Baggy Wrinkles

Baggy Wrinkles
S/V Nautica, Hull #614, Built at Whitby Boatworks Ltd., Ontario, Canada 1977, one of the most recognizeable Carl Alberg designs. A masthead sloop displacing 9000 lbs, keel hull, Yanmar 15 hp diesel, LOA 30.27 Beam 8.75, Draft 4.29, roller furling headsail, tiller, berths for 4, interior teak bulkheads, teak cap rail and cockpit teak coamings, 12 volt lighting, aluminum mast support, Harken self tailing winches, in its day was designed for customers as a Cruiser-Racer, the Alberg 30 remains a Classic design of the large Alberg inventory.

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

How much does it cost to renovate a sailboat!

During an unusually hot work day this past week, temps in the 100s and heat index in the 110s, I stood in my salon considering the myriad of "to-do's" I had before me while sweat puddled at my feet, running onto the sole boards, they too needing refinishing (photo here of one in process), and thought to myself, "I need to catalogue the man-hours I'm putting into this vessel lest I lose sight of the enormous amount of energy, time, effort and unseen 'cash flow' which occurs in the midst of this process."  

One of the many projects saying, "help, fix me please!"  After working 6 to 8 hours at the yard, I come home and meet my overnight crew of passive fixes in the form of wood, needing cleaning, scraping, sanding, refinishing.

So for the past 3 weeks, time has flown by fast, the Berg has taken my complete focus.  Personal duties have subsided with the final burial of my father, and life has returned to "normal," as normal as life can be with our many personal hurdles, family responsibilities, and the many items needing a human hand and attention.  Even making sure my grass has enough water is a focus, alas, so much to think about, evenings are often summarized in a few drinks and a cigar, something suitable to eat, keeping in mind my own battle with endocrinology matters, and rest, i.e., sleep.  And I thought to myself standing there drenched from my own sweat, how enormous a commitment of time alone, I've invested.  

I thought I must quickly now jot down an estimate of hours spent on this project so far and make a habit of logging in my daily time spent.  For what?  For myself.  Lost in the mystery of the Berg's transition, is the human element, the physically torturous environment conditions and the building monetary deposits which also stealthily creep upward and upward so that the surveyor's estimate of what it would cost to replace "Queen Bea," her former name, would be about $220,000 dollars.  

Hmmm, I suspect I may be on that pathway myself.  If I determine that I alone, rookie ship-refitter that I am, have a doctoral degree in another discipline and have been hired on despite all that to refit a 39 year old classic Alberg 30 all by my sophisticated self, I'd have to charge at least what I'd pay another fellow to do such summary labor--that which I do myself.  If money weren't an option, I'd pay 15 to 20 bucks an hour!  I've got to remember I'm paying myself so with education alone I should merit more but I'll settle for such a payment from my imaginary employer, ha!  If we don't do this, we lose sight of why our vessels refit and renovation are so very expensive!

In another week the diesel mechanic will arrive to do a base-line service on my Yanmar 2QM15 iron jenny.  I will not expect that mechanic to do his service for less than a food-worker in New York City who is getting 15 dollars and hour for taking orders now would I?  I fully expect to pay much more.  I want that diesel to provide the Berg safety and security under sun, night, and torrential rain and storms, to chug relentlessly to port.  That is worth a lot of green backs.

Therefore (you see how I reason this--rational deduction is a blessing) I will now "keep book" on my commitment of time and cash to see what the Berg really costs.  I will see if there is some sort of widget that I can use on this page to illustrate this commitment.  If one of you reading this knows of such a little bugger, please comment so that I can procure it's services.

The port side of the taff rail where a skeen chock had sat, covered with varnish, obscuring its pleasant design, and a piece of the rail now pulled apart and ignored for years, is to be uncovered, re-put, polishing the chock, and revarnishing with the proven Epifanes varnishes I used on Baggy Wrinkles in 2013-2016.  Time to renovate.

Meanwhile, my days at the yard usually end with a cold shower from the old hose that lies in the grass like a snake.  I strip down to my boat shoes and shorts and remember cold waters I've been in from place to place, and feel my body temperature pull downward and recuperate from punishing strain in the sun as I reflect on the final task that day of the removal of varnish from the taff-rail (see photo before) , I continued using my pal's heat gun, scraping the heavy curling fragments of old varnish from beautiful teak, revealing a diamond in the rough here below, even with a crack to fix, looks beautiful.  I think it was worth the heat and suffering...

