Maintenance Begins (Early September 2001)
Now that our boat is happy and safe in her new slip, it seems like a good time to undertake some major repairs.

Friday, August 31, 2001: The Work Begins (With a Splash)

Over the two years since we bought our boat, the topsides teak has started to peel, leaving bare wood in places. I've been doing some research on teak treatments (many thanks again to Practical Sailor), and I decided that I might be able to do the work myself. I wanted to start with something easy, though, so I figured nothing could be easier than the swim ladder, since it only has two teak steps. Besides, the ladder itself was getting some rust spots, and it was leeching rust all over the stern of the boat.

I took the swim ladder off of the boat in the late afternoon, thinking that I'd just take it back to the house and work on it there. Just as I was finishing up, Theresa came out to the dock, and she asked if I wanted to hand her the ladder. I said, "Sure", and handed it over to her. Ploop! A bolt fell out of the end of the bracket and promptly sank to the bottom. I hadn't even realized that it was a separate piece.

Theresa went back to the house and got my swimsuit, and I went diving for the lost piece immediately. Unfortunately, the sun was already low on the horizon, and there wasn't much light 10 feet down in the shadow of the boat. The water was also really murky, so I was having a hard time seeing anything on the bottom, and it was really kind of spooky. Needless to say, I didn't find the piece.

Saturday, September 1, 2001: Shopping Run

I had intended to get up fairly early and dive for the lost piece near low tide with the sun at an optimal angle, but I had dreams all night about big teeth coming out of the blackness at me, so I decided to wait until the following Tuesday and call Beneteau to see if I could just order a replacement.

Theresa and I went to West Marine and Home Depot to pick up supplies for the teak and swim ladder projects. That afternoon/evening, I dismantled the swim ladder, wet-sanded the frame, and put a first layer of spray paint on it.

Sunday, September 2, 2001: Swim Ladder

I put several more layers of spray paint on the swim ladder, and I also sanded down the two teak steps and put a first layer of Sikkens Cetol Marine on them.

Monday, September 3, 2001: Swabbing the Deck

On Monday (Labor Day) morning, I put a final layer of spray paint on the ladder, and a second layer of Sikkens Cetol on the teak steps. After lunch, Theresa and I went over to the boat and cleaned the topsides, using an entire canister of the "blue goop" FSR. That evening, I put a final layer of Sikkens on the two steps. I'm not happy with the way they turned out -- too orangy, even though I'm using the Sikkens "Light".

Tuesday, September 4, 2001: Starting the Real Teak

I called Beneteau to order the piece I needed, but they were closed. Around 2:30, I went over to the boat and spent the remainder of the afternoon sanding the teak on the swim platform and the two forward grab rails. I swept up the sawdust, though the wind tended to carry some of it away from me.

I also tested the OTHER swim ladder endpiece to see how magnetic it was, and was encouraged to find that a magnet would, at least, stick to it, even though it was stainless. That evening, I drove over to West Marine to buy more supplies: another canister of FSR, some "Metal Wax" for the bimini poles, some fender cleaner, and a big honkin' magnet.

Wednesday, September 5, 2001: The Plot Thickens

I went over to the boat before lunch and spent half an hour "fishing" for the endpiece with my big magnet. I failed to recover it, either because I was fishing in the wrong places, or (more likely) because the piece wasn't magnetic enough for my magnet to pull it out of the muck on the bottom. I hosed the topsides down again, primarily to get the remaining sawdust off. After lunch, I called Beneteau again, and spoke with Todd, who found the part number for my missing piece and ordered one for me. (It was cheap.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I've been arranging to have my J/24 moved down from Annapolis. I spoke with Tom at Maryland RV today, who informed me that my trailer was completely repaired and ready to travel. He put me in touch with a friend who was heading south with an empty truck, and I got a good deal on transporting my boat from Annapolis to Florida.

