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Bay Tripper

Season of change brings boat work

Season of change brings boat work

This spring marked yet another stage in my rather long boating career, which is why I stay at it so long: There’s always something new coming up. Now free to spend time doing most anything, I sometimes wonder what on earth, as a semiretiree, I would do without an older boat to fill my idle hours, days, weeks, months and years. I care not for housework, yard work, cooking, gardening, fishing or golf. I follow sports on television occasionally, but my participation days are over — hey, no more rugby, soccer, ice hockey, lacrosse, football or kickboxing.


 Idle hands? Not when there's a boat to spruce up for a new season of sailing.

So it was somewhat providential that boating was there to toss a line as my children left home and me to carry on as a solitary, sailing widower with hair gone white and limbs gone wobbly. But in this changing political spring, I also have opted for change and have grown a partial set of whiskers, even though it makes me look at least two weeks older.

I have worked on my 1962 Sailmaster 22 for almost 25 years, and it occurs to me that with the help of fresh paint the boat appears younger as I look older. Perhaps if I took such good care of myself it might make a difference in my appearance.

This time around I also have begun changing my protective Sunbrella color scheme from dark green to medium beige, which eventually will include mainsail, cabin top, cockpit lifelines and hatch covers. Next year I’ll add a halyard for a zippered beige cover for the roller-furling jib. Fortunately, I have my son’s mother-in-law, Louise Barkanic of Annapolis, who is quite handy with her original 1940 portable Singer sewing machine. She is not used to my intricate directions but manages to get the job done — and for free.

As it stands now, Erewhon’s existing paint color scheme includes Sandtone, Brightwork Brown, Eggshell White, White, Interdeck Cream and Bristol Beige. Brightwork is a mixture of Cetol Gloss and Z-Spar Captain’s Varnish, but I may strip the Cetol and go all varnish next year. As I say, it’s always something.

The boom color was a pinkish medium buff, but when I went to renew it this spring I mistakenly added a bottom-paint solvent instead of a brushing liquid. The cans are exactly alike with similar numbers. The mixture was not a happy one and did not dry properly, so I had to sand the boom and start over with another color already on hand (Bristol Beige) since I had wrongly mixed what was left in the quart can of buff. For the two coats of beige, I removed most of the hardware and laid out the pieces on cardboard for an accurate return guide.

Erewhon spent the winter in the water, and the dirty waterline is an annoyance I will live with until a bottom power-wash at Port Annapolis Marina once the yard’s spring launchings are completed. There was a lot of dampness this spring, as expected, which delays finish work. But as soon as the rain stops the trees go on an all-out littering spree, and pollen rains down on the murky water to create a bright green sheen the color of a bottom-paint spill.

Working from my 7-foot Walker Bay dinghy in the past has been a risky procedure, as has getting in and out of the dink at the bulkhead. But this year Chris Kellogg, a boating neighbor, loaned his stable work platform, 7 by 4 feet in size with a soft, surrounding rubrail. He cobbled it together from a stray piece of closed-cell Styrofoam that floated into the cove and was retrieved by two neighboring children — Dumpster divers at heart.

The platform is a joy to work on, once I carefully lower myself onto it. It also has room for tools and paint cans and such, which I place on a cardboard carpet. I tie thin lines with snap shackles at the ends to the boat and around my knees to keep me in place. A final step will be to heel over the boat at the dock to polish and buff the topsides with 3M Finesse.

As a test, I stripped some inside areas of the cockpit coamings and finished them with several coats of Cetol and Z-Spar varnish to see which wears best. I prefer the look of real varnish, but Cetol’s look-alike gloss finish seems to wear better and last longer. My varnished lazarette hatch and tiller, for example, are covered at the dock.

I grew lazy last season and frequently left my 9-year-old mainsail uncovered, which turned out to be a big mistake because it is exposed enough to damaging UV rays with all the sailing I do. The entire leech, where it was flaked over the boom, had deteriorated to the point where it had to be patched because it often tore as I yanked it aft and flaked it down. That $200 repair job was performed nicely by Scott Allan of UK Sails and saved me from spending $1,200 or so on a new main. So far this year, I have faithfully rigged the Sunbrella cover after each outing.

UK Sails is the landlord of Maritime Plastics at the small location where I rent a desk for my laptop. It is also a machine shop staffed by talented craftsmen who take pity on their older tenant and help with chores. I am in the Vise-Grip league when it comes to tools, but I do have proper sanders. And I know how to paint and finish brightwork. Another helpful office neighbor is Mike Johnson of Eastport Yacht Sales, who has an older Down East powerboat next to me. One day he began scrubbing my dirty waterline from the raft.

My 2006 Honda outboard spent most of the winter stored at this shop where, all by myself, I changed oil in the lower unit. Oddly, I could not open the engine oil drain plug, so I had to drain that oil with a battery siphon bulb, which worked fine. My son Eric carried the 60-pound, 5-hp 4-stroke to the boat and placed it in the well for me. I added a stabilizer to the gas, and it started on the third pull. I will continue this additive treatment because the engine seems to like the taste.

A major change was moving the Danforth anchor from a stand-up position inside the port shrouds — it once hung off a now-removed bow pulpit — to a flat, secure place on the foredeck. Here, it is available for quick lowering under the jib’s roller-furling line. I’ll just pop loose a triangular cover, rigged to avoid snags, and lower away.

A last-minute detail was removing the nameboard from the transom and stripping the old white vinyl letters. After sanding and applying four coats of Interlux Donegal Green Toplac enamel to match the hull color, I took the board to Merrilyne Hendrickson’s Accent Graphics for imitation gold letters. It is always interesting to greet Merrilyne at her little computerized artist’s shack by the water because her mood is, ah, shall we say “mercurial” and subject to change from poor to worse. A sailing pal, John Barry, advised me that she prefers appointments and to visit before 10 a.m. or after lunch. I arrived at 3 o’clock and got a big smile, instead of a snarl, and a lovely job for $35.

My first sail this year was on Friday, April 25, the earliest in my 40-year sailing career. I worked at home and on the boat occasionally during a rather mild winter, cruised French Polynesia out of Tahiti for most of March, and focused on getting the boat ready for spring.

Out on the Chesapeake, I was greeted by light air and a huge one-design regatta (Annapolis NOOD), being careful to stay out of the flow in 5 knots of northeasterlies. I looked around for former Gibson Island yachtsman J.P. Watson and tried to reach him on his cell phone. That Sunday, I caught him at home watching an old James Bond movie on television.

For all intents and purposes, he has given up on boat ownership since he donated his Catalina 27, Jocasta, to charity. But he would one-up me in June, he announced, because he’ll be sailing Steve Schuh’s Beneteau 411, Jubilee, in the Annapolis to Bermuda Race. I have never done that sprint to the Onion Patch and am beyond that now. I was impressed by his daring to serve as the foredeck man handling spinnaker jibes and such. Going along is a hired skipper and navigator Bruce Davis. Also crewing are Thomas Gerber and brothers Chris and Tim Whisted.

I’ll be content cruising the Bay alone this year, and I really intend to get as far south as Mobjack Bay on Virginia’s lower Western Shore. Reports will, of course, be filling this space from time to time.

Jack Sherwood is writer at large for Soundings.