Throwback Thursday: Birthday Celebrations on the High Seas

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

When we last left off on TT, just after leaving for our Atlantic crossing we had hit terrible storms just off the coast of Florida about an hour after the sun had gone down and weren’t even sure if we were up for that 3.000 mile journey anymore.  Deciding that it was most likely a freak incident that we would not experience again, we kept going.  It turns out that more storms were on their way for us, although luckily anything bad came during the day in full light and with lots of warning.

Getting as far north as Georgia, we turned our bow east and started making real miles offshore.  Or tried to at least.  Even though our nights were filled with thunderstorms which would always come a little too close for comfort without actually passing over us, our days were left with no wind and we were lucky to make 70 miles a day.  We tried to fill those days of bobbing around on glass calm seas by doing a little fishing, and did get a mahi on the line once.  It happened to outsmart us while bringing it onboard and escaped our grasp, but since we were only a week out I don’t think our fridge and freezer could have handled all that meat at the time.  There would be more chances.

Things out at sea were becoming a bit boring…until Matt’s birthday came upon us.  Just when I was looking forward to calm seas to throw the best at sea celebration I could….we were hit with another storm system.

You can find the original post here.

Saturday June 21, 2014

Some of you might be wondering how we’ve been getting our weather so far on this trip, probably actually feeling bad for us because we can’t seem to find winds to move us anywhere. The sad part is, we know exactly where they are. We just happen to not want to travel to those areas, mainly which are in the northern parts of the Atlantic, and you can refer back to my little freak out here to see why we’re so adamant about staying in the land of drifting versus following the route with more wind. As I said, we do know where the winds are, everyday, and that’s because we’ve been able to download forecast with Weather Fax, using our Single Sideband receiver. Similar to the single sideband radio, but we can only receive instead of transmit as well.

Every morning at 0800 UTC, Matt hooks up the SSB to my computer and fiddles with the dials until he can fine tune a station from Boston that transmits a fax audio signal to us for the next 24 and 48 hours*. The app on my computer deciphers the tone and turns it in into files that we can read, giving us a surface analysis of the entire Atlantic, as well as a separate wind and wave forecast. Each morning we read these forecast through the images, much the same way we’d look at the GRIB files through Passage Weather, to find out what the winds in our neck of the woods are going to be, and also tracking low pressure systems to make sure that we can stay out of their way. Here’s an example of both a surface analysis and a wind & wave forecast from our Weather Fax.** ***

Atlantic surface analysis

Atlantic wind & wave forecast

While keeping an eye on these images for the past few days we’ve noticed that a cold front is heading our way, which is going to bring us some stronger winds and unfortunately, probably some bigger waves with it too. We’re trying not to be near the center of it, but our file is telling us that we can expect 15-20 knot winds and waves at 2 meters. Treating it just like we always have our Passage Weather forecast, we’re interpreting that to mean the winds will actually be anywhere in the 20-30 knot range. To be fair to our Weather Fax though, it was showing data spread all the way across the Atlantic, and what we were experiencing was local weather which is very hard to pinpoint down to a few degrees of latitude and longitude when you’re looking at an entire ocean. But why is it that winds always seem to be higher than forecast when they’re stronger than we want them, but never when they’re forecast for 5-10?

We’ve started to see an increase a little bit tonight in both wind and waves, already reaching those predicted 15-20 knots, and seas going from less than 1 meter, up to the 1-2 range. The pressure is starting to drop on our electronic barometer, and although I am enjoying logging these miles while we finally push along at 4.5 knots, I have to wonder what the next day or two will bring. Hold on to your hats, it looks like it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

*There’s also a 96 hour forecast that we can receive and sometimes go through the trouble of getting later in the afternoon.

** If you’re interested in learning more about using Weather Fax, tips and tricks, or a schedule of broadcast frequencies and times, check out a great post that our friends Brian and Stephanie wrote while they were making their own Atlantic crossing last year, here.

*** We’re also very lucky to have my dad, who’s the best for helping us out with this, send us reports from Passage Weather via a text message on our Sat phone, so we have multiple sources to confirm forecasts.

 

Sunday June 22, 2014

I had one goal this morning when I woke up. Something that’s been in the works for weeks now, and that was supposed to be decorating the cabin with balloons and streamers for Matt’s 32nd birthday while he slept. All the necessary items were shipped to me weeks ago by Matt mom and all I had to do was display them. Waking up and looking around though, I realized it was going to be a lot easier said than done.

The low pressure system and cold front that we had been watching on our Weather Fax for the past few days and were beginning to feel the effects of last night, was now in full swing. When Matt woke me up at 8 am I stumbled out of bed and poked my head out the companionway to see gray skies and building seas. Winds were now steady at 25-30 knots and waves appeared to be in the 8-10 ft range. Carrying on at 3.5 knots under a triple reefed main alone, we were looking at a long and uncomfortable day ahead. Even though I was planning on spending most of my shift in the horizontal position on the open settee below, I was still strapped into my harness in case I had to run out into the cockpit for any reason. To make matters worse, I didn’t have a seasickness patch on. After doing two straight runs of them I was not willing to become cross-eyed and I was weary about putting another one on. That’s ok, this is now 10 days at sea, by body should be able to handle a little motion, right? Wrong.

This is how my four hour morning shift passed: Lay on the settee where I had a wrist-watch next to me, and after dreading each time the clock hit the quarter of the hour, I would roll myself off the settee and onto the floor. Slowly standing up I’d walk the few steps to the companionway and rest for a moment while my dizzy head gained itself and I could trust my body to walk again. I’d go up 2-3 steps while still keeping myself in the companionway, check the wind speed, check the sail, check for boats, and then rush back down the stairs and throw myself back on the settee for the next 12 minutes until I had to do it again. It looks like the balloons were going to have to wait another day.

The rest of the afternoon and evening followed the same suit. When Matt woke up I took a short nap. When I woke up we cuddled together on the settee and I kept apologizing about what a horrible birthday he must be having, as if I had any control over the situation. Matt, not being one to care about birthdays, laughed it off. His grand birthday dinner which was supposed to be meatloaf ended up being a can of Progresso soup that he had to heat up himself because I couldn’t be bothered to move. Happy birthday my love, I’m glad you were able to spend it taking care of me.

Matt on his birthday

 

Monday June 23, 2014

Today is day 13, and the madness is beginning to set in. Not because of our time at sea. Not because I have been almost two weeks from land. It is the damn sails and their consistent flapping. 10 knots of shifty wind behind us and they are flogging all over the place. Slamming in and slamming out. Every 5 damn seconds. I could even handle the snails pace of 2 knots we’re currently moving at if it weren’t for the racket going on above my head. It makes any kind of concentration impossible. Adding to the madness are the low but rolling swells that are passing through. Our limited speed is keeping us from riding on top of them, so we are left to bob between the crest and trough, constantly wallowing back and forth. My body can’t handle it. I can’t even take up the simple task of reading at the moment. You’d think that after 12 full days at sea it would be a non issue for me now. That any seasickness would be long gone due to the length of time we’ve already been out here. Granted though, the first 8-9 days were ‘at anchor’. How could my body grow accustomed to a bobbing sea that was never bobbing? Since the real motion hasn’t started until two or so days ago, I’m praying that I only have two more days left before we can be violently thrown about and I won’t even shrug a shoulder. I’m starting to miss being becalmed.

On a different note, a fun story that I forgot to mention yesterday on Matt’s birthday, and why we’re moving at just over 2 knots even though the wind hasn’t dwindled all the way out yet, is that we were hit with another surprise squall. Just when we were beginning to think that we were safe from them. It was late in the afternoon, and since it’s been cloudy for a few days now, we had to run the engine for an hour or so to charge the battery. Just as the winds were beginning to die down again and our speed was dropping, so it seemed like a win/win. I was hoping to be able to pencil in a 100 mile day, and the extra power from the engine was looking like it was going to get us there.

