Monday, April 24, 2017

1980 (21) - Crisis # 2

Tropic Moon with a new paint job

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

The second crisis came because Ed decided we would do the work on the boat bottom ourselves, instead of hiring the yard.  (Money concerns – it had only been nine months since our last expensive haul out.)  Since Ed couldn't stand up for any length of time, that left me to paint the bottom of the boat.  In all honesty, I didn't believe I could do the job - not to mention the fact I certainly didn't want to do it!  I came really close to resigning my crew position and deserting the ship.

Tropic Moon’s bottom, the part of the hull below the waterline, was about 40 feet long and six feet high.  Counting both sides that made quite a bit of area.  The yard did a preliminary scraping when they hauled the boat, but there was always more marine life that had to be scrubbed and sanded off.  The boat's hull curved in to a narrow keel.  To do the lower half of the bottom, I had to work squatting down or kneeling. 

Our first week out was during a heat wave (temperatures 90-100 degrees, and no wind, but plenty of bugs).  I'd be working with a hose in one hand and scrub brush in the other, covered with tiny biting bugs, dripping sweat mixed with bottom paint and dirt, and standing or kneeling in the mud formed from the running water.  When I'd stop for a rest, Ed would take over and work on the lower parts, since he was okay as long as he stayed on his hands and knees.  It really is true, though, that you can adjust to almost anything.  On the second day, when I was on the second side of the hull, my spirits picked up considerably.

Fish Tale, a small art quilt, by Jean Baardsen

Ed had indicated spots on the hull, adding up to about 10% of the bottom area, that had to be sanded down to bare steel, and patched with epoxy.  The sanding, patching, and sanding the patches, spread over a couple more days.  Then the patched areas had to be built up with a layer of primer and four layers of our orange undercoat.  We had a weird looking polka-dot bottom!  I could get through two coats of orange per day.  I finally got to the satisfying part - painting on the red antifouling, which was the finishing coat.  I painted the antifouling on each side of the boat in a day, and was rather pleased with the final appearance.  Several of the yardmen came up to compliment me on my work.

On our first day out of the water, the yard had used their crane to pull out our main mast.  It was set on sawhorses off in one corner of the boatyard.  We hired a carpenter to cut out the rotted section and scarf in a new piece of wood.  He'd come by for a couple hours in the evening when it was cooler, and he was done with the job in a few days. 

Fish Tale.  Detail.  All fish, fans, etc., were machine embroidered.

Ed also hired the yard to pull the propeller shaft out of the boat.  (Water leaked into our steel hull every time we motored.  On the passage from St. Maarten to Tortola, when we motored for fourteen hours, Ed had pumped salt water out of the bilge three times.)  Nanny Cay's "prop expert," Roy, was assigned to the job.  A week later, he still hadn't gotten the shaft out.  Sometimes we'd have as many as six fellows swarming over the boat, apparently trying to help (or maybe just standing around watching me paint).  I got the assurance from the yard foreman we were only paying for Roy.  After trying large hammers, wheel pullers and acetylene torches, everyone concerned admitted defeat, as the coupling to the engine refused to come off the propeller shaft. 

Ed was left with two choices - put everything back the way it was (and live with the leaks), or get a whole new propeller shaft.  Ed (by pure luck) heard about a new machinist on the island, Michael Masters.  Mike, (by even purer luck), had an 8-foot length of 2" bronze shafting he had salvaged from another boat.  That may not sound like a big deal, but when you understand that was probably the only piece of shafting usable on our boat in all the Virgin Islands; that we had tried to call a company in Puerto Rico, but couldn't get a phone number because the operator had never heard of it; and trying to air freight anything from Puerto Rico to the British Virgin Islands either took one afternoon, or six months (usually the latter), well, we just couldn't believe our luck!  Ed took a hacksaw to the old shaft, and got it out of the boat.  Mike spent a week machining the new shaft to adapt it to Tropic Moon's unorthodox innards, and we were back in business.

Haul out – to be continued….

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