Archive for the ‘blessings’ Category

The Last Dash

October 11th has come and gone, and I am still sorting out my impressions of the Ship Shape project at Shake-A-Leg Miami. I spent a lot of time reviewing my 300-plus photos as I prepared a slide show for the SALM booth at IBEX, and I think they tell a great story about volunteers coming together to learn new skills and to contribute some serious elbow grease to the program.

If you would like to see my pictures, click here.

I especially want to thank our industry partners, including Bill Lindsey (Star brite), Joe Purtell (Interlux), Steve Morton (Performance Marine Coatings), and Norman Katz (Katzscan) for their support.

So, what did we accomplish? Here’s the tangible stuff: We painted topsides, boot stripes, and bottoms of two Freedom 20s. Number Two is our “Fighting Lady Yellow” vessel, and Hagen’s Hope (Number Eight) is our red-white-and-royal-blue sloop.

They both now outshine any other boat in the the SALM fleet, with the possible exception of our Green Machine Access dinghy. Soon those Freedoms will be back in the water, and they will be beautiful to behold out on Biscayne Bay.

We also did a lot of work on Access dinghies, proving how well a little well-applied paint can give new life to an old hull. We did a lot of stripping and sanding, and soon those dinghies will be restored to their original interior colors.

What else? Many of us who took part in several of our paint-a-thons gained some new friends and enjoyed nurturing those connections. One thing in particular that drew us together was the ever-changing landscape of our work area and our work assignments. Creativity reigned, as we often had to solve immediate problems that went far beyond how much reducer we needed for the best possible flow.

We dealt with hot weather, locked-up tools, shortages of supplies, and who to call for pizza. We drank an excessive amount of Coke Zero, wore pirate bandanas (well, some of us did), learned more than we ever wanted to know about differing types and grades of sandpaper, and learned that masking tape is our friend.

We “egyptianed” 20-ft boats from side yard to hangar and back again. We panicked when our brushes lost hairs and our rollers crumbled. We learned to work fast to beat the heat, and we learned to work in teams, reminding each other that there is no “you” in team.

We learned what a difference having the right tools and the best support can make to a project. We learned that gloss is more than a state of mind.

I hope that every volunteer who took part at any point in the project will continue to participate in Ship Shape.

On the other hand, for a number of reasons, we did not achieve our goal of completing top-coat work on all nine Freedoms. And I’m not sure we really achieved our goal of establishing a core group of volunteer stewards for the fleet, people who are dedicated to learning the fine art of boat maintenance and repair and equally dedicated to passing on their skills. But maybe. I know this weekend we’ll have a few “regulars” at work in the hangar, preparing more Access dinghies for painting, and I hope that will continue every weekend.

Also, I did not achieve my own work-related goal of developing any new content for ProBoat E-Training, and that’s a big disappointment to me. At some juncture during our count down, the focus of the project shifted from process (training) to product (painting). There are a number of reasons why that happened, and I know most of them by heart. I often left the worksite feeling discouraged because of that shift, but I never left without being thankful and happy to have met so many great volunteers and associates.

By the way, the event on Oct 11 was a great success, with a wonderful swarm of people enjoying a balmy night at Shake-A-Leg Miami, tasting Kiwi BBQ and sushi, thoroughly enchanted by their visit to the Gateway to Biscayne Bay.


Thanks to everyone who took part in this first Phase of the Ship Shape Project. I hope we’ll have many more chances to meet and work together for the good of the Shake-A-Leg Miami community.


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Our new SST members gave me a lot of wonderful surprises all during our workshop on Friday morning.

Maybe I should cover the “no surprises” first: No surprise that the hangar was all set up just as i had requested. No surprise that people wandered in on SoFLA time, about 15 minutes late. No surprise that it was already hot at 9:00 a.m. No surprise that the traffic from Delray Beach to Coconut Grove was horrendous. (Keep in mind, that I normally work from home, and my daily commute is measured in steps, not miles.)

