Captain’s Log 12 – Clothespins

Monday December 4, 2017: I can’t believe I forgot about the clothespins! When Megan and I were crossing the Atlantic on Roger’s boat, Vittoria, we found some clothespins on board and were hanging laundry out to dry on the rigging. Roger came flying out of the cockpit, yelling at us, “Not the green ones! Never use the green ones!” We were momentarily taken aback, until he explained to us that it is terrible luck to have anything green on board a ship. (Obviously, green is the color of land, so you’ll run aground if you have green on a boat.) I had to be cheeky, of course, and point out that Roger was the one who had the green clothespins on his boat, so, since they were here already, why not use them? “They came as part of the set; I can’t throw them overboard because they’re plastic. Just leave them in the box and I’ll get rid of them in the next port!” We obliged — he was the captain so we had to do what he said, no matter how nonsensical it might seem to us — and only used the pink, blue, and red clothespins after that. Sure enough, I started looking around the boat and couldn’t find any other green object on board.

I was reminded about all this today when I was over at Joe and Carla’s this morning. We were standing in the kitchen and Joe said, “Why’d you paint it green? Didn’t you know green is bad luck for boats?”

I think I actually smacked myself in the forehead. I remembered the clothespins. As Captain Roger would say, “Further Training Required.” He was of the firm belief that any neophyte should be told a new bit of information only one time, and then remember it forever. How could I have forgotten the lesson of the green clothespins?

So, here I am, having just finished painting my boat green and grey today!

Because Chuuchki is a rowboat, and she will be used for gunkholing (not bluewater sailing), and she will be dragged up and down beaches, and she will most likely be “docked” on the beach itself, she may be exempt from this No Green rule. I’ll just be sure never to whistle while on board or bring any bananas or step onto the boat with my left foot first or start my journeys on Fridays. That should do it. I think we’ll be okay.


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Captain’s Log 11 – Go Green!

Sunday December 3, 2017: It was a momentous day today. December’s full moon, the highest tide of the year, and pouring rain. My neighborhood make-up shifted again, as Walt and Sachiko came home and Jean Luc, Cecile & Ulysse moved out of Walt and Sachiko’s house and back to their boat. It’s great to have Walt & Sachiko back, but I will certainly miss the French folk. This project would never have happened without them.

…And, I painted Chuuchki today!

I started out by making a To Do List and the sequence of tasks, to keep me on track. I wonder if one can absorb paint fumes through the skin? Because, even though I’ve been wearing a respirator and long-sleeve shirt and nitrile gloves, I sure feel spaced out. There seems to be a bit of confusion and short term memory trouble. So, on the back of some scrap paper, I made a guide for today and tomorrow’s tasks:


I love how this says “WRONG WAY” right in the middle there. I hope it’s not an ominous portent!

Built a fire in the Barn, first thing. The giant piece of chainsaw-carving scrap I put in there yesterday is still burning. That piece will have lasted two full days by the time it is entirely ash. Sifted all the sawdust through the hand-crank sifter. Sanded everything topsides, with 120 grit sandpaper. Wiped it all down with acetone. Cleaned off and re-taped all the fittings, oarlocks, etc. Cut in the grey paint on the sides, seat supports and deck. Thankfully, the grey paint is a bit darker than the primer, so I can see where I’ve painted. It’s a nice grey, much prettier than the primer.


The topsides paint is shiny and a bit prettier than the flat battleship grey primer.

Rolled the sides and deck grey, then sprinkled sawdust onto the surface for the anti-skid. My hope is that the sawdust will stick to that first layer of paint, and stay put when I roll the second coat. It was hard to get it nice and even, but I think I did an ok job. It worked best if I held just a tiny amount of sawdust with my fingertips, and sprinkled it from up high. There’s a slight breeze in the Barn, from the fan I’ve had running constantly. It caught the sawdust and spread it like seeds on the wind.


First coat of topsides grey finished, with anti-skid sawdust on deck.

