Boat Projects and the Cruisers Who Live Amongst Them.
EW was actually very upset that the boat was not finished when we moved back aboard. I never expected it would be and had already started contingency planning. Hey, we’ve been married for 32 years and we’ve lived on a boat for 15 of them. This is not my first rodeo.
The port settee is our living space. We have two ratcheted cushions for seating and there’s an American Gothic feel to our meals as we eat side by side, facing the same direction. I could go on, but just let that sink in.
Now, non-boaters might think that repairing the toe rails and stanchion bases, and removing the teak decks would have no impact down below. Non-boaters would be wrong. Ninety-nine percent of the things on deck are bolted through the deck to the living space below. EW has had to remove the genoa track from both sides of the deck (non-boaters, imagine a long, narrow piece of stainless steel with holes every inch or so.) Now imagine those bolts going through the deck and into many parts of the boat because it’s really long…from master stateroom to the galley (or pilot berth on the starboard) to the main salon. At a dam angle.
In fact, here’s a photo before it was removed. (To the left near the cabin.) And yes, I know they aren’t exactly an inch apart, but there are still at least a thousand nuts and bolts to deal with here. (Do NOT shake your head at me. It will seem like a thousand when we put them all back.)
Side note, these were removed with the volunteer (?) assistance of Matt from S/V Kook Cat and Tim from S/V Scout. I will be the volunteer when we put the tracks back on. Also, a small piece of duct tape was placed over each hole and every blessed one withstood the hurricane.
How the Deck Job Messes Up the Cabin
Removing it impacts the bookshelves next to our bed, both clothing lockers, the aforementioned pilot berth, every cupboard in the galley and the three cupboards along the port side that are also used for food and dishes. On the starboard side, we have a slightly different configuration so the cupboards are not impacted.
Add the stanchion bases and other random parts that had to be removed and you know why we are living in (somewhat) organized chaos. We didn’t even bring the main salon cushions back to the boat. Lest I make this sound sad and trying, note that EW is more bothered by this than I am. He feels he should have been farther along, and I am delighted he is fully back to normal and able to do so much. As for the mess, I am resigned and calm and having a “make it work” moment. Most of the time.
Barb at Sea Loses It
When I assured EW that I was OK with it. That I’d make it work. That we’d do just fine. (Cheesy grin.) I also said. “You can have the bed we aren’t sleeping in and you can have the entire dining space, table and seats and under the table. I (well we really) get the galley, chart table, and port settee for living.” Both of us were a bit surprised to find out how sincere I was. I have never once complained about the mess on the dinette side of the boat, but let him leave one box of screws out overnight on the living side...whoo-eee…I surprised myself with my vehemence.
Step away from the tools, Barb. Step away from the tools.
His tools and screws haven’t trespassed on the port side since.
Note the lack of cupboard doors in the galley because—genoa track. And you see pretty much all the dishes I have for the duration.
NOTE: I’ve been going through the old posts lately (more about why later) and was reminded of my old “Spam” posts. The first was as we left the Bahamas in 2011 when I had a few juicy tidbits of stories that hadn’t made it in a post. The title of “Spam” certainly wasn’t because we eat it (Ick) but because the grocery store in Georgetown carried a plethora of varieties of Spam. I didn’t even know there were multiple varieties of Spam.
So, Post Irma Spam.
The Forward Cabin. We had to order a new mattress because the one we had put up with since St. Thomas in 2014 was a piece of crap and I threw it out when we moved off the boat in May. Irma messed with our schedule when we moved back aboard, so we moved into the forward cabin where there is a lovely firm foam mattress in a double-narrowing-to-smaller-than-twin bed. One person (that would be me) sleeps against the hull (wall to you landlubbers) and the other can somewhat more easily get in and out. On good nights, I would get up when EW did, trot to the head after him, and then he would wait and crawl into bed behind me. On other nights, or when I woke up earlier than he did (pretty much every damn day, lately) I had to crawl out.
Remember the Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones movie, “Entrapment”. This was kind of what I had to do to get out of the bed, only instead of going under laser beams, I had to go over EW.
I am not as agile, thin, or flexible as CZ-J but a video of my efforts would have been entertaining if you like slapstick. First I tried simply placing a leg over top of EW and lifting myself over. That rarely worked. So, channeling my inner Catherine Zeta-Jones, I stayed on my tiny portion of the bed and rose into a crouch, stepping over EW. I actually achieved success with this to the point that when he got up an hour or so later he’d say, “How did you get out of bed?” Wish I’d told him I went up through the hatch.
I’ve never actually noticed this before because – well—sleeping, but EW sometimes sleeps with one foot on the bed and his bent knee becomes an obstacle. I first realized this when I hit that obstacle in the night, startling both of us. (EW is funny when startled from a deep sleep, and my inevitable giggles do not amuse him.)
But the final indignity occurred during our last night in the forward cabin. I softly rose to my feet, hunched over so I could clear the cabin top (ceiling to landlubbers), and then slowly and artistically (again channeling CZ-J) I lifted my right leg and brought it to the edge of the bed outside of EW. I missed my handhold, bumped my left foot into EW, spun a quarter turn and ended up curled in the fetal position at his feet. He was concerned I had been injured, but I only damaged my dignity and she’s used to it by now. Sean Connery would have probably killed me.
So for those of you who agree to visit and sleep in the forward cabin, we know. We truly do know that two people staying up there so they can see us is an act of love. Also, if we hear strange noises we won’t automatically assume fun.
Nope, that’s not a new swear word. It’s what many of us call those who have moved off the boat and onto land: CLODS. Cruisers Living On Dirt.
