Bucking the system one sunset at a time!

Beat Down (but not Out)

We came. We started. We quit.

I successfully bamboozled two buddies into helping me sand off the old and flaking bottom paint from the boat. After about 1 1/2 hours of futile labor, we successfully quit. That job is for the birds… we made nearly zero progress. We did, however, make a giant mess. My best estimate is that there are 1,923 layers of anti-fouling paint on the boat, and they were likely applied with some sort of space-age miracle adhesive and a medieval curse. I’m gonna need a Plan B, a wrecking ball and maybe a fire-breathing dragon.

This is what failure looks like.

This is what failure looks like.

Sure, we could have kept at it. And, eventually, we would have removed all of the paint. However, we ain’t got that kind of time – we’re supposed to leave in 2015. In fact, I called the sandpaper manufacturers to request a quote for an appropriate amount of sanding disks, and they said that if they could dedicate their entire production to me, I should have product in hand by the fall of 2031, +/- a day or two. Yep, I’m gonna have to re-think this.

I have a few options here. The two that have percolated to the top of my wee little brain are chemical stripping and soda blasting. From what I’ve read, chemical stripping is a nasty, filthy and only pseudo-effective method of stripping bottom paint – and I’d probably still have to sand off the last bits of evil. Soda blasting is just like sand blasting except you use Orange Fanta instead of sand. However, soda blasting is purported to be an entirely effective and expensive method. It’s got to be good if it’s expensive. I don’t know how many 2-liter bottles of Fanta would be required to strip a 38′ sailboat of 4 inches of bottom paint, but I could probably save a few pennies by using store brand pop.

Of course, if I can talk my buddies into helping me with the chemical stripping, it should be fairly easy to convince them to once again pick-up the sanders to finish the job… particularly once they’re in a toxic-fume induced delirium.

Those that have gone before me… what do you suggest? Keep in mind that I’m on a budget and currently have a good rapport with my dentist.

Blue Racoon

Blue Raccoon (aka Stupid Bottom Paint)


Help us decide which anchors to take on our voyage. Head over to our anchor poll page and cast your votes! Also, write a haiku and trash Congress while you’re there!

Teach a Man to Fish

“Teach a man to hammer and he will likely hit himself in the face. However, if you give a man a hammer and stuff him into the forepeak, he’ll bust out 300 lbs. of lead ballast so you don’t have to. “

- Ken Ferrari

Mantus Anchor

Mantus Anchor

Anchoring a boat is serious business. Once you decide upon a place to drop your anchor, you want it to stay put until you’re ready to leave. Dragging is a drag. For a few reasons, lying to an all-chain rode is generally more secure than the more commonly used chain/nylon rope combination. Here are just a few reasons why:

  1. chain is less susceptible to chafe from coral and debris
  2. chain weighs a LOT more than nylon; therefore it lies on the bottom and pulls the anchor horizontally and deeper – instead of pulling it up and out of the sand/mud/rocks
  3. chain allows you to use less scope so your swing radius is less

Our boat was designed to carry an all-chain anchor rode, but few of them actually do. The Morgan Yacht Company realized that most owners of the Morgan 382 would be sailing in protected waters and therefore would only anchor occasionally and for short periods of time. If the weather was forecast to get nasty, sailors could simply head back to the safety of their slip. Why carry an expensive, heavy and cumbersome anchor setup if you don’t need it? However, because the 382 was designed to carry an all-chain rode, the boat will not float on her lines without the weight of chain in the bow. To compensate for funky-floating, the builders installed 300 lbs. of lead pucks in a hidden compartment under the v-berth.

Since we are going to be living “on the hook” all of the time, we will get whatever weather and bottom-type happens to be in the anchorage. We need the most secure anchor setup that we can get. That means chain. About 250-300 feet of it. We’re also installing a heavy electric anchor windlass, because I’m pretty certain that Ludi will refuse to drag all of that chain aboard by hand while I’m busy drinking Mai Tai’s in the cockpit.  I can’t have a mutiny! Guess what the combined weight of 250′ of chain and a windlass weighs? You got it… about 300 lbs.

