Friday, February 28, 2014

She's ALL Ours!

I get a sick rush from paying stuff off. I love it. I'm not sure exactly why that is, but I'd be willing to guess it's the same reason why I love to make lists just so I can cross things off when they get done, the satisfaction of actually crossing something off, or in this case paying something off, gives me the feeling of...accomplishment.

Today we can say that we OWN Hullabaloo free and clear! She's ALL ours and there's nothing anyone can do about it! Power trip aside, I feel pretty good about getting her paid off in just over 14 months. All my budgeting, figuring and nagging Ron about not spending money actually paid off. Accomplishment.

A lot of people say that financing your boat is the worst mistake you can make, but in our case it gave us the opportunity to get a boat that fits us perfectly and at a great price. But perhaps the biggest benefit we got from getting a loan for the boat and buying it when we did was the extra year we had to play on her and get to know her. The other option being waiting another year may have been more 'responsible' but it would have left us dedicating the majority of our time before leaving working on her (clearly this is the less fun option) and less time gaining experience on her.

I can understand some of the drawbacks of financing a boat; borrowing more than you can afford, throwing money away in interest - especially considering some of the interest rates that have been thrown around in regards to boat loans (6% +) and being forced to also then pay! FYI- we still plan on having insurance for the boat even though she's paid off.

However, we were fortunate to have been offered a loan through our credit union at, get this, 2.5%!!!! They didn't bat an eyelash at our application for a loan for a 32 year old boat, gotta love those credit unions! So, if you ask me whether or not the $310.00 we paid in interest was worth it to me, I can tell you without one iota of hesitation.....

Now we can really start feeding that (cruising) kitty! MEOWWWWWWW

Monday, February 24, 2014

Cockpit Neanderthals

We've been cockpit neanderthals for the last year. Every meal we've eaten in the cockpit has been a balancing act of plates, drinks and condiments. We've eaten many a meal hunched over plates precariously balanced on our knees or plate in one hand, fork in the other and your drink wedged in some random "safe", easy to reach place. This doesn't really deliver the relaxing, peaceful mealtime experience we want for us or our guests (for dinner and sometimes breakfast anyway, lunch is usually more whatever).

We've grown tired of the routine:

"Hey, where's the ketchup?"

"Under the dodger"


"Under the dodger, by the speaker. Oh, wait, no I wedged it in the winch holder, I didn't want to loose it. Here you go."

Building a cockpit table has been on our winter project list since the beginning. I was beginning to doubt whether or not it would get done before launching the boat, but in his normal fashion, Ron was able use a few days off to whip one out. The hardest part of the project has been finding a couple of hardware pieces that we needed.
Remember this steal we got for $40?
Yeah, we couldn't use most of it.  Turns out the pedestal it was made for was wider than ours. No real biggie, Ron just fashioned his own attachments for our pedestal. But we were able to use some of the supporting hardware that holds the table up, which was worth way more than $40 by itself. Speaking of which, anyone want a great cockpit table for a steal??? ;)

After considering various wood materials to make the table Ron, with consultation from Bob the master woodworker, decided to go with white oak, a very hard and durable wood. We had also been eyeing some inlay designs online to put in the table for a bit of decoration and pizzazz and the white oak would give us the great contrast between the two that we were looking for. 

Ron came home one day with some thin little pieces of wood, a cocky grin and proceeded to cut, sand, shape and glue the tiny pieces both in the basement (okay) and on the dining room table (less okay). As it turns out, that day Bob had told Ron that he probably couldn't make the inlay himself without it being a huge pain in the rear and that we'd be better off just buying one know, like we were planning on doing. Change of plans. Ronnie's making this inlay and we're going to use it even if it turns out looking like a Picasso. It took him around 6 hours over two days to complete. Not too bad. I think I need to try this trick with getting him to clean up after himself at home. Clearly, it's effective.
Putting a few more dings in the table

The inlay is a maple and walnut compass rose in a mahogany background

One of a kind!

Table layout

Stained with Minwax Red Chesnut

It fits!! We just have to attach the fold-outs
Ron was pretty happy that his plans worked out and the table actually fits the pedestal, go figure. Now, we just need to seal all the wood and put the fold-outs and remaining hardware on it. 
Sealing with Cetol Gloss
We also decided to use Cetol Gloss to seal the wood. We plan to put a couple of maintenance coats on our toe rail this spring so there was no point in buying something different. Plus, we figured if Cetol is good enough for the toe rails that take a beating, it should be more than good enough for us to eat on.

Have I said how much I love love love how it turned out?!?

Now we just need to alter the pedestal cover to account for the table and the chart plotter we don't yet have. That should be fun!

And I'm thinking I have to do a 'winter project tie up' post this spring so you can actually see all the stuff we've made for the boat actually on the boat. Won't that be a gas?!?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Earning While Cruising

"Earning while cruising" has been a pretty hot topic lately in multiple sailing blogs. Well, really it's always a hot topic, maybe I'm just noticing it more now. For those of you worried about our financial future, don't. We've got it all planned out. So what if my plan and Ron's plans aren't the same?

You see, my plan (should we need the money) is to ship Ron back to work for his current company for a few weeks to stock up the kitty while Lexie and I sit comfortably in a marina somewhere nice and warm. Ron's plan invovles becoming the next Jimmy Buffet. And he's been working toward his plan for the last year pretty diligently.

