January 4, 2014 – Wood Reveal and Hand Reel

So, we returned from NOLA to find our first five coats had set in nicely.  As my Alabama kin would say — that wood was looking “right.”


With only “five coats to go!” we set to it.  Usually putting a coat on the items in the guest bedroom (the grate, table, drink-holder and stairs) in the morning, and a coat on the boat (eyebrows, handrails, stern rail and companionway) in the afternoon.  We had so many different items – each on a different ‘coat,’ I had to come up with a highly-technical check-off system to keep up with them.


Patent pending.

You may have noticed the dinghy on there, too.  Since we had already turned the condo into a full-scale painting studio, we decided to go ahead and put a few coats on the dinghy transom and floorboards while we were at it.  Not quite fifty, but a few shades of gray.

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We were making good progress and were all set to put on the last coat on on New Years Day with grand plans of taking the ole’ Rest out that weekend to drop the hook.  She’d been grounded too long!  We had some friends over New Year’s Eve for a fun Pinot tasting (Letitia, 2009 and 10) and an exquisite middle-eastern meal of rosemary lamb chops, tabouleh, homemade bread and grape leaves with tzatziki sauce.

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After such grand consumption, you’d think we would have trouble peeling ourselves out of bed the next morning to go work on the boat, but nothing could be further from the truth.  This was it!  Last coat day!  The last time we would have to put on those stupid vinyl gloves, mix up a batch of varnish and get out in the cold to crawl on hands and knees and painstakingly stroking every nook and cranny of those damn handrails!  We practically skipped to the boat!  While the weather that day certainly wasn’t bright and sunny, it at least looked like it would stay dry long enough for us to get the last coat on.  Just some tiny little flecks of green that were sure to pass us over.


Plus, we had the day off for the holiday and this was the last coat!  I hate to say we got a little eager.  We whipped up what we thought would be our last batch of varnish and set to it.  And, wouldn’t you know, one of those menacing little green flecks (it had to be just one!) must have circled around like a hawk and decided to shit right on us.  Not Pensacola, mind you, not even the whole downtown area, I swear it was just our marina, just our boat.  At least that’s what it felt like anyway.  And, it was just like ten minutes of rain – the whole day.  But, it came right when we were finishing the “last” coat. We tried to blow the drops off, hover over the handrails to protect them with no luck, so we finally just started brushing the drops into the coat hoping it wouldn’t make too much of a difference.  But, the clouds parted, the rain dried up and we could see the coat – our last coat! – drying a milky, swirly white.  Bollucks!  Phillip started to research it a bit, and some bloggers and boaters said we would probably have to sand down 3-4 coats and start over.  3-4 coats?!?  Not to mention the fact that we were a little bit tired of this varnish project, that would put us well past the weekend and ruin our plans for a nice weekend outing.  Needless to say, we were not pleased that day.  Not pleased at all.

But, I’m happy to say, I went back to the boat the next day – determined!  Apparently, the water in the last coat had dissipated because the milkiness was gone.  There were some drops that had to be sanded, but it just took a light rubbing (certainly not enough to even shave the alleged “last” coat off) and she was ready to go.  I slapped one more coat on (I’d count it as the eleventh) and she dried, slick and shiny, wet as glass.  It was time for the big reveal!

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We started to pull the tape back and I wish I could tell you it was a grand revealing, like snapping a crisp white sheet back with cameras flashing and resounding applause.  But, it was not.  It was cold, getting late in the day, we were shivering and wiping snotsicles, and the tape started tearing and flaking apart, leaving little slivers everywhere and adhesive residue (like when you’re trying to scrape a price tag off a picture frame).  It was such a mess.  And, the worst part was – the tape (I guess because it had been on there so long (about two weeks now)) started pulling off flecks of paint on the portlight frames.

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And, some varnish had seeped through the tape at the base of each handrail, so there were little schooner gold puddles around each handrail post.  Stupid tape!  Like I said – not a grand reveal.  But, it was done.  The wood was fully-coated and the tape was (mostly) off.


The best part was, we were still on for a weekend sail.  So, the hand reel.  (And, I’ll have you know, I tried every way under the sun to name this post “Wad & Wheel,” thinking how clever!?  What a great fishing analogy.  But, what’s the wad?  The wad of crappy blue tape we collected after the disappointing reveal?  I certainly considered it … )  Since we were starting to formulate our plans for the big trip to the Keys this spring, one thing we had been wanting to do was put together a hand reel to throw over the back of the boat during passages to try and catch our own dinners.  The more self-sustaining a cruiser is, the longer he stays out there, am I right?  Teach a man to fish …

We had purchased this book back when we bought the boat, finding the little promo on the cover to be true – it seemed among cruisers this was “The definitive book!” on fishing.

