09 January 2018

We Survived the Bomb Cyclone!

Mile Marker 584 - The Herb River, just south of Thunderbolt, GA

You read that right, folks: we are in Georgia. A lot has happened since my last post on Christmas Eve in Southport, NC, and I'm writing this on my all-too-brief off watch, so let's get to it...

Shortly after my last post on Christmas Eve, we were invited to a party aboard Jay and Tracy's Hair of the Dog. An appropriate name because Jay was wielding some lethal rum that night, hidden in some innocent-looking eggnog. I can't remember the last time I had such a 'merry' Christmas Eve. Good thing the docks weren't icy!

Christmas morning mimosas

The next morning, Helena and I had a lovely Christmas breakfast, with Mimosa for our 'hair of the dog', because that was one of my mom's favorite Christmas morning traditions. This was our first Christmas without her, and we did miss her a lot. Helena made me a hand-crafted wrench organizer (I know there is a name for this sort of thing, but can't come up with it), and we bought ourselves a new outboard motor for our PortaBote. The old 2.3hp Honda was just giving us too much trouble, and it was finally time to give it the old heave-ho. Actually, we dropped it off at a marine consignment shop, hoping to get $5 for it.

New outboard for Christmas? Yes!
The new 4 hp Yamaha should get the PortaBote up on a plane and will thus expand our exploring range vastly, but it's also quite heavy: nearly 60 lbs. I have invented a lifting crane for it, but more on that in a later post.

But once Christmas breakfast and gift exchanges were complete, it was time to cast off lines and grab what looked like a good weather window down to Charleston. And now a cautionary note on GRIB forecasts: don't take them too literally, particularly in winter in the North Atlantic.

As soon as we cleared the Cape Fear River and were headed south offshore, I realized the night was going to be rougher than anticipated. However (I reasoned), we did own a boat that was designed to round Cape Horn safely... how bad could it get?

The answer: quite bad. By the time we reached Charleston, after a long night of running downwind before ten-foot seas, we were happy to surf in between the stone breakwaters, into the relative peace and tranquility of Charleston Harbor. We were glad we hadn't convinced our friends Chris and Beth to follow us down to Charleston. It would NOT have been a good introduction to offshore sailing!

Anyway, we made it and spend a delightful few days in the Charleston city marina, finally seeing the sights of that famous city. We had several excellent meals, and a fun night at a downtown mystery dinner theater.

Helena and I in a very nippy Charleston
We'd been hoping for another weather window to carry us down to Savannah, or even Jacksonville, but none appeared while we waited in Charleston, and furthermore, none seemed likely to appear. It is January, I guess. Eventually, we tired of waiting, and headed south on the dreaded ICW.

On doing the routine engine checks before heading south again, I discovered that nearly a gallon of anti-freeze had somehow made it from inside the engine to the bilge -- most of it while we were tied up to the dock! That delayed our departure for a day while I tried unsuccessfully to find the leak, and then to stock up on anti-freeze. I reasoned that a leak that big would soon make itself known, so we headed off determined to check the engine every 1/2 hour for leaks.

Oddly enough, no leaks occured for the first couple of days. At least nothing big enough to spot. We would lose perhaps 1/2 inch of anti-freeze motoring all day. Did we need to stop to make the leak happen again? I wondered about that, and we soon had our answer in the form of the Great Bomb Cyclone of 2018.

By that time, we were half-way between Charleston and Savannah, basically in the middle of nowhere. I saw some bad weather coming (high winds and freezing cold), so headed way, way up the Bull River (Mile Marker 521) to the Wimbee Creek where we anchored in about 12-feet of water, with fairly good protection to the north. We were ready to sit out some bad weather, and bad weather we got!

Ice storm part of the Bomb Cyclone
Snow drift in the cockpit!

Luckily, I've finally learned the basics of anchoring with our rather picky Rocna, and we never dragged an inch through three days of 20 knot winds, bitter cold, and an ice and snow storm. Helena and I had bought a new game at the mystery theatre gift store, and spent two nights learning it. I baked my favorite oatmeal-raisin cookies, and we kept warm around our wonderful Origio alcohol heater, which really saved the day.

We also re-discovered that we have absolutely no problem spending lots of time together in a very small space.