Then, the moment of truth, the beginning of the end: I opened the can of Jade Green, and started cutting in on the seats. My first thought as I laid down the color was, “Oh no! People will think this is an MSU fan’s boat – Sparty colors!” Now, if you are not from Michigan, this maybe doesn’t mean anything to you. Let’s just say that the Michigan State University Spartans and the University of Michigan Wolverines have an epic rivalry.


Sparty chompin’ down on a U of M Wolverine.

People coordinate the colors of their wardrobe, their cars, houses, bathrooms and so on in their school colors, to reflect their loyalties. MSU is green and white, U-M is maize and blue. I’m probably one of the few people from the Mitten State who is in neutral territory on this issue. So I certainly don’t want to paint my boat Sparty colors. It never occurred to me when I picked out the green, which I’d hoped would be a nice contrast to the pale turquoise hull, and perhaps would draw out some of the turquoise’s green. At least Chuuchki’s interior is grey, not white, and I think the Jade Green is a richer, brighter green than Sparty Green.


Chuuchki’s colors on the left, Sparty colors on the right. Oh, crap. I guess they are pretty similar.

Maybe the Sparty theme could be minimized if I leave the seats grey, and only paint the rail green? Cecile insists that the seats should be green. “I know I’m right,” she said. She’s French, so of course she has excellent fashion and design sense, and I trust her implicitly. So I rolled the seats and sprinkled a bit of sawdust (not as much as on deck), and cut in and rolled the rails green.

Walt and Sachiko got home from Japan today, right as I was finishing up the painting. Rosanna and Rob and Zach stopped by to do a High Tide Welfare Check on me (to see if the Shack was flooding), and they all said yes on the green seats. Jean Luc happened by and peeked in, just said, “You do?” I said, “Yes, I do. I’m doing it!” He said, “Nice,” but nothing else, so I don’t know whether he approves or not.

I took off the respirator and helped Walt and Sachiko unload groceries and luggage and beer from Green Betty (Walt’s vintage pickup, who is definitely NOT Sparty green), and breathed great gulps of fresh air while we carried stuff down the boardwalk. The air smelled insanely good — Sitka spruce and seaweed, high tide ocean freshness. Let it flood all my blood cells and wash them clean.

Tomorrow: One more coat of paint! Then put the hatch cover on and I’m done.

Ulysse stuck his head in the door of the Barn and had this reaction to the green: “Why you paint it this color? I do not like this color. Why not test on a piece of wood first?” Great. Thanks for your vote of confidence, kid. I guess I can paint it something else in the spring, if I decide I don’t like it. Maybe I’ll switch to maize and blue, instead.


Chuuchki’s first coat of paint, with anti-skid sawdust showing on deck. Only one more coat of paint to go!

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Captain’s Log 10 – Sifter

Saturday December 2, 2017: Sanded the first coat of battleship-grey primer with 120 grit sandpaper. Wiped everything down with acetone. Painted the second (and final) coat of primer. It took exactly the same amount of time as the first coat (1 hr 15 minutes), but used a little bit less paint.

Tested the green paint (it’s a bit darker than I thought it would be but maybe it will look good in the sunshine?) and tried the sifter with the sawdust. The plan is to paint the first coat of deck paint and sprinkle the sawdust on it while the paint is wet. Then paint over it with the final coat of deck paint. This will provide some traction on the deck, to prevent slips and falls later, especially when wet.


Sifting sawdust from Joe’s shop, trying to get just the finest bits to use on the deck as anti-skid texture.


Sprinkle-test: will this sawdust work with the paint? Also, that Jade Green is much darker than I thought it would be.

I thought I’d be able to sprinkle the sawdust by holding the sifter over the deck, and turning the crank. But the little metal bar that rotates inside the sifter dumps out a whole bunch of sawdust at once, then none until the bar comes around again. So, I will have to hand-sprinkle it. This reminds me of planting seeds, grassland restoration, farming. Not for the first time during this project, I am surprised by some random old life-skill coming into play while I’m working on this boat. Farming: seeds. Quilting: patterns and cutting fabric. Seabird grubbing and yoga: proprioception. Cooking: mixtures and recipes. Baking: how to use a sifter. Painting rooms and houses: cutting in and rolling. OSHA training and oil-spill preparedness: knowing how to read material safety data sheets and which personal protective equipment to wear. My thoughts have started to drift in a meditative state while I’m working, making connections, feeling inspired: a sure sign that I am “in the zone” on this project.

