Blog

She Has Issues

DSCF2725When I found my used sailboat, I looked her over, poked around and then decided to give her a go. Back in 1981, when Catalina produced her, I had met my first wife and did pretty much the same thing with her. I married the woman, knowing little about who she was. For the first six months of the ill-fated marriage, we barely saw much of each other. She lived in High Wycombe. I lived in Devon, almost two hundred miles away. Later, in earnest, we moved in together, but sadly, fidelity did not. We both had issues. She cheated on me, and I on her. Our marriage ended in divorce.

In many relationships, familiarity either breeds contempt, or it reveals one’s capacity for love. My Catalina 25 also has issues, a multitude of small ones, which I viewed as a cluster of fun. However, when she moved home, a closer inspection revealed around twice as many issues than those observed at the storage facility/graveyard. Gradually, the reasons behind her owner’s dumping her on Craigslist materialized. Even I, at times, felt overwhelmed.

However, faulty equipment, stains, and blemishes spoiling through wood, steel and resin, the result of neglect and the lack of regular maintenance co-dependently knocked-on for thirty-odd years formed the character lines that attracted me to her. So, just as I did with my current life partner and best friend of twenty-odd years, I surrendered to tolerance of her traits going forward and loving my “new-to-me” boat.

DSCF2045One example of a knock-on effect is the crack in the hull where the hull extends downward, forming the base of the keel joint. I knew what the “Catalina Smile” was, but this crack was not in the keel joint. I also discovered some damage on the forward tip of the fin and deduced that the boat must have run aground at some point. Absorbing the energy from the altercation, I imagined the rear of the keel flexing upward into the hull. The absence of a depth finder aboard the boat supported my sharp-witted theory. I added the gadget to my wish list.

For a while I left the Catalina uncovered, identifying leaks to the cabin. It was then that I noticed a phenomenal and otherwise unfathomable occurrence. Rain trickled down the outside of the hull from each side of the deck into the damaged gel coat. The winter’s freeze expanded the crack as the boat lay trailered and out in the open. The trauma manifests inside the boat, beneath the companionway, as a failed superficial joint where the floor liner attaches to the shell. While this is a substantial amount of fiber glass work, I don’t believe it’s a deal breaker. You can watch the video here.

During the last few months as I studied her condition more closely, I formed an imaginary, love-hate relationship with not only her previous owners but also the manufacturer. Some things weren’t right from the get go. I wondered if Catalina’s shoddy and haphazard workmanship plagued the original owner. If you are that person/s, the original owner/s of C-25, HIN# CTYK2620M81J, do let me know. Perhaps you have pictures or stories of great adventures. Including the history of this Catalina cruiser would certainly add value to this account.

DSCF2782Overall, the most significant issue for me, I believe, was not knowing where to begin the renovation. Plagued by rain, then snow, and more bloody rain, I wondered, why did I ever leave England? Unusually, the sun here in Tennessee rarely shone during winter this year. Nor does it shine at the moment in the earliest part of spring.

Fortunately, though, a propane gas fire kept the new workshop warm, and the projects continued unhampered. I reconditioned winches, stripped varnish from the brightwork and covered the boat with a tarp. I also buffed her stanchions and chainplates and learned a lot of new skills. I look forward to sharing those soon.

However, the most beneficial aspect of all the recent work was cleaning her inside and out.  We took the advice of Andy Miller, an expert boat builder at boatworkstoday.com, who suggested taking the “least invasive approach” to restoring the original gel coat. The results surprised us all. Much of the inside came up like new once we removed the mold and a thin film of tobacco residue. Even the bilge came up nice. Although the boat still exhibits her age, scrubbing the deck and sanitizing the cabin made necessary decisions easier. Even the cushions look and feel new after we stripped off the covers and laundered them.

Next, a long list of questions arose. Here are just a few. Do I polish her up, re-spray the gel coat or roller/brush-paint both the deck and the hull? Should I leave her just as she is? Why is the outboard mounted on the starboard side of the stern? The 15′ control cables coil up in the quarter berth, creating an undesirable sleeping area. And what about the dreaded anchor locker? How do I make it watertight? Standing water within it rusted out the bolt for the bow eye, leaving a stubborn brown streak on the gel coat. To make matters worse, the fore-deck alone has three dozen holes in it, all of them letting in water.

DSCF2503Finally, in the late 1990’s, I met the love of my life. The last eighteen years of happily-ever-after taught much about valuable relationships. I discovered that loving somebody is more about what you are willing to let go of than what you can give to each other.

This adage reflects in my boat renovation strategy. When I bought her, I dreamed of a bright, angelic form with immaculate sails drifting across a dazzling lake beneath a heavenly summer sky. Fortunately, I let go of that fantasy. Alas, she will never be perfect.  She wasn’t that perfect in the first place, and truthfully, neither was I. We are such a good match don’t you think?