The same taff rail after mere minutes under the service of a hot-gun and scraper.  The physical demands of this are slight yet made torturous by surface temps over 100 degrees in all directions.  Soon it will transform.

Despite the cold shower, the oppressive heat has worn me out by this time.  I began working this day at 0730, when I drove over to the club, and arriving at 0830 I began my work, albeit light, and some conversation with another club pal who knows electric, I then began reputting dorets I had manufactured overnight onto the stern dorade vents and then moved on to the taff-rail.  By the time it was 1430, I was smoked from heat and sun.  I stood motionless letting the water cool off my body, not as young as I thought I was, but feeling the revival of energy surge a bit.  And even though I consume as much cold water as possible, these infusions are no match for direct sun.  But I find another drink and change, starting my truck, adding the A/C and slowly down another cold drink and think to myself, "Who in the earth could I get to do this work for 15 dollars an hour?"

Gainfully employed, I make my obligatory trip by West Marine and find whatever hardware or item necessary or the next day.  Entering the store for me has become like Norm on Cheers, that sitcom from years ago, they greet me by my first name and welcome me back.  Sure they ought to, I had spent $400 dollars in merely 3 weeks!  I'll surely rank as one of their preferred customers this month.  The A/C works great there and I try to be careful and take my 3x5 card with my supply list so that I am not romanced by attractive things like electronics, rubber coated anchors in blue, red and yellow (which I really like), or the smaller Yeti cup like my neighbor has which costs an alarming 30 dollars.  My bill this day is actually a credit because I had inadvertently purchased screws too short for my taff rail skeen chocks.  That link to skeen chocks is too interesting not to follow right now!

Once home, I check on my final project list, the "after hours" items.  The forward v-berth cabin sole, foc'sle ( yes look this up too ) , has begun transformation.  And after a few days of home-work and about 7 or 8 applications of Epifanes, this renovated piece of the sole will inspire anyone "down below" aboard the Berg.  

All in a day's work and schedule.  Now for sleep.

Monday, July 25, 2016

"Where does this go?"

So that day, the temperature was in the 100s...

I was sweating profusely while twisted into the engine compartment, peering down, underneath the diesel, into the black abyss known ironically as, "the bilge."  It's a  rather somber location in the grand scheme of things.  You don't really think much about the bilge on a boat.  Well, unless you're the new skipper, and you realize that the bilge is the netherworld of the sailboat and the nexus between survival and sinking.  I had noticed the little bronze threaded plug in the sink by chance as I made my initial assessment of the Berg upon its arrival.  Underneath the rich blue hull, past the boot stripe, there is this dripping, slippery excretion, from the bilge.  Yes, it's messy but it is like your appendix, stuff gets held in suspension down there and if allowed to fester, could become a big issue.  You don't have to encounter the bilge often, but if you do, it is certain to get your attention.

Just past that seacock is the bilge, it's dark down there, and water, and some diesel too...never let go of the flashlight, or my phone, near that gap...will have to install some sort of lighting down below just so I can see it better when trying to find out where wires are traveling to and from.

As I squinted down my flashlight's beam, the bilge stared back at me and showed a bit of diesel floating atop the surface in the bilge.  A couple of large flexible tubes ran down the bilge going to where, I had no idea.  And that was where I began my journey below decks, or in cabinets, between the hull and liner of the Berg, trying to locate and identify the important points of my new old vessel. 
My notepad in the sink with the bag of tools, some leftover water from Nova Scotia (tasted pretty good too), and the odd assortment of that day's work assembly.  And oh by the way, it was over 100 degrees inside.

I'm asking myself this question repeatedly now about where things are and where they're headed.  And, I'm also having to take notes, because the list is growing rapidly.  It was great to get a formal Survey of the Alberg 30, and it was more than a pleasure to meet the sellers and get to know them and ask questions.  But now that all the exchange has taken place and the Berg sits on the hard, I'm looking at so many little things and asking myself, "What in the world is that?" or, "Where does that wire go to?" and, "Why is that in there?"  Too funny.
This is called "a bugger."  It's a leftover from another era.  Appears to be a radio line as the same wiring is atop the mast but the antenna is long gone.  Don't we all use handheld radios these days?  Wow, oh well, it's an old boat.  I've got a copy of Don Casey's "This Old Boat" which the previous owner bequeathed to me, LOL.
 Certainly, previous skippers wanted this or that, and I'm sure there was a reasonable answer for all of these little "buggers."  It's like a puzzle however, and I'm not the best at puzzles.  This process is like when you get a product at Walmart which has been fabricated in China with directions created by a non-english speaking and non-sailor from China.  I've scratched my head and thought, "that bolt can't fit in that hole!"  But the directions indicate it has to?  Even if I had such a sheet of directions I'm not sure I'll be able to sort out some of these mysteries.  And then you realize the directions skip something, and the mystery deepens, as you attempt to read the writer's mind in order to put together this thing which ought not to be too complicated but now has taken several hours of head-scratching and your commentary about the way the directions are written, none of which will help you in the least to figure out where to put the thing, but it feels good to rage against the author just the same.

