Busy, Busy Weekend

I was hoping that things would slow down with the end of summer break and Izzy back at school. It didn’t feel like it today. Susanna is quarantined until early next week, so I get to run the show for the weekend. I’m trying to finish off a not so major, but really needs to be done, house project; I’m replacing the roof over the sun porch. I’m also watching Izzy and trying to keep the house somewhat clean. I recognize that it is too easy to get wrapped up in doing chores and projects and forget to enjoy life. I don’t think I did a good job balancing chores with fun over the past year, and I’m trying to do better.

Isabella and Hoagie in a rare moment of calm onboard the large paddle board.

This morning I focused on chores . I changed the oil in my car, did a bit of cleaning around the house, assisted Izzy in cleaning her room, and ran to Home Depot to get more roofing supplies. But the afternoon was set aside for some family fun. Of course with Susanna being sick, and Will out for the day, family fun was just for Izzy, Hoagie and me.

Izzy waiting to jump in the lake while Hoagie just tries to figure out what is going on.

I loaded up Will’s tandem paddle board and life jackets and we headed to Amos Lake here in Preston. We inflated the board and pointed the bow out into the lake and I paddled. It was only my second time on a paddle board, but the tandem is so wide, that stability wasn’t a problem, even with Hoagie wandering around. The board is just very slow, but we didn’t really have a destination. Isabella eventually found the courage to jump in the lake, but Hoagie never really relaxed.

Isabella swimming next to an adequately stressed Hoagie.

The weather was nice; sunny and nearly 70 and the lake was pretty warm. We got home by early afternoon. Izzy was able to head across the street to play, and I was able to get an hour working on the roof.

Tomorrow, Will is taking Izzy to The Connecticut Renaissance Faire and I’ll try to get some more time to work on the roof.

Saturday morning on the water.

Today we spent a family day on the water. Will and I had launched his boat earlier this year for a trial run and didn’t hurt anyone, sink the boat or run into anything. The boat had been out of the water for a while getting some painting and maintenance done, and not sinking at the dock was an improvement over the first time we launched the boat, so it was a successful relaunch. The sail earlier this summer wasn’t without issues, and we learned a lot of lessons; mainly about rigging the boat on the trailer. Today’s launch was much smoother. But we forgot some things, so the plan will be to make a checklist before the next outing.

Underway under a light breeze in the Thames River, New London, CT. Picture by Susanna Curtis

Susanna and Will had tried paddle boarding after she had returned home from Sweden and both had enjoyed it. Will picked up a used board and we got Susanna a new board this week. We brought Susanna’s board with us to the launch and we all headed out into the Thames as a group. We launched from the New London boat ramp (the Groton ramp is closed this season). There was almost no wind, so we all drifted towards Long Island Sound with the ebb tide. Susanna paddled circles around us, Isabella swapped between the boat and the paddle board, and I even took a try on the paddle board.

Susanna and Isabella leading the slow drift downriver with the tide.

The wind picked up around lunch time and we slowly sailed back up to the launch, towing Susanna (and Izzy) behind on the paddle board. Once we got upriver of the launch we let Susanna go and she paddled back to the dock, apparently falling in once (which we all missed). We recovered the boat, stepped the mast and returned home by mid-afternoon after a successful day on the water.

Isabella digging ice cubes from the cooler.

We drifted as far south as Electric Boat before the breeze started and we were able to head back upriver towards the Interstate 95 bridge and the boat launch. We sailed past the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival in New London and saw a few sailboats out in the light breeze and a few more powerboats and ferries and three US Navy security boats returning to the base. Overall it was a quiet day on the water without much traffic.

Towing Susanna upriver against the outgoing tide. Electric Boat in the background.

Another quick workshop project (hand plane storage)

It was way too hot and humid to climb on the porch roof and work on the house tonight, so I decided to finish another very quick workshop project and use up some of the cherry I pulled out for the chisel rack. I built a shelf for my No 2. smooth plane. The nice thing is that I used the No. 2 plane to smooth the lumber after milling.

No. 2 smooth plane on it’s new shelf

The shelf is made from cherry with a piece of what I think is likely teak for the front edge. The teak is reclaimed from an old boat project that Ben and I started years ago and never finished (and eventually cut up the boat and disposed of it). I reinforced the glue joints with 1/8″ brass rod. The whole project was finished with shellac and a final coat of wax.

Shelf installed above the new chisel rack

I have some more space above the chisels, so will make a few more over the next few days. I’ll laser engrave a label on the front of the shelf for the next one; I didn’t think of it until I had already glued on the edge trim on this project.