I posted more pictures of the cleaning process. It was more work than I thought. My advice to any of you having a go, be patient and meticulous. Prepare to put in some time. Cleaning the boat up provided a freshened perspective. It lightened my anticipated work load and simplified my renovation strategy. So far, the latter looks like this.

Step 1: Strip her down.

Step 2: Clean her up.

Step 3: Make her water tight again.

Just click the link, “Clean Her Up” to view my latest gallery.

In the next post, I’ll show how I dismantled and serviced the winches. Yes! I wrote the winches NOT the wenches!

Advertisements

We Call Her “She”

Workbench 15When I kayak-camped Old Hickory Lake in the fall of 2016, I learned that a broader view of my “ordinary life” created a matching horizon and that every adventure whether great or small sharpened a dull perspective.

Buying the Catalina 25′ was a precarious risk, but the benefits are already self-evident. My shed was a dump, my tools unrecognizable. Now, electricity, a coffee pot, beer fridge, roll-away tool-chest and wireless internet access embolden my determination. I created a space for design drawings and built an inexpensive workbench from lumber costing less than fifty dollars.

The Catalina’s previous owner had abandoned an assortment of useful and expensive accessories, including the additional winches and running rigging for single-handed sailing. I calculated the “used” or “second-hand” value of the equipment stowed in the sailboat’s cabin, along with the tandem-axle trailer. The exercise encouraged my optimism. I valued the property at more than double the price paid, and that excluded the value of the boat.

Cabin 14However, elation soon gave way to suspicion. Why did I get such a good deal? Did I overlook a potentially catastrophic fault as I carried out the preliminary inspection? After all, I studied Don Casey’s “Inspecting the Aging Sailboat.” What did I miss? What did the previous owner hide from me? I thought, noticing the shadow of a doubt. Believing I had mastered the art of the deal as an accomplished boat-buyer, the discovery of a costly repair would seriously mash my pride. Nevertheless, my growing attachment to the boat ensured that my dreams remained intact.

Not long after the Catalina’s arrival, I began using the feminine pronoun. I referred to the boat as “she” or “her,” a historical tradition for seamen yet without, so far anyway, a reasonable explanation. Rear Admiral Francis D. Foley’s satirical prose “Why We Call a Ship a She,” records how a “salty retired U.S. flag officer shuns the current trend toward political correctness.” Foley documents a series of derogatory female comparisons, including how, “some have a cute fantail, others are heavy in the stern”  When I read this, I questioned my use of the word.

Female or not, my relationship began with the Catalina 25 the minute I first laid eyes on her. In the days that followed her moving into my home, my infatuation only grew. I love her I thought as she towered above me, the tip of her bow nosed up in the air, her red and green side lights squinting from the hull. She drew my full attention. Boy, I couldn’t wait to climb into her cockpit and stake my claim as her captain.

DSCF2059The dreamboat honeymoon lasted for weeks, but soon after, lovey-dovey gave way to practicality. The exact nature of our relationship clarified as I scrutinized her physical condition. I stripped her down and took photographs. I considered her past, her excellent reputation as I picked at her many blemishes. “Who could have done this to you?” I asked and finally deduced that for several years others had mistreated her. Used and abused, my Catalina 25 bore the scars of macho neglect. “She” is the worn out residue of her previous relationships. I desperately wanted to fix her, a scenario I frequently encountered during my twenties and thirties.

Without a doubt, renovating a sailboat is an enormous commitment that emulates a human connection. This similarity supported my use of the feminine personal pronoun. For me, fixing up this sailboat is indeed a romantic adventure, and so she deserves the highest esteem.

Don’t forget to visit the gallery depicting the Catalina’s current condition. Click here on “Catalina 25 pics.” Next time, I’ll post a new gallery illustrating the workbench construction and other embarrassing workshop sights. “Setting up Shop” will be accessible in the next couple of days.

Until then, and for an elaborate carpentry tutorial, I recommend a visit to YouTube where an increasing number of master craftsmen inspire humanity for zero dollars down, thus, usurping traditional education. Click on the following link and discover my dream workbench”  posted by the KingPost TimberWorks.

Workspace

Shitty Shed 3     For almost ten years, our 16 X 10 feet Spacemaker shed housed the junk that I cleared out of our basement when I converted the space into a yoga room, an office and a studio. Although I referred to the outbuilding as the garden shed, it became, over time, a storage room for all of those “rainy day” items. Now, more than one thousand rainy days later, I decided to empty the shed. When I opened the doors, I couldn’t step inside without pulling things out of the way. I didn’t take a picture, but even if I had, I still wouldn’t post it here. The place was a shambles, an overwhelming sight and sharing it would cause such embarrassment.

