Bahamas Boat Project Recap!

“Go, go!  To the Bahamas you must!” said our good friend Pam.  As she went on and on about their fresh Bahamian bread and jam.  So “go, go!” we decided: “To the Bahamas or bust!”  But first Phillip and I had to break out the boat projects list and blow off the dust.

Hello followers!  I hope you like green eggs and ham.  I like it on a boat with a side of Spam.  I also like, nay love, Dr. Seuss, which is why I’ve written a few ditties here in true Seuss-style, and I thought a recap of the many, many projects Phillip and I have been knocking out this summer to prepare our boat for some more extensive cruising in the Bahamas and beyond this winter would be more fun with a Seuss spruce.

So, do you want to know how many projects we were able to squeeze in?  Kick back, grab a snack and let the project roll begin!

A leaking starboard water tank simply won’t do.  When we found the crack, Phillip said, “Out with you!”  But wrestling that tank out was a monstrous feat.  One I’m sure we won’t want to soon repeat.  As Phillip scratched his head and went about ordering anew, we thought the re-install would definitely go smoother if we spared an inch or two.


Once the water tank was out, the diesel tank was as accessible as could be, so we thought why not pop it out, too, and have a look-see.  We knew we’d had a wee leak that Phillip had previously clogged with JB Weld and we wanted to see if it had held.  An air compression test by a local welder told us it was no good, so have the tank professionally patch-welded we decided we should.


If you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll want a glass of milk.  And it seemed our diesel tank was of the same ilk.  Because not only did she demand a professional weld repair, once out and exposed she also wanted some Rhino-liner as protective wear.

Our cookie theme continued as we kept saying “While we’re in there,” and promptly decided, with both tanks under the starboard settee out, to glass it up and Bilge-kote down there.


With Westie nearby saying he wanted some love too, we decided to go ahead and dump the  old engine oil and pour in new quarts, just a few.


Some of you may recall the movement we noticed on the way to Cuba in our rudder post cap.  We reinforced the bolts with big thick custom washers to stop the wobble and called it a wrap.


Work, work, work.  Now you get the gist.  Clicking off projects left and right.  What’s next on our list?  Old flaky varnish?  That simply won’t do.  Not for our gal, she deserves every percent of our work, one-hundred-and-two.  Time to strip, clean, sand, and coat anew!


The brightwork was about a three-week job, a sweaty one for sure, but rewarding too!

So, tell us are you liking this spin on green eggs and ham?  Do you like it as much as a new Garhauer Cunningham?

While we were on the rigging, Phillip and I knew there was something else that needed our touch.  No one likes a clutch that won’t clutch.  We had a few on the coachhouse that were losing their grip, so we swapped them out for new Spinlocks with no slip!


Are you tired yet?  Perk up!  We’ve much more to do!  Time to knock out and re-bed some port lights that were letting rain water through.

Phillip asked of Annie: “Speaking of water, how’s that original 1985 pump in the head sound?”  “Like a wailing rat that’s about to drown!”  We’d had trouble with this guy not holding pressure and sucking our power, so we decided to replace him and save our amp hours.

And if we ever, God forbid, took on water out there, we’d want to pump it out quick.  Better get a few bilge pumps to spare.  “Stick your head down there Swab,” Phillip teased.  “Try to read the model number upside down, without bumping your head!”

A solar panel, sitting useless, scratched and giving no power?  Unacceptable!  When you can rip the old one off and pop on a new, in under an hour.

A dirty toe rail all scraped and scuffed?  Nuh-uh, no way, not when we’ve got Acetone and time to polish that stuff!

It seems almost every inch of the boat needs some unique form of care.  Some Iso-shield here and Armor-all there.  On-and-off went the mustache as we cleaned and polished everywhere.

And nothing shines like stainless steel.  Bust out the Colinite and polish that shit for real!

Man, look at those ratty old shifters, all wax-dipped and peeling.  I conspired with Brandon to surprise Phillip with shiny new ones, it just took a few free beers and secret dealings.  But I think we’re both going to enjoy driving the boat more with these on there, I’ve just got a feeling!


Speaking of driving, that’s been our great goal of the summer!  Get this gal behind the wheel more, so she won’t think docking is such a bummer.  And, it’s a good thing those shifters make it clear how fast you go, because I’ve been getting better and better following Brandon’s rule: “Go slow, hit slow.”


