Good things happen to those who look in free-cycle bins.

Several days ago I was looking in the free-cycle bins at a local marina. I lifted the lid and noticed armfuls of material. Huh! I wonder what that is. After digging around a bit, I determined that it was a full cover for a sailboat – I had no idea what size. I hauled it out and decided to sort it out later.

Yesterday was later, so I spread it out and measured. 34′-36′ x 14′ depending on how I count the sprit cover. My boat is 27 x10. . . Wow – that might work. It was designed for a cutter, as there are cut-outs for a forestay and inner stay, replete with dimensions for the rollerfurling drums. It has a couple of small tears – really, not difficult to repair at all – and one zipper that’s broken. The cover will have to be adjusted to fit perfectly, but that’s okay.

2016-10-17-17-47-13 2016-10-17-17-46-27There are reliefs for stanchions – all in the wrong place, as far as I can tell – but the edges are bound and tabbed with turn-buttons; the tabs are reinforced; all the openings are set with turn-buttons or zippers, and potential chafe areas are bound with leather edging. This was thoughtfully put together, and it doesn’t seem like any expense was spared. It has been used, obviously, but the fabric is by no means worn out. I don’t know how water-proof it is anymore – treatment with a waterproofing compound would be a good idea regardless.

The boom will have to come off and a lower ridge pole set up, otherwise the width won’t extend to or past the gunwales. The forward section is fitted first up to, and around the mast, then the aft section is buttoned into it, and it also wraps around the mast. There is a full-width zipper about 25% forward from the stern, which will allow access while covered.

2016-10-17-17-46-52This forward section has three reinforced lifting points, currently joined with a continuous line, and terminating at an adjustable ring – it looks to be “self adjusting,” meaning that you can slide the ring along the continuous line for optimal positioning after a halyard is attached and the section is lifted from the deck.

2016-10-17-17-46-46The after section has a large pocket to accommodate its rise up and around the mast, while the area over the cockpit has two straps underneath to go around the ridge pole, assuring that it won’t flap too much in windy conditions.

And here’s what it looks like draped over the boat:

2016-10-17-17-32-46 2016-10-17-17-34-03 2016-10-17-17-33-43 2016-10-17-17-34-21Pretty sure it’s got to feed under the safety lines to reach over the gunwales, and that improves the slope for shedding water and snow as well. I don’t think it will be a “set up and forget it” type of thing.  I’ll still want to come and check for water pockets, and clear off significant snow falls – good thing I live a mile from the boatyard! Still, I think it will be a huge improvement over what I’ve done in winters past, which includes ill-fitting, wind-shifting tarps, and . . . nothing.

This is the time of year when sailing is good almost every day. Breeze is strong, temps are moderate, even the rain is tolerable. So I’ve posted a few photos from recent sails. Not great stuff, but just to give you the feel of sailing on the Chesapeake in October.

Weather looks a little doubtful with respect to rain, but the wind was good. It was a fantastic day to sail.

Weather looks a little doubtful, but the wind was good. It was a fantastic day to sail.

. . . and I wasn't the only one who thought it was a good day to be on the water.

. . . and I wasn’t the only one who thought it was a good day to be on the water.

Photo from yesterday. Started out with fog in the morning. By the time I got on the water the fog was burning off. You can see the remnant mist off the point of Rosehaven (at right).

Photo from yesterday. Started out with fog in the morning. By the time I got on the water the fog was burning off. You can see the remnant mist off the point of Rosehaven (at right).

The cliffs, where I anchor in shallow water and scrub the growth off the bottom. I can anchor in about 4 feet and stand beside the boat brushing the growth off.

The cliffs, where I anchor in shallow water and scrub the growth off the bottom. I can anchor in about 4 feet and stand beside the boat brushing the growth off.

The work boats are always out here. Weather smeather ! - they've got to make a living. This is a hard job.

The work boats are always out here. The water is never too rough, the weather never too bad to make a living. This is a hard job.

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And I'm not the only pleasure boater who thought that a Tuesday morning was a good time to sail.

And I’m not the only pleasure boater who thought that a Tuesday morning was a good time to sail.

I think this boat has a throttle setting titled "plow," or "maximum fuel usage." He was at the perfect speed to send out maximum wake. I'd hate to have his fuel bill.

