Spiny Liebster


The Biiiggest Spiny Liebster Award EVER!

Tricia and her man Rich live in Cornwall “On Gwen,” a ferro-cement gaff cutter. That means it’s a badass, somewhat old-school, thoroughly sea-going boat with lots of strings to pull on. They’re in the process of getting the boat ready for cruising, and potentially an Atlantic crossing. I am envious of that aspiration, I am intimidated by it as well. Tricia writes of their life and travels aboard with honesty and a certain British-Isles-Panache that is beguiling. Their photos are gorgeous. You should check out her blog here.

During our own preparations and subsequent blogging, we were fortunate to internet-meet like-minded souls who were suffering through their own fiberglass-dust-induced fits of asthmatic-lung-hacking. In some cases that dust was ferro-cement in nature. We traded trade secrets, and encouragement. More recently, we’ve been Liebster Awarded- which is a way for bloggers to recognize each other and say “hey, we dig ur shiz.” So, to the crew of “On Gwen,” many thanks for reading our stuff, thanks for the inspiration, and thanks for the recognition!

The Liebster Award is given from one blogger to another in recognition of blogging. “On Gwen” has posited some questions, our answers, as follows:

1) What’s the plan?

Chris- Our immediate plan is to take the boat North, back up the Intracoastal Waterway to the Chesapeake Bay in time for me to get back to work in April. We’re looking forward to hitting a few places we missed on the way down, as well as using our somewhat-newfound confidence to explore some nooks and crannies off the beaten track. “Firefly” is just about the perfect Chesapeake Bay boat, relatively shoal draft but also thoroughly seaworthy. We’re looking forward to Springs, Summers, and Falls exploring the nearly endless coastline of coastal Virginia. Beyond that, I’d like to gain some bluewater experience crewing aboard boats heading offshore to the Caribbean during the annual Fall migration. I definitely feel like we have unfinished business with the crossing to the Bahamas, and beyond that, I really, really want to take “Firefly” there. We’ve been talking about getting a trailer so that we can do trips to the Bahamas or even up North (all you Mainers and Nova Scotians watch out!) without taking off work for unreasonable amounts of time. That’s the plan, I’m sticking to it.

Ryan- My plan is to keep as warm as I can on the trip home, and to try to enjoy as much of the rest of the journey as I can. Then, it’s back to “real life” and I have to find us a house and find a job!

2) Who would play you both, and your boat, in the film/television adaptation of your blog?

Ryan- Emma Watson.

Chris- Rupert Grint.

Firefly- The Durmstrang Ship.

3) (stolen from Emily) What has made you poo your pants in fear so far?

Chris- Dragging anchor at Long Key Bight. We had some tense moments elsewhere, at crowded bridges maneuvering under power, or more prolonged as during our aborted Bahamas crossing and our first day out on the Chesapeake Bay. Nothing even close to the immediate necessity of getting the anchor re-set in 40 knots of wind. Honestly I had never felt fear of that nature before, my mouth was dry, and I found that I had unnatural physical strength. Weird. Scary.

Ryan- Our attempted Bahamas crossing was probably the most scared I’ve ever been. My entire body was so tense while we were out on the water that I was sore for days afterward. The darkness, the waves, the almost exaggerated healing-over “Firefly” does when she’s close-hauled, the sea-spray that completely soaked us both within 30-minutes of leaving the inlet, and then the engine cutting out in the middle of it all… I was terrified. At one point I was mewling so loudly that Chris barked an order for me to go below. But I was too scared to move, so I stayed put. I didn’t poo my pants, but I did almost pee myself because I was too scared to go below and use the head.

4) What would you be doing if you weren’t sailing?

Chris- Dreaming of sailing? Growing lots of oysters, which is also deeply satisfying. Sailing isn’t always fun, but is nearly always satisfying. I think humans aren’t necessarily wired to find satisfaction in languor and relaxation so much as action and accomplishment. Much more important to take pride in something than to be briefly content.

Ryan- I’d be doing yoga everyday, growing a big ole garden, going for long runs, and I’d have like a million pet rabbits and doggies. I’d also have a job and stuff, cuz money. Also, for the record, I love languor and relaxation.

