And We Varnished: Compass, Winter 2011-12

Since I’ve recently added quite a few photos to the album showing off our fabulous winter on the hard, I thought I’d spend a little time highlighting a few of the jobs we did.  You’ll read this and say, “gee, I could have gotten a lot more done in four months,” and you’ll be right.  You’re always right, you salty dog.

I discussed the problems that have kept us out of the water in a previous post.  We’d hoped to splash the boat repowered and with a nice new bottom in December, and then leisurely tackle our interior projects from the comfort of a marina in downtown St. Petersburg.  As it sits, I don’t remember what a boat bobbing around in its slip feels like, as the Compass has been a forty-seven foot long treehouse since November.

Here are some of the highlights from our winter on the hard.  Be sure to take a look at the album for a more tedious (if you can believe it) version of the story.

Practicing throwing acid, in case I become a villain's henchman someday.

There were things we rushed to get done when the boat came out of the water, since we actually believed it would be going back someday.  We cleaned and removed the two blade, feathering Max Prop, as well as the old saildrive.  We’ve taken the the prop apart, cleaned and inspected the mechanisms, and it appears to be in good shape.  Charlie has always wanted a Max Prop, so we’re very pleased with our good fortune in that regard.  We listed the old saildrive on eBay and some other websites, thinking someone would want it for parts, but it’s still in our garage, collecting dust (which only improves its looks).

He's either doing cosplay or preparing for a nuclear attack (or doing cosplay of a guy preparing for a nuclear attack).

We had plenty of time to walk around the outside of the boat being very critical of things, which is good, of course, but it always leads to Charlie dressed up in a Tyvek suit sanding fiberglass.  We’re not big fiberglass lovers.  Raw fiberglass gives me hives and sanded fiberglass does the same for Charlie.  Together we’re like some new race of devolved, immunity-impaired bubble people (except that would mean we were related, which is either really gross, or really kinky).  This winter, Charlie filled three old through-hulls, and drilled a new one for our speed transducer.  He touched up some scrapes around the saildrive hole (I still don’t have a better name for this), repaired some delamination on the skeg, and fixed some cracks in the giant rudder.  We’ve also done a little fairing here and there, but the boat didn’t need any major work in that regard, believe it or not.  Not a blister to be found (I’ve jinxed us, haven’t I?).

I wonder if my little brother ever looks at pictures of me and thinks about how alike we look?

The Compass came with a single cylinder Mase Mariner diesel generator installed in the starboard lazarette.  According to the meter, the thing only has seven hours on it, so it was out of the boat, and up for sale!  Lucky for me, I’m only five-feet tall and still relatively small-of-ass.  This means I get tight-space duty, and there are plenty of those jobs available on this boat.  After all the wiring, mounts, and copious amounts of loose, old sound-deadening were off, we removed the beast with the help of the boatyard manager and his trusty forklift.

Charlie used to work as a yacht rigger at SSMR, a rigging shop that’s well-known both here in town, and to all sort of sailors across the globe who connect with the shop’s owners on forums and mailing lists here on the Internet.  Steve, Jennifer, and Andrew let their eager former employee use their shop to  measure and cut and swage together some new lifelines for the Compass.  Having a yacht rigger for a partner in a project like this comes in handy, let me tell you.

Most of our winter was taken up by one project.  Well, one project that entails giving very careful attention to almost every interior surface of the boat.  My, did we spend a lot of time varnishing.

Charlie is one of those.  As I’ve mentioned before, his previous boat, a 1971 S&S 34, looked like museum inside.  I still haven’t figured out if he loves to varnish, or if he really just loves varnished wood.  Either way we end up high on fumes, so the reasons don’t seem all that important.  Though the wood on the Compass was in rough shape when we found her, it’s really high quality stuff.  With a little love, most of it has recovered nicely.  The boards that make up the cabin sole are probably the best bit.  They’re thick, and we’ve been able to machine sand them to remove lots of who-knows-what that they all seemed to be covered with.  Any photos I take will not do the varnish job justice.  I wasn’t sure that anyone could rescue the interior of the Compass, but Charlie has made a believer out of me.

So there it is.  It may be disappointing that we spent the winter on the hard, but we gotten quite a bit done.  We were blessed to find this budget beauty, and we’ve been lucky to have the help we did from Charlie’s father, the folks at the boatyard, and a few good industry connections.  Now that the saildrive/engine bed project is finally underway, we’re able to make out a little glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

In which I use curse words to write about Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater

Look at how I'm topical, hip and ironic by using a meme to discuss music from the 1700s.

Since you’re all so curious, I’ll let you know that Pergolesi’s is my favorite setting of Stabat Mater.

Before I get rambling, I’m going to give you a preemptive tl;dr version of this post: Whenever I complete a task that I think is awesome, or get to the end of something where I feel I did a particularly good job, I sing the “Amen” chorus from the final movement of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater to myself.  If I’m not in a place where I may sing aloud, you can rest assured I’m singing in my head.

