Wednesday 25 January 2012

Toronto Boat Show Report, Part Two: International Internet Introductory Intercourse

                  "One drink ain't enough, Jack, you'd better make it three..."
                               George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers
                                     (pickin' up what John Lee Hooker laid down.)

    Before somebody gets all fired up and sends me more hate mail...

         intercourse [ˈɪntəˌkɔːs] n
1. communication or exchange between individuals;


(As an aside, if this post title doesn't boost the Chronicles readership, nothing will.)

Right then, where were we?

  Oh yeah, admiring the Hanse's landing gear.

Confession time:  I didn't set foot on any of the 6 figure monohull sailboats  at the show this year.  SWMBO and I did, however, clamber all over and through the Gemini 105MC catamaran on display with tape measure in hand.

Before whipping it out, (the tape measure, perverts), I mentioned to the SOS (Salesguy on Site) that we were building a cat.   Not only did he allow us the run of the boat, he invited us to stop by the dealership in Mississauga if we need more info in the future. Thanks, North Lakes Yachting!

I was disappointed with the fit and finish of some of the Geminis I had seen in the past. Poorly mitred joinery and rough edges took some of the shine off an otherwise appealing package.   This might have been due to some  changes the marque had seen  over the past couple of years, with production being moved from TPI's own facilities to Hunter Boats.  The boat on display this year, however, seemed much more dialed in.  Gone are the gapping trim corners and misaligned doors of the past.  The new "doghouse" design has really lightened up the bridgedeck, as well as looking less "bolt-on" than earlier hulls.

 I'm still not sure I'm digging the sling couch hung out past the transom, with the traveller just below testicle level.  SWMBO says our cat needs one, though.

  I'm sleeping with one eye open now.  So is the cat.

Luckily for you big-money big monohull fans,  I wasn't the only scribe at the show.  On Opening weekend, Chip and Jen from Fortuitous  made the trek north from the wilds of southern New Jersey to the wilds of   (formerly balmy) southern Ontario.  On Wednesday, I am cutting up boat parts in the driveway in my shirtsleeves.  Friday, the Fortuitous crew dragged a snowstorm and dropping temperatures across the border.   SWMBO and I were pleased to host Jen and Chip at stately Jones manor before they trekked further.  Their account of their adventure can be found here, Chip and Jen's Boat Show Adventure , along with some other great writing.   
  That was our first boat show-related  meet-and-greet.  On Saturday evening we convened a sailing site summit at the Westin's Chart Room  lounge. It was an eclectic group that somehow clicked.  In attendance were smallish boat racers,  Georgian Bay weekenders, circumnavigating liveaboards, a steel cruiser outfitter,  assorted OPB (Other People's Boats) sailors, and SWMBO and I.  Drinks were poured, stories were told, more drinks were poured, the tales got taller  (10 knots, I freakin' swear!)  I got louder, Poda ordered a sammich and somehow we ended up with a collection of the world's coolest ketchup bottles.

Yes, that is a shot glass.

SWMBO declared it "freakin' adorable!"

Oh, speaking of cool food, I'm gonna backtrack a little bit.  AFTER the show, but BEFORE the After-Show Get-together, SWMBO and I made tracks to our favourite guilty pleasure in Toronto:
Alexandro's Greek Takeout.

Best.  Gyros.  Ever.

Don't forget to ask for extra tzatziki for the fries.

So, properly fortified and lubricated, in no particular order, we have:

Alchemy, Podette, Poda, Contest Winners, SWMBO, Mrs. Scott B,

Alchemy, SWMBO, Killarney_Sailor and Mrs. Killarney_Sailor, Scott B and Mrs. Scott B.

 ( I could have sworn these pictures were in focus when I took them.)

   Most of us had never met, backgrounds and experience varied widely, and none of us had ever spent any serious time together face to face.  Our only connection was advice and opinions traded on internet sailing forums.  Yet we were soon all chatting and laughing like we had known each other for years.  New friends were made, boat invitations extended and glasses raised.

    A good time was had by all, and I don't think anyone has any new scars or  tattoos.

    Towards the end of the night the crew from Tempus Fugit wandered past. Salutations were exchanged, drinks were offered...
and we were turned down!   Dissed to spend time with Turkey Point boaters.

Turkey Pointers???  Seriously????

That's gonna leave a mark.