After my calls, I went back over to the boat in order to clean the teak (with StarBrite Teak Cleaner) and brighten/purify it with some Clorox solution. Again, I hosed everything off. I tried the new "Metal Wax" to remove the rust spots from the bimini poles, and it works like a charm.

Finally, I asked Theresa to swing by Boat U.S. on her way back from a meeting in Largo to pick up some of the Boat U.S. One-Year Teak Treatment. It's supposed to be comparable to the Sikkens, but without the pigmentation.

Thursday, September 6, 2001:

I didn't do any "real" work on the boat today, but instead ran boat-related errands. I bought some bimini thread, then went to West Marine and bought some rubbing compound to clean the fenders. I also dragged the sewing machine up from the basement.

On another front, I finished coordinating the J/24 move with the driver from Annapolis. I tried to make arrangements to leave the J/24 at Bill Icely's place of work, but he said that the lot would be closed on Sunday, so he referred me to King Purton at Davis Island Yacht Club.

Friday, September 7, 2001: Applying the Teak Treatment

I left a message for King Purton, then went over to do some work on the boat. I tied a rain fly over the Benetau's deck, masked off the forward grab rails and the swim platform, then applied two coats of the Boat US Teak Treatment. It went on fairly easily, and it looks a lot better than the Sikkens (IMHO). Dad arrived that evening, and we spent some time figuring out how to get the sewing machine to work correctly.

Saturday, September 8, 2001:

Dad & I went shopping for more boat stuff at Home Depot and West Marine. When we got back, Dad dismantled the fresh water pump and replaced the diaphragm, while I applied two more coats of the teak treatment. Unfortunately, the new diaphragm didn't fix the problem with the fresh water pump, so Dad thinks we need to buy the more expensive replacement for the pump head itself.

I still hadn't figured out where to put the J/24, so I left another message for King Purton, and an email for Bill Icely. I fear that King is out of town for the weekend.

Sunday, September 9, 2001: Retrieving the J/24

We got up early, and Dad & I drove out to Daytona to pick up the J/24. This went fairly smoothly, except that the driver wouldn't take a check, so we had to come up with $400 cash. The drive back was unnerving, primarily because we kept encountering heavy rain, and the water on the road would cause the front tires of the truck to hydroplane, even at very low speeds (40mph). I soon learned to hug the left side of the lane in order to keep the tires out of the water, and that helped a lot.

I also had some problems going over bridges, since they're typically very bumpy, and would cause the trailer to jerk and pull at the truck. Since the boat weighs about as much as the Explorer, it was a bit like the tail wagging the dog.

We stopped at a service station just east of Tampa and spent nearly an hour trying to figure out where to drop the boat, but to no avail. In the end, we just towed it all the way back to our house, and put it in a boat storage lot just down the street. I'll have to pay to keep the boat there, but it might be worth it for a month so I can do some work on her. (Great, so now I'm doing work on TWO boats -- like one wasn't enough!)

That evening, I patched the three damaged Beneteau fender covers, but I wasn't all that pleased with the results. The fabric was torn in many places, so I think I may have to build new ones. Now I need to figure out where to get 5 yards of dark green Sunbrella...

Monday, September 10, 2001: Sewing the Bimini

I decompressed from the J/24 move, spending some time in the evening sewing the zippers back onto the bimini (by hand). The bimini actually needs quite a bit more work than I had previously thought: there are strips of feau leather running the length of the bimini, and they've come almost completely unstitched (i.e. - the thread has disintegrated in the sun). Our sewing machine is nowhere near powerful enough to handle this stuff, and it would take me forever to sew them all back on by hand, so we'll probably have to take the bimini to a professional to have it reconditioned.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001: The WTC Tragedy

The World Trade Center in NY was completely destroyed by a terrorist attack involving two hijacked passenger jets. The Pentagon in DC was damaged by a third hijacked jet, and a fourth jet crashed in Pennsylvania, apparently when the passengers overpowered another team of hijackers. Nearly 6,000 people were killed in total, almost all of them civilians. The incident ranks as the worst single-day loss of life on American soil since the Civil War. "Tragedy" doesn't even begin to describe it. I spent most of the day glued to the TV, but I finally decided I needed to get away from it for a while, so I went to work on the boat.

