Sep 22, 2022 | Blog, Home Slider
Well, it’s been a little while since I posted anything about my progress on the boat. That’s because progress on boat projects is sometimes measured in increments that make the person who’s doing it jump up and down for joy, but which probably would not impress most people, because they wouldn’t notice anything different.
Such is the situation of the boat owner, to labor in relative obscurity with only their own feeling of accomplishment to keep them warm. But I’m OK with that.
In that vein, the gelcoat that I waxed poetic about in previous posts – that project is done. Passage now has a relatively shiny hull. Ta-da! Many happy dances have been done by yours truly over this some what cosmetic step. But it was important that she look a bit spruced up so she could hold her head up high when we are out and about. We are both getting older and like to look our best when we can.
I think she looks awfully good for a 50 year old boat that has sat in the barn for 15 years and was neglected a bit before that. She doesn’t look new, but that’s not my goal. My goal is to make her a well loved, and well cared for boat that is safe. She’s already well loved by me, and the rest I am working on.
Right now I am focusing on getting the mast ready to put in the boat, referred to as “stepping” the mast in boating circles. To assess it, I washed the mast and boom and all her fittings, shrouds and stays, and looked them over carefully for signs of wear. Lucky for me, it seems, she was sailed very little for years and has been in a barn for more. So her rigging seems to be in good shape.
I am about to lubricate the mast track, various pulleys, and the slot for the main sail. To explain, there is a long slot that runs the entire length of the after end of the mast. The mainsail has a series of slugs attached to its forward edge, which is called the luff. Those slugs go in that track and slide up and down, at least in theory.
The idea is to be able to raise the sail without a lot of grief (This may be overly optimistic, since almost every sailboat I have ever sailed on has had trouble with this, but I am trying to plan ahead.). So I am lubricating that slot in what may be a vain attempt to eclipse nightmares on the water in which I either can’t get the main up or down. This usually happens in a howling wind. But that’s later.
The very good news is that I still have a hefty outline of things I still need to do with Passage before I’d call her seaworthy, but the list is dwindling.
In the meantime, there’s something weighing on my mind that is symptomatic of the times, I think. But it’s worth discussing here because probably other people here will have to deal with this dilemma with their own boats: where to put Passage when I launch her.
The choices for boat slips here might seem ample: there are marinas in Astoria, Warrenton, and Hammond. What I am discovering is that getting an open spot in any of them is proving to be a real challenge. I’m already on a waiting list with the Port of Astoria, but that’s unlikely to yield any openings till spring, if even then. I’m checking with Warrenton/Hammond but as of the summer they were full. So I may have to get on a waiting list there too. Ilwaco might be an option, but it’s pretty close to the Columbia River Bar. And as someone who will be learning the ropes on a boat I’ve never sailed before, I’d like a little more leeway between me and the Graveyard of the Pacific until I feel more confident.
I have a spot reserved in Cathlamet, which seems like a lovely location. The only nagging feeling I have about it is the long drive to get there from Astoria. She’d be almost an hour away from me if there’s no traffic.
And since she hasn’t been in the water in years, I’d want to check on her daily once she’s in the water, to make sure nothing is leaking, broken, something I missed, etc. And to bask in what I will have done to get her to that point. And just to sit in the cockpit, or fire up the woodstove and read a book in her cozy cabin. I want her nearby, if I can manage it.
These are first-world issues, I know. But in the realm of what I’m trying to accomplish here, issues they are. However, I decided something that’s rare for me, since I tend to be a bit of a “fretter.”
Instead of worrying (after worrying a bit anyway), I’ve decided to offer the whole thing up to the Universe for guidance and resolution. I’ve done all I can for now, and where Passage ends up will ultimately be decided by forces I can’t control at this point. The cosmic dice are rolling and I’ll have to see where they land, and be grateful for the opportunity. And if it’s Cathlamet, I’ll figure it out and enjoy being in what seems like a beautiful spot, despite the distance. The people there in the marina office did seem really nice.
In the meantime, as that situation sorts itself out, I’m going to keep “working on the boat,” as we used to say in my family. Not much else to be done, and if the truth be told, I enjoy it. But if you know anyone who has a boat slip nearby that they’d rent me, I’m all ears.