Here are the surprises: The noise level was annoying, but in 10 minutes our A-V guy Steve had rigged up a sound system and the whole program moved up a notch. Many more people than I expected arrived, including several staff members as well as SALM Board Member Kerry Gruson. The boat-oriented teams I had imagined rapidly gave way to skills-oriented teams, and I believe that will continue.

More surprises: The volunteers responded to my requested “volunteer to volunteer” action almost immediately. What will they do? Create training materials to help folk remember which Star brite product to use for which application.  Write up recommendations for safety and environments procedures as we start developing our team manual. Help keep the team organized and running smoothly. Offer ways for the next workshops to be even better.

The biggest surprise? Easy. That came when people started to ask me, “What are we doing to do after we learn how to paint boats?”  And then they started to suggest more topics. How about bringing someone in to show us how to make boat covers? Why not? Sunbrella is one of our sponsors, and we also have a volunteer Jack King who can make the patterns.

How about some specific safety training? How do we keep our boats clean and also respect the environment? What do we need to know about rigging the boats? How do we keep the brightwork and metal fittings shiny? Can someone teach us about woodworking?

Wow. Welcome to the world of lifelong learning and skills-based volunteering. i have joked that we are using the Tom Sawyer School of Training method here: “Oh, gosh, I’d really love to let you help me whitewash this fence . . .  .” but, but it’s even better than that.

The SST, newly hatched, is going to take on a life of its own, and I am looking forward to seeing these fledglings learn to fly. You may recall, my original idea was not to have Captains and crew, but Mothers and a clutch, and so it seems that is happening. Four people have signed on as Team Mothers, myself included, and I can already see that members are interested in seeking their own levels of excellence.

I call this a very good start, and a choice course setting. Our skills-based volunteer training will grow. Next, we’ll add more DIY training, and by winter, we should be ready for SALM to host The Landing School and Professional BoatBuilder magazine in presenting top-level boatbuilding and repair courses, onsite and online.

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A couple of weeks ago, SALM staff member Colleen had the very fine idea that Ship Shape should include Friday night potluck dinners, and the first one did draw a crowd, including my new friends Ed and his wife Lorraine. Rumor has it that Lorraine had been trying to point Ed in the direction of SALM for a while, but it took that first potluck to deliver him.

He and I had a great conversation about boats, wood v fiberglass, the smell of styrene (I kind of like it, he does not), composite construction, and other esoteric topics. He told me he would see me again at our second painting sessions, but would miss the first one, and wouldn’t be at the Star brite training, so I was very surprised to see him in the crowd.


No only did he stay for the workshop, but he was one of the guys I was able to recruit to clean Kerry Gruson’s blue boat, and then he stuck around for some more conversation afterwards.  Blew BayouDuring that time, SALM co-founder Harry Horgan made a valiant effort to interest Ed in taking on a major project, namely building a deck house to welcome visitors entering through the new metal gates – donated by Ken Batchelor and CMC Construction – and i certainly thought Ed seemed interested.

Then Ed saw the Egret. We walked around the big green boat, a study in neglect, teak trim turned gray and brittle.  “We could build a steam box to bend wood and replace all this,” I said, pulling up some vague memory from WoodenBoat magazine. i know such things are possible, but, kids, don’t try this at home.

I passed my hand through a port hole and could feel debris crumbling in my fingers. I peered in at piles of canvas slumped in the middle of the dark and dank cabin, I shook my head. “This is the kind of project that WoodenBoat staff members like to take to the WoodenBoat school,” I said, “and then then the instructors just make fun of us for not recognizing a lost cause.”

Ed didn’t reply. Didn’t even say much. We went on to talk about other things, such as my need for at least six vibrating—not orbital—sanders before our painting sessions start on Sept. 12.

I went on with my day, trying to learn SALM’s computer system while talking to Colleen about conceptual mapping, concepts, transformation, Phase II (writing out best practices for every, single aspect of the organization), Phase III (executing best practices for every, single aspect of the organization), and the ever-popular “What’s for dinner?”