Just like our first night out from Miami, Matt was in the cockpit and I was down below when it came. It took me about 2.5 seconds to realize that something seemed wrong, and then about 10 more seconds to put my harness on and race up to the cockpit to see what it was. Once again Matt had the sheet for the headsail in his hands, which he was desperately trying to release slight tension on while trying to roll it in at the same time. Unlike last time though, between the two of us, we were able to gain control of the situation before I was going to spend another week making repairs to our genoa. With daylight on our side this time it wasn’t hard to see how many degrees we needed to fall off to put ourselves downwind and take pressure off the sails. The sheet to the headsail was passed to me, and still having it wrapped around the winch, without the full pressure on it now I was able to ease it little bits at a time while Matt furled it in from the other side of the cockpit.

Phew, crisis averted. But now, just as we were starting to let our guard down about squalls and thunderstorms, we don’t trust that we won’t be hit with one out of nowhere and have gone back to keeping minimal sail up, even in these 8-12 knot winds we’re now getting after the front.

rainbow after storm

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Random Happenings in the Boat Yard

It’s time for random happenings in the boat yard!  Times where there isn’t quite enough on a single subject to fill a full post, but things which are important enough where I don’t want to leave you in the dark completely.  They also come in handy when I forget to take pictures of something that could have been a full post, something I’m sadly becoming very good at.  Kind of funny for a person who used to get scolded for never putting their camera down and just experiencing life instead.

So, here’s a few things that have happened over the past few weeks which you might enjoy a sneak peak at:

  • Work continues, slowly, in the head.

As I get back to my task of painting the cabin top outside, Matt has once more taken to the head.  Normally I wouldn’t trade places in there for anything (remember my sanding woes of a few months ago?), but Matt is the lucky one that gets to do some amazing things in there.  After having put together pieces of sap covered cherry hardwood and plywood to make the cover for our composting toilet and also our cabinet door, he has now made the counter the sink will sit on.

For this we used 1/4″ thick by 2.5″ wide pieces of cherry hardwood that also had sap marks on them, and glued them on top of a 1/2″ piece of marine plywood.  It’s actually come together so nicely that I’m sad 2/3rds of it will be covered by the sink.  When that was done he began trim on all the pieces he’s made in there, routing rounded edges to take the place of the sharp 90 degree angles.  Having received our new toilet seat and lid in the mail, he was also able to cut the hole in the cherry lid, and also the square that will allow us to open a portion of the cherry seat to empty the…contents…of our composting toilet.

(I now realize I should have been using manual focus on these shots since the auto focus wanted to concentrate on the wall instead of the inside) cherry counter top in head cherry cover for composting toilet cherry cover of composting toilet

  • I am already in love with our new maple counter tops.

Yes, this has been one of the projects that both of us have been the most excited to start for months now.  For much too long we’ve been staring and the beautiful, pristine, and unblemished boards of maple hardwood sitting in our storage unit.  This wood will also eventually become our floors, but since that is the absolute last project we are going to complete on this boat, doing the counters in the galley will give us a small taste of what it will look like.

There is a slight difference between the sink counter top and the floors though.  On the floors we will be gluing 1/4″ thick pieces of maple hardwood to 1/2″ plywood, but in the galley we skipped the plywood and decided to go with 3/4″ pieces of hardwood maple.  Come to think of it, the lid of the fridge and freezer are also 1/4″ maple glued onto the plywood lid we’d already made.  Either way, we know that these two spots will be much easier than the floors, and that is because they are square.

For the sink counter we measured the general area and took into account the hole for the sink.  Going just a little large on that area, we glued all those pieces together, and once they had a few days to sit and harden, Matt attached the sink and used a router bit to properly trim the wood around the sink.  The lid to the fridge and freezer gave us just a little more trouble since we glued the full length of both of them together with the maple, and later went back to cut the line between the fridge and freezer so each can be opened on their own.

The line for the freezer side was perfect, but we forgot to take into the consideration the width of the blade and it cut deeper than we would have liked into the foam lid of the fridge.  Nothing a few more days and epoxy filler plus a few more layers of sheet fiberglass couldn’t fix, but it would have been better if we didn’t have to go back and fix any mistakes at all.  Now we just need to add some trim and a fiddle and that area will be all set!

gluing together maple counter top

  • maple counter tops installed
  •  New friends came to see us in the boat yard!

After nearly a year of corresponding back and forth through emails and Facebook messages, we were finally able to meet up with fellow young cruisiers, Johannes and Cati.  The funny thing about our getting to know each other is that although Johannes had been following our blog for a few years, he didn’t reach out to say hi until we arrived in Indiantown and just started refitting Daze Off.  As it turned out, we had mutual friends in the Sailing Conductors, who knew Johannes from being interviewed by him in Germany for Yacht Magazine, and them being our new neighbors and best friends in the work yard.

Ok, so maybe location was more of a coincidence in timing of them contacting us when they did, as him and Cati were passing through Florida and were situated in Palm Beach for a few days, extremely close in cruisers terms. Unfortunately it didn’t work out at the time, and we even missed out on each other once more this winter when they flew through Florida again on their way to the Bahamas, but the third time was the charm.

With their boat in Miami for a few days and a rental car at their disposal, they made the drive all the way up to Indiantown just to see us for dinner!  Showing up with a variety of German beers for us and cat treats for Georgie, it was nice to finally meet face to face after having become friends online. We quickly took over a table on the patio after giving them the grand tour of our boat, although we knew it wouldn’t be a late night (this time) because they still had to drive back to Miami.

We never had a lack of things to talk about as we compared boat projects, passages, and generally all got to know each other better. Some of our discussion was even able to revolve around the Vineyard Vines photo shoot we had all just participated in. When the producer had come to me in need of a solo sailor I was able to recommend Johannes as once upon a time he crossed the Atlantic alone in his old boat.  He’s since moved up to a bigger one as well as a beautiful companion, and we were able to laugh and swap stories of how each other’s shoot went…including the run in of his boat with the chase boat while sailing/shooting out on the Atlantic!

This was another occasion where I only brought my camera out for a total of about three photos, otherwise I probably could have written an entire post on our fun night.  The good news is that they’ll be passing through here soon enough on their boat as they cross through the Okechobee Waterway before getting back to the Atlantic and setting off for Germany in May.

Cati, Johannes, Jessica & Matt

German beers

  • My computer is trying to silence me.

For the past few months I’ve been having issues with my computer that I’ve been ignoring too long.  Mostly it consists of my screen shaking on me, and sometimes momentarily freezing.  Whatever is doing it, it has now gotten so bad that I literally can’t get on my computer do any kind of work (or even pleasure surfing) for fear of seizures or at least a terrible headache.

If you’ve noticed…it’s been about a week since I’ve gotten my last post up.  If you’ve sent me an email in the past 2 months, there’s a 40% chance I’ve not replied yet.  Getting on my computer to do anything has been a complete frustration lately and I’ve basically been ignoring it except when absolutely necessary.  I should say, some days are better than others, and although I should be spending my time looking in on how to fix this problem instead of sticking my head in the sand about it…I take whatever moments of visual stability I can get on it to do all the work that one would need to do on their computer.

We do have a few other devices I could use…but my computer is the only one with the photo editing abilities I like, and also the only device we own with an actual keyboard.  I may be old fashioned, but I don’t like to type posts or write emails with a touch screen.  I spend more time fixing mistakes than getting any actual work done.

There is good news though!  I posted a short video of my problem on our Facebook page, and a number of you poured in with recommendations of what might fix it.  Although I’ve tried just about every personal way to fix it that I can, it sounds like it may have to go in for service due to a lose wire or connection.  Or…I may just end up having to get a new one altogether.  Which may not be the worst case, because I don’t want to leave the country this fall with a computer that I’ve been limping around on.  I can already tell you from personal experience that buying new electronics in the Caribbean is not usually an easy (or cheap) task.  So this may have been the push I needed to get it done.

