With the silicon bronze bolts on order, Andrew felt like he bought himself some time to make the next important decision: how will he remove and replace my old bolts? While he works on making this final call, he sets to work resolving my “Boaterfly Effect” projects.
What is a Boaterfly Effect Project?
You see, any small change on a boat unleashes a chain of infinite repercussions. It is as if the moment we boats find ourselves in a yard, we slowly start to remember all the things we’ve been niggling at. With enough time and attention, we will reveal these things one-by-one to our Captains in the hopes that he or she will tidy them up and hopefully add a little boat-bling, too. Attending to this is non-negotiable. If a Captain fails to hunt and prod, search, question and re-question his boat about what the boat would like repaired, that Captain is very likely to return us to the water only to find something else has broken - necessitating yet another haul out. Sometimes, a second haul out happens, anyway. I taught Captain Andrew this lesson a long time ago. And now he knows to approach all major boat repair projects with (1) a hunter’s eye for things going wrong; (2) patience; (3) contingency additions of extra time and financial resources to his overall strategy. I think this is a big part of the reason Andrew and Leslie didn’t even bother to try to squeeze their Thai Sailing Season, Keel Repair, and Indian Ocean Castoff into 2018-2019. Better to just slow down and give me the time I need to think.
Months before we hauled out, Andrew asked me: “All right, Sonrisa, we are hauling out for the keel, but what else do you think you’d like refreshed?” He is a wise Captain. But, he also knows I’m not very likely to remember everything I want repaired ahead of time…even if I am asked! So, he comes up with his own list, suggesting nice “boat-offerings” he thinks I will like.
“We are going to have to re-do the bottom paint. Do you think you we need to take the paint all the way back to gel coat, Sonrisa?” Hmmm..that sounds nice. I full bottom refresh would be great.
“The batteries are at the end of their life span, I think, would you like to swap over to a lithium system, Sonrisa?” Ooooh, yes! That would be lovely.
“We are going to have to take off your mast anyway, might you like to have your mast base refreshed?” Sure.
Over time, he added to his list of things to inspect and repair. So, he was ready to fill this bit of keel bolt shipping down time. The list was ready, but this does not mean Captain shouldn’t look around and find even more things to do that neither he nor I thought of before. So, Captain Andrew sets about starting all the other projects he had planned for me, and keeping a keen hunter’s eye for anything else that might need to be fixed.
He removed my propeller and propeller shaft and started polishing and inspecting things. Herein, we discovered the cutlass bearing had just pulled us into port before giving up and falling apart. The thin metal tears into ribbons when Andrew pulls it out of place. The rubber piece that goes along with this had turned to a floppy mush. The polished Max Prop looks pretty nice, though! He orders a rebuild kit and some grease so he can freshen it up nicely.
He started poking around with my windows and hatches; he really hates how foggy they have gotten.
He removed my rudder and discovered it is feeling a little sad and may need some love and attention before we set off to sea again.
One day, while sitting in the shade of my cockpit he decides the wooden base beneath my winches ere getting soggy and rotten. But, when he went to tear those apart, we found he could not access the bolts to get in there without tearing apart a whole fiberglass cubby that precedes the winch base. He reaches for his angle grinder and starts buzzing away in his bright orange prison-like jump suit. “We’ll just do a little plastic surgery, Sonrisa.”
I hope Andrew remembers all his fiberglass working skill I taught him in our last refit before we cast off.
He removes my motor mounts, and replaces those…
…and he didn’t even complain about how awkward it is to reach the mounts far in the back of the engine room.
He spies some screw holes he doesn’t like the look of, and he tears off my companion way hatch cover with the intention of re-bedding and sealing those screw holes.
Every day, Andrew comes to the yard and tears more and more of me apart. He looks right and left and sees something he would like to to tear apart. I have completely lost track at this point.
My parts and pieces are organized into zip-lock baggies and strewn from bow to stern in my living quarters. I am an uninhabitable mess. I despair. I look more like a disorganized storage facility than a proper sea-faring ship.
“I’m keeping track with these sticky notes…Trust me! It’s organized, in my way.” Andrew says, though he keeps taking out the blood pressure monitor and sliding it up his own arm.
Andrew starts sanding off all my bottom paint, then decides to hand that miserable job over to the professionals. We discover I have at least sixteen layers of paint on my bottom accumulated over all the years. Andrew decides that is too many, and I will be more svelte and fast if we take it all off and refresh it.
