Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Head Games

     " 'til I can't take it anymore, no more...."

   *This post contains harsh realities of  boat life.  Reader discretion is advised.*

    Have I mentioned how much winter sucks?

    If so, too bad.  I'm gonna reiterate:

    Winter sucks.

   This winter was like a bad party guest- it came late, stuck around, and wasn't much fun.

   How hard was this winter?

  Lemme tell you a story:

  Back in November of 1975, the Edmund Fitzgerald sank during a storm on Lake Superior.  The  last ship to have visual and radio contact with the freighter was another freighter, the Arthur M. Anderson, which survived the same storm unscathed.  

  That's one tough boat.

   February 2015, the Arthur M. Anderson, the Chuck Norris of lakeboats, is stuck, trapped by Lake Erie ice just off Conneaut, Ohio.

                                                                                                     -image courtesy of

  The ice of February did what the gales of November couldn't:  Forced the Arthur M. Anderson to accept Coast Guard assistance.

                                                                                                            - image courtesy of

  Yeah, THAT hard.

   The only, very limited, upside to this winter was the extended period of solidly sub-freezing temperature.

   Emphasis on the word "solid'.

   Perfect for one particular boat job.

   One Sunday afternoon, Elly the Crazy Boatdawg™  and I dealt with our cabin fever by making a run to the boatyard, and while one of us ran around the boatyard...

The other one of us able to climb a ladder did so, and then dug a path through the cockpit and uncovered the companionway...

  To clamber below and begin to deal with one part of the boat that SWMBO and I both agreed needed improvement with a quickness...

...The head.


     The head was NextBoat's one minor, mild disappointment. The height was uncomfortable and  it was poorly located in the space leaving a user feeling, er...


     That was fixable, but the bigger practical issues weren't- the integrated holding tank didn't hold much, and, not to put too fine a point on it, when aforementioned holding tank was close to full, (often, because of it's limited size), the holding tank tended to be less-than-diligent about the "holding" part when the boat heeled past 15 degrees.

     Yeah, the head leaked when the boat heeled.  


    So, with everydamnthing between here and the state of Georgia frozen solid, the time was right to remove the offending fixture, and plot and plan its replacement.  Yeah, in theory,  the head should be empty, but Murphy's Law of Marine Plumbing Disruption states that no head is completely empty.  the only safe head is a frozen solid head, I figure.  


10 minutes of quick hose hacking and yanking, and a heave over the side....

   During, removed from, and stowed beneath, NextBoat.... 

      I acquired a larger holding tank from Jack's Used Boat Part Emporium and cleaned up the head reclaimed from DonorBoat, and a few days ago  SWMBO and I loaded in the new/old head, and eyeballed the layout:


  Yeah, we think this will work.

  The old vinyl flooring and carpet has to come out, a new floor has to go in, a seacock needs to be installed, the holding tank needs to be fitted...

   But the worst is done.

- Thanks for stopping by, and please remember to "Talk the Dock!"

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Low-Buck Arts & Crafts at Stately Jones Manor

      "In the meadow, we can build a snowman..."
                                              -Felix Bernard

    ......  or not.

      As I write this, the temperature outside has nosedived to around -23 celsius.

      I am not nearly masochistic enough to calculate the windchill.

      If one is a skier, skater, ice fisherman, snowmobiler, snowboarder or snowshoer, one might enjoy freely frolicking in this frozen frontier.
      I, however, am none of the above.

      I am a sailor.

     And I am NOT going outside into this fucking frozen freakshow unless I absolutely have to.

      Luckily, I have a punchlist of off-season boat work to keep me occupied  until the lake ceases to be a solid mass entirely, and utterly, incapable of floating a boat.

     Doing something with our wobbly and plain saloon table was near the top of the "Boat projects that can be accomplished from the comfort of SJM" list.

     I've got some ideas for this project, boldly going where I had never gone before, but first: a warm-up project, an  aft cabin amuse-bouche if you will:

     Fixing the TV wall.

      The previous owners installed a small flat screen TV- its removal prior to sale has left an ugly blight in an otherwise very pleasant  aft cabin.

     SWMBO and I ruminated over this disfigurement throughout the season, and finally came up with an idea:

     A piece of scrap luan, some wood glue, and a cheap spreader to quickly, evenly and economically spread the adhesive....

      Then, trim a chart to size...

      Apply the chart to the very sticky board....