I used the enforced delay to study our coolant leak problem. After checking the engine every half-hour on the way down from Charleston, I had a pretty good idea where the leak was. I had spotted a couple of drops falling, and seen anti-freeze glistening on a low part of the engine. A bit of poking around with a flashlight uncovered a hose hidden under the coolant reservoir, that I hadn't found during my previous hunt for leaky hoses. This one was about 4 inches long, and the hose clamps on both ends were loose. A steady drip-drip-drip of anti-freeze was falling into the bilge. With a few contortions, I managed to thighten both clamps, and the dripping stopped. Very relieved it was such a simple and obvious problem.

Our powerful little alcohol heater

By the time the storm passed, Helena was already putting down roots in Wimbee Creek, and talking about staying forever. I, on the other hand, was keen on moving south again. I spent the morning after the storm clearing the 2 inches of snow off the deck with a plastic dustpan (it just took a bit of time), and the next day, we headed for Beaufort, SC.

When we reached the Lady Island draw bridge, just outside Beufort, we joined another sailboat that was anchored in front of the bridge. We later learned that the drawbridge had been closed for a couple of days because of the storm, and that we had caught -- totally by coincidence -- the first opening of the bridge since the storm. Talk about lucky. I would NOT have wanted to anchor just off a bridge in the fast, reversing currents of the Beufort River. I get the horrors just thinking of it. Wimbee Creek was looking better and better.

We had some first hand experience with those fast currents whilst approaching the dock at the city marina. I knew the current was fast, but didn't realize it was THAT fast. The current grabbed Petronella's deep keel and pushed her stern into the dock on our approach. We weren't moving fast -- perhaps 1 knot -- but the impact was taken by Wanda, our hard-working Aries wind vane, and even a slow bump was enough to break the port-side lower shell casting, putting Wanda out of commission for awhile.

Ouch... Wanda injured!
Luckily, parts are still available for the Aries, so I ordered a new lower shell (plus one for a spare), as well as a rebuild kit for the inevitable time that Wanda needs more extensive servicing.

Meanwhile, we are heading south again. We spent the night just south of Thunderbolt GA, have full diesel and water tanks, as well as plenty of food, so we should be independant for the whole coast of Georgia.

Florida is only 120 miles away!



Next Up:



24 December 2017

Breaking the Ice

When we left frigid Norfolk 10 days ago, I didn't want to immediately head offshore. First, because the weather was truly dreadful and the thought of heading out into the wet, freezing cold North Atlantic just seemed like work, and this isn't about work. But more importantly, I wanted to take a short shakedown cruise before heading offshore again. A shakedown for Petronella, to discover any bits that might have broken during her long lay up (for example, the transmission control cable), and a shakedown for the crew, to get us back into the rhythms and habits of the cruising life.

It turned out that both reasons were valid. I discovered a number of weaknesses on Petronella, including the way Wanda -- our Aries wind vane -- was rigged. Just not cutting it, but more on that in a later post after I fix the problem.

And it took longer for me personally to get back into cruising mode than I expected. I had really gotten back into the go-go-go of life ashore, and found it hard to shake that off. I was obsessing over every little thing that went wrong, and just couldn't relax and enjoy the moment. A good slapping from my fed-up first mate finally brought me around, and I finally downshifted into the correct gear. Thank you, Helena.

Our intention was to cut inside Cape Hatteras, back to the all-weather inlet at Beaufort, and then hop offshore to continue south. However, the weather seemed to have other ideas. I was looking for a three-day window to head south -- moderate winds with no southern component, and not too large seas -- but this time of year, that kind of weather is rare, and three days of it in a row just wasn't showing up in the forecast.

I kicked it around with a couple of cruisers in Beaufort, and they agreed it was a conundrum: wait a week for the right weather, or just head south on the ICW? Which was the more efficient? I wasn't sure, but everyone else seemed to be fixed on the ICW.

Problem is, the ICW is hard work. People think it's easy, but it's not. You have to steer every inch of the way (mostly), and because of budget cuts, the ICW isn't getting maintained the way it should be, and you have to be on constant alert watching for shoals. We ran aground ourselves just south of Great Bridge (my fault), and I didn't look forward the long shallow run from Beaufort to Southport.

When a 43-footer left Thursday morning down the CW, I was almost convinced we should follow her, but something held me back, and I'm glad it did. Late Thursday afternoon, the heavy winds died away, the clouds cleared, and the forecast was for 24 hours of moderate northerly winds. I took one look at the sky, and asked Helena if she was up for an overnight sail to the next cape south, near Cape Fear.