    Thanks for taking the time to check us out.  Please feel free to "Talk the Dock!"  Link us, follow us, or just tell your friends.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Naval Navel-gazing

                     "Never had a doubt, in the beginning..."
                                                     -Naked Eyes

               Back when I was an in-debt, post-college kid, my first grown-up job as a sales professional was selling cars for a Lincoln-Mercury dealership. One day early in my tenure, the dealership's top producer, a grizzled veteran salesman, buttonhooked me and asked how I liked the job.  I answered in the affirmative, and he asked me if I planned to make it a career.  I opined that, indeed, I could see myself climbing the sales ladder, maybe moving to the management side. The old guy (he must have been at least 40 years old, maybe even 45,)  nodded, and asked if he could give me a piece of advice.

             "Sure", I replied, grateful for any advice this sage could provide.

             "Quit attending parking lot meetings."

           A "parking lot meeting" is a gathering of two or more salespeople (or IT guys, or mechanics, or chefs, or sailing club members.  Come to think of it,  it seems like any gathering of two or more humans could become a parking lot meeting), trading experiences and opinions. Never positive experiences.  Oh no, a parking lot meeting is all about discussing how bad things are, how tough the job is, how poorly things are managed, how stupid the executives are, the customers are,the politicians are,  the other club members are.  It's toxic, and it is an easy trap to fall into, because complaining is FUN and easy.  There is always someone willing to listen and trade stories, and, let's face it, it takes actual effort to change anything.  It's easier to just bitch and blame.

        Sometimes it seems like the internet is just one big parking lot meeting.

        The interweb is a wonderful tool for research and interaction, putting at your fingertips trillions of bytes of information, some of it even factual, provided by millions of "experts," some who might even actually, possibly, BE experts, sans air quotes.

       But damn, sometimes you gotta shovel a lot of manure to find the pony.

       Here's an example:

       I need to calculate the theoretical waterline of my catamaran project, which means I need to figure out displacement.  I am a mathematical idiot, who is also a software idiot unable to figure out how to use any of the 5-and-counting CAD programs I have loaded on my computer, so I need some help. I turn to my handy Googlemachine and join one of the multi-hull forums.  After the requisite introduction, because you can't just ask a question on a forum, oh no, one must introduce oneself to the group, establish credentials, explain why one is asking the question, then upload design drawings (really?  You need to see the drawings to tell me what formulas I need to use?), thank those who like the design,  then explain why one is building a boat, why one is designing the boat personally, why all of the designs/designers linked by the inquisitors have been considered and rejected, apologize for hurting feelings of those who own boats designed by rejected designers, thank those who comment that boatbuilding is a bad idea that takes too long costs too much and is too hard, defend the use of plywood and lumber in this age of composites and fiberglass, endure the suggestions of those who want to change the design, gently remind the group of my original query, smooth feathers ruffled by rejected design suggestions....

     ......  and I STILL don't know where to draw my waterline.  I'm just gonna guess.  Hell, it's worked for most of the measurements for most of my other projects.

     How about the poor novice boat buyer who mentions that he has found a boat he wants to buy that has some blisters.  He asks if that is a major problem, and somebody replies, "blisters will cause your boat to sink."

     Or the newbie sailor who joins a forum all excited about sailing and starts a thread wanting to find a boat for coastal sailing, occasional weekending with his/her spouse,  20-25' in length, (the boat, not the spouse) under $5000.  By the time the thread reaches 3 pages in length, the newbie has been informed that he needs a boat at least 27 feet in length, that anything less than $10 000 will require at least $5 000 in repairs and he should really just join a club and take lessons for the next five years until he knows what he is doing anyway.

      In the interest of full disclosure, here's what prompted this ramble:
     I realized that sometimes I (yes, even me,) am guilty of doom-and-glooming greenhorns.  My intentions are good, but maybe, just maybe, I should sometimes shut up.

    Case in point:  Last spring a breathless young kid pops up on Sailnet and explains "I just got a boat that does not have a working motor, that I need to get up toward Baltimore/ Annapolis from about 70-80 miles south. she's a heavy, slow vessel that I have never sailed. She is a ketch, and I am a novice sailor. wondering what kind of ideas you "experts" can come up with to get my girl to make the trip in one piece. I was thinking about getting a tow out into the chessy, and try to sail her up, then find another tow in to port."

