Monthly Archives: July 2010

The boneyard and Butch…

Among the projects we have planned for Annabel Lee is the addition of a proper mast for a steadying sail and mounts for the radar and other electronics. Most of Annabel Lee’s sisters left the factory with spars; we managed to find one of the few boats that didn’t. Directly across the river from us is an old boatyard in which, I’m told, many a boat has met its end. My old friend Butch, who passed away a few weeks back, had always told me I should visit there. He also warned me to be careful; surrounded by old boats he felt I could get in trouble, though that was back when I had a far more simple boat to care for. But now, being that I have an old boat of my own I figured I would be less inclined to adopt some new project. All the same, in all these years I’d yet to visit that marine graveyard… until last weekend.

Saturday the temperature was once again pushing 100 with extreme humidity, no clouds and no breeze. Frank couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to spend the day grinding away at fiberglass and suggested we take a ride instead. So off we went, winding our way up the Hudson to the Bear Mountain Bridge and back down the other shore. Despite living here my entire life, despite all the times I’ve seen this stretch of the river both by land and water, the beauty of it still amazes me.

We located the boatyard, parked and looked around. I stepped into the office, occupying the basement of the house on the property to speak with the manager. I explained that I was looking for a mast, and there based upon my friend Butch’s suggestion. “A shame about Butch,” he said. “He’ll be missed.” I nodded in agreement. I’d known Butch for years, from long before I’d worked in another boatyard with him to long after I’d left. The manager mentioned not making it to the viewing; I told him I’d been there. He asked how I’d known Butch; I explained and he said he never knew Butch worked in that boatyard. The Butch I knew had worked there for decades. He reminisced about his memories, referring to Butch as a ‘big happy fellow’, always with a smile. Now I was really confused. Those were the last words I’d ever consider to describe him. I told the manager, “I’m beginning to wonder if your Butch and mine were one and the same.” The Butch I knew and loved dearly was hands-down the grumpiest old bastard I’ve ever known. The more we compared notes, the more the Butch he spoke of and the one I knew were two entirely different people, literally. It turns out there were two Butches, one on either side of the Hudson, who both passed away recently, leaving the world an emptier place.

Anyhow, here’s some pictures of the boneyard. It’s a fascinating place, though tragic to see some magnificent boats sitting derelict and beyond salvage, no more than failed and forgotten dreams. There was much for me to fall in love with, much I could get myself into trouble with if not for the fact that I already have a boat that owns me.

You were right, Butch.

That plumb bow in the middle has such magnificent lines, even as a derelict the elegance is still there. 

An old Tollycraft and a Viking. These two looked like they could be brought back… with MUCH work.

The nesting ground of the old Evinrudes.

Ladders? Lots of ladders.

And swim platforms! Several of these looked to be in better shape than ours.

A forgotten Wheeler Playmate, buried behind other boats. This was as close as I could get.  The cabin looked like a greenhouse with vines climbing between the curtains.

Learning curves…

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a complete noob when it comes to this whole Kindle publishing thing, but as with much else in life, I figure, if other people can do it, then so can I. This attitude has been useful through life and usually served me well, though that logic implies that I should also, with a little effort and a few good books, be capable of brain surgery, quantum physics and accounting. Needless to say, I’ve embarked on this Kindle e-publishing path with my usual delusional optimism, and as is to be expected, immediately encountered a learning curve. Life would be far easier without these constant curves I keep throwing myself, but as with travelling a straight, flat, monotonous highway, I might arrive sooner but it’d certainly be a dull ride. That twisty, windy, scenic route may take longer, but half the fun is in the trip, and you never know what you’ll discover along the way.

Discovery number one came when I uploaded to Amazon what I thought was a properly formatted manuscript. I’d followed the instructions and saved it in MS Word as an HTML document by selecting ‘Web Page, Filtered’. That was simple enough. I checked the ‘preview’ button and all looked well. So far so good. I proceeded to check off all the other appropriate boxes, held my breath and hit ‘Publish’. A message informed me I’d be waiting somewhere between 24 and 48 hours so I moved on and went about my business, keeping myself preoccupied with Annabel Lee’s decks and life in general.

The following day a friend informed me it was online. There was my name, the title, cover and various other information, though it wasn’t available to purchase and there was no book description. Shortly later she called again, this time to ask, “So, am I your first sale?” And yes indeed she was, which made me the second as I downloaded to my freeware Kindle on the PC. I opened it up… and that’s when I panicked. This didn’t look right! I’d left two paragraph breaks at the end of each chapter and two below each chapter heading, but none appeared. It was just a mass of endless text!

While I could have sworn I’d read, I’m not sure where, NOT to insert page breaks between chapters. I guess I just figured the Kindle would put them in but it didn’t. Okay. That could be fixed, but I couldn’t understand why the paragraph breaks between chapters weren’t visible. They’d been there in the preview. Unfortunately, though the book was available on Amazon, from my Digital Text Platform, or DTP, (the control panel) was still gray and read ‘publishing’ under the status heading. I was locked out from making any adjustments, and I was left to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening rechecking, adding those needed breaks and waiting for the green light as I picked through my manuscript with a fine tooth comb. It wasn’t until midway through the next morning that my DTP went ‘Live’ and I was able to upload these changes. Once again I checked the Preview, and yes, all looked well, even the breaks between chapters. I hit Publish, my DTP returned to grey, and I clicked on ‘Send Sample Now’ on my page. The chapter breaks were there now, but not the spaces below the chapter headings! WTF???

