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?

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Obligatory Swamp Tour

April 23, 2018

No, the swamp isn't named "Obligatory", it's actually called Honey Island Swamp, and it's part of the Pearl River, but it seems you can't go to New Orleans without a swamp tour, so we did one and we found it quite interesting.
The Honey Island Swamp is a wide, multi-channeled river and swamp area that separates Mississippi from Louisiana. It is one of the least-altered and pristine swampland habitats in the United States. Over 35,000 acres are devoted to wildlife habitat, fishing, hunting, boating, and birdwatching.

Bald cypress trees, draped with Spanish Moss, are everywhere, along with Tupelo and Southern Pine. The Bald Cypress got its name from the fact that, although it is a true conifer, it drops its needles in the fall so it's "bald" during the winter.

The huge shallow area of a swamp creates a natural defense against flooding by allowing rainwater to slowly spread out between the trees and shrubs during the wet season. Numerous creatures find their perfect habitat here including alligators, turtles, raccoons, bears, feral boars, and many species of migratory birds.

Most tour companies use this type of boat with seats facing out - not only to guarantee a great view of the swamp, but to keep you away from the rail. For good reason.

Although he looks scary, this feral pig is almost tame because the tour operators have been present its entire life. The boat drivers remember when each pig was born, call them by name, and feed them daily. Some of the alligators have similar histories, and they are fed protein pellets regularly.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Eating and Drinking in New Orleans

I'm not gonna lie, we researched the food in New Orleans far more than the attractions. So the first night we walked to Bon Ton for dinner and it was delicious. Here's my shrimp etouffee.

During our week in New Orleans we tried Gumbo, Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice, Shrimp, Crayfish, Beignets, Coffee with Chicory, and Andouille sausage.

We also had drinks at Compère Lapin, the Den, Pat O'Briens, the District, and Bamboula's. I particularly enjoyed meeting Abigail, the bartender at Compère Lapin. She fixed me this lovely Campari and grapefruit, and two delicious Sazaracs for the boys.

For those of you who've never been to New Orleans, I've got to say, they make drinking too easy there. To-Go cups are de rigueur and nearly everyone walks around with a drink in their hand. Bars can stay open past 2am so drinking is possible almost 24 hours a day.

One of our funniest memories was in the elevator early one morning when a bachelorette party attendee said, "I'm going to need a liver transplant when I get home." We were still laughing after she left the elevator.

One of our best meals was Sunday Brunch at The Court of Two Sisters. We had Champagne, Eggs Benedict, fresh fruit, crayfish, and pecan pie for dessert, but the lavish buffet had many other items as well.

One cannot go to New Orleans without trying a beignet, so one morning we got some to go and ate them as we drove out to the Swamp Tour. They are basically a square donut doused with powdered sugar. Locals know not to eat them in their car, or wear black pants when they eat them, but we did both and paid the price. There is still powdered sugar in the car, but it's a sweet memory from our time in the Big Easy.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Refrigeration Recap

Ta-Dah! The galley project is finished.
On the left is the Vitrifrigo DW70 freezer with a cupboard below for its small Danfoss compressor and a trash bin. The Captain made the cabinet doors match the others on the boat.
The trash bin is attached to the door by a little bracket and a bungie. It's a very small bin and we use shopping bags for liners. The door can be secured open at anchor or while preparing a meal, then closed while underway.

In the center, below the stove, is the original pan storage area; a small, dark, difficult-to-access cave. That's one thing that bugs me about the cabinet design on the Aldens; large storage spaces are limited by small access doors. I understand there must be faceframes, but they should be narrower to make the doors as large as possible.
On the right is the new Vitrifrigo DW100 refrigerator with a cupboard below for its compressor and more pan storage.

Ventilation is a big issue with refrigeration units, so each compressor area has a 6" diameter hole to the bilges to bring in cool air, and another 6" hole up high, behind the stove, to exhaust the warm air. There is about 3" of airspace on the side of each box, 4" on the top, and 8" behind, so I think we have good airflow.

Another important requirement is proper wire size. The Vitrifrigo manual suggested 9ga wire for our length run, but we used 8ga. Heck, the wire cost more than the cherry wood!

Vitrifrigo has several sizes of drawer units. The smaller units can be either freezer only, refrigerator only, or a combination. They have two types of latches: traditional flush or bowed designer style. They all have lights inside, one sliding top rack, plenty of stainless steel dividers, and sturdy Blum drawer guides.
At only 3.3 cubic feet, our refrigerator is a little small, but we just couldn't fit a larger unit into our boat. The freezer, at 2.6 cubic feet is a little large, but we have plenty of room to make ice and I'm experimenting to find out what can be stored in the freezer without getting ruined.
When perusing the Vitrifrigo website, keep in mind the number after the "DW" refers to cubic liters which you can easily translate into cubic feet.
If you need help, the folks at Vitrifrigo are easy to talk to. The Vitrifrigo warehouse is located in Florida, so purchasing from Hanson Marine in St. Augustine meant quick delivery, and he was cheaper than Defender.

Now, let's drink that champagne!