5) What is your top tip for surviving a boat building project?

Chris- Ehhhh, we barely survived ours, I’m not sure we’re in any place to give advice. Don’t try to move out of a house, finish prepping a boat for a cruise, and tie up loose ends at work during a weeks time? It certainly takes a certain amount of hard-nosed obsession to push through. Maybe knowing when enough is enough and just slipping the docklines. Does she float? Does she move? I would say don’t take on anything with significant deck delamination, hull blisters, or structural damage. Oftentimes a “project boat” is a false economy, in our case the desire to fix up a beautiful old boat and gain boatbuilding skills was part of the attraction. If you just want to go sailing, buy a boat that can go sailing.

Ryan- I’m going to take this question in a different direction than Chris did. We built our dinghy, “Bug,” and both really enjoyed it. I say, be patient, expect it to take longer than you think, and definitely jump up-and-down when she starts to look like an actual boat. Take pride in your work, brag to everyone that you built her, and, if someone says something mean about her, flip ’em the bird. We started getting comments/looks about our tiny, hand-built, man-powered dinghy once we made it to Fort Lauderdale, but it only made me love her more.


And So, with the power bestowed upon us, we nominate Ed and Vicky of “Elara” for a Liebster. We met these good folks in Elizabeth City, NC and were fortunate enough to continue bumping into them throughout the trip. They blog over yonder at Catching the Horizon.

  1. Why are you sailing, where are you going?
  2. How do you get your mojo back after a major setback like you guys experienced in Charleston?
  3. What has made you poo your pants in fear, and poo your pants in happiness?
  4. What do you guys do while not underway?
  5. How do you divided responsibilities on the boat?



Painkillers on “Elara” in Oriental, NC.


A Man. A Plan. A Sailboat. Bahamas.

Ahoy, Ryan here!

My husband has written over 75 posts to you, dear reader, detailing much of the work he has done over the past two years on our (now very dear) sailboat, Firefly. Chris is never one to toot his own horn, so I’m gonna toot it for him (ha!).

I mentioned in the first post I wrote here at The Bonnie Boat that Chris has been dreaming of going on a sailing adventure ever since he was a little boy. Over the past two years, he was worked tirelessly to make this happen for the both of us. I know you’ve gotten a taste of the work he’s put in reading his posts here, but I’m here to tell you that this blog doesn’t cover the half of it.

Chris has worked through rain, wind, cold, and extreme heat; in the dark, during the day, for hours on end; through frustrations, failures, problems, spectacular successes, and surprises. I’ve seen my husband get more done in a 24-hour period than most people get done in a week or more. I’ve seen him work a 10-hour day followed by 5 hours of work on the boat. I’ve seen him overcome such obstacles.

I’m pretty sure he’s put in at least 1,000-1,200 hours on this project. And now, here at the home stretch, he is running himself ragged to make sure all our boat systems will be operational for our trip down the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) and beyond, ultimately to the Bahamas.

He has brought this incredible, strange dream into my life and helped me feel like it could be my dream too. I’ve learned so much about him, myself, the meaning of hard work, and about what it means to be part of a team. He’s brought me (sometimes kicking and screaming) into this world of adventure.

I don’t really know how to put into writing how proud I am of this man. I’ve never loved him more.

As he mentioned, we’re going on an adventure together with Firefly. We have about 3 days’ worth of work to get done every day between now and our departure, but, as I mentioned, Chris has taught me that more can be done in a day than you might think.

I’m going to leave you with some of my favorite photos of Chris. He posts way too many of me!

And a photo of our little “team” while underway for good measure!


 So the choice is made,

our fate taken in hand,

along with sheet and tiller,

and entrusted to wind and tide.