Or maybe I’m just high on paint fumes.

It’s dump day today, so I recruited Joe to give me a ride out there. I collected all the trash from the project (mostly yogurt containers) and emptied Walt’s Barn trash can. He’ll be home tomorrow and I don’t want his shop to look completely trashed. I had burned a lot of the stir sticks, paint brushes, acetone rags, and paper towels as I went along, so there really wasn’t that much garbage. Turns out it’s pretty handy to have a woodstove in the shop, in spite of those fears of explosion and destruction by fire. I also cleaned out Walt’s shop vac and even wiped it out with acetone to get rid of the fiberglass dust. Nasty stuff!

Two coats of paint to go, then I’m done!

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Captain’s Log 9 – Ceilidh

Friday December 1, 2017

It was a huge, busy day in the Barn today. Got up early so I could bake cornbread in the morning, then flipped the boat at 9:00 am with Jean Luc & Cecile. [I’d never have been able to do this project without them!] I spent an hour and a half sanding the patched rail, breaking a sweat, and then Jean Luc walked in and said, “Why you waste your time? Just use the machine.” This is the third time he’s said that to me!

We inspected the repairs and decided that we needed a bit more “pasta” for the damaged rail, as well as the cracked starboard rear corner. This was more of a fine filler, though, not the sawdust/epoxy/fabric mix like before. The stuff had a part A and part B, and all the instructions were in Korean. (Jean Luc bought it there.) Luckily, he knows how to mix it, without having to read the instructions! We applied that, and I left around mid-day to go in search of sawdust to use as anti-skid for the penultimate layer of paint on the deck and seats. Jean Luc suggested fine sawdust, and I knew right where to find it.

Joe’s shop: seems like it’s been ages since I’ve visited. Usually, this time of year, I would be over there every day, working on Christmas presents. But I’ve been a bit sidetracked this year by a little boat project…

Of course, Joe had some sawdust that I could take, and even had an old hand-crank flour sifter I could borrow, to get just the finest textured dust. I will experiment and see whether it will work. Carla came out to the shop and the three of us stood there by the wood stove for a while, visiting. For at least twenty years, Joe has kept a big rock on top of his wood stove. It heats up as the wood burns, releasing all those summers of sunshine. The top of the rock is shiny and smooth from years of Joe warming his hands on it. As we stood there chatting, I placed my over-worked, aching (dare I say, arthritic?) hands on the rock. At first it is agonizing, way too hot for my winter-chilled skin. But soon the cold leaves me. And then the heat soaks into the meat of my hands, then the tendons, the joints, the bones, and finally, the marrow. After five minutes, I feel like I’ve been to the sauna, the spa. I walk back to my boat project, renewed.

In the afternoon, I sanded EVERYTHING topsides. Big job. I finally figured out — just go straight to the grinder, skip the hand sanding. I don’t want to hear Jean Luc say it again. There was still a little divot in the rail repair, so I scrounged around on Walt’s shelves and found some Bondo.


Wood, screws, wood shavings, fiberglass bits, resin, fiberglass cloth, Korean pasta, Bondo, and lots of sanding — the finished rail repair. I should have taken a close-up. It reminds me of the Painted Desert.

Vacuumed the whole boat, then wiped everything down with acetone to get the sanding dust off. I slosh that stuff around so blithely these days, “low flash point,” whatever.

Masked all the trim pieces, oarlocks, etc with blue tape.

Started mixing about a quart of the epoxy primer at 5:00 pm. I did 8 ounces of Part B, poured into Mom’s grape jelly jar almost all the way to the top. Poured the Part B into 32 ounces of Part A (measured in a quart yogurt container), mixing it all in a Nancy’s 64 oz. plain yogurt tub. What would I do without yogurt containers!?

I let the Parts A and B “induct” or “sweat in” for the appropriate 15 minutes. Started cutting in with a chip brush at 5:15, and finally rolled it all. Finished up at about 6:30. That amount of paint was just about perfect. Had a little bit leftover.