Everyone in the Alberg Association said, "yank those things and fix 'em..."  Ok, ok, I yanked them.  Today I sent them for rehabilitation.  Chainplates, strong yet meager bolts did not do justice to them. 
So, I'm in a graduate course in shipbuilding here.  I'm being funded by my military pension and my office is aboard.  I am the Skipper and bosun's mate all at once.  I have no one to point at except myself, and it's just fine with me.  I hold the briefings and I execute the Skipper's intent.  It can't get any better than that.  Days are hot but I know that'll pass as I plan to finish my work by Labor Day weekend at least.  I keep thinking about all those uncrowded days on the lake as Fall moves in and me and the Berg get acquainted. 
I'm a philospher theologian, not an electrician, thus, this appears to me to be a very organized mess with some meaning but that meaning eludes me.  I have no idea why these wires are arranged the way they are.  So I will call in a pal from the club who speaks "electricity and wires" and have him tutor me in this stuff.  I have to comprehend it in order to fix it later. 

But the way to that vista is paved with some renovation I've seen before but multiplied by 10 or 15 at least.  The Cape Dory Typhoon was a handful but this is a truck load of complexity.  Just the teak alone has been a herculean task made easier by a pal loaning me his hot air gun which i will probably purchase from him because I've successfully started to melt the scraper.  I still have left the cap rail which is globbed with varnish that has long since peeled away from the teak revealing a poor attachment in the early coats as can be seen here:
Thick molasses colored varnish covered the bolts and sat on the teak revealing a lack of proper sealing.  However, once lifted off and sanded, the teak returned. Pictures are on the way later.
Hours of heat gun and scraping have paid off and the Berg is coming to life again.  I think this journey is going to be full of challenges and many rewards as well.  I just want to know why there is a 4 pin trailer plug coming out of the mast?  
You just never know sometimes what someone was thinking at the time.  It might have been a good idea too!
I kept looking for the mate to this but could find nothing, no holes, no wires, nothing.  I guess it was left on there as perhaps something to "get-to" one day but got "left behind" instead.  I keep reminding myself that it is an "old boat," ...39 years old to be exact.  My challenge is to extend its life by fixing systems, upgrading her specifications, making the corrections advised, and keeping on her with a schedule of maintenance that meets the Skipper's intent.  He's pretty understanding about this but does not like to miss things he should have noticed.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

"The Berg"

This week the Alberg has taken up residence at the yacht club.  While most all our active fleet is in and on the water, there are other unfortunate vessels collecting debris while tied-to in a slip or sitting on a trailer.  No one wishes to work in mid-summer, so I have the work yard all to myself.  

We received the 'berg this past weekend by long-hauler after a week of its journey from one of the northernmost locations in Canada.  I'm glad we had the opportunity to go north and see the vessel in its local setting as this has made all the difference in understanding its condition and its care previous to our reception of it.  Its owners were very careful to make sure it was covered in winter and sailed in a beautiful salt-water lake environment called Lac bras d'or, well worth taking a look at.  We saw this phenomenal lake stretching for nearly 500 square miles, protected by entry at only two locations north and south.  Although a salt water lake, Bras d'or is very much like Lake Murray but about six times as large!  So, she's jumped from a northern lake to a southern lake, with all the differences that brings.  

Making that final turn towards delivery.  Coming from Nova Scotia, Canada, to Chapin, South Carolina is a "haul" in itself with an assortment of complex regulations across national boundaries, and through highly regulated interstate highways.  It was well worth it to have the good folks from Nova Scotia employed to deliver the goods. 

Thanks to a dedicated yard owner and several additional folks to help pull on the chains and re-put the wheels, the Alberg was getting to know these admirers on a hot Saturday afternoon.  High humidity and high temperatures made this process exceedingly difficult for the humans although the machines and lift worked fine.

One major difference is a change in temperatures.  And it seems every summer seems hotter than the last in the south.  

