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2012-04-23

The glamorous life of sailing while not sailing

Not a wayward skid mark from the larger sort of motorcycle.

Since the demise of coal-fired steam engines, the need to have a shovel in the vicinity of a boat has been seldom, unless one wishes to repel boarders with more than the customary zeal. And yet boats in process sit on land, and land, wet or loosely compacted, can give, as was discussed last fall. So it's a good idea to provide proper drainage.

Better ditch than bitch
So I took spade in hand recently on one of the fine, sunny spring days we've had, and got to channelling my Irish ancestors, some of whom almost certainly were "navvies".

There's more around back. Let it rain...the ground beneath stays dry.
 Short for the inherently sarcastic "navigational engineer", the navvy of the 18th-19th century was simply a poor man with a heavy shovel, or a pick-axe, or later, as related lyrically here, with explosives. Navvies dug the canals, tunnels and railway cuts of Great Britain (and elsewhere, I suppose), and while it was arguably safer than fishing or mining, it paid miserably, conditions were appalling and the work ate men up.

So I didn't actually regret or resent an hour of spirited hacking away at the gravel/dirt amalgam, because I knew I could stop.

The Commodore: Not usually dressed like this
This is Henry Piersig, our commodore for an unusual third year.  Not shy of work nor of jobs requiring an analytical mind, he dug the original trenches around our boats. His, an 80 year old R-Type, is under the "cathedral of boat", which he also designed and built. He's currently (as of April 2012) crewing on the bark Europa in the South Atlantic because tottering on a yardarm with vast amounts of cold, wet canvas fifty metres over the Southern Ocean is his idea of fun. I told him I'd "refresh" the trenches in order to keep the water away from our respective boats. And so I did.


Wax on, wax off: Not bad for nearly 40, which in people years is about 100.
More land-based tasks: The old plastic boat Valiente spent the winter with mast in...a first...and boat partner Clive and myself went down to spend several hours readying for launch. Clive brought a buffer and did a very nice job after we had cleaned off the hull and had applied wax. With former boat partner Jeff, who really kicked off the "let's make it look nicer" movement with plenty of elbow and product grease two seasons back, I have grown to appreciate better-looking topsides.

Those are "character" gouges. I have faint hope of colour-matching them, so they are there to encourage me to helm better. The rest looks pretty good.
 Note the absence of shots on deck. It's filthy with soot and bird droppings and general dust and goo from the upwind recycling plant. Ah, well, the price is right in this fairly industrial setting.

Yes, we will have to see if there's a "new decals" budget this season. That was made with CorelDRAW, so it's pretty freakin' old...I guess I got my money's worth.
 I found two issues that need addressing before launch in the next couple of weeks. One, I needed to replace the battery cables and (possibly) the battery switch. So I have those parts at hand and just need a break in the work/tax season stuff to install new cabling and avoid the dreaded tiny column of smoke when I switch to "BOTH".
I can see a crappy, abandoned wreck in it!
 The second issue is that I had a small but inconveniently placed crack in the rudder. I decided, as this was a case where I actually am not in a knowledge-deficit situation, to fix it. For those playing along at home, I first used a Dremel tool to sand off the layers of overpainting and crusty bits and to ream out the crack itself in an approximate "V" shape.
It wasn't this bad. I made it this bad by way of preparation
 Note that I've already done most of the bottom painting...except for this. I'll need three tablespoons of VC-17M at some point...
Miserable-looking, but actually not my worst work at filleting.
 After mixing up a thickened tin (about 40 ml) of West System with 404 high-density filler, I more or less pushed it down the crack. I couldn't take pictures of this step because even with the right gloves, it's mucky work. After that, I "wetted out" a strip of fibreglass fabric of a light 6 ounce weight, longer than the actual crack itself and about 3 cm. wide. For this step, I made up a fresh amount of epoxy resin, this time thickened with much finer silica, the "406" type. Usually, I have epoxy around, but I couldn't find it aboard Alchemy, and wanted "fresh" for an "outside" repair. For tabbing cabinetry, I've used pretty basic (and cheaper) stuff, which has worked just fine.
PLEASE SAND ME SMOOTH!
 Then came two more fibreglass strips, of increasing widths. This process is called "filleting" and is meant, after a proper sanding, to give a smooth and strong surface that is bonded everywhere to the original structure. What follows, when time and weather permit, is a couple of "barrier coats", a two-part epoxy product meant for underwater use and supposedly waterproof, which fibreglass is, actually, not. Then a few daubs of VC-17 and, assuming I can sort the battery switch issues, we can do a test-fire, put the boom and mainsail on and can toddle off a littler earlier than usual into the season.
Properly serviced.
As I had some time and ambition, I cleaned and serviced the propeller. This is mainly gunk-removal, lubrication of the geared parts (because having a folding prop seize halfway deployed can ruin your motoring experience!) and a check and tightening of the various hex bolts that hold the folding prop together.

I tightened the zinc as well, which isn't too badly worn. Note the little hose clamp? It's in case the zinc falls off and the coupler collar or prop shaft fails. It would stop the prop backing off right out of the boat, leaving an impressive water feature.

You might call me paranoid, but this very thing happened to my wife while crewing on a delivery of an Ontario 32 in 2008. The prop shaft broke right at the coupler. Water came in. For want of a hoseclamp...still, they didn't sink, but the tow was expensive.