefully. Lately, the weather is the only thing that occasionally gets in my way.

It is a new world for me to only have boatwork to do. I have an off day every once in a while when I feel like I haven’t accomplished much. Mostly, however, the gratitude that I am feeling is what drives me; it’s the wind in my sails.

The pandemic and all the news around it put me, like everyone else, in a strange place. For a few days I was obsessively checking the news. Not a panic really but I let the tsunami of news and information overtake my time. That reaction has passed and I feel focused again. I checked in with my family and some friends. The tsunami of my gratitude is what I’ll concentrate on from here on out. There are so many people who have supported my vision. Some simply listened to my crazy plans; others supported me in more tangible ways. I am very lucky just now, right here.

Thank you; all of you. Be well. Be safe and healthy.



BTW, this entire blog post, including some image editing, was done on my Raspberry Pi 4; perhaps bound to be my computer onboard; compact and powerful.



My Patreon account will be live by April First. Patreon is a website that helps people support their favorite creatives; writers, artists, musicians, etc. I am not working right now; just working on my boat, Ruth Ann. If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to support it, Patreon is an easy way to do such a thing, even a couple dollars a month is possible, amazingly helpful, and greatly appreciated.

Writing is my main thing. I will be posting to the blog at least twice a month. There will be some exclusive content for Patrons and early access to blogs. My book, YouTube updates, and a podcast will be coming, but I need to concentrate on getting Ruth Ann back in the water. I don't want to get too many irons in the fire until she floats again.

The sailing memoir book will trace my journey from a little Sunfish sailboat at scout camp, to being on the cusp of an extended cruise on the U. S. East Coast, in the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and Central America. Look for it later this year.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Hey, Wait A Minute!!

That's me part way down.


My last term at Michigan State University was a summer term, and I lived in a house with six other guys. It was a great house and a good bunch of roommates. A girl I spent some time with in the hot tub after a party there became my first wife. I often played guitar on the back deck with a guy who had chosen med school over touring with Amy Grant. I had an oddly curved tan line – white belly, tanned chest – from those sunny afternoons with a guitar in my lap.

My parents had moved to Houghton in Michigan’s Upper Penninsula and at some point most of my housemates and I organized a road trip up there. We used my parent’s house as a base camp to do all kinds of things including some rock climbing. I had never done any serious rock climbing before then, but the guys who had were keen to show me the ropes; and the webbing. We did some rappelling down the cliff at Douglass-Houghton Falls; more than a hundred feet down.

As a part of my introduction to rappelling, the guys handed me twenty feet or so of nylon webbing. Standing there ten feet from the cliff’s edge, I was guided through tying a harness around my waist and thighs. “Go around your waist, then around this thigh, tie it like this here, and then around there …” they instructed.

So it came my turn and I stood at the edge, the rope lay slack on the ground between me and the tree it was  tied to. I could see a hundred feet down between my ankles. I had to let my weight lean over the edge to take up the slack. None of what they had taught me would work if I didn’t take up that slack. The harness itself wouldn’t truly be tightened up around me, if that slack wasn’t taken up.

Hey, wait a minute! My brain screamed. I tied that harness; the harness my life was now going to depend on. I’ve never tied a harness like this before. What makes me qualified to tie a harness!?!

I’ve  had a similar thought recently. I am replacing the stainless steel wire rigging on my boat, the Ruth Ann, with synthetic rope; Dyneema specifically. What this means, however, is that I am splicing a bunch of rope in a very specific way; a way that I have not done before. That rope and my splices will be the very thing that holds my mast up and enables me to sail the sea.

“Hey, wait a minute!”

To further complicate my thoughts, new information has come to light. After completing eight of the nine deadeyes I needed, I ran across a blog post by the guy who originated the system I’m building. His post included a video that did not show up in my previous research. There I discovered one detail that I was doing incorrectly.

Now that one detail mostly made it more difficult for me to make them. It is likely that the deadeyes I had already made would probably have worked fine. By making the construction more difficult, however, the deadeyes are less smooth, less elegant. Dyneema is a twelve strand hollow braided line and is quite slippery. It doesn’t like traditional knots, and is therefore spliced in a unique way. Elegant and smooth, in this context, also means strength.