A quick workshop project finished (chisel rack)

Tonight I finished a quick workshop project, my upgraded chisel rack. I had previously milled the cherry rack and back board, and cut the slots for the chisels in the rack. Tonight, I finished the groove and attached the rack to the back board. After the glue dried, I finished the project with two quick coats of spray shellac and let it dry for an hour or so. I removed the old rack and installed the new one. The English mortise chisel (pig sticker) doesn’t fit properly in the rack, but it works for now (2nd from right on the picture below).

I have the other half of the cherry board still; I just have to figure out what I want to build with it. Maybe a second chisel rack to allow me to grow my collection of chisels. It is a bit of a sad collection of chisels at this point and not a very coordinated set. But it matches my ADHD (I have Japanese and western style chisels, just in case I get bored with one style). I just need more.

Chisel rack installed. My new saw till is hanging on the right side of the picture.

Hike, house projects and a new donut shop

Today finished up the first of for weekends with Susanna and Isabella away in Sweden. But, with Ben over for the week, it isn’t as quiet as I suspect the next few will be.

We started our day with a visit to a new donut shop, Dixie Donuts. My friend, Mark, recommended it; it is much better than the usual Dunkin. To be fair, this morning wasn’t the first visit. Will and I stopped by there yesterday morning while we were out running errands before Ben came over.

Hewitt Farm, Stonington, CT

After our second breakfast, we headed to Stonington for a short hike at Hewitt Farm and the surrounding trails. It was a good chance to get Hoagie out for a walk and practice some off-leash training.

Will and Hoagie taking a water break at Hewitt Farm in Stonington

After lunch, Ben and I worked a bit on my summer house project, repairing the sun porch roof. I’m working on repairing the soffit and fascia on the main roof in the area directly above the sun porch. That lets me get all the work and wear and tear on the old roof before replacing it. The roof has been leaking for a while; I think the roof pitch is too shallow for the shingles. Today we scraped and washed a section of the upper exterior wall and main roof trim. It is an area that isn’t very visible, and we didn’t paint it when we repainted the house many years ago. Tomorrow I’ll prime the area we prepared and I’ll paint it later this week and move over to the next section of wall/trim to repair. I took the gutter off the upper roof, so I’ll have to figure out how to install one if one is needed for that section.

Chiseling a groove into the back board of the chisel rack.

This evening I milled the back board for the chisel rack that I started on Friday night. Again, I flattened the board by hand, but milled it to thickness on the planer. I jointed the first edge by hand, but didn’t have a good way to mark that wide of a width, so ripped it to width on the table saw. I marked out and started chiseling out the grove that will hold the rack (seen in the background). I’ll try to finish the piece tomorrow night after dinner. Ben and I are watching Westworld in the evenings this week, so I won’t get too much time in the shop.

Saturday Morning Photo Walk

This morning, Will, Izzy and I drove to the Connecticut College Arboretum for a short photo walk. It was warm and humid early which elicited complaints about the walk early on from Izzy. However, for the most part, she was good company and a somewhat willing model for pictures. Will focused on the wildlife, and I tried to get Izzy to at least not look too grumpy for pictures. She did take some pictures of me, but I had a manual focus lens on, so they didn’t turn out great.

Workshop Project – Saw Till

Saw Till – completed and hung

This morning I put the final finish coat on the Saw Till and hung it in the workshop. I made it from yellowheart lumber with some spare flooring milled for the back. I learned a few lessons from this project.

Yellowheart (Euxylophora paraensis) is hard to work with. It has a Janka Hardness of nearly 1800, so it is harder than Hard Maple and White Oak (1600 and 1350 lb Janka hardness respectively). It was certainly tough on the chisels, and the interlocking grain pattern made it difficult to plane. Next time I’ll stick to oak or cherry.

I also didn’t make the till tall enough for all my saws. The saw to the right of the till is about 1″ too long to properly fit on the till. I could probably still put it on the till; it wouldn’t fall out but would stick out the top.

Now to sharpen a few more saws and add them to my collection and figure out my next shop project (maybe improve my chisel storage).

Sailboat Project Day

I had the day (mostly) to myself today. Susanna and Izzy departed early this morning to go to New York for Swedish School and Will, for most of today, was busy doing his own things. I had carved out today to be a day to get back into restoring the sailboat. I’ve been working off and on (mostly off) ripping out wiring and patching some holes. Today I got back into restoring the deck. The old non-skid is shot, so I’m slowly sanding it off and my plan is to re-gelcoat the topside. I am using brushable gelcoat. It goes on thick and doesn’t level as well as paint does, but hopefully it will last another 40 years. The trick to getting it to look good is to sand a lot and then buff out the top after it cures.

Today’s project included removing the port side handrail and sanding that section of the cabin top. It was warm enough to apply the gelcoat, so I went through a bit more than half a quart on the bow. It is slow going. The gelcoat starts curing very quickly, so I don’t get a lot of time to work it and have to do a small section at a time. Hopefully it will all look good once I’m done sanding it out. Maybe it would be more efficient to prep the entire topside before gelcoating, but that isn’t really how my brain works (got to love ADHD).

