Project creep

Project Creep and the precarious art of getting very little accomplished. Boat projects always turn out to be more involved than you first think.
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A trello board showing Lutris' projects

Project creep … and the precarious art of getting very little accomplished.

Let’s just be clear there have been lots of projects that have been completed. The new Cruise R/O water maker is in, we’ve installed a new electric head, new faucets, a host of new electronic bits, and even new solar panels. However, the project board is absolutely brimming with stuff to do, as a matter of fact, even the management of all the projects has become its own project.

What follows is just a good example of how quickly something simple gets completely out of hand.


The view of our saloon from the companionway steps

There is a biting breeze; it’s not quite cold, but I can feel it coming. It’s certainly not summer anymore, or even what passes for fall here in the Pacific NW. It’s the start of winter and this is the first morning I’ve felt it. It’s been nearly a week since the last time I was on the boat and she looks like she’s hunkered down for the season. Maybe I’m just imparting how I feel on to her. I climb the dock steps and hop the gap – another sign of winter, the wind is from the south now, and she’s being blown off the dock, I’ll have to tighten up her mooring. I open the companionway and am greeted by the reminder that I didn’t take the trash with us when we left last weekend. Damnit. I straighten up the remainders of our last sail: a LED candle tossed to the sole, a pile of blankets on the sette. That’s when I notice it, this blanket is wet. Awe damnit.

We’ve got a pair of deadlights at the front of the cabin trunk. (Deadlights are a silly boat term for windows that don’t open.) There is a clear and obvious bit of water collecting and dripping from the starboard (right) side. Really, this does not come as a surprise. I noticed that the sealant has been looking worse for the wear, but I had hoped it would stick it out through the winter. Okay, well, I can fix this up. In the mean time, I go and grab a shower curtain from the big box home store and basically lay it atop the windows (the tape I have aboard won’t hold in the rain, except for the good expensive rescue tape, but it’s silly to use that for such a short time fix). I weight it down with some heavy bits that are laying about the deck; the deck brush, a couple of hanks of line.

The right way to fix this is to remove the window, clean all the mating surfaces, apply an adhesive element, re-seat the window and then apply a sealant around the edge. (I say “right way” but please know that what I mean is my right way, this may be very different from the actual right way, or your right way.) For this I need some supplies; 3M VHB tape (Very High Bond double stick tape that allows for lots of movement), wire brushes, 80g sandpaper, isopropyl alcohol, Dow 795 sealant. I know I’ve got most of this … somewhere. The first thing I find is the 795, it expired over a year ago. Okay, so I can’t start this project without the sealant to finish it. For that matter I can’t really start this project until it’s dry & fairly moderate temps. I order up some 795 from Amazon (lord knows why Fisheries doesn’t have it in stock). It’s gonna take 5 days, okay, fine, that coincides with a forecasted dry day any way. I find the rest of the bobbles aboard, but it take 3 hours, 4.5 if you count the nap I took in the middle of looking. At this point in time I probably should have taken a look at the ports from the outside, to look at their construction, but I’d seen them hundreds of times, so I let the thought go.

This window frame will need to be sanded down and re-varnished … eventually 😉

Nearly a week later, back at the boat. The leak shows less, but it clearly hasn’t been stopped. As water moving slowly over interior boat wood has a tendency to do, the finish is all streaky, the water having taken a bit of the stain/varnish with it on it’s way to the sette. The finish will need to be repaired as well.

So this is where it starts to all go awry. I head up on deck, now armed with the right tools and supplies, and remove the tarp (aka shower curtain) and sun cover from the windows.

Oh, screws …

Well of course there are screws, everything else is screwed down, why wouldn’t this window be? 10 screws holding down the slightly bent window in a terribly thin bedding of silicone. Only I am now filled with a weeks worth of research that says screwing windows down is bad. The acrylic expands and contracts quite a bit with temperature. The screw holes, their movement stopped by the screws themselves, crack, this leads to failure of both the window and the sealant. I’m presented with a couple of options, do it right, and use the adhesive tape to hold down the window, then seal around the window and the screw holes -or- just use the sealant and leave the screws in place, knowing that I’ll be replacing it that much sooner. Ehrm, crap, there is a third option … do it really right, and replace the window with one that doesn’t have screw holes … which leads me to the creep.

Done right, REALLY RIGHT, looks like this: replace all four of the deadlights (the two forward facing and the two aft facing ones in the bedroom) at the same time with brand new acrylic panes that are stuck down with VHB, sealed with 795, and re-varnish all the interior frames.

How is this what really needs to be done, you ask? How did we go from stop a few drips of water to replace 4 windows? Well it’s simple really. Acrylic ages with UV exposure and these windows are original (I assume), making them some 35+ years old. My guess is based on how the outer surface is almost bead blasted in appearance. We can’t see through them clearly at all. Also, the aforementioned screw holes. So new window panes are necessary. The reason they all need to be done at the same time, is really a cost thing. The plastic guy will charge less to do all 4 at once, and the sealant really doesn’t like sitting around after it’s been opened. So doing some now and some later is just going to add to the cost of the project. The interior frames now all need to be finished because, they don’t make the interior satin varnish that the frames were done in any longer and even if they did, there is no way it would match the finish that is 35 years old.

Here is how it never gets done, and this is completely my fault – well mine, and the fact that we aren’t bobbing on the water in Baja. It’s cold and wet here in Seattle. I’m going to need 5 days straight of dryness, and ideally a reasonable temperature for the sealant to cure it’s best. So … July basically. We’re practically guaranteed a month of dry starting on July 5th. It’s going to take:

  • A full day to get all four windows out and cleaned up, and over to the plastic people.
  • I’m thinking at least 2, probably 3 days for them to be made. During which I can also clean the frames
  • Another day to get them installed.

And here is the kicker, as it’s July, all I want to do when I have time for the boat is sail. I am sure that when July comes, and there is no rain to remind me that it ever rains, that I will look at those foggy windows and say, “eh, let’s go sailing”. My five day window replacement project being carelessly tossed aside in exchange for a quiet anchorage and a bit of kayaking. This is the practiced art of talking myself right out of doing the project at all and just leaving it on the ever growing board of projects.

For what it’s worth, I did pull the window, tape it down using VHB, and sealed the window and screw holes. It’s been completely leak free for weeks, of course it’s only a matter of time before one of the other starts leaking. I did a really ugly job of it, but only to help convince myself to do it right come drier weather.

Yes, she’s a dirty boat. In my defense almost all of that is just from the last 2 weeks. We’re moored just downwind from a six lane bridge …
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