Day 4 – August 3, 2014

Plan is to head downriver and sail as much as possible so we don’t have to use the engine more than necessary.  To prepare for the wind, Dan double-reefed the main and just put up the staysail.  2 miles out of St. Helens we’re working on getting the sails up.  Then, there is a dredge dead ahead – first he’s going downriver, then sideways in the channel, then upriver – what the heck.  Should have hailed him on the radio to see where we should go, but then we see a large ship coming upriver.  He’s on the radio with the dredge to figure out where to go.  I’m turning upriver and headed as fast as possible to the Oregon side to get out of the channel.  We’ve figured out that our sailing downriver plan isn’t going to work well, so we head downwind (upriver) around Sand Island.  Dan shakes out the reefed main, and puts up the big genoa, and we are sailing well, but the wrong direction.  At this point, we’re just ready to head back to Portland, and call it quits.  This lasts for about 5 miles, until we both conclude that returning home to Portland is just too depressing, so turn around again, take down the sails and motor back to St. Helens.  Nice spot at the St. Helens city dock, and a hot shower that we both needed after 4 hot days – definite attitude adjustment.  Not as rocky here as at Sand Island, but boy does the wind howl here on the river at St. Helens even at night.

Day 3 – August 2, 2014

We’ll stay here another day as we figure Walker Island and Cathlamet (and other possible stops) are likely crowded since it’s Saturday.  Good to just hang out and relax.  I remember a lesson from 20 years ago with our teacher, Ram Dass, about staying in the moment and enjoying the journey, and not getting caught up in getting to the destination.  Yep, whereever you go, there you are. Solar panels are keeping us fully charged – running refrigeration, cabin lights, inverter for computer for movies and charging cell phones, and my CPAP machine at night.  We’re off the grid!!   Oh yes, got the sewing machine out, plugged into the inverter and finished a couple of small projects – Sunbrella strap to hold up the boom with the main halyard, and no-seeum screen for the companionway hatch.  We also put in our port window screens to keep the bugs out.

Day 2 – August 1, 2014

10AM – Ready to depart Sand Island for downriver.  Start the engine, and….there is a funny chirping sound.  Ok – time for diesel mechanic diagnosis mode.  Quickly decide it is coming from outside the engine, most likely one of the belts, but which one.  Process of elimination – take off water pump belt, still chirping when we start the engine.  Next, take off alternator belt, chirping stops.  Belt is delaminating.  Ok – we’ve got a spare so no problem, except the spare doesn’t look too great either.  How to get a new belt? Call BoatUS/Vessel Assist towing – great service, he goes and gets us two new belts and a spare water pump belt too, and runs it down to us.  🙂  Kudos to Vessel Assist.  Belts replaced and all is well with that.  We do have a bit of oil and a bit of transmission fluid in the bilge, we’ve got plenty of oil on board, but will pick up some extra transmission fluid at the St. Helens fuel dock before we depart. A bit late now to get started downriver, so we’ll stay another night or two.  Hot, windy and rocky here.  Picked a bowl of blackberries and made a blackberry crisp.  Used maple-brown sugar instant oatmeal with some butter for the crisp top.  Delicious warm from the oven.  I used to make these a lot.  Seems like life has been too busy for many years, so it’s nice to have the time to do a bit of baking.  Max is enjoying walks on the island – lots of good smells for his doggy nose.

Day 1 – July 31, 2014

12:00PM – Depart L row, first stop, the pumpout.  Engine dies as we start to leave the pumpout dock.  Air in the fuel filter from the filter change yesterday.  Quickly purged and we are on our way.  Wow – the water just outside Hayden Bay is shallow – hope there will be enough when we come back. Decide to run upriver first to give the engine a chance to warm up and clear any remaining air.  Good choice as there is a barge coming downriver who will need a railroad bridge opening.  We let him pass us and follow him under the I-5 bridge and through the railroad bridge.  A nice run downriver – been this way enough times to know the navigation well, so it’s an easy trip.  Just before St. Helens, we pass a boat sailing upriver – it’s our friend Michael Hudson on Golden Girl.  Brief chat with him on 68 – he’s been to Astoria, and single-hand sailed most of the way back.  Docked at Sand Island 3:30PM.  Nice cement docks, pretty walking trails through the woods, ripe blackberries, beautiful view.

The Great Bottom Job – Anthology of DIY Blister Repair

Okay, the boat is safely in my yard and out of harms way as far as the insurance company is concerned, so now I have time so start looking at the bottom. There are a few obvious silver dollar sized blisters in the gel coat and so we start probing those. After scraping at the bottom some we could see that there we many thousands of tiny bubbles that had formed between the gel coat and the epoxy barrier coat that had been applied sometime along the way. It was clear that all of the old coatings would have to come off.

