Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Absolute Importance of Clear and Effective Communication.

So there we were about two weeks ago, Chris and I, just sitting around.  I had just gotten home from work and we were talking about the upcoming summer, festivals we want to take Kwaietek to, and the projects that need to be completed.  Out of the blue she said to me, "I think we need to start wooding the houses to prep them for paint."  I couldn't have agreed more.

Doug (the previous owner) always cared well for Kwaietek, but several years of sitting for sale, and two winters of us tackling interior projects had done nothing for the outward appearance of our home.  Thick paint (some of which I'm sure had been applied in the 1943 rebuild) covered all the surfaces, with much of it peeling away.  Water had been working under the paint all winter, even though we had taped as many of the cracks as possible.  As far as I could tell, the paint was more effectively holding water in the wood, than keeping it out.

I had been planning and looking forward to stripping the houses down all winter.  The thought of sitting on deck during the warm of summer, making our home look better was very appealing in the cold, wet deep of winter.  I just had not been sure how I would pitch the project to Chris, as I knew it would take many days to strip the old paint off, sand and prep and then start building up the new finish.  It would be a big project, just the kind she hates and I'm stupid enough to get myself into.  And here, on a pleasant May evening, my wife was saying "Let's do it!".

So I did what I'm so good at, pulled out the heat gun and scrapers and went to town.  The first thing that happened was I uncovered the one rotten corner of the house structure.  The damage was actually not that deep, but had to be chiseled away and left to air out and dry for some time.  Onward I went , blistering paint away and generally making a mess (something I'm good at).  An hour or so into the project, Chris disappeared, but I thought nothing of it and continued, ultimately making our home look like this.

 I was feeling pretty proud of how much I'd accomplished.

After sweeping and cleaning up, I grabbed some dinner and went to report my progress.  "Well," said I,  "It's coming along nicely.  A quarter of the house has been wooded, the old seam compound and three layers of various goops have been scrapped away.  Prep sanding is done and we're ready to let things dry out for a few day, re-seam and prime.  I think I can have the galley house ready for finish paint in another three or four days."


More silence.

"Chris, did you hear what I said?"

I was only then that I noticed she was breathing sort of funny.  I could tell she was working hard to control her anger.  Then the "discussion " started.  I had started yet another big project, with some interior projects yet to finish.  I had promised Chris not to "shotgun" approach the projects on the boat, I would always finish one before starting another (VERY unlike how the house had been remodelled).  Now I had broken that promise and our boat looked like a disaster and was going to for some time to come.

My confusion was great, given the fact that she had proposed the project, and had even started wielding the heat gun earlier in the day.  I just didn't know why she was angry.  Then it dawned on me...

Clear, effective communication.

When she had proposed the project, she was thinking a quick scrape of the loose paint, apply some primer to the bare wood and start building up cover coats right away.  She thought we were looking at a one or two day job that would get us through the summer.

I'm no good at "one or two day jobs".  In fact, I suck at them.  I always lean towards the "tear it all out and put it in the right way".  And I had clearly heard her say "let's wood the house".  To me, that means the big, long, hard project, not the quick easy project.  And without taking the time to get clarification, I was off to the races.

Fortunately, she understood the value of the prep work I had started (she is after all a master painter and artist) and recovered her composure.  And the weather held.  And I continued to scrape, sand and prep.  A week later, the entire galley house has been wooded and primed.  Layers of old caulk and goop have been removed and the sill seams have been masked and caulked in neat, new seams.  Everything is ready for her work now.

A few gallons of white and maroon enamel paint come aboard this week.  She is fast, effective and happy when brushing paint on something.  While I'm in Oregon next week taking classes, she'll be painting and the boat will look the best she has in years.

Oh, and what did Chris do to occupy her time while I scraped paint?  She painted the entire galley interior and it looks beautiful!  I'll put up some photos when I do an interior project update!


Monday, May 28, 2012

Early Season is All About the Kids.

I love working on the Zodiac in the early part of the season. It is all about the schools and youth programs during the shoulder-season months of May and June. 
I've spent the last few weeks teaching high school kids cool stuff like how to communicate with signal flags (...and, did you know that there are some pretty nasty things one can transmit with the use of international signal flags)?! ...We have thrown the remote submersible vessel over the side and caught glimpses of the sea-bed at night and we've tied Turks-head knots on everything that can move--as well as some things that don't.

 I've also overseen some awesome ship-side regattas with hand made wooden creations that teams of kids have designed onboard. They have learned a lot about sail, hull design, stability and weather by making their own boats and then racing them against each other.

The best part of all when it comes to sailing in the islands with scores of teenagers is watching the confidence and team spirit that develops each day that we are out. Kids come onboard the ship with their various distractions and issues--but leave as enthusiastic sailors, more committed to working together and following directions than they ever were prior to sailing on a 200-ton tall ship!

Don't get me wrong- the noise levels and mess that comes with teen cohabitation can wear ya' down, (and the overwhelming odor of "Axe Body Spray" that wafts in from the main salon every morning)... but overall, the privilege of  introducing these kids to a life changing experience on the water is a pretty cool honor.  I love it when schools return and we recognize kids that have been on before; grown up a little bit more and ready to teach their younger classmates all about the sails and the commands. What a treat.

We only have another week of the kids trips and then it is on to Lighthouse cruises, Gulf islands and Winery Tour trips... (also not a bad way at all to spend one's summer).  The high season means sun and warm breezes, quiet on deck during a sunset and eating crab over the cap-rails. Nevertheless, I'll still miss the raw energy and exuberance that comes with having these kids on board.

So, here's to all the young sailors I've been working with lately! Hip Hip Huzzah!