Till next time…
Aug 6, 2022 | Blog, Home Slider
Well, I took at little time off last month and had a vacation, and now I’m back in the barn with my boat, Passage, plugging away toward getting her in the water.
One of the big tasks I tackled again this week was taking the old, dingy hull with the muddy gel coat finish and trying to make it shine. I’ve talked a little about this before in these blog posts, but this week has been all about gelcoat. Gelcoat, to recap, is the outer coating on fiberglass hulls that makes them shine. When they’re new. After decades, the finish and the situation get complicated.
That’s where the do-it-yourself contingent of boat owners can supposedly use educated elbow grease and the proper chemicals, scrubbing away time (in a sense), in an effort to make the boat look good again. In this case, that DIYer would be me.
So, buffing gelcoat: I have never done such a thing in my life (as it is with many of the tasks on this boat) and so I am truly learning as I go. Reading a lot, watching videos, listening to advice from experienced people, and trying to use my common sense. Every resource I have read assures me that I’m the gal for the job and that it’s doable. Gulp.
But when you tackle anything for the first time, there’s that wobbly period where you don’t make much headway and you just kind of feel pretty nervous…
That’s where I have been with this gelcoat thing. Serious approach avoidance. With many things on this boat, I am constantly trying to get the feel of a project and what the proper outcome should be, so that I know what I’m doing, or at least feel that I am not totally in the dark. All of this while I’m doing that thing for the first and probably only time. So there’s a bit of pressure to get it right. And the learning curve is necessarily steep. I have no other boats to practice on.
It’s been that way with this gelcoat situation, trying various ways to buff away the dull finish without taking away too much. Going carefully, carefully, maybe too carefully?
I finally hit a sweet spot this week: after muddling around in a halting sort of way with my electric buffer and lots of research on different kinds of rubbing compounds, I finally managed to get some meaningful shine to part of the hull.
My relative success has given me faith in my original plan: go over the hull with the heavy compound, then again with a lighter version, and then wax. It seems like by the time I do all that – she’ll look pretty darn spiffy for an old boat.
That’s all well and good, and nice in theory. But today I actually managed to make the old hull truly shine a bit. I saw a respectable reflection in my work light, and not just dull spots with a little shine peeking through, as I had seen before.
And that success was a very good thing. It made me very happy to feel like I was on the right path and had some idea what I was aiming for.
I sat on the platform next to Passage with my respirator, goggles, rubber gloves, microfiber cloths, rubbing compound and the buffer in my hands, and told her she was beautiful. Because she is.
And I told her we were making progress, that she should take heart, and that soon she will be where she wants to be, which is gently cradled by blessed water once again, at one with the river and sky, and a real boat once more.
But not quite yet. Tomorrow I keep going with the buffing, as I make my way around the hull. I can see a big difference between the before and after. And that’s a good thing. And I’m gaining confidence as I go…. and a renewed respect for shiny objects.
Jul 8, 2022 | Blog
If you’ve been following any of the other blog posts I’ve done about my boat restoration saga, you know that I’ve explained in perhaps excruciating detail my efforts so far to get my wonderful old sailboat, Passage, ready for the water. If you’re still with me, bless you.
By wonderful old boat, I mean old boat with great bones on which a lot of work has been done, but which still needs considerable assembly before being ready for the water. I am working on that. But today was a big day.
Today I re-registered Passage in the state of Oregon. She is now active in the state’s database of vessels and officially registered as MY boat. Mine, mine, mine. I know that sounds childish but I don’t care. Happy Happy Happy Dance.
This lovely turn of events was hard won, like everything with this boat so far – a challenge and an adventure. One step forward and at least two, if not more, steps back. And this effort to get her registered again was no exception.
The last time this boat was legal in the eyes of the state was about 15 years ago, when I bought her and made her legal so that I could move her from Warrenton to Astoria and get her out of the water and on land for much needed renovation.
Sometimes over the years in my life, people have poked fun at me for being a girl scout and always trying to do things right whether anyone is looking or not. So, no lying or cheating. No short cuts.
