Archive for the ‘boat repair’ Category


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Last weekend we had students from Barry University and University of Miami on site for a few hours, and both U’s were great. The group from Barry were players and coaches from the women’s basketball team, brought to us by Coach Bill Sullivan.

We had hoped to put them to work wet-sanding the dinghies and prepping them for primer, but I was told on Friday the we needed to move all sanding to the side area closer to a containment drain. We decided that would make it too difficult to bring out enough power sanders — and supervisors — so we switched to Plan B.

By the time the Barry crew arrived, Ship Shape Team members Emma & Jill had put together four kits of Star brite cleaning products, and we sent the ballplayers down to the docks to spark up as many boats as they could before Saturday morning sailing classes began.

I was amazed at the difference when they were done. Then we put them to work at a couple more cleaning projects near the Hangar, and soon added a group of  U of Miami students to the mix as we restored the color of a lot of kayaks that had gone from bright to faded.

Student Kayak Brighteners at Work

Student Kayak Brighteners at Work

We would have been glad to keep them working all day, but more entertaining pursuits called them, and the Hangar seemed unusually quiet and dull for the rest of the weekend.

Joe Purtell (Interlux) arrived in the early afternoon to bring us more product and to look at the Fighting Lady Yellow hull once again. After his analysis, we decided to go ahead with sanding again, to add one more coat. Fortunately, we made that choice while the students were still on hand so we could enlist them to push the boat (cradled, on wheels) out to our work area.

We also got to try out Interlux InterStrip to take the chipping red, blue, and yellow paint coats off the interiors of the Access dinghies.  The combination of InterStrip, elbow grease, and powerwashing did most of the work, but more sanding remains before we can restore the original ‘Popsicle’ colors.



By Sunday afternoon, we were down to one volunteer, John Quigley, and myself, which seemed especially odd in comparison with the earlier lively gang. I had to wonder, again, what I was doing there at Shake-A-Leg Miami, and I will admit to being very discouraged.

My plan had been to facilitate a training program, to create a corps of volunteers who would learn maintenance, coatings, and repair in a somewhat logical fashion. That’s what I would call “process.”  Instead, I found myself worrying about finishing work on the two sloops and five dinghies before our reception on the 11ths. That’s what I would call “product.”

I also felt that Shake-A-Leg Miami’s administration and Board of Directors had not yet understood the fact that the fleet needs much more than a facelift. My surveyor Pat Kearns (Naples, Florida) had found some problems that were keeping both of us awake at night.

On my way home, I stopped to visit with SALM board member, disabled sailor Kerry Gruson, and that’s when I started to get my energy back.  The next step, for me, was to begin investigating who in the Coast Guard might have the engineering experience we needed to take a closer look at the sailboats, which are typically not covered by the mass of regulations that apply to power boats.

The move that brought me back into peace of mind, though, was the news that SALM had taken the pro-active step of pulling the two oldest sailboats out of the water, and had started removing hardware and rigging, so those boats cannot be sailed until properly repaired.

Few 20 year old boats have had the ongoing use (and and lack of routine maintenance) that these Freedoms have had. Pat and I discussed this last night and came to the conclusion that the builders would be astounded to know how well they are actually doing!  Shake-A-Leg Miami has some important information to offer to the marine industry about the integrity of these boats, and fortunately, SALM has now shown me its own integrity by admitting that it’s time to let these tired vessels rest.

What will happen to them? We are hoping they will form the basis for some advanced training classes on structural repair and other key aspects of boat maintenance. Perhaps they will become training tools and — who knows? — may well return to the water as fine examples of “classic plastic” once again.

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“It’s a new boat!” said Ricardo, and he should know since he manufactures the Access dinghies

The Green Machine

The Green Machine

used in Shake-A-Leg Miami’s beginner sailing program. Together, Ricardo, Melissa, and I took The Green Machine’s interior from faded and jaded to sparkling new again, applying a series of Star brite products and elbow grease. What fantastic results!

I’ve got to say, that was the high point of my weekend, which had been fraught with false starts and aggravations.

Once we saw how sharp Green Machine looked, including its newly painted hull (color: Interlux Matterhorn White), I sent Ricardo and Melissa off to find more dinghies for our anticipated large crew of  Sept. 26 volunteers to clean. Alas. Little Green was the only one that did not need additional work in the form of removing old paint. So back to “Go” on that idea.

We had some other course corrections this week, too. Remember how much I liked the photo of the kids in the hangar as they flowed past the newly painted boats? I loved how that image showed multiple aspects of Shake-A-Leg Miami co-existing, but it also made it clear that we needed a better way to organize our workspace to minimize exposure. No small fingerprints on fresh paint, no sanding dust under small feet.

Consequently, we are switching to a divide-and-conquer space arrangement with the addition of an enclosed space outside, in close proximity to an approved water-containment tank; and, inside, we are taking new measures to contain dust, primarily through wet sanding, hauling water, and other evidence of the Ship Shape Team’s ingenuity for solving any problem that we throw its way.