"Sure!" she said, and that was all I needed. Petronella was ready for sea, so there wasn't much to do besides untie the dock lines and go. It was nearly dark when we left, and full dark when we motored out the inlet, but there was a slice of moon in the sky and the Milky Way to cheer us on. Outside the inlet, Helena hoisted the main and jib (she's all into doing everything herself these days), and we were off. It was an easy sail with the wind on our starboard quarter all night, and by morning, we were headed into Mason Inlet, just north of Cape Fear.

We could have anchored at Wrightsville Beach, but with the whole day before us, we decided to cut Cape Fear inside and motor down the ICW to our favorite town on the ICW: Southport. We had thick fog and drizzle on the treacherous Cape Fear river, but between the AIS and our own eyes, we managed to crawl down the east edge of ship channel without getting rundown by a container ship.

Tied up a the dock in Southport, NC
And then we were tied up at the Southport Marina dock. We'd saved three long days on the ICW with one overnight hop, and were very pleased at ourselves. I'm writing this on the day after, and we still haven't seen our friends coming down the ICW yet. I don't expect to see them until tomorrow.

So, that is my new strategy: to wait for one day weather windows, instead of three day ones. I've been charting out a string of inlets that are all about 50-75 miles apart, so that if necessary we can move south in a series of overnight hops. Of course, if a three day window appears...

Happy Christmas, from Helena and I aboard Petronella!

Our Christmas Tree (so cute!)


Next Up: Bomb Cyclone



12 December 2017

Baffling Dorades

Today was spent replacing the transmission control cable -- a fiddly job if there ever was one, and a job that required more contortionist skills than I imagined I had, to reach the nearly inaccessible shift lever mechanism. Helena and I got it done, but the job wasn't nearly as interesting as some of the other jobs we've done in the last few months...

I think I've casually mentioned working on our 'Dorade' vents several times. My first goal was to varnish the teak boxes, which had begun to suffer from exposure to the elements. Yes, teak is pretty resilient stuff, but if you abuse it badly enough, even teak will begin to rot. My boxes weren't that far gone, but they had certainly started strolling down that path.

Dorade boxes on the road to recovery
The solution? That lovely stuff called varnish. Not only does it look good, it's good for your wood. What is not to like?

I started by giving the boxes a light sanding, inside and out. This removed all the grey wood (just a thin layer on any piece of teak), and whatever finish (if any) that remained on the surface. In the photo above you can see an unsanded box in the foreground, and three in the background that have already had some TLC.

Then I started varnishing. This is usually a week-long process, because it's typical to have to wait 24 hours for a coat of varnish to dry. I'm sure this is why most people hate to varnish, and if this has been stopping you, I have the perfect solution: Alwgrip Awlspar varnish. You can re-coat after 3 hours, with no sanding between coats. If you stick to it, you can have your 6 or 7 coats of varnish done in a couple of days. Amazing stuff! It doesn't seem to have any UV protection, so I used a UV protected varnish for the last coat.

The results were great, but as I was slathering varnish, I realized that my Dorade vents weren't Dorade vents at all. They were just vents.

"Ah-ha!" I thought. "Maybe that's why they leak."

Yes, Helena had complained several times about the Dorade vent over her bunk leaking.

"Nonsense!" I'd said. "That's the whole point of Dorade vents! They don't leak."

"Then these drips must be my imagination," she'd said. "Lucky me."

I'd been wondering about that ever since, but now that the boxes had my undivided attention, the problem was obvious.

No baffles.

How Dorade's work.
(WikiMedia Commons)

To filter water out of the air, Dorades need to be a sort of maze that air can get through, but water can't. The air goes through the maze and down the vent into the cabin, while the heavier, less agile water just gives up and runs out the drains at the base of the box.

But my boxes didn't have any baffles. The air/water mixture could go through the cowl, and straight into the vent into the cabin below -- right onto my darling's bunk! 

Solution? Add baffles.

New baffles in place

In the photo above, you can not only see how great the boxes look varnished, but the new baffles installed. They are just a piece of plastic, held in place by two plastic brackets. All easily fabricated. These were made by Larry, Howdy's partner, before I could get the chance to do it myself.