To be honest, as I was contemplating getting the boat from Warrenton to Astoria on the river, to put her on a trailer and take her home, I thought briefly about just making a run for it and not spending the money to register her before I took her out on the water that one time. Just that one time. Because I wasn’t really using the boat…
But then I remembered the Murphy’s Law rule that seems to govern people in my family: other people may get away with lying or stealing, but if one of us so much as went five miles over the speed limit, a cop who was having a bad day would suddenly appear out of nowhere and give us a whopping ticket.
Plus, internally I’m a girl scout and a golden retriever, so cutting corners felt wrong. And, what if the boat sank on the way? Think of the humiliation. How would I explain to the Coast Guard that not only did they have to rescue me, but my boat was illegal? The fact that I have a local radio show about All Things Maritime and I’m always telling people to toe the line when it comes to the river did not help. For me to get caught traveling in my unregistered boat felt like the nautical equivalent of Mr. Rogers getting arrested for drunk driving.
As it turns out, in this case my Hayley Mills moral conviction approach (or fear of getting caught?) was all for the best, especially when (fast forward 15 years) I could not find any of the old registration or title paperwork. There were no stickers on the boat showing she had ever been registered. And the old registration numbers had long ago fallen off. The man I bought her from had passed away years ago. In essence, I had nothing to prove the boat was ever legally mine. Oh my god.
If you’ve ever registered a boat in Oregon, you know there is a boat owner database, where in theory I could type in my name and find the boat. I did this and found nothing. Next, of course, I panicked. It seemed like the only reasonable thing to do. This involved taking deep breaths and mentally screaming in my head, “No no no no no no!”
This seemed reasonable and somehow appropriate under the circumstances. And I do admit to being a bit overwrought at times. So I did this for a while until it started to feel tiresome, and then I decided to email the Oregon Marine Board and see if they could help me.
I ended up corresponding by phone and email with a very nice human there who kindly suggested that we could probably figure it out, and that I was not the only person with an old boat and no paper trail. I resumed breathing.
He sent me forms so that I could complete boat history and all sorts of other information including photos and measurements of the boat, to flesh out the boat’s origin story. As Arlo Guthrie once said, “in four part harmony,” and all that. Not quite a massacree, but certainly a protracted saga.
This was pretty time consuming, but in the process I learned a great deal about Passage from the man who originally built her (a different person from the man I bought her from), about how she was made, and how sturdy and amazing she really is. With every step, I began to appreciate what I have even more.
Then a small miracle happened. I found the faded registration numbers on the bow as I was trying to buff out the gelcoat. Just barely visible but I could read them. And underneath the boat in the dirt floor of the barn, I found an old registration sticker from 1994. I gratefully gathered up these artifacts and sent the info to the nice man at the marine board. Then the 4th of July weekend loomed and I heard nothing.
He did send me a message saying the 4th is a really busy time for them and he would get to it when he could, so I waited. When I heard nothing I despaired once again that all was lost. Surely he would have let me know if there was good news. I had other things to do, so I pushed it to the back corner of my brain. If nothing came of it, I’d assemble the manila envelope full of rambling boat narrative, photos and measurements, and throw myself on the mercy of the state.
But then this week, in my inbox appeared a one sentence email from him that would change everything.
He wrote simply: “The boat is already registered in your name.”
Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. OK. OK.
Apparently in some archive Oregon boater database of inactive registrations not available to the public, was my boat’s name and my name – still blessedly linked together in an official, if expired record.
Thank heavens I was girlscouty enough to register her back then. And that Oregon still remembered.
So to make a long story a little shorter, I was able to go online today and register my boat for reals, and I will soon get the updated paperwork for her registration in the mail.
In exchange for some credit card numbers, she’s really mine. Whoa.
That’s what I mean by, “This sh– just got real.”
By some miracle, I’ve actually got a live boat on my hands. “We’re legal, girl,” I said, standing in the barn. I could see her bow perk up a little when I told her.
So I guess that’s it then. We’re goin’ in. Guess I better get out the new buffing compound and finish what I started on that gelcoat.
Next stop, insurance. Can’t wait to see what that brings.
Jun 27, 2022 | Blog
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.)
May 22, 2022 | Blog, Home Slider
Photo: Here’s a picture of my newly rescued mainsail in the backyard, draped over lawn furniture. More to come…
I’m starting a journal of sorts here, to document a journey I am on, that has been ongoing and now requires me to stretch myself in ways I am not used to. It’s a very maritime journey and that’s why I’m writing about it here.
