(Lesson #3- Cruising is just working on your boat in exotic locations.)
We hauled Echo out in early December with the intention of having her out of the water through late January. During this time we were excited to travel to British Columbia to celebrate McLean Family Christmas at our family’s fishing lodge. We were also really excited to get the bottom of our boat painted, amongst many other projects that we deemed manageable in our 45-day stay. While cruising over the summer, we found the bottom of our boat extremely hard to keep clean. Cleaning the hull requires diving your boat with a green scrubby pad and plastic paint chipper. Each part of the hull needs scraping and, after time in the water, and with the changing sea temperatures, we began to prefer certain seasonal growths over others (some organisms are easier to clean off). Initially, cleaning would take us a few hours, which is tiring work. You find yourself focused on cleaning off the growing forest, figuring out a personal system, diving down, holding your breath for as long as you can, coming to the surface to take a long breath and then diving again. After a few hours, one is completely exhausted. Having a clean hull is important, since bottom growth can really slow you down and worse, if not taken care of, it can penetrate the bottom paint and create blisters.
In late December, when Echo was being sanded and prepped for bottom paint, our guys noticed many deep blisters and suggested we sand her down to bare fiberglass. This was a lot to process, as it meant Echo would have to stay out of the water for the next four months to dry completely. As you can imagine, we were incredibly bummed with this news. However, we were thankful to be in such a great area, with incredibly knowledgable people to do the job, during the right time of the year with low humidity, and ultimately the time to wait. We continually find ourselves feeling so lucky because saying yes to this massive project unfortunately exposed an even bigger problem. An important educational moment for us as new sailors, we wouldn’t have known the magnitude of the problem if we hadn’t decided to sacrifice the time on the water and tackle the project now. Although thankful for the newfound knowledge and decision to proceed, it inevitably changed our plans and ended up to be a lot more work than we thought.
(Lesson #4- Everyone has an opinion (especially in a small boatyard), but go with your gut! Take care of the boat and she’ll take care of you.)
The hull project
Echo still had a lot of her original gelcoat, which meant she had never been completely sanded down. This should probably happen every 15 years or so. She had so many blisters she looked like the moon, a crater on every surface. The repair process required Echo to get completely sanded down to bare fiberglass. Each blister was then circled and ground out. Echo’s bowsprit is held down by the bobstay, which connects to a chainplate in the bow right at the waterline. It turns out this area was completely waterlogged, a sad thing to see. Our bobstay chain plate was removed and replaced and we also had to drop and repair the rudder.
After being left to dry for four months, each blister was filled in, and over the next four weeks, the guys worked on rebuilding the bottom of Echo. Adding layers of mat fiberglass and resin and alternating between laying fiberglass and lots of sanding, it was definitely a tough job. In the end, we were thankful to see the project done, as living on the boat while this was happening was difficult. Sanding days force us to close all the hatches, which makes Echo hot and stuffy. The noise from the sanding drowns everything else out. The fiberglass powder floats in the air and moves with the wind, sneaking into every available crevice, making for some uncomfortable bodies and difficult sleeping. But above all, we were thankful to have the opportunity to see her foundation, giving us a more thorough understanding of how she was made.
(Lesson#5- When the hull gets sanded, move off the boat!)
The time “on the hard” has been incredibly valuable. We got SO many projects done that otherwise might have taken years. We hate to say it, but it has mainly been work. Thankfully, though, our time has been sprinkled with some really memorable, funny and teachable boatyard moments. Notably, we were incredibly honored to be invited by our friend and master in marine arts, Pancho (Aka Frank), to his daughter’s quincinera (a traditional 15th birthday party where the daughter becomes a woman). Everyone was dressed to impress. One part of the tradition is, at some point during the party, the father puts high heels on his daughter for her first time. This was obviously an emotional moment for Frank and as he placed the heels on his daughter, we noticed a few tears in his eyes. It was an absolutely beautiful night and fun to see all of our favorite local guys dressed up enjoying the company of close friends and family. We were thrilled to be a part of this special experience.
We also enjoyed some great boatyard BBQ’s, sitting around a circle on whatever wood chunks or cardboard is around, pulling delicious chicken and making the most simple and scrumptious tacos, or sharing ceviche, guacamole, beers and laughter in our best Spanglish with the crew of the happiest guys one could imagine. We now have certain whistles with them as our own private hellos and each time a happy head snaps in our direction, smiling so big all you can see is perfect white teeth. During our purging of gear, we’ve given a few cooking tools to Pepe, whose wife loves to cook. She returned the favor by spoiling us with some of her delicious, homemade food. We find ourselves thinking, yet again, is this our life? It’s definitely good and happy vibes around here.
We were excited to hear Juniper, a fellow crew member on Viva, and her soon to be husband, Nick, were coming down to see us. Making the best out of the situation, since Echo was not in the water, we were excited to hang up the tool belt for a few days and explore more of Guaymas and San Carlos. We enjoyed a private tour at the Pearl Farm that took us to a small, forgotten about room, packed full of old whale and dolphin bones and littered with countless old glass jars filled with innards. It was one interesting and unexpected tour!!! We also enjoyed exploring the desert canyons, margaritas, and sunsets on the beach. For us it was a much deserved and perfect break from working on the boat.
During our time here, Crew Larry was able to get “Little Putt” up and running and we went out for an afternoon of fishing. After not being on the water for months, the salt spray was something we celebrated, solidifying in us our decisions and longings. San Carlos is also very special to the McLeans. Trading in the cold winters in British Columbia, they started to migrate south about ten years ago and landed in San Carlos. It’s always a privilege to be in this area when family is around, and we feel grateful for the time we got to spend with them.
Although thankful for the massive hull project, which has given us so much confidence in our boat, and the time allowed to get so many other things done, we long for the sea. As new sailors, we want nothing more than time on the water. Unfortunately, our plans are subject to change yet again, this time due to the travel lift being inoperable with a blown tire. The marina we’re staying in is government owned (which must mean globally, takes much longer, requiring more logistics and signatures) and is still without a date that it may be fixed, so we’re altering course and heading north to Utah for some river adventuring.
(Lesson #6- Plans are written in the sand at low tide.)
4 thoughts on “January-April 2019”
Is there a reason you can’t scuba dive to clean the hull? It seems like that would be easier than having to do breath control?
Great question, thank you!
Using scuba gear to dive the hull is an option, but, since we don’t have any of the gear; tanks, BCD’s, and, most importantly, a compressor, its expensive and pretty big for our tiny home. (We’re talking a couple grand for a scuba set up) While some sailboats do have them, it’s more common for serious divers than those looking only to clean the boat. There are other options as well, like a “huka” but they are also very expensive and take up a lot space. It comes down to space, money, and interests. Although it’s a big project, we are striving to be better freedivers and therefore enjoy the challenge. AND with good bottom paint, the forest won’t exist (fingers crossed!)
Damn’ wish I had known your whereabouts earlier, as Caroline and I live now in British Columbia!
Oh well, I’m sure we’ll meet again somewhere else along the road 🙂
Good to read about your projects, all the best for whatever’s next !