I think this boat has a throttle setting titled “plow,” or “maximum fuel usage.” He was at the perfect speed to send out maximum wake. I’d hate to have his fuel bill.

Canada geese making their way. One of the iconic harbingers of autumn on the Chesapeake.

Canada geese making their way. One of the iconic harbingers of autumn on the Chesapeake.

Hands-free steering.

Hands-free steering.

Salty skipper and the obligatory selfie.

Salty skipper and the obligatory selfie.

Learning more about sailing alone - heaving to affords a controlled way to drop and bag the sails. Heaving to is the answer to many moments when you just need a to create a space of calm, reduced motion without having to mind the helm.

Learning more about sailing alone – heaving to affords a controlled way to drop and bag the sails. Heaving to is the answer to many moments when you just need a to create a space of calm, reduced motion without having to mind the helm.

After a week of rain I had to get off the pier. There was no wind, but I didn’t care. I got on board, stowed the swash boards – and noted water stains inside where there had been none before (a week of rain will do that), opened the right valves, got out keys, cushions, and boat hook. I started the engine, cast off the lines – all but one, and promptly threw the boat hook into the water. Well, I had placed it on deck, then somehow knocked it off the deck with my foot. My neighbor rescued me and loaned me his boat hook. Took me several minutes of fishing to figure out that the hooky thing on the end was the perfect place to hook my own boat hook. I amaze myself.

Okay, lines cast off, life line gates latched, and off we go.

Motoring down the creek. Marinas to the right. . .

Motoring down the creek. Marinas to the right. . .

. . . marinas to the left. . .

. . . marinas to the left. . .

Out to the open bay. The water is glass. There are many boats wrapping up their weekend. I can still hear their crews sighing with relief because the rain has stopped. There were even a few optimistic sailboats out with their sails up, but they were going no place fast. There was no wind – no wind all day.

Many terns and gulls taking advantage of the glassy water in which bait fish churned on the surface, the birds diving from the air, or sitting at the edge of bait balls of fry, gorging themselves. Motor boaters seemed to take great delight driving right through groups of birds on the water – 30 to 40 strong – making them fly, like I did as a kid in the park dashing through crowds of pigeons. Have to admit, I aimed at a couple of groups of birds too, but sailboats are too slow to set off a really satisfying alarm amongst them..

2016-10-02-18-08-07There were enough clouds to provide dramatic effect for my crumby phone/camera photos (providing I used some fairly heavy editing to come up with something worth looking at). I have been forgetting to take my dslr with me lately, so I have to make do with the phone.

2016-10-02-18-18-36After motoring for 35 minutes, I turned around and headed back to the pier. Nice to be on the water, even if the sails stayed under cover. This coming week promises to be better for sailing.

Inside the breakwater, setting sun shining on white things.

Inside the breakwater, setting sun shining on white things.

Back to the slip, backing into the slip – landed first time like a pro (what luck!) and my neighbor was still there to witness it – thereby partially redeeming myself for throwing my boat hook into the water.

Under the category of regular maintenance, I’ve finished (refinished?) several varnish and paint projects noted in recent previous posts.  I’ve built up 6 coats of varnish on my fresh re-do of the fore hatch, and reinstalled it. But this time, I also painted the under-side of the hatch, so that it’s nice to look at while we’re lying in bed. It’s also easier to clean now, with a fresh smoothly painted surface.

More coats to come, as the seasons progress and I refresh the varnish 2x per year, but 6 coats is a good place to start.

More coats to come, as the seasons progress and I refresh the varnish 2x per year, but 6 coats is a good place to start.

Fresh paint and no mildew! Just couldn't get the stains off the old finish, no matter how much I scrubbed on it.

Fresh paint and no mildew! Just couldn’t get the stains off the old finish, no matter how much I scrubbed on it.

I also completed a paint project that I’ve been threatening to do for years, and I’m so happy with the result. This isn’t one of those projects that gets a lot of public attention.  It’s another hatch under-side that only we see – our companionway hatch slider. That ugly is hidden with the hatch open, which nearly all the time when we are on board. But at night, and in bad weather we close up, and there it is. . .  scraped, scarred, mildew-stained ugliness. But in the immortal words of Inspector Clouseau, “Not anymore.”

This has got to be one of my favorite accomplishments! It has niggled at me for a long time.

This has got to be one of my favorite accomplishments! It has niggled at me for a long time.