This story is about finishing the restoration of a sailboat I bought 10 years ago with my dad, that he and I worked on up until he died in 2019, a few months before the pandemic started to make itself known. She sat in the barn for two years during the pandemic and I debated sadly whether to sell her as is, or try to get her in the water after all. I finally went down to the barn where she’s currently stored and faced the music a few months ago and decided I wanted to give this a try. At the very least, I want no regrets.
This boat was and is a very special boat to me: she’s a 22 ft double ender, a sloop (formerly a cutter rig) with a woodstove and oar locks for rowing. She’s got so much character. I admired her for years at the Warrenton Marina, where she sat in a berth there, until one day I ran into her owner on the Riverwalk in Astoria. When I admired his boat, for probably the millionth time, he abruptly offered to sell her to me for hardly anything.
My dad, who built our first boat when I was a kid in coastal NY, went down to the boat with me and we looked her over (she was in sorry shape but still afloat) and I asked him, “Can we fix her?”
He stood there for awhile and finally said, “Yes we can…” and so began the journey of him and me and my boat, Passage. I love her name and I hope I can get her in the water. If I do, it will be both a test of my resourcefulness, and a testimony to my dad, who intended this boat restoration to be sort of a gift to me. He died before he could finish it – and one of the last things he said to me was, “I’m sorry I couldn’t finish the boat.”
It’s OK, Dad. I’ll see if I can finish the job. Deep breaths.
In a way, now I get to do what I like best: MacGuyver my way through things, figure them out, think things through, and find a way when there’s no way. This seems like one of those things.
So I thought I would take you on this journey with me and we’ll see where it leads. Yesterday I took the mainsail, stained with mouse pee where it sat in a sailbag in a corner for years – soaked it in the bathtub with Oxyclean for 24 hours, and hosed it off in the backyard. Voila! Stains gone, and the sail is white and lovely again. I just ordered sail cloth and thread to repair a hole where some damn mouse chewed the sail.
There are many tasks like this that I will be taking on in the next month or so. I’ll take you with me in these posts, so you can see what I’m up to. It will be an interesting journey and I’m learning a lot.
I already know a bit about all this sailboat stuff – you don’t grow up as Stu Rideout’s daughter and not know a lot about boats. I spend my childhood in boatyards, helping him build and repair boats, sanding and painting and learning. I’ve done a lot of sailing on the Columbia locally here with the yacht club.
But there are also big holes in my knowledge too. So the Internet is a godsend. About the weirdest things… like where else can you Google “mouse pee on sails” and find a website called the Stingy Sailor that has just the perfect solution I used successfully?
So I thought this would be a fun adventure to share.
Onwards. Wish me courage, and luck.
Takeaway: Oxyclean is amazing for cleaning sails.
Feb 18, 2020 | Blog, Home Slider
I’ve gotten some questions from listeners about ships arriving in the Columbia River from China, and possible Coronavirus risks.
So I contacted our local USCG folks at Air Station Astoria, where the Captain of the Port for the Columbia is located. Here’s their reply:
- The Coast Guard is supporting nationwide efforts to prevent, protect, and mitigate the spread of the Novel Coronavirus.
- Vessels carrying passengers that have been to China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) or embarked passengers who have been in China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) within the last 14 days will be denied entry into the United States.
- The Coast Guard is assessing all Advanced Notice of Arrival Reports from inbound vessels to determine if the vessel has visited a country impacted by the Novel Coronavirus within the last five ports of call.
- The health and safety of the American people is our top priority.
- The Coast Guard will review all Advanced Notice of Arrivals from inbound vessels to determine if a vessel has visited a country impacted by the Novel Coronavirus outbreak within its last five ports of call.
- Vessel representatives are required to report sick or deceased crew or passengers within the last 15 days to the CDC.
We don’t usually get cruise ships here this time of year, so that caveat probably doesn’t apply to us here right now. The trip from China to here takes at least two weeks by cargo ship, so anyone who is not showing symptoms would have enough time to be visibly ill by the time they got here. Vessels are also being monitored for their last five ports of call before they get here, to assess risks.