A little drama in the marina

I know. For the past month, all of my posts have been drudgery. Boat projects, hard work, blood-sweat-and-epoxy. But we had a little bit of excitement yesterday. No great photos, but that’s how you can tell things were exciting – if you don’t have time to take pictures, it must be a good story.

I was on the top deck of Sanitas, working on my latest teak refinishing project. And I heard a bit of yelling across the way at the St Petersburg Yacht Club fuel dock. I checked it out, but decided to mind my own business. Couples yell at each other while docking at the fuel dock all the time. None of my business, right? So I put my headphones back on, and cranked up the volume on This American Life, and got back to work. (Totally worth it! Look at that newly refinished hand rail!)

Oblivious to my surroundings, I heard much louder shouting. RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME! I leapt to my feet, ripped the headphones off and dropped them on the deck, because a sailboat was about four feet from Sanitas’s bow and blowing right into me sideways. I jumped up the the bow pulpit and assumed the position to fend off this massive amount of inertia. And screamed “Mike! Get up here!”

Folks who normally live in a slip about four boats down were apparently moving to a new slip across the marina. Some of the boats that live here are in, harrumph, less than perfect working order. This one didn’t have a functional motor and was trying to move out of one slip, across the harbor, and into the new slip. Completely under sail. For those of you who aren’t sailors, this is not an easy maneuver! Especially since this couple might not have left their slip since they bought the boat.

When Capt Mike made it above decks, the couple asked for a tow over to their new slip. My first thought was “Bug? The smallest dinghy in the marina, with the smallest 5-horse power motor? Tow this big fat boat?” But Capt Mike went into superhero mode. He leapt into the dinghy, released the painter, and went to the rescue. Now it wasn’t a perfect rescue attempt. For the first ten minutes, Capt Mike and Bug made a valiant effort to tow the sailboat from the front. It was not a success. There was quite a lot of random drifting and close calls with all of the very expensive boats docked at the Yacht Club. Then Allen, a salty old guy why also lives on the dock, wandered over to watch the show and started giving me advice. “He shouldn’t be pulling the sailboat. He should be pushing from the stern.” So I repeated it all, just a little bit louder. “Hey Mike! Stop pulling. Push from the stern!” Allen knows his stuff.

So he tried it, and Bug saved the day! Lashed to the stern of the sailboat, her little outboard motor provided plenty of forward momentum. The woman who owned the boat could steer from the helm. And they putted their way across the marina to their new home. Did they shower Capt. Mike with thanks and gratitude, and maybe a spray of champagne? No. They did not. But he had the satisfaction of being a Good Samaritan. And Bug has a new friend who comes visit her at sunrise- a gorgeous grey sand crane.

We’re committed to the nomadic life now!

On Thursday, we sold my car. Talk about a bittersweet moment. I’ve owned this cute little VW convertible since 2010, and it’s taken us on many adventures; including moving all of our belongings to Florida, and two more cross country road trips this past summer! More importantly, it’s given us the freedom to do whatever we wanted while living here in St Petersburg. Early morning trips to the YMCA? No problem. An afternoon of errands and massive provisions runs to Sam’s Club, West Marine, Home Depot, and Trader Joe’s? Piece of cake. Invitation to spend time with friends in Siesta Key an hour’s drive away? Don’t mind if I do.

Last year, we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to store the VW at Drew and Sharon’s house here in St Pete, knowing we planned to return after the cruising season. This year, our plans are less firm. We want to have the freedom to continue cruising, without having to make the long trek back to Tampa Bay. So it’s time to cut the cord and truly become cruising nomads.

We put it off as long as we possibly could, and until every hold of the boat was FULL of provisions. Then we began the Craig’s List and Facebook Marketplace dance. Is this a real person or a robot? Will he actually show up for our meeting? Will he offer me some kind of ridiculous low ball price? After several “interesting” showings, we connected with Maggie of Das Auto Haus in Clearwater who offered us less than we asked, but more than the VW dealer, and we had ourselves a deal. Goodbye trusty Volkswagen! Thanks for everything!

Yesterday, I did my first round of errands as a walking person. Grocery store, post office: it really makes you think if you need BOTH almond milk and bottled water at the same time – heavy!

Stainless Steel really isn’t

So this is going to be a boring post for the landlubbers out there. It’s basically just about cleaning. But you boat owners know that there are at least two boat projects that never end: varnishing the teak, and polishing the stainless.

And unlike many (many) boat maintenance projects, I actually tried to keep on top of the stainless steel hardware on Sanitas last cruising season. Especially on the bow, which is constantly covered in salt water and gets incredibly rusty incredibly fast, I spent several otherwise lovely afternoons scrubbing. But I never really got it perfectly clean, and I just assumed I was doing it wrong.

