Saturday, April 11, 2009

Practicing the Zen art of varnishing in Marsh Harbour...

To wile away the days that Penelope is cavorting in Florida, spreading mulch across her yard, planting rose bushes, and spray painting anything old and rusty she can get her hands on (it's a good thing I'm in the Bahamas), I am at anchor in Marsh Harbour reading, napping, doing the ocassional boat chore, enjoying my sundowner martinis, and trying out the only cheap wines available here, which are from Chile and are not bad at all ... I especially like a Cab/Merlot blend under the Aliwen label made from grapes provided by the Undurraga family, which owns over 2000 acres of prime vineyards in Chile's foremost appellations, the Maipo and Colchagua Valleys.  At $10 a bottle, it's a good buy.

Meanwhile Penelope and I manage to stay in close touch with each other thanks to my investing in the new Engenius wireless internet antenna, and also thanks to Yahoo Messenger and Skype.  We've discovered that we can have pretty clear video conversations over Yahoo, and recently even clearer and better video phone coversations on Skype-to-Skype.  So we talk a couple of times a day, which makes being apart a little less onerous.  Not tolerable, mind you, but just not brutally painful.

After watching yet another lovely sunset a couple of days ago, I decided that I should start paying attention to the varnish, which is starting to wear.  So, I have turned to the Zen art of varnishing, beginning by chipping away some bad spots, sanding, and building them back up as best I can.  This is never very satisfactory, particularly because I really don't know what kind of varnish (or clear coat) is already there.  The way it is breaking off, I'm pretty sure it's a clear coat of some sort, probably a clear coat over Cetol.  But, I am not going to undertake stripping everything and starting over.  I'll save that for another year.  The patching will just have to do for now.

Today, however, in addition to doing the third or fourth build up coat on my patches, I taped and sanded and applied a full coat of Epifane high gloss to the eyebrows.  Taping and sanding is not my thing, but I do love flowing a nice coat of varnish on to teak.  There is really something absorbing about the process, getting just the right amount on one's brush so that once applied it doesn't run, blending about an eight inch run into the run just done before, and doing it with just two to three strokes of the brush.  It's not painting, at all, but really is flowing the varnish on to the teak.   I can hardly wait for tomorrow so that I can sand and apply a second coat.  Already the eyebrows look much better!

There is a lot of wood on Alizee: teak combing around the cockpit, probably twenty linear feet, a teak caprail which is close to ninety linear feet, and then a teak trim piece of the same length below the caprail on the hull exterior.  There is are also two dorade boxes, and then, of course, the hatch covers and companion way trim.  Inside is almost entirely teak, and while there is work to be done inside, I need to find some good satin varnish for that, something that could not be found in Oriental, N.C., and which would be outrageously expensive here.

The cost of things in the Bahamas is truly exorbitant.  Anything that is imported has a duty on it, for some things such as U.S. wines, apparently as high as 55%.  Hard liquor seems to be about the same price as in the U.S., but beer (Budweiser, Red Stripe, Heinikin, etc) sells at over $45 a case or more.  The only reasonably priced good beer is Kalik, the Bahamian beer made in Nassau, which is still $36 a case.  Food is expensive, too, again because of import duties.  It used to be that parts for boats "in transit," that is on a cruising permit in the Bahamas, could be shipped in duty-free, but a couple of years ago the government ended that, which means lots of folks carry spare parts in their luggage or just don't fix things until they return to the U.S.  I had considered having a watermaker part shipped in, but decided against it.  Water is available and relatively inexpensive, so I can do without it this trip.

Well, it's time for that martini, for it's past five o'clock and another sunset will soon be on the way.  And, I have to consider what I'm cooking up for dinner tonight.  Chili is on my mind, and since I've got all the stuff, I might just as well do that....


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