Please note, we are only temporary CLODS and this has been part of the plan since we came to St. Augustine. EW was always going to varnish the interior which is nearly impossible while living aboard. With the deck job added, it became imperative that we move off the boat.
We are delighted and so very fortunate to have a space for June and July that is clean, air conditioned, and quite near the boat. On May 31st we moved off in 6 dinghy loads. Yep, that was a barrel of laughs.
Actually, EW had been out of town on a quick trip to Maine with Jerry and Betsy French (Hi, Jerry!) so I spent the holiday weekend packing. I vacuumed-bagged the cold weather stuff, boxed all dishes, books and – well everything in the main salon, galley, and master stateroom.
Every damn thing.
Some boxes were labeled “STAY” while others were labeled “GO”.
“STAY means STAY!” I told him when EW blindly grabbed the first box he saw. Yeah. though he’d been out of town and missed the packing moment of three flipping days, he didn’t ask any questions, just started putting boxes in the dinghy.
“Oh,” he said. “Good plan.”
After that, things went very, very, very, very, very, very smoothly.
Let me count the verys (veries?)
1. Though rain and thunderstorms were predicted, we had none until that evening.
2. We had no wind and no chop.
3. We found a parking spot right in front of the marina (well it was 6:30 AM)
4. There was a small boat slip near the second ramp so it was a straight shot up the ramp and to the car.
5. Once the car was loaded (before 10:00 AM) with everything except the main salon cushions, Stew moved it to the rental and found a place right in front (We can’t use the driveway and since we don’t have a car, no big.)
6. We were done and eating a lovely lunch by 1:00.
I call that a win.
I have a desk here and have been working like mad.
Five days a week, EW packs his lunch and goes off to the mines. He’s making great progress and has removed all the teak from the stern and along the port side up to just past the gate. He’s also stripped 75% of the teak in the master stateroom.
Lordy, lordy I love that man.
I also love having a real refrigerator/freezer. The landlords may find nail marks on it as EW may have to pry it from my grasping hug.
I am very grateful for this space. But except for the fridge/freezer, I can’t wait to get back on board.
We are not ready to be CLODS. (And miss all this fun?)
We who live aboard and do our own boat projects have to be optimists.
You have to believe you will get a weather window.
You have to believe you will be able to install a new muffler.
You have to believe you can fix the wiring in Panama where they don’t sell much marine wire.
You HAVE TO BEEE-LIEVE brothers and sisters!
Since this is Day Two of the Deck Project, and since Day One (a few hours actually) went very well, I am super-optimistic.
I am supercalifragilisticexpialidocious optimistic.
On May 31st, we’ll be moving off the boat for 8 weeks, we’ll live in a small place nearby while I work to pay for this, and EW does most of the boat work. Poor EW. The good news is that my healthy, vibrant husband is back. The bad news is that I’m going to put him in a sweat house for 8 weeks. He is my hero.It’s going to bite me, isn’t it?
So, after only two hours of deck work yesterday, here’s what we know from the trial.
EW will unscrew the screws so that they don’t pull out and rough up the fiberglass.
The “glue” used to hold the teak to the decks is no longer working, so it’s pretty easy to pull up the teak.
That “glue” a black substance, comes up fairly easy after an application of paint thinner. “We’re going to need a lot of rags,” said EW.
Here’s what we knew before we started: Our core is 1-inch thick mahogany. We have had only one leak down below and that’s probably due to a deck fitting, which will be easier to locate once we pull the teak. In other words, we don’t expect to have any spongy deck spots or have to break through the fiberglass and repair wood. (Knocking wood as I say this.) (Really.) (If you want to knock wood on my behalf right now, I would not mind. Thank you.)
It may rain today, so EW filled the screw holes. Over the next two weeks, we’ll be packing up the boat so that we can access the nuts holding the tracks and other deck parts. One of the most tedious parts of this project will be removing everything from the side decks. We have done that once before. I do not look forward to it.
NO! This is not about the recent election. (Though someone may want to co-opt the title.)
For over a year now, we aboard La Luna have been working on what we “lovingly” call the “Joy Project”. (EW has no love for the “Joy Project”.) Way back in 2014 I stumbled across a little book written by a young, slight, seemingly OCD Japanese woman. “The KonMari Method, The Life Changing Habit of Tidying Up” resonated with me (and made me laugh). After some discussion EW agreed (He. Did. Agree.) to join me in working our way through the boat in the KonMari method in order to get rid of things, resettle in a joyful way those things we kept, and reassert control over our boat, our stuff, and every single drawer, cupboard, and storage area. I would keep careful records of our successes, the “Joy” achieved, and the challenges, to use in a future new book about our cruising life.
While we are joyful people, we suck at getting “Joy” by using the KonMari method.
A case in point.
Those who follow me on Facebook know that with all the moving from boat to friends’ home, to another friend’s boat, and back aboard La Luna during and after Hurricane Matthew, I lost a bra. How does anyone lose a bra? Well, I have found said bra; it had fallen in the space behind our hamper. (Despite that one flaw, the hamper does bring us “Joy”.) When one brings “Joy” in the KonMari method, one works in categories and takes a number of months (or in our case, evidently, years) to go through one’s abode category by category. So far we’ve done clothing, cooking, and assorted other items. We suck at this. In doing clothing, while we got rid of a lot, we still had to find places to store the winter stuff during the St. Augustine summer. Fall has arrived with 57 degree nights and I have not been able to find my jeans. I imagined that I had taken them to Goodwill during the “Joy Project”. This was not a Good Thing.