On to rambly-talk about religious music:

While I’m not Roman Catholic, I was raised learning my fair share of Mariology.  We like to call her Theotokos, though, ’cause we’ve got cooler words like that.  Now, I know I’d get some grief if I don’t mention that Stabat Mater is not an Orthodox hymn, but, if you take the time to read it, that should be fairly obvious.  For one, the prayer doesn’t mention the resurrection.  It takes a completely different tone than an Orthodox prayer, kind-of missing the whole light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel, joyful-in-Christ thing (bonus points if you got the Orthodox choir director pun in there).  Doesn’t matter, though, I love the thing.  I’m a sucker for over-the-top emotion, and, like the good poetry it is, Stabat Mater never fails to please in that realm – especially in Pergolesi’s setting, and especially accompanied by organ.  The only thing Pergolesi didn’t realize is that this masterpiece was meant to be performed (as it is today) by women!  We are singing about Mary here, after all, Sir.  Grown men singing in a soprano register freak me out, anyway.  Go ahead; call me sexist.

Yes, we "Alleluia" during Lent. Matthew said to ... pretty much.

So, on to what I was getting at.  My favorite movements are Inflammatus et Accensus and, the final movement, Quando Corpus, which ends with the most magnificent “Amen” segment of all time.   I have been blessed in that I’ve been able to perform these both twice in my lifetime.  The first time I got to perform these pieces I was only twelve years old and participating in the Florida All-Sate women’s chorus.  Talk about a system set up to instill a love for music in kids (hometown pride!).  Anyway, just as any good church-going choir kid knows that a particularly stirring Epistle reading should get a a fancy “Alleluia,” such did Pergolesi know his Stabat Mater needed to end with a fantastic “Amen.”  I mean, can you imagine singing your heart out for over an hour about the pain Mary felt watching her son be crucified, only to end the thing with some shit “Amen” marked “PLAIN” in the upper-right-hand corner?  No!  “Pergolesi doesn’t do plain,” I’m sure he said to himself … but in Italian.  He knew that, in order to drive the mourning and sorrowful, yet somehow joyful, Stabat Mater home, those guys were going to have to sing “Amen” at least fifty times over, and in cut-time.  He filled the fast-paced last minute of his masterpiece with some beautiful harmonies that showed great respect to voices in the mezzo and alto ranges (of course, his mezzos were men, but I’m trying not to go off on that again, aren’t I?), and ties it off all cleanly with a vocal unison.

If you’re a musician, especially a vocalist, or if you’re just prone to overly excited outbursts of song for no reason whatsoever, I suggest you get yourself an “Amen.”  Heck, who says it has to be an actual “Amen?”  Semi-related: when I worked at a coffee shop as a youngster, I’d celebrate weekdays at ten PM with Semisonic’s Closing Time and not feel an ounce of shame (though, I kinda do now.  Hmmph).  I’m sure lots of folks sing We Are the Champions or Eye of the Tiger every time they’re impressed with themselves.  More traditional folks may sing a little bit of Handel.  Musicians, though, heed my advice (if you’re not doing this already): find yourself a unique tune for your self-aggrandizing.  Use that B.A. in music theory to get yourself something cool, for once.  Church kids, if you’re stealing it from a hymnal, nothing marked “PLAIN,” OK?

And listen to Pergolesi already, would you?

Pergolesi – Stabat Mater. Quando Corpus (Amen begins @ 3:52)

“Blow the stacks.”

That's an impressive blowing ... er ... cleaning job.

I really should just change the name of this blog to “Stuff Charlie Says.”

So, this past Tuesday at 10am, the fifty year old smokestacks at Progress Energy’s P.L. Bartow power plant on Weedon Island came down with a thunderous roar.  It was so thunderous, in fact, that both Charlie and I thought some sort of international crisis was beginning right here in north St. Petersburg, Florida.  Thanks to a record breaking Crohn’s flare, I was asleep until the bed started shaking.  And I mean shaking.  This whole deal was much more than noise.  I shot up out of bed and, the way I remember it, hit my head on the ceiling.  Charlie was just staring at me.  He was obviously very concerned, and when I tried to reassure him that this had to be a freak thunderstorm, he didn’t seem to believe me.  So I popped open my laptop and went to a local news station’s website.  Sure enough, the answer was on the front page, so I told Charlie, “They blew up the smoke stacks at Weedon Island.”  We spent some time laughing and talking about how silly we were for being scared, and wishing we’d been there to see it happen.  A few minutes later, the conversation was over, and we started our morning.

Is it weird that I miss these?

Later that day, Charlie and I were driving back home from some errand I’ll never remember (see above re: Crohn’s flare), and I glanced over and commented about how strange it was to look towards Gandy Beach and not see the smokestacks looming in the distance the way they did, like the setting for some horror movie with an industrial, post-Chernobyl motif.  Charlie looked over and said, “hey, wait, why are they gone?”  I reminded him about that morning’s near apocalypse, all the while becoming very concerned for his neurological health.  “You do remember that they blew them up this morning, right?”

“Blew them up?  I thought you said they ‘blew the stacks.’  You know, cleaned them out.  Like on a ship.”

The best part about this is something that I wish I could share.  The look on his face when he saw that they were gone was just priceless.  He was shocked!  This isn’t some half-wit, we’re talking about.  Charlie will have his master’s degree (should I mention the “with honors” bit?) any day now, and it happens that his specialty is maritime business.  I can almost see where he’s coming from.  That’s what makes this so great.  Charlie lived through (what we assumed was) the house nearly falling down, and then spent the entire day thinking that they’d simply blown some steam up through fifty year old stacks at a non-functioning power plant like it was the Titanic, or something.

Now, something almost completely forgettable has become a pretty funny story (that we still haven’t stopped laughing about), all because of Charlie’s interesting assumption.