A few weeks after returning from our first major trip in 2006, we began to sort our what improvements and repairs would top our winter list. Trudy was in good enough shape for daysails and overnights, but the offshore trip did make some deficiencies apparent which would need to be addressed. We also had to address the fact that after the last few years of non-stop activity, Captain and Crew needed some time to determine what the future would hold for us and True Love…each in turn.
The First area of concern was our 10 portlights. We decided to knock this repair out since it was going to be “simple.” This would be a real quickie…Ha! Let’s take a closer look! Every single one of them was leaking. Oddly enough, only one was leaking due to the gasket, most were leaking due to either the window seal, cracked glass, or were leaking where they met the cabin side. When we returned from Canada, we were quite the sight…duct tape on every portlight. Now I would find out why.
Portlights are supposed to be thru-bolted using the compression rings…not in this case however. It seems that True Love was constructed using an alternative method. The compression rings were screwed to the (3/8″ solid fiberglass) cabin sides using wood screws. From the screws used and other factors, it appeared that the portholes were installed that way from the factory. On the other side of the equation, the actual portlights were also screwed into the cabin sides with wood screws…except since the screws were too long, they had been cut down and only had 2 threads left. Basically the portlights were held in place by a little in the way of sticky stuff and even less in the way of mechanical fastening. When removing the second portlight it fell out after only removing 2 of 6 screws…wow.
We decided that since Trudy’s portlights were all bad, that it would not hurt to remove all of them at once and give her some intentionally placed duct tape windows…that way we would be able to take all the portlights home and rebuild them at our leisure. “Our leisure” would come to mean most of the winter…rebuilding portlights is a pain!
Since Gretchen and I were both focused on work and family, rebuilding the portlights proceeded at a pace of about one every two weeks. I was doing some paid fiberglass work on the side but we were able to progress slowly. During this time we were also making sure to get out and go sailing from time to time…however the winter of 2006 and the spring of 2007 would not come to be known as one of our most active sailing seasons.
During the winter rains it became evident that our leaky decks were a major problem. We resorted to tarps and other unsightly methods at reducing the ingress of water that seeped in just about every conceivable location. This was a real reality check for Gretchen and I.
Here we were feeling rightfully proud of all the accomplishments of the previous year when we were abruptly reminded of the fact that Trudy was purchased as a “project boat” and we had apparently not completed nearly enough to remove the “project” status. Our morale was sinking, but we decided that Trudy should not sink also. So, just as spring time was finishing up and the summer dry season was starting, I bought a plug cutter and took my pry bar down to the marina. It took one afternoon to strip the teak decks of Trudy. Most of the wood was severly degraded and not a single plank came off in one piece. I was left with a boat with a colander for a deck a large “what the hell did I just do” feeling. I did not know it at the time, but this project would be a real marathon. It would take us from 2007 until 2009 to complete.
Now, when I say that the project lasted from 07-09 I do not want to imply that we were working on the decks every day…heck we weren’t working on them every month. The reality is that Gretchen and I were very conflicted over how we were going to proceed…not only in repairing True Love…not only in whether to go sailing or not…but what to do with our lives in general. Sigh…
After removing the old teak deck, we were left with a fiberglass sub-deck that was 1/8th of an inch thick and riddled with holes. We quickly rolled on 2 layers of mat one layer of roving and another layer of mat in order to firm and “waterproof” the deck. With this we were mostly leak free, but were left with a springy deck that retained 3/8″ of water at the low points as the scuppers were at the original deck level and our partially completed deck was only 1/8th of an inch thick (not including the sub deck). We were short 3/8″ of deck thickness, but were too busy/distracted/whatever…in short we were done for the year…it was only June of ’07.
Ever since moving out to Washington State, we had borne the entirety of the burdens associated with life without any type of safety network in the way of family or close friends and the strain was beginning to show. Our jobs and various divergent activities seemed to conspire to keep us too busy/tired to engage in many social activities or make friends. This came to a bit of a head one day when Gretchen and I collectively realized that we had not gone out to dinner or any social function in over a year. In this environment Gretchen and I were feeling alot of pressure in our lives which affected our view of sailing and working on the boat. We felt pressured to use the boat, or fix the boat, or “relax” on the boat. Trudy had become lightning rod of everything negative in our lives. Going out to sea and being on a boat has the uncanny ability to lay bare the inner workings of those who do it. It can be a reflection of everything great, brave, wonderful and beautiful in your life. It can also reflect everything horrible, fearful, crapulent, and embarassing at the same time.
Sometimes its easier to ignore what we do not want to deal with. Trudy did not get too much use during the duration of ’07. As time on the boat had become a point of contention, at the end of the summer I answered a Craigslist Ad placed by a young man looking for a project cruising boat. After a lengthy discussion, sea trial, and ameteur “survey” by his father, the young man and I reached an agreement for the sale of Trudy. All I had to do was take her to Olympia for a professional survey. I was generally not worried as I had been very upfront about the work needed on her.
With many conflicting thoughts swimming in my head, I arrived in Olympia on Thursday evening for a Friday survey. It was an emotional night and with tears in my eyes, I went to sleep for the last time on True Love. The survey was surreal. I watched as an “expert” tapped on my hull and talked with the buyers about all of her deficiences. It seemed odd that the surveyor spent what seemed to be an extremely long time talking with the buyers but it then became apparent that the surveyor was a friend of the buyer, so all the talking made sense I guess. I started to get a bad feeling as the buyer’s father began to discuss with me the deficiencies of Trudy and how much they would cost to repair. It only seemed odd because I had disclosed the deficiencies prior to the survey and had included them in the sale price we had agreed upon. I had already decided to not accept even a dollar less than the agreed upon price (it was an extremely low amount) and I had become increasingly agitated with the surveyor who was making outright mistakes in describing the construction methods used to make the boat. I am not saying that there was necessarily anything fraudulent going on, but when the surveyor claimed that my “cored hull” was delaminating and needed serious structural work, I was over it…this guy had to go. True Love is constructed with a solid fiberglass hull. Her hull was hand laid in the Ta Shing boatyard in Taiwan. She is insulated against condensation with closed cell foam and on top of the insulation is a single layer of cloth. I did not feel that the survey was objective or fair and began to question the surveyor regarding the hull which seemed to speed up the survey. I was only too happy by the end of the day to decline further negotiations and cancel the sale. I expedited the completion of our dealings and refunded them their deposit without hesitation. With hindsight I can say that that day was one of the most fortunate days our family has had.
On my way home and over the following weeks, Gretchen and I discussed what was important to us and how we had very nearly thrown it all away. Along with other things, we formulated a plan to complete the major work on Trudy in a sustainable fashion. Many things were about to change in our lives…slowly at first (and not without setback) but looking back today it is obvious that the foundation for our current lifestyle, strong family identity, and cruising plans were being laid and reinforced.
up next…Dylan and Gretchen get their second wind and True Love sheds her “project boat” status!