My First Delivery Request: a 1992 Catalina 28

“You are not writing about this,” was his only caveat, when Phillip and I agreed to do the delivery.  I knew I shouldn’t have given him a copy of None Such Like It when he was boat-shopping.  But, after the entire saga went down, he knew it was well worth telling the tale.  And, after an agreement to change some names to protect the … bold and brave, I was granted a writer’s exclusive.

Friends, followers, I’m excited to tell you about my first delivery!  And, I say mine, because while Phillip and I did help our buddy, Mitch, bring his Nonsuch from Ft. Myers up to her new home port of Pensacola back in June of 2015, I would easily say I was ranking First Mate at the time, nowhere near Captain.  Not that I am an official USCG Captain … yet (I’ve got just a few more documents to wrestle up before I can send my application to the Coasties), but the boys on this trip were kind enough to let me take more of the lead this time and humor me the title, Captain Annie, for this delivery.

And what a doozie!  As it seems they all are.  And, by that I don’t mean we were battling six-foot waves and thirty-knot winds in the Gulf (this time), because that’s not the kind of experience you have to have every time for it to be a good salty sea tale.  Besides, we all know what my biggest fear is anyway and it’s not out there in the big, open blue.  Say it with me … yes, docking!  That’s sh*t is scary for real.  What was important about this passage, and every passage we go on, is that Phillip and I encountered some situations we had never experienced before, learned some good lessons from it and found ourselves, as we often do, inspired by those we sail with.  In this case, we’ll call him Wild Phil Hickok!

Cue the Old Western whistle and cracking whip sound  *Whoo-psssh*

Wild Phil has been a long-time friend of Phillip’s and had been shopping for a few months for a good, reliable boat he could leisurely sail around Pensacola and to take the family (his wife and two boys) out to spend weekends on the hook.  He had focused on Catalinas as his boat of choice because he knew they were a trusted name and he liked the build quality, design and feel of the cockpit.  What he found was truly a gem.  A 1992 Catalina 28, reportedly in complete working order, down in Tampa (for less than $22k, I might add).  The boat was brought up to Carrabelle for the survey/sea-trial and when our very own Bob Kriegel with RK Marine Services here in Pensacola deemed her “above average condition,” we knew Phil would probably pounce on it.  Wouldn’t you?

It wasn’t long before Phil was inking the line and calling himself a proud new Catalina order and Phillip and I were soon enlisted to help deliver the boat from Carrabelle to her new home port of Pensacola.  Just as we did for Mitch when we were preparing to help him with his delivery, Phillip and I put together a pretty extensive provision and supplies list for Phil for the trip:

Yeah, I know.  A little over the top?  Well, there’s no harm in being over-prepared, right?  What did Phil think of mine and Phillip’s impressive  fore-thoughtedness?

Love that guy.  And, I really can’t tell you why booze is highlighted there.  My Mac must know we pretty well …

Following the recommendations of the surveyor, Phil had the marine service guys in Carrabelle do some work on the alternator and change the fuel filters while the boat was going to be there for a couple of weeks before he could come back to make the delivery. It was actually the same “Mechan-Eric” Phillip and I had hired to put in our new transmission after our first famous failure to deliver our own boat all the way home on the first try, and (way more importantly) he was the guy who approved my duct-tape and Dasani-bottle “catchment bin” to capture our leaking transmission fluid and pour it back in.

    

Ironic?  Not really.  There’s only one mechanic in Carabelle.  But it did bring back some very fun memories when we pulled up to Phil’s new boat and found it docked in the very same place ours was, just four short years ago, trying to make her own way home to Pensacola.

Phil’s Catalina, 2017:

Our Niagara, 2013:

It seemed Carrabelle was a rite of passage.  And while mine and Phillip’s adventure getting our Niagara home from Punta Gorda, FL—which included hacking off the flailing dinghy in the Gulf, having the old transmission eat itself alive, enduring a six-week separation while the boat was in Carabelle having the new transmission put in, only to have the new one leak little red tears into a Dasani catchment system that had to be dunked back into the engine every hour—was quite the experience, it honestly seemed like a little bit of nothing when we saw what Wild Phil had to go through before he finally got his boat home to Pensacola.  In just a few short days, Phil had already accomplished more feats and suffered more failures than many boat owners do … well, ever.  Phil was adamant about holding the helm, handling problems and getting as much experience as possible, good or bad, and I can easily say he’s now (just a week into boat ownership) done more than I have at the wheel.  So, kick back, buckle up, and let this tale begin.