I made the last deadeye using this new information. It went together way better than my previous grommets. It was elegant and smooth. I looked at the previous eight with a newly jaundiced eye. I stared at them, molested them, twisted and pulled them. They seemed all right, seemed strong. In the end, I just couldn’t brook the thought of trusting them now that I knew they weren’t top notch; not 100% true to method. I removed the thimbles and threw away the grommets. It can only be chalked up as $100 worth of deadeye training.

I ordered some more dyneema; enough to build eight more good deadeyes; elegant and smooth. I’ll feel better banging to weather out at sea knowing that the deadeyes I made, that are holding up my mast as we crash through the waves – those deadeyes are as well built as I could make them.

In addition, I’ve discovered that Ruth Ann has lots of blisters below her waterline. For you landlubbers, blisters are shallow bubbles, just like a blister, on the skin of a boat’s hull. They are caused by tiny amounts of uncatalyzed resin left from the manufacturing process. That resin reacts with moisture to produce a gas which causes bumps on the hull. I am sanding and grinding a lot these days. Once the blisters are
all ground out, they’ll be patched with some glass cloth and epoxy resin. For the record, I'm grinding out the blister on the hull's surface. There are no additional holes in the boat. All the work on the hull though means the mast won’t be coming down real soon; a couple weeks anyway. I have some time to work out my elegant deadeye making process.



I’ve revised the Patreon statement below. Thanks for reading my blogs.



My Patreon account will be live by April First. Patreon is a website that helps people support their favorite creatives; writers, artists, musicians, etc. I am not working right now; just working on my boat, Ruth Ann. If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to support it, Patreon is an easy way to do such a thing, even a couple dollars a month is possible, amazingly helpful, and greatly appreciated.

Writing is my main thing. I will be posting to the blog at least twice a month. There will be some exclusive content for Patrons and early access to blogs. My book, YouTube updates, and a podcast will be coming, but I need to concentrate on getting Ruth Ann back in the water. I don't want to get too many irons in the fire until she floats again.

The sailing memoir book will trace my journey from a little Sunfish sailboat at scout camp, to being on the cusp of an extended cruise on the U. S. East Coast, in the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and Central America. Look for it later this year.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Finally ... Some Boatwork.

Brunswick Sunset by the highway

When we last left our hero he had blasted out of Florida bound for North Carolina fueled by high octane inspiration having spent a week on the water aboard Wade’s boat.




After riding with Wade back up to St. Augustine, from Stuart, I reset the camper van for travel and headed north. I stopped in Brunswick, GA at a Flying J Truckstop where I’ve slept many times; only this time not in the sleeper of a semi-tractor. From there, I pushed on to Navassa, NC and was finally back to the boatyard, back to my boat, sv Ruth Ann. The first priority was to sort through my stuff; what I had in the camper van and what was in the trailer next to the boat. A few tools I knew I was going to need were buried in the nose of the trailer. While I had been hiding from Winter in Florida, I had developed a preliminary project list based on my memory. Now that I was finally back, I needed to crawl around the boat, get my bearings, and compile an up-to-date list of jobs.

Also, the weather has occasionally reminded me that I arrived here a little early. Sometimes it is still downright cold! I've decided that I will persevere, do what I can when I can. I have, however, found a hostel over in Wilimington; an inexpensive spot where I can escape when it gets really damn cold. I'm actually here in the hostel the third weekend of February, 2020. There was a little snow in the air during the wee hours this morning and tonight it's going to be about 26 degrees!!!

Arriving after dark. 
Depressingly, back at the botyard, the bilge was full of rain water again, but I dug around and tracked down the source of the leaks. The big leaks were stopped but a couple stubborn small ones need more attention. The two biggest jobs I have are painting the bottom and re-rigging the mast. Of course, those major projects will each be accompanied by smaller related projects. There surely will be lots of other little projects that come up but I’m going to stay focused. Sailors can easily get bogged down in a boatyard as more and more little projects are discovered and beg to be started. All my jobs are prioritized by category: jobs that have to be done on the hard; jobs that would be easier to do on the hard; and jobs that can be done on the water. The boatyard that I found is a great spot; inexpensive with good people. But as soon I can get Ruth Ann back in the water, I can stop paying $300 a month for the space in the gravel where she sits.