   Slather more glue on top, recalling skills vaguely remembered from elementary school art class decoupage projects.  While waiting for all that glue to dry, construct a frame from scrap mahogany trim...

Assemble  and varnish......

 ...and install (right side up) when the weather warms up.

  Right, so, feeling cocky, I got back to that saloon table....

     My initial thought was that we needed a larger table that would tie into the stripper pole, er, compression post. Upon further measuring and headscratching I realized that bigger is not better in this case.  Enlarging the table would make our current expansive and inviting recroom feel like  a cramped and cluttered cell, with a table that would be difficult to move around  and would prevent the locker door under the stove from opening fully.

So, the table can get no bigger.
It does, however need to be more stable, so I lengthened the collar underneath, that fits over the post.  Now, no wobble.

But, there is a crapload of winter left, and it is a rather plain table, so I might as well try to figure out marquetry.

     Marquetry, as defined by the OED: "Inlaid work made from small pieces of coloured wood or other materials, used for the decoration of furniture."

     So, a supply run to Lee Valley Tools  was in order.  I needed glue, veneer.... that was pretty much it.

     I still managed to spend damn near $200.

     It's that kind of store.

     I bought a "box of veneer" which was exactly as described- a pizza box full of very thin sheets of a variety of different woods:

Like, 80-100 square feet of the stuff.

The table in question is about 3 square feet.

I quickly cobbled together a low-buck veneer cutting jig- a piece of scrap ply for a bed, some aluminum angle and scraps of luan trimmed to create 90 degree, 45 degree and 22.5 degree guides to simplify the math...


 ... and discovered the tricks to cutting very thin, very brittle pieces of wood...  after destroying a bunch of very thin, very brittle pieces of wood.

Luckily, I had a lot of it.

After marking the center on the table, and the half way polints on all four sides, I laid out a simple geometric design, and proceeded to cut and tape and glue and clamp and swear my way to an end result;


       It still needs some sanding and a few more coats of varnish, but I'm not completely embarassed by the end result.

    And I still have a crapload of veneer left over.

   And a crapload of winter.

   I rummaged through the scrap pile and did some sketching and came up with a plan for a simple cockpit table.  A little ply, some reclaimed teak trim from DonorBoat, and the basics are done:



   the rough work is done, now it's just a matter of mortising and installing the hinges, final sanding, and finishing.  I'm saving that until next weekend.

   It looks like there's still lots of winter left.

Thanks for checking in, and don't forget to "Talk the Dock!"

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Let's Talk. Not About Boats.

"...and I hope you are having the time of your life..."
                                                 -Gnarls Barkley"
*Deep breath*

This is an… interesting... day in Canada- this is "Let's Talk" Day, a day designed to open dialogue about mental illness and destigmatize crazy…
...sponsored  by a telecom company, a national corporation in an industry where it sometimes seems like the customer service staff and telemarketers are trained to drive you batshit crazy.  

     Anyirony,  Let’s Talk Day has been revered and reviled and retweeted throughout it’s 5 year history, but this year LTD seems to  be at a tipping point- people WANT to have the conversation.

So, Let’s Talk.

*Deeper breath*

Hi, I’m Brian and I’m crazy. 

I’ve been crazy for over 30 years…but it took me at least 25 of those years to figure it out.

See, sometimes when you’re crazy, crazy seems normal, because it’s all you know.

And that is one of the reasons to talk.

When I was a kid, because no one ever talked about crazy, I thought EVERYONE felt like me.  I thought that everyone wanted to sleep all the time. I thought everyone felt like throwing up every morning on the school bus.   I thought that everyone felt they were a completely useless failure and never did anything right.  I thought everyone found it so damn hard to make even small decisions. I thought everyone felt every failure was a huge disaster, no matter how minor, and every success was a statistical blip, no matter how major.
I thought everyone was always on the verge of either anger or tears.

I thought that everyone wanted to die.

Crazy is thinking that everything bad that happens is "luck."

And everything good that happens is "luck."

And unable to care either way.

The fucking insidious thing about crazy, at least my crazy, is that I functioned, and occasionally functioned very successfully, on a daily basis…

...and thus, I must not be crazy.

     Because crazy is obvious, right?  Crazy is on the news, in the papers, in the hospital, in the morgue…

      Ergo, ipso facto,  I must not be crazy.

     So, I sucked it up, dealt with it, walked it off, lived with it, and worked around it, because…

…we didn’t talk about it.

