Friday, February 24, 2012

A few years ago, Kim convinced me that our kitchen needed new paint and wallpaper.  It had been a few years since our last cosmetic update and the old stuff was getting tired.  Not being one to farm out any work that I can do myself, I forged ahead with the project.  I mean, how hard could it be to remove the old  paper, prime the old paint and simply replace what you had just taken off?  I was about to find out.

A few months and several 'kitchen units' later (one kitchen unit = five boat units) the project was complete. "What happened?"  I kept asking myself?  How did this seemingly simple project get so far out of control? It turns out, in my naivete, that you cannot simply change colors or remove paper.  Doing so would be like me getting a spray tan.  Looks good for a short time, but underneath, its still the same worn-out old guy.

To do it right and make it all work, its best to start from scratch.  So, as the kitchen project began to evolve, I discovered that paint and paper begat counter tops.  Counter tops begat sinks and fixtures.  Sinks and fixtures begat door hardware.  Door hardware begat cabinets.  Cabinets begat appliances.  Appliances, well they don't begat anything.  They are the top of the food chain.  Anyway, what started out as a simple weekend project for me, turned into a multi-month frenzy of major projects and check writing.  On top of that, I had to go shopping with Kim for door handles and such and I really hate that kind of thing.

So flash forward several years later and I am standing on the bow of our boat looking at the worn out paint.    Still smarting from my kitchen experience several years prior, I was hesitant to dive headfirst into another major 'cosmetic' update.  I mean, the boat didn't look that bad, and after all, its just a boat, right?  But after talking with several other boaters, checking out the internet and generally ignoring every voice screaming in my head "don't do it!", I bought some paint.

This should have been my first clue.  Boat paint is egregiously expensive.  Way over $100/gallon.  Plus, you need special rollers and brushes, lots of thinners and enough blue edging tape to circle the globe.  Still though, I kept telling myself... "its okay... think about how much you are saving by doing it yourself!"

So one fine morning in early January I began the process by removing the first piece of hardware.  Like any good paint job, the work is all in the preparation.  Removing as many impediments to a smooth finish is the key.  The idea is not to paint around (or god forbid... paint over), but rather to paint in a way that there are no edges or brush marks created by impediments to a smooth roller.  Anyway, there is a lot of hardware on the boat.  Removing and cataloging it took several days alone.  Next comes the sanding. Yes, the old wax/dirt/finish needs to come off lest the new paint not adhere to the surface...and its very messy.  Combined with breathing in the acetone and whatever carcinogens were floating in the air, the next few weeks of sanding caused me, I am sure, to lose millions of whatever brain cells I had left.  Next came the taping... and taping... and taping.  Anything that was remotely exposed to my unwieldy brushes and rollers had to be protected.  It was everywhere.  I had some in my hair at one point but I think Kim was afraid to pull it out.  I mean, I need every follicle!

As the days and weeks dragged on, I began to lose my energy and patience with this project.  Hey I am retired!  I didn't sign up for this.  But the end was coming into view and I was happy that I wasn't shopping for corian.   The boat was finally ready for some paint.

Now for as much as this paint costs, you would think it would be easier to work with.  While it will last for years under some extreme conditions, for that kind of money it should go on with less effort.  The key to a great finish is to eliminate any roller/brush marks and any 'bubbles' that come to the surface after application.  The window to do this is very small as this paint sets up VERY fast.  I am talking minutes here.  Even though it looks like milk going on, it handles like peanut butter.  At times, I felt like more the sculptor than the painter.  But after a few hours, I got the hang of it.

The whole job took a little less than two months but we are very happy with the results.  We even have people stopping by with their cameras to take pictures now and then.  One afternoon as Kim and I were admiring the fruits of our labor, Kim asked me about replacing the countertops in the galley.  "How hard could that be?"  she asked.  "You did such a great job on the outside, lets do the inside".   

I wasn't falling for that again.  



Friday, February 10, 2012

I can't lie to you.  We are really liking this retirement gig.  Life in the Florida Keys is very nice.  There is a real community here, a sense of belonging.  Even though the people here are passing through but for a short time, we have grown fond of the many friends we have made and truly believe we will be 'buds' for a long time to come.

I think one of the catalysts that brings people together is the proximity of one boat to the next.  Marinas are tight spots and you cannot help but get to know your neighbor.  As such, you are compelled to get out and meet each other.  Back home, our house sits back in the woods on a little over an acre of ground.  We can go months without seeing one of our neighbors.  Here on the docks, you see everyone almost every day.  And if that is not enough for you, there is a happy hour every afternoon at five where all the boaters gather on the beach, sharing a drink and some stories as the sun goes down.

One of the things we wanted to do this year while in Marathon was to try out a few of the different marinas on the island.  There are many and each has its own flavor.  The first place we tried was called Sombrero Dockside.  Probably in the best location on the water, Sombrero is known for its lively clientel and popular bar and grill.  Each night at the bar there would be live entertainment.  The genres ranged from country to pop with one night reserved for karaoke (ugh!).  Most times, the music was quite good, but sometimes it was just plain bad.  Unfortunately for us, we were two slips removed from the stage which meant we heard every note that was played.  It was if they were playing in our basement.  This is okay if it was only a few nights a week.  At Sombrero, in season, there is music every night.  I don't think we could have made it the whole winter.

Luckily for us, we were able to get a slip at one of the other marinas we were wanting to try out.  Across the road on the bayside of the island sits Banana Bay.  As loud and boisterous as Sombrero was, Banana Bay is quiet and serene.  With a scant 27 slips, Banana Bay is a tight knit community of boaters who value thier privacy.  While there are still the nightly gatherings on the beach for happy hour, the conversations are shorter and pointed more towards banal things like the weather and the tide.   We have made one friend here that we hope visits more often:

This is an eight foot manatee that hangs around the marina, looking for a kind soul to offer her some fresh water.  It is amazing how large and docile these animals are.  She lumbers in every other day or so, hangs around for an hour or so and then is back on her way.  Its fun to watch her as she roll over from her back to her belly as the kids squeal in delight.

So as the days amble by here at "shuffleboard city," we are spending most of our time working on the boat.  (theres a surprise!)  The big project this season is to repaint the 'house'.  The 'house is the part of the boat that is out of the water and not the hull.  It comprises the flybridge and foward decks, along with the dinghy deck.  It has been a lot bigger job than we thought it was going to be.  Maya was looking a little tired in the paint department and I am glad to say that her new coats have made a great difference.

We are gearing up for our big 10 week Bahamas cruise later in the year.  We can't wait for that!  For now though, we are enjoying the weather and all the good friends we have made.  I am going to make it a point to get out in the neighborhood a little more when we get back to Cincinnati.  I wonder what they would think if we had happy hour nightly out on Treeknoll?