Update on 2013 Plans

In early January I posted my list of goals for 2013. I figured I would look back at them and see how I am doing this year. So here is how I am doing:

  • Get the sailboat in the water and go sailing: Done… we got the boat in the water last week.
  • Build an island for the kitchen: Nearly finished. I glued up the top this weekend, and am in the process of sanding it.
  • Build two larger woodworking projects: I’m going wait until after the island is done.
  • Get garage ready for the wedding this summer: Not yet complete.
  • Ride bike into work more often than last year: Too early to tell.
  • Finish painting the outside of the house: We are making progress, but too early to tell.
  • Continue organizing the workshop: Making progress, but it is a continoous process.
  • Build a wooden hand plane: Not done.
  • Go camping with the boys: Not done.
  • (added very recently) – finish repairs to Will’s room: Nearly done – he is back in his room, but I need to finish the wiring and window frame.
  • and of course… get married to Susanna: Still planned.


Completed 7-inch square trivets (two from walnut and one from possible maple)
Completed 7-inch square trivets (two from walnut and one from possible maple)

I decided to do a quick project in the workshop with the boys today (and Will’s friend who was over for the afternoon). I had worked with Will yesterday to mill some (what I think is) maple to make trivets. And today, after I figured how easy they were to make, I pulled a scrap piece of walnut out of the wood pile for an additional three trivets.

I get the idea from one of the many woodworking books I have. The plans called for stopped groves made on a router table. I had a 1/2″ straight bit for the router and I tried to make one following the plans yesterday. The router bit is terrible, and it left the wood in terrible shape (so that one will go to the fire pit).

That of course made me head inside and look for a better router bit online. For $70 I could get a nice solid carbide spiral bit. But then I would have to wait to finish the project. And I would have to spend $70 on a bit to make a handful of simple trivets. Which would change the cost per trivet from nearly free (scrap lumber) to something more than nearly free. Though a nice spiral bit would be good to have in the shop… but I sat on my hands and didn’t get the bit.

I thought about it for a while, and realized, that if I changed the design, that I could easily cut 1/2-inch dadoes using the table saw (they would be through dadoes vice stopped). It took longer to switch blades than to cut all the trivets. The boys and I then sanded them. A 3/8″ piece of wood with adhesive sandpaper clamped in the face vice made quick work of cleaning up the inside of the dadoes. After sanding, the trivets were finished with butcher block finish (wax/oil mixture), and are all set for use.  We made a total of six trivets in all. I think the entire project took less than 2 hours (including the first screw-up with the router bit).  Susanna even used one with dinner tonight.

Overall, I am pretty happy with the project. Next time, I will have to be careful measuring the spacing between the dadoes – on a couple it is obvious that the spacing isn’t even. But for very little effort, and a chance to get the boys in the workshop – it was perfect. Maybe we will make some more sometime – anyone want to buy trivets?

Not a bad quick project for a Saturday afternoon. Of course I had to spend some more time in the shop making wood guns for the boys. Luckily, a couple of months ago I milled up a dozen boards that are the perfect thickness/width for making play swords/guns.

Friday morning (Finally)

Wow, it has been a busy week.  We had lots of activities planned for every day. And today is our day to rest. Will is up early, playing on his iPhone. I’m waiting for the coffee to finish brewing and will head out to the front porch to enjoy the morning.

It is foggy and damp this morning. I love the smells and sounds in the early morning. It almost seems as if the world had been washed clean overnight, and is waiting for the sunlight to dry out. That is one of the things I love about camping – it forces you outside into the morning as soon as you wake up. At home, it is too easy to stay inside and miss the entire morning.

Today we will just do nothing until after lunch. The only thing that the boys have to do is write about their spring break on their blogs. I’ll probably get bored sitting around and head out and pick up the workshop, but not until later. And we will be quiet to let Susanna and Ben sleep in as late as they want.


Our O'Day 22 sailboat in the Thames river for the first time
Our O’Day 22 sailboat in the Thames river for the first time

Our sailboat has spent many years, first sitting next to the garage in Ledyard, and then (mostly) inside our garage here in Preston. I got the sailboat before William was born, so it has been sitting around for over 10 years. Getting the boat in the water has been one of those great ideas. But for so many years, it has been just a dream. I loved thinking about sailing. I even loved working on the boat, but after a while, it would get old, and I would lose momentum on fixing it up.

