Thursday, July 19, 2018

Georgia Is After Me Too

In my last post I mentioned that our daughter thought Georgia was trying to kill her. Heck, she didn't even witness a real thunderstorm.

We just had a doozie here in Brunswick, with lots of lightning close by. (Even three years after our lightning strike, I'm still a total wimp whenever there's a thunderstorm.) I did a screen capture of the radar map for you. See that big orange blob over Brunswick? We are right under that.

I also found this site that confirms my suspicions: Georgia is trying to kill me too. 

It won't be a slow painful bug bite, or disease, or heatstroke, like Katie imagined. It will probably be fast and a bit smoky, and they'll find my charred remains in bed with a pillow over my head.

But what a novel way to go!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A Special Guest

We had a special guest on Thistle recently and we certainly enjoyed her company. Our younger daughter from San Francisco spent 10 days with us and although there were some rough spots, she did get an accurate picture of the cruising sailor's life.

She mentioned more than once how we didn't seem to have a schedule and how odd it was for her A-type personality parents to use such vague language when referring to planned activities. She also dealt with all kinds of bugs and one evening she found a frog in her bed. Welcome to cruising, kiddo.

Her biggest surprise was seeing the boat on the hard when she arrived, but she pitched right in with the bottom painting to help us get launched.

We then meandered up the ICW with stops at Cumberland Island, Jekyll Island, and Brunswick Landing. She often wears a style of clothing called Lolita, which was popularized in Japan starting in the 1980s, and she managed to pack two dresses for this trip, so we had some photo shoots too.

Here she is at the St. Augustine Light Station. We made a quick trip there before we splashed, and had dramatic views over the town and inlet that day.

At Cumberland Island the Dungeness ruins made a nice backdrop. We also enjoyed seeing the ponies, turkeys, huge old oak trees, and, we even found some fossilized shark teeth.

Jekyll Island with its charming Historic District, made for another enjoyable day and more great photos. 

We also drove to Savannah and enjoyed its gracious style, beautiful homes, and a ghost tour. Maybe more than that though, we enjoyed the air conditioning at our AirBnB. As Katie said, "I think Georgia's trying to kill me and I'm going to die and melt into a little salty puddle!"

She went home with a sunburn, mosquito bites, boat bites, and a canker sore, so maybe she was right about Georgia trying to kill her. She texted me when she got off the plane in San Francisco, "I'm safely back in SF and it's beautifully cold."

Beautifully cold?

Friday, June 29, 2018


If you've been with us a while you'll know that Thistle was struck by lightning on August 11th, 2015. We were in the Kuna Yala (Caribbean side of Panama) where parts are impossible to procure, so we continued on to Cartagena and fixed what we could there. We didn't fix the wind instruments or depth sounder for three reasons: the parts are super expensive to import into Colombia; we didn't really need wind instruments; and the depth sounder at the nav station still worked.

But the repercussions from the lightning strike are still being felt here on Thistle.

We decided the time had come to replace the instruments that were damaged. Unfortunately, the new instruments all come with new gadgets that must be installed through holes in the hull, or at the top of the mast. They also have long cables that must be run down the mast and through the bilges back to the nav station.

Today we installed the transducer for the new depth sounder. First off, it's never fun to work under the boat looking up at your project, but we managed to chisel out the old transducer, clean off the old goo, and sand the mounting spot smooth. Then we slathered goo on the new transducer and I pushed it up into the hole while the Captain put the nut on inside the boat. At least that was the plan, but I let go for just a second and it fell out onto my arm spreading goo all over me. Ugh.

Nevertheless, we got it installed and here it is. Exciting, I know.

Tomorrow somebody gets to go up the mast to install the new wind instruments and snake the new cable down all 62' of mast so that it comes out the bottom where it can then be run through the bilges and up to the nav station.

Then maybe we will finally be done with these unwelcome consequences from the dreaded lightning strike. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Portlight Plastic Replacement

Thistle just celebrated her 28th birthday and the plastic in the hatches and portlights was really showing its age, so when we were in California we cut new plastic for all the openings. The Captain was graciously allowed to use the CNC router at our old sign shop which made the job super easy.