Since both Matt and I are so stubborn about letting go of money where we don’t need to though…I’ll probably keep limping along until we make t to Arizona to visit my parents in a few weeks.  At least there we’ll not only have a lot of free time on our hands to visit techie stores or service desks, but we won’t have to drive 30 miles each shot to do it.  So until then…just be patient on the lack of posts and updates on my end….I should be back to a more regular schedule soon.

shaking computer screen

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A Night of Luxury in Miami

Tonight we were able get away from the boat and and all the work that comes with it, but not only that, we were able to experience a night at the complete other end of the spectrum from what our lives have been lately. From our normal routine of stepping over power cords every time I walk through my ‘home’, and washing dishes from a nearby spicket (we’re working on the galley counters at the moment); to staying in a suite overlooking Biscayne Bay and dining on refined cuisine on the waterfront overlooking downtown Miami, our 80 mile drive gave us a 180 degree change in lifestyle.

How did opportunity fall in our laps you might ask?  (Because you know there is no way we would treat ourselves to this.) That may just be the best part of it all.  Because if we thought our night tonight was incredible, the motive leading us here is pretty epic.  The entire reason we’ve been pulled away from the boat to come to Miami is to participate in a photo shoot for Vineyard Vines.  They’re a preppy clothing company that originated in Martha’s Vineyard, and it turns out that they’ve been following us for a few months after finding our Daily Mail article  and thought we would be a great fit for their summer catalog with a theme of ‘Every sailor has their story’.  Along with a few other athletes (cyclists, surfers, swimmers), they’ve gathered a few sailors to feature in their summer line of clothing, and we happened to be two of them!

This line of clothing, as well as the photos of us modeling a few of the pieces, won’t be out until mid-May, and since there’s a strict ‘no personal photos on set’ rule, I won’t be able to share the details of that part of our experience for a few more weeks, but I can tell you about the 5 star treatment we received during our time in Miami prior to the shoot.

Knowing that the prep for the shoot would begin around 7 am and we’d have a good 2 hour drive ahead of us (not considering traffic that may pop up), the company offered to let us stay the night prior in the Mandarin Oriental Miami, a 5 star hotel on Brickell Key, overlooking both Biscayne Bay and the downtown area.  Not only that, but just like the crew that flew down from CT to work the shoot, we were given the opportunity to eat at any of the fine dining restaurants inside the hotel for our meal while we were there.  To say that we were stoked even for these amenities alone, beside the added excitement of the shoot the day after, would be a bit of an understatement. As soon as check-in time arrived, we were going to be there to take full advantage of our night of luxury.

Since we’re still not high profile enough to have a car sent for us, that meant we needed to take the Kia minivan down.  Although she did have her (major) issues this past fall, we knew that this time she should get us there without a problem.  Except one.  We still had to show up in her.  To a hotel that only offers valet parking. Oh, and did we mention that Georgie was along for the shoot too?  So imagine us pulling up in our faded jalopy, dents in a few areas, and even a door handle missing from one side; to hand the keys over to someone whom I’m sure thought we mistook the employee entrance.  Either way, they were extremely nice to us and contained any puzzlement they may have had of why we thought we belonged there as we grabbed our overnight bags, Georgie, and her litter box.  A feat which kept our minds so occupied that we actually forgot to tip the guy.

Upon check in at the front desk, not only did my lacy dress and new sail bag help me feel a little bit more in place, but everyone was so enamoured with our cat on a leash that I’m not quite sure they ever noticed us.  A few minutes later we had our room keys in had and were told that they’d upgraded us to a larger room so Georgie could have more space to wander.  In this pet friendly hotel, it looks as if they really do take care of their guests needs. Taking the elevator up to the 14th floor and walking down the hallway to our room, we were greeted with a gorgeous suite which housed stunning views from our wraparound balcony.  Directly in front of us was downtown Miami and the bridge leading over to Brickell Key, and to our left was the beginning of Biscayne Bay.

Once we had picked our jaws up off the floor we took full advantage of the in-room espresso machine and walked around with tiny little drinks in our hands to fully take in the magnitude of this room. The bathroom, I’m not joking, was bigger than our boat.  The room itself had a king size bed, a large couch, and a desk and tv separating the two.  The best feature though was of course the outside, and since our little espressos only lasted us about 5 minutes, we stopped to make another round before enjoying the view out there and the cool breeze passing by.  Since we had unfortunately arrived late in the afternoon, it wasn’t possible to fill up our evening with too many activities, especially since we needed to save most of our energy for the next day.

Throwing on our swimsuits and retrieving Georgie after she had somehow magically managed to find a way inside the couch, we took a stroll by the pool and the large man made beach they had created at the breakwater to Biscayne Bay.  The clock was nearly striking 5 by this time though, and not only was the sun beginning it’s decent behind the skyscrapers of the city, but we had dinner reservations at 6:30.  Something I planned to get into full girly mode for.  Laying out on some beach chairs for about 20 minutes just to say that we soaked up a little sun, we were soon back in our suite and, you guessed it, enjoying more espresso.

Georgie at hotel

Matt at Madarin Oriental Miami

 room - Mandarin Oriental Miami

Mandarin Oriental pool

When dinner time did roll around I exited our room in a full Miami style crazy print maxi dress.  Our destination for the evening was La Mar, a Peruvian inspired restaurant that gazed out on the same waterfront view we had from our room, only 12 floors lower.  Opening up the drink menu it took me about two seconds to zero in on the Pisco Sour, a traditional drink in Peru which I only experienced once during our entire trip there while backpacking a few years ago.  The menu was a much tougher call, since many of the names were the familiar street vendor food we were used to consuming for $1/person.  Deciding on the Chaufa Aeropuerto, a cheap Chinese meal we were used to filling up on, I was not disappointed when La Mar’s version came out.  Fried rice, succulent shrimp, and spiced sausage all mixed together with a perfectly seasoned soy sauce, this meal made me feel like I could subside on nothing else for the rest of my life.

Enjoying a second Pisco Sour and the cool evening breezes rolling through, we wanted to stay out and enjoy the night as long as possible, but it seemed that all the espressos in the world weren’t enough to keep us alert and awake after the exhausting weeks we’ve spent working on the boat.  Signing the tab to the room, we made our way back upstairs where it was time for a little pampering session.  I enjoyed my first bath in years, and even Georgie received a shower since her new hobby seems to be rolling around in the dirt of the boatyard.  By 10:30 I was passed out in bed, a huge smile on my face, and butterflies in my stomach about our upcoming photo shoot.

La Mar at Madarin Oriental Miami

Miami at night

Matt and Georgie

As if I needed any more perks, this trip also gave me an excellent excuse to pack up my new sail bag from North 37 Designs, as it made the perfect overnight bag for me.  Although this French company offers a wide variety of different sized and purposed luxury purses, bags, and duffels, my Sam Bag fit right into the category of easily and stylishly fitting every thing I could need for 36 hours away from the boat.

I haven’t owned it for long, but I’m already head over heels for it and I can tell that this will be a main staple in my outings when we’re once again out sailing.  Listed on their site as a ‘shopping bag’, I could see it coming in very handy for this purpose when we find ourselves in spots like the Azores where I would run out every couple of days to grab fresh bread, cheeses, and crisp fruits and veggies.  Not to mention how handy it will also come in for beach outings as it will perfectly fit a large towel, sunscreen, e-readers, and snacks and drinks for the day.

A few of the features I adore about my new sail bag is how sturdy and well built it is, as well as it’s exquisite architecture.  Each item is is a one of a kind product designed from previously flown sails.  And they genuinely mean it when they say one of a kind.  Once my bag shipped to me it disappeared from the website  since it was literally the only one they owned in that specific mix of sail, colors, and number. As a testimony that your item is unique, each product also comes with an authenticity label on the inside, with a backstory of your sail, including what type of sail the items was made from, where it has traveled, and even who the skipper of the vessel was.