As the Net Controller for the St. Augustine VHF Net, I am responsible for the lovely burgees that we sell to raise money for …. whatever. One of our newer liveaboards asked where he could obtain said burgee and I jumped up and down and waved my hands on our Facebook page and told him that I had them for sale for $25.00. He gave me the money when he saw me on shore and I now owe him a burgee. (Trust me, this all ties together with—mostly—Joy.
So yesterday, I blithely went to the Master Stateroom where I had been storing the burgees for about 6 months. No Joy. I tore the area apart—five times—No Joy. I ultimate had a hissy fit (I can still attribute those to Hurricane Aftermath for about four more days, at which point we will have been back aboard for a month and I have to move on.) No Joy from the hissy fit either, so I proceeded to tear apart the quarter berth area, and somewhere in there the forward door to the shower … BREAK If this boat were filled with “Joy” one could actually walk in a circle from Maine Salon to Quarter Berth to Shower, to Aft Head, to Master State Room, to Galley, and to Main Salon. That has NEVER happened on La Luna. It would bring me great “Joy”.
Anyway, the door to the shower popped open and a number of full plastic garbage bags tumbled into the Quarter Berth area. To my “Great Joy”, these contained......(no not the Burgees) my winter clothes! Yippee. Hip Hip Hooray. Warmth. Long pants. Fleece. Joy.
Now let me tell you about the shower. For 5 years in the Caribbean, this shower was my friend. I could take warm showers and cool showers. Naked. In the privacy of my boat. Often, we still showered on deck in our suits (we are not from France, after all), but I love our shower stall. Here in Florida, we shower on shore because we can and because we can take “Hollywood” showers, a luxury of leaving the water running for your entire shower. Now that brings me great joy.
Again this ties in.
When we worked together on the “Joy Project” those months ago, we came up with a lot of things we no longer needed and evidently we did not take anything to Goodwill. Instead, we stored them in the one place on the boat we aren’t currently using: The Shower. It is the Black Hole. There is a pile of things we intend to give away or sell, the brand new man overboard pole EW wants to keep out of the sun, and my few items of dress clothes hanging on hangers. (Hadn’t used hangers in 5 years. Using hangers does not bring me joy.) In addition, there is a dish tub of cleaning products I never put back under the head sink when I “Brought Joy” to that area of cleaning supplies. This is not an approved method of obtaining “Joy”. (Though I love the new sink organization and maybe don’t need that stuff in the tub at all.)
This morning, I took a new storage tub (another story in its own self), emptied a cupboard on my side of the bed in which I had put all my big sewing stuff, lovingly folded my winter clothes in the approved “Joy” method, and gave them a home in the Master Stateroom. Said tub went into the Black Hole, along with the cleaning products, dress clothes, old and new man overboard poles, and numerous bags of stuff that are supposed to be OFF THE BOAT.
Told you we suck at this “Joy Project”.
Now, some of you may wonder, “What about the burgees?”
I had an epiphany, about a half hour into during all of this fussing and hissying, and emptying cupboards. When we moved off the boat before the hurricane I had packed up a bag of precious things and taken them to Joe and Deb’s in Elkton. Since we were going to be refugees for a few weeks, Deb offered to keep the precious bag until I had time to take it back. The burgees are in the precious bag in Elkton.
So part of me resents the lost time yesterday. Part of me realizes that without the “lost” burgees I might not have found my clothes for weeks and finding my clothes brought me “Great Joy”. All of me realizes that we have to get cracking on the “Joy Project”. EW will not be really happy about this. Stay tuned.
EW has been a fixing machine since we moved back aboard. He fixed the water muffler. He fixed the windlass. He fixed the propane. He re-installed the wind generator. He was a machine!
You could even say I performed cleaning nearly on par with “Skewer Cleaning”. (Depending upon how one quantifies “nearly”.) My mom came from a long line of people who like to clean. (Shudders.) A number of my cousins have that gene, and some of my cousins received my portion of that gene as well. These are the cousins who keep a package of wooden skewers in their cleaning kit so that they can poke and prod every last piece of dust and dirt from whatever it is they are cleaning. I don’t have a cleaning kit, and if I did it wouldn’t have skewers.
Note that I am not making fun of these cousins. I am in awe of them. I set out with good intentions to do some skewer cleaning of my own (I have skewers. They are in the drawer one uses for cooking utensils. Where normal people store them!) Whoops. Where was I? Oh yeah. Not making fun of my cousins. Oh, and setting out with good intentions. Usually, when I set out on those good cleaning intentions something happens. Squirrel! or my efforts reach the stage of “Good Enough”.
Real skewer cleaners do not see squirrels and persevere well beyond “Good Enough”.
Last Saturday, I achieved cleaning “Perfection” in a (very) few areas of the vessel and “Beyond Good Enough” on the majority of areas. We call that a win here. A boat is much smaller than a home and there are few things under which one must dust, and even fewer things one can move. But a boat has all sorts of nooks and crannies, bins and baskets, and angles and handholds. A boat can fool you into thinking you’ve cleaned it, until in the morning light of the next day you realize you missed that one feature entirely.
It’s not easy loving someone who cruises. I’ve talked about it before. We miss important events. We can’t be reached when something happens. Our priorities are totally different, and it can seem like we have escaped from reality. We’ve certainly created our own reality, but our hearts still yearn for contact with loved ones back home, and when things happen to them we want to send ourselves north to help in any way possible. But usually, we can’t. We know that the feeling of love and helplessness can go both ways, and felt that first-hand after La Luna went walk-about.
So, a shout out to all of our family who sent hugs and love and offers of support, and to one of my cousins in particular. In her message of love, Fran said, “I wish I could come cook and clean for you.” And she meant it. And she’d bring her cleaning kit with extra skewers, and she would cook a Maine dinner that would taste divine and remind me of my folks and her folks. And with Fran’s wish, for that one moment amidst the chaos that was our life for ten days—for that one moment—I was transported back to Maine, to be enfolded by my family. I felt those hugs from a thousand miles away.