In a few short weeks, Ryan and I are sailing South down the Intracoastal Waterway and beyond! As you can see, the anticipation has me feeling poetical, excited, and a touch melodramatic. We have a very large amount of preparation still remaining, but “Firefly” is sound and we could leave tomorrow if we wanted…it would just be a bit like camping inside a small wet closet. So the boat work continues, and I’ll fill you in as we go. For the moment, my heartfelt thanks to everyone for following along with us to here, I’ve enjoyed chronicling our misadventures in epoxy, and I very much appreciate the kind words and attention from you fine folks. The adventures are far from over, we’ll be posting updates on the preparations and during our travels. Here’s a summary of the story so far…in nothing resembling chronological order.




Two by two hands of blue


Maiden Voyage

Things we learned during our first foray into yachting:

  1. Sailing is awesome
  2. Sailing is much more pleasant than motoring
  3. The motor is loud
  4. Docking is scary, but less scary with repetition
  5. The Genoa sheets go outside the stays and lifelines
  6. Close the mainsail track gate-thingy before lowering the mainsail

We had a wonderful first sail on Wednesday evening. We pulled “Firefly” out of her slip by hand with the mooring lines and motored out of the marina without mishap, although both of our nerves were running pretty high. It was a bit surreal to be blithely putt-putting about in this little boat that has been land locked all this time…

Are we still in line with that marker?

The boat handled great under power, of which the engine has plenty. I had the kicker just idling and it was pushing us along just fine. We made it out the channel, put her into the wind and hoisted sail!

Pearson Ariel #412 Rides Again!

Winds were light, but even with just the mainsail up we were moving along. Not fast mind you, but making progress against wind and tide. We were about to hoist the genoa, when I realized that I had led the sheets the wrong way around the stays, so given the waning daylight we gybed with just the mainsail and headed back towards the marina.

Our slip is at the far end of the fairway right against the bulkhead (aka the low-rent district) which makes docking challenging. That being said our second try (our first being on launch day) went much smoother than the first time around. It wasn’t exactly polished, however it was successful. And no crashes occurred. Next time will be even better.

During much of our jaunt I was so focused on keeping the boat in the channel, listening to the motor, diagnosing the feel of the rudder (great, bt-dubs) that I didn’t feel any great sense of this project being completed. (probably because the boat to-do list continues to grow) Afterwards though, I couldn’t get the feeling out of my head; the slight tug of the tiller, the soft curve of the sail, the gentle heeling of the boat, and the gurgle of water along the hull was completely and utterly intoxicating. Ryan and I have been texting each other all day, giddy. We can’t wait to go out again.

Also, we may have gone a little picture-crazy. Overboard if you will.

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!

A Lever Long Enough

Archimedes reputedly stated “Give me a lever long enough and I’ll move the world.” Our aspirations aren’t quite so lofty here at the Bonnie Boat, but we do love our simple machines. (Ok, I love my simple machines. Levers in particular.)(And perhaps the occasional spanish windlass) The object to be levered in this case was a recalcitrant thru-hull, aka “seacock.” (don’t google that) I was idly poking about the boat about a month ago when I noticed that the seacock attached to the old sewage discharge was slightly open…I vaguely remember fiddling with it when we first hauled the boat out. I think my buddy Darbs was with me (who was working at a boatyard at the time) and he said something like “don’t touch that.” I should have listened.

The offending orifice is the one on the right. Pic circa 2013

The offending orifice is the one on the right. Pic circa 2013

At any rate, I tried shutting the valve with no luck. I began a steady ration of PB Blaster- every time I was at the boat, I would shoot a bunch of lubricant (into the seacock) from both sides. Still very, very stuck. I took all the nuts and grease fittings off. I checked the forums and the interwebs, still stuck. I came across a suggestion somewhere to fit a length of pipe over the end of a wrench, but I was worried about applying that much leverage to the hull. I cut a section of dowel and wedged it between the fitting and the main bulkhead, to avoid cracking the hull…

And by God it worked!

That right there is what a closed seacock looks like.

In other non-seacock related things, our good friends the Curry’s are getting ready to record their second album. I’ve plugged their music here before, but if you haven’t already done so, click on over here to check out their Kickstarter. I’m pretty sure that these guys are really talented, and I’m not just biased because they’re good friends. Ryan and I listen to their first album all the time, and we’re excited to get our hands on the next one.