The baffle top is level with the top of the box, but there is a small gap under the baffle. This is all that's needed to turn my vent boxes into Dorade boxes.

Dorade box with cover on

And that's what it looks like when reassembled. You can see that the air/water mixture can enter the cowl, then it has to run the gauntlet down under the baffle, and then up and over the vent into the cabin. Air can make it, but water can't.

And that, I think, is the way small maintenance jobs should be done on a boat. No shortcuts, no 'miracle' cures. Just fix whatever needs fixing so it stays fixed for a good long time. And if you can improve it at the same time, all the better.

As I have said before, easy is overrated.

And there can never be enough varnish in the world.

You can quote me on that.

Meanwhile, it is blowing like the Dickens tonight. 20+ knot gusts. Glad we are tucked up in a fairly protected spot. We've got our alcohol heater working, the cabin is toasty warm, Christmas lights lighting up our cozy cabin. My best friend smiling across the table from me... Yes, all is right with the world.



Next Up: Breaking the Ice



11 December 2017

Heading South!

I should have titled this post, "Heading South, Finally!", because it has been quite a long time since we arrived in Norfolk VA. August 22, if I can believe my own blog. In that time, we have ridden out at least 5 tropical storms, including Hurricane Irma, and painted Petronella from stem to stern.

And doesn't she look good?

For the most part, we had excellent luck with the weather during the whole restoration process, but once we hit mid-November, the weather turned iffy, and we had many weather-related delays. Just can't paint if it's wet or too cold.

But we finally lucked out with a string of clear days, and Howdy and his team were able to finish off the deck. As soon as it was dry, we launched!

This is how Petronella looked on launch day, with no sails, the Porta Bote still in the rigging, and practically every bit of deck hardware removed. That began a frantic week of putting things back together for Helena and I. I couldn't believe how many bits and pieces needed to be reassembled, but we finally finished.

Petronella afloat once again!
(And looking darn good!)
Actually, I am glossing over many, many jobs that had to be done before and after launching. I will try to catch up on some of the more interesting ones as I have time.

Howdy had us over to his amazing shop (club house?) for a going-away party with some of his other customers, including Jesse Martin -- who once held the record for youngest sailor to circumnavigate non-stop -- and his girlfriend Tina. They've got a new aluminum boat called Lionheart II that Howdy is doing some work on.

Party in Howdy's amazing shop
And then it was time to leave. Way past time, weather-wise. It was in the thirties this morning when we took these photos, just before departure. Ice on the deck! In Norfolk, VA. That isn't supposed to happen, folks! Freakishly cold weather for these parts. But we didn't think it would get any warmer!

My Brazilian wife looking cold but ready for anything.
I decided to wear my long, heavy wool watch coat instead of foul weather gear. Much warmer, and just as nautical looking, I think.

Now I know why these coats are so popular in the Navy
So we sailed just before sun up. The weather is supposed to turn really ugly in a few days, so we decided to poke on down the ICW while the wind howls outside. Hopefully when we get to Beaufort, NC, we can catch a weather window and sail off shore, but for now, we just want to start heading south.

We ran the gauntlet through the Norfolk naval base again, and had a nice cruise down to Great Bridge. The engine ran great the whole day (more on that later), but just as we approached the free dock in Great Bridge, the transmission refused to shift out of forward! WHAT THE HECK?!?!

That was my first reaction, but I soon gathered my wits and we just approached the dock at very low revs, then shut off the engine. Our momentum carried us the rest of the way to the dock, and we were soon tied up.

Minutes later, I was in the engine room with a flashlight, trying to figure out what went wrong. Had the transmission burned out? Impossible! I just checked the transmission fluid a few days ago, and it had worked perfectly smoothly all day. It must be the shift cable, I figured. 

Phew! Yes. That was it. The bracket holding the cable lost a screw somehow. The cable got out of position, and, just like that, it bent.

Bent shifter cable, and unbent throttle cable. 
Will have to locate another one ASAP. But man, were we lucky. It would have been a real drag to have this problem whilst approaching the Gilmerton Bridge or after entering the Great Bridge Lock. I don't want to think about it. Yes. We were lucky. And lucky to end up on a free dock in a town with lots of auto parts stores. Should be able to find a replacement cable tomorrow. 

Ah, the vigorous life.


