Today I Poked a Squirrel With a Stick

As an avid reader of other-people’s-sailing-blogs, a major theme I have noticed among sea-faring folk is the crazy people one meets while working in the boatyard. According to the interwebs, boatyards are populated by wide-eyed dreamers, slack-jawed drunks, and people who are just plain nuts. Here at the marina though, everybody is extremely nice, very friendly, and downright normalAdmittedly I had a brief passive-aggressive battle with another boatyard lurker in which we would unplug each other’s power cables under the assumption that the other guy was causing the breaker to flip (turns out it was someone else who left their entire boat plugged into a single socket). The diesel mechanic who works in the yard has some pretty wild stories from his days in the Coast Guard (mostly people’s boats sinking), but really there’s no one there who I would say ranks any more than a “colorful character” rating, much less a frothing marlinspike wielding sociopath.

I think there’s a real possibility that I’m the crazy guy in the boatyard.


I have become enemies with the titular boatyard squirrels. The other day I was working down below and heard one scramble across the deck. I stuck my head out the forward hatch in time to see him jump across to the boat in front of us and disappear into a hole in the transom. I grabbed the boat hook and poked the beast until he retreated, screamed at him in violently explicit terms the consequences of further encroachment upon my beloved, upon which he scrambled back into the hole. Oh well, not my boat.

Squirrel Hole

On the other hand, my malice towards rodents does not extend to the Lagomorphs. We have befriended one boatyard bun in particular.

Ryan says I mutter and exclaim to myself while working, but doesn’t everybody? If it won’t fit, cuss it.

While we’re waiting for the marina to get the trailer fixed, we’ve reattached the stanchions, installed the nav lights on the mast (which would have sucked with the mast in the boat), and installed the motor. Looking to get some interior painting done this weekend and maybe install the head as well.

First step of re-bedding stanchions: drill oversize holes and fill with epoxy

Steaming light: USCG approved to 2 NM and battery powered!

Long Shaft

Splice and Dice

Hey-oh! Ryan here. As Chris mentioned recently, things are coming together over at the boatyard, and Firefly looks like she’s wearing her Sunday best. All she needs now is her mast. Let’s see one of those photos again:

Chris got the shiny new standing rigging all hooked up to the mast and then informed me that I would have to learn to splice double-braided line so we could get the running rigging ready to go. You’ll recall that we picked up some nice, new lines in Annapolis to use for our halyards. Thing is, one end of those is supposed to have a loop in it so that a shackle can fit through there to hold on to the sail. At least, that’s my understanding of how it all works. Ours had no such loops.

Anyways, Chris thought that since I recently picked up crocheting, splicing would come easily to me. He thankfully thought to buy a cheaper line for me to practice on before I had to try on the real things.

We sat down together after dinner one day last week to try to learn. We pulled up some instructions online, and were immediately confused. First off, we kept seeing the word “Fid” everywhere. We didn’t know if it was a unit of measurement, if it was short for something, or if it was a proper noun. Also, there were lots of steps involved and the written instructions just didn’t cut it.

Thankfully, we found this video demonstration put together by New England Ropes:

This guy clearly knows his stuff and explains everything he does. I found it to be relatively easy to understand and then replicate.

The first thing we realized is that a “Fid” is a splicing tool, and that you definitely need one. They come in different sizes for the different sizes of line. We bought two (West Marine had several), one that was the size of the cheaper practice line (7/16”), and the other that was the size of the halyard lines (3/8”). To me, they kind of look like little tin whistles. They’re hollow, and one end is pointy. The pointy end goes through the middle of the braided rope, and then pulls another part of the line through the braid.

I also bought a “pusher,” which I now call a “poo-shah,” after the way the splicer guy in the video pronounces it.

I think it probably took almost an hour to do the first practice splice, but it turned out ok. In a nutshell, double braided rope consists of a cover and a core. You pull the core out of the cover and then kind of weave both parts into each other. You cut and taper bits here and there so that at the end, when you pull really hard on everything, the cover slips back over the core so it all looks pretty and uniform.

Whoever figured out how to do this to begin with was a total genius.

I was pretty excited with my first little bit of success, but still nervous about using my new skills on the real deal.

But, with Chris’s help, I successfully spliced one end of each of our three halyards (main, jib, spinnaker), and those are now resting peacefully on the mast, with the rest of the rigging. I think it took about 2 hours to splice the 3 halyards. I only had trouble with the last one, and that’s because I got cocky and skipped a little ahead in the video… only to realize I had missed one tiny step (re-taping the end of the line), which caused issues later in the process.

