Monthly Archives: September 2012

Haulout 2012, Day Six

Sanding the bridgedeck continues, though today I did none myself.  The family was in town and I spent the morning at the beach with the big kids, where we got sanded ourselves.  The surf was up.  We had a serious talk about safety beforehand, and everyone did real well.  There were some scrapes and bruises, but it was great fun.  Alas, my phone has gone missing after several years of faithful service.  I think it swims with the fishes.

In the afternoon, Eli and I went to the boat and he helped me change the backstay chainplate bolts.  He had the inside job, which required crawling way back under the transom steps to tighten the nuts.  Kids are great for that kind of work.  Several of the old bolts had corroded and the heads broke off when I tried to remove them.  I’m sure the new ones are stronger, but I’m paranoid now that they might leak.

Holes from the removed thru-hulls and sonar transducer have been plugged.  Bad wood has been cut out around the cockpit drains.  Bootstripe has been cleaned in preparation for fairing the hulls.  That's going to be the next big job.

Haulout 2012, Day Five

Sanding overhead is a hard, messy job.  It is a painfully awkward position, and the machine has to be held – no, pressed – up to the work.  Depending on the machine being used, dust mask and eyewear is somewhere between a good idea for safety’s sake and necessary for survival.  My sander of choice is a Festool RO 150 FEQ, which puts me solidly in the survival category.  The thing is a beast and tears off paint at an incredible rate… if you can hold it up.  For every one minute I can hold it, I probably have to rest for two.

Now for the Surprise of the Day:  At some point in the last couple years, I noticed some hull damage on the inside of the port transom aft of the rudder.  The wood was broken, thrust upward like tectonic plates.  It was dry, so I assumed that whatever had happened, it had been repaired from the outside.  It wasn’t a high stress area, so I wasn’t too worried about it.  I repaired the inside to the best of my ability at that time, and promptly forgot about it.

But then during this haulout I noticed the spot looked a little funny on the outside, remembered my inside repair, and we decided to dig into it.  It turns out it wasn’t repaired from the outside at all.  I now think that a boatyard worker, probably at our last haulout, over-tensioned a jackstand and didn’t tell anyone.  The planks of the hull were broken, but the fiberglass skin held its shape, and the water out, for many hard miles.

Surprise of the Day

Another spot repaired at the same yard, where our keels were damaged while hauling out on their rail, we found was not done correctly and will have to be redone.

That was at a “full-service” yard, where I was supposed to turn over my baby and wait until they’re finished billing me.  They tolerated my daily visits, but I wasn’t allowed to do any work.  I had to rely on their personnel for everything.  It was not an experience I’m in a hurry to repeat.  

This time we’re at a yard that allows Do-It-Yourself work, and the difference is huge.  Nothing happens unless I do it or arrange to have it done.  I’ve hired a crew that I trust, and we work on the boat as a team.  Mistakes can always happen, but at least this time they’ll be my mistakes.

Road Tripping

I love a good change of pace. I’ve been a borderline burnout for a while now, but moving the boat this summer temporarily cured me. And now I have this wonderful opportunity to get out of the house (can’t go home even if I want to), so of course that’s where I want to be. The grass is always greener, right? The five kids and I have been gone about a week now, spending two or three nights in each place. We’ve visited grandparents, old friends, uncles, aunts and cousins, and now we’re staying in a beach condo for the weekend with Jay.

The kids don’t mind relaxing the routine a bit, especially if it means putting home school on the back burner, but Rachel really likes her schedule. To try to keep nap and bed times consistent, I have a porta-crib. So everywhere we go, I set it up, put her familiar objects inside and show it to her, saying, “Look, Rachel! It’s your bed!” She isn’t buying it. She knows that this is not home, and wakes up a few times each night calling my name just to make sure I’m still there, but she does go to sleep and it is providing some stability. Luckily, she has also been able to sleep in the car, so I plan drive times so that they overlap a nap. So far, so good.

The coolest thing about home schooling is this flexibility to come and go as we please. In fact, all the people with whom we are staying happen to be home schooling, too, so they can make time and space for our visit. This is very accommodating of them, since I know we are quite a distraction. My brother has six kids (with another on the way) so my sister-in-law has to plan meals for 14—and boy can she cook! An army of children is no match for her. I try to help out with dishes, cleaning, and meal prep, but she outshines me any day.

Be Fruitful

My friends Kristen and Howard also are home schooling their three girls (brilliant little cuties they are, too), and they made space for six more for a couple of days. They are unused to the rambunctiousness of my three boys, but are very gracious. Kristen, if I may boast for a moment, started home schooling at least in part because of contact with our family, but she has far surpassed me in her ambitions as a home school mom. Her website, chronicles her homeschool journey and provides helpful information on all sorts of home school topics and curricula. She is inspiring another generation of moms to give their children a great education at home.  

