Masts and Chocolate for the DIY-er

Trader Joe's Chocolate Cube Varnish Container
What do these two have in common?  Very little except those masts need “refreshing” aka repainting or at a minimum a good buff and wax and the chocolates are essential to successful application of paint and varnish.  See the connection? I’ll admit it’s pretty slim.  The masts get touched up with paint, buffed, and waxed next weekend since I completed the varnishing last week.

Now about the chocolate, you see, we tend to buy our chocolate in various forms from Trader Joe’s.  In these seemingly identical clear plastic cubes throughout the year.  If you don’t buy the chocolate, you don’t get the cubes. I keep the cubes because they make a great varnish container.  This one, from last year, reminds me that Trader Joe’s no longer sells the lovely Orange Sticks.  It was our favorite: orange jelly center covered with dark chocolate.  They tell us they’ll have it again someday.  We don’t believe them since it’s been a year now.

Actually, those cubes will give you pretty much a perfect varnish container if you take a couple Popsicle sticks…ummm…let’s digress a little bit more about where the sticks come from:  you get the Popsicle sticks in the summertime when it’s hot and you’ve just got to have a lime-bar.  You save the summertime Popsicle sticks for the fall varnish-fest.  You also save the plastic cubes that your Trader Joe’s chocolate came in for the same varnish-fest.  This really doesn’t take much space–even aboard a boat–just a tiny little spot in my project bin where the cubes can stack and the sticks can stand next to them.

Then, in the fall, you pull these things out because you’re ready for your paint and varnish-fest to protect all the exterior woodwork through a winter of rain or worse inclement weather.  You grab a cube and take a thin plastic baggie–of the sort that nobody buys because it doesn’t ziplock but somehow you’ve got a hundred of them and you’re not throwing them away–and line your cube with it.  After lining, you push the Popsicle sticks into the groove that once held the lid of the cube keeping the chocolate fresh.  The sticks make a press fit–and that’s the ticket to creating a wonderful self-locking-in-place drip edge that you can wipe a paint or varnish brush against as you work.  You’ll feel really clever that you found a purpose for your Trader Joe’s cubes, Popsicle sticks, and those non-zipping plastic bags that you really have no other use for but can’t seem to throw away.

At the end of the day, you let your cube sit so the varnish hardens in the plastic baggie.  In the morning, your Popsicle sticks will have a dry layer of varnish on them so you’ll remove them, replace the baggie with a clean one, push the sticks back in place on top and put your new varnish in your cube for the next day’s work.  Believe it or not, you can do this for days–or weeks in my case–as you work your way around the boat putting on your layers and layers of varnish.  No real cleaning required, either. If you’re really good, you only use one or two of your cubes and 4 to 8 Popsicle sticks.  If you’re a little messy, you might go through twice or thrice the quantity.  If you’re careless and you’ve been eating a lot of chocolate and lime-bars, well, it’s not that big of a deal to go through many, many more.  The baggie is the key to it all though.  A daily baggie keeps everything clean.  During my varnish-fest, I usually don’t clean my brushes but instead I store daily in a container of turpentine.  At the end of the -fest, I can do a cleanup of it or if I’ve been using an inexpensive chip-brush, I can throw it out. For painting, I tend to clean it or throw it out daily.

masts in the sky

Coats of Varnish

Finally I’ve gotten back to putting on some varnish pre-winter. The port covering board and toe rail aft of the break deck, and port cockpit combing are getting it now as well as the scuttle hatch and batten boards, starboard inner bulwark and covering board back to the break deck. Tomorrow it is supposed to rain–so today’s varnish will be the last of that “set” and will have to figure a way to get the remaining needed varnish on in the next weeks. There are also a few little spots of hull that managed to pop a bit of paint off during the sail North from SoCal. I can’t really get to them as they’re on the side of the boat away from the dock here (always something!) but perhaps we’ll turn the boat or launch the dingy to get me the needed access.

I scraped, sanded and have gotten a coat of mid-brown “honeycomb” colored paint on the substantial framing around the chart house windows (external). I last did it in mid-2009 and the paint was beginning to flake away from the underlying wood (teak which doesn’t hold paint very well). I need another coat of paint there and then I can sand the chart house sides and corners sealing up the various construction seams and give it a bright white coat of paint. Unfortunately, I’ve scraped off much of the old sealant and…the rains are coming tomorrow…so we’ll be (maybe not?) seeping just a little tomorrow.

It has been exceedingly calm for the past several days but late last night/early this morning the wind howled and the lazy jacks slapped noisily against the mast until David (bless him) went out and dealt with them at something like 4 am.

Today the boat is tilting a bit from the gusts of winds but it is bright and sunny with low clouds skittering across the sky. Very pretty.

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