Expert wood identifiers.

We never claimed to be expert wood identifiers.  In fact, I believe you can tell how much we’re not expert wood identifiers by my continued use of the phrase “expert wood identifiers.”  There’s gotta be a name for that, right?

So, we refinished the wood in the galley, which is great for us and all, but you’re probably thinking it isn’t really all that special considering we’re refinishing every piece of wood on the entire forty-seven foot long monster, and I wish you were right.  You’re not, but I wish you were.

Teak on the right, mahogany on the left.  Nice.

I bet you look at this and think you’re an expert wood identifier, don’t you?

See how the veneer on the cabinet face on the right hand side of the picture is, like, a totally different species of wood from the veneer on the left side?  Yeah, we do, too.  Now.  Now that it’s all permanently installed and we’re never ever ever changing it again.  Grumph.

So, apparently the wood on the Compass is mahogany, which isn’t totally shocking.  Believe it or not, Charlie and I actually spent quite a bit of time discussing what species we thought the wood could be.  The wood is more red than I’d like it to be, but I thought mahogany was much more red than the wood on the Compass.  And, remember, at some point someone stained most of the wood an orangey-rust color, which we found our when we first washed down the inside of the boat.  When the wood was freshly sanded, it was a mid-toned peachy brown color, kinda like newly sanded teak.  We figured the reddish hue, since it wasn’t as dark as the mahagonay samples we found, was a figment of our imagination, left over from when we first got the boat.  Too bad there’s this thing called “African Mahogany” which is known for being less red than it’s American counterpart.  Yup, our African boat has African wood.  Whodathunkit?

As far as the installation went, it was neither exceptionally easy nor exceptionally hard.  We’d never applied veneer before, so we spent a few weeks leading up the project reading up on the process.  After our individual studies, I wanted to apply our own glue and Charlie wanted to use sticky-backed veneer.  We went with Charlie’s plan on this one, since I’m much better at giving “I told you so”‘s than getting “what were you thinking”‘s.  After we’d removed all of the old veneer, and sanded and cleaned the substrate, we went to town.  At first we tried to peel away the backing from the veneer while simultaneously pressing down the exposed sticky area to the cabinet face.  This was a frustrating mess, and every time we got to a drawer cut out, the whole thing got bubbled and warped.  Finally, I decided that we’d just peel off all of the backing, exposing all of the sticky stuff, lay the veneer on our carpet glue side up, and just lay the substrate on top of it.  This may seem amateurish, but it worked like a charm.  It’s not like we have a woodshop to do this in, and we’re not planning on doing it many more times.

Charlie cutting out veneer for the doors and drawers.

After we got the stuff stuck on, we cut the veneer away from the drawer and door openings.  We were careful to preserve the pieces well so that we could use them on the actual drawer and door faces.  Charlie completed that part on his own, and did a damn fine job making those little circles for the door pulls.

The truth is, we actually noticed that the teak we ordered was much different from the wood on our boat as soon as we opened the package, but the cost of sending the stuff back, combined with the restocking fee and the cost of having new mahogany veneer shipped was more than we were willing to shell out.  Instead, we purchased some mahogany marine-grade stain (I know, I know) and tinted the teak a bit. We finished everything with West Marine Wood Pro under Interlux Gold Spar Satin.  The Interlux isn’t as easy to work with as the Epifanes, in my opinion, but it looks just fine.  I’d think it looked top-notch if we weren’t comparing it to the Epifanes.  I think it has a more hazy finish than the Rubbed Effect on the rest of the boat, but it’s not noticeable enough to complain about.  As I mentioned in a previous post, we’re not willing to go through the hassle of using a mislabeled Epifanes product again.

We’re pretty happy with the job overall, especially considering that neither of us had ever attempted anything like it before.  Someday we may try to match the veneer we redid to that in the rest of the boat, but, hey, maybe someday we’ll win the lottery and I’ll convince Charlie that we should have the whole thing redone in maple (yes, I’m a living stereotype).  For now, we’re just happy to be sixty-five percent done with the interior woodwork.

In an attempt to change things up a bit, we’ve shifted focus and have started rebedding deck hardware.  This means that we’ve finally pulled down some of the headliner (yes, I think we’re doing some things backwards, too), and I’m pleased to report that the underside of the deck looks marvelous and strong.  We always worry about what we’ll find, and we’re always left pleasantly surprised.  You’d think we’d realize by now that this boat is just amazing.  We were truly blessed when we found our Compass.

As for me personally, I’m headed down into the garage to put a forth coat of varnish on the v-berth headliner.  It never ends, folks.  Sixty-five percent, my ass.

Our continued adventures in varnishing: Spring 2012.

We’ve closed out yet another season on the hard.

Once again I have to thank the universe for the boatyard where we both found and currently house the Compass.  For almost eight months we’ve taken over quite a large patch of asphalt there, and they still treat us like family.

Epifanes Rubbed Effect on the salon table.