The boys and I—Phillip, his buddy Keith, and our fearless owner, Wild Phil—set off for Carrabelle around 2:00 a.m. Friday, August the 11th.  These working stiffs had so much to do on Fri-DAY (and evening), we only had time to rest for a few hours Friday night before waking at 1:00 a.m. to drive straight to the boat and shove off at dawn on Saturday morning in hopes of getting the boat back to Pensacola by Monday mid-day at the latest so they could go back to work if possible.  Work …  At an office … Who does that anymore? ; )  A 5:00 a.m. Wal-Mart run to pack out the car, a nice sunrise drive, then a pack-out of the boat and we were ready to shove off around 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning.

What this did not leave us (and it was something I was little worried about when they told me the plan) was time to assess and scour the boat to really get familiarized with her and go through our spares inventory.  A lesson to myself later: I should have done this on my own right out of the gate.  On my next delivery I will, and I will probably make a “yacht delivery” checklist, so I am confident I, personally, know where all the sea-cocks and thru-hulls are (as well as the plugs), how to locate, check and fill all the engine fluids, whether there is water in the bilge (and note the level), etc.  But this time, I didn’t.  I unpacked the food, oohed and ahhed over the condition of the boat, chatted with the guys and took a selfie.  I’ll get better at this delivery Captain stuff, I promise.  Or hope, at least.  It really was an impressive boat, though, for the age and price.  Definitely Annie-approved!

Phil and his lovely wife, Pam, who was nice enough to shuttle us down to Carrabelle in the middle of the night.  As far as making the delivery with us?  She said: “You guys have fun!  I’ll see you in Pensacola.”

Little did she know, we wouldn’t quite make it that far … On the first try anyway.  Black crud, thick mud, and a sea tow stud are in store for you.  Stay tuned, friends, the tale of my first delivery will soon begin!

 

Mind, Body, Free: Life Design by NikkiB

What inspires me?  It’s people, you see?  People like me, and people very unlike me.  People who seek out, overcome and achieve.  Particularly this one: NikkiB!

 Photo credit : Val Hawks

You know that moment when you meet someone you just know is going to be a part of your life from that day forward, in some capacity?  Well, and I shouldn’t say know.  I’ll say hope.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this life is that it can all change tomorrow.  You meet people.  You connect with people.  You lose people and you learn from people.   And I have learned so much from this fiesty, fiery little gal.  Even as strangers we sensed it.  Every moment we spent together we became less and less strange to one another and more and more connected.  People like Nikki make you laugh, smile, think, challenge yourself and see the things they have accomplished in a way that makes you want to charge the battlefield and conquer your own. I believe Nikki and I felt that way about each other the day we met.

Okay, okay, we didn’t meet up on a mossy rock in the mountains.  That’s from mine and Phillip’s recent trip to Denver to visit Nikki, which is what inspired me to write this post as Nikki and I have traveled a similar path since the day we met: blazing new career paths, striking out into areas of the world that were once foreign to us, striking out into industries that were foreign to us and searching and grasping for those things that connect our mind and body with the world around us and make us feel free.  That’s NikkiB’s mantra: Mind. Body. Free.

But, where was Nikki when I found her?  Not so free.  Stuck in a place she did not want to be.  Nikki and I both actually remember that day, because we were both in very different places at the time.  In addition to some hobby writing and struggling book sales after leaving the law practice (which was earning me just about enough to eat canned beans every night), I was also selling ads for a local magazine.  Yep.  Door-to-door salesman right here.  And, while I was pretty good at it (it helps being charismatic at times), I found it draining, stressful, not very rewarding and just not the right fit for the life I wanted to live.  And, Nikki?  A similar situation.  As a Navy pilot’s wife, she had spent the last handful of years being uprooted and transplanted from one city to the next, struggling to build a career and life for herself and to figure out what she really wanted to do.  While Nikki was an accomplished yoga instructor, a seasoned traveler, photographer and writer as well as a talented aerial silks artist, she knew these weren’t really attributes that translated well to steady income and–knowing travel was a huge priority in her life–Nikki wanted to build a career that offered work that challenged her, engaged her creativity and that she could do remotely.  Anything of this sound like a common struggle to you?