Because I knew my bag was meant for a slightly rougher life than most landlubbers who may purchase them, I opted to go for a mylar sail which has a laminated coating and will let sand or other debris easily wipe or wash off.  The top is zippered to keep all my belongings where they’re supposed to be as I board our dinghy and boat, and the shoulder straps are extra thick, which means I won’t be cursing a non backpack style bag if I am walking around with it for a few hours.  All in all I think this North 37 Design bag makes a great fit with our lifestyle and honestly, it feels kinda good to own something so pretty again.*

North 37 Design - Sam Bag - shot 1

North 37 Design - Sam Bag - shot 2

North 37 Design - Sam Bag - shot 3

North 37 Design - Sam Bag - shot 4

*My Sam Bag was a sponsored gift from North 37 Design, although all views and opinions are my own.

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On to the Next Big Project

Now that we’ve finished putting 10 of the 15 new plexi windows on Daze Off, it’s time for the next big project.  Not only to we have to prep the companionway wall in the cockpit and the front of the pilothouse for the last 5 windows by going through all the steps to get the high gloss paint on them, but at the same time we’re also going to tackle grinding and priming the top of the cabin top and pilot house.

Matt had, as always, the very non fun job of grinding all the existing paint off until we got down to bare aluminum, which ate up a few days where I spent my time below working on a sewing project (to come in a future post). I was hoping there would be very little hand sanding and we’d be able to get right on with the first layer of Aluma Protect, but this was so far from being the case.

Even though we had taken off all the hardware (including winches, blocks, and other items), there were still a number of nooks and crannies that our sander could not make it into. The areas that were becoming hardest to reach were the spots under the grab rail on the cabin top as it butts up with a rail at the edge.  With only being able to get to it from one side, and having about three inches of head room, it was my little hands that had to squeeze in there and work vigorously to remove the multiple layers of paint.

From there, the hard to reach areas only got harder.  Since everything is attached to our boat through welds, and let’s just say they’re not all clean lines, we were also left to manually remove paint from all the divots and holes in all the weld lines for the grab rails, granny bars, and cleats.  It was after I spent a full day agonizing over these areas with my measly sheet of sandpaper when I had the bright idea to bring in other tools.  Our 1/4″ chisel did a great job, with it’s tiny and sharp corner, of getting in those hard to reach areas.  Plus since I was able to put a decent amount of force on the handle, instead of slowly scraping I was usually able to just pop out the remaining chunks of paint.

The hardest area by far though, and the one left to me because of my tiny hands (yay me!!) was getting under the area where the winches sit on top of the pilot house. An area that is raised up about 1.5″, and fully painted on top as well as underneath.  For the longest time I had tried to get in there with just my hand and a sheet of sandpaper alone, working it from each side, and I hate to admit that it took me so long to figure out the best way to really get in there and apply the kind of pressure necessary to actually remove the paint (I kept bumping my knuckles against the top any time I’d try to add speed in as well), was to attach the sandpaper to a long thin stick, to reach the areas I couldn’t.  This in no way made the job a piece of cake, but it did make it manageable.  In 6 hours I think I actually removed all the paint from in there.

So you can see why we’ve probably been exhausted, robotic, and a little quiet lately.  I literally have to drink a coffee at the end of each work day now just to stay awake past dinner.  Yes, we are kind of killing ourselves and are in desperate need of a break.  There may not be any extended vacations coming up in our future for awhile, but the good news is that we do get two days off coming up for a trip to Miami.  A little bit of fun, a little bit of work, and the opportunity to do something we’ve never done before.  Curious?  Stay tuned for the next post where we go from our dirty and laborious days in the boat yard to getting 5 star treatment in the Magic City.

Matt sanding the coachroof sanding under winch holder Matt sanding coachroof bare aluminum on deck bare metal on pilothouse Georgie under boat

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Throwback Thursday: Never Leave for a Passage on Thursday the 12th

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

It finally happened that our time in Miami was finished and we were ready to cross an ocean.  The boat had all of it’s needs addressed, we had provisioned, and the weather forecast had started to slide back into it’s normal patterns.  Our 7 day outlook was looking pretty good and there were no more excuses to keep ourselves stateside.

Hindsight is always 20/20 though, and if we knew then what we knew now….we probably would have hung tight in our spectacular little anchorage in Miami Beach.  We could have enjoyed a few more episodes of Sherlock on our hard drive, stocked up a little more at Publix, and just enjoyed sitting still.  But at the time we knew that any excuse to stay another day could turn into another week or two and we were ready to take any opening we could get.

And we learned…why you should never leave for a passage on Thursday the 12th.

You can find the original post here.

Thursday June 12, 2014

6.12.14 (1)

They say that you should never leave on passage on a Friday. Sailor’s supersition that it’s bad luck. We were almost caught leaving for our Atlantic crossing on Friday the 13th. Does that make it doubly worse? Or do the two negatives cancel each other out and make a positive? I wasn’t sure and made SURE that we busted our butts so that we wouldn’t have to find out, leaving one day earlier on Thursday the 12th instead. I think we would have been better off taking our chances with Friday the 13th

The morning should have started with relaxing, enjoying our last cup of coffee for the next month where we didn’t have to hold everything down on the counter to make sure it didn’t slide off, before completing last minute projects like stowing everything away and deflating the dinghy. It did not start like that. Just as we were going to bed last night we realized that the fitting on our bow water tank had broken, leaking all of it’s contents into our bilge. Since this was to be our back-up source of water for our crossing, only taking from and refilling our port water tank, this was an issue we needed to fix right away.

The new goal was to wake up first thing in the morning and walk to the local Ace Hardware to pick up the replacement part. Knowing that we were already going to get very little sleep as it was, since we had stayed up well past midnight since we had pushed off all that evening’s projects to enjoy a hot pizza and an episode of Sherlock, I was vexed, and truthfully, terrified, at the thunderstorm of epic proportions that rolled through our anchorage at 5 am, bringing with it 50 knot winds and leaving me wondering if something similar could roll through the next night while we were on passage. Letting ourselves sleep in just a little bit longer we ended up with a late start to our morning, but we were back to the boat with the issue fixed by 11 am. The other small projects took a little longer than we anticipated, as they always do, and the anchor wasn’t weighed until 1 pm. Spending another 45 minutes circling the anchorage as we calibrated our autopilot we were finally off, exiting the Government Cut at Miami just after 3 pm.

Even though the sun was shinning down on us on our way out it didn’t take long for the clouds to roll in, and we watched Miami become consumed by darkness and rain which we were soon swallowed up by as well. It wasn’t anything more than a nice rain shower though, and winds continued to stay around 10 knots and we glided up the Gulf Stream in glass waters at 5 knots under headsail alone. Based on sheer excitement about the journey ahead of us, we even frolicked out in the rain for a bit (or Matt doing whatever the manly term for that would be) while taking in a free shower during the downpour. Things cleared up a few hours later as we passed Ft. Lauderdale and we even managed to catch a decent sunset while enjoying left over pizza in the cockpit.

6.12.14 (2)

6.12.14 (3)

6.12.14 (4)

Before I even knew it my eight o’clock bedtime was before me and I was more than ready for it. I’ve learned that the key to a good first night on passage for myself is collecting no sleep the night before we leave so I am more than ready to conk out at such an early hour. Sliding in behind the lee cloth that we’d set up on the starboard bunk in the salon, I slid easily into sleep. Something that normally takes me three hours to do our first night out.

I had been lying in my bunk for just over an hour when I heard a loud ruckus on deck. I knew it was Matt messing with the headsail, and even though all sounds are amplified below deck, this seemed much louder and as if something were wrong. Jumping out of bed I raced over the companionway boards and into the cockpit. It was immediately evident to me that we were in trouble. I looked at the chartplotter to find winds nearing 60 knots and we were being pushed so far over that our rail was in the water. Matt was feverently working to get the headsail rolled in, but had enough good sense to yell at me to get back in the boat and get a harness on before I could topple out the boat and into the Gulf Stream.

