I am a dumbass

“Don’t get to being in a hurry.
-Jack Baker

I heard my old man’s voice in my head right after I heard the CRUNCHPOP sound as Serenity fell to the floor of my garage. Despite all our disagreements, I think he’s probably right on this piece of advice. Being in a hurry makes one sloppy, and sloppy breeds chances for failures. Today I was in a hurry, and it bit me in the ass.

The story:
It was a beautiful day, and I was very excited to take my boat out for the first sail of the season. I had just finished my rudder:

All bolted together, stained, urethaned, ready to sail!

All bolted together, stained, urethaned, ready to sail!

All that needed to be done was to transfer the boat from the sawhorses to the trailer. Piece of cake! I’ve done this a dozen times now. A perfect day for sailing, a steady 15 knot wind was calling me. I set about hoisting Serenity the same way I’d done it before… (Well, mostly the same, I was trying to save time and get out to the lake!) So instead of harnessing the bow and stern and hoisting, I only did the bow, figuring the sawhorse it was on would hold it fine. This is what we’d call A Very Bad Idea.

Additionally, there was an old fluorescent light fixture that was resting under Serenity, waiting to be recycled in the Citywide Cleanup. I saw the conduit sticking straight up under her like a punji stake, and thought “That looks like it could be a problem.” But it was such a nice day, who has time to move around all the junk in their garage before heading out for a beautiful day of sailing? Not me! This was another Very Bad Idea.

The saw horse did not hold the stern, and the rear of the craft careened to the floor with a sickening POP. I didn’t even want to look, because I knew that sound meant the hull was likely punctured. I looked. It was.

Right about now is when I almost started crying.

Right about now is when I almost started crying.

After some very, very, loud four letter words, I managed to get her onto the trailer and surveyed the damage. Poor girl looked like she’d been shot.

I NEED AN OCCLUSIVE BANDAGE! STAT!!!

I NEED AN OCCLUSIVE BANDAGE! STAT!!!

I was definitely not going to be taking advantage of this very nice, perfect sailing day. On top of that, I’d put a hole in a boat I planned to take on an 80 mile cruise down the Mississippi. Many unpleasant feelings were happening all around me.

Once I’d calmed down, I went about figuring out how to fix it. The general idea when patching a hole in a fiberglass boat is you grind out the area, then layer incrementally larger patches of fiberglass, one over the other until it’s back to the original thickness. I could do that! But I’d need a grinder. There was no way in hell I was gonna try to do that with my sander… After a quick trip to Harbor Freight, I’d picked up a grinder with some 36 grit flap pads. I’ve had my eye on a grinder for a while but couldn’t justify it until now, so yay?

I read to triple the size of the hole to figure out how wide an area to grind out. So I did that.

Circle drawn to grind out.

Circle drawn to grind out.

Inside, post grinding.

Inside, post grinding.

Then, to keep fiberglass from sagging after being wet out, I put a temporary backing of a sandwich bag taped in place to the bottom of the hull. Not pretty, but it seems to have worked.

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Next, making concentric patches, starting with the smallest, and working up until it matches the ground out area.

The first of many patches.

The first of many patches.

Wetting the fiberglass out with epoxy.

Penny for scale.

Penny for scale.

I need to find a way to measure out epoxy/hardener in MUCH smaller batches since I currently get about 3 oz. per batch, and I really need about 1 oz. batches. Since I made up a HUGE amount, I decided to try out my silica thickener and fill in the hole in Benoit. It’s ugly, and will need a lot of sanding, but it seems to have filled the void on her.

Should have taken a "before" shot...

Should have taken a “before” shot…

And that’s where I left off. One layer of fiberglass in, with probably a half dozen or so to go. The moral of this story? Dad was probably right. Take your time and secure your gear, even if it’s a nice day and you really just want to get out sailing.

New Boat and Trailer Follies

I’ve been neglecting the blog lately due to classes starting back up. That said, the end of my summer was fairly eventful, and there were certainly things I should have been blogging about.

First of which, I have acquired another boat! She’s a Johnson Boat Works 16′ J-Sailer from 1980. Getting her home was quite the adventure, since I didn’t really have a proper trailer, and used my 8′ utility trailer to get her back home. Let’s just say I learned a lot about proper weight distribution while towing, and managed to terrify myself (and probably every driver around me) in the process.