Allowing the space to evolve in that way was a personal trait that I hadn’t noticed before. How could I be such a clutter-bug? Nevertheless, with a 12ft. tall sailboat on a 30ft. trailer parked in the yard, and a gutsy, determined attitude, I took a deep breath…and begged my wife for her help. We went through the stuff and voted on whether to ditch it or gift it. Most of it was useless and went to the city dump. Hoarding the items, a decision we made a long time ago, no longer made any sense. Workshop or not, going through the shed was cathartic. I wished we had done so earlier.

Bledsoe Creek 2     Back in 2014, we renovated a 1967 Yellowstone Camper.  I mentioned the project because the garden shed at that time was the bane of my every day. Inundated shelves, cranky old tools and a tangle of overloaded extension cords intensified frustration and often led to a tantrum. One day, my questionable behavior came up in conversation. My wife pointed out that if I repeated the hurling of objects and expletives, the Yellowstone camper would become my new home. “You’ll be out on your ear,” she said. With that freshened perspective, converting the shed into a well-organized workshop garnered every ounce of my enthusiasm.

Before long, I drilled out the studs, pulled all the cables and installed my outlet devices. I used 20 amp, #12 gauge Metal Clad Cable (12/2 MC) which provided one 20 amp circuit for the workshop. Mechanics, welders and carpenters’ wood-shops demand much higher amperage, but for my solitary work as a sailboat enthusiast, a 20-amp circuit is adequate. 12/2 MC is easy to work with, and impervious to inquisitive squirrels. The materials for the 20-amp circuit, including a dozen receptacles and a fluorescent light fixture, cost less than $100.

Wiring 1     As a licensed electrician, I always make sure that my work follows the N.E.C. standards for both indoor and outdoor installations. Please check with a licensed professional before carrying out electrical work. While installing the equipment yourself will save money, it should not cost you your life.

After completing so many projects; the yoga room, home office, jeweler’s bench, recording studio, artist’s retreat, model mountain railroad, raised-bed veggie garden, chicken coop, decks, fences, and a camper renovation, I discovered that walking around on a grimy surface distracted my untapped genius. In my brilliant mind, stepping in filth diminished me. Okay, I’m joking. At least, it grated my nerves.

For the workshop, I needed a project-resistant floor covering that cleaned up easily, and yet wouldn’t devour my budget. Fortunately, I found some “peel and stick” floor tile, or “luxury vinyl plank” in a clearance sale at our local hardware store. At 98 cents per square foot, it converted the grubby, chipped plywood shed floor into an attractive and durable work-space. Even with the purchase of the plywood underlay, which comes already primed for the vinyl tiles’ adhesive, the new workshop floor cost less than $250, including the screws for the underlay.

Flooring 2One helpful tip: If you decide on a similar product as the one I selected on price, here is something to bear in mind. The vinyl plank system relies on an almost invisible “tongue and groove” structure and only fits together if laid in one direction. An arrow printed on the adhesive shield directs the correct installation. In my case, however, seeing the new tiles transforming the grotty old floor excited me. Occasionally, I rushed the job, and installed a piece the wrong way. A few hours later, without the support of an adjacent member, the improperly laid tile became partially unstuck and consequently needed replacing.

Finally, getting rid of old stuff isn’t easy. Who knows why we hold on to past acquisitions that no longer enhance our lives. Objects, habits, memories, and emotions color each precious moment. I hated the shed. Its contents reinforced my fear of scarcity and yet owning each valueless object increased my idea of self-worth. I believed I couldn’t live without them. Now, the Catalina 25′ dominates my yard, her potential invigorates my life just as her renovation transformed our old garden shed. Already, I wish I had a name for my boat. Perhaps you have a good idea. I look forward to reading your comments, and I thank you for reading my blog.

Next time, I’ll open the doors to my workshop and introduce my $50 workbench. You’ll be amazed what you can do with fifty bucks! I hope you enjoy the gallery I posted displaying an overview of the Catalina 25’s current condition. Find it here on my website or click on the link, “Catalina 25 Pics.”

Until next time, have a great week!

Accomodation

Catalina's New Home

     A functional sailboat comprises of several integrated systems. Their efficiency enables the flotation and transport of a comfortable living space across the water’s surface. System maintenance requires a wide range of skill-sets and a variety of tools.

     In his book, “Fix it and Sail,” Brian Gilbert details the renovation of a 1972 MacGregor 222, and recommends preparing an alternative work-space. Working in the boat’s cockpit, on deck, or down below is not always a viable option.I understood the necessity for a workshop.