Next Up: Baffling Dorades



09 November 2017

The Deck

We reached a significant milestone in our restoration of Petronella, our Joshua 40 steel ketch. The hull! It's finally done!

Hull painting complete!
How much paint does it take to completely restore the bottom and topsides of a 40-foot steel boat? Approximately 20 gallons, all told. That's off the top of Howdy's head. I will get the total when we are done, just for curiosity sake.

Originally, Helena and I planned to take care of the deck ourselves. I mean, how hard could it be? It's just paint, right?

But after seeing the quality of Howdy's work, and how fast his crew works, I realized that there was literally no way that we could do the deck work ourselves and achieve the same level of quality. Not only did we not have all the required skills, it would take far too long to do the work. We'd be lucky if we finished by spring.

Skills, you ask? Yes. Painting is a skill. Especially using the new epoxy paints. Having owned a wooden boat for nearly ten years, I thought I new how to paint. Let me tell you, compared to these guys, I know nothing. Seriously. I painted the insides of the four deck hatches, and I am embarrassed to compare my work with Howdy's. It's an order of magnitude difference.

And since we are here and have Howdy's attention, we are grabbing the opportunity to get the job done right. It might cost a little more (not sure about that, when you factor in all the costs!), but they are doing a much more thorough job than we would ever contemplate.

What kind of things are they doing? Just focusing on the big jobs...

How about sanding off the top layers of paint, including all the anti-skid. Two days on knees with a heavy rotary sander. I don't think I could even have done that! Here is the deck sanded, with the first coat of primer.

Deck sanded and primed
We liked the look of the white deck so much that we almost decided to go all-white, but Howdy convinced us that it would show the dirt too much, so we will be tinting the non-skid areas.

Another big job that really needed doing, but we probably would not have tackled ourselves was the whole cockpit/hard dodger area. Did I say big job? Big job.

Cockpit prepped for sanding
My part of the job was to remove as many of the electronics, floor boards, seats, and other bits of hardware from the area, to prep it for sanding. That alone was a big job.

Note that the old plexiglass windows are removed. They were so cloudy and scratched that they were nearly impossible to see through, even on a sunny day. Next to useless in the dark or bad weather. They have been binned and will be replaced. Helena and I are tackling all the cockpit teak, but will discuss that in a later post.

Can't wait to see how this sub-project turns out!

And then there were the Dorade boxes... We had seen some rust under them. Now it was time to find out where the rust was coming from. It didn't take long to find the problem.

Dorade vent, with box removed
The Dorade box (not shown in photo) was held to the deck by two stainless steel brackets, screwed to the deck. Unfortunately, these had not been re-bedded in some time, so the bedding compound was literally gone. Water got between the brackets and the steel, and rust began its insidious work.

Howdy's crew removed the brackets and repaired the rust damage. They will make sure the new brackets are bedded down well, to prevent future problems.

Bedding compound, people! As I have said before, it is not forever. Get out there and re-bed something on your boat today. I guarantee something is leaking on your boat if you have been ignoring this problem for several years. Particularly fiberglass boats. Don't be lazy!

Okay, rant complete. But seriously, every real problem on Petronella has been directly tied to old or missing bedding compound. Think about it. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.

So, that is where we are. We'd hoped to be done with the deck work this week, but bad weather has held us back. Fingers crossed for some good weather!


Next Up: Heading South, Finally!



01 November 2017

More Rust Prevention Tricks

Everyone says that the trick to keeping a steel boat afloat is keeping up with rust. Obviously that is correct, but you'd be a fool if you didn't try to prevent the rust from occurring in the first place.

One place rust can get a start is when protective paint has been chipped or rubbed off. The most vulnerable parts of the boat are on deck, where paint has a very hard life trying to co-exist with pieces of steel chafing on it.

For example, where the standing rigging -- the steel cables holding up the masts -- attaches to the rail.

To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, here is the steel tab which had one of the forestays attached to it:

Forestay tab

Now, this piece of steel has been helping to hold up the mast for 40 years, and it still has plenty of life left. It's about a half inch thick and not about to break, but you can see that it's nearly impossible to keep paint on it. Thus it is a constant source of rust stains, despite everyone's best efforts to keep it painted.

To help solve this problem, Howdy cut the tab off the boat, and welded in a replacement made from stainless steel. The picture below shows the new -- unpainted -- SS tab with forestay attached.

