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!

December 12, 2013 – The Eye of the Beholder

I know a lot about Annie.  You could say I’ve seen it all.  She was a real rough-and-tumble kid.

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Always running into things and knocking me around.  A little sloppy with the food,


and a little pushy when things didn’t go her way.  Especially when it came to her brother.  They were always shoving each other around.

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And, lord was she dangerous–always jumping over things,

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and off of things.

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And, that didn’t seem to change much as we grew up.  Still with the jumping.

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And, as much as it scared me, I was always there for her.  To help her spot her landings,

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and land her jumps.

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See?  Still with the jumping.  

I was always there.  We were lifelong friends, childhood buddies.  We’d grown up together, learned together, and I was always there to help Annie see things in the best light.  I was good to her.  But, things started to fall out between us in her mid-twenties.  The once strong connection we had started to get a little fuzzy and Annie was struggling to find her way.  We went to see a licensed professional, for a while, to try and salvage things, and she wrote me a prescription.  I wasn’t happy about it, but I  know I needed it, and I dutifully took it, when Annie forced it on me daily.  But, I felt like it was just a patch, a cover, not a real solution to our problem.  When I wasn’t under it’s spell, things between us were still strained and unclear.  It was just a band-aid.  Annie agreed.  We knew we had to do something more.  We sought professional help again and drastic surgery was recommended.  One we were going to have to do together.  And, while I can speak freely of it now, as time has passed and healed the wounds, I must tell you, at the time, it was the most invasive, frightening thing I have ever experienced in all of my thirty-two years.  I have never felt so violated and exposed.  I have included graphic images to help accurately convey the explicit nature of the procedure, but please, I implore you, be mindful of the children and view at your own discretion.

On December 12, 2013, Annie and I woke early, packed a few things and headed straight to the surgery center.  They called us back, ran some tests on us, checked the lab work and gave us some sedatives.  Annie was told to lay down on an operating table, while he doctor loomed over me and began to tell us what all the procedure would entail.  Although she did explain to us there would be a brief point where I would lose vision, nothing could have prepared me for the blackness that ensued.  She shoved a large machine over the operation site that projected an enormous image of me on a screen above us.


I felt magnified, exploded, exposed to my very core.  The doctor then applied some drops to numb me, and I lost all sensation.  I was still functional but I could not feel anything.  She touched me with several different instruments to be sure.  I had never been poked in such a manner!  The doctor then pulled my lid open by my lashes and taped them back above my brow.  She then wedged a steel device in that forced me open. Open!!


I was terrified and vulnerable, and Annie was just laying there, letting it all transpire!  The nerve!  The machine then started purring and whizzing to life above me, and the doctor told me I would feel a slight bit of pressure, to which Annie responded, “Okay.”  Okay?!?  This is nowhere near okay!  I have a lid for a reason!  I’m not to be touched!  I couldn’t possibly understand what Annie was thinking.  Why was she letting them do this to me??  The ‘pressure’ came and I was compressed, squeezed, smashed to my very limit, thinking I would explode.  Then everything went dark.

Black as night.  

My vision, my power, my very purpose, I thought, was never to return.  I’m thankful, now, that I could not feel and I could not see, because I have since learned the most graphic of atrocities occurred in that darkness.  The doctor sliced me open,


and pulled back a flap on my retina, only to proceed to burn layers off underneath with a laser.  

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I could smell my very flesh burning in the dark, and all I could think about was the fury that was welling inside of me for Annie.  Why was she permitting this?  What had I done??  Sure, I had been straining and struggling for a while, but I had stuck in there.  I was always there for her.  Why was she letting me be massacred this way??  

But then, the pressure started to ease up, and I started to see something — a pulsing red beam of light before me.  The doctor told me to focus on it and, although I was frightened and confused, I tried, as hard as I’ve ever tried anything, thinking this doctor was my only lifeline at the time, my only hope of restoration.  Annie had clearly fed me to wolves.  This was not the surgery I had envisioned.  Perhaps I was being excavated and transplanted into someone else’s socket.  I didn’t know.  I couldn’t tell.  I was numb, held captive in a steel trap, able only to focus on a blinking red light and the doctor’s voice.  But then the machine was removed, the doctor appeared before me, clear as day and she brushed me gently, cool, soothing strokes, and she gingerly pulled the steel device from my lid and released my lashes.  I opened and closed a few times and welled up as a strange sensation began to overwhelm me.   I could see!  Clearly.  Crisply.  As sharp as the day Annie first blinked me open and wailed to life.  I could see every pore on the back of Annie’s hand, every strand of hair that fell over her shoulder, every inch of the room, in explicit detail.  I could see!   Even without the patch!  I had been hiding behind those clear contraptions every day for ten years and now, totally free of them, exposed and bare, I could see!

Annie rose and touched around me lightly and began thanking the doctor.  As did I!  Thank you!  Thank you!  And, I’m sorry for all the hurtful things I said about you when I thought you were killing me!  Thank you!  The doctor seemed to hear me as she wrapped one arm around Annie’s shoulder, looked right into me and said “Now smile for the camera!”


Ahhhh … LASIK …   What a marvel!

And, I’m proud to say, I’m all healed up now — 20/15 — (both me and Leftie next door), and Annie and I have never been better.  No more patches, no more straining, no more fuzzy sunrises.  It’s all crisp and clear now!  Let’s hit the high seas!