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2011-10-24

A process of recovery

One of the things I've noticed about the boating game is that the prospective voyager has to possess, if not expertise, then a passing familiarity with various trades. This is not only so that one may perform the endless and varied tasks to keep the vessel afloat and in good repair and reasonable comfort, but so that one can recognize when outside help is doing a decent job fixing what is beyond one's own abilities.

So I've had to become handy in ways I've never had to be handy before. I may have mentioned in older posts that I never took "shop", as "Industrial Arts" was once known (is there still Industrial Arts? Given the dire prevalence of TV fix-it shows and the cultish admiration of hammer-wielding tradesmen, I suspect not.). Instead of lathing a newel post (would be nice for a binoculars bin), or dovetailing a lovely map chest (for a map chest), I was in theatre class, trying to impress high-breasted, long-legged and usually disinterested-in-me females.

Well, at least I learned blocking, which sounds vaguely woody.

After school, I continued in the arts field with a series of wordy or word-friendly jobs involving fast typing and smart-assery, but very little call for wielding of hand tools. Problems in the rental units in which I lived much beyond changing a light bulb were referred to the landlord, as was good and proper. My hands were soft and my head empty of all things mechanical, electrical, motorized or fabricated. I didn't even own a car. I had a moped when I was 16, but that mostly involved a level of engineering only slightly above servicing a bicycle.

Then in short order, I bought a creaky old house and a creaky old sailboat. Fear of Having to Call Someone This Time caused my wallet to seize shut. I had to get skills, and I had to get them quickly. Particularly, it must be said, when I blew up my first Atomic 4 by neglecting to open the cooling water intake.

It hasn't been easy, and the process is continuing. Thirteen years after buying an 1890-built house and 12 years after acquiring a 1973 sailboat, I no longer consider myself absolutely feeble. My screw-ups and ignorance have been (and in some fields continue to be) the foundation on which I've built a Temple of Near Competency. I even seem to have a knack for small motor maintenance and minor fabrication, and can glass, shape aluminum, make a crude but functional cabinet and can grind, router, wire, hoist, chisel, sand, mount, drill, unseize, hammer, wedge, bolt, saw and buff without threat to maintaining an even number of fingers. Yes, I now sport some minor, if lurid, scars and my fingernails are rarely entirely free of some industrial-strength goo, but it appears at an embarrasingly advanced age that I have become Officially Handy.

Just as well, because I couldn't bloody well afford to pay people. I will, however, recognize when I can't do the job properly (like welding...yet) and will hire when needed.

More often, however, I will simply try out the task myself on something innocuous...a practice run, so to speak, in order to see if I can combine a (usually) economically-oriented idea with non-idiotic execution. Such was the case with the breakfast nook chairs.


Dire, isn't it? I bought these shave-above-IKEA chairs about 25 years ago in a quest to uplift my station in life by not eating off furniture salvaged from either my parents' basement and/or the 1960s. That tatty blue rag is covering the original shredded seat cover and its crumbling foam filling.


The table top I had sanded and coated with unused Cetol, a marine-style wood varnish-type liquid that goes on exterior teak bits. The chairs remained nasty and increasingly brutish. Cabin Boy is seen applying small but keen arms to the task of removing the nasty and likely Swedish buttock buffer.


I replaced this with 3/4 inch thick closed-cell insulation I purchased for about ten dollars. Cut into sized rectangles, it provided a firm, if somewhat Calvinist, bedrock for bums, and would logically wear better than the dusty, nasty stuff it replaced. Covering that and carefully using little galvanized tacks gave a pleasing, if neutrally coloured, result.


The bonus is that the insulation will go nicely in the pilothouse roof. The second bonus is that I learned a little bit about recovering furniture, which will come in handy when I redo the aft cabin sleeping arrangements. The third bonus is that the fabric covering was free to me as it is burlap carefully cut from large sacks for roasted coffee, kindly rendered for the asking from the nearby cafe where I buy my beans.



I think it's cute and "urban", but then I would, wouldn't I? Worn-out chairs are suddenly "found design". Would that boat stuff was so cheap to fix.

Anyway, that's another minor skill of which I can claim I'm not completely ignorant...and I didn't cut myself this time.

















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