They take several wheel barrows full of paint away. I don’t know what this chemical stripper is, but it cannot be good for my pores!
“What do you think, Sonrisa? Would you like a Copper Coat Bottom to match your silicon bronze bolts?” Andrew asks me. He researches and watches YouTube again to get a sense of whether the Copper Coat Bottom plan will be worth the extra money it costs. He decides that since copper coat can be taken out of the water during haul outs without being damaged, if we even have just one extra haul out than we plan over the next two or three years, the money will be worth it. We all wished for copper coat when we had to haul out the first year n Tonga. So, copper coat it is! Andrew even finds all the necessary supplies in town! No shipping necessary. And this promise of boat-bling does cheer me up. I’m going to be so pretty when he is finished.
Each day, Andrew makes a stop at H&E Trading or Multiquip where he buys another new tool. This makes him happy, but Leslie and I both look on with our hands on our hips. I’m certainly not going to be lighter and faster if we are adding more tools to my tool shed.
Finally, we come to the last of the things Andrew wants to tear from my body.: my skeg. The skeg is a second fin on my stern (the back end) to which my rudder attaches. It is held on by 10 stainless steel bolts welded to a mild steel plate and mild steel cage. This steel cage and plate is attached onto the bottom of my hull with glue or fiberglass resin. For as long as I can remember, at least as long as Andrew and Leslie have been with me, I’ve had a small, two inch crack just below the hull/skeg joint. This crack has caused no one any major heartache (yet), but now that we have some time in the yard, Andrew thought maybe he should repair it. Given that the skeg bolts are as old as the keel bolts, he also thought maybe he should remove and replace those, too, especially if it seems like they’ve been exposed to salt water. Andrew drilled several small holes in my skeg to test for water intrusion, and upon breaking the outer fiberglass shell with his drill bit, water came pouring out. Upon more sanding and grinding he found my skeg had been repaired (poorly) once before. So, now Andrew wanted to remove and rebuild my skeg with new bolts and new steel.
He fashions a custom made wrench designed to help him reach back past my engine, past my fuel tank, and deep into my nether recesses to remove the nuts from the bolts that hold my skeg on.
Stretching the full length of his Spider-Man arms and legs, he reaches back and just barely attaches his wrench to a bolt. One half turn at a time, he spends several hours cocked into this position patiently removing each of ten nuts off the skeg bolts. With that task complete my skeg should be freed of hardware, and now we have to peel apart….glue? We don’t really know what is connecting the skeg to my hull besides these bolts. Andrew skitters down my ladder to the ground, looks up at the skeg, and gives it a little tug. Nothing happens.
He starts looking around at his tools. “If you are a man who owns a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” He grabs his chisel and hammer and starts smacking me at the seam between my hull and skeg.
“Stop that!” I finally say. Nothing is happening. The skeg isn’t loosening or coming off with this pounding and chiseling.
“What is this thing attached with, Sonrisa? It’s not even chipping with the chisel.”
“Well, I am pretty strong.” I tell him. He leaves for an hour or two, then returns with a new saw.
“A saw!!!? No, I think this is a bad idea.” I tell him.
The next week passes with Andrew, the Silent Zen Master in The Art of Boat Maintenance almost continuously sanding, chiseling, sawing, hammering, clawing, and at one point I think he may have tried to chew my skeg off with his teeth. He really wanted that skeg off.
The skeg, however, does not want to be…off.
“Sonrisa, why are you giving me such a hard time about the skeg?” Andrew asks.
“I’m not! I don’t mean to, I think it might be permanently affixed. Just stop! All this clawing hurts.”
Andrew sighs in response.
“What if I promise to hold on to the skeg really tight for the rest of this trip…or forever! That is the point of this whole activity, right, to make sure it will always stay on? There isn’t even anything really wrong with it, but a small, superficial crack from where that old, bad repair was. Why don’t you just do a nice, clean fiberglass repair and leave it be?”
Andrew props up a block of wood beneath my hull and sits in the shade to think. He looks up and pats me. “Yeah, it seems to be on there good and tight. And, when I patch this seam and the old repair it will be secured even stronger than before.”
“I’m tired of having everything torn apart. Time to start putting me back together, I think.”
“All right, well, if you are sure there isn’t anything else you want fixed… you are in enough pieces, already, Old Girl.”
“What?! Who are you calling old?”