Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Off with the old

We're about two and a half weeks into the project, and the old teak is all off the deck. It was quite an involved process. Art's been helping with the work, both to see how it's done and to keep the cost down. He's also been taking some pictures. Apologies in advance for the scarcity (and size) of said pictures - when we're on an internet connection where we're not paying by the mb, I'll post more.

First, all the hardware had to come off. There is a lot of stuff on the deck of a Mason 44. Chainplate covers, stanchions, deck fills, hose bibs, blocks, track, etc. All this is through bolted, so the first step was to empty out the lockers and take down all of the headliners under the deck down below. Then everything has to be removed, numbered, bagged and stored. The result is a boat that looks like this:

While that was happening, Reggie and his helper were going over the deck, removing the thousands of screws that attached it to the fiberglass substrate. Some people don't remove the screws, but instead just cut them off. This is a bad idea - it leaves thousands of tiny holes in your deck, and, if you're doing paint or fiberglass rather than teak, the screws can print through the new surface over time. We've seen boats where this has happened, and it's not pretty. Some people will just pry the screws up when they remove the teak. Also a bad idea - you can actually delaminate the upper layer of fiberglass decking from the balsa core, and that's a very expensive and difficult thing to fix.

Then the teak has to be pulled chipped chiseled off the deck. Masons are very well built boats. Correspondingly, even after 22 years, the teak was extremely firmly attached to the deck. Art said the average size of the pieces they were able to remove was ~2" long. It was pretty tough going. Eventually, they got all of the teak up, and were left with a bare fiberglass deck with bits of mastic adhering to it. That all had to be scraped/ground off. Messy.

Interestingly, we did not have fiberglass non skid under the teak. I'd heard that a lot of these boats did, as the non skid pattern was in the molds used to build the boat. On our boat, Ta Shing apparently ground it down before installing the teak. That's probably part of why the teak was so well stuck.

Once they got all of the mastic scraped/ground off of the fiberglass, it was time for one last grinding to smooth everything down, and they were ready to lay the new teak.

Oh, but what's that? This isn't teak caulk! It's teak cleaner. Crap! The distributor sent the wrong stuff down from San Diego. Luckily, Reggie was able to sell the cleaner to a marine business here in town, and the distributor got the (we hope) correct stuff on a truck that should get here tomorrow or Friday. So, for now, they're just dry fitting the planks. Once we have actual caulk, they'll move on to the next step, which is gluing them down. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

To the Yard

There are two types of boaters, it's sometimes said: those who have run aground and those who will run aground. Monday, we became the former.

Our trip to the yard where we'll have Arione's teak decks replaced started off fine. We got off to a fairly early start from the little casita we're renting, get down to the boat, schlep the laundry and a last few things for the house up to the rental car, top off the water tanks and untie. There's no marked channel from Marina de La Paz south to the Singlar yard, but we have, we think, a pretty good handle on the route we need to take. The tide's going out, though, so we need to be careful. At first, everything's fine – 12, 15, 17 feet showing on the depth sounder, amazingly, actually matching what we're seeing on the chart. Then, things start getting skinny. We showing 8 feet, then 6, then 5 then... uh, oh. We're in the mud. Art backs off and tries another direction. Crap. In the mud again. The bottom's soft, so there's not a lot of worry about breaking the boat, but this is waaay too skinny for our tastes. We try yet another direction, and with a sickening sort of slurping feeling, we're hard aground. On a dropping tide. This is not good. If we have to wait to float off, we're going to be here until late afternoon, and still we'll have no idea what direction to go. We try gunning the engine in reverse. Nope. Heeling the boat over with the boom. Nope. Putting up the jib and seeing if the wind might take us off. Not a chance.

We call Reggie, who's doing the work on the decks. He says he'll try and get someone from the yard to come out and help, but they don't get in until 9:00, so it would likely be 10:00, with even less water, by the time they get to us. We hail the marina. At first, they say they can't get to us until 10:00 either, but Art points out the situation with the tide, and they say they'll get someone right out. A few minutes later, two pangas with guys in blue marina uniforms are headed our way. We get lines attached, and they start pulling. And pulling. And pulling. The boat heels over and I hear things crashing off the counters below, so I run down and put stuff away before it breaks. I am, at this point, starting to get a little freaked out. As Art pointed out, this wasn't exactly helping, but that's just where my brain seems to want to go. I have visions of us stuck here for days, waiting for the tides to come up. But what if this was a really high tide? What were the tides doing over the last few days? How could I not have checked. Hell, what were we even thinking, setting off into an uncharted bay on a falling tide. We are, clearly, idiots. Also, we have no idea what this is going to cost. What if it winds up being a salvage job? (a salvage job is a very expensive, complicated maritime law thing related to whether or not the boat's actually in danger.) Do these guys even know where the deep water is? My brain is doing me no favors here, going off on the worst possible tangents. After about 40 minutes, the pangas get us free. Those three guys just refused to give up (which is what I told the office at the marina when I stopped in today to leave a tip for them). We are both incredibly relieved.