Enough with the plumbing and steering and everything else that so often fails, let’s talk about the one thing that you can always rely on, the sails!  Phillip and I knew we wanted a much broader sail plan this year to allow us to sail comfortably no matter the wind or weather, so we finally busted out our spinnaker to see if we could sail in winds light as a feather.

And when the winds, as they often do in the Gulf, want to stay above fifteen, we had a 90% working jib made so we can sail more comfortably out there and reduce our lean.


And, while we never want to find ourselves in blue water when it really starts to wail, if we do, we’ve got the 35% storm jib we had made this year in case we find ourselves in a gale.

And what’s that you say, Phillip?  Our whisker pole is in a funk?  With a dent that prevented it from sliding we were considering throwing it out as junk.  But, in a pinch, I decided to ask an auto body shop if it was something they could fix and Coastal Body Works here in Pensacola did it for this little gal just for kicks!

Chore after chore, have you yet grown weary?  That’s right when Mother Nature will throw you something frightful and eerie.  Twice we braced for hurricanes this season, Nate forcing us out of the water and up on the hard without reason. While we were incredibly grateful to come through unharmed, it was a great lesson in storm boat prep so next time we’ll be more practiced and less alarmed.

Once we were out of the water, the cookies continued to fall.  Because you know the first thing you’re going to want to do, if you have to haul.

A bottom job, that’s right!  If her hull is out of the water it’s what you must and should do! And, our pretty gal is so lucky she got a full-boat buff too!

But with our boat safe from the storms and ready to be floating again, that didn’t mean our boat chores would end.  Once she was splashed back, the reassembly began.  To retrieve the halyards, First Mate Annie (I wasn’t a Captain yet ; ) had to climb the mast again!

But it was a fortuitous hoist as it gave me a chance to inspect and give our new 5/16 wire rigging a polish.  It’s terrible to think of what simple sun and salt can quickly demolish.

Too many projects?  Is your head spinning yet?  We just got word, the new water tank came in!  We must go get!

Boy, was she pretty and sturdy and our eyes she sure lit.  We were quickly disheartened to find, however, she simply did not fit.

We wrestled and struggled and scraped knuckles and cursed.  And soon we were starting to fear the worst.  Perhaps we would have to order another new tank, this one even more slim.  Thankfully, before we made that decision, our buddy Brandon found another way to slip her in.

With a snip by the Dremel and some more cursing and prayer, we got the new water tank in (finally) with just inches to spare.  As with every minor refit, there is always one particular project that stresses you to the max, and this water tank, being the most costly and irritating, was definitely that.  But, despite our tired state and our water woes that we thought were through, our boat whispered: “I’ve got something else for you.”  Just when we were crawling out of a boat project slump, we discovered we had a leak from our raw water pump.

So Phillip and I rolled up our sleeves and decided to replace that too.  We might as well do everything here at the dock that we can possibly do.  While a summer spent on projects is definitely not what we’d call great fun, it’s better to knock them out now than trying to handle them during an offshore run.  So, little Sherwood, we’ll fix you too.  In fact, we’ll put in what we learned is a better pump, a Johnson that leaks less and is new.

While the water tank still holds the gold as the most frustrating project of the summer, the injuries Phillip and I received during this water pump replacement were quite the bummer.  A nasty burn from the heat gun to my right calf that thankfully resembled a heart, and a huge ripped blister on Phillip’s hand sure did smart.

Okay, I believe that covers the biggies.  Here’s our completed list!  Although I can already see there are some that we missed.

But, in comparison the remainder are minor and probably qualify more as routine care.  If you ever think you’ll get “finished” with a boat, trust me, you’ll never get there.  There will always be more polishing and whipping and cleaning and fixing to be done.  If you don’t think you’ll like that, then I’d say, a boat, you maybe shouldn’t get one.

For Phillip and I, while we enjoy much of the work that we do: lawyering, writing, marketing and all the rest.  It’s really the work we do on the boat that we like the best.

Hope you enjoyed the hammy recap – ha!  We’re Bahamas bound now!  Shove-off date is a little flexible (as it should be, right?)  But, it will be sometime in the next 3-4 weeks.  In the meantime, we’re poring over our Explorer charts and Steve Dodge Abacos guide (thanks again for the recommendation Pam Wall!) and planning our possible stops and routes.  We can’t wait to share this next adventure with you all!

December 22, 2013 – Five Coats Before Christmas!

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?

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:

IMG_2014   Wood

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!