Peel Away
Peel Away Marine Paint Stripper

So how to remove many layers of old bottom paint? Since it’s in my backyard I can’t just grab a disc sander and start grinding at the toxic red bottom paint and making a huge dust problem. I started looking at paint strippers and came across Peel Away marine paint stripper. With this system the stripper is painted on, covered with a special paper and let soak for 8 hours. Then the paper is scraped off with a putty knife and takes the paint with it. It is non-toxic and water base so final clean up is soap and water. It worked well, but was not “easy”. It was still a big job to scrape the paper and paint off. By laying a drop cloth down under the area I was working on it did do a good job of containing the mess. I would not recommend this process unless you are in a situation where containing the dust is important.

Peel AwayPeel Away Because of the time scraping in the late afternoon and evening I found I could only do about a third of one side in a day, so it took me six days to strip the bottom. I know in a boat yard they would sanded it down in a matter of a few hours. The Peel Away only removed the bottom paint. It did not touch the epoxy barrier coat, so the next step was going to require sanding to remove the barrier coat anyway.  After the barrier coat was removed the most interesting thing, the only way I can describe it is was, she smelled like the sea.

We now have her down to what is left of the original gel coat and blisters. What I have found is that she has 100 or so silver dollar size blisters that penetrate the mat layer and tens of thousands of small blisters in the gel coat. These small blisters range in size from the head of a pin to dime size.

I emailed Todd Uecker at Cape George Marine Works for advice and got back a nice reply:

Hi Dan;

Generally we don’t see too many blister problems on our boats, but back in the 1970s they were laminated of all polyester resin, which will absorb water eventually. You’re on the right track in getting down to the substrate. I would grind out the larger ones and fill them with 3M vinylester filler. Use the high strength stuff for large areas and the premium filler for smaller defects. Then topcoat with Interlux Interprotect 3000. Alternatively you could use epoxy fillers, which are excellent, but curing times are much slower and the 3M vinylester filler bonds well to well “toothed up” fiberglass.
A good tool for grinding them out is a 3″ “Roloc” disc on a cordless drill with a 24 or 36 grit abrasive disc. It’s quite aggressive without blowing around a lot of noxious dust.
Best of luck to you!
Todd Uecker
Cape George Marine Works, Inc.

So here we go! First step is open up all the blisters in the fall of 2010. Next over a period of about six weeks I pressure washed the bottom weekly to wash out any accumulated salts from the drying process. Then we let her sit under her Tarp until July 2011 to dry.

Next step is the fairing.

New Barrier coat.

New bottom paint.


And then…

So, we own a Cape George Cutter 36… what to do next?  First, she got a topsides powerwashing – got rid of the lichens and dirt.  Still needs a lot of work,  but looks  much better.

We did a bit of “discovery” work, looking her over.   Needs cosmetic deck work – the decks and cabin top are solid with no evidence of any leaks. The teak trim needs cleaned and varnished and the cockpit lazerette hatchs need redone.

Inside, Sabbatical has a very nice large cabin with teak and holly floor throughout.  The large U-shaped galley is starboard and a two-person dinette table (nav table) is port.  I really like the idea of having an eating area in the cabin.  Going forward is the main salon with settees port and starboard, as well as pilot berths port and starboard.   At the forward main cabin bulkhead is a diesel cabin heater with a nice tile surround.  Next is the hallway with roomy hanging locker and full set of drawers to starboard.  The head is port with sink, counter, head, teak grate floor and sliding door.  Forward is a double berth to port and a seat to starboard with a closing door.  Lots of stowage space under the berth (and all through the cabin).  I think I want to add the other side of the V-berth to make a more roomy sleep area.  

The inside needs thorough cleaning from top to bottom, but the woodwork is beautiful.  With new seat cushions, it will look great.

Finding and Buying Sabbatical

Sabbatical has been sitting across the head walk from us while we have had our current boat on L row in Hayden Bay marina.  For the last 2 years I have been looking at the boat and marveling at what a stout and well outfitted boat she was.  At the same time I have been wondering why someone would abandon such a fine sailing vessel and leave her unattended for what turned out to be almost 10 years.  I had tried to contact the owner 2 years ago about the boat with no luck.

In June of 2010 the Harbor master at the marina came and put a lock on the boat for unpaid slip rental and said the boat might go up for auction.  She mentioned that the owner lived up in Sequim Wa.  That was enough information with the Coast Guard documentation sticker to get the name an through the power of the internet, track down the owner.  I introduced myself and explained why I was calling, to see if he wanted to sell the boat.  He said he wanted to sell the boat but wasn’t sure what it was worth and would talk to a broker to try and set a price and get back to me.

I knew what I wanted to offer, a price that I figured I couldn’t lose on, so I made him an offer.  He said he would have to talk to his wife.  The next day he called back and said they would take the offer.  Three days later he came down to Portland with the Coast Guard documentation paper work for the boat and we closed the deal.  Just like that we are the owners of Cape George Cutter 36.