Rushing back below deck I tore through the cabinet to search for our second harness. Usually we never have both out at the same time unless we know bad weather is coming, normally just trading off the one harness between ourselves, but this storm came upon us so suddenly that we barely had time to react.

Finding the second harness I raced once more into the companionway where the headsail was still being overpowered by winds that were now sustained in the upper 40′s. With the furling sheet in hand, Matt was still trying to save the sail by bringing it in, asking me to gently release the sheet for the headsail still wrapped around the winch. The strain on the line was so heavy that I couldn’t even loosen it from the teeth that hold it in place, all the while trying my best to work it free while we’re still heeled all the way over in Force 9-10 winds. Finally Matt realized this was not going to work and it was very likely we’d tear the sail in half while working to winch it in. Looking up through the dark and thinking that we’d already blown it out he slid over to my spot he released the sheet from the winch and let it flap in the wind while he quickly grabbed the furling sheet back to get it in. Eventually the sail was rolled in, though the lines were a knotted and tangled mess that would have to be saved for another day.

Now at hand we had to deal with winds that were still blowing in the 45-50 knot range and showed no signs of relenting. Not wanting to keep any of the sails up we turned ourselves downwind and began to ride the storm out with bare poles as we were pushed along at two knots of speed.  The winds were coming directly out of the north which meant that we were now moving south, working against the current of the Gulf Stream, had absolutely no sail up, no engine on, and were still making that kind of forward progress.  Bolts of white and pink lightning were crashing down on each side of us as buckets of rain began to pour down.  The whole experience was miserable and I think both of us began to start rethinking this whole ocean crossing.  As I stood behind the wheel to hand steer us, Matt sat clipped in under the dodger and confessed, “This just isn’t for me.  I can’t do this anymore.”  Can’t do an ocean crossing?  Or can’t do cruising?

Seeing that we were only 12 miles north of Ft. Lauderdale we tried to start setting a course there to ease our nerves and see what steps we wanted to take next.  As I tried to keep us ass to the waves, I was going just by feel for the wind direction and slipped up a few times where we took the building waves on at a bad angle and they’d crash over the stern and into the cockpit, soaking me in the process.  Yes, a break from cruising sounds pretty good right now.  Immediately my mind went to us leaving the boat in Ft. Lauderdale while we hopped a plane to Guatemala to backpack for a few weeks while visiting friends, and then returning to Michigan for the rest of summer to spend it with friends and family.  It all sounded so tantalizing that it was probably one of the only things keeping me from breaking down while we continued to fight this monstrous storm which was showing no signs of letting up.

For another hour I stood behind the wheel, knees growing weak and teeth chattering until the winds finally let up into the mid 30′s and the autopilot was able to go back into use.  Somehow I was still wired even though I’d only gathered about 5 hours of sleep in the last 30 hours, and sent Matt to bed while we pushed on toward Ft. Lauderdale with the engine on, still fighting the Gulf Stream and moving at 2 knots.  Two hours later, while he was resting his nerves and gaining a little perspective while I stood awake and continued to daydream of a life back on land, he came to relieve me and discuss our rash decision.  By this point I was beyond exhausted and finally started to break down.

I complained about how it seems like everything for the past six months has been working against us and maybe this is a sign that we should stop before something really awful happened.  He told me to grab a few hours of sleep, but for him, removing himself from the situation for a little bit made him realize that it was just frazzled nerves that made him want to quit before, but he thought that moving forward and continuing our crossing was still the right decision and what we really do want.  He made the comment that it was extremely unlikely that we’d go through anything like that again and the worst of it was probably out of the way.  We might hit the random storm here or there in the future, but none of it would likely be worse that what we’ve already seen in our cruising history.  Hmmm.  Guatemala, Lake Michigan, friends, family…….or 3,000 miles of open ocean and uncertainty ahead.  I think a few hours of sleep might be necessary to make that decision.

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Installing Our New Plexiglass Deadlights

It’s finally come, the moment you’ve all been waiting for!  Or wait, maybe it’s the moment we’ve been waiting for.  Although I’m sure you were a bit curious as well.  Either way, we’ve started installing the deadlights to Daze Off!

After all the weeks we had prepping for this, it’aces funny to think that the end step only takes one day. (For each set of windows installed, we’re doing it in 3 stages.)  All in all, the prep and application of the windows took 2 days.  The first may have been the hardest as it was dedicated to the placement of where they would be.  Since we don’t have a recessed area that they’ll slip into (as we did on Serendipity), it’s up to us to find out where they need to be so they’re level and perfectly spaced out from each other.

Before we had taken the old windows out we had at least been smart enough to measure the distance down from the top of the pilothouse to the top edge of the window and wrote that information on a notepad in our tablet so we couldn’t lose it (we lose things easily around here).  Since the new windows were traced and cut from the old ones, that distance should stay the same.  Measuring the length of the window, we placed a piece of tape where the bottom edge of each window would be and used Command strips to stick a flexible board to that spot on the boat so the windows could safely rest on it until they were installed.

Matt measuring windows

With lots of tape and work with our calipers, we double and triple checked that our new line (& the board) were level and from that point, that the distance width wide from one window to the next was the same.  Multiple times we would placed the new (but still covered in a protective paper) windows in their intended places, and then ran down next to the boat to see how it all looked visually.  Did anything seem odd about how they were placed?  Was there any sloping from one side to the next?  Did they appear to be spaced properly?

spacing new windows

Looking at placement of new deadlights

When we were 100% sure we knew where we wanted them, we did a small tape outline on each side, so in case they slid we could accurately place them back where we knew the measurements were correct.  In writing it sounds quite easy, but take my word, in reality we worked on this for a few hours.  Our board did not want to stay up initially, the tape we based it’s placement on made for a sloping line, and even when our level said it was correct, visually it just seemed off.  As our first attempt at it, this part was incredibly frustrating and time consuming, and after a few hours of it I was ready to throw up my arms and yell, “No one is going to notice if it is 1/4″ off from the front window to the back!”.  But we kept at it until we had it right.

So I was quite relieved when that process was done, and we moved onto the next step of drilling the holes.  Instead of trying to do it through the plexiglass and metal at the same time, we drilled the holes in the windows first before replacing them into their spots on the board and then drilled through the metal as well.  Placing the bolts in each corner and securing them to what would eventually be their final spot, I went through and taped an outline of each window.  This will keep the mess low(er) when we adhere them with caulk, and it was another good way to know exactly where they should sit when we went to permanently place them.

The last step of the first prep day was to prep the part of the plexi which will adhere to the newly painted surface on the boat.  While the windows were securely in place with their bolts, I went inside and with a mechanical pencil, traced the outline of the frame.  Taking them out once more, I used an Exacto knife to cut the paper down the line I had traced, and removed the protective paper from the outside.  When this was done and the newly exposed plexiglass surface had been cleaned with denatured alcohol, Matt set them up and sprayed those exposed areas with a window frit, we used Krylon Fusion for Plastics.

This step is done for a few purposes, including creating a matte surface to visually hide the tape and caulk which will be applied below it, help the tape and caulk against UV attack, and also creating a better surface for adhesion.  We placed two coats on the plexi and then left them at least 24 hours to set.

Then for the fun part…the day of installation.  Wiping down the painted surface with denatured alcohol, we lined the edges with a very strong tape. For this tape we chose 3M VHB (very high bond) 4991.  Not only is this tape strong enough that it would be able to keep the new windows on without the added strength of caulk or bolts, but one of the things we bought this specific product for is because of it’s thickness of 2.3 mm.  This allows the caulk (which of course we’ll be using, for the added bond and protection against leaks), plenty of space to expand and contract beneath the plexi.