We were enfolded a lot during those ten days—and housed, fed, and cleaned up after. In that way, days before we moved back aboard, we were still “Home”. Because we were loved, and home is where you are loved.
Right now, La Luna is home back on a mooring, (Number 55) in the marina. We are all delighted to be here. Let more cleaning commence!
CONFESSION: The photo here is from a prior skewer cleaning moment --- in 2014. This is the forward cabin the way it should look. Right now it is covered in plastic topped with tools, teak trim, one new halyard, and four notebooks. Someday it will again be a guest cabin. Someday I will use it as a reading space. Someday. A girl can dream.PS. While cleaning, I found our Bean Pot. It wasn't lost, I had just forgotten that I'd given it a new home. While we are near a source of propane, we will have to make Maine Baked Beans once or twice. That will give us a taste of Maine, too. And Fran's mom, my Aunt Charlotte gave us an antique bean pot for our wedding. That was too precious for the boat and is in storage.
PS. While cleaning, I found our Bean Pot. It wasn't lost, I had just forgotten that I'd given it a new home. Since we are near a source of propane, we'll have to make Maine Baked Beans once or twice this winter That will give us a taste of Maine, too. And Fran's mom, my Aunt Charlotte gave us an antique bean pot for our wedding. That one was too precious for the boat and is in storage. The one on the boat looks just like the one in the photo. This photo came from a world foods site with a very good description of Maine Baked Beans. Here in the south, I've run into a whole bunch of folk who do not know of this delicacy, and the canned beans we find here are made with (gasp!) brown sugar. That is just wrong.
Those of you who use Facebook know that we are back in the water and living aboard and very, very thankful. We also are grateful to the many who helped us, supported us, hugged us, housed us, fed us, loved us, made us smile, and provided excellent advice.
There are two parts in getting a relatively undamaged boat back into the water, 1. Paying for it; 2. Doing the Heavy Lifting.
Paying For It
We choose to have only liability insurance on La Luna. We believe in liability insurance for our own protection and it is required for entering marinas all over the world. Even after reading our policy, it was not clear to us that liability would help in our situation. After all, La Luna had successfully traveled on her own sometime during Hurricane Matthew and arrived in one of the best possible spots without coming into contact with anything other than mud, small trees, and mangroves. She didn’t damage anyone’s personal property, and that is all we thought liability would cover.
You who read (and understand) the fine print, you who grilled your insurance agents, you who are both boaters and lawyers or insurance agents—all of you may know that your liability insurance (in most cases) kicks in when your boat goes walk-about. We did not know that. For over a week post-Matthew we thought we had to pay to get La Luna floating again. It was not an easy week, yet we continued to be thankful, saying “Once she’s floating, she’s our home again.”
Many other boaters were not as fortunate. This tug left St. Augustine recently with Polaris, Mental Floss, Nyght-Bryte, Anticipation, and at least two other loved sailing vessels. We know Polaris was totaled. Certainly, the others on deck are secured like cargo rather than someone’s current or future dream.
Thanks to David Wiggins, marine surveyor and hurricane insurance expert sent by Boat U.S., we learned that having your big, heavy boat beached on someone else’s property is not something the landowner likes all that much, so our boat was a liability. Thanks to EW’s hours of phone calls (on a Sunday) and thanks to those agents and adjusters who reached out to us in our time of need (on a Sunday), we learned that $14,100 was a reasonable fee for a heavy boat in that predicament, (Whew!) and that our insurance would cover all but the deductible (Double Whew!). Sunday was a very good day. Before we went cruising, we purchased insurance through Boat US, and recommend them. Once we left the country, we opted to purchase Markel Insurance through IMS Jackline Insurance and have found both the agent and the claims office to be excellent.
Doing the Heavy Lifting
We lost track of the days; moving, worrying, seeing to La Luna, and trying to figure out how to move her. There is a strong Facebook Group of local cruisers here and that became the go-to method of communication. Phosphorescence was lying right next to us, but her owner was on a Cruise Ship somewhere in Panama. We messaged with him and worked with his brother and with his insurance agent, David Wiggins. EW also began talking with any of the other boaters who wanted to communicate and whose boats were near ours, nine in all.
One was “up a creek” and able to winch his boat out to deep water over the course of days with help of the extreme high tide. Others opted to go with a crane and barge from Fernandina, which didn’t actually arrive in St. Augustine until after our boats had been hauled. EW talked with a highly recommended local barge and crane company, Yelton Marine Construction. While he is impressed with the owner and crew, it was decided that their rig was too small to handle ours in the best possible way. EW also talked with DIVECOM Marine, a salvage company from Tampa. Their method would have included skidding La Luna over the mud using a big tug and trash pump and all sorts of stuff. Again, nice guys, but not our favorite method; I am sure they were able to help others in the area. In the meantime, McCulley Marine Services arrived with an 110-ton crane on a barge and a nifty tug operator who looked like Father Time. Owner, Boo McCulley drove up from Fort Peirce to seek out business and therefore help folks like EW and me. David Wiggins, who has worked 26 previous hurricanes, had hired McCulley previously, recommended them, and chose them to haul out our temporary on-shore neighbor, Phosphorescence. Once we met with Boo, EW immediately decided that he wanted them to handle La Luna, as well.
Time note, all of this happened before we called our insurance company. EW nailed that down on Sunday, the day the crane moved into position for both La Luna and Phosphorescence. I love it when a plan comes together.
