Errors and Corrections



Errors and Corrections


An experimental solution that worked!

Work in the analog world has its own challenges. There is no backspace key. Undo buttons are hard to find. Delete is easy but very expensive – chop up the work and start over. And yet, there are many opportunities for error, and some opportunities for creative solutions. In this case I placed the engine room door latch receiver in the wrong spot – by 1/32″. But that small error meant the latch tongue wouldn’t catch correctly. Doors must close and latch securely on a small sail boat. So, how do I move a screw hole in wood 1/32″ without making a mess? Solution: the ubiquitous teriyaki stick and super glue. The sharpened point filled the screw hole. Super glue is FAST. Let it set and then trim flush. The bamboo teriyaki stick is slightly harder than the hardwood face frame, so drilling a new hole very nearby works well. No waiting overnight for epoxy to set up. Yeah, a workable solution with materials on hand!

The finished door

The finished door.

The Accursed Screw

Lockers with horizontal doors in the forepeak. Deep cubbies below hold soft stuff securely; hats, gloves, socks, blankets, etc.

Lockers with horizontal doors in the forepeak. Deep cubbies below hold soft stuff securely; hats, gloves, socks, blankets, etc.

By now I have built and installed 16 cabinet doors, we call them lockers on boats. I prefer not to have open shelving on the boat. Almost everything is stowed in its proper place behind doors that can be positively latch. No open bookshelves, for example, even though we are voracious readers and take too many books.



The dark spot upper right by the blue tape marks the accursed screw

While screwing in the last wood screw of locker door #17 – the very last locker door, and in a tight corner of the galley – the head of the wood screw snapped off. This left the body of the small screw in the cabinet face frame. Now what? What did I do wrong? Clutch set too tight on the drill / screw driver? Nope, same setting as all other 67 hinge wood screws. Insufficient depth for the pilot hole? Nope, in fact I almost went through the face frame. Chalk it up to random variation in product quality. Just bad luck that one screw was weak and snapped off.  With the body of the screw imbedded in the face frame the teriyaki stick technique won’t work. I had to get that accursed screw out! And I needed to contain the damage or risk refinishing the whole cabinet face. I could have left the door off altogether – but that doesn’t accord with the goal of secure lockers. I really don’t have time for this. There are a bazillion other tasks waiting that are much more important. Finally, after days of procrastination and distracting myself with other projects while turning over various ideas in my mind, I came to this one: The screw is removed with a hollow tip tool, the repair made with epoxy putty, and the door hung. Very few projects are simple and straight forward. Work in the analog world requires persistence and continues to humble the worker.


Project Management

Some folks have asked about planning and preparation. So far it feels more like hurtling forward than a planned progression. It’s a lot like skiing down a double black diamond run: more of a semi-controlled fall than smooth gliding. There is a lot going on: Finishing the last of the cabin remodels; installing new navigation equipment, new radios, and new solar panels; scheduling a survey; making some improvements to the mast and standing rig; buying and figuring out where/how to store a drogue for heavy weather; getting the life raft serviced;  selecting and buying charts for the new areas we’ll be cruising in; adding sun shades, a wind scoop, and a fan to improve comfort aboard in hot anchorages; and on and on…. Project management is what it’s all about right now. Fair warning dear reader, there is some wonkiness ahead.

In response to one very particular question: No, I am not using Microsoft Project. But, Yes, there is a task list on Excel. I have used Project. It works well; if you can devote about 70% of your time to managing MS Project itself. So I’m using the default screwdriver (lever/chisel/can opener/hammer/wedge) of software tools: the spreadsheet.

Some of you won’t be surprised to hear that there is one list to rule them all and that it’s set up for pivot tables. I can hear GPM laughing now. Of course, there are categories and columns with which to sort and filter. Why all of this? To bring some order to the chaos.

What’s your priority?

In my professional career there was a lot of talk about prioritization. “Just prioritize the options” was heard often. Over the years I had struggled with what that meant and how it could help with decision making. For example, is fire suppression or fire prevention a higher priority? The admonition always seemed overly simplistic and naive. I came to think that prioritization only makes sense within a defined time frame. That time frame and the current context must be clearly declared at the beginning of the prioritization exercise. Obviously, over a longer time frame fire prevention is the higher priority. If prevention fails and a fire starts, then fire suppression rockets to the top and becomes the immediate priority.


One of the ‘complex’ tasks: build new chart drawers. Each is sized to hold many nautical charts folded in half. The drawer fronts and their handles are waiting to be installed. By the way, they must fit into the boat as well.

For us the time frame is very clear: We must leave before the autumn storms begin to blow in from the southwest, which means no later than Labor Day. The context is also clear: We must empty and vacate the house by August 14.  Then move onto Velic, by which time the boat must be ready for long-term living aboard. And just three weeks after that, it must be ready for long-distance voyaging.

But, we have to keep in mind that although this is more of an expedition than a vacation, we’re not going to the moon. There is Costco in Mexico, after all.

