Monday, April 28, 2014

When At First You Don't Succeed...

  Our new Bimini Top and enclosure was sent to us in one box via UPS just about one month after ordering it from The Boatswain's Locker in Jacksonville, Florida. On the day it came we stripped off the old canvas, Rosie waxed the stainless bows, then we both went to work assembling the new top and curtains, following some very good instructions that came with the top.
  Because the rear curtains ride in a track, we inserted them first, and then went around the sides toward the front, after loosening the bows as much as possible. Every part was marked and every section fit perfectly. I used some tie down straps to pull the front of the enclosure down to "stretch" the top, and then we let everything hang for a few days to get the kinks out before attempting to install the Lift-the-Dot fasteners.
  A "care kit" came with the package, consisting of all new snaps and pins, and various other snap fasteners, all stainless steel and of good quality. We were sent a Lift-the-Dot cutting tool, along with a UPS prepaid box to send the tool back when we were done with it.

  Here's the new top once the installation was complete. I measured and measured before installing the first snap at the front, then worked my way around, adjusting the tie down straps that I had putting tension on the curtains, and pulling them in line around the sides. The cutting tool was easy to use; I can't imagine trying to make those holes for the fasteners with a punch and knife. It took over three hours to install the forty fasteners, but everything is straight and the top looks great.
  We also had a new sunscreen made for the windshield, but I didn't get around to installing it for a couple of days. When I laid it out, I found it to be too short. It didn't cover the existing snaps from top to bottom.
  I let the sun bake the material for four days before trying to install the snaps. The material did stretch a bit, but not enough. I installed the snaps in the proper positions, and still tried to stretch the sunscreen to cover the snaps on the boat. I finally decided that further attempts were only going to tear the material, so I called the company.
  Boatswain's Locker arranged to have the screen picked up here at the marina by UPS. I packaged it and it was picked up the next day.
  I got called a day after that and was told that they didn't put snaps on the top of the sunscreens they made, but ours did have them and that's why it didn't fit. I apologized, but had to plead innocence because our screen did have snaps at the top, and how was I to know?
  I was told not to worry, they had already made a new screen and it would be on the way later that day, no charge. They were going to add a couple of inches to the height of the new screen so it would fit our application. I haven't picked up the package yet, as it came over the weekend. I'll post a picture when we get it put on.
  I wish the story about getting our dinette upholstered was as good. The ending is good, but there were some speed bumps along the way.
  I've already told the story about starting with Geslin Sailmakers, and then taking the first section over to All Keys Canvas when Geslin told us that they couldn't do the work.
  Initially, we were getting ready to send the dinette framing to The Boatswain's Locker to have them recover the two pieces, but I made a last ditch effort to find a local shop. The owner of All Keys Canvas came right away to give us an estimate, and he really turned on the charm.
  His estimate was one third the cost of Geslin, and he promised to have both pieces done within a week once he started on them, doing one at a time so we would have a place to sit for our meals. One week later, as promised, he came with a helper and picked up the first piece to begin the work.
  Five days later I get a call from the owner, saying he was having trouble fitting some pieces together, and could I come by and give him some idea how to do it? I went right over there and discovered that a piece wouldn't fit in the space provided because he didn't attach the upholstery properly in the other piece, so that the two would fit. When I started to tell him what he did wrong, he became belligerent and said that he had been "doing this work for many years" and "it was not his first rodeo".
  Then, when I learned that there was some essential trim that he was going to omit, I had to tell him how to do that too, only because he actually asked, even after complaining about me telling him how to do what he had asked me over there in the first place about.
  I explained how to do the trim, but I popped in there the next day to see how he had "fixed" everything, and I discovered him putting some screws through the trim, totally botching the job. I told him that if would just cover some soft foam, so I could stuff it into the slot provided, I'd just finish that part myself.
  He told me to come on Tuesday to pick up the piece as he would have it done by then, which was eight days on the first piece alone, but he added that he couldn't begin the work on the second section as he was "too busy". We were able to borrow our neighbors Jeep to retrieve the first section.
  When I went to his shop, he had done the direct opposite of what I had asked, and he had covered a piece of electrical wire with material, which we all know is not "soft foam", and is in fact made up of very hard copper wire, and this is what I was supposed to stuff into a much smaller groove to trim out the job. The look on the guys face when he told me about the copper electrical cord was if to dare me to say a word about it, so I didn't, but I still tried to pin him down as to when could deign it possible to cover our other section.
  He wouldn't commit to a time, knowing he had us over a barrel, and when I insisted on him giving us some time frame, he got indignant and said I was "in his grille", despite having never gotten within twenty feet of the fellow.
  After he begrudgingly agreed that I could call him in two weeks, we took the dinette section back to our boat where I spent two hours pulling staples out and fixing the shoddy work. I will say that the seams where straight and the stuffing was tight.
  Later that evening, we were at a party here at the marina when a witness to our exchange that day at the canvas shop made it a point to seek me out and commend me for keeping my cool, he saying that he wasn't sure if he could have done so in a similar situation.
  But we still needed to have the second half of our project completed and I didn't want to burn any bridges just yet.
  I had used some 3M 5200 adhesive to glue the hard wire trim in place, so once the glue set up and we installed the first dinette section, everything looked good once I got it screwed in place. I decided to appeal to some sense of pride to the owner of All Keys Canvas, so I called him to tell him how good the first section looked once installed, and when perhaps could I call him to arrange the work on the second section. It made me nearly sick to suck up to the jerk in that way, but ya do what ya gotta do.
  I could tell that he intended to keep putting me off, so I went to plan B. I always have a plan B.
  I contacted two more upholsterers, one in Key Largo, and one in Sugarloaf Key. The folks at Key Largo Canvas asked for pictures to make a bid. They knew the owner of All Keys Canvas and they offered their condolences to us for having had to deal with him.
  Meanwhile, I also called a direct competitor of All Keys Canvas, which is Oceanside Canvas in Sugarloaf Key. The owner just happened to be on the island, and came by within an hour and gave us a bid on the spot.
  We agreed on the price and the terms, and he came by again in a few days, had the piece for four days, and delivered and installed it last Friday.