On Monday morning it was all about the tide as we gathered along the shore, joined by a surprising and heartwarming number of friends for support. Kirsten and Rocky rented a car and drove down from Georgia, Cathy made the trek again from Amelia Island, Joe dropped by from “Camp Elkton”, and Lisa and Matt came by from a few blocks away. The barge lifted Phosphorescence first. The crew was careful, skilled, and a delight. I called them engineering Bubbas and mean that in the best possible way. The barge operator called me “little lady” and assured me they’d have the boat on the water by noon. The others all “ma’amed” me and kept dismissing my praise as just a day in the life. EW says that they were careful y treated La Luna as if she were an eggshell.
By one, both vessels were off the mud and Phosphorescence was on her way to a safe dock. La Luna was (mostly) upright and (somewhat) in the water. Unfortunately taking care means taking time and we had lost the super high tide. No worries. She would stay in slings, held in the water by the crane until the next high tide when they would carry her out to deep water as tug and barge moved to a safe anchoring spot near the dolphins to the south. It was agreed that EW would join them and stay aboard that night, while I spent one last night with Jae-p on UB I. EW has been singing the praises of the McCulley crew ever since. Not only did they take care of our home, they worked very hard to take care of EW the night he slept on board, even to the point of making him coffee the next morning.
On Tuesday, October 18, I loaded the dinghy with the incredible amount of items we’d taken ashore before and after the hurricane, and rendezvoused with EW aboard our brilliant and forgiving floating home. Once we had tossed everything down below, the crew prepared to lower her the final six inches into the water, and then removed the slings, and towed us to a very temporary anchorage. Once again, I found myself in tears as I thanked each of them for all they had done. One of them replied, “I love my job! I get to do this and I get to make you happy!”
And that was it. Friends from Ann O'Malley's (Irish Pub, Buffalo fans, and Air B n B apartment) had offered to tow us to our anchorage near the mooring field, but our boat was too heavy and the winds too strong. We hired Tow Boat US who ably placed us in a safe temporary spot. This week we are putting things back in place below decks, cleaning, and fixing. EW removed the burst muffler and we ordered the new one. By the end of the week, we will be on our new, inspected mooring once again, living the life in St. Augustine.
NOTE: We took photos from two cameras, but the smaller outdoor camera didn’t work. Trust me, the boat looked great hung next to the tug overnight, and the dinghy was full on Tuesday morning.
The Tug, Barge, and Crane on Monday morning.
Cathy, wiggling past a downed tree on a compromised dock to give me a hug.
Kirsten, chatting with EW.
Photos not taken: Rocky, Joe, Matt, Lisa, and my boss and owner of the Black Raven, Gunner Hedquist.
They took great care of her while we watched, shed a few tears, and took photos. And then she was safe.
Sometime in the afternoon, they (somehow) moved La Luna from the port side to the starboard side of the tug. Once in deep water, they adjusted her in the slings, dove on her again to check for damage, and helped EW make sure all was well.
He spent the night on board La Luna, where I joined him on Tuesday.
We are so happy and relieved, but this is one adventure we never want to repeat.
People are wonderful. People are funny. Cruisers are wonderful in funny ways. We like to think —because we are doing something so incredibly special and rare—that the cruisers we meet are also special and rare. Well, we are, and they are, but only because people are special and rare. This is a tale of people.
When we finally got back to the Guna Yala in September (remember, those in the know spell it “Guna” but pronounce it “Kuna”) we anchored in the area known as “The Swimming Pool” to be near Jaime and Keith. They have since sailed east, but we remained, surrounded by pretty islands, great snorkeling, and new friends. Tate and Dani on S/V Sundowner are two of those friends. For similarities we can list: the cruising life, being social, love of food, love of music and card games, love of spousal unit, and a sense of humor. That’s it. We are far apart in age (20+ to 30+ years), education, and careers (they are scary smart, and I suspect Tate has a nearly photographic memory); and our Popular Culture meshes in strange ways.
As wonderful and funny cruisers, we are all willing to assist others, though EW and I are still far behind on the debits and credits list with S/V Sundowner. They loaned us their dongle so I could get online, Tate has given us many fillets from fish he has harvested, and Dani provided Tea Tree Oil that has been instrumental in helping heal EW’s shingles.
Also, Dani’s mom worked as a canvas maker for boats for a number of years, and helped Dani re-do all of the cushions and canvas on Sundowner. While EW was recuperating I began the interior cushion project, and Dani offered to help. I am not a fool and accepted with alacrity. We knew going into the project that the so-called professional’s patterning had been shoddy and that some of the cushions were not shaped correctly. I was determined to create new patterns and check them against the imperfect cushions. It’s a slow process, requiring patience, which is not one of my strengths. Enter Dani.
I had patterned the chart table seat, and the settee along the port side. (My “bible” for the project is Julie Gifford’s Canvas for Cruisers, the Complete Guide. I love this book and highly recommend it.) I made each pattern in the shape and size of the ideal finished cushion, and marked 1/2 inch around it for the cut line, just as Julie said to do. She also said that the edge pieces should be 1/2 inch wider than the depth of the cushion, and that the edge side with the zipper should be cut 1 1/2 inches wider than the cushion’s depth. Here we ran into….challenges.
The cushions were manufactured in Europe and are 8 and 10 centimeters in depth, not 3 and 4 inches. The wise cushion maker cuts the fabric the same size as the raw foam, with a 1/2 inch seam allowance on each side, creating a cushion exactly to fit the space and, packed into the fabric for a nice tight seat or back. While I have been uncharacteristically precise on this project, I was more characteristically unconcerned about cutting the side panels and planned on “pretending” the foam was 3 and 4 inches, adding my half inch for the seam allowance to that.