Fishing book


Now it was time to put it in action.  We looted the local bait & tackle shops and sporting good stores and put us together a fine tackle collection.

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We put together a hand wheel, a yo-yo they call it, to fish off the boat at anchor, and a trolling hand reel to throw off the back of the boat during passage.


The book advised of using some kind of stretchy tubing as an indicator for when you have a fish on.  Phillip got smart and bought some cheap exercise stretch bands from Wal-Mart that worked perfectly.  Our broker/boat buddy, Kevin, had also told us one of the best ways to kill a fighting, flopping fish (to save the mess and potential damage of a bloody, beat-down in the cockpit) was with a spray bottle of alcohol.  Apparently you spritz the fish’s gills with alcohol and rumor has it they go limp.  While we have plenty of alcohol on the boat, I wasn’t about to see us waste the ‘good stuff’ on a stinking fish.  So, I rigged us up a petite little spritzer of rubbing alcohol to do the trick – a fine concoction we like to call “Fish Kill.”

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So, we had tackled the ‘tackle,’ but I’ll say the bait was baffling.  Do you have any idea how many friggin’ aisles of bait, lures, hooks, doo-dads, ‘Gulps’ and whirley-gigs they’ve got at the sporting goods store??  I just can’t believe that if some of those work better than others, why are there thousands to choose from.  I think it’s all a fugasi, fagazy, whatever.  A total fake.  No one knows what lure is going to work best.  Like Skinny Matthew so eloquently put it in Wolf on Wallstreet — it’s fairy dust!


Mark Hanna:    Nobody knows if a stock is going to go up, down, sideways or in circles. You know what a fugasi is?
Jordan Belfort:   Fugazy, it’s a fake.
Mark Hanna:    Fugazy, fugasi, it’s a wazi it’s a woozy, it’s [makes a flittering sound] fairy dust.


But, we bought a few sparkly ones, some for mahi mahi, some for tuna, even a self-proclaimed “Red Fish Rouser!”, threw them in the tackle box and headed out for the weekend.


And, it was then, out in the sun, with the water glistening on it, that we really got to admire the wood.

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It did look pretty effin’ awesome.  Definitely worth all the work.  I spent the day (again) crawling around on hands and knees on the deck scraping the last bits of tape, adhesive and varnish from around the handrail posts.

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Quite a chore, but nice to do under sun and sail, and – again – definitely worth the work.  The wood looked great!

We dropped anchor and immediately dropped the hand reel line to see if we could get any bites.

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Nothing that night, but fishing was definitely fun at sunset, cocktails in hand.  We decided the next day was going to be our day.  We were going to get under sail early, stick our nose out in the Gulf and drop our trolling line.  We were going to ‘rouse’ them red fish yet.  Phillip would not shut up about it!  “I’munna catch me a red fish damnit!”

We got up early, got everything rigged and headed out toward the Gulf.  We threw the trolling line off the back and stared at it.

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Both of us.  In silence.  Each of us grabbing it every few minutes and holding it in our hand to feel a ‘nibble.’  But, nothing.  Nada, zip, zilch.  We even sailed back and forth, several times, through churned-up, “fish frenzy” waters, dolphins circling and jumping everywhere, birds flying about and diving into the choppy waters.  I mean, we were traveling right through huge pockets of fish.  We were practically hitting them with our hull!  Parting the red fish seas!  But, nothing.  We kept the line out and checked it a few times but we both finally kind of gave up on it, and just enjoyed the sail home.

We were both curled up reading, Phillip at the helm, me up on the foredeck, having forgotten almost entirely about the trolling line, just sailing across the bay, about 20 minutes from the marina, when Phillip looked back and saw the tubing stretched taut.  He leapt up to the stern rail, grabbed the line in his hands and shouted up to me.  

“We got something!”

December 20, 2013 – Thirsting For It

Well hello there.  You’ll be thrilled to know I’m back.  LASIK certainly was an adventure.  One that I thought you might enjoy from m(eye) point of view.  The funny thing is it took all of twenty minutes and it was done.  Finished.  Finito.  My vision repaired instantly.  The science fiction of it all kind of baffled me.  Like I could stand in front of some laser wizardry machine and have all my ails cured, my imperfections fixed instantly, in a snap.  I mean, I really did let them clamp my eye open and shoot a laser into it …    But, thankfully, I did not become that one person that goes completely blind from it.  I’m proud to say the surgery worked brilliantly.  And, Phillip was nice enough to document it for your viewing pleasure.  Why?  Because I look great in a hairnet.  That’s why.





See?  Great, right?  That’s the only word that can describe it.

The only real downer about the surgery was that I was grounded for a month.  No water-sports, which meant – no kiting.  Bollucks!  But, the day before my surgery we were grateful to find the wind blowing so we got out and hit it hard.



