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The Erewhon chronicles move topside

Dear patient reader, when I left you in the June issue you may recall I had reported on refinishing the interior of my classic sailboat — with which, no doubt, you should be much familiar by now.

So welcome to Part II of the continuing Erewhon chronicles.

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Before I go any further, I must state here that this status report definitely falls into the category of “whoopie news,” a description coined by my non-boating late wife, Betty, who commented on any of my boat news with a twirling of her forefinger and a whispered, “Whoopie!”

Well, to get on with it. With the onset of spring and what seemed like perpetual drizzle, my portable electric heater was still in action, as weather remained cold and generally miserable. T.S. Eliot’s April was, indeed, being cruel again, but at least I was working on the interior.

When dealing with cosmetic, in-the-face boatwork, one finished chore almost always leads to another, and by mid-April, I was working on exterior projects and a different boatwork list. Then, before I could start one of those items, I immediately became distracted by something not on the list: the worn wood on the main hatch. I decided to strip it and fashion a new cover — a 1/8-inch sheet of okume mahogany plywood that I finished at home with 10 coats of Pettit Captain’s varnish. A new beige Sunbrella hatch cover, however, will protect my little masterpiece, even when I’m under way in intense heat or under salt-spray conditions.

Rain delays continued into the first week of May, however, and this task would not be installed as I finished this column. As for assorted new canvas work projects, I owe thanks once again to my daughter-in-law, Mary, and her mother, Louise Barkanic, who did what they could with a 1940-era Singer sewing machine. I decided to discard my old dark green cover scheme and go with Sunbrella beige for no other reason than I was growing tired of a green-hulled boat with a green bottom that gave me too much green. (I stopped wearing green hats, shirts and jackets, too.)

A big exterior test for my arthritic shoulders was whether I could pull the starter cord on my 5-hp Honda. A neighboring boater, Mike Johnson, placed the 60-pound, 4-stroke into the lazarette well for me after I lubed the lower unit, changed the motor oil, and installed a new sparkplug and zinc. To my great pleasure, the shoulders obeyed the command to pull, and soon the motor was humming again. Next, I hauled up my dependable Schaefer Snap-Furl jib with the use of the jib halyard winch. So far, so good.

Launching day - the reward for all of that boatwork.

I agonized over my most costly investment, a new mainsail from UK-Allan Sailmakers, my business neighbor in Annapolis. My tired, old main from Jasper & Bailey of Newport R.I., had lasted through more than a decade of heavy use until professional patchwork and my feeble attempts with sticky patches began to flap away at my overly sensitive nature. (Scott Allan laughed, saying the new sail could outlast me.)

I asked Allan to use the old main for a pattern because I was so pleased with its perfect fit. He provided two full upper battens and one deep reef with just three reefing lines. I have a one-line reefing system that keeps me safely in the cockpit when I drop the main to shorten sail. In double-reefing conditions, I either reef the jib or drop the main and sail under the headsail alone, or just change course if I’m daysailing. Beyond that, there’s always power.

The cockpit draining system was another longstanding issue. The self-bailers in this 1962 Holland-built boat were mistakenly placed in the aft corners, and the deck slopes aft to drain. So I screwed plastic plumbing plugs inside ribbed, flexible tubes I pushed inside the drains. But when the outboard is chugging along, it digs in and somehow still pulls water up and into the cockpit. When I have guests they think the boat is going to sink, and their feet get wet.

Cold, wet weather continued to put off a spring haulout at Casa Rio Marina on the Rhode River in Mayo, Md. And when I finally showed up, I was confronted with a 35-degree change that brought temperatures into the low 90s — too hot for painting. After that, brisk southwest winds stirred up the trees and fuzz balls, and assorted junk began to fall like snow onto fresh paint and varnish. Oh well, there’s always sanding.

When last I hauled out for the winter several years ago at Port Annapolis Marina, I embarked on an all-Interlux refinishing job, focusing on the troublesome rusting steel centerboard that lives tucked up inside a full iron keel. I carefully followed the Interlux treatment for bare metal, and it has worked, lasting through two winters in the water.

This spring I went with a more-

or-less all-Pettit program, using gloss white, Brightwork Brown (a favorite), Sandtone, Grand Banks beige, Captain’s varnish, and Ultima ablative dual biocide for the bottom.

General manager Richard Mal-deis welcomed me with a smile, raised the boat and blocked it alongside a large cinderblock building. I forgot to ask for a power wash to remove as much loose paint as possible, or at least loosen up flaking portions for me to remove. I did what I could, but soon abandoned the effort as too strenuous for my weary arms and shoulders.

So here I am, still dealing with rain delays while waiting for the clouds to clear. I consulted my 2008 day book and found notations about last May’s weather being even wetter. But the day will come when the cockpit, deck, cabin sides and roof will be painted, and a high-gloss varnish and Cetol will add the appropriate highlights. Then I’ll be off to cruise Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the Western Shore of Virginia.

Jack Sherwood is writer at large for Soundings.

This article originally appeared in the July 2009 issue.