Painting the bottom obviously has to be done while the boat is out of the water. The thruhulls were in bad shape and needed to be replaced before the bottom gets painted, so I’ve started there. Production boat companies, even the good ones, have always had the bad habit of cutting corners regarding so-called “skin fittings.” These are the valves that let water in or out of the boat through the “skin” of the hull. This is, of course, right where you would not want a leak. You would think that good hardware done well would be the norm. Alas, boat builders of “classic plastic” boats used a ball valve screwed on top of a threaded thruhull. This practice was not just lacking in structural integrity, the threads on the two parts are actually mismatched and cannot seal perfectly. Skin fittings done this way, especially done decades ago, are a weak link.

36 Year Old Ball Valve
My 36 year old “weak” skin fittings had, of course, corroded themselves together. Some of the valve handles had been carbon steel and were so thoroughly rusted they might as well have been made from saltine crackers. I tried coaxing, cussing, and cajoling the thruhulls. I tried debonding solvents and pipe wrenches with breaker bars. No joy. Obviously, drastic measures were necessary ... I decided to cut them out.


Under the Galley Sink
The bottoms of the five thruhulls were at the skin of the hull and could be seen from the outside. Inside the boat, however, the tops were under sinks, inside cabinets, and by the engine. Getting at them was one thing, finding a tool to cut them was another. I ended up using my cordless multi-tool oscillating cutter. It was reasonably compact and the blade could be set at different angles. Nevertheless, it is a finesse tool. Brute force was not possible; attempting to force it was actually counterproductive. Working the blade back and forth, one side of the pipe, then the other, and restarting after it bounced out, I gradually cut through the bronze pipe of each of the thruhulls. That detached the ball valves from the pipes, but each pipe was held inside the hull by a large bronze nut. These too were corroded in place. I had to cut each nut into thirds and pry each of the pieces sideways off the threaded pipe; each of five pipes. Once those mechanical attachments were clear it was simply a matter of hammering the rest of the pipe out of the hull -- until the last one.

Cracking Nuts
The last thruhull would not come out. I went back to  coaxing, cussing, and cajoling; especially cussing. I hit it with ever larger swings using ever larger hammers; hitting harder than I really ever wanted to hit on my hull. No luck. Finally, with a little help from the debonding solvent, I was able to slowly unscrew the thruhull from it's bullet-proof adhesive with brute force and a 1.5” wide quarter inch steel bar turned by a pipe wrench. Apparently, this forward thruhull had been repaired at some point because it was stuck with much better stuff than the rest.

While I was having all that fun with bronze fittings, whenever it was raining or too cold, I was inside the cozy camper van working on the dyneema deadeyes that will help hold up the mast. Also this week, I did some cleaning; I sealed some leaks. Boat parts were ordered; projects were recorded and prioritized. I got some keen advice from my boatyard neighbors about cleaning my oxidized fiberglass hull. I also finally removed the “Afraid Knot” name from the transom and began removing the boot stripes.

Sometimes you have to force it.
I now have real seacocks to replace the ball valves, along with backing pads, thruhulls, epoxy, and adhesive caulk. Hopefully by the end of next week, my hull will be watertight again. To make the deck completely watertight, I need to rebed a couple stanchion bases and the deck hatch. I also need to take a closer look at a portlight; either the gasket leaks or I may need to rebed it as well.

Once the seacocks are installed, I can paint the bottom. I’m going to raise the waterline an inch and a half or so, then apply a barrier coat before the bottom paint goes on. I’ve already talked with the boatyard about getting my mast down for the next big job. The mast has to come down for re-rigging and rewiring, but that will be a couple weeks and another post.



I’ve learned not to discuss dates, but I am super excited how fast Ruth Ann is coming together.
New Stuff!

A little polishing still needed. 











