White Bottomed Girl (You Make the Rockin’ World Go ‘Round)

As you can see below, the Compass now has a white bottom.  Charlie has always wanted a boat with a white bottom, and if you’d seen him talk about it, you wouldn’t have been able to say no either.  My only request was no blue.  Charlie loves it, and I think white suits the Compass just fine.

AKA: “Big Fat Fanny,” “Great Big Woman”

… and, since I made the reference …

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.

NSFAnywhere. Just don’t even read this. Worst story/joke of all time. Gross. Offensive.

"You're going to Hell, Ms. Sisko."

I really do need to preface this post by saying that I am a vegetarian who is probably just used to seeing all of those terrible factory farm photos (which, of course, disgust me).  I am also never one to shy away from an offensive joke.  Yup, I’m sure you’ve it figured out by now; this is going to be bad.  It’ll also be very stupid, gross, and immature.  Just go to Cake Wrecks right now and laugh at sad deserts from your local Publix bakery.  Cake Wrecks is a very funny site, and you’ll thank me for sending you there.  Forget this horrible place exists, at least for the next few days. Continue reading “NSFAnywhere. Just don’t even read this. Worst story/joke of all time. Gross. Offensive.”

Mafia nicknames: When you’re not as clever as you’d hoped you were.

"I thought I'd be safe in my car, but they've sent JIMMY THE LOCK!"

So, I was watching Quantum Leap last night and Sam said something like, “Hold on, I’ve gotta jimmy the lock.”  I was immediately struck by the notion that “Jimmy the Lock” would be a fantastic gangster name.  I mean, wouldn’t it?  OK, maybe not for a Corleone, but perhaps for the type of guy featured in Netflix’s word-of-mouth favorite Lilyhammer.

I then decided that I’d try to be clever and come up with other overly descriptive, phrase-like gangster names, but I haven’t done so well.  Bill the Room works … I guess … but what does that make his gangster super-power?  Capping whatever the plural of “mafioso” is while delivering their room service?  Charlie came up with Philip the Tank, which I like.  I’m thinking he works around the corner from the boss’s headquarters in a state like New Jersey, where citizens aren’t trusted to pump their own gas.  He secretly fills rival gang member’s tanks with sugar or, worse, E85.

The more you know you're an idiot ...

When we finally decided to give up on phraseology we came up with Randy the Perv, Bernie the Arson, and John the Guy-Who-Likes-Hookers.  Then we looked at what we had and gave up all together.  Nothing quite had the ring of Jimmy the Lock.  We learned a lesson, too.  Some people, despite a few good ideas here and there, just aren’t as clever as they’d hoped.

Where we find ourselves now: The saildrive saga.

In early January, Charlie and I prepared to begin the installation of our new Beta Marine sixty horsepower engine and saildrive.  Over a month later, the boat remains on the hard and without a power plant.

Though neither one of us had ever owned a boat with a saildrive before, we both have quite a bit of experience with engine installations and things mechanical; Charlie’s experience is with both boats and cars, while mine is mainly with cars.  Neither one of us was completely thrilled with the idea of owning a boat with a saildrive (we prefer very small holes to very big holes when dealing with things that float), but we hadn’t been worried about the install.  In fact, we were pretty excited to get things started.

We somehow always manage to look like homeless people, even while moving a brand new saildrive.


We moved the saildrive out of its box in the shop at the boatyard, and found a shopping cart to push it across the concrete to the Compass.  Once there, Charlie secured some line to the thing using one of those fancy sailor knots he’s known for tying things off with while pretending the whole thing is no big deal.  He then pulled the saildrive up towards the deck, while I held it in my arms, guiding it away from the hull, and I climbed the ladder.  With all credit going to Charlie’s fabulous upper body, the saildrive made it into the boat, and through its special, giant hole in the hull.  This is where we discovered our particular problem.

We’d conducted quite a bit of research in the months leading up to the failed install attempt, and consulted plenty of sources, both primary (manufacturers) and secondary (probable liars on the Internet).  Although, depending on the document or expert consulted, many different terms were used to describe the process, we always felt reassured when someone would say, “don’t worry; your saildrive will be a perfect match for the mounting surface of the old Volvo.”  Anyway, it’s not like we could have just popped the thing out while the Compass was still in the water to get a better look.  The old Volvo saildrive did have the same number of bolts, and in the proper pattern.  How would we have been expected to notice that they were all shifted to the right half an inch?

See, there were these tiny studs sticking out of the mounting surface that we hadn’t paid much attention to.  There was one next to almost every bolt hole.  Somehow, in the back of our individual heads, both of us had decided that these were little dowels to help keep the saildrive securely in place while bolting it in.  Things like this aren’t entirely strange (think the dowel on a crankshaft for a flywheel, or dowels on a block to assist in mounting an engine to a transmission), especially if you’re not really analyzing them.

