November and the birth of the 'hard-top'

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Thu 20 Nov 2014 17:19
The ‘snow-bird’ season is now upon us. There is a constant stream of boats of all shapes and sizes heading south down the ICW.  Apparently, it is the same on the roads as RV’s, also of all shapes and sizes, head south. A yearly migration to escape the bitterly cold winters further north. In turn heralding the arrival of weather ‘fronts’ further south as the hurricane season draws quietly to a close (we hope).  We’ve had a couple of these fronts already. Naturally this is quite unusual! One bought bitterly cold biting north winds and the other torrential rain for a whole day. These had everyone delving deep into lockers for any form of warm clothing. One day shorts, t-shirt and flip flops the next jeans, fleeces, socks and shoes. It really complicates the laundry process.  We even started the central heating.  Both units worked fine for a day.  The starboard one then decided not to play and started flashing all sorts of error messages.  We all know that the resident engineer is now on ‘hard top’ duties so that repair has been added to ‘the list’. Unless of course it snows!  Frost has been threatened for next week. Florida? Worst weather for eight years they say!!!
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                           Our view from the cockpit, across the park to the Indian River – the re-patched Coppercoat underneath and the primitive sink drainage via jerry can!
The yard has been busy with lots of comings and goings.  There are still quite a few of us finishing off projects.  Others arrive for a quick haul and ‘bottom’ paint. Some owners turn up after leaving their boats on the hard for several months flit about removing awnings, putting on sails, the odd polish, launch and they’re off. The more seasoned of us watch this with some amusement as it just ain’t as simple as that. Many a trip south has been ruined by poor preparation.  Still, we would like to thank several of our very good cruising friends who have taken the trouble to stop off in Titusville on their way south to visit us.  To catch-up, offer ‘project’ moral support and to give us an excuse to take a break and have some fun. It is not always easy to dinghy in and out from the mooring field especially when it is blowing old boots and pouring with rain. We really appreciated it.
It seems that Titusville has now been voted Florida's most boring town! But we would disagree. Since we’ve been here it has begun to show signs of perking up a bit.  It was hardly the towns fault that it suffered a recession as a result of the end of the NASA space shuttle programme.  There are lots of empty business premises including a vast and slightly spooky shopping mall.  However, some enterprising folk are attempting to improve things. The first Veterans Parade took place on the weekend before the 11th.  We went along with some visiting cruising pals and enjoyed the small but well organised event.  We’re sure it will attract more participants in the future – the first of anything is always a gamble – Ajaya is hull No 1 and don’t we know it! More recently we queued with other fellow ‘Happy Hour’ enthusiasts for the grand opening of a ‘Micro’ Brewery.  We’d watched it take shape in an old hardware store building in the historic part of town.  The shop floor now contains all the brewing paraphernalia on one side and a long almost western movie type bar on the other side. Besides glasses of ale for those aficionados who knew what they wanted they also served a wooden tray of samples, five in all, varying from nice light lager types to rocket fuel! The crew of Ajaya took a shine to a citrusy little number that just happened to be 8.8% on the Richter scale.
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                                 The Titusville Fire Department – in kilts?
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                                  Veterans on Harleys lead the parade – tiny American flags line the verge.                     A micro pic of the Micro Brewery.
The new bridge from Titusville across to Merritt Island and the nearby parks and wildlife centres have also done a lot to attract people to the place.  The bridge, being the only ‘hill’ in the area, is good for walking or jogging exercise. In the ‘Admirals’ case it takes about 45 minuets to cross over and come back at a good walking pace.  Faster or younger members of the species can make the crossing several times and there are always plenty of those.  It’s also an interesting view and you never know what you may see.....................................................
                                   We won’t be swimming in the Indian River – sunning it’s self on the banks of the east side of the bridge about 6/7’ (couldn’t see the tail & wasn’t going any closer!)
On a smaller scale we had an unwelcome visitor one morning as a squirrel had the audacity to take a stroll around our deck, looking for nuts perhaps? This wasn’t on and ‘Skip’ tiptoed outside to confront the intruder which merely walked round to the other side of the deck out of sight. So the ‘Admiral’ joined in forming a side deck pincer movement as the little rat with the cute fluffy tail ran from one side to the other finding us advancing slowly towards it. Finally it’s ‘flight sensors kicked in and it scampered over the coach roof between us at top speed and down the rear steps to safety. It’s not been seen since! Our friends had to replace all their in-boom running lines due to nesting squirrels (very expensive) so we don’t tolerate their presence on the boat.
