Well, I haven’t checked in with you in awhile about my boat project because, frankly, I’ve been in approach/avoidance mode. Part of me is scared this project is too much for me, and the rest of me is saying, “Well. It’s just a bunch of learnable tasks, so get on with it.”

The “get on with it” part got the upper hand this week, and so I’ve been back at it.

Right now it’s 90 something degrees outside and not much cooler inside. I was at the boat really early this morning before it got hot, and now I am just here at home, quietly sweating and dreaming of Tuesday when it is supposed to rain. I guess I have morphed into a real PNWesterner.

One thing I accomplished since my last post: I was able to repair my mainsail with my sewing machine, sail patching material and polyester thread.

A bunch of firsts for me in that miniproject, but it turned out well enough. And it’s high up on the mast so I doubt anyone will notice. I felt like an old salt when I was done. And I’m kind of confident it will hold. I guess we’ll see.

The boat itself is a little more interesting – yes, let’s use that word.

Lots to be done there. This week I decided to focus on the mast and the hull. The mast is in the barn lying across some wooden horses. I’ve inspected the rigging with the help of some reading I’ve done on how to do this, and also with the help of a friend who is good with this sort of thing and knows what he’s doing (hooray for such friends!). So far so good. Things look OK. Some assembly required.

There is mouse nest material inside the mast (of course, I seem to have extensive mouse karma), and so I will have to hose it out. That’s next when I finish the hull. Then I’ll put the mast cap back on. It was missing and I panicked, but my friend quickly found it among the gear lying about in the barn. Whew. Now I can have fore and back stays like a real sailor. More on that soon.

Which brings me to the hull.

Passage is 40 years old or so, and built like a tank, and I am so grateful for that – and for the craftsmanship that went into her, by her original builder, by the man who cast the hull, and by my dad for just building everything in an incredibly stout and forward thinking manner.

But the old gelcoat (the once-shiny coating on the fiberglass hull) – the only word I can use is: forlorn. Oxidized as all get out, kind of a greenish color, but overall looking really sad. And I feared beyond help. In a worst case scenario, the gelcoat would just be too pooped to be revived.

However, I did some reading and YouTubing (rest assured that whatever project you have about anything, the interwebs have some advice about it), and I learned that polishing gelcoat is in theory well within the purview of this casual DIYer. So I bought the recommended random orbital polisher, cushioned pads, and the recommended polishing compound and finally got up the courage the last few days to attempt to polish the hull.

Now let me just say that before I read up (and read up and YouTubed up) on this, I had no idea of what a random orbital polisher was. So I’m just being honest about that.

But now I do own one, and know enough about it to toss that term around if I am talking shop with people and want to look like I know something. So far I have not had that opportunity, but I do go to Englund Marine a fair amount, so I imagine the opportunity will arise at some point.

About my bottles of polishing compound: I’ve felt a bit of anxiety about that. Because you cannot undo what you do with it. So I have proceeded cautiously to the point of at times barely moving.

By the way, Practical Sailor magazine is a fabulous resource for what things to get for this and that without spending every cent you have. It’s very empowering having them in my court. So I have taken their advice.

But bottomline, this is all a learning process. I am happy to say, though, in this case, it’s one with a very encouraging outcome so far…

Yesterday, I started out slow. I tried out the polish by hand, because one article I read said it was possible to polish it by hand. And the last thing I wanted to do was burn through the gelcoat with the polisher and ruin it.

But that effort did nothing except tire me out. And still the gelcoat was hideous. So I cautiously put some polishing liquid on the polishing machine and tried buffing the hull. Not much happened at first, and I despaired then that the gelcoat might be too far gone.

Then I read that I might need a tougher compound. So I went to an auto supply store and bought some fancy auto compounding polish. This morning I kept at it in slow increments, trying the new car polishing compound, little by little, carefully, alternating with the milder polish, and checking the reflection in between bouts with the polisher.

And, after awhile, a miracle happened. Oh my god, lo and behold. I had a divine moment when I looked at the side of the boat and saw: holy moly, a shiny spot! A genuine shiny spot! It was a glorious and gorgeous thing to see. I confess I did a happy dance right there in the barn. 

So I spent this morning learning my way around my random orbital polisher (I just like saying that), and learning how much it will take to get this hull to shine. And shine she will. I am amazed. And so grateful. And feeling pretty darn chipper about myself and my McGuyver skills.

Thank God for family, friends, and good old boats. I am blessed with each. And I am very, very happy.

(Note, this photo is of the sad old gelcoat before I did anything to get it to shine. Looking much more respectable now. “After” photos to follow.)