You can imagine how difficult it was to keep the tab painted. Now we won't have to.

Stainless steel tab with forestay attached
We were tempted to take the same approach to the rail, where all the shrouds -- the wires that keep the masts from moving from side to side -- are attached. However, Howdy recommended a different approach.

He created some new stainless steel bushings which consist of a stainless steel tube, with a washer welded on one end. The tube is inserted through a hole in the rail, and another washer fits over the tube on the other side. I should mention that the whole fitting is embedded in 4200, so it doesn't move in place.

Once in place, the shroud fitting bears on the stainless steel, not on the paint.

A picture is worth a thousand words... Here is a picture of the bushings ready to receive the shrouds.

Stainless bushings for shrouds
And here is what it looks like with the shrouds installed.

Shroud attached to bushing

Sorry for the weird photo orientation. It was a bit awkward to get these photos!

I don't expect these bushings to eliminate rust, but I do hope they will keep the paint intact longer, and thus slow it down. It should be relatively easy to periodically (once a year) remove the bushings, repaint the holes, re-bed the bushings, and re-install the shrouds. I will post an update in a year or so to let you know how this has worked.

Another place rust begins is where anchor chain or dock ropes chafe on paint. John and Gill used a set of fire hose pieces to minimize this chafe, but I wondered whether it would be simpler to put the chafe gear on the boat, rather than the lines. We found some 5/8" water hose, split it, and found that it fight tightly on the rail. We may bed it down, just to minimize chafe and to ensure it stays on the boat.

It blends in so well, you might need to click on the photo to see the hose on the rail.

On Petronella, dock lines attach to the tall bit behind the rail, and run OVER the rail to the dock.

We are using more hose to minimize chafe from the anchor chain.

Water hose clipped onto rail
Finally, here are the granny bars re-installed on fiberglass pads which have been firmly bedded to the deck. Howdy believes it is easier to bed down the fiberglass pad, than the SS feet of the granny bars. This will again slow down the development of rust under the pad.

I really hope this lasts for a good ten years, because it was a pain to take down the ceiling in the cabin to get at the nuts under the deck! Again, we shall see!

Granny bars bedded down on fiberglass pads
Inevitably, rust will rear it's ugly head again, but the black paint on the rail will make it a little less visible until we are able to effect repairs to the paint.

The big news here is that Howdy and his crew have finished painting the hull! The tape is coming off today, and I hope I will have a great photo to share soon. In the meantime, here is the latest photo with tape still masking the boot stripe and black trim.

Hull painting complete!
I'm hoping they keep the space next to Petronella empty so that I can get a good picture tomorrow with the morning sun on her. In the meantime, this back-lit photo is the best I've been able to do. We are getting there!

Tomorrow, Howdy and the boys start on the deck, and hopefully we will launch in a week or so. Cobb's Marina has been great to us, but I can't wait to head south.


Next Up: The Deck



23 October 2017

Preventing and Eliminating Rust

To paraphrase the famous sailor, Eric Hiscock: "The price of the strength of a steel boat is eternal vigilance against rust."

As part of Petronella's restoration, we are re-bedding much of her deck hardware. The first project was P's main sheet winches, under which rust was beginning to appear. Howdy and his crew removed the winches from their steel pads, and added disks of Starboard, which is a wood-like marine-quality material that doesn't rot. I think it must be some sort of plastic or fiberglass. Anyway, they bedded that down well to the steel, and mounted the winch on top. That will prevent rust from developing under the winch in the future, or for at least a long time.

Winch re-bedded on Starboard pad
Unfortunately, no bedding lasts forever -- something that many boat owners don't seem to realize. Eventually, everything needs to be re-bedded if you don't want water intrusion. That includes fiberglass boats, in particular. Steel boats rust very slowly, but a leak in a fiberglass deck can quickly cause serious and expensive problems. A word to the wise!

The boys decided that P's granny bars needed to be-bedded, as some slight rust-stains were beginning to appear around one of the legs. Since the safety bars were through-bolted to the deck, that meant taking down the ceiling under the deck. They decided to give me that job (to keep me out of the way, I think!)

Petronella's ceiling unscrews quite easily, though it's a bit of jigsaw puzzle to put back up again. I soon had the required panels down, and that's when I spotted some rust developing around the vent hole of one of the Dorade vents.