The new saildrive even had holes drilled in pairs all around the mounting ring, but we’d find out later that this is because it’s a sort of universal mount.

Here’s where it would have helped to know one thing in particular: The saildrive isn’t supposed to be bolted down; it’s meant to be locked onto studs.  I’ll admit, this one took us a few minutes.  We tried to drill out the broken “bolts,” after we’d tried unsuccessfully to twist them all back out.  What can I say besides noting how tired and frustrated we were at that point?

So, it turns out that someone, at some point in our boat’s history, broke all of the studs that fastened the saildrive to the engine bed.  The fix for this would have been annoying and expensive, as we understand very well since we’re having to do it now, but it’s really the only way to ensure that the saildrive is secured to the boat correctly.  Instead of cutting open the old engine bed and sinking in a new internal mounting ring, the mechanic in charge of this project chose to drill lag bolts through the saildrive ring – one next to every broken stud.  The well-smoothed stubs became the “dowels” we had taken for granted.  Gee, I wonder where all that water got into the boat from?

Since I can’t get a full-on side shot of our engine bed, I’ve included the photo to the right to help illustrate our dilemma.  We’ve purchased a new internal mounting ring to sink into the highlighted part of the engine bed.  This ring will have studs that will stick up past the new fiberglass mounting surface and match up with the holes in the saildrive ring.  Although I’m pretty sure Charlie could do the job nicely, we’ll be paying an expert to do the fiberglass work.  Unfortunately, the new ring we ordered needs a slight modification to fit into our engine bed, and getting this done is taking an inordinately long amount of time (which is a gripe for another post).

So, that’s where we are with the Compass.  While the boat’s been on the hard this winter we’ve been able to paint the bilge, varnish the wood in the v-berth, fill some through-hulls, drill some through-hulls, update the battery bank, diagnose some steering issues, and have some new stanchions built.  The folks at the boatyard we’re at have been amazing, and every time we’re there I’m mentally editing the post I’ll hopefully be writing singing their praises.  I’m not gonna say that it hasn’t been nice being able to get a few of these jobs done while the boat’s dry, but it’s always disappointing when something ends up being this big and expensive of a job.  One thing’s for sure, though: given the fact that we were already uncomfortable with having a saildrive, we’re gonna have a lot more faith in the thing than we would have otherwise.  That’s a really nice feeling.

Where the blogger woefully laments her lack of posts; vows to change.

Even blogs that don’t get read have authors who are ashamed of how little they post.  This blog is no different.  In an attempt to jump start things around here, it’s time for some randoms!

"Your mama promotes Mexican boy-on-boy love!" Buuuuurn!

Tu madre!  I recently rewatched the gem of a film Y Tu Mamá También and, against my better judgement, shared the experience with Charlie.  This is worse than the time we watched He Knew He Was Right.  The go-to comeback in my house in my house will be “y tu mamá también” for at least the next six months.  Joy.

American Victory: Did you know?  Perhaps you do know that Tampa is home to SS American Victory, which, in this life, is serving as my favorite type of museum – the museum ship.  For only ten dollars, folks can spend as much time as they like wandering around an actual WWII Victory cargo ship. For the record, this is about fifty times cooler than it sounds.  Did you know that the United States Merchant Marines saw a greater degree of loss than any other branch of service during WWII?  Not the Marines with the guns and the haircuts; the ones that drive the ships.

I don't need to go. I've obviously already steered the ship and retired from duty.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the United States use of the most advanced logistics methodologies of the time, German U-boats were specifically targeting cargo in an attempt to put a hole in the Allied supply chain.  Here in Tampa, we have one of the ships that made it through the war intact, and she lives on to us tell her tale.  While you may have known all that, did you know that on March 24 that ship is going on a cruise, and if you’ve got one-hundred-and-ten bucks to spare, you can go with her?  Though I don’t have the cash to spend, I will be watching her sail off (probably through tears; I’m known for being a weepy sap when I witness awesome things), and I’d like to be waving to you!  If you’re a ship’s captain (making that fat bank), a history buff, or you just love the United States Merchant Marines, take a trip on the American Victory, and be sure to tell me all about it!

"A rising tide lifts all boats." Of course, I think they have to be in the water, first.

Oh.  The Boat.  The only search terms that get people to my blog are “Compass 47” and “penis hangs to the left.”  Since I’m no longer interested in Dr. Oz’s genitalia, I figure I should write about the Compass.