At the time, Nikki was working in a yoga studio, which was fun, but demanded many, many hours of her time (weekends and evenings included) for, again, not the kind of money or work freedom that was going to graduate her from canned beans to exploring Cambodia.

I popped into the studio one day (trying to get them to buy an ad in the magazine, of course), met the magnetic NikkiB and BOOM.  Magic.  A lifelong friendship was forged.  Nikki was hopping around on some Kangaroo boots, in spandex with more colors than I knew even existed.  I was actually (every bit of this is true) leaving the next day for mine and Phillip’s first big cruise on our boat to the Florida Keys in April, 2014, which Nikki was totally absorbed by, and we instantly ignited.  Nikki and I actually ended up doing a photo shoot for the magazine together after I returned (in conjunction with the yoga studio’s ad in the magazine … I told you I was good) which I think was an “Aha!” moment for us both, spending hours getting slathered with makeup only to spend more hours taking staged photos in a studio.

It all felt so canned, when we both knew all we wanted was to be out, abroad, unbridled.  Free!  After that shoot, Nikki and I scrubbed the gunk off of our faces, grabbed my aerial silks and headed to sea!  We hung my silks off the pier at Pensacola Beach, which I’m quite sure was a slight bit of trespassing but it was totally worth it.

This was one of my last days with Nikki in Pensacola and I will never forget it.  Isn’t she stunning?

    

Love that face.  I think it was soon after that day (and a few more wine-induced “Where’s my life going?” girlfriend rants) that Nikki made the bold decision to take charge and change her life forever.

“I’m moving to Colorado,” she said.

“What, really?  Alone?  Why? ” I asked, surprised at the seeming randomness of it.  Colorado?  I’d never heard her mention the word before …  “What’s out there?”

“My new life,” Nikki said.

Nikki knew design, creativity and the creation of photos, videos, articles, etc. was something she was passionate about but she also knew she needed a degree and the technical know-how to create these things digitally (as that is clearly where the world is going).  The tough choice for Nikki, here, was that she was going to have to do it alone.  Her husband, Chris, was still serving in the Navy and would have to remain in Florida while she struck out for a year, solo, to get her degree.  What did Chris have to say about this?

“If it takes one year for you to find what makes you happy, I’ll pack your bags myself.”

You see?  Inspiring.  And off Nikki went.  It was tough to lose a friend like that, but a friend like that you never really lose.  They just move and travel and grow and, in between the times you meet up with them in really cool places like Denver (but I’m sure some day Nikki and I will unite again in Bali, Cambodia or even the Bahamas), you share fun emails, texts and photos to stay connected.  Even though sometimes, being wrapped up in our busy lives, Nikki and I would go a couple of months without checking in, the moment we re-connected, it always felt like no time had passed between us at all.  With Nikki and I, our “check-ins” were often just a photo titled “POL”  for Proof of Life:

Nikki: “POL!”

Annie: “POL back : )”

I am incredibly proud to say Nikki conquered her fears, moved out to Colorado in 2015 to strike out on a path all her own, and she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a diploma in Web Design and Development from the Art Institute of Colorado in June, 2016, having conquered 40 very tough hours of course work in just one short year.

Nikki is now a talented (and highly-utilized) freelance digital designer specializing in User Experience and Interface Design.  And, no one is more proud of her than Chris.  While working as a freelance designer, just since June, 2016, Nikki and Chris have traveled to France, Switzerland, Italy and Asia.  Nikki even did a solo trip by herself to Costa Rica.  She has done it!  Designed and built the very life she wanted.  If any of you out there are looking to create a smart, attractive website or custom app for your business, NikkiB is exactly where you need to start.  I have included her website link below and quick bio, sharing her passion for digital design, as well as her very fun Instagram photos that really highlight the challenging, exciting life Nikki lives.  As she should.  She designed it that way.  And while she was building a digital design career for herself, I found myself inspired and enjoying the challenge of building my own online marketing/writing career that now allows me to travel and work remotely much like Nikki.  Many you out there ask me often how you, too, can build a career that allows you to travel and work at the same time.  Well, NikkiB is one inspiring example.  Know that it will not be easy.  It will often require tough, difficult choices and sacrifices, as well as failures.  It can be a very challenging mountain to climb, but as Nikki said: “after the fog has lifted, you find yourself at a place you could have never dreamed-it’s better.”  If you want a better life, you have to design it.

