A race to the finish line. And, it’s Deja Vu…

It’s the beginning of April and I find myself completely focused on something that hasn’t been on my mind for the last seven years.  Spring launch.  It’s not news to anyone that follows the blog that Pandora’s been on the hard over this winter, her first since being launched in 2007 and that this winter was the first in Pandora’s decade long life when she was “decommissioned” for any reason, b beyond a few months, much less and entire winter.    Not to put too fine a point on it but the last time I did any real sailing was a year ago May when I returned from Antigua.

So, here I am, recalling so many spring commissioning sprints trying to getting the boat ready for the water in time for the long Memorial Day Weekend.   Well,  not actually, as in my retirement it’s a bit different as I am no longer focused on a single long weekend but the whole year and months aboard.  However, with Pandora about to emerge from nearly a year out of the water, I’ll be in the boat yard working hard to get the boat ready in time to enjoy the season.

After an ill fated attempt to prepare her for a run south last fall resulting from a long delay from some work that I had commissioned last summer, I came to the painful realization that we’d be staying home for the season.   It turned out to be OK,  I guess, as I got a lot done around the house and we also spent more time with our growing troupe of grandchildren.  That was good but, and there’s always a “but” I am anxious about being afloat again.

Being home-bound for the winter did allow me to get many projects done around the house, especially for Brenda, that I am hoping that she will take pity on my and not grouse too much when we head south next winter.

So, soon enough Pandora will be back in the water where she belongs.  The bad news is that shortly after she is launched, she will be hauled yet again to address a problem with the waterline resulting from last summers paint job.

Regarding that bit of news, when Pandora was being painted, I asked to have the aft portion of the waterline raised but somehow the port and starboard lines ended up being a few inches off from each other.  I noticed that last fall, shortly after she was relaunched.  At first I thought that she had developed a list to port, but when I put a ruler on the waterline I realized that port was two inches lower than the other side.

So, in order to fix the problem and get a good feel for exactly where the waterline should be, she has to be fully rigged with mast up, sails on and dink in the davits.  After launch, measurements will be taken and she will be marked for fore and aft trim.   The key in all of this is the “after rigging” part as that means that she will then have her mast and all that rigging in place which means she will be tall, a lot taller than the door of the shed where she was painted.   The good news is that the painter has access to a building in Bridgeport with a door that is tall enough to accommodate her inside, even with her mast up.   While Pandora’s mast is tall and the door to the shed is taller, something like 75′.

That’s a really big door and an even bigger shed.  Actually, it was the building where the yacht Cake Walk was constructed in a few years ago.  She was, I am told, the largest displacement yacht ever built in the US at over 250′ long.  Longer yachts have been built in the US but none with greater displacement. She’s now named Aquila but she’s still huge.   If the shed could fit her, Pandora should fit too.  Actually, the building can fit many Pandoras.

Here’s Aquila.  Pandora could be her dink.   So, here I sit.  It’s early April and I have a growing list of what has to happen to get her ready for the water.  It’s like the old days before I retired but at least I don’t have to get up on a Monday morning and head to the office.

Well, I am in my “office” but at least I am writing a blog post and not a business plan .  Well, I guess it is a business plan of sorts, a plan to get Pandora back in the water.