So, that there to the left –  that’s where she is.  Still.  For the last four months.  I could make updates about painting the bilge and varnishing the v-berth, but I’m not moved to do such.  I was, though, ready to post about the repowering project, which, had it gone off as planned, would have been completed in the beginning of January.  I can’t complain too loudly, though.  We’re at a boatyard where we’re being treated like family, and we’ve been able to complete a few small projects while we’re on the hard.  We want that new sixty horsepower Beta Marine in though, and we want the boat in the water.  I promise I’ll post about the boat this week.  To be honest, I’m itching to write about her, almost as much as I’m itching to sail her.

My only friend?

… and, finally:  I have been looking for one of these on and off for years.  This guy is a genius, and my hero.  I’m trying really hard not to post awful Internet-isms like “squeee,” though I can’t help but think them.

This all leads me to thinking how obviously a little nightlight wouldn’t have been able to guide in the Argo, so this feathered guy shouldn’t worry too much about living up to the high standards set by his ancestors.

See that, I can’t help geeking out right before your eyes.  I’m ashamed.

In defense of Floridians and the Florida State Fair.

I’m not going to say there weren’t questionable characters roaming about at the fairgrounds this past Monday.  I had my suspicions about a few folks, but I’m uppity like that.  As a lifelong Floridian, I’m aware of a certain reputation folks around here are saddled with, and, as one would suspect, supposed evidence of this reputation abounds at the Florida State Fair.

Look at her, eating that corn with no shame! And with her hands, no less!

First I want to say that I’m completely comfortable with the stereotypes.  I guess that as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that, most of the time, I have a choice as to whether or not I allow myself to be offended.  As a youngster it was such an automatic reaction that it seemed almost metabolic in nature.  Age has certainly softened me, and now I’m likely to get a laugh out of the strange, often misguided, and sometimes downright rude things people say about us here.  That’s the Internet age, though – people snark online in a way that they wouldn’t dare to people’s faces.  Especially not now that handguns are back in at the fair!

Apparently lots of people think Florida folks are a strange breed.  The stereotype falls somewhere in between redneck-meth-cooker and lazy-beach-bum-(probably-also-meth-cooker)-fisherman type.  For example, when you imagine a Floridian, you probably envision them wearing flip-flops. Not in that California intentionally-sloppy-but-pedicured-and-fully-made-up way, but more in the ashy-heels-with-dirty-soles-and-toe-hair way, which is an important, character defining distinction.  There is a term a lot of people use (abbreviation “W.T.”) which I dislike for a lot of reasons, but it does typify the general image I believe many pessimistic non-natives associate with Floridians.

“They’re not southerners,” I can imagine a stereotypical northerner or midwesterner saying.  “They’re worse.

I’m pretty sure I can’t even fully comprehend what’s supposed to be wrong with us here because, as a Floridian, I’m probably the epitome of some terrible assumed archetype that I’ll never even be aware of.  Maybe you should take my opinion with a grain of salt.  Afterall, I did grow up in Ruskin, and while I’ll spare you a recital of the fascinating history of that town (… this time), I will admit that it’s pretty typical rural Florida.  I may not be an impartial judge, but, shocking as it may be, I have to say it:  I saw nothing weird at or about the Florida State Fair. 

What I didn’t see:  First, I didn’t step on any meth pipes or hypodermic needles.  For some reason I feel that needs saying.  Not one single carny did or said anything to me that I felt the need to report to the police (full disclosure: I did most of my early schooling in Gibsonton, so, grain of salt and all of that). I witnessed no men beating their wives, no wives beating their children, and no children beating small animals.

What I did see:  People around me wore cowboy boots along with T-shirts promoting their favorite metal bands.  There was chewing tobacco, and there were poorly drawn tattoos.  There were very young parents, along with some very, very young grandparents.  There was even the ubiquitous pregnant woman in a half top.  I saw farmers.  I saw black, white, and Mexican families eating food that should probably be illegal.  I saw people hold open doors, look each other in the eyes, smile at and converse with strangers, and, for the record, everyone of these people had on shoes.  Speaking of conversing with strangers, I was kindly asked why I ate my corn con mayonnaise y chile-y-limón, which began a very nice conversation with a fellow fair-goer.  I see these kinds of exchanges all the time where I come from.

I saw my fiancé eat a burger between two halves of a Krispy Kreme doughnut.

This is OK because I love freedom. America. F' yeah.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve learned to embrace the stereotypes and ignore the Florida bashing.  You know, etiquette-wise, I do wish folks would be a little kinder in their language and less ass-holish in their delivery, but I can’t really change the behavior of others.  This is another thing which, with age, I’ve begrudgingly come to accept.

So bash away oh, ye-who-are-better-than-me!  Point out everything you see that is wrong about Florida while you’re on vacation at our beaches, or after you’ve moved here to escape the snow.  I don’t like it, but I can take it.  I just spent a day at the Florida State Fair basking in the glow of the folks who, if you believe the hype, are supposed to embarrass me.  I loved every minute of it.  I love being one of them.