Today Was a Fairytale
Karma has been hauled out in the boatyard in Port Townsend (PT) for two weeks now, and we have been busy. We expect to be here for two months at the very least, and realistically, it will probably be four or more. Each day has brought experiences to spin into stories to tell about our work on the boat and the characters we have met in the yard, but by the time the sun sets, and the day's work is done, I have been too tired to open the laptop and capture my thoughts.
A boat in the yard is said to be "on the hard." Upon arriving, we quickly learned the alternative meaning to this term: living on the boat in the yard is going to *be* hard. We arrived in PT with Karma's freshwater tanks holding 110 gallons. We found out that once that is gone, we have no water source in the yard for refilling the tanks and thus, no running water on the boat. This was an unexpected and unpleasant discovery.
I pouted for about three days. John has the patience of a saint.
We have made that 110 gallons last. Today was day 13 in the yard, and we still haven't run dry. According to the City of Olympia, where our farm was located, the average water consumption per household is 150 gallons per *day*. You may recall that at one time, water was scarce on our farm, so to manage this limited resource we learned to conserve. We also installed a tank in our garage and used a portable tank that fit in the bed of the pickup to fill up with water at my mom's house and then pump it into our holding tank. Two days ago, I woke up with the brilliant revelation that this strategy could work in our current situation. We can now fill up the portable tank and pump the water into Karma's holding tanks. Problem solved. Farmers and sailors are resourceful.
As we were preparing for haul out, we identified about 75 projects, big and small, to be completed while we are in PT. One of the reasons this is such a fantastic place to do our projects is that PT is known as a working waterfront. There are skilled tradespeople and shops where we can get the supplies we need right in the yard. We can walk to the expert. Morning trips usually involve a stop at the Marina Cafe for a warm homemade muffin chock-a-block full of farm fresh blueberries.
Our biggest job in the yard is Karma's rerig, which is being done by the skilled folks at Port Townsend Rigging. On September 21, they removed Karma's mast, placed it on a handcart and pushed it into their shop down the way. It was a remarkable display of teamwork lead by our project manager, Scott. They are replacing the standing rigging (wires that hold up the mast) and running rigging (ropes that control the sails) to make Karma safer and easier for John and me to handle, particularly in rough seas.
After the mast was unstepped, I got busy removing the old head, including the associated tubing and black water tank, so that we could replace it with our new composting head. I have learned that sailors have to get very comfortable with waste management. Donning appropriate PPE and armed with toddler diapers to absorb unpleasant liquids I expected to spring forth when I cut the hoses, I dove in headfirst. I don't know when the hoses and tank were last replaced but suffice it to say that I wouldn't be surprised if I removed waste deposited by Karma's original owners, who purchased her in 1984. It. Was. Gross. And when I finished the job, God as my witness, the song that was playing on Pandora was Taylor Swift's "Today Was a Fairytale." I giggled.
With the messy work done, John installed the new head. As I have said many times before, one of the challenges with boats is that they are boat shaped. The new head, while small, needed to be placed on a platform in order to clear the curve of the hull. The result is that the seat is only about one inch lower than the sink. It is a true throne. Though it is no challenge for John, with his 6’7” stature, I require a step stool. Every time I use it, I think about toddlers potty training with their little feet swinging above the floor. The new head is remarkably odor-free, and I am glad to be free of the 40 years' worth of nasty from the old setup. As an added bonus, it uses no water.
Next on my list was caulking the teak decks. When we purchased Karma, her former owner said that the decks "have never leaked and never will." That may be true *if* we do a significant amount of upkeep, which we missed last year, so we have been anxious to get it done this year. One of these tasks is digging out any strips of black caulking between the deck planks that have failed, cleaning out the old caulk from the crevices, and recaulking. And this has to be done do while navigating narrow decks 10 feet above the ground, trying to avoid stepping in the black goo that is not yet dry. I made a mess of myself and have some cleanup to do on the decks once the caulk has cured completely. Nevertheless, we are relieved to have this done before the rain returns.
Then I got down to the matter of bottom paint. (Am I the only one sophomoric enough to giggle a little at that term?) Anti-fouling paint protects the parts of the hull that are always underwater, particularly from marine growth. During our short time on the hard, I have learned that this dreadful job is a rite of passage for boat owners–except for those with a bag of cash to pay a pro to do it. Depending on where a boat has been sailing, it needs a bottom job once every one to five years.
Nearly everyone in the yard is painting their bottom. It requires scraping any areas where the old paint has failed, sanding those spots smooth, applying a primer, and then lightly sanding the entire bottom before painting the whole thing. Oh, and all of these products are highly toxic to add to the excitement. The boatyard requires that the sander is connected to a HEPA filter vacuum system to save everyone from having to breathe the toxic dust.
We befriended Tim, a teacher who is preparing his boat to sail around the world with his family, providing educational experiences for kids who live on remote islands. He will be joined by his wife, who is currently serving in the military in Hawaii, and their young sons. Tim is the real deal. As we were visiting, he mentioned that he has a commercial sander with the requisite HEPA device that he was willing to let us borrow. Sailors are generous.
Once again, I donned PPE and got to it. It will take about four days to get the sanding done, working four to six hours a day. I am hoping to get the painting done in the next week, while we hang on to unseasonably warm weather here in Western Washington.
You may be noticing a theme in my projects: they are messy and toxic. Meanwhile, John does tasks that are clean and require skills, like wiring. While my work is gross, it requires no thinking, which lets my mind run free. While I sanded spots in the hull, taking off layers of different colors of paint, I saw islands and continents emerge, and thought about all the places that we will sail our beautiful floating home when our work is done.
Tomorrow is John's first day of school for his marine systems program at the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building. We have been constant companions since he finished his state job in the middle of June. Though we have worked hard, and some jobs have been unpleasant, every day really has been a fairytale–a wonderful summer sailing and then doing hard work with my true love while we dream about our adventures just over the horizon.
But first, we have about 73 projects to complete.