We call Reggie again, and tell him we'll mill around in the marked channel until he can get a boat out to guide us in. He does one better than that, and gets a boat and an extra guy who has been in and out of Singlar a whole bunch of times on his own boat, which draws even more than we do. This guy comes aboard and sends us way up to the top of the bay to cross over to the channel which runs pretty much nowhere near where we thought it was along the Mogote (peninsula on the west side of Bahia de La Paz). It takes a long time, as we're sort of feeling our way along, dead slow, but we do eventually get to the head of the dredged, marked channel into Singlar. In addition to being incredibly reassuring, our helper (Bob? Bill? Why am I so bad at names?) Rob is good company. He left for San Diego later that afternoon, but we know which boat is his and are so buying him a drink (or several) when he gets back.

Of course, by the time we get to Singlar, the water is too low for them to get us out – the slings on the lift can't be lowered enough to get them under Arione. Reggie runs me back to Marina de La Paz so that I can take our rental car back to avoid being charged for an extra day. I get us checked out of the marina. Oh, and the towing bill? Just over $100 U.S. What a relief.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


Arione is not a new boat. She's well past old enough to vote and could get a drink if she had the ability to order one. She has teak decks. Teak decks that were, regrettably, but standard for the time she was built, fastened with approximately five million screws through the balsa cored fiberglass nonskid decks that were molded into the boat for people who didn't want teak. Of whom there were very few, judging from the messages I've read on the Mason mailing list over the past 10 years. Most people with these boats have either dealt with their decks or are wondering how they will deal with them. We've known since we bought her that at some point, the decks were going to be an issue.

We figured at some point we'd have to replace the teak decks with painted nonskid. Which would have been functional, but a little sad. This is a boat that wants pretty decks, and paint is not particularly pretty. What we didn't know was that we were going to be in La Paz, where there is a guy who specializes in redoing teak decks. He took us around and showed us a lot of his work on other boats. It's beautiful. Bonus - he glues the teak down. There will be screws and bungs in the edge pieces, but that is something like 95% fewer screws into the deck than we have now.

Replacing a teak deck is never going to be a bargain proposition, but he's doing it for us at a price we can afford. Art's going to help with the labor, and I'll inventory the hardware as it comes off, so that reduces the labor a bit. Through a local mailing list, we've found a short term rental that's not too dear.

The work starts Monday. We'll rent a car this weekend and move all of the stuff that needs to be off the boat into the rental. I'm psyched.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Carnaval in La Paz runs through tonight. It started last Thursday. The Maleçon is pretty much shut down, and lined on both sides with booths selling food, beer, drinks, souvenirs and games.

For some reason, I really get a bang out of the balloon vendors. They look like they're carrying an impossible amount of stuff until you remember that what they're carrying is mostly, well, air. Still, I'm guessing that many mylar balloons has got to be pretty heavy.

Balloon Sellers

Most of the games involve shooting things or fishing them out of a pool of water.

There are also lots and lots of rides.

Things get going around 4:00 in the afternoon and get more and more raucous with music and dancing until the whole thing shuts down sometime well after 3:00. This has made getting any sleep an interesting proposition, as our marina is right downtown and it's been too hot to close the hatches at night. However, since someone either re-aimed or muted the freak show loudspeaker that was blasting "La niña más pequeña del mundo!" over and over at approximately 20,000 db on Thursday and Friday nights, it's not too bad.

(I have no idea why Mary Poppins is on this sign.
I'm also pretty sure "la niña mas pequeña" is
bigger than that. By quite a bit.)

The last three nights of Carnaval, there are parades. We went to the first one, on Sunday and watched from the street. That was fun, but the crowd was so dense it took us about an hour and a half to walk the mile back to our marina. And, in this mass of people all pressed together and moving different directions, we kept seeing women with strollers, usually trying to get from one side of the street to the other. It was wild. And I was a little afraid for the kids.

We went to last night's parade as well, but this time we had seats on the balcony at a restaurant above the action. Much better view, less claustrophobia, food and fun people. Much better. Unfortunately, set back a bit from the street, so it was hard to throw eggs at the parade. Not actual eggs - in La Paz (and who knows, perhaps in other parts of Mexico as well) they sell hollowed out eggs filled with confetti to throw.


It's very festive. For some reason, the crowd was quite a bit thinner last night, so the walk home wasn't bad at all.

Some floats:

I believe these three ladies were the queen of Carnaval and her court:

There was a kids court as well:

Because where there are pelicans, there is guano, I like the realism on this one:

We were at the tail end of the parade route, so many of the participants, including, I suspect, this guy who got off of one of the floats and came up to see us in the restaurant, were pretty well lubed.