I even caught Phillip in a nice jump series:

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Nailed it!

Since I was benched and the weather was chilly, we decided to buck up and tackle a major project on the boat.  One of the most fundamental, visually appealing items.  The thing that gives the boat its breathtaking, classic look.  I’m talking about the finest material of all, the tree of life, the great provider.  THE WOOD.

We had been meaning to do it for quite some time and we had finally run out of excuses.  While we will never tire of sailing, having just returned from our big Thanksgiving voyage, we at least had enough of a ‘fill’ to tide us over for a while.  And, with no other trips on the agenda until NOLA for Christmas, we knew we would be in town for a few weeks, so we had a perfect window of opportunity.  Window of opportunity …  Ran out of excuses …   To-MAY-to.  To-MAH-to.

So, back to the wood.  Thankfully, on our boat, we feel we have just enough wood to really accent the classic lines of the Niagara, but not too much to require excessive maintenance.  The exterior wood items on our boat consist of the following:

1.  Hand rails and eyebrows on the deck that run the length of the cabin:

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2.  A grate that sits beneath the helmsman’s feet in the cockpit, as well as the cockpit table and drink holder:

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3.  Teak steps on the swim ladder (six) and a strip beneath the stern rail.


4.  And, the companionway passage:


Ahhh … the Dasani bottle transmission fluid catch.  You remember those days.

After doing some research and talking with a few of our fellow boat buddies, we decided to go with varnish.  Keep it au naturale.  While there are some synthetic products out there (Ce tol and the like) that are easier to apply and – reportedly – require less maintenance (i.e., re-application), we wanted to keep the natural beauty and hue of the teak.  So, varnish it was.  Upon recommendation from friends (and because it was the varnish our previous owner had used on the boat), we went with the Interlux products, specifically Schooner gold.

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And, upon recommendation, we also decided to really bite the bullet and apply ten coats.  Yes, ten.  Assuming good weather and the time (daily) to do it, that translates to roughly one coat a day, so we knew “the wood” was going to be a two-week project, at least.  Hence, the delay, and the many excuses.

Some of the items, however (the steps, table, drink holder and grate) we could remove from the boat and bring them back to the condo to prep and varnish, which was nice because we could keep coating them regardless of the weather.  But – it also meant our guest bedroom looked like an eighth grade shop class for a few weeks.

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Although I think anyone who has owned a boat understands the necessity of a ‘project room.’  I do think we did a pretty nifty job, though, of rigging the steps on a string so we could do a complete coat every time.  It was the season, so, instead of stockings, we had steps hanging ‘by the fire with care.’  Thankfully, the guest bedroom/wood shop made the ‘indoor’ items fairly easy to prep and paint on a daily basis.

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It was also highly gratifying to put those first few coats on and immerse the soft, dry, sanded wood in a slick, wet coat of varnish.

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Ahhhh … shiny, wet wood.  Is there anything better?

The wood on the boat, the exterior wood, however, was not nearly as easy.  You see, all of the wood had to be prepped first before we could even think of applying any varnish.  That meant sanded down completely, every last speck of varnish off, grinded down to soft, bare wood.  Every inch of it.  The steps and grate and such were fairly easy because we could at least detach them from the boat and sand them by hand.  The handrails, eyebrows and companionway on the boat, though, were an entirely different story. Our friend, Bottom-Job Brandon, recommended we use a heat gun to remove the old varnish.  Blast the old varnish with a little heat (20 seconds or so) and then it scrapes off pretty easily. Video demonstration here.  While the heat gun certainly made it easier, the handrails were a real chore.  All those friggin’ nooks and crannies!  Me and my bloody knuckles and sore fingers cursed them every step of the way.

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And, the more crap you scrape off, the more crap you have to clean up!  We broke out the ole’ shizz vac and finally came up with a pretty good routine.  Phillip with the heat gun, I with the scraper, and stopping every ten or so minutes to suck up the mess.

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We made a day of it, though, and finally got her all sanded and cleaned up.  And, then we started coating her!

Psych!  You thought it was that easy.  Tssk, tssk.  It’s never that easy.  We spent the next day taping her up for the varnish job.  Little blue strips around every stinking hump and pedastal of those handrails, all along the eyebrows, and the stern rail.

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But, she was finally ready.  Sanded, prepped and primed, dry as a bone, and thirsting for that first wet coat of varnish.  All that work, and now we would get the gratifying rush of that first stroke.  The wet, slick finish.  The wood glistening and glimmering the sun.  Can you just imagine it?  Smell the varnish?  Feel the glossy teak under your fingertips?  Smooth as glass?

Good.  That’s right where we want you.  Just like the wood.  Thirsting for it.

More to come!