   To recap- 70-80 miles through some of the busiest shipping waters on the East coast by a novice skipper in an unknown, apparently neglected, engineless boat.  Guess what I did?
   Instead of answering his question, I tried to talk him out of it.
" With an engine, "  I further opined, "A novice sailor is only an occasional temporary hazard- without auxiliary power you should be marked on every chart and your mugshot posted in every marina, boatyard, SeaTow office and Coastie wardroom. Fix the engine, take the trip. If you can't fix the engine and can't afford to replace it then you shouldn't have bought the boat. "

     As you can probably figure out, I didn't make a new friend.

    Was I wrong?  No.  But, maybe, I wasn't really right, either.

    A month or so later, the kid made the trip. It took two attempts but nobody got hurt and the boat didn't sink.  He probably gained more experience, and had more fun, on that first cruise than many sailors do in a season.

    Was he lucky?  Yeah.

     But he also made his own luck, by enlisting some experienced volunteer crew willing to join the adventure, keeping a prudent schedule and working with the weather.

    I could have offered to help, maybe had a fun cruise, taught and learned something along the way...  instead, I held a parking lot meeting.

    Fewer people every year are boating, and I think part of it is the parking lot meeting of conventional wisdom.  Many get scared off before they even try it.

   Let's kill the cliches.
    Boating doesn't HAVE to be out of reach.
   The two best days of a boater's life AREN'T when he/she buys a boat and when he/she sells it.
   Blisters will NOT sink your boat...for decades, anyway.
   Varnish is NOT endless maintenance
   You CAN build a boat in less than a lifetime.
    Diesel engines AREN'T hard to fix.
   Yes, you CAN do it.

    Hey, it may not change the world, but is there really a downside to being more positive?

Thanks for taking the time to check us out.  Please feel free to "Talk the Dock!"  Link us, follow us, or just tell your friends.


Sunday 22 January 2012

Toronto Boat Show Report, Part One: Old, New, Borrowed and Blew

                "We gotta have that funk..."
                       -Parliament Funkadelic

                This weekend SWMBO and I made our annual mid-winter pilgrimage to the Toronto International Boat Show.  Saturday morning we caught up with Guy, and wandered the rows.  One thing we have discovered about attending the show every year is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  There are few debuts, few truly unique or new designs, so when something new does show up, it makes an impression.
                This year, apparently, the knob on the Weird-o-Matic  was pegged at 11, then broken off.

                Like the post title says, we saw boats and gear that were old, new, borrowed and blew.

                New:  Debuting at the show was the Footprint Boat, brought to you by, uh, Footprint Boats, which generated an amazing amount of buzz.  Like it or hate it, it seemed that nobody who saw it was sitting on the fence.

Footprint Boats

     With all the styling of a RQ Riley "Phoenix" homebuilt camper from the 70s...
                                                image courtesy of Robert Q Riley Enterprises, LLC

   ...The Footprint is a modular pontoon cruiser.

      Forward is the pilothouse, with a forward central helm and benches along both sides.  Aft is an expanding accomodations module, including galley, head and berths for 4-6.  The pontoons are capable of sliding under the bridgedeck for towing, then electrically winched out to the max beam width, or any configuration in between.  Power is provided by an outboard on each pontoon.
      My first impression was that it was the answer to a question nobody asked. Then I sorta- kinda reconsidered.  Perhaps there is a place in the market for a modular pontoon boat with more amenities than the typical deck boat, without the windage and bulk of a pontoon- hulled houseboat.  Hell, it has worked for VW with their Westfalia campers for over 5 decades, in a marketplace flooded with fifth wheel trailers and big-ass Winnebagos.  I can see the benefits from a manufacturing and customization standpoint as well.  One basic platform can be configured as a camper, or with a different module behind the pilothouse, a floating site office, bunkhouse, forward control barge, or mobile hunting camp with storage for an ATV or two.

       Some details left me scratching my head, though.  What is with all of the non-skid glued to the VERTICAL surfaces?

      The raceway for the O/B controls is household ABS drain pipe, and the wiring conduit is, er, conduit.
The kettle  grille, seen above, is less than a foot away from the non-removable canvas and vinyl wall of the accomodations pod.  Besides being a fire hazard, having to barbecue through a window, over a countertop, might get old quick.