Finally, I’d like to give a shout out and a very big thanks to the generous owner of Pearson Ariel hull # 393, who helped us reach our fundraising goal for this year’s Race for the Cure. We were both very grateful, and excited to see that people are reading the blog other than our parents. Thanks!

Primed and Ready

Hello, Ryan here! I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written to you, dear readers.

A couple weekends ago, the weather gods smiled upon us, and we decided it was time to paint the deck. I had been particularly looking forward to this project. Call me shallow, but I tend to like the projects that yield very apparent results. The deck looked pretty terrible after Chris faired it (though he did a great job):

On the Friday before that weekend, Chris and I did our homework on drying/sanding/recoating times for the primer coats (of which we decided we needed two) and top coats, and we realized that the project would actually have to span two weekends. I got pretty upset… I had in my head that we were going to be done done done with the deck and that it would be lovely and shiny and new and FINISHED.  I may have even cried a little. And not for the first time that weekend.

But alas, we figured out that we’d have to do two primer coats that weekend and then beg the weather gods to smile upon us yet again on another weekend to get the two top coats done. And that’s asking a lot of the weather gods.

Chris had to go to work early on Saturday morning. His alarm went off at 6, and mine went off at 6:15. He went to work, and I went out to the boat to try to get a bunch of prep done.

The thing about painting is this: Prep takes a ton of time. You have to sand (in this case hand sand) the area in question, then clean up with acetone to remove all traces of dust, pollen, dirt, etc. Then, you have to tape off anything you don’t want to paint (in the case of the deck, this means all the hardware, the edges, and the wood). For some reason, I thought I was going to be able to finish all this prep before Chris got to the boatyard after work. Ha! Let me say again: Ha!

When I got to the boat, the deck was wet with dew. The surrounding trees had rained pollen and seeds all over. As I began to work, I realized there was no way that I was going to finish by the time Chris got there. And I began to panic. And then there were some more tears. And a frantic to phone call to Chris demanding that he stop and get more rags at the hardware store on his way.

Chris pulled up and assured me that all would be well, and that I’d gotten enough done. He’s always so calm. What he doesn’t understand is that I feel so much pressure to do a perfect job when I’m helping at the boat, because I know how much he cares about it.

After we finished prepping, we started rolling on the primer, and I couldn’t believe how good it already looked! We got the first coat done in a decent amount of time.

We were then faced with a dilemma. We could try to wait a while and then paint an entire second coat on that day (even though it was already late-ish in the day) and hope that the dew overnight wouldn’t be too bad, or we could wait until Sunday to paint the second coat, which would mean we would have to hand-sand the entire deck again. I could have kissed my husband when he said he wanted to be done for the day (we were both hot, sweaty, tired, and a little burnt out). And then I did.

We hopped over to Merroir, a lovely restaurant on the water across the creek from the marina, and had oysters and drinks. The thing about these huge, day-long or weekend-long boat projects is that you have to reward yourself afterwards for your hard work.

Some friends invited us over that day as well, and we spent a lovely rest of the evening with them at their house on the water.

Chris decided to blow off some steam by taking a shot of whiskey and then flinging himself into the cold water… in his skivvies. 

Then, we drove home, passed out, and slept in until 8 AM (luxurious for us these days).

We drove out to the boatyard and then did everything again. Prep went much faster with both of us there and with the taping all already done from the day before.

The second coat looked even more amazing.

When we got home, I was completely exhausted, bruised, covered in paint and sweat, and very happy with our work.

Respirator Face!

Postcards of the Hanging

The rudder hanging that is.

All kinds of malarkey afoot over yonder at the Bonnie Boat these days, been busy enough between working on the boat and IRL work that bloggarting has fallen to the wayside… Getting the rudder attached was definitely the single most stressful task so far. In order to ensure the rudder remains watertight and rot-proof,I painted  the joint where the upper half of the rudder post meets the rudder with thickened epoxy. This means we had to get the rudder into position, drive home the bolts attaching the rudder to the post, and tighten everything up within the working time of the epoxy, about 25 minutes. Of course the last bolt didn’t quite want to go, I don’t quite remember the sequence of everything from the haze of stress and chemical fumes, but significant amounts of brute force were applied and everything did finally go where it was supposed to. All that’s left is to fill in the holes and glass around the stock and the rudder will be FINISHED.