Neither Colleen nor I had brought anything to add to the Friday night potluck, and somehow, when we made our way downstairs, we weren’t terribly surprised that we were the only ones there. Harry joined us a little while later, and we had some more excellent conversation along the same lines. Then, when Harry was called away for a few minutes, I checked my email on my iPod.

What did I find? A message from Ed, titled SALM’s Tired Old Egret.

I read it out loud to Colleen, and she recognized it immediately as poetry. “This is great,” she said. “Now you don’t need to worry about writing your next batch of postcard poems.” (During the month of August, I have committed to write and mail one “postcard poem” a day, and I must say I’ve gotten a little bit behind, but that’s another story.) “You can just call Ed’s email ‘found poetry’ and use it”!

I may or may not do that, but Colleen was right. There is definitely poetry in Ed’s contemplation of the sad old Egret, his wondering if maybe our Egret might not be the very one he helped build as a student, his understanding of the designer and the design, and his vision of the future of this boat.

So now we have a story within the story, and as usual I can’t wait to see  what will happen next. He’s going to need help, people. Let me know if you want to be part of this project. We need you!

The evening ended well, with Colleen & I continuing our potluck dinner tradition, after a quick trip to the market, and it seemed just right. If you’d like to find out more about Shake-A-Leg Miami and Ship Shape, I recommend you that drop by some Friday night at 6:00. Bring a dish to share, and enjoy the conversation. (Maybe let Colleen know you’ll be coming? Drop a line to colleen@shakealegmiami.org)

I’ll miss the next one, since I’ll be on vacation in New England enjoying an annual adventure with my sister, including an afternoon at Fenway Park, a visit with my granddaughter Mazie and her parents, a trip out to the Isles of Shoals, a roller coaster ride, who who knows what else.

I’ll be checking the progress of Ship Shape from a far, though, so don’t hesitate to contact me if you want to be involved, or have an idea to share.

Our next big event is the weekend of Sept. 12 – 13. You can click on the VOLUNTEER tab above to sign up, if you haven’t done so already. Thanks!

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I’m starting to think we are going the wrong-way-round to recruit volunteers by telling them what we need, rather than than telling them what they will receive. If I were to re-cast this whole promotion as a late-night infomercial, I wonder what I’d come up with for my viewing audience?

Maybe something like this: “You, too, can learn to prep and paint any size dinghy or sailboat or motor yacht with just a few easy lessons from Shake-A-Leg Miami’s Project Ship Shape. Yes, we will show you the right products to use and the latest low-tech paint application techniques. Kids, don’t try this at home. Come to Shake-A-Leg Miami and put your skills right to work where they can help the maximum number of people.

“And that’s not all. These lessons are ABSOLUTELY FREE and they will LAST FOR A LIFETIME! Operators are standing by.”

What do you think? Our next press releases may well follow that line of hucksterism as we learn to break away from volunteer-recruiting stereotypes.

Meanwhile, I am proud to announce that we already have 20  volunteers for our Ship Shape Teams (SST), including one brave soul who has agreed to be our very first Team Mother. I’m excited, and I feel a little sad for the teams who are still motherless, but that will change soon.

We’ve got a good variety of folks in our core group with a nice mix of skills and a high level of enthusiasm. Hooray!

Last night, at our first “Friday Night Potluck,” some of us talked a little about what we can do to move teams into competition with each other: Best team name, team colors, logos, songs, dances. I keep telling people: This Will Be Fun.

Meanwhile, please keep spreading the word, and the word is “free”.

Our first training session will be Friday morning, Sept. 28, at 9:30 a.m. in the Shake-A-Leg Miami Hangar. Hope to see you there! Wear comfy clothes. We’ll be learning all about boat-maintenance products from Bill Lindsey at Star brite.