Mess of Resin

Mess of Resin

That means the lead weight had to go! Unfortunately, all 60 of the 5 lb. lead ingots were encased in a giant glob of hardened resin and would have to be chipped out manually. Not a fun job, particularly if you’re the one doing it. That’s where it pays to have gullible friends. Luckily, I’m blessed with a few of them. All you have to do is hand them a big hammer and a chisel, forcibly stuff them into a small space and say that there is a shiny toy hidden underneath the gooey pile of caramel. Problem solved. It only took Chris about 5 hours of backbreaking labor and one smashed appendage to bust all 60 of those pucks free. As for the shiny toy? I told him that he could select any one piece of the resulting rubble to keep.  It’s a win/win!

What was I doing while Chris pounded his way through 300 lbs. of lead and flying shards of razor sharp pieces of resin? Why, I was supervising, of course. Also, somebody had to study the electrical panel wiring. And that is dangerous work, too – especially if there is power applied to the panel. It’s a good thing I unplugged it first.

Now, back to those Mai Tai’s!

Is it just me, or does he look pissed?

Is it just me, or does he look pissed?

Finger Dexterity Required

Finger Dexterity Required

Curious George

Curious George

Pile of Shiny Toys

Pile of Shiny Toys

Doesn't this look miserable?

Doesn’t this look miserable?

I'll be exchanging this for some recycling cash.

I’ll be exchanging this for some recycling cash.

All It’s Cracked Up To Be

Refitting an old boat is the perfect enterprise for practicing the art of anger suppression. It is also a VERY good activity for refining your usage of swear words. I can arrange expletives so deftly that you’d think I was delivering an X-rated commencement address to a graduating class of one-legged pole-dancers. Seriously, I’ve stabbed myself in the hand with a rusty screwdriver with nary a complaint. I’ve spilled the contents of a 30-year old manual toilet pump all over myself and giggled like a schoolgirl. Why, I’ve smacked myself in the face with a hammer so hard my eye turned purple; I still sat through meetings the following day like there was nothing unusual about my face.

All of this in preparation for the following.

I went to the boat over the weekend to test-fit some new gear and to take measurements for our new Tides Marine Sail Track (thanks to our awesome sponsor, Tides Marine). While I did perform a cursory inspection of the mast shortly after I pulled it several weeks ago, I haven’t had the time to really “dig in” to a full inspection. Unfortunately, as I was pulling the tape measure along the mast, something unusual caught my eye. Something not good. Something not good at all.

My mast is cracked. Yup. That giant stick I so carefully plucked out of the boat a few weeks ago? It’s cracked. What does this mean? It means that there is a crack. In the frickin’ mast! For my non-sailing readers… masts aren’t supposed to have cracks in them. Heck, masts aren’t even supposed to have hairline cracks. Sho ’nuff. Right where the lower shrouds attach to the mast. Cracked. What a bummer! I believe that it’s repairable. More correctly, I want to believe that it’s repairable, because buying a new mast is definitely not in the budget!

Here is the thing. I didn’t get mad. I didn’t even swear. In fact, if I reacted at all, it was more along the lines of, “Of course there is a crack in the mast.” I just finished taking my measurements and drove home… even stayed within the speed limit. I then updated my “expense” spreadsheet with a few numbers… followed by a few zeroes. Finally, I tore up my resignation letter because me thinks it needs some serious editing.

Luckily, winter is almost here. I love winter.


The Few

An orange glow from the outdated carpet fills my vision as I force open my eyelids. I rub my eyes and gaze around the room from the couch where I’ve slept for the last five weeks. Empty beer cans, pizza boxes, crumpled cigarette packages and red plastic cups litter the floor. Discarded reminders from last night’s party – one in an endless stream of all-nighters since I graduated from high school last year. A stranger is sleeping in the fetal position in one corner of the room. His Judas Priest concert t-shirt is nearly torn from his back, and he is bleeding from a fresh wound on his left knee.

The stifling heat and my sweat dampened shirt tell me that the sun rose hours ago. My mornings haven’t started before noon for well over a year. Today is no different. I swing my feet to the floor, stretch and light a cigarette. I have a splitting headache, and my mouth is so dry I can barely swallow. Just once it would be nice to wake up without a hangover, but I don’t dare back out of a party for fear of public ridicule.

