Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Varnishing is an ancient art. There are accounts of pre-Roman expeditions through the Pillars of Hercules (the straits of Gibraltar) north to Umber (in Britain) to trade for amber. Amber is a key ingredient in varnish even today. The very word amber is derived from Umber. The composition of varnish remained unchanged for thousands of years until modern polyurethanes were added. The use, however, would be familiar to ancient Phoenician mariners--protect and beautify the wood.

For years I had used Cetol on the minimal amount of teak on the C&C. Cetol is a synthetic mix that is easy to apply, very durable, and looks good for a while. Eventually it takes on sickly orange color. It is the perfect product for the busy yacht racer.

Jan wanted something better for White Pepper--real varnish. She stripped off the thick, old Cetol and sanded it all down. Then she bleached off the mold with a two part teak cleaner and sanded again. Using plain old Z-spar varnish she has lovingly applied 7 coats to the exterior trim. With taping off the trim and sanding between each coat the project has taken weeks. Part of the delay has been weather as only the prettiest days are suitable for applying the varnish. She told me that Z-spar has a 'soft' finish will take some abuse. Also it is cheap and available in ship stores anywhere we might need a touch-up. New coats have to be applied every 6 months, and the whole thing has to be redone every three years.

Why go to so much work for only 8 pieces of exterior trim? The effect is exquisite. Seeing the natural teak grain glisten under a silky smooth finish just makes me happy to look at it. It just glows in the sunlight.

Hopefully, later I can post about the interior wood. There is much more wood inside. The care of it is oil based and just as important. However, it lacks the ancient mystique of varnish.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Running lights

Hard work today. The running lights on the bow have been a problem since I bought the boat. The failure rate upon turning on the lights was so great that I adopted a regimen of turning on the lights 30 minutes before sunset so that if the lights did not turn on there would be 30 minutes of daylight to try to fix something. They are Aqua Signal 41 series which are well engineered and simple in the extreme. However, they are suspended out over the bow and often under water when beating to weather in moderate to heavy air. Then the wires run through the anchor well which is always wet. Over the years the wiring has evolved into a rat's nest. Recently the port light was broken. I replaced it, but the light would not come on because the wires were so corroded that the no amps could come though.

I resolved to bullet proof the fore peak. I got a junction box and bought the 12 volt to the junction box in the anchor well. Then I divided the 12 volt into 2 parts and sent it up each side of the anchor well through a 14 gauge duplex well secured with clamps just under the toe rail. For extra security I used heat shrink terminals all the way. The heat shrink spade in the lights themselves are each $2. But it is as water proof as I can make it.

The whole project took hours, but I am sure now that when I ask Jan to turn on the running lights they will go on and stay on.

Monday, October 8, 2007

New fan

I installed a new Guest 12 volt oscillating fan in the fore peak. When it's raining, the hatches are closed and stuffy, I am sure I will be grateful. But it was a hassle. It came with two small #6 screws. Jan pointed out that they would not last long with all of the pounding. I got two long #6 bolts and went through the bulkhead. The fan is not going anywhere. The fan draws 1.5 amps, but blows a hurricane.

The second reef line came today. 81 feet of 3/8" Warpspeed.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Ramses goes swimming

To take the cat or not; that is the question. Without a reasonable place to place Ramses we will try to acclimatize him to the boat. Jan bought an ultra small life jacket at Pet Smart. We put it on several times in the condo (see picture). Common knowledge, but previously unknown to me, is that tying something around a cat's abdomen ruins their equilibrium. The results are indeed comical. Now was the the time to try him on the boat. He was fine on the dock and inside the cabin. Then in the cockpit he made a run for the bow and freedom. That was aborted. Back in the cockpit all seemed well until two dogs started barking across the channel. He bolted for the port rail and a chance to jump to the finger pier. The life jacket was an encumbrance, and Ramses ended up in the drink. To his credit he came up swimming and fast towards the bulkhead. I was able to grab the handle on the back of the life jacket. Maybe Ramses touched the dock, but he seem to levitate six feet to the grass and then into the bushes. He did not come in until midnight. The next morning he spent several minutes examining the scene of the crime before retiring to his usual hang out under the ferns and bushes. Only time will tell if Ramses can adjust to the yacht.