Granny bars removed.
Dorade vent, above deck
Around vent hole, under deck

Under the vent, some water or moisture gathered around the vent hole, and made some rust. Now, this is slow progress... this spot has probably been rusting for many, many years. There was plenty of steel left, so no need for surgery, but as long as the ceiling was down, it was a good opportunity to stop the rust in it's tracks.

The first step was to remove as much of the surface rust as possible. I did this with a scraper, followed up by a cup brush mounted in my portable drill. That got 95% of the rust off. (A drop cloth plus dust mask and eye protection protected both the boat and me from most of the debris.)

The second step was to hit the rust with one of the many 'rust converters' on the market. These products chemically convert the iron oxide into a material that purportedly acts as a primer. You do not remove the converted rust. You just leave it on and prime over it. Howdy likes a product called Corroseal.

Rust converter
This is what you should see when the rust converter has done its thing -- a black coating, where there used to be rust.

Rust after conversion
Once the rust converter has done it's thing, you can prime right over it. In this case, with four coats of Bar-Rust 235 2-part epoxy primer.

After first coat of Bar-Rust
That's all there is too it. No voodoo or magic potions needed. When we re-bed the granny bars again in 10 years, we'll check to see how it looks.


Next Up: More Rust Prevention Tricks



20 October 2017

Back to Red

Lots of news to catch up with. Having done my own painting for... well, forever... I'm amazed at how fast a full crew of professionals can move. We've had a few down days for weather, but for all that, the progress is nothing less than breathtaking.

I will try to take you through the process. Last time I reported that Howdy and the boys had finished soda-blasting the bottom down to bare steel, and finished priming. They primed the hull with four coats of black Bar-Rust 235. "A high performance, multi-purpose, surface tolerant, two-component chemically-cured epoxy semi-gloss coating."

Then came a grey 'tie coat', also Bar-Rust, but a different color as a signal.

Applying Bar-Rust tie-coat, in preparation for anti-fouling
Once the hull was effectively barrier coated, it was time to apply anti-fouling -- five coats of ABC-3 bottom paint, an ablative paint much used on steel commercial boats, and the Navy. According to Howdy, and the data sheet, this paint is "Capable of 60-month performance". That's five years, folks. Of course, you need lots of material, which is why we went with five coats, at two gallons per coat.

Gulp. But if I don't need to paint the bottom for five years, I will be more than satisfied.

What is a 'tie coat'? Don't feel bad, I didn't know either. In this case, the tie coat was a coat of light grey Bar-Rust which was left to dry until just tacky. The first coat of ABC-3 was then immediately applied. Since the tie coat was not completely dry, the two paints mingled chemically, 'tying' the two paints together with both physical and chemical bonds. Pretty clever, right?

Prepping topsides
Here we see the bottom with several coats of anti-fouling paint already on, and with work begun on prepping the topsides. After testing the old green topside paint for compatibility with the new epoxy red paint, Howdy discovered that the two paints were NOT compatible, so off came the old green paint. In the photo above, the topsides have been primed with more Bar-Rust. With a bit more work, the topsides were fully primed, and the bottom paint completed.

Topsides fully primed

Sharp-eyed readers will have spotted an odd shape on the bottom, in the second photo, above. After blasting off all the bottom paint, Howdy spotted some pitting in the hull which had been hidden by 40 years of bottom paint.

Pitted section of steel
This corrosion came from the inside, of course. Petronella had a water pump that John, the previous owner, kept alive for many years by periodically re-building it. However, it leaked enough so that salt water collected against the hull in this specific spot, and gradually corroded it. A reminder, if one was needed, to cure internal leaks fast. I've got that one written on the back of my hand now. Thinking of getting it tattooed.

Anyway, Howdy cut out the rusted piece, and welded in a new piece. The photo above shows the patch playing catch-up with the painting cycle.

Though I would have been happy to pick up a paint brush, Howdy didn't seem to want a complete novice on his team (frowny face), so I had to find my own projects. One of them was a sadly neglected tiller.

Sad, sad tiller
I mean, the tiller only steers the whole boat, right? I think it deserved a bit of TLC.  Howdy looked doubtfully at this poor piece of wood, but I thought there might be something worth saving under all that peeling varnish.

After removing the old varnish with a heat gun, and a bit of sandpaper love, a nice teak tiller re-appeared. It's a miracle! Here it is after drinking in the first coat of varnish. Not a very good picture, sorry. I will supply a better one when it's done.