Dani has an economics degree. Dani’s most recent position was as Budget Manager for the engineering firm that managed the construction on New Orleans's newest hospital. Can you say “Big Project”? Can you say “Detail Oriented?” Can you say “Number Cruncher?”
No kidding we had a 45 minute conversation about the silly little millimeters between 10 centimeters and 4 inches. We used conversion charts, one standard tape measure, and one metric tape measure. Dani computed and talked it through, “My mom said there’s always shrinkage in sewing, so if we go too small that could be a problem.” And later, “You know, if there’s too much fabric, the foam won’t compress to the right shape.”
It’s a puzzlement. (She probably has no idea where that quote’s from.)
In my new, patient, detail-oriented (“If I’m going to make the dang cushions myself, I am going to do it right”) persona I hung in there, assisted Dani in taking new measurements and cheerfully discussed the issues and millimeters involved. I was with her every step of the way. She was providing great insight and has become a friend; she’s helping me and I am grateful. I. Exuded. Patience. I was with her right up until she told me I’d have to cut the fabric at the 16th’s or 32nds. It just seemed to me that marking 3 and 9/16 is much more challenging that marking things 3 1/2. The lines on the tape are bigger at the 1/2 points. Furthermore, as the discussion continued, Dani showed me that she had computed we were talking about 0.07 and 0.055 inches in difference. This is not a chasm. This is a toothpick, admittedly the really good round toothpicks made in Maine, but still, we are talking the width of a toothpick, people.
We ended up agreeing that (1) I would cut the fabric for just a few cushions to start, and (2) I’d cut them on the half inch, and (3) if they were too loose I’d take that silly millimeter off, re-stitch that cushion and cut all others on the 16th of an inch.
Later that evening as all four of us got together in the cockpit, it came as no surprise to either of our spousal units that Dani is very numbers and detail oriented and that I am not. We are OK with that. Further discussions, ranging over a few days, reminded us that we are of different generations. My guess is that they won’t recognized the “Silly Millimeter Longer” phrase, either. We were surprised that they knew “Coneheads”. Tate reeled off at least six Conehead phrases, including “parental units”, “spousal units”, and “charred consumables”. We were stunned. Clearly they are too young to have stayed up for Saturday Night Live. “The Coneheads were big in the 90’s,” said Tate. “No,” we wise older folk replied, “the Coneheads were definitely from the 70’s.
After some back and forth we learned that they had watched the Coneheadsmovie which came out in 1993, and they are too young to have seen the original sketches which aired from ‘77-‘79.
The photo above is a perfectly “charred consumable” harvested and cooked by Tate. A couple of weeks prior Tate had made up a batch of Louisiana Red Beans and Rice, his version of Chicken Soup, for the ailing EW. I’m sure that helped his shingles heal more quickly. (See what I mean about the debits and credits? We cannot keep up with these people.)
Dani came over three times to help me pattern the cushions. On her last visit, we got brave and actually cut the foam to the correct size. She also, bless her darling heart, contacted her mom about sewing a curve into the back of the dinette cushions and her mom sent an email with detailed instructions.
We will sail back to Florida for a while, and Dani and Tate will go through the canal next spring to continue their circumnavigation. Like many other cruisers we’ve been privileged to meet, they are special and rare and wonderful and funny and we will miss them and look forward to seeing them again somewhere along the way.
Postscript. I almost forgot. When Dani worked with her mom, she used a software created for making flow charts in order to help her lay out the fabric. OK. First of all, the have a program just for making flow charts? Evidently they have more than one. While anchored in the San Blas, Dani found a free one on-line, downloaded it to a thumb drive and taught me to use it. It’s fun, and beats the heck out of using graph paper. Every cushion has a unique color so I can make sure that I have four pieces—top, bottom, and two side panels—for each cushion. I’m not going to finish this project until we get back to Florida, but I know I have at least 4 extra yards of fabric. Thanks to Dani and DIA Portable. (I have no idea how to make a flow chart, but I rock at creating colors.)
It’s been so long since I’ve posted regularly that I think we need a date line. I know I do.
June 22. We arrived in Guna Yala, and spent 10 days with Keith and Jaime on Kookabura. (You can read about our trip to Panama in the September edition of All at Sea, Caribbean and read about our week with Jaime and Keith in the October edition. My articles show up on line around the 20th of each month.)
July 1. Kookaburra left for Linton to leave the boat and fly back to New England. We stayed to enjoy the Guna Yala, and work on the boat.
July 24. Left Guna Yala for Linton Bay Marina, where we stayed on the dock for almost three weeks. Working on the boat.
August 6. Moved to the anchorage to finish up boat projects and prepare to leave.
September 20. After one abortive attempt to leave Linton Bay area, finally made it back to Guna Yala on a windless, clear, Sunday. The days blurred together. As EW says, “The projects were all-consuming.”
When we met up with Keith and Jaime on Kookaburra in June we had great hopes of spending time together, sailing, snorkeling, fishing, eating, drinking and playing Euchre before we both headed off in different directions. We did all of those things in Guna Yala and many of them while in Linton. Unfortunately, while in Guna Yala, a lot of their time was spent much like the golfer whose buddy died on the course: hitting the ball and dragging Harry. In their case, lifting anchor and waiting for La Luna.
Just as we arrived to greet them outside of Porvenir in June, our engine overheated. During that first wonderful week of sailing together we had to go very slowly when we motored. Once we anchored, EW would try yet another fix but when we set off the engine would overheat again. This continued when they went back to the states and while we stayed in Guna Yala working on the boat, and enjoying the region. The Monday Morning Quarterback in me now says we should have followed them to Linton in July and worked on the boat during their visit home.