And an on-going project – the varnish repair of the top-side of this same hatch. Occasionally, a small bubble of moisture will form underneath the varnish. I’m loath to strip and refinish the whole thing for a 1-square-inch imperfection. So I cut out the spoiled section and slowly build up the layers in that area, gently using a combination of scrapers and razor blades to shave the excess varnish as it builds up in the wrong place.

See where the repair is? About 2/3 to the right, slightly above center?

See the repair? About 2/3 to the right, roughly centered in the vertical axis.

I applied the sealer coat of varnish to the fore hatch, and re-coated several other pieces of bright work at the same time. This round of varnish re-coating will carry me through the fall until I put the boat away for the winter.

The raw wood soaked up thinned varnish (50% thinner) like a sponge. You can also see an area that I filled with thickened epoxy that was chronically problematic due to the uneven surface. Though not pretty, I think it will hold onto the varnish now.

The raw wood soaked up thinned varnish (50% thinner) like a sponge. Upper right: you can also see an area that I filled with thickened epoxy that was chronically problematic due to the uneven surface. Though not pretty, I think it will hold onto the varnish now. I keep threatening to build a new hatch because of this one’s imperfections imperfections. . .

Slider/companionway hatch decking - I've patched 2 places in the varnish, but they're not complete yet.

Slider/companionway hatch decking – I’ve patched 2 places in the varnish, but they’re not complete yet.

Another revarnished piece that's been problematic. The vent was a Home Depot purchase - it wasn't assembled with waterproof joints/glue, so water has spoiled some of the areas. I'm looking for a different solution to the wood slatted vents.

Another re-varnished piece that’s been problematic. The vent was a Home Depot purchase – it wasn’t assembled with waterproof joints/glue, so water has spoiled some of the areas. I’m looking for a different solution to the wood slatted vents.

 

I’ve been working on a several small maintenance projects – stuff all boaters (especially sail boaters) can relate to.

The first project is a continuation of the previous post – re-bedding stanchions. I’ve done two on the port side, and have moved over to the starboard side, again chasing rainwater leaks. I removed the stanchion opposite the galley cabinet, cleaned all the surfaces, repaired the corroded toe rail with epoxy, and remounted the stanchion bedded in butyl. Access to the fasteners was very difficult – literally, finger-tip access to the nuts under the side deck. I managed to get the washers to stay in place with a bit butyl to stick them on, while I threaded the nuts back on. Photos follow:

Lying on the galley counter on my back - with a boat cushion underneath. Inside the cabinet, underneath the liner.

Lying on the galley counter on my back – with a boat cushion underneath to keep the fiddle from permanently denting my back. Inside the cabinet, underneath the liner.

Corroded aluminum toe rail from galvanic interaction of dissimilar metals.

Corroded aluminum toe rail from galvanic interaction of dissimilar metals.

Missing material filled with thickened epoxy and shaped with a grinder.

Missing material filled with thickened epoxy and shaped with a grinder.

Stanchion remounted. Butyl squeezing out around the edges is visible. I trimmed most of it off before this photo as taken.

Stanchion remounted. Butyl squeezing out around the edges is visible. I trimmed most of it off before this photo as taken.

Next project: hand-sewing strapping for bimini frame (not shown) and sail fore deck stowage bag. This only involved sewing a couple of loops. I had broken one of the bimini straps that was UV rotted. I’ve been gradually replacing the material with UV resistant strapping as they fail. For the sail bag, I just needed to replace a UV-rotted loop that had broken. It involved sewing the loop in the right place on the top of the bag – 10 minute job, tops.

Not a very good photo - I just created the loop by sewing both ends to the top of the bag. I used the Speedy Stitcher.

Not a very good photo – I just created the loop by sewing both ends to the top of the bag. I used the Speedy Stitcher.

Finally, I’ve started the fairly lengthy process of refinishing my fore hatch. The varnish has irreparably failed, and the only thing left to do was to remove all the varnish. I had undercoated the varnish with epoxy, but haven’t had a lot of success with this. It seems that, no matter how well I’ve prepped the surface, the substrate of clear epoxy fails, then the varnish in that area is compromised as well. I think I’m going back to varnish only. It’s a lot easier to repair, and I somehow think it won’t fail as completely/quickly. Also, once the epoxy substrate is compromised, it is very difficult to remove. I spent several hours this afternoon removing all the finish from the hatch. Photos below illustrate:

Tools I used (or tried). For my money, the block plane is not the right tool. Someone else might get it to work, but I couldn't. Scrapers were the correct tool - kept sharp with the mill file every 10 minutes or so.