     When I was up,  I was really gawddam UP- I was unbeatable.
I wasn’t just king of the hill, I was King of The KickAss Mountain.  I got the awards, earned the bonuses, bought the toys…

….But, when I was down, I was REALLY down.

    The attendant mood swings were epic and often ugly.  Happiness was rare but anger was constant.  I was mad at everybody, everything, and myself, and I could never quite figure out why.

     As time passed the ups became fewer and the mountains more like molehills, while the downs became more frequent and valleys became abysses…
But up or down, it was so. damn. much. WORK.
And that work got harder every year… and then every month…and then every week… and then every day.

     Every morning, for over eight thousand mornings, I found a reason to get out of bed, and then a reason to get dressed, and then a reason to go to work, and then a reason to work and then a reason to…

    I got through the day by breaking my day down into a survival to-do list, and I got through it by finding reasons to tick off another list-item, and then another, until I got near the end of my list or the end of my endurance and could fall into bed, exhausted, but unable to sleep….  and I always had to remember to find a reason to be happy. 
Every day.

… and then I started running out of reasons.

   And death began to look really, really, attractive.

   I was lucky.  I have a wife who loves me in spite of, or maybe because of, my craziness. 

   We had The Talk.

   She made The Appointment. 

   I got The Prescription

 And we get through it every day.

  Because we had The Talk.

   Life isn’t so damn much work now.  There are still Bad Days, those days when Churchill’s black dogs scratch at the door. 

But there are far far, far more Good Days.

Life is no longer so much damn work.  And being happy is no longer something I have to remember to do.

I’m Brian. 

And I’m crazy. 

And I’m okay with that.

Let’s talk.

Friday, 9 January 2015

End of Season NextBoat Review / Boat Show Preview Combo!

       "Pack it up, and tear it down..."
                             -Jackson Browne


     It was time.
     Put a fork in it.

    This season was done, our first full season with NextBoat.*

    She is now on the hard in the yard, bedded down in her new/used cradle for the winter...

... and now that the off-season withdrawal shakes and sweats have begun....

...SWMBO and I can objectively look back and figure out what worked aboard NextBoat, what didn't work, what we can live with, and what we need to change.

  First off, our first season with NextBoat  has demonstrated to us that she is a keeper.


   See, NextBoat was a bit of a surprise for SWMBO- she left all of the decision-making and logistical wrangling in my hands.

  Upside?  The decisions are all MINE.


  Downside? The results are all MINE.


  After our first night aboard, and after a little nesting, NextBoat was SWMBOApproved.

   Our sow's ear, however, still needs some silk pursification:

    The tweedy ceiling and carpeted overhead, while providing a homey, 70s rec-room feel to the accomodations, is looking decidedly worn.

     Replacement is daunting-the whole damn boat is cabin, and the whole damn cabin is covered in this stuff.

     A thorough scrubbing with all of the latest carpet cleaning wonder products and possibly some steaming is the first order on the agenda, which will (fingers crossed) return our cabin to something approaching it's original hirsute splendour.

     If not?

    That is a project for next winter.

    The Escheresque seagull pattern cushions....

.... need rebuilding and recovering.  Interesting note- there are only 6 cushions on the entire boat, one of which has already been rebuilt. This winter, we will rebuild the other five in the same blue sunbrella and 5" foam.

The salon table, seen above,  is one unstable table, Mabel, and is slightly too small.

                                                                                                                       -image courtesy of google

     I am going to enlarge it aft, and tie it into the stripper pole, er, compression post, similar to the shape of the original table, as seen here:

     On deck, the mast step might need a rebuild- the plate needs to be removed and some exploratory surgery performed,  chainplate islands installed to prevent any new leaking, and struts fabbed to allow the fore and aft overhead hatches to be cracked, instead of the current all-or-nothing ventilation situation:

     As you can see above, they are beautiful big hatches, but there's no support- the hatches are either lying flat on the deck closed or flapping back against the house.

    You can create your own beautful big/floppy/flapping/ no support metaphor.  I'm not helping.

   The portlights need to be rescreened and the hazy plastic polished.  The cove stripe needs to be repainted. and the hull could use a good compounding and waxing.

   With the boat out of the water, I am able to eyeball the whole hull, and it all looks good, except for the carbuncle  ahead of the keel ...

...which is a redundant depth transducer.  THAT has to go.