  Here is the final result of our two month ordeal. All Keys Canvas did the section on the left, and Oceanside Canvas did the section on the right, copying the stitching on the first piece so they would match. The material also is exactly the same from Seaquest. We did use different foam in the seat bases. Rosie uses the smaller seat and wanted harder foam. I asked for foam not quite as stiff on the bigger section where I sit. Think of the story of The Three Bears. Can't wait for Goldilocks to visit.
  Even with leaving some money on the table at Geslin Sailmakers,  and even if I never go back to All Keys Canvas and get a small part of our deposit back, we're still way better off than if Geslin would have finished the work in the first place, saving nearly two thirds of what we would have paid.
  We had a beer or two with the owner of Geslin Sailmakers last Saturday night, and we still like him, and we get the feeling he likes us. However, the owner of All Keys Canvas is on a certain other list of mine, and I'll do whatever I can to run him out of business. He didn't uphold his part of the bargain and his word is worthless.
  For the good part, we not only have The Boatswain's Locker to make certain parts for our Sea Ray if we want factory grade stuff, we have a local canvas maker in Oceanside Canvas to fall back on when we need some special projects done, which on an eighteen year old boat, there will always be things to do.
  We have a current project going on now as our amplifier on our stereo system has had a channel "go out". We had Bill from Key West Electronics come to the boat last week to diagnose the problem, which took about two hours. Bill found us an identical amplifier online at Best Buy and will be back in a day or two to install it. Yes, I could have installed a new amp, but I don't think it's fair to only hire folks to do the hard parts, when especially the performance or warranty of anything electronic installed is dependent on doing it properly.
  As I had mentioned, we need to install our new sunscreen and we're still waiting to hear from Tyler Shealey at Castaway Customs about getting our new Sea Dek step pads. Once these two things are finished, we're taking a break to recover from the financial impact of all of these recent expenses.
  We can then get back to focusing on waxing the boat and having fun, which you can bet we still make time for fun. In fact, a friend just contacted us last night about popping in for a couple days as she will be in southern Florida and wants to see us. Perfect timing.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Milestone

  Starting with the good stuff about living here in Key West on our boat; the picture is from one of our afternoons on the dinghy at the Boca Chica sandbar. No, we aren't trying to rig up a sail for the dinghy, we just use the umbrella for shade when Holly gets too hot.
  Today marks exactly two years since we moved onto Swing Set full time. If you've been reading our blog this whole time you know that for the most part it's been a very positive experience and we wouldn't trade the last two years for anything. Even though we are staying put here at Stock Island Marina Village for a while, there are still fun things to do, and side trips to make, but we have some outstanding projects going on and we want to clear them up before we take a trip to Fort Jefferson in a few weeks.