 Nikki Beck @ NikkiBeck.info

Art Institute of Colorado

Diploma, Web Design and Development, Summa Cum Laude
I create experiences – ones that leave a lasting impression. I am a digital designer specializing in User Experience and Interface Design. I have had the opportunity to work with big brands as well as local small businesses. I strategically plan, research, and test concepts to optimize a user’s interaction with an app or website. I enjoy problem solving and integrating effective UX into an aesthetically pleasing design. I’m inspired most when I get to push creative and technological limits to help clients connect with their customers. I love what I do and sharing that passion with others. When I’m not designing, I’m climbing or riding around the world and taking photos along the way – rock, snow, ice, surf, silks. If it requires a board or movement upwards, I’m there.
– Nikki B
Nikki’s Journey:
  
You recognize that boat don’t you?  ; )
Nikki’s Photos:
   
Find inspiration wherever you can and hold onto those who inspire you.

Shipshape and Bristol Fashion: Our Top 10 Varnish Tips

There they were.  Dozens of bobbing boats.  Striking reds to canary yellows. Their hulls glistening from the wet shine of the water.  Then, hours later, they were laid over on their side in the dismal mud.  Looking more dismal themselves because of it. This happened twice a day and took our breath away.

But what do I know about these seemingly disheveled boats?  They must have been in shipshape!  Friends, we were in Roscoff!  Captain Yannick’s village back in France that we sailed to across the Atlantic Ocean from Pensacola last summer.

These photos were literally from our first few hours in France.  A couple of wide-eyed ocean-crossers wandering the cobblestone streets!

And, we had the perfect built-in tour guide.  Yannick himself, who took us around, showed us the fantastic, ancient churches in the downtown square, the cobblestoned streets, the beautiful waterfronts and delicious bakeries, and the even more ancient and even more fantastic castles right next to his very own home.  Yes.  Castles.  People live in castles in France!  And, before we were off to Paris, Yannick made sure we got the very best crepes Roscoff could offer.

  

It was a mesmerizing, humbling visit.  But one of the things Phillip and I remember most about that stunning coastal village were the tides.  Breathtaking tides that rose and lowered more than twenty feet at a time, twice a day.  The beautiful bay we walked along every day to go get our croissant and café, a colorful, glistening pool of boats in the morning was a brown, dry lake bed of boats in the afternoon.

I’d never seen anything like it.  The rather large boats were cleated to the seawall in such a fashion that they would simply sink until their hull touched bottom and then remain fastened tight and upright to the wall.  The boats on mooring balls or anchor, however, out in the bay would drop down with the tide until their hulls, too, reached the bottom and fall gently to one side or the other as the water slipped away.  Many of the sailboats actually had wooden props fastened to their sides to help hold them in a more upright position.  They stuck off like training wheels in the mud.  Can you imagine knowing your boat was going to “run aground” (although I guess that’s technically a “lay aground”) twice a day?  Other than the training wheels, how would you prepare your boat for that?  I’ll tell you: By keeping her shipshape.

And what does your mind automatically spout out after that?  That’s right.  And Bristol fashion!  But do you know why?

Friends, I had the idea to write a fun blog post for you all after we finished our varnish project this summer to share some of the lessons we learned along the way.  (And of course the rewards.  Yes, yes.  Total boat wood porn is coming I can assure you.  Be excited!)  I then had the idea to call it “Shipshape and Bristol Fashion” and realized I didn’t really know the origin of the phrase.  You know me.  I love words, and I love to learn how phrases we commonly throw around originally came to be.  For example, do you know where the phrase “wet your whistle” comes from?  I’ll be honest, I always thought it was because our heads are a bit whistle-shaped, with a round bulbous head and a then a thin little neck sticking off.  So, I thought wetting your “whistle” (your neck and noise-maker) would mean taking a drink.  As usual, I was very wrong, but happily so.  Turns out, many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim or handle of their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service.

You see?  Isn’t that cool to learn?  So, what about this quirky “shipshape and Bristol fashion” phrase?  Phillip and I were throwing it around often during the weeks we recently spent putting many, many coats of varnish on our wood, but if I was going to write about it, I wanted to know about it.  And, as a learning adventure often is, it turned out to be a very fun Aha! moment for me and a unique trip down memory lane.