For the last year he's been deeply infatuated with guitar playing, playing it ALL the time, usually until his fingers hurt and he has to take a break. He also happens to have a friend with a fantastic woodshop with every tool you could possibly need for just about any wood related project and stockpiles of different kinds of wood. Did I mention that this friend builds guitars? Handy right? Since Ron already has a guitar, which takes up precious room on the boat, he got the hairbrained idea that he should make a ukelele to 'save room'.

Not only has this friend, Bob, lent Ron his workshop, tools and expertise to do numerous projects like making a cockpit table with inlay (more on this later), but he is incredibly generous with just giving Ron wood for most of these projects. Bob has been able to get ahold of normally very expensive woods for bargain basement prices (including wood from a local Gibson guitar plant that closed) and he shares his stash with Ron and others. Needless to say, he's saved us a lot of money with his generosity!

Dr. Scott (left) and Bob (right) working on another guitar
Here's a bit of the process: He used mohagany (dark wood) and figured maple (light wood) and through hours and hours of soaking, heating, and bending the wood, his uke began to take shape.

The blue print

Hand carved....innards. I forget the technical name.

Putting the bindings on (white stripe around the edge)

Gluing the body together. Notice the inlay around the sound hole --> real name BTW.

The fret with mohagany inlay

Put together. Notice the white line around the edge- that's the binding.

Satin polyurethane finish applied...almost done!
He even signed the inside so when he hits it big this thing will be priceless

Ron started the 'uke' project last April and finished just a few weeks ago. He put in 52 hours of labor - he counted - and came out with this beauty! Even his guitar-playing friends from work couldn't believe he'd made it, especially considering how great it sounds.
Even I have to admit this thing is gorgeous!
He may have quite a bit of practice to do before reaching Jimmy Buffet status, but I'm not totally ruling it out!


He thought I was taking a picture not filming and you can tell when he figured it out...

I just may have to pry it out of his hands and give it a go too!

And a HUGE HUGE HUGE thank you to Bob (and his Richland Guitar Company) for sharing your talents, tools and giving Ronnie a place to play!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Playing with our dinghy

Remember this disaster?
We knew when we bought the dinghy that the transom was a bit rotted and the bottom was a little leaky. But it didn't really leak that bad so we put off replacing it until just recently. We didn't want to put much money into it since the dinghy is 15 years old, even though it's in pretty decent shape. I don't have high hopes that it will last real long in the hotter climes once we leave but aren't ready to buy a new-to-us dinghy yet either.

Removing the old transom was the hardest part. The transom tube supports were actually pretty tricky to get clean, the wood broke apart before the glue did so we had to scrape, heat gun and Goo Gone the supports to clean them up and give the new adhesive something good to stick to.

We bought a piece of 3/4" oak plywood, Ron cut out the shape and drilled the hole for the drain then we put a couple layers of fiberglass on and painted it. Voila.

Ron started fiberglassing in the kitchen...
But had to move to the spare bathroom, shut the door
and turn the fan on due to some nasty odors
Gotta love some free oil-based marine paint

We opted to use 5200 to put the transom back on, you know the NEVER-coming-off, will-outlast-cockroaches-and-nuclear-meltdowns adhesive . At this point, the transom will outlast the rest of the dinghy by far so we're not really concerned with being able to remove it.

The only part of the dinghy that is shiny and new

People hate to see us go, but now they'll love to watch us walk dinghy away.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Winter Getaway

As I reported here, we usually take a warm, tropical vacation in January. This year we did not. In the interest of saving money to start cruising next year, we decided it didn't make much sense to spend a bunch of money to go somewhere we would probably get to on the boat in 1-2 years.  So we headed in the opposite direction. You got it right, we headed farther into the great white north.  We took a long weekend with some friends to head up to my dad's cabin in the Upper Penninsula on Lake Superior near Whitefish Point.  It was cold but man was it pretty!

The cabin is on a two-track that pretty much requires 4 wheel drive to get to in the summer and you can definitely forget about driving to it in the winter.  It's snowmobiles all the way.

We've never had to drift-bust or break trail to get back to the cabin as we did this year. We had to shake the heavy weight of the snow off quite a few small trees just to make it down the trail. 

 Some of the drifts along the trail on the lakeshore were so big that Ron had to remove the sled we were pulling with all our gear and had me and Lexie get off the snowmobile just so he could break the trail ahead of us and actually make it through. In case you're wondering, Lexie rides on my lap wrapped in a blanket to get to the cabin. Try balancing yourself and a 55lb dog on a rocking snowmobile with no back rest on a sled barely made for two people for 30-45 minutes straight. Now that's a shoulder and ab/core workout if I ever had one.
After the drift-bustin'
Lexie standing on the foolin'
 The highlight of these trips for me is riding to Tahquamenon Falls; eating lunch at the brewery, having the best hot chocolate and checking out the falls in a much different state than most people experience them.

Inside the brewery...I drool just thinking about their Peach Wheat Ale and their hot chocolate

Tahquamenon Falls

The rarely seen 'real' smile from the captain

Chillin' on a park bench

Angie and I had to dig down to a garbage can to throw our hot chocolate cups away

No U.P. (upper penninsula) trip is complete without going to the Whitefish Point Lighthouse
On our last day we decided to make a bonfire and hangout after a chilly and somewhat scary ride back from the lighthouse down the lakeshore.

Looking back from the lake: Cabin on the left, Sauna on the right

 Even though this trip was exactly the opposite of what we usually do for vacation this year, it was a blast. Chilly but a blast. And we got to see Jerm dump Ang and himself off their sled a couple times. That was fun :)