The biggest thing standing between me and the launch of Pandora is the collapsed headliner that was sagging badly in, well in just about every part of the boat, the main cabin, aft and forward compartments.    About a year ago the foam backing on the headliner had deteriorated to a point where it separated from the cabin sides and fell down.   At first I thought that the problem was limited to a few areas.  No such luck.So, I decided to take nearly all of it down.   It was a huge job and very messy.  I consulted with Chad, the canvas maker that did a great job on my cockpit enclosure, to get advice on what to do.  He suggested that I pull the vinyl down and then, with a wire brush on a drill, have at it.   This is a view of the aft cabin, where I pulled down all of the vinyl.  Then the drill…The main cabin, post wire brush.  Looks like a derelict boat.   Depressing.  And such a mess…Over the weekend, I went to a sale at Defender, a discount marine supply company nearby.  They have a once a year warehouse sale and it was mobbed.    I purchased most of the lights I needed, along with a new EPIRB, Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon.   Say that three times fast.   As the name suggests, it is a transmitter that I can activate to call for help if I get into trouble while at sea.   I have two on the boat already but they are both out of date and it makes more sense to get a new one instead of having the older one re-certified.  All this, lights and EPIRB, and it wasn’t quite one “boat dollar”.   And, speaking of lights, I’ll also be replacing all of the inefficient fluorescent fixtures in the cabin and cockpit, along with all of the halogen bulbs in the overhead with LED bulbs and fixtures.  The bad news is that the “footprint” of the old fixtures, and there are 9 of them, is larger than the new ones so that means that I’ll have to replace all the vinyl on other areas of the headliner that are basically fine to eliminate the old screw holes and stained vinyl in the areas around the old headliner.  There are a LOT of fixtures to deal with.    Fortunately, vinyl comes in many colors of “white” so we should be able to match the new to the old.  Fingers crossed.

Also, in going from halogen to LED in some areas so I have to replace the dimmers, three of them with a type made for LEDs.  This is what the old, non compliant, dimmers looked like.  In spite of my best efforts, I could not locate new dimmers that look anything like these and would fit in the same 2″ hole.  So, I decided to just “remodel” and use the same dimmer casing.  So, I made up wooden inserts from scrap plywood that matched the interior.  The plan will be to glue the new touch dimmer into the old housing and it will look like this.  Pretty neat, right? I’m pretty pleased with myself, frankly.  An elegant solution that will minimize effort in matching the current holes.

I am doing, have done, all of the demo but I am hiring Chad to put the new headliner in place and it’s a LOT of work so it’s going to be several boat dollars, I expect.   Brenda will be so pleased.

Add to this project myriad other issues, like re-bedding deck fittings, general cleanup and a number of other upgrades and there is a LOT to do to get Pandora ready to splash.

Oh yeah, and with all the time I save in making my own dimmers, I’ll be spending plenty of time trying to pull out the bolts that hold in the mast step as the heads of the bolts had become corroded and suspect.  So far, not a lot of luck in getting them out.   Yes, that’s a bolt extractor in the lower left.  Wish me luck. Oh yeah, one more thing.  Pandora has electric toilets.  Can you imagine, electric?  And mixing electricity with, well, you know what, is a messy business.  The toilet, head, has three electric motors and one failed on the aft head so I had to put in another.  If you think that this looks expensive, it is.  Fortunately, I was able to get it replaced under warranted.  Let’s hope that if it decides to “poop out” it does so before a year.  Motors on a head?  Who knew?  So, after a winter spent waiting for the weather to get warm enough to work on Pandora and time spent focusing on my “honey do list”, it’s time to get cracking and find a way to get Pandora back in the water and ready to cruise.

I never imagined that I’d be back in the grind of spring commissioning, but now I am.  And, when I get her up and running again in a few weeks, I’ll learn if I missed anything when I was winterizing her systems.

So, if I can only get her ready by Memorial Day.  Wow, a deja vu moment.  At least I don’t have to go to work the following Tuesday.  No wait, perhaps I’ll wait and not even use the boat as everywhere will be jammed that weekend.   Ah, the luxury of being of a “certain age”.   Now don’t go telling me that I am in my “twilight years” and that it’s “all down hill from here”.

And speaking of “down hill” I guess that it is a race to the finish line.  Yes, I guess it is and time’s a-wasting so I’d better get cracking.

“Brenda, anything you need me to do before I head to Pandora today?”

This year, the season won’t end in the fall, I hope but I’m still racing to get her in the water.

Did someone say deja vos, again?



2 responses to “A race to the finish line. And, it’s Deja Vu…

  1. Your posts always make me laugh out loud while my students are doing labs!

    “new EPIRB, Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. Say that three times fast.”


  2. Larry Shields


    I give you tremendous credit for your resourcefulness and what you try to do yourself. It is always great being back in a boat yard “messing around with boats.”

    Best to you and Brenda,


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