Next week, we’re headed to the keys to visit our favorite place, Curry Hammock State Park (, and our home school friends, Park Ranger, Ken, his wife, Amy, and their three fabulous kids. Hopefully, we’ll do a little snorkeling, fishing, and playing in the sand, and maybe some reading, writing and arithmetic on the side.

Haulout 2012, Day Four

The main event for me today was the survey.  This is where a guy comes and inspects the boat to see that it is not likely to sink or burn, and is valued correctly.  Basically making sure it is a good risk from an insurance perspective.  From my perspective, it’s a trial.  This guy is coming to judge what I’ve done over the last four plus years.

It went pretty well.  I was concerned how he would react seeing the obvious moisture in the bridgedeck, but he was cool about it.  He spent about an hour tapping the boat with his phenolic hammer and pronounced it all sound.  His meter did not detect any undue moisture in the hulls, but the rudders pegged it.  He didn’t bother with the bridgedeck.  We were so distracted by the bridgedeck, we never tested the rudders.  Apparently, they’re full of water.  Which isn’t ideal, but it isn’t terrible either.  He said most rudders are.

He said that moisture itself is not a problem.  It’s only an indicator of a future problem.  As long as the hammer says the boat is solid, there’s no current problem.  Even the bridgedeck passed the hammer test.  Obviously, we’re concerned about future problems and are going to great lengths to fix the bridgedeck.  What will we do about the rudders?  Probably nothing.

The difference is that the rudders are full of salt water, which does not rot wood the same way fresh water does.  They’re also not dripping, which means whatever water is in there got in from the top.  Fixing it would require undoing the whole steering system and dropping the rudders.  Been there, done that.  No thank you.  There is a risk that the welds holding the rudder’s internal webbing to the post will break, but that risk wouldn’t go away even if we did rebuild them.

The surveyor was full of helpful anecdotes.  He said a catamaran came into that very boatyard about a year ago for a survey, and when they hauled the boat out of the water it only had one rudder.  The skipper was completely oblivious.

So after poring over the boat for four hours, the surveyor found two things I’d done wrong.  First, our propane stove does not have thermocouples to shut off the gas if the flame blows out.  I had no idea such things existed, and I’m still not sure if I can retrofit them.  Second, the galley outlets by the sink are not GFCI.  Yes, I suppose I should have known better there.  Interestingly, he had a tester for the GFCI outlets we do have, and we discovered they don’t work on our inverters.  Shore power, yes.  Generator, yes.  Inverters, no.

He found a burned-out navigation light and a smoke alarm with a dead battery.  I fixed both in his presence and he was satisfied.  He was not happy that my batteries are not strapped down.  Granted, this would be a legitimate concern on a monomaran that rolls all over the place.   But our boat would have to be completely upside down to budge them an inch.  I invited him to try.  They weigh 175 pounds apiece.

All-in-all, I consider the survey a huge success.

On the bridgedeck front, we have identified at least three separate sources for the moisture.  One is the cockpit drains, the bottoms of which are flush with the bottom of the bridgedeck.  The water has a tendency to spread out along the bottom of the bridgedeck rather than pour straight down.  Extending the drain pipes a fraction of an inch will help immensely.  We’ve already proven this during an afternoon thunderstorm.  Second are the fasteners (screws) which secure the bottom of the bridgedeck to the grid (in addition to copious amounts of epoxy).  However, the fasteners themselves were not epoxied.  They were screwed into raw wood, a filler was put over the hole, and then paint.  Not good enough.  Moisture permeated the paint and the filler to attack the wood through the screw hole.  The good news is that the moisture only appears to be in the surface layer of the plywood.  With the paint removed, it is drying before our eyes.

Drain You

The third source is more elusive.  A pattern of wetness is emerging that roughly coincides with where we have conduit running through the bridgedeck.  Conduit carrying fresh water hoses.  “Aha!” you think, “A leak!”  Not so fast.  One of our intrepid technicians inadvertently tasted the water when he drilled into a flooded cell and received a deluge in the face.  He declared it salty, and quite foul, many times actually, and loudly.  Hmm, we must ponder.  Meanwhile, the sanding continues.

Haulout 2012, Day Three

It only took two days before “the plan” went into the wastebasket.  

The bridgedeck is the span between our hulls.  It is a sandwich construction, with heavy beams running between the hulls and smaller pieces fore-and-aft to make a grid, and layers of plywood on the top and bottom.  We walk on it above, and the waves hammer it below.  Structurally, aside from the walking part, its job is to make sure the boat remains square, and that one hull doesn’t outrun the other one.