So there I was the other day, doing the "nug work" required of a devoted skipper, stripping varnish, turning old bolts, opening compartments aboard, discovering and taking inventory of what was stuffed here and there aboard the 'berg.  And during the process, the trees which had protected the vessel in the morning gave way to several hours of over-head direct sunlight and temps of nearly 100 degrees.  Standing, facing aft, looking down at the Yanmar diesel, there was a pool of water forming on the cabin sole, a pool I was creating, as the summer sun siphoned every diet coke and water bottle within me, like some medieval exchange program.  I quickly grabbed one of my old Army towels to clean up.  You can tell these towels were not made for public distribution as they are the color of milk chocolate.  I assume the civilians at Natick Labs figured such a color would not permit a soldier to know whether they were clean or not after some personal hygiene in the field.  And this was my "field" now, standing in my Alberg, no top, drenched shorts, and work shoes.  What a sight.

One of many refurbishing points seen  in this photo.  I've gone throughout the vessel removing teak and other "wood" which needs attention.  Interesting to note the hatch covers are plywood rather than odd discovery and not a difficult fix, simply a bit expensive.  I am removing all teak, escorting it to my home where the debridement of old varnishes is taking place and new preparation takes place.  Jamestown Distributors is furnishing the initial supply of Epifanes Matte finish, a preferred look which can cover many anomalies in wood and present very well for many years (with appropriate care in between) a classic yacht. More to come on that....

You cannot pay someone to do this stuff.  Well, perhaps some of it, like the diesel, which I really don't understand despite the dismissive comments of some, who claim diesels are "simple" and attribute accolades to the Yanmar like, indestructible, reliable, "just keep her running," so they say.  I haven't dared fire it up as I don't even know where to put the water hose to start such an adventure.

Yet there is a great satisfaction to be standing in the cabin despite its sauna-like conditions at the moment.  "I'll sleep good," I think to myself.  Too, I remember doing this aboard my Cape Dory Typhoon, the hot sun, ducking into the cuddy cabin, the feel of the searingly hot deck plate on bare feet!  "Watch out for the metal stuff," I think as I look around aboard the 'berg, I don't need to be hopping around on a boat that is over 12 feet to the ground.  Yes, that would certainly hurt to fall off at this height.  

Lying in the work yard alone at the end of a hot summer day in the south.

Despite the infernal references, it's great to have the Alberg in the work yard, submitting to her makeover.  This phase is all about teak protection (first) as the summer sun will destroy anything not protected from those UV rays.  Going back to my previous post, and the items of concern I listed, I will be doing whatever is critical to getting the 'berg in the water first.  That means teak is first (because it cannot withstand inattention long before it greys and cannot return without massive work, chain-plates (which I discovered were indeed very small diameter bolts, some nuts I unscrewed by hand!) , the diesel servicing, thru-hull checking, and hull compound and polishing.

Chain-plates:  a common fix among Alberg 30 owners.  Original plates and screws are not sufficiently robust for the vessel.  Figuring I had to do this now before stepping the mast and putting her in a wet slip.  Tough environment when temps are 100 degrees, places are cramped, bolts are hard to remove and fiber-glassing additional support must still take place. 
I treat this as my summer job, a loathsome commute of about one hour to the job and one hour home and a pile of tasks in my "inbox" to complete before some of this work will ease back a bit, probably by the end of August, I'd suppose. 

The turn into the club as friends helped haul the 10k pounds package back to where I would begin troubleshooting and fixing things aboard this summer.

Friday, July 8, 2016

It's called, "hurry up and wait," that's the way the Army works, and it doesn't surprise me that waiting on the Alberg should be any different.  So, it provides me another few days of "standing by," as the driver is somewhere probably along Interstate 81 moving southbound toward the Carolinas.

The temps have been cranked-up by Mother Nature this week as well with Friday and Saturday estimates rising into Australian desert ranges, over 100 degrees.  It's a hot summer in this early July, a terrific time to be inside with air conditioning.  I forsee a unintentional weight-loss program as I work on the Alberg this July/Aug as getting in and upside down in the hull to inspect, check, and fix things, will be a sweat bath in itself.  This will just promote quick fixes for other things like fashioning a mooring cover from the current cover.  

I am working with a concept I viewed in Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands, while sailing with friends Sharon and Hugo.  This gorgeous Swan was anchored nearby and had a particularly efficient sun-shade aboard that stuck in my mind.

