Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Party's Over

1st sail in 16 years

Adagio is back in the yard after a short, six week season and I cannot be more pleased with the way she handled.

During her short season, she was a busy girl:  She had her first sail in 16 years, she was on display at the Antique Boat Festival in Salem, she rafted alongside Motif 1 in Rockport and took on 30 knot winds burying her bowsprit a number of times.

Motif 1 - Rockport

In all that,  the only major problem I had was that the shells of some of the blocks started to part under load. That's it. And that isn't terribly surprising given that the polyester epoxy that held them together was at least 16 years old. She didn't sail to windward as well as she should, but that was expected as it was clear during the mast stepping that the length of both headstays need adjustments - adjustments she'll get next year.

Anyway, she has been the Belle of the Ball for sure and gotten her picture taken repeatedly. During the Salem show some of her most ardent admirers were judges who themselves were wooden boat surveyors.

But that chapter in her rehab is behind us and a new one begins. This winter will focus on her interior which I did not touch during this rehab thus far. To be fair, it isn't in bad shape, but it is in need of refurbishing. New paint, new varnish, some minor carpentry and much updating.

The holding tank is cracked and the head should be rebuilt (gaskets and whatnot). The electrical panel doesn't stay securely fastened, the face panel to drawers don't stay on, and the water tanks have not been tested. On deck, I need to make some adjustments to the rig, as well as the main hatch and the skylight. Also, the anchor does not cat on the bowsprit properly.

So, all pretty typical stuff and it is fair to say that she will splash much earlier next year and put some miles beneath her keel before year end.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Adagio Has a Wet Bottom

AUGUST 2, 2016

Well, after a 2 1/2 year rehab, we did it. Adagio is back in the water.  As I have noted on these pages she was put on the hard somewhere around 2000, so she has been dry for over 15 years.

On the truck
A small group of close friends helped us celebrate the day which came with a dry, slightly overcast skies and a 10.5 foot tide.

Champagne Jam

My wife Jan launched the ship by doing the ceremonial honors (which is her prerogative of  course).

On our way

The boatyard is a tidal estuary. At low water, there is none. So, when you draw five feet, you want all the water you can get. Tuesday came courtesy of a 10+ foot tide and was perfect.
Resting comfortably dockside

I stayed on board Tuesday night tied to the dock where I had shore power and a sump pump that can move a tennis ball through 30' of garden hose if I needed it. But I didn't.  By midnight, she had stopped visibly leaking.

At launch, the pump cycled every 2 minutes for about 20 seconds. As I write this two days later, the pump is now cycling every 20-25 minutes for about 5 seconds. So don't let anyone tell you that cedar doesn't swell.
Prettiest Girl at the Dance

There are still a gajillion things to do and adjustments to make, but that will always be the case. 

For right now, I am just enjoying the moment. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Launch of Adagio

The day has arrived. 

Adagio  will launch August 2nd at 10:30 a.m. at Greens Point Boatyard Ipswich MA. 

Join us if you can. 

While this is not the end of this rehab, it is a significant milestone for me and for her. She will get wet for the first time in 16 years and she now has a new lease on life.  I have learned a great deal and can honestly write that I know this boat in a way that few boat owners know their craft.

To This 

From This . . . 

All that aside, she is an exquisite version of the Dictator class of Friendship Sloops and needed a second chance at life. She is now, once again, the Prettiest Girl at the Dance.

There is still much to do down below, touch ups here and there and fittings that aren't quite right, but that is always the case. For now, she will back in her element.

If you can't join us for the launch (it is a weekday), she will be at the Antique & Classic Boat Festival in Salem MA on August 20-21. It is held every year at Hawthorne Cove Marina (next to the House of the Seven Gables) and is always a good take.  While going there just to see Adagio is reason enough in my book, there are a lot of really great classic boats there and I'm sure you'll find it well worth your entertainment dollar. Plus, you can vote for your favorite craft (not suggestin', just sayin').

Thursday, June 16, 2016


"It's a Labor of Love"

I have heard this cliche repeatedly as I grind away on this rehab and I have come to loathe it. Like most cliches, however, it is half right.  The rehab of Adagio is labor.

An Equally Old Story
However, what I am doing is not unique. In fact, it's an old story: Boy finds boat. Boy falls in love with boat. Boy restores and relaunches boat. It is a story told every month in Wooden Boat magazine and in countless other boatyards country wide.