The process of replacing the plastic is quick and easy too, but messy. And potentially VERY messy if you don't mask thoroughly and carefully contain the silicone adhesive.

First we removed the old plastic by cutting out the adhesive. Then we scraped the aluminum frames with a dull chisel to remove all the old silicone. We also masked off the outer edge of the aluminum frame.

To protect the plastic we left the masking paper on both sides, but trimmed it where the glue had to go. To do that, we prefit the plastic, drew a line around the framework from the bottom, and cut away the masking paper where the silicone needed to go. (In the photo above, the plastic is upside down, but you can see the black strips where the masking paper has been removed.) Then we applied the silicone and set the plastic in place, pressing it down firmly. On this large Bomar hatch, we also had to reinstall the four latches.

 On the portlights, there was only a 1/2" strip around each edge, and on the smaller hatches there was only the edge and one piece of framework to trim around. Only after the silicone dried did we peel off the masking paper.

The difference is amazing! Before, the plastic was so cloudy we couldn't see anything, but now we can actually see out. The plastic is tinted, but they look so clear and bright that I sometimes think they're open when they're closed. This was a very worthwhile project.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Looong Haulout

We put Thistle on the hard November 26th, emptied the fridge, cleaned her up, made lists of things to bring back from California, and flew home for the holidays. When we returned on February 6th, we started our project list in earnest.

The first project was to get a car, which was in itself quite a story. Then we began stripping and varnishing the cap rails. We wanted to redefine the caprail-to-hull edge before the Captain started sanding the hull for the repaint. We also ordered lots of supplies and materials and new refrigeration units.

On March 25th we moved into our first house sitting job and started the refrigeration project. It was a huge mess and I don't know how we could have done it while living aboard. During this time we also touched up a bunch of varnish inside the boat.

By April 12th we were back on the boat, enjoying our new refrigeration, and planning a little vacation to New Orleans. We were in New Orleans from April 19th-25th.

Painting commenced when we got back and by May 7th, the transom and starboard side were all done including the name and the gold cove stripe. Then we had to fly back to California again for Malcolm's mother's funeral from May 8th-23rd.

Another house sitting job gave us the comforts of home from May 28th-June 13th. The air conditioning was certainly appreciated, because the heat and humidity were starting to get bad in Georgia.

Between thunderstorms, paint drying, and waiting for supplies, the Captain managed to replace all the cloudy plastic in the portholes and small hatches, repaint the helm, repair some cosmetic damage on the keel, remove the hydraulic centerboard cylinder and boom bang for servicing, adjust the stuffing box, paint the waterline stripe, and make a new panel for the nav station. Just yesterday he painted the port side of the hull, and he is polishing it now.

So, while I sometimes think we've been here forever and will probably be here the rest of our lives, we've only really been on the job for 110 days. And we've accomplished quite a lot in that time.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Georgia: The Bug State

Generally speaking I like bugs, but Georgia is something else.

I read on the Internet that's it's the 5th buggiest state in the union, and I believe it. In the course of a day, working here in the boatyard, we will be swatting at gnats, mosquitos, no-see-ums, and flies. We will find wasps trying to make nests on our boat, June beetles strolling on the deck, and dragonflies hovering over the water faucet. We hear cicadas buzzing all afternoon up in the trees.

Our latest bug encounter really takes the cake. We found this in the bilge. The thing is over 2" long,  so how did it even get in there?
Its called a Hercules beetle, and they are common throughout the southeast. I'd never seen one before, and hope to never meet a live one.

Georgia isn't just about bugs though. There are also lots of birds. We've seen roseate spoonbills, flamingos, wood storks, several different egrets, and these shy little clapper rails. Three of them scurried through the yard one quiet afternoon while I was varnishing. They make a strange call, so I knew they were coming and was able to get my camera in time.

Another boatyard visitor was this tortoise. He was trying to go under the keel of nextdoor's boat and wouldn't fit. I picked him up and set him down on the other side where I thought he was trying to go.

Georgia also has several poisonous snakes, scorpions, black widows, brown recluse spiders, and fire ants. Luckily we haven't seen any snakes, but recently someone saw an alligator right here in the creek!