     The pilothouse doesn't seem well thought out.  The roof is retractable, which is great for making the space feel open and airy, but the really big windows are all fixed.  A big greenhouse with no cross-flow ventilation.  That's gonna get warm and stale,  topless or not.
    The helm is fully forward, putting all of the guests and crew aft of the helmsman.  This means that the helmsman is not able to interact with guests easily, and more importantly, with the only access to the exterior of the boat at the aft end of the house, the helmsman can't dock singlehanded, and can't easily communicate with crew during docking.
    The cabin is out of commission when closed. All of it.  Including the head. And the galley.   So, you either have to pop the top and fold out the pop-outs when you embark, or you and your guests pee over the side and eat  what you can keep handy in the pilothouse until you get to your destination and open up the cabin.

   Finally, there is no way to access the stern of the boat with the cabin opened up.  Got engine trouble?  Gotta close everything up, walk back, realize you need your tools inside the cabin, walk forward, open up the cabin, grab your tools, close up the cabin, walk back ... Maybe more importantly, it means that some of the most useful real estate on the boat is out of bounds.  You can't hang propane bottles, store a generator or install  a swim ladder/ platform because all of it is inaccessible.

     It was heartening to see the designer/builder, Ian Collombin, at the show.  He was happy to show off his baby and answer questions, and genuinely seemed interested in feedback.   The Footprint isn't perfect, and it isn't a big water boat, but I think there might be some real potential here.  If you can get past the Snow-Cat-knocked-up-a-party-barge appearance, and want a weekender to enjoy in Muskoka or on the Trent-Severn, this might be your boat.

     Borrowed:  George Jetson called.  He wants his boat back.


         Meet the Circraft.
More info on Circraft

       This is a  cool take on the PWC.  Basically an outboard motor bolted to a really big fiberglass dog dish, one of the first things I noticed was that there is no helm.  No wheel, no tiller.  None.  Nada.  This boat is turned by weight transfer and body language.  Lean right, turn right.  Lean left, turn left.  The harder you lean, the tighter the turn.  Simple.

     This is a pretty spartan ride.  There is no seat, no trim, no radio, no storage cubbies.  this is as basic as power boating gets.  It is just you, the motor and the hull...and the mandated safety gear.

  With a 20 hp O/B installed, trailer included, and a starting price point under $7 grand, this makes a great alternative to a traditional two- up jet-drive PWC.

 Old:  The Canadian Antique and Classic Boat Society had a great display at the entrance to the show.  Dedicated to preserving and promoting Canada's boatbuilding heritage, examples of hydroplanes, runabouts and rowboats, restored, as found and in progress were on display.

   A uniquely Canadian boat- A Greavette "Dippy"

     Here's how it got it's nickname- this boat has a "Disappearing Propeller."  The propeller can be retracted into the hull, a big advantage in near-northern Ontario, where the water can get skinny in a hurry and the bottom is rocky.

    A beautiful hydroplane:
    Note the Robertson screws, all "clocked."  Is that Canadian, or what?


     Blew:  The sail section was represented by the usual suspects.  Hunter, Beneteau, Catalina, Jeanneau, Hanse and Gemini were all in attendance with an assortment of boats in an assortment of lengths.  My favourite boat of the show, however, is from a brand that is little known in North America, TES.

TES yachts

   Their Magnam 28 is loaded with features and attractively priced.

   This is a package of contradictions that works.  A trailerable 28' centerboard boat with almost a ton of ballast, a folding swim platform, wheel steering, full headroom, aft cabin, head with shower,  furniture and joinery that doesn't look cheap and flimsy? It sounds impossible, but this Polish company pulls it off beautifully.

 The Magnam is a BIG 28 footer.

    What other current production boat offers a private aft cabin in a boat under 30 feet in length?

...and an aft head with a shower?

   A simple but clever sliding outboard mount is standard.  What's really cool is that the mount is infinitely height adjustable, a bonus in shallow water.  Want an inboard?  No problem.  It's an option.

 At under $90K all in, including motor, trailer, sails, stackpack,  furler, etc., etc., etc.,  this is a pretty impressive value.

     "But wait," you say, "What about those big fancy boats?  What have you got to say about those?"

I liked the retractable bow thruster on the new Hanse 445.


   Come on back for Part 2.