The Origin of Shipshape and Bristol Fashion

Apparently over some 200 years ago, the Port of Bristol was a thriving English seaport where many large vessels came via the Bristol Channel to bring cargo to England via the Avon River.  Much like Roscoff, the tidal range in the Port of Bristol was significant, rising and falling some 14 meters (45 feet) each day.  Talking about having to use the Tide Tables to calculate high and low tide!  Ships moored in the Port of Bristol would lay aground at low tide and, because of their keels, would fall to one side.  If the cargo, goods and supplies aboard the boat were not stowed away tidily or tied down, everything tumbled and valuable cargo could be lost and spoiled.  Meaning, boats that were kept tidy and in the highest standards of seamanship were considered to be “shipshape and in Bristol fashion.”  I can assure you the lovely Plaintiff’s Rest isn’t quite there yet …

(as we are elbow-deep in boat projects this summer), but she will be!  And, most importantly, her wood definitely is right now, as we just completed our varnish project for (hopefully) the next couple of years!  Thankfully, our Niagara 35 doesn’t have a tremendous amount of wood.  Frankly, for us, it seems the perfect amount.  Just enough to give her a nice, classic sailboat accent but not enough to overwhelm us with the upkeep.  And, we’re hopeful now, by using a new product this year (Awlwood) we’ll have to do even less upkeep on the varnish in years to come.  For a brief HaveWind varnish history, we stripped the majority of our wood (the eyebrow, handrails, stern rail, grate, swim ladder steps, cockpit table, etc., everything but the companion way) bare back in 2013 and put 10 coats of Schooner’s Gold on it.

 

We lightly scuffed and threw a couple more coats on again in early 2015.  However, this year, we knew it was time to scrape down to bare again on some pieces (particularly our eyebrow which had been flaking since last fall).  But we said “Screw that, we’re going to Cuba instead!”  Ha!  And, it wasn’t a mistake.  But, varnish was definitely high on the list this year.  The handrails still looked very good.  We had our local canvas guy (Tony with Coastal Canvas) make us some custom handrail covers back in 2015 and they have worked very well to protect and preserve the varnish on our handrails.

Our eyebrows, unfortunately, do not hold up as well because each time it rains, or the deck gets wet from spray or dew, the water eventually rolls down and sits until it evaporates on the top of the brow.  That’s why our brow looked like this by the end of 2016:

That is definitely not Bristol fashion.  Shame on you Plaintiff’s Rest crew!

Our stern rail also needed to be brought down to bare wood as it gets a lot of exposure on the back to spray and rain with no protection.

While we were pleased with the Schooner’s Gold we had used in 2013, Brandon with Perdido Sailor told us about a new product that he had been hearing good things about: Awlwood made by Awlgrip.

Brandon said he’d heard if applied right and enough coats, this stuff can hold up for three years before it even needs light coats in between.  What did we say?  Heck yeah!  While wet wood on a boat is pretty, brightwork is not our favorite thing to do.  So, we were excited about trying out this new product.  While the application process was a bit tedious (because the product is designed to chemically bond with the wood, that’s what apparently makes it last so long), Phillip and I were very pleased with the end-product, the color, coats and glassy look and we’re optimistic that it will last as long as promised.  We applied two primer coats (which had to cure 24 hours in between), two initial gloss coats (which also had to cure 24 hours in between), then an additional eight gloss coats two a day (just for good measure).  We also scuffed and re-applied a few preventative coats of Schooner’s Gold on everything else (the handrails, companionway, grate and cockpit table).  For now, the varnish on the entire boat is done.  The wood is glassy and stunning and, on the outside at least, we’re proud to say Plaintiff’s Rest is in shipshape and Bristol fashion:

   

Now that the project is behind us, we’d like to share with you …. (drumroll please):

Our Lessons Learned and Top 10 Varnish Tips

 1.  Be a good stripper!

While we have heard there are products out there that help release old varnish from the wood, we’ve found a five-in-one scraper and some heat is the easiest method.  Elbow grease is usually your best friend.  But for varnish that is still really thick (like on our boat the section of the eyebrow that is protected under the dodger), I put about 15 seconds of heat on it until the varnish bubbles, then it comes right off.