The paint on the underside of it has always been a problem, and with the repairs we had to do, I had half a mind to take it all down and repaint it.  Half a mind.  Notice I didn’t even mention this in the Day One post.

But on closer inspection, we found unsettling signs of moisture.  Moisture in boats is generally a bad thing, but especially wood boats prone to rot.  Like ours.  We put a moisture meter on it and found high concentrations of moisture in several different areas.  The paint was going to have to come off.

While stripping the hulls finished ahead of schedule, Eco Strip couldn’t do the bridgedeck.  There’s no fiberglass there, just wood and paint, and they were afraid of tearing up the wood.  So we’d have to do it the hard way.

The Hard Way

Yes, that’s a girl.  And yes, I’m slightly uncomfortable with that.  But she works like a horse.

It’s too early to tell what this means for our overall timeline.  After we’re finished sanding, we have to find the cause of the moisture, fix that, then repair the wood, then seal it all up and paint it.  

I’m taking suggestions for color.  I’m bored with the red and I’m thinking of something a little more fun.  I always joke that nobody but a helicopter pilot will ever see it anyway.  Maybe chartreuse?

So it’s a little bit of a bummer, but we expect the unexpected.  On the plus side, we’re going to fix the shit out of this.  Cuz that’s how we roll.  

Haulout 2012, Day Two

The first order of business once the boat was down on blocks, was to get the paint stripped off.  For this we contracted Eco Strip, a company that specializes in removing bottom paint.  They use what is essentially a warm pumice mud to blast the paint off the hull.

Getting Blasted

We budgeted four days for this process, but they brought two machines and got it done in a day and a half.  This is hands-down the fastest, most economical and environmentally-friendly way to get bottom paint off a boat.

No Pants!

What we’re left with is a little bit baffling.  It’s kind of like stucco.  We can clearly see it was put on with a trowel.  The stripping process removed whatever soft fairing was used, so we’ll have to re-fair it before we can barrier coat and paint.

Haulout 2012

It was over three years ago that we last hauled Take Two out of the water for maintenance.  At that time, our bottom paint was relatively fresh and we had other priorities.  This time, our paint was four and half years old and our primary motivation for pulling out.  

Hauling out is never easy for us.  I only know of five yards in all of Florida that can handle our 26’ beam.  They’re in Bradenton, St James City, Key Largo, Ft Lauderdale, and Ft Pierce.  So that’s why we’re in Ft Pierce.

Hauling out is further complicated because the boat is our home.  Last time we still had a house.  This time we’d need alternate housing for up to two weeks while the boat was getting worked on, which meant a total disruption of our lives.

It took us two months to make it all happen, but finally Take Two got to take a ride on the TraveLift.


We’re expecting her to be out for two weeks while we work through our project list:

  • Strip off 20 years of accumulated paint buildup below the waterline.  We’re having adhesion problems and can’t just keep adding more layers.
  • Remove three thru-hulls from back when we had toilets flushing with salt water.  I don’t see us ever going back that direction.  Each is a risk, and they’re in the way.  That will bring our total number of removed thru-hulls to 11.
  • Remove the forward-looking sonar transducer.  Maybe the technology will be better someday, but for now I don’t think it’s worth having.
  • Replace our unused speed log transducer with a combination depth, speed, and temp unit.  With keels 20 feet apart, seeing depth on both sides of the boat will be really helpful.  It will take some time to get the second depth integrated into the instrument displays, but we won’t have to haul out to do it.
  • Have a surveyor look over the boat.  Our insurance company requires this every five years.  That anniversary is only six months away and with the bottom paint off, this will be the best opportunity for the surveyor to see the condition of the boat.
  • Change the bolts on our backstay chainplates.   Some of the bolts are submerged, so we need to do this with the boat out of the water.
  • Change the cutless bearings and zincs on the running gear, and grease the propellers.  That’s just regular maintenance.
  • We also need to decide whether we want to keep the propellers counter-rotating, or change them to rotate the same direction, and whether we want to change the blade pitch.  These changes would be in anticipation of replacing the engines later on.
  • Repair the bridgedeck strakes that were damaged when we broke our catwalk.
  • Repaint the hulls with antifouling paint.  We’re going with Trinidad SR, a hard paint.  We haven’t been having much luck with ablative paints, and wanted to try something different.  We can always switch back later.

There will probably be a few other things that pop up along the way, but hopefully no big surprises.

In the meantime, Tanya has taken the kids on a little road trip to see friends and family.  I stayed behind to supervise the work and have rented a place nearby.  We figured the best thing for Spideycat was to stay aboard.  Since the boat’s air conditioners can’t run without cooling water, I bought a little window unit and ducted it down a hatch to keep her cool.