I removed the plastic from under the forward grab rails on the Beneteau, and discovered that the masking tape had disintegrated in the sun, leaving tape scum all over the deck! I had just started working on removing the spots when a storm blew in from the east, and I was forced to retreat to the interior of the boat. While I was holed up there, I took down the shades in the main salon and cleaned the ceiling. As the rain continued, I became aware that there were several internal leaks in addition to the known one in the starboard skylight. I marked all the leaky spots with rigging tape (no more masking tape!), soon finding that almost every portal had at least a small leak. I think I need to clean and grease the seals in all of them. When I got back to the house, I threw the two shades into the washer, using Woolite as Sunbrella recommends.

Wednesday, September 12, 2001: A Hard Lesson About Tape Scum

I painsakingly removed all of the tape scum from around the forward grab rails and the swim platform. WD40 took the tape glue up fairly well, but the scraps of tape had to be peeled away by fingernail. The process was incredibly tedious and labor-intensive. (I could have used mineral spirits or acetone, but they would have damaged the gelcoat.) NEVER use masking tape outdoors! When I was done, I washed the excess WD40 off of the decks with soapy water, then hosed the decks down again. I also used some rubbing compound to remove some tire marks from the sides of the boat, where it had rubbed against the pilings in the previous slip. That actually worked really well. Another storm blew in from the east, sending me home. (It looks like there's a tropical storm forming just off our coast. I sure hope it heads north, and not east!)

Thursday, September 13, 2001: Storm Preparations

I went over the boat fairly early, intending to pick up a few items. I found Tony in the process of securing his boat for the predicted arrival of Tropical Storm Gabrielle, so I decided to avail myself of his help to secure mine as well. The weather was a bit overcast, and there was a steady breeze, but nothing particularly worrisome. At the time, Gabrielle wasn't expected to make landfall for another two days, but I figured it couldn't hurt to get the preparations out of the way.

I (painsakingly) hauled out the secondary anchor line, attached it to the mast, and tied the line off to pilings two slips over on both the port and starboard sides. I also cleaned all of the portal seals, hoping to prevent them from leaking.

That afternoon, as the rain started spitting a bit, I went to Home Depot and bought two sheets of plywood, some special 3M adhesive window mesh, and a ladder. By the time I got home, it was raining steadily, and the weather forecast noted that Gabrielle had started accelerating. It continued to rain ever harder through the night.

Friday, September 14, 2001: Gabrielle Make a Direct Hit

On Friday morning, Gabrielle came ashore just south of us, at Sarasota. By then it was raining like crazy, and the wind was howling out of the northwest. Fortunately, our townhouse faces east-west, so the surrounding buildings sheltered us from most of the fury. I called Tony to ask how our boat was faring, and he said that it looked OK, and he "didn't think it was rubbing". The more I thought about his statement, the more uneasy I felt about it, so I donned my flimsy raincoat and trudged down to the boat in the pouring rain and buffeting wind. I was completely drenched by the time I reached the basin, wishing that I had had the foresight to take my foul weather gear OFF of the boat before the storm!

I found our boat flush up against the finger pier, and sure enough, it was rubbing. I made my way out onto the finger pier to the boat, wary of being blown into the water below, and I managed to stuff one of the fenders in between the boat and the dock. Tony came out to check on his boat too, saying that the wind had just picked up noticeably. He helped me tighten some of the windward lines to pull my boat off of the pier, and I helped him with some of his lines. The wind was gusting to nearly 60 knots, so the work was incredibly difficult, even with two of us. Once we got my boat off of the finger pier, I checked for damage, but miraculously found none. Apparently, I had arrived just in the nick of time.

From that point onward, the storm subsided as Gabrielle moved further northeastward across Florida. I checked on the boat several more times, but without further incident.

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