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Great news! I finally won my game of “phone tag” with Interlux paint guru Joe Purtell and confirmed that Shake-A-Leg Miami does have his company’s full support.  Joe will be on site Saturday, Sept 12, to start training the first teams on paint safety and basic. Interlux will also be providing the product that we need to make it all happen.

Joe will be joined by Steve Morton from Visions East that afternoon, as we show the volunteers how to do “high transfer efficiency” (HTE) painting, namely – roll and tip.  This is a method that I learned more than a decade ago at WoodenBoat School, and I’m excited to have the chance to suit up and mess about with paint.

Steve, by the way, has also spent some time at WoodenBoat School, but as an instructor, not a staff member. I look forward to talking to him more about his experience there on the coast of Maine. One thing I can say about WoodenBoat School – great food!

My ProBoat E-Training program, by the way, is part of WoodenBoat Publications, and the School offices are now on “the porch” where I first learned how to translate from English (from marine engineers) to English (for the shop-floor crews). Now my challenge will be to translate from English (for the shop-floor crews) to English (for volunteers).

Don’t forget! If you want to volunteer, just click right here.

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Already, a number of good things are taking place, bracketed nicely by the usual number of glitches.

I once read a description of flying an airplane as “nothing but hours and hours of boredom, punctuated with moments of start terror.” That’s pretty much been my week so far. I glide ahead buoyed by the optimism of everyone at Shake-A-Leg Miami (SALM), and then I realize how much we are planning to accomplish in such an incredibly short time and just the tiniest wave of panic washes over me.

I wish some reality-TV show would pick up this story, because I know they always go for the happy ending. Meanwhile, I do have some blessings to report.

One of the SALM staff members, Colleen Reed, is setting up a Friday night potluck, having observed that neither our marine-surveyor Pat Kearns (Naples, FL) nor I am in any great rush to head out into Miami traffic a the end of our day onsite. Hooray! Maybe there will be pie. But even better than that, there will be a chance for us involved in the challenge to meet–and brainstorm–in a relaxed informal setting. If you’d like to join us, leave a comment here or drop me a line.

Also, today I had a great conversation with Norm Katz of Katzcan (Fort Lauderdale, FL) about what we can do with the “BackTrack” software from Teklynx. I was initially hoping Norm could help us just with a simple project of barcoding our boat-shop inventory, but now we’re starting to percolate a few more ideas about how we can better manage all sorts of “assets” ranging from tools, to boats and equipment, to volunteers and staff. Geek that I am, this is all music to my ears.

Earlier this week, I wrote up a press release about the project, which will soon be hitting the SoFLA media outlets thanks to Kreps DeMarina Public Relations & Marketing. Another cheer there. I also sent it to Soundings Trade Only for distribution to the marine industry — making contact by Twitter no less — so my appreciation for social media just took another boost.

SALM does have a Facebook Fan Page, by the way, and staff A-V guy Steve Vasquez will be activating that soon. If you aren’t a fan, why not join now? Side note: If you’ve gotten bored with the same old Facebook, I recommend you go to “settings” and change your language options to “English (pirate)” and see what happens. That reminds me: International Talk Like A Pirate Day is only a month off. Maybe we can do something special for the Ship Shape challenge? Let me know what you think.

Also, we received our new copy of the ABBRA (American Boat Builders & Repairers Association) hot-0ff-the-press Boatyard Resource Guide, full of excellent check lists and tips for best practices. We had a show of support from ABYC (American Boat & Yacht Council) Directory Ship Burdon, who is letting that group’s Florida member know we are trolling for volunteers, and we found out how to post information on the MIASF (Marine Industry Association of South Florida) website.

So! We are underway, and I am doing fine as long as I don’t look too close at the calendar or the still far-too-skinny volunteer list. I’m hoping that the sailing-program instructors will embrace the idea of stewardship and join us in the big boat-repair project. (Or at least, recruit friends and family to do the same.)

I can hardly wait until Friday to see what kind of progess Doug and his crew have made on the boatshop re-stocking project, and to find out what new ideas he is hatching.

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