2.  Filling Cracks & Gouges

Unfortunately, one of the bad things about stripping with a five-in-one tool is the occasional gouge in the wood.  While this didn’t happen to us often, I’ll admit to taking out  a few chunks when I was heavy in the stripping.  Sorry gal!  But, aside from the occasional gouge, we also had a few cracks in our eyebrow and stern rail that we wanted to fill and smooth out before varnishing.  We could have used wood putty but Brandon recommended just filling them with epoxy for a much heartier fix, so we did that.

I was worried at first, however, that the epoxy would show through the Awlwood because our epoxy patches were so dark, almost brownish-black.  But, after nearly a dozen Awlwood coats all told, they completely blended and the wood now looks smooth and the color uniform.

3.  Washing the Teak

The wood prep process for the Awlwood was, I’ll admit, a bit tedious but it should be well worth it if that stuff really sticks for three years.  We had to strip the wood down completely bare and wash it.

Yes, wash the teak.  And it was crazy to see how much orange came out of it.  Like we were literally washing the orange oils out.  And it was so sad and grey afterward, I was afraid it wouldn’t get back to that beautiful teak hue (but never fear, it did!).  At Brandon’s recommendation, we used a half-gallon of ammonia with a half-gallon of water, a couple tablespoons of Cascade dishwasher detergent and a squirt of Dawn and it worked like a charm.  We washed our brow and stern rail a few times scrubbing with a Scotch Brite pad against the grain of the wood.

4.  Ditch the Tape!

While Phillip and I thought we were doing a great job back in 2013 carefully taping off all of our handrail bases and the eyebrow so we could varnish without leaving a drop on the deck, we wrong … so very wrong.

It was way harder (and took weeks longer) to pull and pick all the tiny little flecks of blue tape that remained after we’d finished varnishing.  You can see them here around the handrail base as the tape would tear when we were pulling it off.

  

Now, did we make a mistake in leaving that tape out for a couple of weeks in rain and weather (which caused it to deteriorate and meld to the boat)?  Yes, but the varnish, itself, that seeped onto it around the handrail bases and under the brow also caused it to adhere to the boat.  And it didn’t even prevent all of the leaks onto the deck anyway.  I spent many afternoons on anchor with a dental pick trying to get all of the little blue flecks and yellow varnish drops off.  And, the worst part.  The tape pulled chunks of white paint off of our port lights, making them look very un-Bristol like!

No more tape!  Now we just paint carefully and keep a little wet tray of acetone- (or brushing liquid)-soaked Q-tips nearby while painting to catch any accidental dribbles.  It’s really not that hard to not get it on the deck, or wipe it up quick if you do. We will never tape again!

5.  Watch the Weather

But, even if you do, it’s going to rain.  Trust me, it just is.  It’s like washing your car.  The minute you check the weather, decide you’re safe and get a good, wet coat on, thunderheads will start to appear.  You’ll hear rumbles in the distance.  And you’ll start frantically fanning or blowing on your wood hoping it will cure in time to fend off those mean little rain drops.  But if, like us, you decide to put on many, many coats, there’s just a chance one time, right after you put a coat on, it’s going to rain!

“Fight back varnish!  Hold the line!” we would tell it.  And, two things we were pleased to see with the Awlwood: 1) the further we got into the coats, the quicker they began to dry (sometimes in just under 15 minutes), and 2) even if you did happen to get a light drizzle that left little pockmarks in your last coat, it was easy to sand down and lay another coat on.

6.  Watch the Dew!

This was a bit of a new one for us.  Because we’ve been doing boat projects around our somewhat normal day jobs, we were rising very early in the morning to get one coat of varnish on in the a.m., then returning in the afternoon/evening to get another coat on before nightfall.  I will say, it did become a very nice routine seeing the sun rise over our girl’s stern every morning.  Good morning pretty girl!

But, coming to the boat to do varnish in the early hours meant we often found our boat covered in drops of dew.

While that’s no big deal–just dry the wood and varnish–where we made a mistake was to just wipe the wood, not the entire deck.  We often found then, while we were laying on a coat (and walking around the boat causing her to list from one side to the other), the rest of the drops on the deck would converge and come running down to our wet varnish in little streams leaving dried drop marks behind later.  So, if you’re going to do the dew, make sure you dry the entire deck too.