During the spring, we settled on a matte top coat for all of our interior wood.  We applied Epifanes Rubbed Effect on most large surfaces, and it worked out pretty well. At first we were using Epifanes Rapidclear for the build coats, but then we heard that West Marine’s WoodPro was a rebadged version of the exact same product.  We haven’t attempted to confirm this, but we suspect it’s true.  Both go on with extreme ease, and sand well for the finish coats.  We’ve had no adhesion issues so far, no peeling when sanding or weird shine-through.  While it’s been a lot of work, it’s been a relatively simple, satisfying project.  And the Rubbed Effect top coat is a pretty nice matte.  I mean, it looks nice, doesn’t it?  Too bad we won’t be using it anymore.  I haven’t chronicled the galley refinish project yet, but I’ll give away one part of the story here:  Epifanes must have had a labeling problem for a while, because we wasted about six hours applying, sanding, reapplying from a new can, and again sanding some sort of gloss varnish that was living in Epifanes Rubbed Effect cans.  Our local West Marine was good enough to take both cans (which had different batch numbers on the bottom) back for a refund.  In the post about the galley, I’ll be writing to you about how much we now love the finish of Interlux Goldspar Satin.  Heh!  At least we’re trying a little bit of everything.

Charlie performing the initial sanding of my very thick application of filler.

Have I mentioned that the yard we’re at is awesome?  Now some of you lucky salts may be wondering what the big deal is.  Maybe you live up north and get to haul out every winter in a yard that lets you do all of your own work.  We’ve been there, too, but here in Florida, things are quite different.  Self-service yards are few and far between, and once you find one, expect to dole out big bucks if you’re staying more than a day.  We’ve been on the hard almost eight months, and you haven’t seen me cry over money (yet).  Yes, I know how lucky we’ve been.

Before the barrier coat went on the Compass, management at the yard gave us a few days to fill and fair the bottom of our boat.  As with most things on the Compass, we got very lucky with the bottom.  The bottom was in good shape, and everything we did was either preventative or cosmetic.  We started out using epoxy and filler we mixed from ingredients we purchased from Fiberglass Coatings here in St. Petersburg.  This was fine, but we were having a hard time maintaining consistency, so we switched to a two part 3M marine filler.  First we machine sanded, then we finished off with hand sanding.  This little bit of extra effort got us a very nice, fair bottom, if I do so say myself.  We’re not experts by a long shot, but we’re always willing to learn new tricks in order to get the best possible result.

Ultramar.  Now I realize it’d be pretty ironic for a sailboat.

Charlie and I haven’t named the boat yet, and I have a feeling that when we do finally agree on something, it’s going to be pretty darn generic.  He and I have different ideas about what makes a good boat name.  I think it should be something personal – something that tells everyone a little bit about us.  Charlie thinks it should have more to do with the boat, and prefers Afrikaans names.  While we were doing the bottom, I came up with what I thought would be a great, and by great I mean extraordinarily generic, name for the boat.  Both Charlie and his dad liked the name, and I was feeling pretty cool.  Too bad Ultramar is the name of a Canadian gas station.  Live and learn.

So, those are some of the highlights of our spring on the hard.  Take a peek at the photo album Ive thrown together for a closer look, including pictures of our never before seen aft head, me, under a table, and our nav station … naked.  Oooooh.  Saucy.

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.

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.

Part 2: Wasps, Cockroaches and Rats

At least she's smiling.

After we signed all the papers, we jumped right in to cleaning the boat.  Unless you’re really into horror stories, you don’t want to hear my descriptions of the condition of this vessel.  I captured what I was willing to look at in photographs and have posted some here.  Here are some phrases to clue you into the surprises we found on the first day:

  • Cockroach holocaust
  • Death by wasp-stings
  • Rusty explosives
  • Rotten, red-stained teak
  • Mold
  • Rat

OK, I wasn’t very creative with those last two.  I can’t say that I was “grossed out” by the boat, but I did learn quickly that I should be careful when opening lockers and cabinets.  For some reason, well into the day, I figured I would open the lid on the toilet in the forward head.  That’s where the phrase “cockroach holocaust” came from.

An aerial view of the Compass docked behind her former home.

We had learned from the broker that the boat had been docked behind one of his neighbor’s homes for many years without being sailed much.  There is a possibility that boat sat this way for twenty years, believe it or not, but I have no proof either way.  At some point, it began to sink.  We’re assuming it was simply full of rain water, but the owner did eventually have it towed to the nearest boat yard and have all the through-hulls replaced.  The boatyard also made a new gaskety-seal type thing, assembled from what looked to be old vertical blinds, and screwed it into the hull around the saildrive, but we wouldn’t find that out for a few more months.  The boat came sans engine, which we were aware of.  Apparently this came out for repair around the same time the other problems were addressed, but the gentleman who owned the boat became ill and passed away before it was ever reinstalled.  In fact, we can’t find a single person who knows who took the motor to do the repairs.  I’m sure that Volvo Penta has been installed in some other boat for quite a while, now.

Aside from all the dust and mold, cleaning the boat became kind of like a scavenger hunt to find the coolest 1980s boat junk.  The most obvious finds were in the nav station.  Among the equipment on this boat was a Furuno FE-400 echo sounder/fish finder complete with a few brand news rolls of paper, a 1983 model Micrologic Loran, a Vigil radar with a companion CRT monitor and quite the large remote control, and some sort of very big, obtrusive RDF.  Oh yeah, and it had a tape deck.