Also, I wanted to tell you that I am working on setting up a Patreon account. Patreon is a website that helps people support their favorite creatives; writers, artists, musicians, etc. I am not working right now; just working on my boat, Ruth Ann. Patreon is a nice, easy platform, but I am trying to set everything up in an organized, detailed, and thoughtful way. My plan is to continue writing in my old school, long form way, but on a more regular basis. For some time, I’ve also been working on a sailing memoir type of book; from my first experiences on a little Sunfish sailing at scout camp, to being on the cusp of an extended cruise on the U. S. East Coast, in the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and Central America. To promote the book and this site, I am developing a podcast that will be supplemented with occasional video updates on YouTube. Imagine the Bubba thePirate Blog with Bubba the Pirate Radio and Bubba the Pirate Radio on TV. I have no aspirations to make all of that a full-time job – my job is wandering -- but I’m thinking of monthly updates; maybe every couple of weeks. My focus is the writing, so the audio and video updates will not be slick, time-consuming productions; just fun, basic updates about where I’ve been and what I did. The blog posts, the podcast and the YouTube updates will be posted openly online. Any support through Patreon or PayPal will be greatly appreciated but is not required. There will be some small bits of bonus content, like previews of the book or something, for those who decide to support me.

Thanks. I’ll post details when they are ready.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Fancy Catch Up

This will be a cheerier, more typical post. In fact, so much has happened in the last couple weeks it will take more than one post to catch you up. The first part of the story actually starts the first week of January, when I was minding my own business in Waldo, Florida. It was too cold for boatwork in Wilmington, NC, so I had escaped to Northern Florida for December and January. And it has been occasionally too cold for me in Florida as well!

Anyway, my phone buzzed on a random Tuesday morning when a friend of mine – a sailor – was triumphantly letting me know that he and crew had just entered the St. John’s Inlet after a trip across open ocean from Charleston, South Carolina to Jacksonville. That trip had been a little rough, they were exuberant and deservedly proud of a passage well won. The last Wade knew, I was headed to Wilmington to work on my boat. He texted that they were headed for Saint Augustine the next day after anchoring for the night near Jacksonville. The boat, sv Aletheia, was going to be kept at a marina for about a month as Wade moved her down Florida’s coast to stage her for crossing over to the Bahamas later this year.

sv Aletheia, a stock photo
I surprised Wade by telling him that I was only about an hour from St. Augustine. Knowing they had probably flown in to move the boat and would fly back out, I offered to meet them there if they needed a ride around town. Wade said come on over, he’d buy dinner, and we were on.

The next day I wandered over in the camper van. I was walking around the marina looking for Aletheia and finally texted Wade that I had arrived.  At that exact moment, he and crew were in the marina office right behind me. A couple years ago, I had helped Wade move Aletheia and had connected online with a friend of his during that adventure. That friend, Chip, was the crew who had just made the trip from Charleston. It was great to meet in real life and after running around town for boat parts, the three of us had a nice dinner along with a pleasant, and lively, conversation.

Wade was working to stage his boat for crossing over to the Bahamas. In our conversation, he mentioned he was coming back in a month to move the boat further south and could use the help if I was free. I didn’t have to think twice about it.

One month later, Wade flew in and drove down to St. Augustine; I met him there. He decided, in the interest of time, we would not bother relocating a vehicle, but just sail the next morning. When we arrived down around Stuart, he would rent a car and drive us back to our vehicles where we started. The marina, however, balked at us leaving two vehicles in their lot for a week. They were especially squirrelly about me leaving an RV in their lot more than one night. While Wade called a couple hotels to pursue parking options, I walked across the road to an old Florida tourist attraction. They had a big parking lot but didn’t look very busy a month or more before Spring Break season.

The young lady at the ticket counter had to check with her boss [by texting him, man I feel old]. In no time at all, however, the good people at Marineland let me park my van in a corner of their lot for six days.

Wade and I went on a run for provisions, grabbed some tacos for dinner, and spent the night on the boat. The trip was going to be a couple hundred miles and we had five or six days to accomplish it. I had no schedule but Wade needed to spend a few days in Tennessee before going back to his two weeks on/two weeks off job. It was great to be on the water, but it was not a cruise. Our job was to deliver the boat and we needed to make time. We didn’t need navy discipline, but we had to keep moving at a reasonable pace. All in all, it couldn’t help but be a pleasant week. Wade is a really interesting character; he and I never seem to run out of things to discuss.