7.  Our Thoughts on Awlwood

As I mentioned, this was our first time using the Awlwood product.  While the prep process and application guide were a bit of a headache, I’m thinking it’s going to be well worth it in the end.  The first two coats we did were the primer and we could tell as we applied them how well they were truly bonding with the wood.  The color immediately stayed “wet” and the primer left the visible grain of the wood behind which told me it wasn’t just coating but actually seeping deep down in.

 

Then the first few coats of the gloss started to bring out just a touch of shine.

But after all layers were applied the brow was just as glassy as the handrails and we could tell from a close inspection of the wood how truly thick the Awlwood varnish on her really is.  I don’t think we’ll have water intrusion, even on the top of the brow, for a very long time!

Another nice benefit of the Awlwood product Phillip has told me is that if you get a nick in the varnish later (say something hits the brow and knocks a chuck out down to the wood), unlike Schooner’s varnish you can fill the nick with Awlwood gloss and essentially “varnish it away” without having to go down to all bare wood again.  This is because the primer remains bonded with the wood, so only the gloss coats can be chipped and they can also be repaired without having to go through the entire process again.  That’s pretty cool!

8.  Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

At least don’t sweat it out doing it outside … if you don’t have to.  If you have a home, condo, garage, shed, etc. where you can set up all the portables to do coats inside, that makes it so much nicer than sweating it out doing in the hot sun on the boat.  It also allows you to get more coats on after sunlit hours or when it’s raining or wet outside.

Man look at the mirror shine on the table!  You can literally read the Schooner’s can in the varnish!  

Sorry … I get a little excited about wet wood!  ; )

One thing we do NOT paint inside anymore, though?  Is these!

Our stinking swim step ladders!  Why?  Because we decided to …

9.  Get a Little Plasteak With It

I know, I know.  We’re supposed to be purists, mostly.  While we do love the wood on our boat and are happy to do a little varnish work every few years to keep it looking its utmost Bristol-ey, these guys were just “Killing us Smalls!”  As you all know, we have a boat for a reason.  We love the water.  We love to sail.  We love to kite-surf.  And, we love to swim.  Which means our swim ladder spends a good bit of time in the water when we’re out on the hook.  And we found, even when we stripped these down bare and slapped something like 12 coats of Schooner’s on, that within just 6 months (only 6?!), they were already starting to flake and turn yellow.  Phillip and I finally said “screw it” and ordered up some Plasteak steps for the swim ladder last fall.

They look totally fine next to the varnish on the stern rail and we have never regretted the decision.  Our steps still look absolutely brand new going on about a year and a half now.

9.  “I’d Do Ten”  

And you have to say that in a “Brandon voice” — all gruff and scratchy.  We love that guy.

Ironically, speaking of Roscoff, that was an open-mouth selfie (Yannick’s favorite) that we took to send to Yannick in Nice, France.  

And, we’ve been saying that for years.  Anytime the number ten comes up in conversation, Phillip and I cock our head back and blurt it out: “I’d do ten.”  Why?  Because that’s what Brandon told us waaaaay back (he’s been with us from the start) in 2013 when we were just starting our very first varnish project.  Phillip and I were ordering up our Schooner’s, researching application methods, etc., having no idea entirely how big the project was going to be or how many coats we would put on.  I’m sure we were both thinking something like three to five.  Then we asked Brandon and, after a thoughtful pause, he said “I’d do ten.”

I’m sure that’s what Phillip and I both looked like.  Ten?!  Are you for freaking real??  But, he most definitely was.  And, so that’s how many we did the first time.  And this time, we really kind of did 12 because we did two primer coats and then an additional 10 coats of gloss.  But, what we learned in varnishing is that the prep work is really the hardest part.  Once the wood is ready, slapping the coats on is nothing.  Sometimes it only takes a quick, rewarding 15 minutes at the boat.  And, if you’re going to take the time to prep the wood, why not spend just another couple of days putting ten coats on as opposed to just six or seven.  You’ll be glad you did two years later when your varnish is still Bristol and banging!  At least that’s our mantra.  Plaintiff’s Rest’s wood is most definitely in shipshape and Bristol fashion now and we’re expecting her to stay that way for a couple of years at least.  Hope these varnish tips have helped.  Happy Painting Peeps!