She looks good! Grey all over now, goodbye bright blue rail, goodbye nice-looking wood showing on the deck. Almost sad to see it go. Chuuchki suddenly now looks almost like new, except for the “piercings” from previous attachments and accoutrements. I’ll have to figure out where to put my gimballed beverage holder (birthday present from Carla), and Joe’s big halibut-line cleat will go back on the middle seat, of course. Other than that, I think I will keep her pretty clean. Maybe add lights eventually.


First coat of primer. Looks like a battleship or something. This makes me think of the Cleadale Crofting Museum on Eigg: the man of the house had worked in the shipyards, and, being a thrifty Scot, much of the interior of the house was painted with battleship grey. 


The damaged rail, repaired. Sure, there’s a little wiggle in it, but I doubt anyone will ever notice. Plus, it’s stronger now than it was when it was new!

Kari stopped by this afternoon, peeked in the door and said, “It’s a vintage boat.” I hadn’t thought of it that way, and really like the idea. Maybe I can find some 1968-period cushions for the seats. She speculated that it’d be a real slug to row, but I said my experience so far has been otherwise. (My little Chuuchki secret!)

Joe came over a bit later, to check on my progress. “I like to see you fixing up this boat, taking care of it,” Joe said. “Usually these skiffs just get used up and thrown away.”

I’m high as a kite, but not in a fun way. I wish I had other cartridges for my respirator, as I think these are probably no good anymore. I wonder, not for the first time, if I get enough oxygen breathing through this thing? Joe sent me a text late in the day: “Did you succumb?” I assured him I was still alive, but would be a bit late to the dance.

After cleaning up the painting tools, I had to rush, take a shower, get dressed, grab the cornbread, and hike up to the Sea Otter Center for the potluck – Billygoat concert – square dance. In other words, the ceilidh. Pronounced “kay-lee,” this is a Scots/Irish word for a dance party. It was a “dry” event, but I felt drunk and even a bit hysterical. Ah, toxic fumes… it helped to dance and sweat it out a little bit and drink lots of water, but still… it feels like poison. I’m glad I’m almost done with that stuff. Hoping the two coats of polyurethane aren’t as bad.

Billygoat played lots of good old-timey fiddle tunes, and Mark Janes was our caller. We did the Virginia Reel and the Texas Star, and lots of standard moves like do-si-do, promenade, swing your partner, and so on. Andrew was my dance partner and every time the spin came around, we would hold on double-handed and spin, really fast, and just yell exuberantly in each other’s faces while we were going around. The little white Christmas lights strung up around the room streaked by in a glittery blur, just Andrew’s face in focus. I never fell down, but a few times I felt my face scrunched up while I tried not to bust out shrieking with laughter. Fortunately, it was a fairly raucous gathering, so I think we actually blended into the crowd pretty well. The last dance featured pairs of dancers, one in a wheeled office chair, one doing the wheeling. I doubt any ceilidh in Scotland has ever seen the like.


A photo of some random people at a ceilidh, spinning. But this is what Andrew and I must have looked like.

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Captain’s Log 8 – Extra Yoga

Thursday 11/30/2017: Extra yoga necessary this morning, after yesterday’s mega fiberglass extravaganza. Moving slow today, a bit ill in the morning (spaced out, sore, and a little nauseous) and glad that I don’t have to spend another big day in the Barn. But I’m happy with how the boat looks! It’s starting to feel like I might be able to actually finish this thing.


Fresh layer of fiberglass on deck, with the pretty plywood showing through. Rail and stern corner repairs done, too.

Jean Luc and Cecile helped me turn the boat over again, so I could do a second coat of primer on the keel, at noon. Now I’m waiting for the keel to dry, will flip the boat back over in the morning for the big push on painting the interior/topsides. Peeled off the masking tape from the keel edges in the late afternoon. It looks pretty good! Although there’s a bit of bubbling in the epoxy primer coat. Hm, I wonder what causes that? No matter… The first time I drag the boat up the beach it will probably rub it all away.