Tools I used (or tried). For my money, the block plane is not the right tool. Someone else might get it to work, but I couldn’t. Scrapers were the correct tool – kept sharp with the mill file every 10 minutes or so.

2016-08-24 13.02.312016-08-24 14.11.59

Done! Whew - long couple of hours of scraping.

Done! Whew – long couple of hours of scraping.

After scraping, I sanded with 120 grit. Tomorrow I’ll sand through to 220, then start building the varnish layers.

I have been suspecting this particular stanchion as the source for leaks for quite a while. At one point 6 or 7 years ago, when we were in a shallower slip in this same marina, we had a super low tide. The boat grounded out and leaned over against the finger pier and, I think, slightly bent this particular stanchion. I’ve never re bedded any of the stanchions, so this was the original compound underneath. Stanchions are not designed to be pulled on, and certainly not designed to withstand having the weight of the boat push them into a pier, so I believe that is when it began to leak a good bit.  It may have leaked some before then.

Regardless, I decided that I wasn’t going to hide from the heat today, and ventured down to the boat with my large fan in hand. I set it up on the galley counter, and it made a huge difference in tolerating the heat today. I also put up all my hot-weather canvas and kept as much sun off the boat and myself as possible.

Artificial breeze was critical today.

Artificial breeze was critical today.

The fasteners were impossible to access with the hull liner in the way. I’ve thought about this project for a long time, and had determined that the only way to gain access to the fasteners under the side deck was to cut a window in the liner. I had to remove the stove from this space, and the fold-up table it sits on/sits behind. I moved all the cushions to the v-berth to keep them out of the dust, then donned my respirator and started cutting. Took about 90 seconds.

A 5-inch grinder with a cut-off wheel makes this so easy.

A 5-inch grinder with a cut-off wheel makes this so easy.

This is the view up behind the window in the liner. I've already removed the fasteners and stanchion.

This is the view up behind the window in the liner. I’ve already removed the fasteners and stanchion.

The window made access easy.  I had the fasteners off and the stanchion removed in another 10 minutes. The caulking underneath was insufficient to begin with. I mean, there really wasn’t enough of the old compound down there to begin with.  I scraped it off and cleaned up the surfaces with a wire wheel. There are dissimilar metals involved, so there is also quite a bit of corrosion both on the spacer plate and the toe rail.

Lots of pitting here. Aluminum against steel, with stainless fasteners, frequently dowsed with salt water.

Lots of pitting here. Aluminum against steel, with stainless fasteners, frequently dowsed with salt water. . .

I forgot to photograph the section of the rail before filling with epoxy. It was significantly corroded away, and I had to fill it to make a flat surface for sealing.

I forgot to photograph the section of the rail before filling with epoxy. It was significantly corroded away, and I had to fill it to make a flat surface for sealing.

You can better see the extent of the filled area in this photo.

You can better see the extent of the filled area in this photo, now that the excess epoxy has been sanded away.

I re-bedded the stanchion with butyl, after straightening the stanchion. I was not able to get it completely straight, but it’s much better than before, and I don’t think anyone can tell it was bent now.

You can see a very slight bend to the left at the bottom of the stanchion. It was much more pronounced before I straightened it.

You can see a very slight bend to the left at the bottom of the stanchion.

I refastened the stanchion with lots of butyl between it and the deck, bedded the screw heads and tightened it down. I got lots of squeeze-out, which is good. That’s how you know you’ve used enough bedding compound. After that, I made a cover panel for the window in the liner. I had some fiberglass left from when I enlarged my engine compartment a couple of years ago, and it was the right thickness and color.

Not a perfect piece, but it will be pretty much out of sight anyway.

Not a perfect piece, but it will be pretty much out of sight anyway.

I spent another 15 minutes picking up and cleaning up, but left most of the tools out for re-bedding the next suspect stanchion in my quest to stop leaks. Here’s a photo of the remounted stanchion. It used to lean inward toward the coach-roof, but it looks straight now.

It' s the first stanchion forward of the blue cloth in the toe rail.

It’ s the first stanchion forward of the blue cloth in the toe rail.

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