I’m pretty proud of my halyards (yes, they are now “mine”).

We’re all ready on our end for Firefly’s launch, however, disappointingly, the boatyard is not. Their hydraulic trailer thingie is currently out of order, which means there is no way to get the boat from point A (boatyard) to point B (marina slip/water). So, we patiently wait!

Greatest Hits

The past few weeks have been like a greatest hits of boatwork. After having an unpleasant case of deja-vu while sanding old bottom paint off in the patches under the jackstands, I’ve been enjoying putting everything I previously tore apart back together. We have checked just about everything off the before-launch checklist. We spent a few hours this weekend doing some touch up paint on the hull and finished rigging the mast…

Me and Ryan take pictures of Ryan and I taking pictures of the mast

We coated all the metal bits in Lanacote, which is rendered sheeps fat with some stabilizer added, I think. It stops things from corroding in the marine environment, and smells like death. We also put together some last minute chafe guards on the spreader tips.

That’s an old pair of boots chopped up and affixed with shoelaces. I’m actually pretty proud of that one.

We attached the metal strap which would prevent the rudder from falling out of the boat if the rudder shoe were to fall off. Longtime readers may recall the fun involved in removing that piece originally.

We put the finishing touches on the outboard well plug.

Chevron One Encoded

Speaking of the outboard well, I drove up to “Bobby’s Marine” on the Northern Neck and purchased a brand-spanking new outboad motor! It’s a Tohatsu 6HP long-shaft, and her name is Kaylee.

Many, many thanks to my folks for helping us out with the motor. They were very generous (worried?) and we certainly have acquired reliable propulsion. The fellas on the Pearson Ariel forums swear by these engines, and Bobby said he sells alot of them and almost never has to work on ’em.

Finally, we got the bottom painted!

The marina offers a deal on winter storage- free with a bottom job. Despite winter being long past, the good folks here hooked us up, and I must say, it looks friggin’ sharp.

Hopefully our next post will be entitled “Launch Day.”

The Little Green Rope That Could

It’s funny the things you remember, but I have a very distinct memory of walking in to Preston’s Chandlery in Greenport with my Dad to buy this particular piece of line. I was about 12 or 13 and my folks had just bought a Sunfish (which as I recall needed some work…) We needed a length of rope for the mainsheet, and I remember the man at the chandlerly measuring it off, cutting it, and carefully coiling it with an almost religious reverence. It served me well on that little Sunfish, some of the best sailing I’ve ever done was onboard exploring the nooks and crannies of the North shore of Long Island . The little green rope came along on some adventures aboard our day-sailor, notably during a March snowstorm on the Rappahanock (whoops).

Darby took this picture, as he was the only one whose hands were  warm enough to function. He just got married this weekend. Congrats Darbs and Kim!

More recently it helped pull the backstay chainplate into position so I could bolt the chainplate in place. I’ve written about my love of simple machines, and this particular problem required the use of a spanish windlass. The new backstay chainplate I had fabricated didn’t quite want to fit where it was supposed to go. It needed to be pulled into place by just the tiniest fraction of an inch so the bolts which attach the chainplate to the hull would fit through the bolt-holes. So I hooked up my trusty green rope in a loop with the chainplate attached on one end and the stern railing on the other. Insert a length of pipe, and twist until the bolts clear the holes, or something breaks. Luckily nothing broke and I was able to get the chainplate bedded and sealed up.

Butyl Tape

Let’s see, what else…Ryan and I put on the sheer stripe.

We used vinyl tape, and it took a few tries to get a nice fair curve, but we’re pleased with the results. This next section is entitled “Moving Heavy Things.”

Jared and Jess and a 4-Part Tackle. And a 250 lb engine.

This section is entitled “Moving Heavy Things: Engine Finds a New Home.”

The engine now resides at a marine consignment store called “Nauti Nells” in Deltaville, VA. You should probably think about buying it. The guys at the marina were able to move the keel blocks and jackstands around to let me get at the last remaining patches of old bottom paint. I sanded away all the old stuff, painted with epoxy, and hit it with fairing compound. It was kind of nice to see how far the boat has come, it’s hard to believe the entire hull looked like this not too long ago. That being said, I’m really, really, really sick of sanding. I already burned up one sander, and if everybody reading this knocks on wood, I think my current one will make it to the end of the project before crapping out. We just need to put the rig back in the boat, paint a few patches and we’ll be sailing! Still a lot to do on the interior, but we’ll git her done.