We’re still sitting here under house arrest, due to the pandemic, although the outlook is getting better, so we’re told.
The Blonde, my wife is still working from ‘home’ or in this case, Patty O’, our forty two foot Huckins sedan cruser. Her work load has become very light; she’s an Architect and due to the pandemic, a lot of her work has been placed on hold. Not that much has changed for me.
Most of my time has been spent on our Century run-about, Mustard. She spends her winters in my friend Ritchie’s heated barn, secure and uncovered on her trailer. I spent much more time on her than usual, not being able to do much of the normal spring maintenance on Patty O’.
Although Ritchie and I haven’t spoken to each other in person due to COVID-19, we do talk on the phone. I call when I’m headed over there to work on Mustard and call again when I leave so that we can practice the ultimate in social distancing. We’re both comfortable with this.
Although she didn’t need it, I stripped Mustard’s hull down to bare wood, including her bottom. Before any paint was applied, her seams were re-caulked. It was a lot of work and kept me busy for several weeks. Meanwhile, the yard began to wake up with early birds showing up to get started on the coming season. We did our best to social distance, wearing our masks whenever we went out. Maybe half the people we saw were wearing masks and we made sure to avoid them.
Most weekends, we’ve been heading out to as many different places as we can. Mostly at anchor, it gets us away from people and that suites us just fine.
As most of you who have read these pages over the past several years know, I have some definite opinions about wooden boats. Owning two boats constructed of this material for a long time does, I think, gives me the experience to speak about their maintenance. I’ve said this many times here, and to anyone who listens, that a boat constructed of wood requires no more maintenance than those built of any other material, including fiberglass reenforced plastic. You wax your boat, I put on a diluted coat of paint. We both paint the bottom. All the other little things necessary to keep a boat looking good are pretty much the same. There is, however, one rather large difference. If you do nothing to your fiberglass boat, it will just look like it’s going to sink. If you do not care how your boat looks, well, fine. That’s you. But if you are like most of us, and have pride in your boat, those words above have meaning.
That being said, when you buy a boat there is the problem of deciding whether or not it is worth whatever someone is asking. The easiest way to find this out is to employ the services of a surveyor . This is not as easy as it was a few years ago. Most of the wooden boat surveyors left are older men who are beginning to wind down. There are, however, several things you can look for to determine whether or not to look for a surveyor in the first place.
Firstly, use your eyes. If a boat is in really bad shape, it will be painfully evident. Does the sheer line bulge? Is the hull depressed inward where the jack stands meat the hull? There are plenty more, but I think you get the idea.
When fiberglass boats first came on the scene, they were hailed as an inexpensive alternative to wood. And in fact, they were. While it took skill to fabricate a mold, many, many hulls could be set up on one of them with far less experience then it took to build an equal hull out of wood. The wooden boat industry responded by turning out plywood boats which competed price wise. They were awful. And fortunately, very few remain today. But their reputation remains.
On social media, there are those who, when responding to a question about wooden boats, pontificate at great length about the sanity of anyone who even thinks about getting involved with a wooden boat. Upon reading what they’ve written it’s painfully obvious that many of them have no idea what they are talking about. Their favorite comment when responding to a question about a wooden boat purchase is, ‘Run, don’t walk, away!’ As I’ve said many times, a wooden boat in good shape requires no more maintenance than one made of any other material. Plus, you can find skilled people to work on a wooden boat anywhere. And wood is one of only two materials that can be worked on in any weather. The other is steel. And boats made of these two materials can be repaired regardless of the extent of damage. Not so with fiberglass.
As you can see, I am a wooden boat aficionado. But not at the total disregard for the advantages of other materials.
The weather so far this spring has been a merry-go-round of nice and awful. We got caught with the winter cover off on one of those early nasty weekends where a mixture of rain, snow, and sleet arrived all in one day. When that happens, I am out there hourly to clean the accumulation off Patty O’s weather decks. When water gets into cracks and the temperature drops, ice forms and expands, causing leaks down the line. If I can get to it in time, that greatly reduces the chance. And then, two days later, the sun comes out and if you look closely, summer is just down the road. That being said, we decided to get under way ONCE MORE and get away from the hum drum of boat yard life. This time we decided, based on the long term weather report, to head West down Long Island sound for parts unknown. With Mustard still undergoing her face lift, we dragged the little dingy. The first night, we spent at anchor just inside the Connecticut river. We have stayed there before and were looking forward to a pleasant night. Wasn’t to be. We aren’t the only ones out and about early it seemed. A large sport fishing boar anchored up about a hundred feet north of us and proceeded to play loud music. There were a lot of people aboard and they were letting it all hang out. We know that our tastes are different, but we have no problem co-existing, for a while. This went on most of the night and into the early morning hours. Tossing and turning, we finally got to sleep around five in the morning. Coming awake at seven, I could still hear music, although not as loud. Looking at the Blonde, we both nodded and ten minutes later, I was pulling the anchor.
Drinking our coffee while on the flying bridge underway we clinked cups. The sound was calm, and the day promised to be very pleasant.
“Ya know Bubba,” she said. “I really wouldn’t trade this for anything.”
“I know Whatcha mean.” I said. “we can just turn the switch and go.”
And go we did, heading west.