That was our mantra. We kept saying it over and over, as we woke up early every day and headed out to the boat at 6:00 a.m. to coat the wood, or came back late and shut her down at sunset in those chilly winter days. “Five coats before Christmas.” We started coating the wood the week before Christmas, and we were planning to leave on the 22nd for New Orleans to spend the holiday in that glorious culinary heaven. “Five coats before Christmas.” We wanted to at least get five on before leaving so the wood would have a good varnish base to withstand any rain that may fall in our absence. I can tell you it was quite a chore. When people say their “blood, sweat and tears went into it,” I can safely say our snot went into ours. I mean, when it’s lows in the mid-teens with highs in the upper 30’s and your hands are clad in latex gloves and coated with sticky varnish, wiping the dribble isn’t really an option. Nope, it goes right in. Just smooth it out with another stroke. “Five coats before Christmas.”
And, I’m proud to say we did it. All it took was a little gumption, lots of long johns and tissues, and some ridiculously cheesy holiday songs to move us along:
On the first coat of varnish, my Captain said to me: “Make sure you get down and paint underneeeath.”
On the second coat of varnish, my Captain said to me: “Nice, lo-ong strokes,
and make sure you get down and paint underneeeath!”
On the third coat of varnish, my Captain said to me: “Easy around the rails,
nice, lo-ong strokes, and make sure you get down and paint underneeeath!”
On the fourth coat of varnish, my Captain said to me: “Don’t forget the hatch,
easy around the rails, nice, lo-ong strokes, and make sure you get down and paint underneeeath!”
On the fifth coat of varnish, my Captain said to me: “FIVE COATS TO GO!”
“So, don’t forget the hatch, easy around the rails, nice, lo-ong strokes, and make sure you get down and paint underneeeath!”
See? How easy it can be? When you throw your ego out the window and sing embarrassing songs along the way? “Five coats before Christmas!” You’re darn right. Go team. Now – who’s ready for some N’awlins?
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:
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:
2. A grate that sits beneath the helmsman’s feet in the cockpit, as well as the cockpit table and drink holder:
3. Teak steps on the swim ladder (six) and a strip beneath the stern rail.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.