  Rats. I think we have beat them. I mentioned in the last post about finding some rat poop in our cockpit. I searched online and found some rat guards made in China, ranging from $60 to $75. Too much for us to spend. We wanted four of them, so I spent one sleepless night thinking about how to make some.
  I tried making some plastic circles cut from some Tupperware containers, but the material was too brittle and cracked when I was trying to cut them. I even considered cutting some circles out of a discarded Tidy Cat container, but the circles would have been too small to be effective. Going through the trash bins around the marina was a humbling experience, but I've had lots of those.
  Rosie and I took a trip to Home Depot on the Zuma. I knew the basic design I was going to use, but I had to find something to use for the disks. We weren't in the store two minutes when I saw these lids to five gallon buckets stacked up next to the buckets. Bingo!
  Then we went to the plumbing department and I found some 3/4" PVC pipe connection fittings and tossed them into our basket, and out the door we went.
  Back at the boat, I drilled a one inch hole into the middle of each lid, and then sandwiched the lid between each fitting. The resulting tube is about four inches long, and this tube prevents the lid from tilting onto our dock line. As you can see in the picture, I tied a knot on either end of where I wanted the guard to sit. The disks spin, so when a rat tries to climb over the guard, the guard spins and spits the rat off into the water. Or so it is supposed to work.
  For the power cords and water line, I put three holes adjacent to the tube on the guard that I installed on our stern. I made a slit from the edge of this guard towards these holes, and then slipped the water hose and power cords into the middle of the guard. This way we can easily slip the water hose and power cords out for when we undo them for a cruise. This disk won't spin as easily as the rest, but we're hoping that any rat using this particular entry point will be lazy and just turn around at the obstruction.
  My buddy James says that our boat is too close to the dock, but the rats that have been spotted aren't St. Louis sized, (think beaver), plus for this picture and my installation the boat was pushed against the dock. We keep Swing Set out from the dock more than this typically.
  We did put a cheapo rat trap in the cockpit, one that Holly can't get into, but we haven't seen anymore rat poop. One of our boat neighbors put some traps out and they did catch one rat that was feasting on their dogs food, inside their boat. I think they keep their salon door closed at night now.

  A few days ago we spied these two manatees in the harbour. I say they were "frolicking", but one has to understand that there is a very fine line between when a manatee is frolicking, and when a manatee is doing absolutely nothing.
  We considered putting Holly on their backs for a photo op, but we're sure the act would have been considered a manatee molestation of some sort.
  Lots of scars and missing hunks on the larger one. We read that the bone structure in the flipper of the manatee is similar to the bone structure in a human. Considering some of the humans we have met over the years, I can see how that is true. If you zoom in on the picture, you can actually discern five fingernails on the ends of their flippers. No lie.
  We've been to a few mooring fields and anchorages over the last two years that have a VHF Cruisers Net. At a specified time each morning, everyone gets on their VHF on a dedicated channel and discusses old business, new business, who just came in, who is planning leaving, things for sale, and help wanted, etc. Some times the three people tuned into a net like this can take a whole five minutes to go through the list.
  Stock Island Marina Village has a website and a Facebook page, but I had inquired about using the SIMV Facebook page for a cruisers network, but it was suggested that we just start a group of our own. So we did.
  We launched a Stock Island Marina Village Cruisers Network last weekend. We distributed some flyers, sent some requests out to folks we knew, and asked everyone to spread the word. The group is open, so posting is easy. There are 27 members so far, but not too much activity yet. Wait until someone posts the first really controversial subject and then watch out!
We sent invitations for all of the marina staff to join but so far only one has. That's a bit of a disappointment. We view the group as an opportunity for the marina to dispel rumors or bad information. Like everything else, we'll see how it goes.
  Our dinette is on the second go around on the matter of getting recovered. All Keys Canvas has the first section and we hope to get it back before weeks end, then they'll take the second section and perhaps by the end of next week we'll have a nice newly upholstered dinette to sit on. This is our hope.
  Tyler Shealey at Castaway Customs came to the boat a couple of weeks ago and measured for new SeaDek pads for our stairs on Swing Set. It appears that the old pads started curling up on the edges because they are black, and the black was absorbing the heat and making them curl. Tyler is promising new pads that will be brown and cream colored to resembling a teak and holly combo. We'll post pictures when we get them installed. Tyler says the new pads are on him.
  Our new bimini top and Stratoglass enclosure should be shipped to us in a few days. I'll have to install the Lift-the-Dot snaps. Boatswain's Locker will provide the tool so I can install the snaps, and I'll have to return the tool to them when I'm done. I'm a little nervous about not only how everything will fit, but also about my ability to install the snaps. You can be sure there will be pictures of the final product. Either that, or a nice obituary after I kill myself after I mess the whole thing up.
  Our friends, Gary and Judy, who live in the St. Louis area and also have a condo in Cape Coral, are down for a few days. They're staying on a boat over at Oceanside Marina, and we have a mission to show them around Stock Island instead of hitting the regular places downtown. We've already been to Hogfish and the Rusty Anchor, two of our favorites.
  Since my last post, I had a reader send an email, admitting that he had only read a couple of the recent blog posts, but he wanted to learn how we started out boating, and what prompted us to embark on our adventures. Really? I guess I could have re-written everything I've posted for the last two and a half years, but instead I politely suggested that he just go to the blog and start reading it at the beginning. Get back to me if you have any questions. We'll be here.