And, as always, thanks for taking the time to check us out.  Please feel free to "Talk the Dock!"  Link us, follow us or just tell your friends.

Sunday 15 January 2012

The Chronicles Meets the Toronto Boat Show

                         "But just like summer, it's over too fast."
                                                -Honeymoon Suite

               The  Toronto International Boat Show starts this weekend, and runs through January 22.  SWMBO and I will be there January 21 and 22, and we want you to join us.

               Those of us who want to get together at the show itself can meet at 2:00 on Saturday the 21st, at the Canadian Yachting Island Village, tucked into the corner of the Sailboat section.

               Saturday night there is a Meet and Greet at the Chart Room in the Westin Harbour Castle starting at 8:00.

     Buy your tickets online, and save $2.

  Hope to see you.

 Thanks for taking the time to check us out.  Please feel free to "Talk the Dock!"  Link us, follow us, or just tell your friends.

DonorBoat is Done Like Dinner

                          "Yeah, I'm gonna tear it up, gonna trash it up..."
                                                                             -Don Henley

       The following post contains images that may be offensive to some viewers.  Viewer discretion is advised.

        DonorBoat, a Buccaneer 25, has given up all that she has to offer to the catamaran project. After getting a letter from the county informing me that stately Jones manor's front yard cannot also double as a boat yard,  it's time to get rid of the evidence.

       Donorboat has more than fulfilled her role.  She has provided: 2 mainsails, 5 jibs, a spinnaker, all with lots of life left, a spinnaker pole, spars, serviceable standing rigging, running rigging (some reusuable, some good only for determining dimensions), 5 winches, three winch handles, decent chainplates, myriad cleats, turning blocks, cheek blocks, deck organizer, mast plate, traveller, sail tracks, cars, outboard mount, rebuildable 9.9 hp outboard with alternator and electric start, cockpit controls for O/B, pulpit, stern rail, lifelines, stanchions, dozens of feet of teak trim, opening ports, lights, compass, radio, icebox, head, holding tank, (Unfun to remove,) a cradle... and a 1000 lb. lead keel, which goes to Mars Metal next week, for about $.70/lb.  Her rudder will live on, going onto another Buccaneer 25 that otherwise wouldn't see the water next season.  So, even though DonorBoat's day is over, she helps other boats live.

   Conventional wisdom shared by those who have committed this sort of heresy before me is that the tool of choice is a chainsaw.  We ain't doing surgery here; this is all about high-speed, wholesale, quick and dirty destruction-  that spells chainsaw.  However, a couple of obstacles soon loom before me.

  Obstacle #1:  I do not own a chainsaw.

   Obstacle #1 is easily overcome with a phone call, producing the loan of a chainsaw.  Which brings me to...

   Obstacle #2:  The chainsaw itself.
No tool is more frustrating than a borrowed chainsaw.  To be effective, a chainsaw must a) start, and b) run, and c) both of the above, consistently.

    The tool I have borrowed will perform, occasionally, either a) or b) but not c).
It went something like this:

 *flick ignition switch to “On”*
 *pull starting cord"
*prime again*
*pull starting cord again*
*pull starting cord again and again and again and again and again and again and*
*pbbbthh pbbbthh pbbbthh pbbbttthhh ppppbbbbttthhh...*
*pant, pant, pant*
*Open Choke*
 *pull starting co-*
*pppbbbtthhhh...ring. RING-DING-DING-DINGGGGGG!!!!!!!*
*Close choke*
*optimistically pull starting cord*

  Repeat until exhausted or chainsaw gets punted across driveway or you run out of creative curse words.

 Then I did what I should have done in the first place- called up the Holy Trinity of  Electric Powered Destruction.   I scampered into the workshop and grabbed the reciprocating saw, circular saw and jigsaw.  In minutes, progress was being made.


     I had been dreading removing the head and half-full holding tank.  Here's why:
  Best Case scenario:   Unbolting the sloshing tank, gingerly shuffling through the cabin with this box of waste cradled in my arms, then climbing up through the companionway, carefully stepping across the cockpit, climbing  up onto the coaming, and then successfully descending the extension ladder 10 feet to the ground.

    Worst Case Scenario:  Do I have to spell it out?

    Based on past experience, what do you think the odds are that I will enjoy the benefits of the Best Case Scenario?

