REFIT UPDATE #3: On Painting and Windvanes

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This isn’t my first rodeo. It’s my second. I should know better.

The first rodeo was a 31-foot Far East Mariner built in 1972 that my wife and I purchased in the summer of 2001. I liked the boat because she liked the boat, whose interior spaces felt vast next to the 24-footer we’d been using for weekends on San Francisco Bay, and because the ketch rig and full keel reminded me of Moitessier’s Joshua and because it was what we could afford. 

My enthusiasm entirely sunk the doubts of inexperience. It didn’t see beyond the shiny paint and lustrous varnish and the dream of cruising like Moitessier, whose embodiment, I was sure, floated jauntily there before me. It didn’t catch, for example, that a plywood deck sheathed in one layer of glass cloth is not a fiberglass deck but a wooden deck. A wooden deck, wooden cabin sides, wooden cockpit, all nearly 30 years old.

The surveyor caught this. He pointed out a soft spot in the deck by the starboard chainplates. “What’s a chainplate?” I asked. The broker explained and said the owner had generously offered to deduct a thousand dollars from the boat’s asking price to cover “such a triffling repair.” I remember feeling grateful that the broker had anticipated this need. What a nice guy.

Nine years later–of which five winters were spent learning to entirely tear down and rebuild decks, cabins sides, and a cockpit–the beautiful Murre was as able as I had initially thought her to be, and she did have her adventure, but beforehand I would never have guessed the mountains of work required to get her ready.

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Jump forward to the present moment and you may understand my frustration. I have put Moli under a tent so that, during winter rains, I can reattach her lifting deck tread and patch some loose paint here and there. The jobs are neither technical nor numerous, I think. I budget a month of Randall-man-hours to be conservative.

Two months later, and I’m still at it. In what can now only be explained as abiding, inexhaustible, even purposeful naivete, I missed what a job it would be to reattach the edges of every piece of tread and to scrape, sand, grind, tape-off, and then paint the whole deck of a 45-foot boat.

Not a complaint, mind you. I’m just explaining why I’ve lately been absent from church pot-lucks.


One afternoon I noticed that the fingers of my right hand were tender. Banged them on something, I thought, not without reason. In fact, the nails and skin had been worn away from days of sanding areas too small for a machine (most areas on this big deck are too small for a machine).


But finally, the paint began to flow.

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Next step, the cockpit, which felt like starting all over…

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Then came the day of the last brush stroke…

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This has allowed the move to much more interesting projects, like getting ready to install the rebuilt Monitor windvane.

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As a singlehander, I adore the Monitor and still marvel that a purely mechanical device can steer a boat over thousands of miles of highly inconsistent terrain without ever falling asleep on watch or griping when dinner is curried lentils, again. That it steadily does its work by drawing on the power of wind and water, and not my battery bank, is a double bonus.

At first glance, the Monitor that came attached to Moli’s stern appeared to be Clark Stede’s original, added in the Pacific when he gave up on the Wind Pilot. This would have been 1991-92, when Asma still had half of her Americas circumnavigation ahead of her and when Tony Gooch’s own habitual globe-trotting in Taonui had yet to be imagined.

The unit was knock-kneed when I crossed the Gulf last summer. I replaced the bearings and bushings in Port Townsend before the leap to Hawaii, which helped, but I was still worried at the thought of putting another 40,000 miles on an essential piece of kit that had already thrice tackled Cape Horn.

Once home, a chat with the folks at Scanmar International, the maker of the Monitor, and a check of the serial number showed that the frame, at least, was built in 2003. They recommended a thorough rebuild but did not think an entirely new unit was in order.

While it was in the shop, I took the opportunity to refresh the Monitor transom brackets.

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Over the years, the old plastic spacers between the stainless steel fittings and the aluminum transom had begun to disintegrate, leading to some pitting around the edges where water could collect. I pulled the brackets, cleaned the areas with a wire wheel, had them inspected for structural integrity (pass), and then inserted thicker spacers of G-10 and new custom fittings.

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IMG_0428 (1280x960)However, I failed to account for the thicker plate of the new fittings, and when it came time to attach the new windvane, Ross and Ichiro of Scanmar struggled mightily to mate the frame to brackets that were now some millimeters too small for the tubing.

To their credit, they directed not one grumble at the thoughtless owner, who, to account for his sin, bought lunch.

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My thanks to the folks at Monitor for their support of the Figure 8 Voyage.

Next, to the mast…

3 Comments on “REFIT UPDATE #3: On Painting and Windvanes

  1. Hi Randall, Those are serious isolation plates for the Monitor mounting brackets…. No doubt will last 50 years/ The paint job looks great. Well done. What a labour of love. Cheers Tony

  2. Wow, at the beginning I didn’t see any smiling Randall pics but by the end you seem pretty happy! What a grind but now it’s just a thousand other things to do. Ha, when you’re finished there and need more work come on down to Sage!

  3. You have much more patience than I. In a bout of enthusiasm to keep moving I have only cleaned off corroding areas under the paint but have neglected a thorough paint removal or repainting of the cockpit or deck. Esthetically not so pleasing but functional all the same. An added bonus to waste countless hours at sea scraping and scratching while many miles pass silently under the keel

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