Something always came in the way. First it was kids – it is a crazy change in how much free time disappears after kids (but it is well worth it). And then a second kid.  It sat through a move, a divorce and my own ADHD. And pieces and parts that I had taken off wandered away, lost in all the transitions, and the trailer rusted away under it.

Will and Ben (and Panda) enjoying the day
Will and Ben (and Panda) enjoying the day

I wanted to get it in the water last summer. But of course summer got in the way. There is always lots to do in the summer. And I’m not good at finishing things. Certainly not good at finishing things when there are lots of distractions (like in the summer). But I was able to get the trailer fixed last year.

So, this year I decided to pick a date to put the boat in the water. The boat didn’t have to be perfect. It had to float. Enough of the hardware had to be reinstalled or replaced to get it sailing.  The trailer had to make the 10 mile trip to the launch and back.

My goal was to get it in the water on the 17th of April if the weather supported it. And, yesterday, I made that goal. We launched the boat near the head of the Thames river in Groton, CT. The boat launch is directly under the I-95 bridge over the river. We then motored under the railroad bridge (with a couple foot clearance for the mast) and put up the jib and sailed out towards Pine Island.

The weather was perfect for a first sail. The wind was very light – perfect for a first try. We didn’t have anywhere in particular to go, so we could just slowly move along. It is also very early in the season, so there was almost no traffic on the river (a couple of passing ferries, and an outbound submarine with coast guard escort).

Susanna and I enjoying our sail
Susanna and I enjoying our sail

After reaching Pine Island we headed for Ledge Light and then back up the river. The wind was heading directly downriver and was light. I had a lot of trouble trying to get the boat to move upwind at all – something I’ll have to work on. Eventually we gave up and started the outboard and motored the rest of the way in.

The light wind and bright sun made the ride warm and enjoyable. I had been worried that everyone would freeze on a mid-April outing.

Of course, a couple of things learned from the day out:

  • Stepping, launching, retrieving and unstepping the mast is a lot of work. I think we will try to find a place to keep the boat in the water for a month or two this summer.
  • The mainsail is in pretty rough shape. I’ll need to replace it before next season, but I want to figure out how to best use the headsails this year, so I won’t worry too much about the main.
  • We need a long dock line for launching the boat. The 20′ dock lines are a bit too short.
  • The cabin needs to be better organized. That is Susanna’s job.
  • A couple more cleats would make life easier topside.
  • I’ll need a way of telling how fast we are going if I am to ever figure out how best use the sails.
  • Before we go to sea again, I’ll reinstall the life lines. Not a big problem on a day like yesterday, but it will make everyone more comfortable going forward.
  • We need a curtain to give some privacy to the porta-toilet.
New London Harbor and Pine Island
New London Harbor and Pine Island

Spring Break!!

The boys are on spring break this week. And finally, it seems that the spring weather is here.

I am on vacation all week. However, Susanna still has school this week – so it isn’t really a vacation for everyone.  But, even with Susanna in school, we have a busy week planned. I’ll need a vacation to rest after this week.

Getting ready to try out their new kayaks
Getting ready to try out their new kayaks

This morning the boys and I ran errands (while Susanna ran her errands) – which included hair cuts for all of us (and a surprising long wait to get our hair cut) and dropping off recycling.

This afternoon I took the boys down the road to one of the local boat launches on an inlet off of the Thames river. They both had saved their allowances and purchased kayaks earlier this year.  They were very excited to try them out.

It isn’t summer yet, and the weather was only in the low 60s today, and the water is very cold, so not a good day to swim. They both wore a wetsuit (shorty wetsuits) and several layers of clothes to keep them warm. Luckily the inlet was protected from the wind (and current of the river), so they could explore without freezing.

The kayaks are perfect for them. They are light enough that they can work together and carry them. They are also short enough to fit inside the sailboat (though barely). The only problem is that the paddles aren’t the best. I will probably glue them together – they kept rotating on the boys which made it hard to paddle for a long time. But what do you expect for $100 (including shipping).

Will and Ben kayaking.
Will and Ben kayaking.

Tomorrow we are planning on putting the sailboat in the water (I’ll keep my fingers crossed). It seems that the boat is ready, or rather, as ready as it will get this year. I have the mast down and tied for transport.