It was by this point my daughter suggested we view it on her Ipod Touch. To my surprise, it looked perfect… almost. At least the formatting was all in order, though for some reason on her screen various lines of text were different shades of gray or black. Again, WTF??? But now I was getting the hang of this, so once again, back I went, this time making certain I’d selected all text in my story and assigning the font ‘black’. And then I waited, this time roughly 24 hours, for the DTP to read Live and yet again upload, preview and publish. I’ve come to see that the wait between publish and live can vary; right now it’s been over 24 hours since that last (I won’t say final) update and all is still gray.

I know many online instructions advise all of this MUST be coded in HTLM, and I know HTML, I’ve worked with it for years. However, to this point I’d found no issues that couldn’t be corrected (or avoided to begin with) while working in Word, in my case a 2003 edition. What you read on your Kindle or some version of Kindle you run on your PC, Mac, Apple device or Blackberry has been formatted entirely in Word. The question is: would formatting it in HTML perhaps eliminate the variations that appear between these various platforms? I’ll be looking into that further and comparing once my new –happy-birthday-to-me- Kindle arrives later this week and I will post the results.

Oh, and my description still isn’t there yet. Amazon states that descriptions can take up to 72 hours to appear, though it’s been over that long since my first publication. Have my re-uploads extended that time? Time will tell.

So there you have it. The grand experiment continues. The next step: you, kind readers who have ventured into my blog for whatever the reason, link on over to Last Exit In New Jersey. Read an excerpt… it’ll cost you nothing and you don’t even need a Kindle to do it. And if you enjoy the excerpt I can assure you, the rest of the story only gets better!

Quote of the day as per Felicia: “Wasted effort is the bread and butter of learning, which therefore I suppose doesn’t make it wasted effort.”

The grand experiment begins…

More details will follow as things proceed, but this should be interesting to watch.

Life in the shed continues…

It’s a reasonable expectation that if you own a boat, that’s the place you’d spend the 4th of July.  Of course it’s reasonable to imagine that the boat in question is floating tranquilly on sparkling summer waters, not high up on blocks in the far shed. But I did spend this holiday weekend aboard, with the bridge uncovered I could look out the doors and see the river, and the roof overhead provided some relief from the blistering sun so it wasn’t all bad. Still, how is it that when ever Frank and I find ourselves armed with power tools to cut and grind away old fiberglass the temperature tops 90? More accurately, it bordered 100 as we worked to remove areas of delaminated FRP from the cabin-top.

For those who have never experienced this task, fiberglass work involves wearing goggles, a dust mask and protective clothing of some sort to cover all bare skin, or else suffer the consequences as thousands of pollen-sized glass shards finding their way into every pore of exposed skin. Sweat or itch, that’s your options.  I know some hardier souls are less sensitive the fiberglass dust; I’ve seen them working oblivious to the irritating glitter, but I’ll admit it: I’m not that tough. Needless to say, our weekend would have been far more bearable had the temperature been less excessive.

So, what destruction are we up to this time? We’re onto the next phase of the leaking cabin top/bridge deck. Phase one was removing all the teak from above, revealing the fiberglass and its approximately 900 or so holes from where the teak had been fastened. For the most part, the majority of these holes had not penetrated that fiberglass to the core beneath, though a few, mostly ones changed by previous owners, had.  Unfortunately, a few is all it takes for water to find its way into the coring and that’s where the headaches begin.  That water will remain, saturating the core, and between compression and expansion from freezing over the winter it will eventually cause the fiberglass to de-laminate from the core, compromising the deck’s strength.  This process occurs silent and unseen until ultimately some small drip finds its way through the headliner and into the cabin, and at that point the damage is done. Worse yet, on so many boats by this point the wood coring, normally constructed of balsa or plywood, has begun to rot. All in all, not a pretty picture and certainly not a simple repair.

On a boat of Annabel Lee’s age, the odds are high that there is wet core to be found. It would be more surprising if all was dry. Fortunately, our little boat has a certain unusual, exceptionally rare feature.  ALL her coring, in fact all wood used in her construction, be it structural, joinery or cosmetic, is TEAK.  Aside from the engine and the concrete in the ballast, if it’s not fiberglass, it’s teak. Teak has many wonderful qualities, most important in this case being its resistance to rot.  And as we’ve cut away the delaminated fiberglass, the teak we’ve found is indeed wet, but as solid as the day the boat was built.

The photo below shows sections of glass we’d removed, exposing the core teak planks. We’d start by cutting a small square, just big enough to wedge a prybar in, then work out from there.  The dark are is wetter wood that’s freshly exposed. With the  day’s heat the surface was dry within minutes.


The fiberglass itself, despite being delaminate, put up one hell of a fight. Once the damp wood is all exposed and allowed to dry over the coming weeks, then we’ll begin the process of re-glassing it back together.

There’s still more to go, but this is the majority of it. Heat exhaustion was taking its toll and we quit for the weekend, with hopes that next weekend is at least a little cooler.