I think I’m trying to give a thumbs up

It ain’t perfect- there’s a few little things that will probably bug me for a bit, but it is robust and I’m reasonably confident it will steer the boat.

A neat addition that one of the previous owners made was a bushing/bearing that fits down into the rudder-post-shaft that is then covered with a metal collar…you can’t see the bushing in these pictures, but it prevents water from shooting up the rudder post shaft and into the cockpit if there’s a bit of a chop running.

Let’s see what else…found some flares buried in a locker in the boat

Pretty cool. They’re all expired so I guess I’ll take the kayak into the middle of the Rapp and test them out, that’s a good idea right?

Mostly I’ve been working on getting the deck prepped for painting, everything has been cleaned, sanded, painted with epoxy, and had fairing compound applied.

Everything needs to get cleaned and sanded one more time, then we’ll be ready to paint!

Many books on seamanship stress the need for orderliness aboard ship. A place for everything and everything in it’s place. Many skilled craftsman feel a tidy shop is the calling card of a professional. I do not fall into these categories. In college, my roommate and I won a campus-wide contest for the dirtiest room.

I should probably be embarrassed by this

I like to have all of my tools instantly accessible, by having them strewn about in haphazard fashion.

This is the living room during the rudder build. Hopefully the landlords don’t read my blog.

Supposedly Einstein said that if a messy desk is the sign of a messy mind, then what is an empty desk indicative of? Who am I to argue with Einstein? At any rate, I allowed the boat to get completely out of control, and Ryan was having none of it, so she came out and helped me clean and organize. It’s much, much better.

With everything cleaned and organized, the interior feels much closer to being complete. We’re hitting the Annapolis boat show next weekend in search of a composting toilet, halyards and running rigging, and a few other sundries. Progress!


Still in a bit of a holding pattern for temps to warm up a bit, did some spring cleaning and burned a bunch of scrap from the rudder build… I never did tally the total number of mock-ups I ended up making. Let’s just say I enjoyed burning them. I replaced the diaphragm and the flapper valves on the bilge pump while watching the fire die down.

The interior of boat warms up pretty good over the course of the day, so last time I was out there I finished up some awkwardly located ‘glasswork. The effort required to take these selfies was clearly not worth it.

This year on Mother’s Day Weekend Ryan and I will be joining family and friends at the Race for the Cure to celebrate my mother in law, a two-time, 17 year survivor of breast cancer. If you feel so inclined, we’re raising some money for breast cancer research over yonder, thanks! Walk This Way for Renee!

Sander Hand

A state in the extremities caused by prolonged exposure to high-frequency vibrations, characterized by a pins and needles sensation in the phalanges, reduced fine motor control, and cognitive impairment.

The next major project is repainting the deck, I’ve got everything prepped for an epoxy coat, just waiting on some warmer weather. After scrubbing the deck and sanding everything with 60 grit, I realized that I will have sanded just about every inch of the boat, inside and out, twice or more by the time we launch. I’m really sick of sanding.

In the meantime I’ve knocked out some little odd jobs- I switched out the cockpit drain thru hull hose for one a bit larger, which fits very snugly and does not leak. I fixed the cabin sole hatch thingy…

The hatch sits on two wood ledges that were previously held in place with gorilla glue, I think. A few weeks back I stepped on the hatch and busted right through the cabin sole! So that is now properly affixed.

I cut out the last section of the counter-top, which will also be the top stair of the companionway ladder…

If the bracing looks asymmetric, that’s because it is. I left room for the sink, which is currently not-procured, and therefore of unknown dimensions.

There’s a biiiiiiiit of a gap at that back corner, but I’m gonna blame that on Pearson. My cuts are square. Ish.

Finally, the old manual bilge pump stopped bilgeing. It seems like there’s an issue with the seals, so I ordered a rebuild kit for “THE GUZZLER,” and I think we’ll be in business.