Boatyard Life During Covid-19

Offshore Passage:
St. Marys, GA to Beaufort, NC

March 10, 2020
We weighed anchor from Fernandina Beach at 10 am and headed for the St. Marys inlet. This time around, the weather conditions were perfect, as in there was no weather. The forecast showed we would have three days of light winds from the south to help push us north. We knew this was a motor fest, but we did not have many other options, nor did we have time to wait for more wind. Our motor out of the St. Marys inlet was calm and beautiful. Once we were clear of the jetty, we turned to Port and made our way north. The sea conditions were still a bit confused from the norther that stopped blowing the day before. Prism rolled from swell to swell until we raised the mainsail to help stabilize the boat. Sadly there was not enough wind to help with the rolling, so we dealt with it for a few hours.

Throughout the night, the seas mellowed a bit, and a slight breeze picked up. Our night watches came and went with nothing to report. It was a gorgeous sunrise complete with jumping dolphins and coasting turtles. I love it when a perfect morning turns into a spectacular day. For the first time in a long time, we were naked sailing, well motor sailing. Yes, there could have been more wind, but the sun was out, and we had dolphins with us all day! It was pure bliss.

Meal prep for 3 dinners
Aft cabin set up for night shifts

That night the luck continued as we approached Frying Pan Shoals. At the end of my midnight watch, we were surrounded by thunderstorms. Off in the distance, we could see the storms hit the gulf stream and explode into the night sky. I kissed Jon goodnight, said good luck with that, and went to bed. Besides a little bit of rain, Prism squeezed through the storms without any degrading conditions. Jon said that a good-size storm passed a few miles in front of us and another one a few hours later right behind us. Lucky! By daybreak, the thunderstorms puttered out, and the seas became almost dead still. We dropped the mainsail and continued to motor towards the Beauford inlet. It was not as blissful as the day before, as we had no animal interaction. We made it to the inlet entrance at slack tide and with more than an hour of sunlight left. Jon took the helm to steer us to our anchorage spot just off the ICW for the night while I started on dinner. We dropped the hook by marker G33 just outside of Morehead City, had dinner, and called it a night. After motoring strait for over 40hrs, we where back in North Carolina.

The next morning we headed up the ICW towards the Neuse River via Adams cut. Being in no rush as we only have 40 miles to travel today, once we made it out into the river, we raised the sails and enjoyed the day. It seemed like we were the only people out enjoying the water. The wind was perfect, and the Nuese was playing nice for once. For those of you who don’t know, the Nuese River has the nick-name of “The Nasty Nuese.” It can build up a nasty square chop that makes life on the water not so enjoyable. Our sail that day, however, was marvelous. We flew every piece of canvas Prism has as we made our way up towards the Bay River. As we approached marker G5, about midway down the Bay River, we dropped the sails and motored our way to Hurricane Boatyard.

At anchor off the ICW near Morehead City
Blissful sailing up the Neuse River

We were excited to see that Dragonquest was sitting pretty at the dock waiting for us to arrive. Our friends from the yard greeted us and thought we were crazy for coming back so soon. I guess we like boat work or something we told them. It was at that moment we learned about all the Covid-19 craziness.

DQ sitting at the dock waiting for us to arrive

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Covid-19 Status

When we left GA there was no problem finding toilet paper or paper towels, so it was a good thing we stocked up during our last provisioning run. Now that we were back in NC, the first thing we needed to do was get a car. Our car was still in Annapolis, where we left it a few months earlier, but our friends let us borrow their trusty ol’ chevy truck yet again. We were able to get to the store and stock up before all hell broke loose. We had enough food on board to last us a few months need be, besides we came back to this yard to work, not to play.

Jon and I were/ are lucky enough that the Covid-19 outbreak has not affected us directly. We had this work set up already, and HBY is located in a very secluded area. Our day to day lives did not/ have not changed much at all.

Working on Dragonquest
1988 HC33

March 14, 2020

Jon and I wasted no time to start the work on Dragonquest, starting with decommissioning the boat. What I mean by that is we took everything down, apart and then put it away in the tent and out of the way. That included the dodger, bimini, boom, deck box, sails, stack pack, lifelines, and as many personal belongings as possible. 