Tomorrow morning I have to get the last few things put together on the boat, and will head down to the boat launch just before lunch. Will and Ben will help step the mast, and hopefully we will enjoy a short sail to Pine Island. Though, looking at the forecast, we may have to motor to Pine Island (not much wind forecast for the afternoon). Either way, I’m hoping to enjoy the day.

A great day

Will enjoying the day from the roof outside his window while Susanna takes a break from painting
Will enjoying the day from the roof outside his window while Susanna takes a break from painting

It feels like spring is finally here. The weather was much warmer this weekend (though today was a bit breezy). The sun was out yesterday (and some of today). We had a great weekend as a family.

The boys both had friends over this weekend. Will had a friend over on Friday, and Ben on Saturday. And Saturday afternoon the boy next door came over for a while.

Today we went to my friend Mark’s house. He changed the pads and rotors on the front brakes of the Volvo. The boys and Susanna visited the baby (and the chickens). We will be getting four chickens from them early in the summer.

This evening I am listening to Susanna play some Bob Dylan on her computer while she types on her blog. It is nice to sometimes just sit and reflect on the day.

Looking like a sailboat

The mast raised - looking like a sailboat now!!
The mast raised – looking like a sailboat now!!

I got the mast up today. Finally! After a complete a$$ kicking last time, I took time to plan raising this mast. And I only dropped it once. And no one got hurt and nothing was broken.

So it’s not a one person job to step the mast yet. I don’t think it would be difficult to modify the system to allow me to raise it by myself, but for now, I am okay with it being a two person job raising the mast.

I built a mast support at the aft end of the cockpit. I used the two gudgeons that I had ordered to keep the mast support from falling down. I take the mainsail halyard and run it to the winch on the trailer. I had Will winch up the mast as I walked it up from the cockpit.

It is way too windy today to even attempt to put up any of the sails, and I have the jib halyard tangled up in the standing rigging (I’ll fix that when I take the mast down next time.

We confirmed that the masthead light worked tonight. The boys are getting pretty excited about sailing.

I still have to get the outboard motor out and make sure it is working. I also have to put the last toe rail on and clean up the inside of the boat. And the final step is to put the lights on the trailer. Of course it has been a bit cold and windy – not to promising to put the boat in the water in 10 days. But we will see.

The mast support installed. I will probably add another support lower on the post for storage of the mast.
The mast support installed. I will probably add another support lower on the post for storage of the mast.

A couple of lessons learned from today:

  • The boys are both surprisingly good helpers when it comes to attaching the deck hardware. It is easiest if I have them inside the boat with a wrench while I tighten the fasteners from topside.
  • Ben is a champ, he won’t stop working even after he draws blood when he scrapes his hand or after hitting his head on a sharp corner (not drawing blood, but hurting a lot I’m sure).

… and there was light

New switch panel installed in the boat (below the starboard settee)
New switch panel installed in the boat (below the starboard settee)

Okay, so my labors in repairing the sailboat are nothing compared to that of creation. Nor is the labor close to that of slaying the Nemean Lion  However, it is one of my longest unfinished projects, so finishing any of the tasks to get the boat into the water is a big accomplishment for me.

Then again, a 40 year old boat is probably never a finished project.

Today I created light. Well, at least I hooked up lights. I installed the new switch panel and battery. I had run new wires to the bow light and the interior cabin lights. I tied in the old wiring to the stern light and the masthead light. I turned on the switch, and there was light.

All the lights have either LED bulbs or are low draw bulbs (such as the masthead light). The battery I have is a 35Ah AGM battery. It isn’t nearly as big as most boat batteries, but I figure we won’t be using that much power. And there is room to put another battery the same size next to the current one.

The battery sits on a wood (plywood) platform on wooden supports that I fiberglassed onto the hull. I have a strap holding the battery down to the platform.

rear of switch panel (installed). The battery is on the left side of the picture
rear of switch panel (installed). The battery is on the left side of the picture

The switch panel was made from sapele and has 6 circuits, each with independent fuse holders under the switches.

