'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch

Boatyard Blues and News


“Inside every simple boat project is a big problem, waiting to get out”. (Mike & Lori, ex s/v Cheshire)


Since we arrived back at Sionna on January 16th, we’ve been hard at it pretty much continuously, moving from one task to the next, sometimes, and sometimes from one aspect of a task to something else, then back to the first project, and then…

Where epoxy and paint are concerned, you have to allow time for things to set and dry, of course. But more importantly you sometimes need to protect your mental and physical health by changing tasks for a bit. Get up and stretch, go think about something else for a while, then come back later, refreshed and comfortable, to continue where you left off.

One of the first things we noticed on arrival was the stains on the deck that seemed to have no source. Closer examination showed that we have a problem – those stains are actually from a corroded screw buried in the fiberglass, and the closer we looked, the more we found.

To date, I’ve drilled 20 holes in the deck, each 1/2″ diameter, and then filled the hole with epoxy. Where an old fastener was we fill and fair, then nearby we drill for a new screw, install that, then epoxy over the hole and paint the whole area. It’s labor intensive, but should result in the same strength as the original construction which – after all – lasted for over 50 years.

While I’ve been drilling holes in the boat, Nicki has been a cleaning-white-tornado. The boat kept pretty well, all things considered, but still there’s a layer of grime on everything, and in some corners and overhead surfaces there’s a bit of mold, so she’s been over absolutely the whole boat interior with a fine-toothed brush-and-rag, and the difference is stunning. Sionna looks like a home again – she’s even started polishing and waxing the topsides!

And it finally feels like we’re getting ahead of our work list. What started out as 10 items (compiled before we left Maine) naturally expanded to a full page-plus when we arrived.

Then for about a week we were regularly checking things off, but we added even more items as we noticed them – including a couple of leaks, as I mentioned – so it was hard to see much progress there for a while.

But now we’re winding down. Saturday I re-finished and reinstalled the deck box (above, with our secondary anchor in place), and yesterday Nicki cleaned in the aft cabin, then waxed part of the prow while I re-coated the inside of the fridge with epoxy, filled holes in the deck, and scrubbed the entire bottom in preparation for repainting with anti-fouling – a big nasty job. I was streaked and spotted blue by the time I escaped and Nicki’s arms were turning to jelly, but the bottom looks good and the hull is beginning to sparkle.

It won’t be long now…

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Discovery time


When you store a boat, you really have no idea what you’ll find when you return. By their very nature, boats operate at an accelerated rate of entropy – degrading into chaos much faster than you expect and generally requiring constant vigilance to remain trustworthy – and Sionna is no exception.

Still, our return to the boat has been, generally, a relief, and most of our fears unfounded. Filthy, she is/was (we spent a full first day , scrubbing every inch of topsides and cockpit, and once again she is off-white instead of dirty gray!), but that comes off, and though there is a bit of mold showing inside, it’s very light and comes off with just a little elbow grease and “Simple Green” cleaner. That and a wipe with our favorite mold treatment – a product called “Concrobium” (no, we don’t get paid to say that, the stuff really works) – and we’ll be breathing easy again.

On the other hand, we’ve found a LOT of failed finishes in the exterior varnish and paint. This is no surprise – direct exposure to the sun is deadly – and the addition of heat building up on those surfaces means we’ve got deck paint coming off in sheets.

The trim along toe-rail and rub-rail – once a lovely forest green – is now nearly gray where the paint remains, and we’re showing our underwear (bare wood and old varnish layers) in many spots. Lines that we couldn’t take off and store are green with mildew, and there were streaks of brown anywhere the rain ran along bronze cleats and fasteners onto the deck.

But all of that is basically cosmetic, and pretty easily corrected with time and effort. Structurally there’s very little to cause concern, with one exception: Fasteners.

There are dozens of places on deck where screws are installed through the deck, and are now showing at the surface. In one area, in fact, one screw head has actually popped off and is nowhere to be found, leaving a gaping hole atop the coach roof. Curiously this is an area where I’ve been chasing a leak for four years, so perhaps I’ve finally found the source, but I sure couldn’t see it before! That repair is going to take some time, because those screws hold one of the bulkheads inside the cabin that enclose the head. It’s an important piece.

We’ve made progress! Those fasteners have been cleaned out and removed, the holes patched with epoxy, and soon new screws will be installed, sealed with epoxy, and the area faired and repainted.

The rudder-post repair that I started before we left 20 months ago is complete, much to my relief, and the steering system reassembled. That was a big one, so we’re mighty glad to have it off the list.

So that’s what we’ve found. Yesterday we took one item off the to-do list, but I added three more. That’s as expected, too. Where I began by saying “2-3 weeks” before we get her in the water, now I’m thinking “At least 3 weeks”, and I’m saying it very softly, so as not to tempt the Gods into testing us. We’ll get there.

And meanwhile it’s warm, and there’s light… I wore shorts yesterday, and was comfortably barefoot most of the day.

What’s not to like?

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Packing up


When you start trying to decide what you’re going to fit in your baggage allowance, you start to figure out your priorities in a big way.

Two Ukuleles? Of course. But how? Well, one will be in place of my “purse”as my carried-on personal item, and the other must ride deep between the layers of clothing in our large checked bag. Thank goodness Southwest Airlines allows two checked bags per passenger without charge.

The fact that we left a good selection of clothes with the boat helps, but this trip has the potential for consistently cooler (but not cold!) weather – mid-sixties to mid-seventies – so we’re adding layers to our wardrobes in anticipation.

Passports, important papers, keys for the boat, eye meds, toiletries, easy-to-remove shoes…

And then there’s the house. Stow, secure, plug where the birds nested last spring so they can’t do that again. Wash, gas and oil the cars for storage, update our charts (both electronic and paper). Find plant-sitters, empty the fridge (we’ve had some pretty weird meals using up open containers!)

And then visit friends and neighbors to say goodbye, and to receive “Bon Voyage!” Breakfast one more time at our favorite spot. Maybe dine tomorrow night at the other one…

And all this on pins and needles, looking forward with anticipation and a bit of nervousness, not knowing exactly what we’ll find when we open up the boat for the first time in 20 months.

It’s a lot of work.

But we’re going cruising – and that makes all the difference.

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Fun with Travel Plans


It’s at times like this that I need to remind myself of the “Why” of our current “How”.

Because the “How” of moving ourselves and everything we’ll need in the next five months from here in Maine to the boat in Florida – including two Ukuleles – is nothing less than obscure from my vantage point.

Are we crazy? Naa… Well, no more-so than usual, anyway.

Some of it is relatively easy. There were three or four things we needed to order online – a new flare kit (we’ve upgraded to an electronic version, so no more nasty toxic flares to dispose of!), a couple of books, a boom bail for the main boom – so those we just had shipped to Nicki’s folks in Florida, where they can wait for us.

Other things are more problematical. Like the aforementioned Ukuleles. But we think we’ve found a way. We’ve bought a new suitcase which is actually vastly larger then we need, and into which said Ukes will fit. Properly padded, I’m reasonably confident that they can make the trip without being bent.

Reasonably confident. Baggage handlers are – in general – a careful and conscientious lot, but there are also a few true Apes that work the airport ramps.

We’re hoping those few are off the day we fly south.

So the count-down continues, it’s 11 days before we head south. Here’s hoping we get everything set before the time comes.

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