Archive for the ‘volunteers’ 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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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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This picture, more than anything, illustrates the many worlds that converge at Shake-A-Leg Miami.

Not Your Usual Boatyard

Not Your Usual Boatyard

We had just barely finished the second coat of Interlux Royal Blue when the kids arrived, swarming through the hangar in search of rest rooms and soft drinks.

A few were interested in what we were doing, but for many, it was obvious that they were used to seeing constant change in the shop area. We had a momentary panic when some of them starting leaning in toward the gloss, but that soon passed.

Personally, I had not planned to work at Shake yesterday, but then I couldn’t resist seeing that final coat go on, so I braved Miami rush hour traffic, which seemed especially horrendous for some reason, spent a lot of time trying  to find alternate routes (pretty much always a bad idea), and arrived an hour later than I had expected.

Our hard-core team of volunteers was joined by Interlux’s Joe Purtell again, and Shake’s own Ray Rautenberg. The former Newbies are Painters now. I can see it in their swagger, and I know they will never look at a painted surface in the same way again.

Yesterday reminded me of one of the things I do love about a team-painting project: The pleasant pauses while we wait for dry time or the next step to be ready. That’s when we can righteously enjoy the transformation taking place before our eyes. Of course, Shake-A-Leg Miami is all about transformation!

The count down continues. What will our final tally be on Oct 11 when we have our pre-IBEX reception?  Right now we have two Freedoms and two Access dinghy hulls finished.

I’m told that we have several large groups of volunteers joining us in the next three weeks. I’m a little concerned about how to schedule projects for them so they get the most benefit out of the experience – and we get the most work out of them!

If you want to be part of the team, click on the “volunteer” tab above, or just go right to http://shipshape.eventbrite.com.

Meanwhile, you can follow our progress in some of the photos posted here.

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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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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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