Here is what EW has done since we arrived in Panama (none of which was on the To-Do list):
First, while we were in Guna Yala he:
Replaced our fresh water pump with Kook’s salt water pump so we could access our water
Replaced the impeller and doing any number of other projects to fix the over-heating issue. None of which worked.
Later, when Keith and Jaime returned we sailed to Linton Bay Marina to meet them, and stayed on the dock for nearly three weeks. Thankfully the marina is under construction, so no amenities, but they only charged $10.00 a night. In July, no amenities meant no ramp to the docks and we could only fill our water tanks after the work crews had left for the day. It was rather surreal to see cruisers going up and down the docks with flashlights moving the hose from one boat to another. (We used to do the same thing during the day in very cold weather as we wintered on the dock in Maine, using one hose to fill everyone’s water tank).
While on the dock in Linton EW:
Returned Kook’s water pump and replaced it with our new one—in a different location, requiring much angst and running new hose. (This should result in a pump that doesn’t need repair every couple of years.)
Cleaned and serviced the starboard jib sheet winch and the mainsheet winch.
Tore apart the engine, removed the heat exchanger and cleaned it. This was a massive project. So massive that things start to blur in my mind. Somewhere along the way the starting alternator died and he worked on both issues.
He found a great Alternator Guy in Colon, but that sentence does not begin to address the alternator issues, the fact that we had other electrical issues that kept frying the diode in the new starting alternator, and the fact that there is no such thing as a quick trip to Colon from Linton Bay Marina. (Of course with electrical issues, we weren’t moving the boat closer to Colon, either.)
Ultimately, the large alternator for the house bank died, too, and Isaac our Alternator Guy repaired it. All told, EW made 6 trips to Colon just to see Isaac the Alternator Guy.
In the meantime, Keith and Jaime hung with us on the dock, where the women beat the men at Euchre a few nights. (The men beat the women on a few other nights.) After a while, they decided to visit the Chargres river, a trip EW and I will make later in the year. They returned and anchored near the marina, by which time we had a starting alternator and were pumping big water, so we left the dock and anchored out as well.
But things weren’t all fixed, so finally, Kookaburra left to head back to Guna Yala, where we planned to join them in a few days. We hauled anchor on schedule, discovered the large house bank alternator wasn’t charging the batteries and reset the anchor back in Linton Bay within three hours of leaving.
(There’s really no way to make this funny.)
Now Issac is a great guy and he really likes us, but his English is only a bit better than our Spanish. We asked the Marina Manager, Adam, to translate for us. Adam and Issac went above and beyond, as Adam came out to the boat and Issac spent time on the phone with him and EW walking them through various tests, proving that the alternator was fine, and that it must be a wiring issue.
A thorough examination of the wires proved him right, and scared us to death. The good news is the boat didn’t burn down. Wires were melted in at least three locations. EW turned white, and spent weeks rewiring the engine, alternators, starter—all that jazz.
This of course, required trips to Colon for parts. Remember, there is no such thing as a quick trip to Colon. There will be a post about that. It may be funny.
I kept trying to get back into writing mode, and to work on the few projects while EW had all access ports to the engine opened, and tools, boat bits, and wires scattered throughout the main salon, pilot berth, cockpit, and (occasionally) the galley. He appropriated one end of the dining table to use as an electrician's workbench. The aft stateroom and head were untouched; in the forward cabin and head various parts and boat things were stashed to make room for EW to work. There was not a lot of space left for me.
Heck, I’d have left us for Guna Yala..
We missed celebrating Jaime and Keith’s 30th wedding anniversary, and I was determined to get back to Guna Yala before they head East. EW completed the wiring job, but things still weren’t working correctly. He emailed and called the maker of our external controller.. We tried to find a marine electrician we could pay to come down to the end of the line, to no avail. We sought the wisdom of other cruisers. This was an incredibly stressful few weeks. Part of me kept trying to support and encourage EW who was struggling to work way outside his comfort zone. Part of me kept trying to keep positive: “This too, shall pass. This will be funny someday.” Part of me lost it some days.
It didn’t help that while Digicel is the best cell phone/data option in Guna Yala, it is not the best in Puerto Lindo. Like Florida, Panama is prone to lots of rain and pretty amazing thunderstorms. Evidently Claro’s towers can withstand this, but Digicel’s cannot. We often had two days of no coverage at all, followed by a day or two with only enough for a phone call, but no Facebook, emails, or ability to search the net for assistance.
Now that we’ve been back in Guna Yala for a few days, what can I say about the moral or lesson or atmosphere aboard La Luna?
The moral is a reminder that this cruising life is like every other life choice—you have to accept and the good with the bad. It helps if you can accept it with some humor. It helps even more if you have the skills to fix it. The best help of all is if there are two of you working in tandem, boosting each other’s morale, laughing with each other, and hugging at night (if it isn’t too hot to hug).
The lesson is that cruising plans are cast in sand. While we continued to miss Keith and Jaime and while I fret over time lost with them, and while this wasn’t the ideal place to deal with these issues, it was a safe place and most things were available to us—even though they may require all day in Colon with a two hour bus ride on both ends.
The atmosphere aboard La Luna was mostly good. We didn’t getting enough exercise, but we gradually got things done, ate well, watched movies to relax, and worked together. We met wonderful people, cruisers, locals, and folks at the new marina, and since Jim and Christine on S/V Ullr were still around EW had someone to play music with a couple of days a week.
Chart tables are beautiful things. Ours is teak with a heavy lid and amazing hinges. Of course our chart table was created for La Luna when she was built 30 years ago. Before we bought her in 2002, various accoutrements had been installed that made it difficult to raise the lid past coiled microphone cords. In addition – well, charts.