     First, I considered our basement, which is warm in the winter and stays cool in the summer. With a 7 ft. high ceiling and floor space of around 1,100 sq ft. (the size of a decently sized bungalow), it satisfied my self-inflated ego. However, we currently use 300 sq ft. as a home office. We have a small laundry area, a 20 ft. x 12 ft. yoga and exercise room complete with a kick bag, martial arts equipment and a flat-screen TV on the wall. My wife uses the rest of the space as a multi-media artist’s studio. A lot goes on in our basement. I thought better of sharing my latest idea.

Chickens     For several years we kept chickens in a coop. Since all six of the birds stopped laying about a year ago,  I mulled the idea of re-purposing their home.  Within the structure’s 24′ run I could store the Catalina’s mast, keeping it mostly under cover. Then, similar to a kitchen on a teardrop camper-trailer, I imagined a drop-down, pull-out workbench for the side of the coop. The chickens would have to go, I decided. However, I didn’t have the heart for butchering the “girls,” so the structure remains as it is: an assisted-living facility for old hens. We nicknamed the chicken coop, “Government House.”

     Finally, I addressed the possible remodeling of our neglected, and over-filled Spacemaker  shed. Almost every year, we speculated upon its fate. “It would make a great tiny house,” my wife said. Situated a little more than fifty feet from our house beyond a large wooden deck with a fire pit, converting the shed into a human habitat required more work than I could imagine. Besides, my “tiny house” was a sailboat now, and a workshop only needs electricity. This time, necessity moderated our high expectations, and with 160 sq ft available the shed matched my new-found modesty. 

     Buying the Catalina 25 was ambitious, but then so were many other things I enjoyed in my life. I made a living from writing music and settled here in the United States. I married an Irish-American woman and love her unconditionally. I fathered my son and encouraged my step-son, both of whom became exceptional young men. Each experience enriched my life beyond my imagination. When I took on a challenge, it altered my perspective and many times resulted in success.

DSCF1484 (2)

     Admittedly, a few of my quests didn’t go as expected and the odd one brought me to tears, but at this stage of the game, accommodating the boat and converting the shed was a win-win opportunity for everyone. I designed two new electrical circuits, one for the deck and another for the new workshop. In my view, the wiring project killed two birds with one stone; much better I thought than lopping off the heads of six aging hens with an axFor now, at least, the chickens are safe, and according to my wife, since I started this project I am “much easier to live with.” So, I wondered. Am I fixing the Catalina or is “she” fixing me? I look forward to reading your comments.

Until then, have a great week!

Welcome Aboard my Catalina 25

The Boat

Hi, my name is Martin. I live in the sun-drenched state of Tennessee, land-locked among the mid-southern forests of the United States. Although I grew up in the U.K., that gnarly old island on the other side of the Atlantic, I know little about sailing, even less about sailboats or “yachts” as we called them back home.

My work brought me to Tennessee many years ago, but my lifetime profession gradually lost its allure. Late last year, in search of a more noble purpose, I took to the lake on a kayak and camping adventure. On my return, I wrote my first non-fiction book, “One Sumner Tale” and worked as a writer almost every day since.

Earlier this year, I bought a sail for my 15′ Prijon kayak. From the moment the sail billowed out against the backdrop of an infinite blue sky and carried me across the water, my passion for sailing ignited. Owning and piloting a full size yacht became a new and tremendous ambition that quickly turned into an obsession.

With limited funds, I bought a 1981 Catalina 25′ sailboat. Anyone who has acted upon a similar impulse will know that when she, my boat, arrived in the back yard, I became the happiest man alive. The question is though, will she and I make it to the lake by the spring of 2018 or will she just sit there on her trailer, blocking the sun from my window? That we shall see.

After watching countless videos and reading informative blogs, I recognized that every situation is unique. Very few sailboats are identical. During thirty odd years of use and neglect, each boat develops a unique personality. Not only that but every project-boat owner has their own perspective on repair methods, tools, and supplies. Often, personal expectations and available finances determine a renovation strategy, practical goals and ultimately results. Every renovation is different.

Although my Catalina is in fair to good shape for her age, there is a multitude of smaller issues due to either the lack of maintenance or years of neglect that require an upgrade, replacement or repair. The work demands a broad skill-set including plumbing, electrical, fiberglass laminating, mechanical engineering and an understanding of sailor-speak. The Halyards, sheets, boom vang, and spreaders are names that amuse me every time I use them in conversation.
Fortunately, the joy of discovery evaporates the fog of ignorance. So, with a limited budget, I’ll fix the old girl up and sail her in the spring of this year, 2018. My family expects a safe, casual cruise with a comfortable cabin stocked with food and drinks. The challenge excites my core. So, welcome aboard my 1981 Catalina 25’ yacht renovation adventure.

Follow my progress by clicking the following link: Rehab Catalina 25′ Blog