Here are the step-by-step photos of the keel.


Keel before rehab.


Keel after grinding and sanding.


Keel with three fresh layers of fiberglass, masked and ready for epoxy primer.


Shiny new first coat of epoxy primer.


Finished! Heavy-duty fiberglass added to the keel, plus two coats of epoxy primer.

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Captain’s Log 7 – Quilting

Wednesday 11/29/17: A very full day of boatyness today. Starting at 8:30, I sanded down the “pasta” on the damaged rail, and then cut the fiberglass fabric to repair the rail and the two transom/gunwale corners, which were cracked. I laid out the pieces of fabric in order, since my fume-befuddled mind needs things to be as simplified as possible to keep track of what’s going on. I mixed up the resin and hardener (finally getting the recipe right), and gooped it all on there. This took me until 11:00 am.


Port stern corner sanded, masked, and fabric laid out and ready to go.


Fixin’ them cracks.


Fiberglass on the rail. The brass screws which go through to the wood block underneath are visible through the fiberglass. The dark area on the top is the sanded-down “pasta.”

I seemed to be on a roll, so after a short fresh-air break and lunch, I went right back at it and did all the fiberglass on the interior deck! It reminded me of quilting. Next time (although I’ve sworn I would never do this again), I would make a paper pattern, and then cut the fiberglass with a rotary cutter. Scissors don’t work too great. The fabric is stretchy and gets out of kilter very easily, and when that happens the edges of the fabric fray. When you apply the resin, those frayed edges get all gummed up and sticky on your gloves, on the brush, on the yogurt container. It’s a big mess. It reminds me of butterscotch candies, partially sucked-on and stuck in someone’s hair. And once the stuff hardens, all those ragged spots will require more sanding later to smooth it all out. With a cutting board and rotary cutter, and a big enough working space, you could lay the fabric out smoothly and square it up, and then use your pattern to cut the shapes with nice clean edges. Yeah!


Fourteen pieces of fiberglass fabric to complete the deck quilt. I had to figure out the order in which they should be applied, so I didn’t end up walking on the stuff, or painted into a corner. One through nine were applied while I was in the boat; 10 through 14 once I got out. Lots of reaching, stretching, and contorting required!


A rotary cutter, self-healing cutting board, and Quilter’s Rule (pun intended) would be great things to add to the boat-fixer’s toolbox.

I had a bit of trouble with the roller; it worked fine for putting down the first layer of resin, but seemed to lift the fabric up off the resin when I tried to roll it for the final application. Had to go over every bit with a brush, tap tap tap tap tap, pushing the resin into the fabric and the wood, lots of work! Plus, of course, applying the resin is a time-sensitive endeavor, since every minute you work with the stuff it gets gooey-er and stickier. It took me a total of five-and-a-half hours to get it all done.

I am pretty exhausted, and, I think, maybe a bit high on fumes, even though I wore a respirator all day. It might be time to change the cartridges.

I took a shower and shampooed my hair, but it still reeks of resin. I can’t imagine those Shed Boys in Port Townsend, doing this kind of work and then living on the beach!

Joe & Tobben stopped by right as I was done cutting the pieces and before I started applying the resin. It was fun to show them the project. I was glad Joe still likes me after I was bitching and moaning yesterday. He sent me a text later: “Good for you, you should have the worst behind you, bet it looks good.”

I never even left the boardwalk today; didn’t set foot on the street or even the beach. Just back and forth from Shack to Barn. I’ve had my head down, working — no idea what it’s like out there in the wider world. But when there is stuff this fascinating to fool around with, how could I be distracted by things like beaches, trails, birds, friends….?


Left: pure resin, hardened. Right: Jean Luc’s “pasta.”

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Captain’s Log 6 – Fiery Conflagration

Monday November 27, 2017 (Morning.): Just spent an hour, sitting in the Barn with my respirator on, blowing hot air on the boat with a hairdryer. Quite a ridiculous situation. Fourth time’s the charm, I hope, with this resin. Now that I’ve got the ratio of resin to hardener mixed correctly, it should set up. But I wonder if it is simply not warm enough for the catalyst to work. It was 83 degrees in there last time I checked, but then, the thermometer is near the stove. The stern end of the boat is about fifteen feet away from the fire, and is cool to the touch. The gallon jug of resin is also cool to the touch. I moved it closer to the woodstove-end of the Barn, and will keep the fire stoked. Good thing I have lots of huge chunks of wood to burn!