Chart tables of yore (and maybe of today) are designed to hold charts for storage, and to allow space for working with charts and plotters and dividers and parallel rules on the slightly angled top. When EW and I took the Power Squadron’s Advanced Navigation Class, we more often spread the charts on the table because it’s bigger. The charts in storage were kept under the table with the tools mentioned above, and all were difficult to retrieve due to the cords mentioned above above. When we sailed in Maine, and all the way down the coast, through the Bahamas and to the Caribbean we used both electronic navigation and charts. The chart in use is usually on deck in a plastic cover, not on the chart table. The laptop, running navigation software, is on the chart table.
A chart table isn’t usually an optimum place for a laptop. In our case, it was a bit too high to be ergonomically correct when seating and much too low for standing. When we lived aboard in Maine and I worked from home, my “office” was my seat at the dinette, because it was just too uncomfortable to use the laptop at the chart table. In addition, the large top and 1.5” fiddles caused us to worry that the laptop wasn’t secure in rough seas.
On our way to the Azores last spring, I had one of those epiphanies EW has come to dread: the kind that means A New Project! A New Project he had never considered! Knowing that he would have to do most of the actual work for this project, I presented it softly (for me), but I sold it very well. While we were on the dock in Horta, our first port of call, I convinced him to remove the heavy teak lid. (Sometimes I surprise myself with my powers.) We had no idea how marvelous the hinges were until we had to remove them. One of us held the lid, while the other worked on un-screwing many tiny-headed, long screws. Part way through the process we wondered if we’d be able to actually remove the table without destroying something.
So, now that we had removed this lovely, heavy piece of teak? What to do? We knew that this project would not be completed for months, and we wanted to field test it, so the lid and hinges, charts, and tools were stored in a safe place, and I went in search of something about 2” tall that would serve as an interim base for the laptop. I found a cheap ugly green silverware drawer liner. Hey, it worked.
Here’s what I knew from the start:
if we doubled the height of the seat cushion, we could sit comfortably and be at the right height for the laptop…
…if we set the laptop inside the table, but raised 2 inches so that it was almost even with the front edge of the table everything would be at an ergonomically correct and comfortable height;
plus the laptop would be set down inside the table, which would reduce it’s propensity to slide off the table top.
It worked great, and gave us an accessible place to store all the power cords for charging two cameras, a Kindle, an iPad, and an iPod.
So, that brings us to this time of puttering and “fun” boat projects in St. Thomas. (DEFINITION: “Fun” projects may not actually be fun to do, but are projects mainly dealing with the beautification of the boat, or to enhance our enjoyment of the living space. The person or persons undertaking the projects may not consider them fun in process.) I’ve been constructing cardboard models of laptop bases – ones that would allow us to raise it up 2 inches, have a place for a mouse pad, and provide the ability to tie the laptop down for really rough seas (seas that I never want to experience, but still). I also wanted better storage for that charging gear, and other things frequently used in this location.
And note, we had to work around big honkin’ bolts that hold the Pactor Modem in place under the chart table. (Fortunately placed far enough outboard to still allow room for our legs under the table.) My first prototype (after the ugly green silverware compartment) was a bit elaborate, including the construction of multiple boxes. I knew he’d never go for it, so I set the idea aside and moved on to thinking of other projects, particularly one I’m contemplating using material from the old jib in order to make various open top fabric “boxes for open storage.
Brilliant Idea! Instead of asking EW to make wooden boxes or have me go from store to store to find bins or baskets to exactly fit the space, I could make small sail cloth boxes, to corral the stuff. On a passage, most of the stuff will be moved to a cupboard, so I don’t have to worry about it flying around. But cruising sailors spend more time at anchor than at sea, so that’s no biggie. This week, I planned the laptop pad, and presented the finished idea to EW, who promptly improved it.
Instead of a strong shelf supported by three braces running along the length, EW took two sheets of 1” PVC board, cut a rectangular hole out of one to allow the bolts from the modem, and screwed them together from the bottom. At my suggestion, the top board is 1” wider than the bottom with the overhang at the back to allow for the cords to run to that side of the laptop. (One power, one USB for AIS.) One of the challenges I’d discovered during 9 months of using the prototype is that we had to protect the cords going into the laptop. The wide shelf will prevent the baskets from pushing onto the cords and memory sticks.
And the piece de resistance for the whole project: a little bridge to go over the USB connection on the starboard side of the laptop. It protects that port from damage, and provides an excellent rest for one’s wrist. Double Sweet!
This is still a work in progress.
Before our next passage, EW will screw the laptop support to the bottom of the chart table. He’ll be inserting the screws up from underneath the table just so he doesn’t hit the Pactor Modem. That would be a bad thing. Very bad.
I will make the sail cloth open boxes.
EW wants to replace the rough teak surrounding the instruments just behind the laptop with a piece of black starboard. When he does that, the far end (now an ugly hole) will also be covered in black but with an access port to the important wires back there.
At some point in time, we’ll install a little LED light, because the only illumination here is one of the high-powered 30-year old lights still on-board.
We’ll varnish the teak.
But in the meantime this works much better than it did when we had a chart table and lid, and it looks much better than it did with an ugly green silverware holder under the laptop.
AND! I love writing here. I’m writing more and now I can work without moving the laptop to the table, and we can eat dinner without moving everything back to the navigation zone.
I am a happy sailor. We are an outstanding team. Seriously. We each have different areas of expertise, and we each come up with ideas for all areas of the boat. He will have a sewing project for me, and I’ll have a power tool project for EW. It all works. And it looks wicked good!