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The yard from the west side of the bridge (one of those masts to the right of the shed is ours).  A ‘snow-bird’ passing underneath and looking towards Merritt Island from the ‘summit’!     
It’s just as well there aren’t too many distractions or we’d never finish the work. At last the patching of the Coppercoat underneath is complete.  The saildrive legs and props have been epoxied and coated.  The gaiters re-seated and anodes replaced.  Just a final sand to activate the Coppercoat prior to launch is required. Whilst epoxying stuff ‘Skip’ took it upon himself to tidy up a tired looking cockpit locker lid.  It was a sort of laminated wood with ‘teak & holly’ effect which had faded. He duly sanded, epoxied and painted it white (non-slip strips yet to be added). Looks very nice. During this process the lid had to spend some time ‘down below’ drying. He’d warned the ‘Admiral’ several times not to fall into the gaping hole. Well, after an evening out with some friends in a nearby hostelry sampling more fish & chips we returned in the dark.  ‘Admiral’ handed ‘Skip’ the torch, missed the hole, unlocked the boat, went down to turn on the lights. Before this sequence was completed there was an agonized squawk from the cockpit. Yep, even holding a torch ‘Skip’ found the hole. A minor abrasion joined the acid burns on his right forearm. We didn’t have plasters big enough to cover the combined injuries so a large traditional crepe bandage type thing was used to prevent dirt making things worse. Quite impressive actually, bringing many sympathetic comments from other yard residents.
Designing, planning and collecting parts for the ‘hard-top’ have been thwarted not only by weather but other little emergencies.  Living on the shore, in a boat, is not particularly easy.  We have only the galley sinks in use both of which drain into an old diesel canister and latterly a large bucket.  This is emptied daily into a special ‘dump’ tank which is way over to the other side of the yard. We sort of ignored the fact that the sink was getting slower to drain until it really didn’t drain at all. So that morning it was off with the waste trap, no blockage, off with piece between there and the next bend, no blockage, off with the bit to the plug ‘ole, no blockage.  Oh! well lets take the whole lot apart.  Deposit all the contents of the galley cupboards into the rear cabin which is already full of other ‘stuff’. Put the plumbing all back together and it leaks. This is the ultimate 5 minute job.  By 5 o’clock one of the two sinks was usable – just. Never did find the blockage. Seems that the pipe from the outlet under the boat to the canister had created its own U bend, once shortened everything flowed smoothly again.  Still, we now have very clean galley waste pipes.  Whilst on the subject of the water system – the hot water tank that sprang a tiny pin hole leak when we arrived was removed and has been residing under the boat ever since.  With a small section of its foam jacket cut away it has endured periodic sandings and epoxyings.  It doesn’t appear to leak anymore so the next time ‘rain stops play’ outside it will be refitted.
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Shiny sail-drive prior to epoxy & Coppercoat & return of prop....................................’sailing’ across the to hot water tank
As the ‘hard-top’ will have the last of the large solar panels on top ‘Skip’ had to make absolutely sure that it would not interfere with the operation of the mainsail.  So up very early before the breeze and on with the sail retainer and the sail.  Prior to that the green canvas sail retainer had been lying, very much in the way, in the port hull.  We did know that there were a few missing stitches on the zip but on further inspection realised the whole thing needed re-stitching again. (Note to anyone thinking of sailing sunnier climbs – use UV resistant thread regardless of initial cost it will be cheaper in the long run!) Luckily we found a very experienced guy locally who was able to do the job immediately.  The solar panel also has to have wiring run to the controller – so down with the headlinings in the aft cabin again to find a suitable route. At least the sail and its lengthy battens are no longer taking up space down below.
Finally, we set off to buy the large extruded polystyrene sheets – commonly used for house insulation.  The bi-axial glass fibre glass matt and epoxy resin had already been delivered to the marina office. If only the wretched Sea Crows would stop splattering the deck with guano things would be looking up!
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Yes, he is on the phone but the people carrier was parked and we did manage to get the doors closed! Off with the old canvas and on with the panels...............................
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We didn’t realise that the panels were printed with ‘pink-panthers’ (will be painted) – that is a bread knife for trimming and that is garden irrigation hose pipe being glued & screwed for a round edge
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We had to rig a ‘guano awning’ hence the shade of blue, on with the mat, trim and epoxy....................................
Well, that is stage one.  Lighting ducts are being added and the whole thing has to be removed and glass fibred on the underside. Then the solar panel has to be fitted, the old side window panels modified to fit, the lights fitted, wiring run.........................Oh! and we have to get the boat ready for sea? The ‘Admiral’ has seen some nice Christmas lights in the hardware store.............................