And now to the wonkiness, for those who are interested … wonk

Velic’s Blog

Welcome to our blog. We are Ruth and Randy Webster from Portland, Oregon, USA.

Sailing on the Columbia River with the drifter. Photo credit - Bill Kramer

Sailing on the Columbia River with the drifter. Photo credit – Bill Kramer

In this blog we hope to share with you our experiences and adventures while on extended voyages aboard our sailboat. Velic is a 35-foot boat designed for ocean cruising. She will be our home and transportation for the next five to seven years. See the Velic page for particulars.

Our goal is to leave Portland by early September and head downriver to the Pacific. In the meantime we’ll share a glimpse or two into the preparations for departure and some of the myriad tasks we’re working on.

Dry Dock


Velic was out of the water last week. We lifted on the only old fashioned dry dock in the Portland area for smaller boats – that is, not ships. And one of the few where you can still do your own work. For boats, this was a quick trip: Lift and pressure wash on Monday. Launch on Friday.

Just lifted and pressure washed. What a blotchy bottom.

It was a short task list this time. Paint the bottom, repair dings and scrapes in the topsides, replace two instrument transducers, and service the propeller.

Industrial work in  dry dock often occurs in remarkably pastoral settings.

Industrial work in dry dock often occurs in remarkably pastoral settings.





Six Inches at a time

Painting the bottom is always fun, sanding overhead while cramped under the boat. But, it has to be done. Pressure washers have been a huge advance in taking off all the mud, slime, and algae.

We then sanded the whole bottom with a 6″ random orbital sander and 80 grit paper, going through a sanding disc about every 10-12 minutes. To control dust the sander was connected to my shop vacuum – which worked amazingly well. Ruth tended hoses and wires, a boring job, but relieving almost half the weight. Areas near the shiny topsides paint and under the keel, around the rudder etc. were wet sanded by hand. This was going really slowly using a bucket until Randy realized he could use the hose and spray nozzle. Not unpleasant in the hot sun. The anti-fouling bottom paint is toxic to marine life to keep the barnacles at bay so the boat can actually sail. Painting is done in full tyvek suits with hoods, gloves, etc. So that is definitely a trade-off for us. One big advantage of prepping and painting your own boat bottom is that it immediately puts to rest any fantasies of buying a larger boat.

Every boo-boo has a name

Tom inspecting his repair of the St Helen's boo-boo.

Tom inspecting his repair of the St Helen’s boo-boo.

Tom, our favorite master craftsman, came over to repair scrapes and dings in the shiny topsides. On a boat the bottom is the part of the hull that’s in the water, the topsides are the part of the hull from the waterline to the deck. Tom gave the topsides a beautiful paint job in 2009. Since then, we’ve added texture to the paint job with a few boo-boos, specifically the “St Helen’s dock,” the “Astoria West Basin dock,”  and the “Lopez Island anchorage” scrapes to the topsides, and the “Mackay Bay” rock ding to the keel. Every boo-boo represents a traumatic moment, and an error of seamanship to some degree or another (usually on Randy’s part). Each one gets named and logged, hopefully to be objectively dissected and critiqued after the passions of the moment dissipate.


Tools of Violence and Destruction

Recalcitrant fittings demand tools of violence and destruction. Heat is used to soften the adhesive/sealant. We're hoping the bronze fitting will conduct heat faster than the surrounding fiberglass.

Recalcitrant fittings require persuasion. Heat is used to soften the adhesive/sealant. We’re hoping the bronze fitting will conduct heat faster than the surrounding fiberglass.

Two new transducers were installed. These are the sender/receiver end of instruments, one for speed through the water and one for depth sounding. The old instruments served well, but were more than 15 years old and beginning to fail. This project should have been a direct swap-out of the old fittings. But some unnamed new boat owner installed those fittings with permanent sealant/adhesive. Levers, hammers, flame and 24-grit proved to be effective tools of violence and destruction.

The new fitting bedded in water-proof sealant - not permanent adhesive! Soot still evident.

The new fitting bedded in water-proof sealant – not permanent adhesive! Soot still evident.

Fortunately the industry has standardized on a 2″ hole. But wait, changes and improvements meant that the new bronze depth sounder fitting was too short, or rather Randy’s fairing block inside the boat was too thick, and of course the fitting is conveniently placed under the head (bathroom) floor boards where only one hand can reach. Nothing a high-speed angle grinder and 24-grit can’t fix in a jiffy. Just don’t grind through the hull!!

Being up so high is somewhat wobbly and unnerving. A very unnatural feeling for a boat.

Being up so high is somewhat wobbly and unnerving. A very unnatural feeling for a boat.

Back in the water on Friday. The first few minutes are always hold-your-breath ones. First, to see the boat floating again – a boat feels so awkward propped high up on the dry dock. Second, to be sure it stays floating: Is everything water tight? Did we forget to close any valves? Are the new transducer through-hull fittings dry and not leaking? All checks and double checks turn out good and dry. One major project done before departure.