Shop Sitting

Having space to lay out our projects is a rare opportunity for us.

Dena in The Shop
Shop Keeper

When you live aboard, your home is your workshop until you turn it back into your home and vice versa. It’s a dynamic we’ve long since learned to live with, but it does mean that set-up time and clean-up time eat into project time pretty intensely.

Our friends Nancy and Glen are ex-pats living here on Ilha Terceira, Azores, Portugal. They are in the process of shutting down their lives in the US after six years of establishing residency and building a house with an incredible workshop here on the island. They had a whole bunch of family and property to deal with back in the states, so we’re house-sitting–or rather, shop-sitting–while they wrap things up back there on the crazy continent.

I (James) say shop-sitting because, well…

Gatolicious on the propulsion bay
We can’t leave gato alone!

We’re taking care of the house and checking the mail as well, but it’s not even tempting to sleep over. My (Dena’s) dad came to visit and he did the cleanup when a northerly bearing torrential rain flooded under the old front door and the living room became a shallow lake. It is good to have someone looking in on things, if not staying full time.

The place is absolutely beautiful with a breathtaking view but Glen and Nancy are boat people. So of course we fell in love with that workshop!

The lord's work...
Sanding, sanding, sanding!!!

We made a list, like you do, of all the priority project that we absolutely had to get done while we had this totally awesome opportunity. What requires shelter from the almost-incessant winter rains and benefits from easy use of power tools?

At the top of the long term wish-list was the dinghy sailing rig.

Hammered, before
Oh man!!!

…and let me (James) tell you, that shit was fucked up!

We sailed most of the way down the Florida coast and three-quarters of the way across the Atlantic flow with the entire dinghy sailing rig dressed on the midships butterfly hatch. No bag was included in the perfectly reasonable $500 price (Fatty Knees with sailing rigs don’t usually go so cheap but it did have a big ol’ hole in the bow), so the rig got a little sun on the way here.

But like all thing built by humans, we can totally rebuild that shit to make it look and act like new.

Rebuilding the dinghy sailing rig in happy place!
That’s what I’m talking about!

While we were waiting for the epoxy to dry, we pulled the windlass off the bow for a paid rebuild. Practical Boat Owner Magazine offered us a handful of commissions this year. We already used a good weather day to do the one about end-for-ending lines to make them last longer, so we thought we’d move on to rebuilding the Simpson-Lawrence Seatiger 555.

The windlass in the shop
The greatest machine ever made!

If you remember, we bought this machine used from a friend at Bacon Sails at the beginning of 2022. S/V SN-E Cetacea had come with the little sibling of this titan, and that poor thing was not really up to how we use a windlass. Once we installed the 555, we anchored over three hundred times in a little over a year and never had any mechanical issues with the device.

The chain stripping pin (barley visible above, located below and forward of the gypsy) had been bent to a crazy forward angle and it was allowing the chain to randomly bind up under the gypsy. It was bent when we got it but we didn’t realize prior to installation that it was supposed to be vertical. We installed the windlass on a mooring in Gloucester, Mass, and we soon discovered the issue of jamming under a serious load (like the time we pulled up a Catalina 22 in New Smyrna) but…other than that it worked flawlessly.

Cetacea caught in a rainbow by the crew of S/Y Twoflowers
…Tell me we don’t look totally awesome at anchor!

We did not end up doing a full rebuild on the windlass once we got it open and realized that, well…it was totally fine. James knocked the pin back into shape and we bolted the bottom cover back in place.

The boarding ladder was another random project that had been waiting for a good opportunity. We needed to clean it up and cut off the factory-installed legs, which were too short to keep the body of the folding steps off the rubrail. Can’t do that kind of thing at anchor since the ladder is essential gear while dinghying in and out. Also, the legs were on sleeves around the body of the ladder, which meant that cutting them off was a delicate operation. A little bounce from a wind wave or boat wake could have been utterly tragic. The cut-off tool we bought for removing the bronze coupler from the stainless prop shaft (one of those unexpected electric motor conversion expenses) did the job and it was luxurious to set up the whole project at a comfortable level for patient grinding.

The windlass and the boarding ladder are both now back on the boat. High humidity has stalled the dinghy’s sailing rig varnish, but we are now tackling one of the big, crucial jobs: the sliding hatch for the companionway.

We’ll do a whole post about this rebuild but…spoilers…it’s fundamentally sound and yet so fucked it’s incredible.

We got this.

I (Dena) am in the house putting the end on this blog post while James is out in the shop, sanding. I’ll tap him to re-read this and add/edit to his heart’s delight and then publish it, while I get back to digging out the half-hardened, half-dirty-oil-textured mastic that should have been keeping water out of Cetacea’s cabin this whole time.

Dirty job
It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.

We got back to the boat the other night after a long day of sanding and I (James) said to Dena, I honestly hope we can electric-motor-sail all the way around the world and have this kind of hook up every step of the way. We both laughed hysterically at that fantasy but remarkably we keep falling into relationships with these amazing people who have exactly the resources we need to make this adventure of ours just a little more doable.

…And how fucking cool is that?!


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