Sunday, September 20, 2009

Finally Catching Up on Projects Part 1: the Heart of Gold

The other day I went down to the union hall and there was a job posted for a 2nd Mate on a good ship with a high-paying contract. I was excited for a moment but then I noticed that the job was supposed to start the following morning at 0800, giving me less than twenty hours to get my entire life in order and get down to the pier to meet a ship to sail off to who-knows-where.

It turns out I wasn't qualified for that job. Still, the real impact of that day's visit to the hall was a swift kick in the butt reminding me that I've got a lot of stuff to do. It's not just my usual lot of stuff to do either, but a much more overwhelming lot of stuff that's been stacking up ever since I went out to sea last year and it's been pissing me off in general.

The good part is that I have been catching up. By my reasoning, I now have most of my projects about as far along as I planned to have them by this time last year. Any minute now I'll figure out what I'm going to do six months ago.

The biggest chunk of progress has been over the past four or five days. For the first time in months I've managed to knuckle down, eliminate distractions, and get to work. Because I've been running like mad to finish things, the timeline is a bit jumbled in my recollection. The best I can do is to recount the various projects I've been working on.

The first priority: keeping the boat from sinking or overflowing with sewage.

In a previous post I mentioned that my bilge pump and shower sump had shut down. When that happened, I ended up with flooding in the engine room and a little water got into the transmission. Getting the transmission fluid bright of water was now on my to-do list. The longer the water stayed in the transmission, the more likely it was to cause damage. Moreover, I wouldn't be able to get underway with excess fluid of any kind in there.

Just after I found out that I'd inadvertently disabled my boat again, the high-level alarm for the sewage holding tank lit up. Since I'd have to motor over to the holding tank pumpout station on the other end of the marina before the toilet started backing up, this pretty much put the transmission problem on the top of my list.

The problem required me to change the transmission fluid at least three times, running the engine in gear for an hour every time I put new fluid into it. The first time I did it around midnight. Then I changed the fluid out again early in the morning. After that I caught up with my friend Ray and talked him into hanging out with me for the day.

Back at the marina, we changed the transmission fluid for the third time, fired up the engine, and cast off. Unlike the last time I had to go to the pumpout station, this trip ran nice and smooth. The pump made quick work of sucking the shit out of the tank, and the trip back to my berth came off without a hitch. This left plenty of time for...

The second priority: overhauling the standing rigging on the Heart of Gold.

As you may recall, the Heart of Gold had a handful of rigging issues. All of these issues were there when I bought her, but then exacerbated by my lengthy vacation from my real life in Afghanistan. I've been in the process of overhauling the rig and replacing all of the failing, rusty bits with fully functional shiny bits.

I've made a handful of trips back and forth to Svendsen's rigging shop, handing off old wire rigging or picking up new wire rigging. I've also made a few trips up the masts to string up the shrouds and stays as I've been able to. Along the way I discovered that the wooden spreaders have a bit of dry rot and that the fittings at the outboard ends (where the wire shrouds pass through) had mostly corroded away. Before I could install the new upper shrouds, I would have to make new spreaders.

After an inordinate amount of time sorting through the selection of douglas fir at a nearby lumberyard, Step One was to cut the rough shape of the new spreaders out of the cleanest, straightest planks I could find. Step Two was to plane them down a bit more and make the edges nice and smooth (after buying a jack plane):

Meanwhile, dad took a moment off from telling me all the ways I was using the plane wrong (which I guess I was) to notch out the inboard ends of the spreaders. We'll call it Step Three:
Spreader notching

Then I gooped up the notches with some marine grade epoxy and inserted oak slats with the grain running across the spreader to guard against splitting along the grain of the doug fir. Step Four:
Spreader inboard

The next morning, I got to work on Step Five, cutting a chamfer along the edges of the spreaders, drilling holes to fit all of the hardware, and notching the ends:
Spreaders shaped

Once that was all done, Step Six and Seven were to coat the top and bottom sides with epoxy to protect the wood from dry rot:
Spreader Finish The clear epoxy coat does a lot to bring out the natural beauty of the wood and I can't help but think it'll be a shame to paint over it.

Step Eight was to attach the stainless strips I'd formed a couple of days prior using the press and the metal brake. Since I failed to match the curve of the spreader end when I bent the stainless strip, the next best thing was to fill the resultant void with more epoxy:
Spreader Ends

I suppose it's shoddy workmanship, but fortunately the next step is to get them painted and to screw on the last few pieces of hardware to cover up my sins so far.

Either way, that's as done as the spreaders are right now. It's not the only thing I've gotten done lately. I suffer from A.O.D., so I have to keep at least seven or eight different projects going at a time. Even though I still have to finish making the spreaders and stringing up the rigging and renewing the brightwork and overhauling the electrical system and plumbing in the aft head, the boat counts as one of these projects.

Stay tuned for more. I've been on a roll.

*Attention Overabundance Disorder is an unusual condition which causes me to focus on all sorts of things at the same time or, in extreme instances, get debilitating tunnel vision. I like it because as far as I know I'm the only person that has it and, more importantly, there are no pharmaceutical solutions. The main problem though is that I end up running into a shortage of hands. This causes me to jump back and forth from one thing to another in an effort to keep up with the workings in my head.

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