   Luckily, one of the upsides of boat destruction is that it allows a liberating amount of latitude when it comes to component removal.  I simply cut a hole in the side of the hull and yanked all of the head apparatus out through the side of the boat.


  Note safety gear and insulated coveralls.  Even though there's no snow on the ground, it was chilly.

          Some part of DonorBoat will  live on, memorialized on the catamaran.  Pieces of uncored fiberglass will be reborn as backing plates for hardware, and the prow will be preserved and mounted in the saloon of the new boat.

     Total labour to date, including sorting hardware, stripping the keel back to clean lead, stripping and clipping the hull is about 12 hours.  Having all of the hardware, rigging, sails, etc., on hand has put me days ahead of schedule, and thousands of dollars ahead of budget.

     Anybody need a cradle?

    Thanks for taking the time to check us out.  Please feel free to "Talk the Dock!"  Link us, follow us, or just tell your friends.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Adventures of a Reluctant Renovator

     "There's always something happening, and it's usually quite loud."

     Life on the hard is...  hard.

     Sharing an obsession with SWMBO is a wonderful thing.  It puts us on the same page, sympatico, our lives synchronized.  We share an understanding: May-October is Dock season.  April 15-Nov. 15 is boat season- refitting and splashing at one end, hauling and winter prep at the other.  This sacred season is also a season of neglect.  Our winter home could burn down, and we'd worry about it after the boats are out of the water.

      That means that winter, in addition to being Boatbuilding Season, Work- your- ass-off-at-your-real-job-so-you-can-relax-during-Dock-Season-Season, is also Home Repair Season.

     Sooner or later, I might actually learn my lesson, and buy something new. But, noooo, I've got to be
eccentric, a curmudgeon-in-training, suspicious of new-fangled things, an adherent to the belief that craftsmanship is largely lost in today's disposable society. Old cars, old boats, old houses- love how they look, love how they feel, love how they are built, but, to borrow from the great Ms. Radner,

     "it's always something."

     I HATE Home Repair Season.

    For this reason, improvements to Stately Jones Manor proceed at a pace that could best be described as, er, stately.

    Okay, in the interest of accuracy, perhaps the word I am looking for is "glacial."

   Our upstairs bath is the current case-in-point.

   Here's how it looked in 1999: (It's way back there, at the end of the hall:)

Nice tile, stained glass bay window. (Seriously, who puts a stained glass bay window in a bathroom?) Functional sink.
That's it.  The rest has to go.  Back then Art and I painted the ceiling, tore down the old wallpaper and installed new wallpaper and called it done.


   Flash forward to 2008.  The wallpaper is hanging off, and the roof has leaked causing the plaster to fall off the wall in spots.  The roof has been replaced, so now it is time to tackle repairing the bath.  The hanging wallpaper was peeled off, the cracked marble trim around the bay was removed, the plaster was stabilized, the cracks and gaps filled.  In a fit of decor delirium I installed a new sink and vanity and called it redone.

I figured I'd finish it up during the winter of 08/09.  It didn't happen.
Here's why:

     Normally, I enjoy investing sweat equity, but lately it seems like I have to put in a hell of a lot of the former to gain precious little of the latter. Mostly, it feels like I am playing catchup, and my house knows.

     And the sonofabitch of an abode is laughing at me.

     The bathtub leaked.

     Last winter.


     It took a couple of months to trace the problem.

     It took a couple of hours to fix the problem.

     It took a few months for me to convince myself that the problem was well and truly fixed.

  Satisfied that the tub was well and truly watertight, I decided it was time to fix the damaged plaster ceiling in the living room, directly under the tub. Well, okay, SWMBO decided I needed to fix
the ceiling. I decided I liked sleeping indoors. And, really I have no excuse for procrastinating, cuz it's just a small job. Messy, but small.

  Might take an hour.

  Two, tops.

  So, at two cups of coffee past ten this morning, I drag out the dropcloths, the shop-vac, the big stepladder, the smaller auxiliary stepladder, and all the various putty knives, sanding screens, RO sander, etc., etc. and dig into the project. All the furniture is moved, dropclothed, the doors are sealed off, and I get to sanding the stalactites off the ceiling. Reread the logistics list I provided at the beginning of this paragraph and note what is missing.

   Two words: Mask. Goggles.

   Or Safety. Gear.

   Or Fu**ing. Moron.

