Frosty the Sailboat

It’s freezing here in the boatyard, literally. Temperatures dropped to the low 20’s, Fahrenheit, and didn’t rise above freezing for two nights and two days. Even in the late afternoon, with the sun shining all day, icicles hung from the cockpit drains of several boats. Six-year-old Marvin, from Switzerland, breaks them off, then runs around using them as swords against invisible opponents and visible boatyard denizens.

Although local folks warned us it could get this cold, they seem to have forgotten their own warnings. They grumble and huddle around the heating vent in the employee lounge.

When I walk across the yard, even my feet notice the difference, as the soft sand is frozen hard, like rock. Dale, who has worked here for decades, drove through a well-known mud puddle on Friday afternoon and was amazed that it refroze before he went home.

Aboard Flutterby, we’re almost warm enough. We have layers of longjohns and two small space heaters, so the cabin is tolerable. But the water pump under the cockpit froze, and Barry had to commandeer one of the space heaters to thaw it. Still, nothing is getting done. It’s not the cold, precisely, just the usual struggle with unrewarding projects.

After we finished rebedding the deck hardware, we thought we’d have a nice, dry boat. But there were still leaks in the side decks. Where were they coming from?

Eventually, we narrowed it to two sources: The decorative “eyebrow” rail that was screwed to the top of the cabin, all the way around, and the portlights. The eyebrow rail was original equipment, so we could forgive it for failing. But the nine portlights are new, installed by the former owner just before we bought the boat.

Removing one of the portlights gave us our answer. It wasn’t through-bolted, just screwed in from the inside with woodscrews. The portlight itself was smaller than the opening, and the gaps weren’t properly filled. There were gobs and gobs of silicone and a chunk of resinous stuff that snapped off with our bare hands. In short, not a portlight you could trust to an offshore passage. No wonder they leak.

It’s reminiscent of our hatch problem — the forward hatch leaked when we bought the boat, even though it was brand-new. We were actually lucky that it leaked, because that made us look at it closely. What we discovered was the construction was so flimsy, it was only suitable for inland lake sailing. We ordered a sturdy, offshore-capable model. When we took the old hatch out, the leak turned out to be from faulty installation — a cutout improperly prepared and stuffed with gobs and gobs of silicone filler.

Now I lie in my bed at night and look up at the new hatch with a sense of satisfaction. The opening is smooth and fair, and it fits closely to the aluminum Seabreeze hatch we selected, with just the right amount of bedding compound.

I know when all nine portlights are done, I’ll have the same sense of satisfaction. But it’s only 20 degrees out there! In this weather, I have to take the windows out? That’s enough to make anyone grouchy, grumpy, and downright cold. Until tomorrow, that is, when it will be in the 50’s, and I’ll just be grouchy, grumpy, and replacing that first portlight.

3 thoughts on “Frosty the Sailboat

  1. Heya,

    Been cold here in Ohio. It finally warmed up to 40 today and things are melting a little. We do not have icicles, we have ice columns.

    Good luck with your porthole windows.

    Dave Z.

  2. I thought as I was reading this…unbelievable. And then I wondered what your Mother would have thought. I concluded she would have been proud that the two of you are able to figure it out. It can’t be easy. Enjoy your life!! Love, Adunties Mary Pat & Julia

  3. It’s strange how many people place appearances above function; it’s not strange at all how often that results in failures.

    We have been having the Great Lakes version of your weather. I had to walk to work in temps around zero F part of last week bundled up in great bulk and wearing a balaclava suitable for robbing banks. The temperature here has risen to twenty seven degrees, which would be cold where you are but is a great relief to me. I had to go help someone out of a ditch at 5 a.m. thanks to the snow, but I was surprised at how little it bothered me. I guess it’s all about (a) what you’re used to and (b) what you expect. Enjoy your 50s!

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