I used round panel mount switches and panel mount fuse holders. A couple of lessons learned:

  • Use good components. I got cheap fuse holders, and I hate them. The good ones I picked up from Defender were well worth the couple of bucks I spent on them.
  • I couldn’t find a good source of high quality switches, so I ordered them off of eBay. Get spares. The quality isn’t always the best – I found one of my switches arrived broken, and don’t have a spare.
  • I’ll probably add a dedicated USB charger one of these days (before any long days out).
  • The wood panel is much thicker than the panel mount hardware is able to handle. I needed to drill out a recess behind the fuse holders so I could thread the nut to hold them in. I should have drilled recesses behind every hole prior to drilling the holes. The switches would have snapped in better if I had a recess behind their holes. As it is, I had to use a drop of epoxy to keep the switches from rotating and popping out.
  • I used all 16ga wire. I probably could have gotten by with using 18ga wire for all the lights, but it wouldn’t have saved much money anyway.
  • I think I would try to put the negative bus bar and the terminal block strip on the same side of the panel. Right now the positive connection for each circuit is at the forward end of the panel, and the negative bus on the aft end. That makes the cabling a little messier.

The switch panel is relatively simple. The to cables from the battery go to a double bus bar. All the negatives return directly to the negative bus. All the switched circuits go from the positive bus to the fuse holder, and then to the switch. From each switch I ran a wire to a terminal block strip. That allows me to build the entire switch panel in the workshop, and just connect each load to the appropriate terminal block (and negative bus on the other side of the panel).

Since the switches are lighted, I also needed a negative from each switch to the negative of the battery. The negative terminals for each switch are connected in a daisy chain back to the negative bus.

Currently the only electrical connections in the boat are the navigation lights, a pair of interior dome lights and a single 12V outlet.

In addition to making light, I was able to make progress on some other boat projects. Susanna helped me install two more toe rails (I have one left to complete). The boys and I made a run to the Defender warehouse to pick up some more hardware (a couple of shackles and padeyes) as well as pick up Ben a short sleeve wetsuit.  Both boys saved their allowances and purchased sit-on-top kayaks (I won’t complain, it is better than spending it on electronics, and we were able to find them for a steal online). The kayaks should show up in two weeks, so I figured getting some warmer water clothes may be good for this spring.

I am also making a plan on how to step the mast without killing myself. I ordered two parts from Nautos to help make the supports I need, a pair of nylon gudgeons:

Nylon gudgeons to be used in making a mast support/raising system.
Nylon gudgeons to be used in making a mast support/raising system.

More on that project when I finish it…. Hopefully tomorrow.

(Almost) Raising the mast

View of the boat from the bow. Needs the mildew cleaned off, but most of the topside hardware is installed
View of the boat from the bow. Needs the mildew cleaned off, but most of the topside hardware is installed

So, I couldn’t get it up this evening. No not that… This is a (mostly) family friendly blog.  I tried to step the mast tonight after work, but couldn’t get it all the way up. The standing rigging isn’t adjusted properly, and it was too cold (and dinner time) to spend much time playing around adjusting the rigging.

Plus it is a bitch to step the mast (okay, so not so family friendly tonight).  I need a better system for raising the mast. I’ll have to build some sort of support to put on the stern of the boat to help raise the mast. Maybe use one of the halyards to help pull the mast up once it is part way up.

I’m getting close to getting the boat ready for the water. The goal is still April 17th. But not if it is still this cold.

We had a tease of warm weather this Saturday. But only a tease. This week has been back to cold and windy. However, I can tell that spring is coming. The evenings are cold, but not bitter cold.

I was able to get a lot finished on Saturday. Mark came over to work in the woodshop and brought his 12-year old nephew to hang out. His nephew, Greg, was a huge help on the boat. One of the biggest pain in the a$$ is to get the bolts tightened on the topside hardware. It requires two people, one below and one topside. Will and Ben are a little too young to be helpful (and not very patient) and Susanna is super busy with school.

In a couple of hours we got most of the hardware reinstalled.

Sunday I installed the chainplate that had been removed for the fiberglass repair on the deck. I also removed the mast post and built a new one from sapele. The old one was pine and had rotted on the bottom. The sapele is much nicer looking. And heavier.

New chainplate installed on the starboard side.
New chainplate installed on the starboard side.

I’ve been working on rewiring the electrical system in the evenings this week. I hope to have the electrical finished this weekend. I have to still install the toe rails, but that needs adult help to get installed – hopefully I can talk Susanna into taking time this weekend to help some more (she already put in an hour or so this week helping with the toe rails).

I also need to figure out how to step the mast without killing myself. Or breaking the boat.  I’ll post more pictures of each project as I make progress.