Port side cabin top with the handrail removed.
Gelcoat applied to the bow and very front part of the cabin. I was able to get a second section done after this picture was taken (starboard bow to the front of the cabin.

I was also able to lay the final layers of fiberglass on a hole in the cockpit/cabin that I’m repairing. That will need a layer of fairing compound and a bunch more sanding before it is ready to gelcoat.

I was able to get a little time with Will to work on his boat. We worked on gelcoating his boat (we had done it a few years ago, but he decided he wants it white and not blue (the blue is way too hot on the sun). It was fun to get some time with him in the afternoon before he had friends over for the evening. Kevin Farrar (Farrar Sails, New London) is planning on coming by on Thursday evening to measure for rigging and possibly new sails.

The start of summer

Memorial Day weekend is the start of the crazy rush of a summer. In the past it has always felt sort of like getting on a water slide over Memorial Day weekend and everything is a rushed blur until you get dumped out the other side at Labor Day. This summer is setting up to be the same. Ben graduates High school in a few weeks. On the same day, Izzy has her last day of school and Susanna’s preschool class has graduation. Susanna’s parents are also scheduled to arrive in Preston that morning for a week visit.

Izzy marching in the Ledyard Memorial Day Parade
Isabela marching in the Ledyard Memorial Day Parade

A few days after Susanna’s parents depart, Izzy and I are starting our 10-ish day road trip to Missouri. It is a long road trip, but I’m letting her have an old phone for the trip. Part of the agreement is that she journal her trip, which she will do on her blog. After Missouri she has a two weeks of summer camp and then she and Susanna head to Sweden for 4 weeks. I’ll hang out here and hopefully get some sailing and camping in with the boys.

This weekend was a good start. Will and I did some work on his loft and picked up some much needed storage for his stuff. Our big house plans was to clean up the back yard and put the pool up; just in time for the 80+ degree sunny day today. Will has been collecting more animals, and caught a marbled salamander in our basement this morning; he is working on a habitat for it. I think eventually he will need to add small critter storage in the basement, but he’s not quite there yet.

Play house and sandbox – ready for the summer.

We finished off the weekend with a nice lunch at a friends house.

Isabella working on a puzzle before breakfast, Memorial Day 2022

Of course, every finished project leads to a new one. The swimming pool is galvanized steel and is showing some rust spots. Probably due to our acidic well water. I’ll have to find some way to protect the pool later this summer. Maybe vinylester gelcoat will stick to the steel.

And of course there is the long list of unfinished projects. the next project this afternoon is to get some more work on Will’s sailboat – assuming I have the energy to get working in the later afternoon heat.

Isabella testing out the swimming pool as it is slowly filled from the garden hose.

Getting on (and in) the water

I do realize that I’m a lot better at starting projects than finishing them. I have a 26′ sailboat that I am refurbishing, and it may wind up being just a project to work on and never a boat in the water. With that in mind, and the summer coming quickly, I decided that I needed something to get on the water. So, two weeks ago, I picked up a 7′ dinghy. It was small enough to fit in the back of the mini-van.

The new boat. It is ugly, but floats.

The boat was pretty ugly, but looked like it would float. I washed it and sanded and smoothed the bottom. I had a third of a can of gelcoat left from last summer that I used to paint the bottom (or most of the bottom). The big sailboat came with a larger dinghy that I’m just waiting to throw in the trash next time we get a dumpster, but it did have two sets of oars. I sanded the wooden oars and reinforced the blades with some fiberglass and epoxy. I topped it with a few coats of marine varnish. Not the nicest oars, but functional. They might be a touch too long for the boat, but the price was right.

This weekend Will and I decided to take Izzy and his dog, Hoagie, down to the Thames river and test out the boat. Izzy decided that she preferred swimming, and Hoagie preferred the shore, though he started having fun chasing splashes from Izzy swimming. We will make a swimmer of him one of these days. The only problem is he liked to drink the water, and I’m pretty sure it is brackish where we put in (not that I was going to taste it).

Izzy and me exploring the inlet on the Thames river.

The boat is really small, but it floats. Rowing was a pain, there isn’t much room to stretch your legs out when you are rowing and you have the tendency to hit your knees with the oars. Maybe shorter oars would help. Or maybe a trolling motor would make it more fun to explore (though I’d probably have to register it if I put a trolling motor on it). Maybe I’ll paint the sides later this summer if we have any gelcoat left from Will’s boat.

Next time I’ll try freshwater if we are bringing Hoagie. At least then he can drink the water. I canoe might be an even better bet for getting on the water, but enough boats (for now).