3M VHB 4991

When this double sided tape had been attached and pressed firmly into the surface of the boat, Matt caulked the area from the VHB to the painters tape with Dow 795. When the area was covered so thickly that you could barely make out any white paint beneath it, we lined up the plexiglass window with its tape outline, and while keeping the top of the window still a few inches away from the surface of the boat, placed the bottom bolts in the holes to make sure we had everything correctly lined up and they slid into their holes.  Once they slipped in and we were confident the placement was correct (it would be almost impossible to un-adhere it from the tape once the two came in contact), pressed the rest of the window into place and firmly pushed against it to make sure it made full and strong contact with the tape.

The last step to adhesion was to place the bolts in, and all of them, as well as their holes, received a good coating of Dow 795 before they were permanently slid into place.  While I held the bolt in place from the outside, Matt went inside the boat to attach and tighten the nuts to each bolt.  Usually by doing this, excess caulk would squeeze out from the plexi, but in the areas it looked like there may be gaps, Matt went back with the caulk gun and traced an extra line around those spots.  Using a small plastic mixing stick, he neatly traced around each window to give it a clean finish.

We did this for each window before it was time for clean up.  The second most time consuming step of the whole process. Removing the tape, we found that we weren’t always left with clean lines.  It was then my job to go through with mineral spirits and acetone to wipe up any Dow 795 that had strayed onto the paint.  I found that in cleaning up some of my messes, all I did was make more.  It was also testing my temper where I’d try to smooth out a line where maybe a 1″ section had a little pucker of caulk, and when I tried to smooth that area I’d create a pucker in another section. This happened so many times that it would take me about 45 minutes to ‘clean’ each window. It was a little maddening.

At the end though, it was all worth it.  We had new windows in and they looked perfect!  Taking off the remaining protective paper we took a good look at our new accomplishment.  It was so strange to not only have new windows in, but ones that were so clear.  When I was inside the boat it looked as if there was still nothing there separating me from the outside.  It’s so exciting to have this one side installed, and not only am I over the moon to be able to step back from boat and look at them, but I finally have a sense of closure that I’ve been needing for so long on this project.

I can’t let myself get too excited though….we still have to go through this process two more times.

new windows from the inside

deadlights installed

plexiglass deadlights

deadlights

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Throwback Thursday: A Letter to my Family

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

Our time in Miami while we were prepping ourselves for our Atlantic crossing was extending itself a little further into the future than we had wanted, but during that time we had plenty to keep us busy, including boat projects that kept piling up one after another.  As soon as we finished one of them we found at least one or two new ones that needed addressing.

When we did have a little free time on our hands while waiting for parts and other things to be shipped to us, we managed to catch a bus and make the two hour ride out to Key Biscayne to visit our good friends Ana Bianca and Alfredo that we became very close with during our time in Guatemala.  With both of them currently residing in Miami, there was no way we could pass up the chance to see them while we were all so close.

Then my little Freak Out post came back to haunt me.  It turns out we had never let our family in on the poor weather conditions at the time or that we were having hesitations about departing.  As far as they knew, we were still honky dory and about to head out into open waters.  They had their reservations about us going, and what parent wouldn’t be a little worried?  But to hear that we were freaking out as well?  And to find it out from a blog post?  Well, I had to send a little letter out to remedy that.

You can find the original post here.

Friday May 30, 2014

Matt & Jessica 2

 Don’t worry about us, we’re all smiles now.

(Photo courtesy of Lahowind)

 

Ha, what was I thinking posting something on the blog last week about having a major meltdown about our Atlantic crossing without sharing any of my hesitations with my parents first?  Here they are sitting at home, thinking everything is fine and we’ll still be leaving in just a few days time, and then BAM, they see something online with me basically running in circles yelling ‘Oh my god, We’re going to die!!’.  Yeah, not one of my smarter moves.

The good thing about getting that blog post up though was so any future ocean crossing cruisers know they’re not alone when that ‘Oh s%*t, what the hell are we doing?!’ moment comes up.  If you stop and think twice about your actions and if you’re doing the right thing, then you can know you’re not alone.

The other reason, and I think I knew this before I published it, is that by publishing it, it would help bring me a little perspective.  In all honesty, I know we’ll be ok, whatever we decide to do.  If it’s to wait for the perfect weather window and cross the Atlantic, try for that but find ourselves running down to Grenada instead, or deciding that the Atlantic just isn’t in the plans for us this year.  I needed to actually hear other people telling us that we’d be ok.  And the support and positive energy you’ve all sent our way has been amazing.   I feel a new vigor like we can actually handle this, and any nerves I had before have now given way to excitement.

With that being said though, it still doesn’t make up for freaking out my family like I did.  I’m sorry family.  Don’t worry about us.  We’ll be smart in our planning and always trust our gut.  And just to smooth out any wrinkles and ease any worry that my previous post might have caused, here’s a follow up on the subject.  A response I sent to my dad after getting a ‘Why didn’t you tell us what’s been going on?!’ email from him that will also let all of you know our most up to date plans:

 

Hi dad.  Sorry to freak the rest of the family out with my ‘Freaking out’ blog post.  I did want to contact you and mom about our most recent plans, but we’ve still been trying to figure out what they are.  Our departure date of June 1st is totally out the window now, so we’ll be around here a few more days.  (Don’t ever think I’d leave without letting you know!).  There’s actually a number of things keeping us here for about a week longer than expected.

  •   Georgie.  Nope, everything did not go according to plan there. Getting her into the EU seems like one of the hardest projects we’ll ever have to tackle. There was never specific information online about exactly what we needed (or maybe there was too much and I couldn’t make sense of it) and the vets we had talked to before seemed clueless about what was actually needed, only giving us small tidbits of information here and there, so that when we showed up at the USDA yesterday it turns out we did not have all the papers that were required.  Everything we found before (and what the vet in Fort Lauderdale told us) is that we just had to show up to the USDA with an up to date health certificate.  Which we got from the vet in Guatemala, and then added the record of Georgie’s rabies titer test.  It turns out that we needed to visit a certified vet one more time within 10 days of our departure for them to say that she’s healthy, has all of her shots, and THAT’S what we bring to the USDA.  So now we have another vet appt for Georgie on Monday, can drop the paperwork off to the USDA right after, and pick up the signed and notarized copy the next day.

 

  •   We’re missing a few shipments.  Last Thursday we ordered a lot of things from this online boating store, things that we needed in order to complete projects on the boat before we could leave, like caulk to make sure we fix whatever leaks we’ve been finding.  Ones that we’ve been able to semi-ignore in the past but shouldn’t for an ocean crossing.  We even paid extra for 2 day shipping so that we’d have it by the weekend and get right to work.  Well, that package hasn’t gotten to us yet and is now actually missing.  We put in a claim with the USPS, but we think we’ll just have to get reimbursed for the money of what was inside.  It looks like on Monday when we rent a car to take Georgie to the vet we’ll also have to swing by West Marine and buy all the stuff that was in the box just so we have it in our hands.  Then, we need about 3-4  rain-free days to complete those projects.

 

  •  The weather.  That was what my worry in the freak-out blog post was mostly about.  Not so much the two other boats that were lost and thinking for sure it would happen to us.  As everyone is telling me, hundreds of boats successfully make the crossing each season, it’s just the ones with problems that make the news.  One of the boats that was abandoned actually had issues last summer and lost their rudder, the same exact boat that made us go through and put an emergency rudder in after hearing what happened to them.  I won’t go too far into it, but it may be questionable if that boat was sound enough to handle that kind of crossing.

So..more with the weather…this past winter seems to have screwed up global weather patterns and things seem to be settling in later than normal.  The kind of weather we’re seeing out there right now is typical in that area for March or April, but not for late May.  We’d never leave unless we were 100% confident about ourselves and the passage, which is also part of what that post was about.  A prelude in case we end up in Panama or the Eastern Carribean.  Not too likely, but we need to have backup plans and I thought I’d introduce the possibility of them now so no one is thrown a curve ball in case we one day show up a few thousand miles from where we originally thought we’d be.  ’Hey, guess what we just decided today on a whim….we’re going to Panama!!’.