 I also need to re-repair my most embarrassing, sloppy, kludge of a last-minute repair which proved more durable than I expected- the water bottle neck masthead light lens:

   Piss poor preparation and all that-  the mast had to go up NOW, the crew was ready NOW, oh crap, didn't notice that, it needed to be fixed NOW...

   ... and while necessity may be the mother of invention, her kids ain't always pretty.

   The drivetrain is happy, the only minor, low-on-the-punchlist, item is replacing the prop.  The 8 hp Yanmar happily pushes NextBoat along at 5.5 knots at 90% throttle in flat water with her 2 blade prop...
....  but a little more thrust and less vibration from a three blade prop is appealing.

   And the list goes on...

  Which brings us to early January, and brings us to Toronto, to the Toronto Boat Show , our annual midwinter respite.

  We've got some shopping to do, some people to meet, and dammit, it's just good to get away.

    The Westin Harbour Castle offers a silly good rate for the weekend. Seriously, this is the view that $98/night buys us:


  So, that's where we're at, where we're going, what we're doing, and why we're doing it.

   Stick around- this is going to be an interesting year.

"Talk the Dock!"

Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year Gear and Tool Review: Bonding with Bondic

"Now you oughta make it stick together..."
                                   -Wilbert Harrison

   As you know, Constant Readers, I basically have three modes- building stuff, breaking stuff, and sailing.

   (No, Smartass Reader, "drinking and eating" is NOT a mode.  It is an integral part of the Three Modes.)

   Intrinsic to successful functioning in any mode is the necessity to keep things from falling apart all around, you...

  .... and putting them back together when they inevitably do.

     Thus, I am  always looking for better, faster, easier, stronger ways to build what is needed and fix what is busted.

     Which is why I have an assortment of tubes and vials and bottles of various adhesives, of varying efficacy,  taking up real estate on my workbench and locker space aboard.  By and large, my go-to solution for most bonding jobs is epoxy of some sort, but one challenge with epoxy is that it has a LONG cure time, which makes it unsuitable for quick, clamp-free fixes.  Even quick curing epoxy isn't all that quick.

     Cyanoacrylate, the Krazy Glue-type stuff, IS instant, but that presents it's own brand of problems, because once two objects are stuck together they are stuck, like, NOW.  No repositioning, no time to get your fingers out of the way, or your sleeve, or to remember that you're working on a freshly refinished uncovered table...

     What if there was an epoxy that had the fast cure time of cyanocrylate, but only when you wanted it?

   Enter Bondic.

    The  folks at Bondic describe it as "the world’s FIRST liquid plastic welder."  There's all sorts of super-secret proprietary sciency stuff involved that makes it unique  but basically it is an ultraviolet cured adhesive.  What really makes it unique is how it works.

     The Bondic kit consists of an adhesive cartridge and a 6 volt UV light..... packed in a cigar sized shiny case.

packed in a cigar sized shiny case.


    It's as foolproof as an adhesive can get- clean the objects to be bonded, and sand shiny surfaces- this stuff likes a little "tooth, just like glue....

 apply a bead of Bondic to one surface, by gently squeezing the cartridge, just like glue...

Then, here's where things get different. Shine the UV light on your work for 4-8 seconds...

BOOM!  Cured, like a true believer at a tent revival.

  Because of the fast cure time, Bondic can also be used as an effective filler for small jobs, applied in layers, curing each layer.  Busted the corner of your cell phone case?  Sand,  apply Bondic, cure, sand, apply Bondic, cure, sand, apply Bondic, cure, etc.  as needed.

  Because of the application system and UV light size, Bondic is best for SMALL jobs.

    And not many of them.  This review almost exhausted the cartridge.

    Tensile and shear strength is not Bondic's, er, strong point.  I bonded two scrap pine battens...


Then pulled them apart...  easily.

I then tried again, thinking that a thicker layered "fillet" might be more effective...

... it is...but not much.  The battens still came apart easily.

  Bondic IS waterproof, but, just like epoxy, it is sunlight sensitive- outdoor applications will need to be topcoated

  It's not a great structural fastening adhesive, but it has potential for effective, quick small repairs aboard- broken sunglasses, cracked vhf radio housing,  broken tangs on light lenses,  that sorta stuff.

  Cost?  The kit cost about $20, refill adhesive cartridges are about $12, a replacement UV light about $7.
   Not cheap, but cheaper than a new Otterbox for your iProduct.

Bondic likely won't be the first adhesive you reach for, but it might just be what you try when nothing else will work.

Talk the Dock!