I was there to help as help can. That first morning, I handled the dock lines with a little help. A lady from a neighboring boat had given us each a slice of coffee cake and then gave us a final shove off the dock that was almost more than we needed, but I had managed to get onboard before her shove and we were off. The water was smooth as slate and the air was peaceful; if a little cool. It was mid morning as we left with the tide. Wade and Chip had slalomed through some tricky shoals near the Matanzas Inlet the month before, so we ambled back into the Intra Coastal Waterway(ICW) with none but the usual hazards to look out for. It was going to be a pleasant day and we chatted while Wade handled the helm most of that first day as he relished being reunited with Aletheia.

We were trying to burn up the fuel in the tank in order to have fresh fuel for Wade’s trip to the islands. For that reason, and for the lack of wind that first day, we never raised the sails. They were uncovered and ready if we needed them, but they never left their perch in the lazy jacks. There was a ghost in the generator, which would occasionally cause it to cough and die. I would take over the helm while Wade did some troubleshooting and re-started the system.

Aletheia is a conversation starter and always attracts attention. She is an Allied Princess, thirty six feet long, re-rigged as a Chinese Junk with an electric drive; battery-powered. She is a hybrid in all kinds of ways. Everywhere we went the people, even powerboaters, would smile and wave, take pictures, and gesture to each other. From the waterline to her graceful sheer, she perfectly embodies her model name – princess. Above her rails, she has a surprising profile. Rather than the triangular affect of a common sloop with one mast and angled stays, Aletheia has two unstayed masts with one extremely far forward. Two fully battened Chinese sails lay perpendicular to each mast, folded and at rest in their lazy jacks.

Below deck, invisible to the saltiest eyes, she is powered by an electric drive with a large battery bank and a small diesel generator. This secret attribute was a unique experience for me. The reserve power and range stored in the batteries is a tremendous advantage. At one point, we were approaching a drawbridge anticipating the scheduled opening when the diesel generator coughed and stopped. In the world of diesel powered boats this is not uncommon. Fuel filters clog at inopportune moments; air or water can sneak into the fuel lines. Diesels are efficient and reliable – to a point – but they can be finicky. Wade’s generator was relatively new on the boat and the system wasn’t quite dialed in all the way. The critical difference between a boat with only a diesel engine and Wade’s battery-operated, generator supported one, is that on almost any other boat, if the diesel stopped running the propeller would stop pushing the boat; no forward motion means no steerage.

The moment the generator stopped, we had the wind behind us accompanied by the tidal current; both pushing us toward the bridge; the very bridge that wasn’t going to open for twenty more minutes. On a solely diesel powered boat this would have been a sphincter-puckering panic situation. Another boat would have had to immediately drop an anchor, right there in the channel, get stopped, and try to fix the problem. Aletheia, on the other hand, has over an hour at cruising speed in her batteries (even more time at slow speed). When the diesel choked, Wade simply said “take it,” and left the helm to go below while I took over and calmly circled around upwind of the bridge on battery power. The bridge tender lowered the gates, raised the bridge on schedule, and we were on our way as peaceful as before. Wade got the generator restarted before the bridge was up, but even if he hadn’t I could have circled around waiting for the bridge and carried on once it was open under battery power alone.

Incidentally, reefing the sails on a junk-rigged boat is easier and more relaxed than dealing with a finicky generator. When I sailed on Aletheia before, Wade reefed the sails from the cockpit and was done before I realized that he had been explaining the reefing process to me.

We (mostly Wade) were troubleshooting the diesel generator’s buggaboo as we traveled. The generator would run fine for hours at a time and then cough and go silent. By the time we made Stuart, he had solved the issue. A couple fuel connections were just loose enough that an occasional trickle of air could get into the fuel. Wade will also change the fuel filters just as a precaution before heading across the Gulf Stream. We both think that the corrections he made during our shakedown will have the system running smoothly and reliably from now on.