Something I’ve been keeping my eye on, and Matt has actually come around to the idea in the past day or two as well, is to go much further south than we originally planned.  The only thing that had us hesitating to still make the Atlantic crossing is the bad weather that’s been starting off the NE coast of the US, near NY and CT, and then making it’s way east out into the Atlantic.  Most of it dissipates about 500-600 miles off shore though.  The original plan was to ride the Gulf Stream north of Bermuda and then start cutting NE where the North Atlantic current runs, a route normally followed due to trade winds and currents.  What we’re now looking at doing is waiting for a window of 4-5 days of south wind off Miami and then get just north of the Bahamas and cut east.  We’d follow that for the 500 miles or so that all the bad weather has been happening above us, and then turn NE toward the Azores.  Normally people don’t do this because there are constant east winds in that area making it almost impossible to head in that direction, but with a few good days we should be able to do it and it should help us avoid all the depressions off the east coast that have been causing us to worry.

So, that’s all that we’ve been up to lately.  Sorry to freak anyone into thinking we’re certainly going to perish out there.  We’ll constantly have weather updates at our fingertips and are hoping to be able to send short texts from our satellite phone every couple of days giving our location and letting you know we’re ok.

 I don’t know when our new departure date is, but I’ll make sure to call you before we go.

 Love, Jessica 

 

 

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Topcoat Paint

There is a final coat of paint on our boat!  It may only be the pilot house and it may only be on one side, but it still feels like a huge success.  This also means that we can now put windows in on that side.  No more trashy tarps for this couple.  At least on that side.  Although we do have to wait 7 days for the paint to fully cure before we apply those windows, so maybe I shouldn’t speak too soon.

After the whole debacle of trying to find the right paint, things began to go much smoother.  Starting the process all over again, we ground the old barrier coat off and once again got all the way down to metal.  Still starting out with a coat of Petit Aluma Protect , this time we used Interlux Interprotect as our barrier coat.  This applied much easier and once it dried, we found it sanded down the way we wanted. Plus this time we correctly purchased the white (instead of gray) which not only looked much better when applied, but helped the blend in with the next coats.

To be on the safe side we applied two coats of the Interprotect and after each coat I sanded the area down to a smooth surface using 100 grit sandpaper.  I won’t lie, that part was a pain in my butt.  For some reason it would take me a full day just to do one round of sanding, but we’re both kind of being perfectionist about this whole thing.  Every time I think I’d be finished I run my fingers along the side of the boat and find that one area was still a little bumpy, and then I’d have to go back and smooth it down.  By the time I’d actually finish, I swear it felt as smooth as silk.

Aluma Protect

alumaprime on boat

Interlux Interprotect Primer

After the barrier coat was applied and smoothed, the same exact process would follow with the primer.  For this step we used Interprotect Epoxy Primekote.  Once the epoxy primer was on I would switch to a 220 grit sandpaper and also do a wet sand instead of a dry.  The sanding on this round wasn’t quite as labor intensive to my arms, this coat went on a little smoother, ans we also switched to foam rollers which I think helped to create a smoother surface to start with.  The time to sand was still the same though, because the next thing to come was the topcoat and no mistakes would be hidden under that paint.

Jessica sanding pilothouse

It was surprising just how long all of these steps took before we were even at the point where we could put on the first coat of top paint.  Between the grinding, aluminum primer, barrier coats, and primer coats (4-5 all together), and the days of sanding in between, it had already taken us just over a week to get to this point.  Then just when you think you’re ready to roll and begin with the topcoat, it begins raining ash on your boat.  No, I’m not joking.  All around the marina are sugarcane fields and lately they’ve been burning huge sections almost every day.  Sometimes we see nothing more than a big smoke cloud in the distance, and other times, like when we were trying to paint, the wind would be coming just the right direction and delivering all the airborne ash to our boat.  Grrrr.  So the painting had to be put off for another day.

sugarcane ash cloud

sugar cane ash

When we did begin that project it was time for Matt to join me again to work as this was a two person project.  Doing lots of research online and talking to other boaters in the yard, we’d found the consensus to be that the best application came from a roller, and with another person dry rolling behind.  We had originally planned on rolling and tipping, but we thought we’d give this a try and it seemed to work pretty well for us.

Using Pettit EZ-Poxy 2 part polyurethane marine paint, we spent a few minutes making sure we’d measured the 4:1 ratio correctly into the coffee tin we were using as our mixing container, and then added enough Pettit brushing thinner to get it to a point where it was dripping as soon as the mixing spoon was taken out of the mixture, instead of having a thick stream.  We’ve heard this makes for a smoother coat, although it did make us worry about how thick that coat would be.

With Matt going first, he would roll on a decent amount of paint, trying to spread it out enough so there were no runs.  As quickly as I could behind him, I would ever so lightly roll over what he had just completed to rid the surface of any air bubbles the original roller may have caused.  The first few minutes were full of cussing and deficient complaints toward each other that the other was not doing the process correctly, but after a few minutes we got in our groove and worked very well together.

We knew one coat would not be enough, so the next day I went back at it with another round of light wet sanding with 220 grit.  It seemed as if even my light sanding was taking off more than we liked, and when the second coat was applied we still weren’t satisfied with the finish.  It looked from certain angles as if we could still see the slightly darker primer coat underneath, and because we were new at it, the finish still wasn’t as nice as we were hoping for.  So once more I went back to lightly sand and we went through and applied a third topcoat the day after.

3 topcoats seemed to do the trick, and honestly, I just didn’t have it in me to go another round.  All I wanted was to get the new windows in and start on the next section of deck so we could keep things moving along.  Overall we’re happy enough with the job we did.  Again, we don’t know how much had to do with the product or the workers, but it wasn’t exactly what we’d hoped for.  From afar it looked pretty good, but up close you could see small ripples in the paint left from the rollers.  Because we started with the side of the boat that’s mostly shaded from the sun, it wasn’t until we did the next side we noticed how those ripples are more visible in sunlight.

Initially we had chosen the 2 part topcoat because it gives a harder topcoat and is less likely to chip.  The bad news with it, as we know now, it that it is a fricking pain in the ass to apply and goes on much thinner than a 1 part would have.  Also, because you need to mix the two parts together to make it….we’re less likely to go back and touch up chips until there’s a number of them that need addressing.  Oh well.  Live and learn.  I guess we’ll know for the next boat.

*Ummm…I forgot to take photos of the finished paint before we put the windows in.  And since I don’t want to ruin that surprise for you, you’ll have to wait for the next boat work post to see how it came out.  :)

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Progress on the Head

As you had probably gathered from our previous post on beginning the paint on the pilot house, that is where a lot of our time (and money) is going at the moment.  Although I’ll catch you up to how that’s going in the next post, I’ll let you know now that the painting and sanding has basically become my job.  Solely. This is because, well, not only does Matt mostly loathe painting, but we’ve found that his hand is just a little too heavy for the sanding that’s needed there.  Every time I put him to work he somehow sands back down to bare metal in too many spots.  We can’t constantly go back and touch up these areas between the multiple barrier and primer coats that are going on, so we’ve found it best just to keep him away from it all together.

The good thing is, this has now freed him up for more projects inside the boat.  And since it was a little disheartening that they had come to a screeching halt for a few days, it felt good to now see things happening on both the inside and the outside.

This is another post where not a whole lot has been accomplished, at least visually, so I’ll only be giving a quick gist until we dive further into this area.  This area being the head, and mostly referring to what will be the composting toilet and our cabinet.  When the toilet is finished I’ll be able to give you a much better run down on how it works and what went into it, but at the moment we’re just starting with a box in which all the components will eventually be placed inside.