It doesn’t matter what day it is – not that I could remember anyway. I’ve been willingly unemployed for months and have nowhere to be. I cannot remember why I quit my last job. Most likely because it was Wendy’s. Flipping burgers, going home smelling like grease, working evenings… any complaint was a good enough reason for me to leave a job. How many jobs have I left in the past year? I can’t remember. The jobs in this dying town aren’t worth staying at anyway.

The kitchen is in worse condition than the living room. The sink is overflowing with dirty dishes. Macaroni and cheese is drying in a pot on the stovetop. The floor is wet with spilled beer, and the entire house smells like a bar. My god, who lives like this? I rummage through the fridge looking for something cold to quench my thirst. Cherry Kool-Aid. That will do just fine. I walk outside in my bare feet and sit on the concrete steps of the trailer.

I light another cigarette and scan the trailer park. It looks different today for some reason. The underpinning is missing from well over half of the trailers. I hadn’t noticed that before. Did we do that in our drunken stupor last night? The grass is knee-high in some yards while others are bare of any groundcover. How many of the neighborhood cars actually run? Most have flat tires. Or no tires. It’s not like their owners need them anyway. Most of them are unemployed, too.

My old man has been on my case for months to do something with myself. Get a job. Go to school. Join the military. He doesn’t care, but it kills him to watch me waste my life away partying. None of those things felt that important to me. Fun was the only thing that mattered. Until recently.

The above story is true. All of it. It describes the state of my life twenty-two years ago. While I was having loads of fun, I wasn’t going anywhere. I wasn’t doing anything. Granted, I was a kid, but sooner or later we all have to grow up. That is what I decided to do that day while I sat smoking on those steps. That was the day I decided to join the United States Marine Corps. It was a decision that would forever alter the course of my life.

The next day I was in a car with Corporal Coffee. He had driven nearly two hours to pick me up. I had long hair and was likely hungover when we walked into the St. Charles, MO recruiting station. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I sobered up quickly enough when I met Gunny Foster. The Marine Corps mascot is a bulldog named Chesty, and Gunny looked just like him. He was short, ugly, packed solid with muscle, and he growled when he spoke. He had a wad of chewing tobacco in his lip and even drooled a little. Just like a dog. Everything about Gunny screamed Marine. He had a foul mouth. A horseshoe haircut. Tattoos carved into his thick forearms. He was a bad dude.

Gunny was talking with another potential recruit when Corporal Coffee escorted me into the office. The kid was a mess. Skinny and frail. Coke-bottle glasses. His neck extended straight down to his elbows – bypassing his non-existent shoulders. Squirrelly. I couldn’t say much given my appearance that day, but this kid didn’t look like Marine Corps material to me. Apparently Gunny agreed because a few seconds later he picked up the phone and dialed. He grunted something into the receiver and hung up. A few minutes later an Air Force recruiter walked into the office. Gunny told the kid he should go with him, and he did.

Gunny Foster didn’t have to do too much recruiting with me. He asked me why I was sitting in his office, and I told him I wanted to enlist. I said that I could be ready to go within a week. Stone-faced,  Gunny responded by asking if there was anything wrong with me that would make my dick fall off. Seriously. That is what he asked me. I told him that I didn’t think so. He then pulled out some paperwork for me to sign, and that was pretty much it. I had just “joined” the Marine Corps.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I gained another a family that day. An untold number of new brothers and sisters. A family comprised of the best friends I’ve had before or since. A family that grows each time I meet a fellow Marine. Not a day has passed since I got out that I don’t think about my time serving. Not a day has passed where I don’t think of the people I served with and how I miss them dearly. I got out of the Marine Corps over sixteen years ago, but in my heart I never left.

“Once a Marine, Always a Marine.”

Today is the 239thbirthday of the United States Marine Corps. All around the world, Marines young and old will come together to celebrate what makes us special. If you know a Marine, make sure to tell him/her “Happy Birthday.” We might be 239 years old, but we never tire of hearing it!

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