The next step was to get the mast un-stepped, the boat hauled, and put into the tent. The mast came down with almost no issues, minus the guy manning the crane not having enough tension on the strap as i released the last shroud, yea. Anyways the real mess started when we attempted to remove the bowsprit and sampson posts. When the previous owner of DQ had the sprit and posts remade 14 years ago, they used epoxy and 5200 to seal them in. Not only did we have to cut the sprit out, but it took over 4 tons of pressure from the forklift and hydraulic jacks to finally pop the sampson posts free.

Once we were in the tent, we set up shop and got to work. Taking down all the teak trim and old headliner went much faster than I thought it would. We were at the point now that we could see how bad the core repair was going to be. The hydrometer was pegged at 80-100% on about 98% of all the core. Yikes, we are in for a lot of work.

March 20, 2020

First up, we wanted to do the section on the cabin top where the large teak pad sits. This was a large section but we wanted to learn what the new Honeycomb core was like to work with and if our ideas would work. Jon cut out the top skin, then we removed the rotten core, prepped the glass below then fitted the new core. Once we had a good fit, we set out to get this section completed. We installed the core with thickened epoxy and then laid up two new layers of 1708. It took a few hours, but we felt like our ideas did work, and that the core replacement for the rest of the boat should be just as simple.  

Bill, who is the owner of DQ, would send us care packages filled with booze and presents, which kept our morale up.

April – May 2020

Jon and I decided to replace the core from the inside for the cabin top/ doghouse as we believed it would be less work in the long run when it came to filling, fairing, and general shaping. Working section by section, we repeated the steps we did on the forward pad. However, we did not take into account the fact that at some point we would be working over our heads. That took us a second to come up with a game plan. In the end, each section took about 4-5 days to complete, which was way longer than either of us thought it would take. 

Everything was covered in fiberglass dust
STBD side dry fit
rolling out air bubbles on STBD side
Dry fit in the aft cabin
laying up the aft cabin
looking up in the aft cabin, done

While the epoxy was drying, or we were giving our arms a break from working over our heads, we would work on other projects. These other projects included: 

  • sanding the hull
  • removing the rub-rail
  • peeling the bottom
  • removing the rudder hardware
  • draining the rudder
  • removing and filling an old thru-hull
  • grinding out, filling and fairing Gelcoat cracks on cabin top

By the end of May, we were 99% done with the core replacement from the inside. We had removed all the rotten core on the side decks and were waiting on more silica to arrive to finish the rest of the core job.

deep gel coat cracks

Bill, the owner of DQ came down to help for a week and to get his hands dirty on his own boat. Bill removed the old paint and varnish from the bowsprit, pulpit, and bulwarks. Together we worked on lowering the rudder, did some sailing in the new dinghy, played some music, and had great talks about life and sailing.

 June 2020

By the beginning of June, to say that we are becoming “burnt out” from boat work, would be putting it nicely. Jon and I would find ourselves moving much slower when it comes to starting our day. If the weather was nice all we wanted to do was go sailing in the dinghy, and we could see the progress on DQ slowly declining. To fix the distraction of sailing the dinghy, Jon took it into his hands to literally do a full refit on the 8 footer. I mean it’s not like we have 500 other projects going on already .

Once the dinghy was out of commission, we got back to work on DQ. The shipment if silica came in, and we were able to finish the core on the inside, and the side decks. We had one more section of cabin top core to address at the front of the cabin top. This area could not be attacked from the inside as the head is mostly a plug which we did not feel like cutting into nor rebuilding. So we did this section from the outside. 

10LBS of silica!

The core at the front of the cabin top
Core removed, glass prepped, ready for dry fit
Honeycomb core dry fitted, now time to dry fit the new layers of 1708
stenciling out the different layers of 1708.
Getting the pattern and measurements right for the 1708 for this section hurt my brain
The 1708 all cut and ready to be laminated

June 13-24, 2020

Still feeling completely burnt out on boat work and having almost no drive to work at all, plus it is hot, like really f*cking hot. So we called in some young blood to get us back on track. Enter the younger Neely! We flew Chris out to help us for 10 days. His wife let us steal him away from his own list of boat projects so he could help us cover some major ground. Which he did, wow to be 22 again. Chris was here to work and that is what he did! You could tell but at the end of the trip the heat had started to get to him as well, and even he started to move just a bit slower.