As you can see, the amid-ships and aft of the vessel is rather protected by this flat shade appearing to be held up by a halyard, over the boom not on the boom.  Hard to see, so here is a closeup of the same photo:

 Ideal, I thought!  so this has been my inspiration since seeing how the pros' do it.  Plus, everyone aboard this Swedish yacht looked especially happy!  I've scribbled my crib notes on an Alberg 30 schematic drawing and will seek to re-manufacture the cover as the above seems to show, held from the top with several lines forming the arch top, then forward and aft on shrouds, and a keeper of some sort fastened to the life-lines.  Before jumping too far forward on this I will shoot this concept to the Alberg Association and find out if someone has already figured this out.  I do not have any intention to work harder in this heat than I have to.

Meanwhile, I wait for my delivery....

Monday, July 4, 2016

Waiting on the Alberg to arrive

So the wait goes on this sweltering 4th of July...

As we count the days for the Alberg 30 to arrive in the Southern USA, the oppressive summer heat is broken only by afternoon thunderstorms brewed by the combination of heat on the ground and cool circulation above.  But it's an expected heat that comes every summer this time of the year.

Preparing for the arrival of the Alberg, I've begun to prioritize my inspection list developed from the Survey findings and our personal observation while visiting Nova Scotia in May.

As viewed in May in this photo, it presents very well as seen in this view of the main cabin, the sole inserts cover bilge and extra holding areas, covers are adequate if not fancy, and the wood is clean and well cared for.  Additional reading on Alberg websites helps to direct my planning to examine other items such as the mast support which extends above the forward V berth compartment hatchway, and the chain-plate refit of larger bolts, redone by many to provide certain assurance for an aging vessel.  Without seeing the vessel again first-person, I am still putting together this "punch list:"

  • Inspect propeller shaft and bearing seals aft for prop
  • validate through-hull(s) integrity
  • examine and/or replace sea cocks, valves and tubing
  • validate and/or re-put cabin porthole caulking
  • inspect, evaluate and/or fix arch support underneath mast below decks
  • inspect electrical circuitry, install in-line connectors, validate guages
  • inspect diesel, test, replace identified items
  • examine rigging for identified weaknesses
  • validate bottom paint and exterior below waterline items like zincs, rudder
  • clean, prep and polish hull above the water line
  • evaluate teak condition and prioritize remedies
  • examine boat cover for redesign to function as mooring cover

That's a good start list I think.  You can see what's on my mind by reading the items placed here in order of priority.  Some items may be deferred to while she is in her slip at the club, while others have to be identified and remedied before she is splashed.

There must be a way to hide these unsightly wires?  I wonder if those port-lights are weather resistant? I like the air-horn but don't think it needs to remain on the shelf inside.  Small stuff not worth much energy right now.

As the photo above shows, she's in very good condition although a bit aged in appearance, sort of like me.  Looks as though some circuit planning, instrument evaluation and wish-list, and design thoughtfulness, will all be good "on the hard" projects for the way-ahead during this long hot summer.

I recall years ago when peg-board was 'state of the art' for garage work areas.  I think we'll remedy this with something a bit more suitable of this vessels stature of design.  I think teak strips would look good here.

This Alberg is dated with its "peg-board" interior.  But for now, that's ok.  I can see refitting that later as we become more comfortable with sailing her, and we have an idea what would "feel good" below decks for that.  Plus, the good thing with the peg board is it provides nearly perfect templates for the areas needing refitting or updating.  Since the survey was very complete, the analysis of the surveyor was to first, "sail the boat" and leave some of these refit items to later.  I think the Acadians' comments were due to their short sailing season; just to be humorous.  But the fact is, the boat is in very good condition, a great vessel to build upon, sort of like Baggy Wrinkles was. 

Ballast of 9,000 pounds, this Alberg is quite hefty for her 30' LOA
Even the trailer will need some attention when she arrives as the owner told me her tires were 15 years old!  That might be important I'd think.

So we wait for the transport to arrive, sometime now in July, we'll offload her, and carefully tow her to the yacht club and set her on the hard for this "checklist" period.  The mast will be down, and due to her size, this will be an ideal period to do the "strengthening" issues before rigging again.  The most bothersome thing will be the heat, which in summer here, is quite intense.  I'll also look into some sort of provisional canopy to protect her a bit while I may have to be below decks working in during the day.  

Pretty soon we hope to see this view of the Alberg, taken before she was lifted onto her trailer for travel south, in a slip at our club.  As I've said, she looks like a Cape Dory Typhoon on steroids with the very similar lines.  But then that is not a surprise as they are both Albergs.