May and early June are choice times for sailing in Carolina and we like to take advantage of the nice weather when we can. We have a long weekend cruise coming up in the next few weeks and the boat is not quite ready for a cruise. When we travel, we need the boat in “ready to go” condition so we can arrive late one night and depart early the next morning with a minimum of boat chores. In trying to address the inherent vintage Catalina leaky window issue, I had removed the aft port window from the boat and replaced it with a piece of aluminum flashing and duct tape. I had been really concerned about the duct tape providing a weather seal because I had a lot of trouble getting it to stick to the fiberglass. I had to scrub all the chalky fiberglass off to get it to stick and even then I was concerned that we would return to a gaping window hole exposed to the weather. At home I had resealed the window using a process of my own design. I don’t want to make too much noise about my process until I see whether it works, but if it does I will explain fully.
Friday May 13, 2011
The plan for the weekend was to get the boat ready for our upcoming cruise. The weather forecast was simply terrible. They were calling for a mix of rain and thunderstorms Friday through Sunday. The wisdom of coming at all with such an unfavorable forecast was in question but we had planned the trip and we decided to brave the weather and push on. Our friends Becky and Charles were spending a weekend at the beach down South and were hoping to get by on their way home and possibly go out to dinner with us on Saturday night. We left home right after work with a carload of equipment including Charley Gibson (our dinghy) and his outboard along with the pressure washer and 5 gallons of diesel fuel. The weather threatened most of the way. Just before Raleigh when ran into a serious rainstorm that almost stopped traffic. I was tempted to turn around and run for home but we proceeded.
We ran into a few sprinkles just as we entered Pamlico County, and I was sure we were going to have to unload in a downpour. The weather forecasters on commercial radio were still forecasting heavy storms in the area but when we actually arrived at Ensign Harbor, the nearly full moon was visible through a thin cloud cover. The weather was cool but sticky. We turned in soon after we arrived.
Saturday May 14, 2011
We woke early to a beautiful morning. It was cool and much less humid than the night before. Evidently the weather forecaster’s had their curtains drawn because they were still calling for nasty weather. We enjoyed coffee and cereal on a dry deck. The first order of business was to replace the window that I had resealed at home.
My brother Jack says that every project takes at least four hours, no matter how simple it appears. In this case the task of putting the window back in place was complicated by the duct tape that I had been afraid was not going to stuck and seal around the aluminum flashing. When I tried to remove it, the tape came off but the sticky part stayed. Evidently a couple of weeks in the sun were enough to encourage the tape to stick and stick it did. I had brought some acetone and steel wool because I suspected there could be a problem with the tape. The acetone had no effect what so ever on the sticky tape.
Luckily, Oriental has a really good independently owned hardware store. I go there a lot. I found a product that was specifically designed to remove all sorts of GOO. Duct tape was specifically mentioned on the label. Back at the boat I discovered that the “instant” removal promised on the label was not all that “instant” but the stuff did work and I eventually got all the tape off and was ready to proceed with the installation. The job had already taken over two hours. The next challenge was applying the butyl tape that would serve as the seal between the window and the boat. I use butyl tape because it never completely dries and forms a great seal. Further it is a mechanical seal that is very easy to remove in case my seal job does not work. The tape comes in a roll and it has a kind of waxed paper that separates the actual tape. I was concerned that the stuff was too old and perhaps too stiff to form a good seal. I had stored it in my basement for a long time. I learned that the stiffness of the tape is a function of temperature not age. After several hours of lying in the sun, I had to cool the tape in the cooler (while we had lunch) so it would not stick to the waxed paper. After lunch it worked much better.
Judy helped me reinstall the window, which indeed was a small task. After all was said and done, I suspect the window leak was more likely a bad seal between the boat and the window frame rather than the frame and the glass. As we were reinstalling the window, we noticed that the window’s rough opening was a bit large and there was only about ¼” of contact frame to boat at the top of the window. Any deterioration of the butyl tape at the top of the window would have allowed a leak. We moved the window up slightly in its opening so that more contact was made at the top and less at the bottom. I have really high hopes for this window sealing technique. More to come…
One of my least favorite chores is “pumping the crapper” but I would rather do it manually than to pay 10 bucks for a pump out. That may change as I get older but we weren’t planning to move the boat and the tank was full. Fortunately this chore did not take 4 hours. I was interrupted when I went down the dock to assist Motivation in landing. Bob and Chuck were down for the weekend. Tammy and Karen did not make it. Bob reported a most excellent sail reaching speeds of about 7 knots with no thunderstorms in sight.
Our dinner plans had changed because Becky and Charles had been delayed leaving the beach and would not be joining us. Since we had planned to dine with them on Saturday night we either had to go to a restaurant or find something to cook. I wanted to pressure wash Southern Star’s decks so Judy decided to go to the grocery store to find something to cook. Regular readers know that I do not like to spend a lot of money for mediocre restaurant food so Judy’s decision to cook was just fine with me. She got back to the boat just about the time I was finishing pressure washing.
I had probably hiked up and down the companionway 50 times already during the day not to mention as many trips onto and off of the dock. I was tired to say the least. I left all the details for morning and went for a shower. I did rig a dodger over the forward hatch in case it rained overnight, but it did not look like rain. In fact, you could not have asked for better weather. The temperature was in the low eighties and the humidity was tolerable. The forecasters really missed it this time and we were glad we came.
After showers, I used the grill in the cockpit to cook turkey sausages for dinner while Judy whipped up a couple of side dishes. We enjoyed a nice simple meal on a dry deck with a delicious breeze blowing off the water, discouraging the bugs. We relaxed for a while and enjoyed a piece of chocolate for dessert. I exercised the on board option that states you do not have to wait until dark to go to bed. I was exhausted but I had accomplished more than I had expected. I woke once during the night to the sound of rain on the deck. I was glad I had rigged the dodger so we could leave the hatch open and still have a dry bed.
Sunday May 15, 2011
We woke to a beautiful morning with rain still in the forecast. I could not have rained much overnight because the deck was still bone dry. We relaxed with coffee and breakfast on deck. Charlie Gibson was still in the car so I brought him to the boat and lashed him to the foredeck with Judy’s help. It took a while to apply canvas covers and get things organized. I wanted to check for fuel leaks and make sure the engine would behave since the recent fuel filter / oil change. After applying the glow plugs for the prescribed 60 seconds the little diesel roared to life almost instantly.
We had a stop planned in Raleigh to see our kids and Jonas, so we left at about 10am and decided to try a little different route home. I don’t think it will save much if any time but the scenery will be different.