However, an equally old story is the one about the rehab or rebuild that began with gusto only to wither and die a slow, debilitating death.

But, many come by and ask how I keep on doing it (and follow with "It must be a Labor of Love")

What Motivates People? 

We all know that, early on, the mind supplies the vision of the finished project and that vision fuels the work. However, in time, the weight of the project slowly crushes the vision.

So, what motivates those who finish from those who don't?  Much is written on this topic and I'm not going to rehash it here, but I have always believed that a critical element of Motivation is Purpose. Whatever the goal, it must be part of an overarching Purpose that is Personally Meaningful and Clearly Stated.  The Purpose must convince you that your world will be a better place with your project complete than incomplete.

Without a clear, meaningful Purpose, you (or your organization) will fall short of your goal. If you look beneath the surface of any significant achievement, you will find this clarity of Purpose. And, by the way, if the Purpose of your project is not meaningful and clear, why are you doing it?

As a Recovering Corporate Drone, I sat through endless presentations of SMART goals (all goals should Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Timebound). While there is some truth to the SMART goal format, it is secondary to Purpose.  If there is no clear, meaningful Purpose, your goals can be as SMART as Einstein and still fail.

Fig A. Really?
My Purpose 

If I wrote that my Purpose is to give my life over to the restoration of wooden boats, that would be as lofty as it is wrong. There are some wooden craft (and a lot of plastic craft - anything made by Bayliner for example) that I have no interest in seeing on the water (See Figure A and its ilk).

My Purpose in this rehab is simple: To get this particular boat back on the water. Moreover, not only can I see her on the water, I can see the symmetry in her rigging, her angle of heel in a fresh breeze, the sturdy look of her bronze - I can even smell the fresh paint.  That's what I mean by "clarity".

It is meaningful to me because I have always loved classic, gaff rigged working sailboats, their rugged craftsmanship and the traditions they represent. While it is an important part of our heritage, to me, it seems real and pure (that does sound lofty, but it's true).

what Might Have Been

In my mind, this particular Friendship was simply too pretty to become a planter. The arc of her sheer and the quality of her construction required salvation and a trustee. Someone had to take her off the beach, so I did.

The Spirit is Willing, but the Flesh is Weak

But . . . .

There are times when the clarity of Purpose is not enough. Sometimes, you need more. Some people tell friends their goals so they can be cheered on and shamed into doing it. Some have notes tacked up in strategic positions which goad them into action and some have playlists that pump them up and refresh the dream.

I have three pictures, one in my head and two on the boat. The one in my head is a picture taken from amidships of  Desiree looking forward on a port tack. For reasons I cannot explain, this picture reminds me why I'm doing this. Maybe the warm beauty of the wooden spars against the full sails, maybe the bowsprit pointing the way or maybe it's just a well-framed shot. I don't know. It simply represents what will be.

 The other two pictures are signs. One says "It's not Furniture; it's a Boat!"  This is the boatyard equivalent of  Voltaire's "Perfect is the Enemy of the Good."  Since perfection is as elusive as unicorns and fairy gold, chasing it will keep the boat out of the water forever. This thought runs through my mind repeatedly and keeps me from becoming obsessive about a particular task.

The other sign?: "It's not going to do itself."  This is self-explanatory, but I can tell you that it pushes me to do something every day howsoever little.

So, set all the SMART goals you want, but if you want to finish, have a Purpose. Oh, and someone to kick you in the slats - even if it is just a sign.


1. For an excellent treatment on Motivation see Dan Pink's Drive.  In it, he posits that people are motivated when they have Autonomy (Self Direction), Mastery (something they want to get better at) and Purpose (see above).

Tuesday, June 7, 2016




It is only the first coat, but we're getting there . . . 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Boatyard Labor - A Bargain at Twice the Price

While attending the birthday celebration of a friend recently, another friend commented negatively on my lack of posts on this blog. I won't reveal his name as that would be indiscreet (Larry Ogden), but he's right.  However, just because there have been no posts, does not mean there has been no activity.

So, for the three of you (and Larry) that follow the travails of the good ship Adagio, here's the latest.


Cheerless as an Empty Hearth
Adagio's toe rails are each about 40' long and the cockpit trim is about 25'. Both the rails and the cockpit trim are one piece of laminated teak and bent to fit.