   Take your pick. They all start applying about now.

    I begin to think goggles might be a good idea as I reflexively step off the big ladder after cropdusting my corneas with early 20th century plaster dust.

     It wasn't the four foot drop that perturbed me, it was landing on the smaller auxiliary ladder.

    Who came up with the expression "that smarts' for something that was obviously a direct result
of an imbecilic act? Oh yeah, and just to increase the slapstick quotient, I had assembled all of the plaster tools on a tray on top of the smaller auxiliary ladder (henceforth known as the SAL) all surgical- like. I landed on one end of the tray like a fat kid on a teeter-totter, and launched the tools into the air like they were a vegan  kid with a peanut allergy.

     I could hear my house snickering.

     I collected myself, collected my tools, righted my wrongs and got back to abrasive abuse. Thought
about making yet another trip to the workshop for my goggles and mask, but rejected such prudence. I just wanted to get this job done. Besides, the stats were on my side. With a major pratfall out of the way, the odds against further mishaps had to be in my favour, right?


     Apparently, this appeared to be the case, as the smoothing, beveling and toothing proceeded without further incident.

    Except for some sneezing. Man, this dust is dusty.

   I think I hear the house snorting. But it's probably just the radiators.

     I open my bucket of plaster, and start spreading. I quickly realize two things:

    One, this stuff is THICK, and

    Two, one bucket isn't gonna cut it.

    Luckily, I had a second bucket. I quickly exhaust the first bucket, and crack open the second, and notice something.

     It is DRY.

     Not the same as bucket number one, a handy, premixed, container of goop, oh no, bucket two requires water. It says so, right on the side.

     Which I didn't bother to read before I
bought it.

     The house is now definitely quietly chuckling.

     But how much water? the side of the bucket says, “add
water until desired thickness is achieved." So, back down to the basement
workshop to find a bucket (right past the goggles and mask which I obviously do
not need at this point), back upstairs, and I do my best Goldilocks impression.

     First batch: Too hard. Chip out of bucket. Try again.

     Second batch: Starts out too wet. Carefully dump more plaster mix into bucket. Very close. Gently start to tap more plaster into mixing bucket. Sneeze. See results of first batch.

     Third batch: Close enough. Still not as thick as the premix, but close enough. And I just want to get this job done.

     Back up the big ladder. Start slathering the plaster onto the ceiling. Yep, definitely not as thick as the premix. Keep slathering and
hope for the best. Head tilted back, carefully eyeballing the buttered ceiling, I feel a sneeze coming on... I open my mouth, and brace for it... here's the wind-up...

     …and a glop of plaster drops into my wide open piehole.

     Shortly after, the sneeze follows through, and ejects the plaster from my tongue to be deposited on the wall across the room.

      Shortly after, I again depart the ladder.
    With a bucket of runny plaster in my hand.

      At, least, it was when I left the ladder.

    The house is now laughing so hard that I can hear new cracks forming in the plaster.

    By 7:00 that night, the ceiling looks better. The floors look better. the wall looks better. All I have to do is wait for it to dry, and then I can sand it tomorrow.

     No big deal. Shouldn't take more than 20 minutes or so...

     Three days later it was all done.

     That put me off plaster work for a while.

    Over the holidays I had a full-throttle case of the flu.  I haven't been this sick in decades, and found myself spending a great deal of time in the bathroom.  It was time to do something.  I had an idea.

   Aside from procrastination, or perhaps a contributing factor to the aforementioned procrastination, the biggest stumbling block  was colour.  SWMBO and I wanted to maintained the funkiness of the original tile work, so the new paint had to work with the old  tile.  I hate buying paint.  I either buy too much, or too little or the wrong colour, or all of the above.  Consequently I have a collection of partly full (or partly empty, depending upon your point of view) cans of paint stashed under a workbench in the skunkworks.  I figured I'd mix together some of the dregs, and see if I could create a suitable colour.  Best case scenario, I had free paint and cleaned up the skunkworks a little by emptying some paint cans.  Worse case, I cleaned up the skunkworks a little by emptying some paint cans.
Either way, I am full of win/win.

  Here's how things looked on Dec. 30:

  Now I just have to install new casing trim around the bay and the door, paint the ceiling, trim the mirror, replace a couple of tiles...

   It should be finished before the opening ceremonies of the next Winter Olympics.

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