While Chris was here, we finished laying up core and decks at the front of the cabin top. We attacked all the glass repairs that needed to be done on top of the cabin top. We sanded, filled and faired our hearts out, then even faired in the radius that connects the new decks to the existing bulwarks. Oh, and we got the first coat of primer on the cabin top! The amount of work we got done in those 10 days, would have taken Jon and I like a month to do.

On days were we applied epoxy or something and need to let it dry we would go out and explore for a few hours. ( we did this 3 times) One afternoon we headed into Oriental to go for a bike ride and check out all the boats in the marinas, then went out to dinner. Then we went out for dinner in New Bern after a full day of work, mostly because I did not want to cook. But the most fun we had, after we had finished glassing up the radius, we took out Falkor and paddleboards on the Bay River. Chris and I paddled up the river, while Jon motored in Flakor beside us. About halfway up we stopped to drift and have a beer, This is when Chris and I tied out leashes to Falkor and enjoyed being towed upriver past the shrimp boats and under the bridge. We drifted a bit more, then got back up and paddled our way back down the river. Things were going great till the paddle Chis was using broke apart and sunk. So we were towed back to HBY by Jon in Flakor. Chris took this opportunity to try using the paddleboard as a wakeboard. He was towed by Jon at full speed, which is not fast at all with our 2hp Yamaha.  

The 10 days went by way to quickly, and we found our selves bribing Chris to stay longer. But, he has his own boat projects to finish, a wife and kitty at home that all missed him. 

THANK YOU CHRIS FOR ALL YOUR HELP

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Um, What to do Now?

Once we said bye to Chris, my body shut down. Keeping up with a 22-year old broke me. I could not turn my head or lift my arms. I didn’t even want to get out of bed I hurt so bad. The projects are not going to finish themselves, so it was back to work. Just at a slower pace.

 July 2020

It is hot and we are exhausted. After a few talks with Bill, we have decided to put DQ’s project on hold till fall. Before Jon and I leave on Prism to head north away from the heat and hurricanes, we will try to finish the getting the inside of DQ dry fitted with the new headliner, and put the tent away so nothing can get damaged if a storm does come through. 

We have to finish the work on our new dinghy before we head out, so those projects will keep us here for a few more weeks.

Summer Cruising Plans
Prism 2020

The plan is to head north. As of right now, we are not sure how far north. We do not want to rush or feel like we have to be anywhere. The whole idea of putting DQ’s project on hold is so that we can get some rest and recharge our batteries.

The hard part is not knowing what sailing into new ports will be like when it comes to Covid-19, and we do not have a set date of when we are leaving. Not to mention our transmission is toasted ( should have listened to you 3 years ago Grahm) So before we motor up the ICW we need to replace/rebuild our 3 year old, 500 hour, twin disk gearbox. Fun times. So that will hold us up for another week or so.

In a perfect world, we would make it up to Maine to spend at least the month of August to explore, and that could maybe still happen. I will just be happy to hang at anchor in the upper Chesapeake Bay for a few months, as long as I do not have to sand anything! To spend a few weeks focusing on Prism, ourselves and just enjoy the work we did on our own boat for a while would be really nice.

Who knows, our plans change like the weather. So as of right now, today Wednesday, July 7, 2020, we are still in NC, finishing up the dinghy project, packing up DQ, and replacing ( or rebuilding) the transmission on Prism, then heading north. If the Annapolis Boat Show still happens, then we would love to go to that, then we will head back down to DQ to finish up the projects on her.
Once DQ is done, Jon and I plan on hauling Prism for the winter and heading back to CA for the winter. We are planning on doing this because we do not know what Covid-19 is going to do and what effects it is going to have on ports.

1 thought on “Boatyard Life During Covid-19”

  1. I ran into Debbie a few times. She’s excited about taking her boat down to Ventura. Is that where you will be staying next winter? You guys are hard workers! Keep it up as long as you can. Be safe. Easy Tom. SV Banana Wind, “L” Dock.

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