The nav station was also full of old manuals, charts, receipts and magazines.  My favorite find was a 1988 edition of the Waterway Guide for the Gulf coast.  I tore out one of those little cards that you send in – this one had a promise for a letter from Walter Cronkite – and dropped it in the mail complete with all of my pertinent information.  I’ll let you know if I hear back from them.

So, aside from the boat being rough, there didn’t end up being all too much to tell.  There were no dead bodies (unless you count the cockroaches), no bags full of $100 bills, and, most importantly, no obvious leaks.  It’s a shame for the family of the gentleman who owned the boat before he died, because a days worth of labor could have doubled the asking price for the boat.  Two weeks worth could have quintupled it.  I’ll admit that I probably wouldn’t have said those things before the bill of sale had been signed, but I can’t help but feel a twinge of sorrow on their behalf.  I hope they know it’s in good hands.  Oh, and we got the rat out alive.

Part 1: It all started with a particulate filtering facepiece respirator.

Charlie and I were headed to the beach, which was particularly wonderful for us because we’d been away from Florida beaches for far too long.  Although he’d spent quite a bit more time in New York than I had, I feel that I suffered the most from the lack of emerald-colored salt water.  Why is that?  Because it’s my blog, and I say so.

Denise manning the helm.

You're looking the wrong way, moron.

When we came back home to Florida, we brought with us a fabulous little MORC race boat that had been donated to his school, SUNY Maritime College.  We’d put a lot of work into this thing, most of it during the winter.  Charlie is the one who made us work on it in the snow, by the way.  He made all these promises of hot chocolate and space heaters.  Guess who never got her Swiss Miss.  Even through all of the forced labor, I ended up falling in love with the boat.  To this day we haven’t splashed our little G&S 25, and it’s all because of a new girl who caught Charlie’s eye.

There’s something you should know; Charlie can name a sailboat model from a mile away.  I wish to God this was something that paid.

Back to the supposed beach trip: we had to stop at a boatyard to check on Charlie’s dad’s Mako 21 which had been having some engine troubles.  In the haul-out slip at this boatyard floated a huge wreck of a derelict vessel, which never even caught my eye.  Charlie, on the other hand, recognized it immediately as one of the boats that had been on his dream-boat list for as long as he could remember.  He walked right into the service department and asked the first person he saw, “what’s the deal with that Compass 47 out there?”

“Is that what it is?  It’s yours for five thousand dollars.”


Compass 47 Lookin' Rough

Compass 47 what? I had no idea, and didn't really care to, at this point.

The gentleman behind the counter then handed over an N95 mask and gave one last warning, “it’s pretty moldy and gross inside.  Oh, and it’s full of wasps.”

You would think Charlie had just been assigned a top secret fact-finding mission by the President himself, while I’d just earned a near guaranteed stab with an Epi-Pen.  Going through this boat was serious business for serious people.  Charlie was enchanted by things that were giving me the creeps.  I wasn’t entirely sure he was seeing the same things I was, and was tempted to administer a field sobriety test.  He insisted, though: this boat could be brought back to life.  He then let me know that he’d just seen one sell on YachtWorld for $120,000.  I must have blinked at him strangely a few times, because I started seeing black spots.  All I could say was, “sold.”

We did eventually make it to the beach.  The entire time we were there, Charlie was sweating the Compass.  We had yet to deal with the broker, and we weren’t satisfied that the verbal agreement with the service technician at the boatyard constituted a deal done.  The broker would end up being hard to hook up with, only because he wasn’t too concerned with this hunk-of-junk he had on his hands.  He didn’t even know what it was, and we weren’t about to tell him.

Where I Complain About Wining and Dining My Boat

Everything we do to the boat is hard. I’ll go into details when I get this blog fully refocused, but for now I just want to complain about the boat.  Yes, I’m going to whine about a strong hulled forty-seven foot long sailboat that has three state rooms, two heads and over six feet of standing head room.  I’m going to sit here and boo-hoo over a boat that was sailed to Florida from South Africa and has gone up and down the east coast of the US quite a few times, as well.

We purchased a Compass 47, so we’re pretty much the luckiest kids in town.  The fact that a boat like this was around for the taking, under the circumstances that it was proves the existence of some sort of merciful God.  The boat needs some work, but, structurally, she’s as strong as an ox.  A really big, young, strong ox (or whichever way oxes … -en … are strongest).  She’s got an attitude though.  I’ve begun to think of her like an insecure woman who gets a reputation for being – and I do hate this term – “high maintenance.”  She’s quite the catch, but she needs you to spend time and money on her so that she’ll know she’s worth something.  She knows you love her dearly, but she requires that you show her.  She wants to get taken out to dinner and a movie, and dessert, and get an engagement ring.  Every day.  She wants you to shower her with platitudes, and act like you need her a little bit, too.  A few tears shed on her behalf every now and then may be necessary, and she doesn’t mind if you know that.

She likes it when you spend eight hours straight hunched over, putting painters tape down on her deck.

And we did.