Matt building plywood box for toilet

The top of the box (and what will be the opening to the toilet) runs from one wall to the other, and where it ends, the bottom of our cabinet will begin.  Using 1/2″ plywood he made the front and the top of the box, while keeping the existing walls as the other sides.  Once we had the shapes of them right, it was time to make the decorative cherry toppers.  The front of the box was very easy as we used 1/4″ cherry plywood, and then cherry hardwood as an outlining trim.

The top of the box however, is made completely from cherry hardwood.  Since all the strength is placed in the plywood though, we decided to get the decorative cherry hardwood to go as far as possible by taking the 1/2″ wide pieces and sawed them in half to a width of 1/4″.  Using wood glue and lots and lots of clamps, we lined up the 2 1/2″ pieces of hardwood until they covered all of the plywood and adhered them together.  This process was followed by lots of cussing, trying not to let gaps form between the boards, but eventually we used enough pressure to get it all to line up properly.

One of the fun and kind of funky things we’re doing with the cherry hardwood in the head, is to use all of our pieces that are showing sapwood.  Originally we were discouraged to have so many pieces that had little white lines and strips running through the cherry, thinking we were going to have to cut those sections out and end up with lots of wasted wood. But then we came up with the idea to put them all together in one space where they would hopefully flow together.  We’re still not sure how it will turn out once it’s varnished and if it was a good decision on our part, although so far it’s looking pretty cool.

cherry lid to composting toilet

The cabinet should come out looking the same as our clothing cabinets in the forward salon, although thank god we were smart enough to save the piece of wood that was the original wall to use as a template. With that one template we were able to transfer it to 2 sheets of eruolite. One will be used as the inside wall to the cabinet, and the other will be the outside wall that will butt up to the counter.  The reason we’re doing 2 is because there is another odd metal frame that we found it easier to encase than to work around like in our clothing cabinets.

The outer wall was adhered to a piece of cherry plywood, so now it is 1/2″ thick and matches the rest of the exterior wood.

building cabinet in head

The door for the cabinet is made of a mixture of cherry plywood and cherry hardwood, just like our others, and sits inside a cherry hardwood frame.  Now that Matt has made so many tongue and groove pieces, it doesn’t take him very long to saw the necessary slots and piece everything together.

So while I’ve spent my past few days outside in the fresh air, and sometimes sweltering sun, Matt has been making a lot of visible progress down below and it is looking great!  I can’t wait until we have the counter installed and the new sink we just bought from Ikea. Everything is coming together so nicely and it would be fantastic if we could finish one room in this boat!

making cabinet

cabinet in head

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Throwback Thursday: I am FREAKING Out Here People!

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

Leaving the Bahamas for Florida, we had a swift overnight sail where I pondered my feelings about sailing at night, and we arrived in Miami just as the sun was coming up. From then on out, everything was all about getting ready for our Atlantic crossing and our upcoming sail from Miami to the Azores.  I didn’t have too much time to wonder what 30 nights of sea might do to my state of mind and we prepped the boat and I brushed up on my sailing skills by breaking out a few books and manuals again.

Even though we knew we still had a few weeks before departing, we’d been keeping a close eye on the weather out on the Atlantic just to see if we could find any patterns emerging.  Turns out there were, and it was nothing but front upon front, producing some nasty weather in the North Atlantic that wasn’t making us feel to good about our decision to soon sail across it.

Take a read as I let my fears get the best of me and I began to question our decision to go at all.

*The funny thing is, now that I take a look back on these weather reports, even the ones I thought were bad two years ago, I now think to myself..”Well that seems like a pretty decent forecast”.  How a few thousand miles and a number of storms will change your perspective.*

You can find the original post here.

Tuesday May 20, 2014

waves b&w

Do you know what I was doing this morning at 4 am? I was lying awake in bed, thinking off all the terrible things that could happen to us as we cross the Atlantic in a few weeks. Here’s another fun question for you. Do you know how many boats were abandoned just last week while taking the same route that we are? Two!! That’s right. Two boats with a larger number and more experienced crew than the two of us had to leave their boats behind while making the same trip we’re about to do. I am FREAKING out here people! Granted, both of those boats appeared to be passing through a very nasty low pressure system a few hundred miles east of the United States around the 40th degree latitude, but all I could think of through the whole night was ‘That could be us!’. One of the two crews was picked up by the USCG, but the other crew, as I currently write this, are still missing; their boat believed to be abandoned in the Northern Atlantic.* Pardon my French, but that is some scary shit!

For the weeks and month leading up to our departure from Miami and across the Atlantic to the Azores and then through Gibraltar, I’ve tried to mentally prepare myself as much as possible. Prepare for the monotony of being at sea for 30 straight days, and prepare for the onset of at least 2-3 fairly rough storms during our crossing. In my mind, and according to most of the books I’m reading, the worst part of these storms usually pass you in a few hours and all you’re left with after is maybe a day or two of overcast skies with some rain and the drudgery of waiting for the seas to settle back to their original state. The weather systems that we’ve been tracking for the past few weeks though to get a feel for what’s going on out on these waters, is showing a completely different story.

I will admit to you now that we have never once listened to a Chris Parker forecast. We have taken his information while cruising with friends that do get up at the ungodly hour of 6 am to listen, but personally we’ve always been fans of Passage Weather and have used that to prepare for any passage we’ve taken. This does require internet, of which we will not have once we leave on our crossing, but at that point we’ll be relying on downloading forecasts from our SSB twice daily, something that should give us a four day outlook that will be very similar to what we’ve always viewed on Passage Weather. While keeping an eye on it at the moment though, these are the kind of images that we keep seeing pop up.

front over Bermuda

front over Azores

You can see where I’ve labeled Bermuda and the Azores, and our approximate intended route (terrible job with the paint brush, I know). You can also see all that yellow and orange showing up in areas close to where we’ll be, and that’s very, very bad. If you follow the wind indicator at the bottom, you’ll see that yellow represents winds of 30-35 knots, and orange represents 35-40 knots. That would be bad enough on it’s own, but I may have mentioned to you before of our learning of reading Passage Weather, and have pretty much found it to be true. Always expect 5-10 knots higher than it shows. If it’s reading 30-35 knots, expect 35-45. If it’s reading 35-40, well, you’re S.O.L. It’s why we never go anywhere when a forecast is reading over 20 knots. Even though we always travel in weather that shows 15-20, we experience at least 30 knots sometime during the trip. Every.Single.Time.

So you can imagine why these images are getting under my skin. They never end. There might be two days of calm in those areas before another front develops. This is not normal, not for this late in the season, and it has me terrified that nothing will change before our intended June 1st departure date.

So as I laid there wide awake, waiting for the sun to come up, my mind was filled with alternative routes. I was thinking to myself, ‘You know, since we were about to take on a 30 day passage anyway, we could make it to Panama in 10-12. And you know who’s in Panama? Brian and Stephanie on Rode Trip. That would be so fun!!’. I actually lulled myself to sleep with false promises that we would stick to the Caribbean where we would never be more than 200 miles from some form of land.

Reality did set in this morning though as I realized the light of a few very important things. 1. We don’t have to go if everything is showing the same in a week and a half. Have those fronts not showed any sign of leaving, we will wait for them to do so. Or, hightail it to Panama. 2. Based on years and years of data, they should be changing any day now. The Bermuda/Azores high should be settling in, and things should start to look much calmer on those waters. And 3. Downloading a 96 hour forecast twice a day should keep us on top of any fronts that could arise. If we see anything that looks like it’s coming up, we have no problem backtracking or adding extra miles to avoid it. We are going to be very cautious cruisers on this trip, and that is fine by me. I would much rather arrive even a week later than anticipated if it means we’re not surfing down 20 ft waves in 40 knot winds. Ever.

preferred weather

Now this is the kind of weather I’m looking for!

 

* On Friday May 23rd, the USCG found the hull of this second boat, the Cheeki Rafiki, but with no sign of the crew.  The life raft was still on board and never inflated.

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