The rails and cockpit trim are all teak and, originally, they were finished bright. However, 15 years of exposure made them look about as cheerless as an empty hearth.

So, it was time to remove them, strip them down, recondition them and reinstall them. Simple (one would think). And "one" would be right. It is a fairly straightforward process.

However, what struck this "one," was how much time the whole process took and it gave me a very clear understanding of why boatyard bills can make the national debt look like a dawdle. For the uninitiated (Larry), the process is:
  • Drill out the bungs  (150 + bungs here) 
  • Back out the fasteners  (1:1 ratio of fasteners to bungs)
  • Remove the rail to a workbench or work area - (in this case lower the 40 foot piece to the ground and thread around the jackstands and out from under the tent)
  • Remove any old varnish with a heat gun
  • Sand with an orbital sander 
  • Hand sand to remove sander marks and assure you got all the old weathered and varnish off any non-flat surface. 
  • In this case, thread the 40 foot piece around the jackstands and back up underneath the tent. 
  • Dry fit it to the rail to make sure
  • Lay a bead of caulking along the rail.
  • Fit the trim
  • Fasten it to the rail
  • Insert bungs
  • Cut bungs even with rail (a sharp chisel's preferred, but some people just sand 'em down)
  • Lightly sand rail to assure that bungs are level with the rail and the teak color is as uniform as you can get it. 
  • Remove all sawdust with a vacuum.
  • Tape all area you do not want varnish or paint on.
  • Remove any remaining sawdust with a tack rag. 
  • Add finish of your choice (paint or varnish).

Old wood.  Bare wood

Port side Toerail looking aft
What is interesting about this process is how long it takes. Just the process of taking this trim off and getting back to bare wood was probably 15 hours (they are long pieces, after all, and were in poor condition aesthetically).

Once you're back to bare wood and you have fitted the trim back on, you still need to caulk it in place, fasten it, and bung it and do all the other prep work to get it ready to paint or varnish.

Moreover, even giving it a covering will add a couple of days to the job. Any paint - and certainly varnish  - should be given some time to set up before you prep and paint a second (or third) coat. The trim on Adagio is being finished bright - but not with varnish. To keep consistent with the other deck trim I am using Cetol Natural Teak. I have had good luck with this product - it holds up well and is easy to maintain. After 3 coats, I top it with a gloss coat (optional) and it is as close to varnish as never mind.

Port side all bunged up!
However, the real point is, this project has given me a profound understanding of why boatyard bills are what they are. Had I given this to the yard to do, I might have been indignant by an exorbitant bill for what is, conceptually, an uncomplicated job. Strip It. Sand It. Paint It. How hard is that? A chimpanzee can probably do it.

However,  all told, this chimp is probably into about 30 hours on this trim.

So, when next you get your boatyard bill and see "Reconditioning Brightwork  15 hours @ $75 / hour," just shut up and pay it. It is a bargain at twice the price. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

On a Barge in France

What do you do when your retirement dream is to sail around the world and your spouse's ideal is have an apartment in London or Europe?

The obvious answer, of course, is to buy a 1926 steel Dutch canal barge and ply the canals of France.

Hoop Doet Leven
Hoop Doet Leven, which means "Hope Sustains Life," has been the summer home of Harvey Schwartz and Sandra Hamilton for the last four years.

Harvey is a retired civil rights attorney from Boston, a wooden boat guy and shares my penchant for all watercraft. He has cruised the New England coast for years and, a few years ago sailed a catamaran to the Bahamas. However, he has given up his caulking hammer for an angle grinder and now calls this 70' barge home.

His wife, Sandra, has immersed herself in the French language and culture and serves as bow crew and primary interpreter.

The great part about their retirement for us is we can share their experiences vicariously through Harvey's blog (  However, he has taken the best experiences and put them in a book entitled (oddly enough)  "On a Barge in France."  You can buy it on Amazon (  and I really think you should.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that Harvey is a friend, but that is not the only reason I recommend this read. Harvey has an engaging style of writing that combines the history of the places they visit with a fair dollop of experiencing a different culture and way of life. There is much to take from Harvey and Sandra's adventures.

The nub of it is that, usually, our vacations are of the 1-2 week variety and, while you may have a great time, you can never say you really got to know  the people or the land or why they are who they are. Harvey and Sandra are doing just that - and that makes all the difference.

This is a great read whether you are a boater, a traveler - or even an armchair adventurer.