May 16

Tingling with giddiness

Tag: boat work,victoriesjonny5waldman @ 5:59 am
I sanded so much today that my fingers were still tingling 20 minutes after I put the sander down. My shoulders ache, my hands are sore, and if you were to ask me to pick something up off the ground, the manner in which I’d bend over to do so wouldn’t be very graceful. It reached 90 degrees here today — probably a record — and I spent most of the day in a full-body Tyvek suit, with rubber gloves and a face mask on, while holding a 10-lb sander above my head. My hair is matted with sweat, and my shirt (the same shirt I’ve worn all week) is a little bit stickier. My fingers are covered in blue dust. So are my feet. And my hat. And my cheeks. I’m about to go take a shower at Matt and Karen’s place, and am contemplating taking a bath in Gojo instead. How much work was it? I’ll put it this way. After two hours of sanding, and little to show for it, I asked Nick, a yardworker more or less my age, how long it takes him to sand a 40′ sailboat, to see if I was on track. -Nick: “Oh, I’m lucky. I hurt my shoulder, so I never have to sand any boats, because I can’t lift my arm above my shoulder. I can’t even do a pushup.” -Me: “How’d you hurt your shoulder?” -Nick: “Surfing. But I can still surf.” So the guys who work here, the guys who get paid to do work: they dislike sanding to the extent that a personal injury seems like a blessing. At any rate, Matt and I finished sanding the bottom of our boat (he sanded the port side, and I the starboard) and it looks really good. Actually, it looks bad, because the bottom is all scratched up and patchy, but it’s a good sanding job. In fact, Carl, our much-revered yard manager, walked by and said of our sanding work, “Wow, it doesn’t get much better than that. I like to see professional work.” That made us proud. So the bottom is almost ready to be painted. Of course, almost is a weighted term as far as sailboat repairs go. Almost means it feels like we’re done, even though many tasks remain. We’ve still got to prime on the bare metal parts. And we’ve got to lightly sand the parts that we fiberglassed and smoothed with fairing compound (aka marine-grade spackle). And we’ve got to put the through-hulls back in…It’s worth noting that putting the through-hulls back in isn’t the quickest task, either. We’ve got to level the backing plates (aka grind away the high spots), and measure the depth of each through-hull, and cut off the extra threads. Then we’ve got to mark the spot where the seacock rests on the backing plate, and drill holes for the lag bolts that hold the flange of the seacock in place. Then we have to fill in those holes with epoxy, so that the backing plates don’t rot. Then we have to let the epoxy cure. Then, at long last, we have to squeeze in a big glob of marine-grade caulk, and screw the seacock onto the through-hull, and insert the lag bolts. There’s a good analogy for this: Xeno’s paradox. After hours of grueling work, we’re half way done. Hours later, we’re half way through the remaining work. Hours after that, we’re halfway through the little bit that remains. Ad infinitum… and we never get there. We never finish. But like I’ve said before, it’s fun, and it sure beats an office job. Some friends stopped by this week. Dave and Ben, both engineers, spent an hour poking around the boat. Kevin did too. -Dave: “It’s so cool how everything fits together.” -My thoughts: Cool, maybe, when stuff works. Not cool when it needs to be repaired. -Ben: “This is totally comfier than a tent, and bigger than the back of my truck.” My thoughts: More expensive, too. Kevin: “You don’t get anxious? I’d be anxious.” My thoughts: I think the anxiety has been replaced by excitement. Phil wins the best-visitor award, though. He stopped by with a cooler full of sandwiches, cold drinks, chips, salsa, and brownies, and then lent a hand cleaning the bottom of the boat. Those beers at the end of the day were delicious – thank you, Phil. The week has flown by in a blur. One second it’s 10:20, and I’m kinda hungry, and the next it’s 12:47, and I’m so hungry I can’t think straight. Meanwhile, I’m neck deep in a project, so eating will have to wait. One second Carl walks by and, seeing me neck deep in said project, asks, “Are you winning?” My answer: “No, but it’s a good game.” A few hours later, I bump into Carl, and proudly report: “I won the game!” Carl: “Attaboy! Attaboy!” I’ve learned so much, and kept learning so many new things, that it’s been impossible to revel in the glory of each new thing learned. That I will have to successfully figure something out and then move on to another thing is no longer a surprise. Only when I stop to think about it do I realize that this week I learned how to tap threads, how to disassemble industrial bearings, how to splice coax cable, and how to fiberlgass, such that I can drill a hole in my boat and patch it and still sleep soundly onboard that boat. That beats an office job, too. We damn-near finished working on the mast: we rewired and re-sealed the deck/steaming light, and rewired and remounted the new ultra-efficient LED nav light, too. Matt installed new gold-plated VHF connectors for the antenna, after chopping off a foot of corroded wire on each end. I rigged up a new mount for the wind vane (the old one snapped off in a storm), and Matt cleaned the butyl rubber goop off of the anemometer connection. All that remains is the furler… and the much needed parts are coming tomorrow in the mail… On account of all this, I’m feeling kind of giddy… like, well, like it’s almost time to paint the bottom, and almost time to put the mast back in, and almost time to put the boat back in the water, where she belongs.

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