I can’t believe what a challenge this project has been to my patience. Every coat of material applied to the boat has to have enough time to dry or harden before the next one can be done. Mistakes slow down the process. I keep hearing the voice of my tenth grade chemistry teacher, Mr. Robinette, in my head: before every exam he’d say, “Flail away!” That’s kind of what this feels like.

And the stress is amplified because of the time constraint. Walt is coming home in five days, and it would nice if I could vacate his Barn by then. I’m beginning to realize that that’s probably impossible. And I have my departure date for Florida in two weeks, (or maybe even earlier if I sail to Homer with the French), at which time the project has to be completely finished and moved out of the Barn.

Monday November 27, 2017 (Evening.): Tried sanding, and even though the resin seems to be setting up fine, it’s still a bit gummy, especially toward the stern. The sandpaper actually got stuck to the resin in a few spots, which tore the paper. Stoked up the fire and went back to the Shack for a while. Read the safety data sheets for epoxy primer and (like acetone) it is very flammable with a low flash point. They say no open flames should be nearby. Vapors can collect along the floor, ignite, and flash back to the source. The source, in this case, would be a yogurt container, held tenderly in my hands. This would be very BAD BAD BAD. My current plan is to let the resin cure overnight with a hot fire in the stove. Let the fire go out by morning, sand, and then do the epoxy with no fire in the woodstove. Air the place out, and then rebuild the fire. I had not foreseen this situation, of using highly flammable materials inside a wooden Barn heated by actual fire. The bow of the boat is only a couple of feet away from the flames. I brought the fire extinguisher over from the Shack, just in case.

I’ve also been doing a little online research regarding application for the epoxy primer (since there were no actual instructions included with the stuff, except “4 parts A to 1 part B”). I learned that there is an induction, or “sweat in” period, in which you have to let the chemical reaction work for 15 minutes before applying. Also, it’s best applied by “airless spray” – and I only have .99-cent chip brushes, of course. It will take 10 hours to dry to touch at 10 degrees C, and 24 hours for a hard dry. Ten to 18 hours are needed to dry between re-coating. Oh, and in a high humidity environment it will take even longer. There is so much humidity in Walt’s Barn right now, water is streaming down the windows and collecting in puddles. Seems, at this point, with all the time it takes to build fires and let them die so I don’t blow the place up, and the extended dry times, and the time required between coats, it’s nearly impossible to get this done by the deadline. It’ll be a big challenge, anyway.

Tuesday November 28, 2017: Got up super early today, so I could be out in the Barn sanding the keel by 6:45 AM. Wiped it down with acetone, and mixed up my first batch of epoxy primer. Painted that on and was done by 12:30 PM.


First coat of epoxy primer applied to the keel. Now we’re getting somewhere!

Cecile, Jean Luc, and I flipped boat over in the evening. It’s time to repair the damaged port side rail! We put a block of wood up under the rail where the damaged area is, then a second piece of wood as a brace (unattached, underneath). We clamped the brace to the rail, which pushed the hidden block of wood up under the damaged part. Three bronze screws now hold the damaged inner rail to the hidden block, which will forever become a part of Chuuchki. Jean Luc mixed up resin, sawdust, and little shredded bits of fiberglass to make what he called “pasta.” It was interesting to see him making the pasta; like watching someone cook. There was no real recipe for the mix — he just did it by instinct, like any good chef. He spread the “pasta” into the big hole, where we will let it cure overnight. Pretty neat. Finally having some fun with this project!


Two blocks of wood, two clamps, three screws, and an old quilt — that should shore her up.


Jean Luc’s “Pasta” recipe: Sawdust from the table saw, mixed with fiberglass fabric bits, resin, and hardener.


Applying the Pasta. This is fun!

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