One more course correction: Our first coats of “Fighting Lady Yellow” and “Royal Blue” were thrilling, even though we knew we needed better coverage.  Our second coats applied last Wednesday gave us the coverage we wanted, but also left slight ridging from the primer, and left me feeling a little discouraged when I saw them Friday afternoon.

We had planned to go on to paint another brace of Freedoms on Saturday, but we still needed to finish boot striping the first two, and none of us were ecstatic about the gloss or the smoothness, so we set to work preparing for yet another coat for each boat.

Ray Talks Tape

Ray Talks Tape

The best part of the day was listening to SALM staffer Ray Rautenberg explain how to lay down tape for the boot stripe. He is a gifted teacher with great attention to details. I wish I could have him working on the Ship Shape project all the time, but he’s needed for other duties, too.

Ray then got us started on the familiar roll-and-tip painting method once again, following all the same steps we’d already done twice. We were out of Royal Blue, so I put in a call to Interlux’s Joe Purtell for more, and we’ll apply that Wednesday or Saturday, depending on availability of team members.

The “Fighting Lady Yellow” looked great by the end of the day, but on Sunday morning, I saw to my great disappointment that beneath the gloss we had microscopic bubbles, perhaps not even visible to many eyes.  Now the question is, do it again in our quest for perfection? Or call it a training exercise and move on?  I’ll wait to hear from the paint experts, but I suspect most of the crew wants to do it again.

So, Sunday was not a great day. Several expected volunteers called to say they needed a break, or just did not show up. Still we had enough to push ahead with prepping three more dinghy hulls, and then there was the triumph of The Green Machine!

I think I’ll be glad when this week is over. I have a lot of projects to complete in my “real” job, getting ready for an online event for Professional BoatBuilder magazine, and prepping for the upcoming IBEX show.

I’m finding out that scheduling boats for repair is an ongoing nightmare. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but it’s an incredible balancing act to provide boats for all the SALM activities, and still pull out ones that need repair and painting, knowing they may be out of service for several days or weeks at a time.

That may be easier in the near future, though. Ship Shape Team Member Emma Wicks has picked up where I left off on learning about “BackTrack” software, offered to us by Norman Katz of www.katzscan.com. Emma and Norm have already come up with a plan for implementing this software that will – eventually – make life easier for everyone at SALM by letting us track just about what ever needs tracking, i.e. small children, boats, supplies, and equipment.

At the same time, our surveyor Pat Kearns and her associate Janine Skula are wrapping up their assessment of the fleet and facilities. Pat says it won’t be a pretty picture, but it will be a serious system-restore point for the work that needs to be done to bring SALM to the forefront of “Best Practices” for community boating centers.

We now have just about 2 1/2 weeks left before our reception for the marine industry on October 11. We’re expecting bout 200 boatbuilders, marine educators, yard managers, and vendors to visit SALM. Again, our goal is to convince them that this is a place that deserves the industry’s support and warrants their continued interest.

If you want to help with the Ship Shape Project, click on the Volunteer tab above.

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Mega kudos to Bill Lindsey of Star brite for Friday morning’s workshop on boat cleaning and maintenance! Our new corps of Ship Shape Team (SST) members listened carefully, asked a lot of good questions, and cut to the chase.

Stra brite workshop

Star brite workshop

By lunch time, they had brought a new sparkle to three small boats–and restored a high-gloss finish to SALM Board Member Kerry Gruson’s BLEW BaYOU.

While were waiting for Bill to start the workshop, we spent some time talking in the shade of the keelboats current in cradles in front of the SALM hangar. That was my opportunity to describe why I am at Shake-A-Leg Miami: “I’m here for the boats.”

Sometimes that seems a little odd, compared to the sentiments of the many people who are attracted to SALM by all the truly good works that take place there, the healing qualities of being on the water, the opportunities for people with disabilities or disadvantages to break free of bonds and stereotypes. No matter, it’s true, I’m here for the boats, and I was happy to share that sentiment.

Working for WoodenBoat Publications and Professional BoatBuilder magazine since 1988, I’ve come to know many, many people in the marine industry, so it was easy for me to share my perspective with the SST, quite honestly.  When i look at the boats stored or docked at SALM, I see more than a way to get out on the water. I see the results of design, engineering, art, science, labor, and a little magic. I see wonderful objects that have value in and of themselves. I see beauty, and sometime I see neglect and abuse.

What I want to imbue in the SST is a sense of stewardship, pride, and ownership. My hope is that the team members will become proactive in caring for the fleet.

I told them that I recently completed training to be a Community Emergency Response Team member in my home town of Delray Beach. About half-way through the training, 24 hours in all, our instructor informed us that we were now First Responders, saying “You no  longer have the right to stand back and watch in an emergency situation. You now know what to do. You must act.”

That’s the same kind of message that I want to give to the SST members. “You no longer have the right to walk past a situation onsite at SALM. Volunteer to volunteer. Take action.” Maybe it’s just stooping down to pick up a bit of litter, or maybe it’s reporting a safety issue on one of the boats or around the shop, but these folks are going to be fantastic stewards who don’t have to wait for someone else to tell them what to do.

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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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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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