January is a little early for Florida’s “season” and it was a cool week, but we were still surprised how few boats were on the ICW with us. We made Daytona that first evening and anchored just south of downtown. There were a few boats in the anchorage but we had plenty of room. It was cool, at first, to see the glow of the beach hotels and the Daytona Beach strip, but their bright lights obscured the stars once it was all the way dark. We made some dinner and went to bed. I had to get used to climbing into my quarter berth over and around the navigation station again.

The next day was another overcast one but easy weather made for a good day. We headed out a little after the sun and headed past the Ponce Inlet. Mosquito Lagoon opened up into a surprisingly wide stretch of water; none of it is deep so we stayed in the channel. Whenever Wade needed a break or wanted to check on something or just to give me a turn, he’d give me the helm, but the conversations rambled on, wherever either of us happened to be sitting.

You can't see NASA but I could
We got through the Haulover Channel, under its drawbridge and on past Titusville where NASA’s towers at Cape Canaveral loomed through the low clouds. Our stop that night was just south of the NASA Causeway Bridge in a deserted anchorage. Aletheia has an abundance of electric power and we had learned to load the Instant Pot about three in the afternoon so when we settled into that quiet anchorage, supper was ready. The unrhythmic buzz of random cars hitting the drawbridge’s metal grate was oddly peaceful but even that gradually tapered off as the traffic thinned and we finished eating.

The next morning we were off again and headed down past Cocoa and Melbourne. Almost five years ago, Wade and I were both aboard sv Eleanor with Alex Dorsey right there in Melbourne. As we passed through, I texted a hello to a friend in my Southwest Michigan/Northern Indiana circle. He called back right away and we had a nice chat as Aletheia passed by the end of the Eau Gallie River. After hanging up, I stood on the stern and waved my arms in case he could see us from his dock. That night we anchored off the channel near Micco, just north of Sebastian. The anchorage was an open roadstead in the Indian River Aquatic Preserve but we had a calm night; even as the next day’s weather forecast began to look grim. 

When we woke Saturday morning, we were within a day’s sail of our destination, but there was a small craft advisory in the forecast. The largest part of the storm sounded like it was well south of Stuart, but forecasts and advisories can be confusing; muddling and conflating offshore vs. ICW. And the land forecast is often significantly different from the marine forecast for adjacent areas. We sallied forth anyway.

From Sebastian down through the narrow twists at Vero Beach and on toward Fort Pierce, we kept evaluating and philosophizing about the weather. Fort Pierce was the last place with any small coves or marinas where we could hide. From there all the way down to Stuart is open flats with very few protective features to hide in or behind. The one bridge along the way that offered a bit of shelter was so far south it was only three more miles past it to our destination: the marina at the Marriott Hutchinson Island Resort.

We listened to the chatter on the VHF radio and even spoke with a few fellow travelers as we passed each other on the water. Some sounded oblivious, others were overly cautious and even paranoid. One couple from Quebec thought they had heard we would have fifty knots of wind. I don’t think they trusted that we hadn’t heard any similar forecast. Another couple, traveling from Annapolis on their first big powerboat trip took our advice and beat us into the marina at Hutchinson Island.

So much rain and fog, camera couldn't focus
It was a wet slog all day long. The rain stopped occasionally, but mostly went from steady sprinkles to a downpour and back to sprinkles. All my sailing stuff was by my boat in North Carolina and I had somehow purchased a rain suit that was too small. I remember reading tags and choosing what I thought was the right one, but the first time I sat down I ripped the pants wide open. The ever-prepared captain has two of nearly everything, and Wade immediately produced a spare rain suit for me to wear.

Ugly clouds came and went. Visibility shrunk and returned, but we motored on and never really considered stopping or turning around. Besides, it had rained so steadily that each of our rain suits had been gradually overwhelmed; finally finishing the trip seemed the most pleasant option.