Restored tiller
I'm also building a new boat hook from an ash pole and a bronze hook, to replace the one that was stolen right off the boat. I started varnishing the pole alongside the tiller.

The tiller has some sort of fiberglass 'side cheeks'. Not sure what to call them, because I'm not sure what they are for. They are unpainted, but unprotected fiberglass will eventually breakdown under the hot tropical sun, so I'm going to paint these odd side cheeks white after I'm done varnishing.

Finally, today was the day I'd been waiting for -- the day for the first coat of red paint! It was a clear, dry, painting day. Perfect for restoring Petronella to her original color. Here are the boys rolling and tipping the first coat on.

The big day!
This bright color is, as mentioned before, a color called Rochelle Red. A color I like to believe was named after the original Joshua (now in the Maritime Museum in La Rochelle, France) which was the same bright red.

In prepping the boomkin, Howdy's team removed some rope work which revealed a patch of red paint.

Petronella's original color (on boomkin)
Author Les Weatheritt, Petronella's second owner, told me that he painted Petronella green because he got tired of the original red fading on him. If we assume the paint on the boomkin was faded when the roping was put on, then the colors look like a pretty good match.

While the first coat was drying, Larry -- who has worked with Howdy for 20 years -- started on the black trim paint. There will be a lot more of it before he's done, but it's a start.

Starting on the black trim paint
The more I think of it, the smarter I think the original Joshua color scheme. The red will make Petronella very visible at sea. She's already pretty visible in the boat yard! And the black will hide the worst of the rust stains, which tend to occur where the shrouds and stays attach to the boat.

So that catches us up with most of what is going on. There are several side projects that I am working on, but they will have to wait for another post.

The vigorous life!



Next Up: Preventing and Eliminating Rust



01 October 2017

The Restoration Begins

I haven't had much time for blogging lately, but that's not because we've been sitting around the yacht club bar. I'm happy to say that Petronella's 'restoration' has begun!

I put 'restoration' in quotes, because in the wooden boat world, a restoration would mean rebuilding. Petronella is in good physical shape, so there won't be much rebuilding; however, we are restoring her paint system in two significant ways.

First, P's bottom paint was in pretty poor shape. Before we left Florida, we had a diver clean it, and he reported layers of paint peeling off in certain places. That got our attention, and got us thinking about doing work on P sooner, rather than later.

Second, as discussed in a previous blog post, we wish to restore Petronella's original, historical 'look'. 

This is the kind of job Helena and I would have done on our own in the past. In fact, we did do it on our own with the Blue Moon. However, we quickly decided that this time the job was too big for us. 

Several reasons for this: P is much bigger than the BM, and it would take significantly longer. Frankly, we'd rather be cruising in the Bahamas, than scraping and painting all winter. Call that lazy if you want to!

But mainly because, to do it right, the job requires special tools and techniques. Since the last bottom job lasted 40 years, we figured it would be 2056 before we needed those tools and skills again. 

So we hired Howdy Bailey to do it, and even Howdy considers soda-blasting to be a special skill. He brought in a specialist to do the work. 

First, they wrapped the bottom to contain the dust. Here you see the blasting in action. The plastic billows out from the air being pumped into the enclosure. 

Bottom wrapped for soda blasting
And below is the result. The bottom paint is gone, including about 3 inches of the original boot-stripe. The waterline needed to be raised to eliminate the constant scum line on the boot stripe. An improvement that I will really appreciate.

Stripped bottom
Another view of the bottom. Special attention was given to the bow thruster, to ensure it was not damaged during the soda blasting.

Prepping for primer
The goal was to retain the original coal tar layer on the bottom, but this turned out to be impossible. Howdy had already discovered that water had gotten under the tar in certain places, which was causing it to delaminate. In the end, the tar was too far gone to keep, so we are back to bare steel again.

What a keel!
Bare steel can't stay bare very long, or it will begin to rust, so a primer coat was put on immediately. 


First coat of primer on.
I don't know about you, but I think she looks great. Before stripping, P's bottom had that cratered look many old boats have. Now, her bottom is as smooth as the day she left the Meta factory in France, 40 years ago.

So, excellent progress from Howdy and his crew. We are very excited about it. I will keep you informed as the work progresses!


Next Up: Back to Red