She’ll be awaiting next summer to get wet, as there were a few repairs that I didn’t have time to complete this summer:

  • Tiller dry-rotted, needs to be replaced
  • Leech line broken, needs to be replaced
  • Small hole in transom, needs to be repaired
  • Two small holes in sail, needs to be patched
  • Sail bag has holes in bottom. Repaired

Nothing too extreme, though I’m certainly glad I’ve had a chance to hone some of my repair skills on the PDR. Serenity has been very giving in that regard. Never a shortage of things to learn and try out.

I did eventually pick up a dedicated trailer for this one, and here’s a few photos of the debacle that was me attempting to get it off the sawhorses and onto the trailer.

Trailer length looks better. It won't be sticking 8 feet off the back end now, anyway.

Trailer length looks better. It won’t be sticking 8 feet off the back end now, anyway.

Step 1: Use blocks to raise the bow up enough to slide the trailer underneath.

Step 1: Use blocks to raise the bow up enough to slide the trailer underneath.

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Raising the rear and sliding the trailer further under

Raising the rear and sliding the trailer further under

Beauty. She's all set on the trailer.

Beauty. She’s all set on the trailer.

Eww. Bilge water.

Eww. Bilge water.

Draining the cockpit

Draining the cockpit

Lesson: Do not attempt to drain the water out of the craft by tilting it until the bow is secured to the trailer.

Lesson: Do not attempt to drain the water out of the craft by tilting it until the bow is secured to the trailer.

Front roller WAY too high to be useful.

Front roller WAY too high to be useful.

Adjusted to better fit the bow.

Adjusted to better fit the bow.


Bolted a length of chain to the roller post.

Bolted a length of chain to the roller post.

Huge shackle to hold the bow to the trailer.

Huge shackle to hold the bow to the trailer.

All tucked in. More bungee cords needed.

All tucked in. More bungee cords needed.

Exercises in Murphy’s Law

Tomorrow I’m headed a couple hours north to pick up a boat I’ll be adding to my fleet. Before I headed out, I figured I should do some long over due maintenance and fix my rear brakes. They had been making quite a bit of noise and I knew they were in BAD shape. Fortunately, Amazon had a good deal on brake parts last spring, and I purchased all four pads/rotors for the Subaru. (Hooray thinking ahead!)

I’ve never repaired/replaced the rear brakes, however I just did the front ones, and since these are all discs, it didn’t seem too challenging.

As the car was getting jacked up, I noticed the rear left tire was going flat. After pulling it off, it was easy to see the culprit: A shiny stub of metal protruding from the tread. Great. We’ll deal with you later, little nail…

Once the tires were off, it was clear that removing the caliper was going to be a bear. It was rusted all the hell, but I figured a bit of WD-40 along with a breaker bar would get it open.

Not so much.
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Yikes. That was a first. Never blown apart a socket before.

So, less than 20 minutes into the repair the score is: One flat tire, and a broken socket. Marc: 0, Murphy: 2. Oh well, nothing a quick trip to the hardware store can’t fix, right? Right. While out shopping, I grabbed a can of liquid wrench as well.

Once I got home, I realized I’d purchased a 1/2″ socket, when it needed to be a 3/8″. Murphy scores again. Back to the store and home again. (The socket I needed was $0.53 less, so I got some change back.) Marc scores and brings the total to 1 to 3, Murphy leads…

To make an already too long story short, I am proposing a new law… Marc’s Law:

“There is no project so small that it will not allow several opportunities for failure.”

As an aside: I highly recommend Eric the Car Guy‘s videos if you’re thinking about doing any repairs on your vehicles. Obviously, a shop manual is your best friend here, but having a laptop in my garage with his YouTube page open has saved me when I’ve hit snags before. Maybe it’ll work for you too.

Ongoing saga of the SV Serenity

Not much to report. I tried gluing down the port airbox with some different glue. PL Premium, if memory serves… Moved it too soon, and totally messed it all up. In frustration, I screwed the damned thing together. What do you know? It’s holding great now…

Really I just wanted to post these two pics:
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Why, yes, this is a functional model of a kick-up rudder. I made this the other day on lunch break. Mostly to see if building one from scratch with no real plans or schematics would pose an issue. It didn’t.

So why is scaling it up being such a damned pain?

She won’t be getting in the water this weekend. Let’s hope for next.