The Hutchinson Island Resort Marina is just beyond and tight against the southeast end of the Ernest Lyons Bridge on the island side. We arrived at the marina just as the last gasp of the front was rolling through. Wade piloted Aletheia between two rows of large, expensive boats in gusty wind and a tricky current. Our slip was the last one, all the way in, on the right. As the boat arced its way into the slip, I was near the bow, ready with dock lines as the marina attendant zipped along the cross dock on his golf cart.  I started to silently worry that Wade was cutting a little close to the towering, budget-busting boat in the next slip. Aletheia is Wade’s boat, however, and he knows her well. My perspective was very different from his thirty feet behind me at the wheel. He slid us right into the slip like the boat was on rails. Wade had performed a beautiful, next level landing at the dock. Regardless of his captaining skills though we must have been a sight in the fading light; two guys looking like drowned rats on a curious boat.

Our first priorities were hot showers and dry clothes. After accomplishing those missions, Wade bought us a nice dinner at the poolside grill to celebrate our arrival. Various cohorts of an expensive wedding party milled around in the chilly open-air pool area determined to act like it was Spring Break and not early February. Still, however, there were way more cuddly bathrobes to be seen than tan lines.

We wrangled some local boat parts to finish a couple maintenance tasks and I tried to take Wade to my favorite dive bar/fish joint. It was Super Bowl Sunday and yet inexplicably the place was closed. My backup choice was a place where I had never been. They were a little slow but the food was good. After some careful checking and coordinating, the rental car schedule caused us to stay another night aboard. I literally had no schedule to worry about. Staying aboard the boat in a slip that was paid for made much more sense than driving north to have to wait until the next day to give the car back.

Monday morning, Wade drove us back to our vehicles in St. Augustine. We stopped at a marine consignment shop and then turned in the rental car. Enterprise dropped us off at the marina and I was very happy to see my camper van still there; neither stolen nor towed. Wade and I said shook hands on another successful mission. He left for Tennessee with a dinghy hanging off the back of his truck and I walked across the road to Marineland. I bought a couple shirts and a pair of shot glasses for a friend with a collection. At the counter, I asked the gal to pass on my appreciation for letting me to park there.

I got my bike out from inside the van and re-hung it on the back. And as I opened the curtains and
tossed my duffel bag on the couch – I was crackling with inspiration and boatwork energy. A week on the water had been the perfect way to re-focus on my own project. I had made a deal with myself: as long as there were no nightly lows in the 10 Day Forecast lower than 35 degrees, I was headed back to Wilmington. Done. Adios, Florida.

In anticipation of good weather and inspiration, before I left my hideaway spot in northern Florida, I had packed the camper van to be ready to hit the highway. I was halfway across South Carolina when I called the campground in Waldo to tell them I wouldn’t be back.

Currently, I’m at the boat. I’ve been here a couple weeks already and made a good bit of progress, but that will have to wait for the next post.






Also, I wanted to tell you that I am working on setting up a Patreon account. Patreon is a website that helps people support their favorite creatives; writers, artists, musicians, etc. I am not working right now; just working on my boat, Ruth Ann. Patreon is an easy and useful platform, but I am trying to set everything up in an organized, detailed, and thoughtful way. My plan is to continue writing in my old school, long form way, but on a more regular basis. For some time, I’ve also been working on a sailing memoir type of book; from my first experiences on a little Sunfish sailing at scout camp, to being on the cusp of an extended cruise on the U. S. East Coast, in the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and Central America. To promote the book and this site, I am developing a podcast that will be supplemented with occasional video updates on YouTube. Imagine the Bubba thePirate Blog with Bubba the Pirate Radio and Bubba the Pirate Radio on TV. I have no aspirations to make all of that a full-time job – my job is wandering. I’m thinking of monthly updates; maybe every couple of weeks. My focus is the writing, so the audio and video updates will not be slick, time-consuming productions; just fun, basic updates about where I’ve been and what I did. The blog posts, the podcast and the YouTube updates will be posted openly online. Any support through Patreon or PayPal will be greatly appreciated but is not required. There will be some small bits of bonus content, like previews of the book or something, for those who decide to support me.

Thanks. I’ll post details when they are ready.

Two Piles

Not so long ago, I saw some good advice in the Tiny Liveaboard Facebook Group. Someone suggested that in preparation for moving aboard a s...