I once saw a meme on Facebook that said something like: We don't get upset if you're a little late here in the South. With several venomous snakes, fire ants, alligators, debilitating humidity, hurricanes, and the occasional tornado, were just glad you're here at all!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

And The Painting Continues

Work on our hull repaint is coming along nicely and we just have the final color coat on the port side and the waterline stripe to finish. The transom and starboard side are all done including the cove stripe and the name.

I found some 1" metallic gold striping tape online and applied it using masking tape for a guide, and soapy water to help position it. We had the graphics for the transom made at our old sign shop back in California. I painted the raised Alden logo with a metallic gold paint pen from the crafts store. I hope it holds up outside.

The painting process is long and labor intensive. First all the cracks must be ground out and filled. Then lots of sanding with 150 grit and a random orbital sander.

Then one coat of epoxy primer and more sanding with 150, 230, and 320 grit, touching up the filler as necessary.

Then a first coat of Epifanes, applied with a small foam roller, and NOT tipped off. After that, more sanding, by hand this time with 400 grit on the diagonal. Then a second coat of color.

The last step is to "color sand" the Epifanes with 1500 grit sandpaper using a soft pad on the orbital sander, then 2000 grit. And finally, using Farecla's products, polish the paint.

Folks have actually walked by and said, "Did you spray that? Here?" and we have to admit that we didn't, but that's quite a compliment, isn't it?

Sunday, June 3, 2018

City Park and NOMA

On our last day in New Orleans we took the streetcar up to City Park and visited the New Orleans Museum of Art. We were not disappointed!

The large painting you see above is Masquerade Ball by Gaston La Touche. It shows the Paris Opera House hosting a masquerade ball sometime in the late 1800s and it is mesmerizing!

Here is le Mousquetaire du Cardinal by J. L. Gérôme.
Our museum back home has a few pieces by Gérôme (like this one the Saddle Bazaar), and he has always been one of my favorite artists.

Here is Whisperings of Love by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

After gazing at His Eminence Returns many times as a very young child, I have come to appreciate Jehan-Georges Vibert's great sense of humor. Above is the Cardinal's Friendly Chat at the NOMA, and below is His Eminence Returns at the Haggin Museum.

This detail from Death Comes to the Banquet by Giovanni Martinelli just astounds me. If you zoom in, you can see the apparently random brushstrokes, but step back just a bit and the random brushstrokes become satin and velvet. Just wonderful, isn't it?

The NOMA also has lots of furniture and I started noticing it as we looked at Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun's painting of Marie Antoinette.

Then I started taking photos of chairs. I think I got to about twelve when I realized they would make good jigsaw puzzles, so I made a whole folder of them on my Jigsaw Planet account.

If you like puzzles, check it out at

Acting Like Tourists

While we were in New Orleans we tried to do all the stuff you're supposed to do: we visited Jackson Park, St. Louis Cathedral, a cemetery, the Garden District, and the Benjamin Button house.

We walked down Bourbon Street with to-go cups,  listened to jazz on Frenchmen Street, had drinks at O'Briens, and ate beignets.

We toured a Dutch tallship, the Oosterschelde, and drove the 23 mile causeway across Lake Pontchartrain. 

We proudly learned how to pronounce Tchoupitoulas, étouffée, and beignet. (chop a TWO less, eh two FAY,  ben YEA)

Some days we just wandered around admiring the beautiful architecture and planning our next meal, but probably the best part of our excursion to New Orleans was enjoying it with these two people: Crystal and Don. We love you guys. Obviously.

Laura Plantation

There are many old plantations along the river just west of New Orleans including the famous Oak Alley. We drove by it, but elected to visit Laura Plantation, a Creole plantation.

I always thought Creole meant mixed blood, like some French, some Spanish, and some African blood, but here it means folks born in the New World, right here in Louisiana. The parents could be from anyplace, but if you were born here, you were Creole.

The land that became Laura Plantation was granted to the French Navy officer Guillaume Duparc in 1804. He died soon after, so the plantation was run thereafter by four generations of women: his wife, his daughter, his grand daughter, and his great grand daughter, Laura Locoul.

The bright colors of the house and fine furnishings inside reflect this family's culture and wealth.

Although Laura's family treated their slaves more kindly that most plantation owners, the slaves' homes were still a world away.
Haunting, isn't it?