So while we were in the boatyard, and time and fresh water were plentiful, I decided to go all in. I RESEARCHED. Reading articles on Practical Sailor, YachtUnlimited, and Boatlife, and went down the rabbit hole of way too many discussion threads. I weighed the relative advantages of “Best Value” cleaning products vs highly rated cleaning products, and you always need to consider environmentally friendly options. I may have gone overboard on buying cleaning products.

I didn’t do the greatest job of capturing the full extent of the rust problem, but here are a few examples of how terrible it looks:

So I spent the next three days scooting around on my butt on the non-skid deck (ouch) attacking every bit of rust with a microfiber cloth or a toothbrush. Are you curious which stainless product worked the best? NOT the super expensive Flitz polish I could only find on eBay. NOT the super cheap turtle wax automotive polish I could find at Walmart. (Although it wasn’t half bad) but the Miracle Cloth is truly and totally miraculous. No waiting, no scrubbing. It even took the rust off the bow sprit. And even off the standing rigging and life lines. I’m sold. Not to mention that it is made with coconut oil that smells so…. good… every time I open the bag. Do you think if I write enough good things about it they will sponsor me and send me a lifetime supply? In theory, you can use the miracle cloth over and over again, but I may have pushed it to the limit. The white square in this picture is a new, pristine miracle cloth, and the crumpled black blog is one that I used for a few hours one afternoon. it still kind of works, but it isn’t much fun to touch.

Checkout the fashionable outfit that all the cool kids wear while polishing the stainless steel with a toothbrush! As an added bonus, you can see how bad the teak woodwork looked before I refinished it. It’s a great reminder. I’m already used to how much better the woodwork looks, and I’ve forgotten how much it needed all of those long hours of effort!

I’ve heard other boat owners describes as “she’s so meticulous at keeping her boat pristine. She’s out there every day with a toothbrush.” Huh. Maybe I have become that boat owner?

Here are a few photos on the shiny stainless post-polishing.i don’t think they do it justice. Maybe I will post a few more, just to capture the one moment in time that all of Sanitas’s stainless steel is shiny and clean, before we untie the lines, head into the waves…….and start accumulating rust once again!

Boat Project #1 – Fixing the Leaks

Jumping back in time a bit, this is the first project Capt. Mike and I took on when we returned to the boatyard after our summer vacation. We had done a pretty good job of preparing Sanitas for storage; we didn’t have any serious problems with bugs, mold, or rain water intrusion. Or at least that’s what we thought at first….

Upon closer inspection (i.e.: crawling back into the quarter berth and discovering it was squishy) we found three different leaks that needed to be addressed first thing! The simplest project was re-bedding the fresh water deck fill. Basically, the hardware that allows us to hook up a hose and fill the aft water tank was old, and no longer sealed properly. Now rain water could get around that fitting and flow into the cockpit lockers, soaking the items that we store there, and creating a rusty, slimy mess. Oh what a difference a year makes! Last year when we discovered leaky deck fittings, we agonized over how to fix them, what sort of adhesive to use, and the relative virtues of butyl tape. This year, Capt. Mike jumped right in and replaced the O-rings and fixed the seal in just a couple of hours. I think he even did it with only one trip to West Marine!

As always happens in boat projects, fixing one problem leads to finding a new problem. BECAUSE all that water had been leaking into the cockpit locker, the bulkhead that divides the storage locker from the living space inside the boat was seriously rotted, and was the cause of our squishy-slimy quarterberth. So Capt. Mike addressed Leak #2 by digging out the black, rotten wood with a screwdriver and scraper. Once he finally reached good (not rotten) wood, he used a dremel to cut out material to be patched. Now it turned into a normal boat project, because we had to put this whole effort on hold for a few days while ordering and waiting for delivery of new dremel heads – this project burned through them fast! After cutting out all the rotten wood, Capt. Mike cut a new solid piece of wood to fit the hole, epoxyed it in place, and applied fiberglass mat to seal it all. A final coat of paint to make it pretty, and this second leak was also vanquished.

The final cockpit leak snowballed into quite a large project. During one of Capt. Mike’s frequent trips into the bowels of the boat to inspect the transmission and steering systems, he discovered that tons of water had been leaking through the base of the steering pedestal, causing lots of sensitive equipment below to rust and corrode faster than necessary. So we decided to re-bed the steering pedestal too.

But once we started looking closely at the steering pedestal, we noticed the paint had blistered and developed corrosion underneath. The quick re-bedding project turned into a week-long effort to sand down the blemishes, apply aluminum primer, and to apply four or five coats of white paint. All performed within temperature and humidity levels higher than the manufacturer’s recommendation! we had the cockpit all strung up with trip hazards and “Do not touch -wet paint” signs for over a week, even suspending the steering pedestal in mid air for much of the time to allow it to dry completely.

I have never claimed to have good balance, and if there’s something available to stub my toe on, I will stub it. So believe me, I was thrilled to finally complete these cockpit projects and to restore relative order to the boatyard chaos. And ….no more cockpit leaks!