Category Archives: Boat Details

Completed fender covers.

Dressing Up Our Fenders

Every boat has fenders, so what makes them special?  Sugar Shack came with lots of fenders – really big ones!  It’s always good to have solid fenders and the bigger the better.  Fenders are used when entering a marina, pulling up to a dock, and any time you need protection for your boat.  We’ve pulled them out when a boat was dragging and coming down on us, we’ve used them for fun and games (think “wrecking ball” when you see image below).

Wrecking Ball on the Seas.

Wrecking Ball on the Seas.

In San Blas, we have 3 fenders out on the side of the boat so the pangas, ulus and dugouts don’t damage our boat when they come to sell us fruits, veggies, lobster, and molas.

The fenders have been working great and have protected our hulls from many potential impacts.  However, as the fenders get used, they get dirty.  When they are dirty, they transfer that dirt and other marks onto the hulls.  Which sucks.  So, we have been meaning to do fender covers for a very long time. Matt purchased and brought 50’ of blue fleece over 6 years ago along with two more large fenders.  The felt has sat under our master bed ever since.

Until, I got a bug up my butt and decided to do something about it! Matt and I worked on several patterns for the A4 fender which are giant balls (well, funny shaped balls).  We have 4-A4’s and 1-A5.  Many months ago, we tried our hand at making a fender cover using old sunbrella for the A5.  And, although it works, it is hideous.

A5 ugly fender cover attempt #1

A5 ugly fender cover attempt #1

We learned several things, sunbrella sucks as a fender cover, and our measurements were way off.  So, the key was in the pattern.  We made several patterns using shower curtains.  They are cheap, easy to draw on, cut quickly, can be stapled, and gently manhandled into a form.  Unfortunately, it took us a few tries to get what we thought was a decent pattern.  We wrapped it around our A4 and then went to work with the fabric.

First, tracing the pattern on the fabric.  Traced the larger pattern which has the ½” hem and then traced the actual panel inside.

After cutting the fabric, we sowed the panels side to side forming a giant circle.  Then the top and bottom hems were sewed.  We placed the cover, inside out over the ball.  It was close, worked, but not tight enough.  So, we pinned each seam making the cover form fitting, took it off, sewed it up and voila.

A4 Pattern and final product.

A4 Pattern and final product.

Since the first one was so big, we decided to make a new, smaller pattern.  Each ball has 6 panels and there are 4 balls.  With each fender, the covers got better and better.  The 4th ball is on the side of the boat for the pangas.

Once the hard covers are done, we moved on to the “easy” F4s which are tubes for lack of a better description.  Super easy.

We cut 28”x27” piece of fabric (almost a square), hemmed the top and bottom.  Then we wrapped it on the fender, inside out so we could pin the final edge.

Gently scoot the fabric off without popping the pins, then sew her up.  You want them to fit like a glove so that they don’t slip off during use.  Once the cover was completed, we had to squeeze it over the fender – it was very much like putting something on over something unmentionable….

F4 Covers Complete

F4 Covers Complete

The four A4s and eight F4s look great and are now well protected.  The only unfortunate thing is that we ran out of fabric before I could cover the last remaining A5 which happens to be the largest fender and the one we use the most ☹

Instead of enduring the ugly A5 with dirty sunbrella, I decided to use blue sunbrella scraps to make a new A5 cover.  It would not be the same as the others, but it will be closer in color and look a lot better – or so I had hoped.

The sunbrella fabric is not as forgiving as the fleece and does not “mold” to the round shape of the fender well.  However, I was determined. I did my measurements, added 2” and went to work.  Cut out 6 panels, pinned then sewed the sides and tried her on.  Hmph….too short, it did not reach all the way around.  No problem, I added another panel.  Tried again and it fit all the way around.  Good news.  I sewed the top and bottom hem, turned it inside out to try on again, and YUCK.

Matt jumped in as I was on the verge of panic and adjusted it a little.  Several side seams needed to be taken in and then it looked rather good.  But, in order to take in the side seams I had to take out the top and bottom seams (for Pete’s sake!).  So, I removed the top and bottom seams, sewed my new side seams, resewed the top and bottom seams and it is what it is.

A5 Complete

A5 Complete

Boat project: Fender covers complete!

Completed fender covers.

Completed fender covers.

Useful, yet unusual helpful sewing items:

  • Shower curtains for patterns
  • Chalk for outline
  • Binder clips to hold material
Sweetie All Dressed Up

Our Dinghy, Sweetie, Gets a Face Lift

As a cruiser, you rely heavily on your dinghy as it is your “water car”.  The only time you don’t need your dinghy is when you are in a marina.

Our dinghy, “Sweet N Low” or “Sweetie” as she is now referred to, has been in dire need of some lovin.  We have needed to work on her for a while, but didn’t have several days in a row where she wasn’t in use.

List of ailments:

  • Rub rail was coming off
  • Velcro holding chaps was peeling off
  • Chaps needed mending (several tears, velcro, patches, and seams)
  • Slow leak, somewhere

Dinghy tubes are typically made from two types of materials: PVC or hypalon.  We have a hypalon dinghy which requires a specific type glue.  Matt found a glue used for escalators, Cement SC 2000 which is a two-step gluing agent that requires several days to cure.

Several chemicals can be used to remove this type of glue.  MEK, acetone, and mineral spirits.  They are wicked on your skin and have a pungent odor.  Several videos show you how to remove the glue as well, but they require tools that we don’t have on the boat. We had a few ounces of MEK to test in small areas.  We had less than a liter of acetone and about 3.5 liters of mineral spirits.  All three seemed to do the same thing, none better than the other.  Since we had more mineral spirits than the other two that became the solvent of choice.

My first thought was to find out where we could get more MEK or acetone so I went to Facebook.  I know, you are thinking she’s lost her marbles.  Maybe–probably,  There is a really good Facebook page for Columbia cruisers and I thought I’d ask them where to get our supplies.  I explained our project and what I was looking for and within an hour I had a reply.  Just not the reply I expected.  I was told to “never, ever ask a local Colombian for acetone as it is a key ingredient used to make cocaine.  And if I were to ask around, they would think I was part of the Pablo Escobar family.”  What the HELL!  Yikes!  Won’t go down that road.  So, we will make due with what we have on board.

Typically, we would avoid showing pornographic images on our blog, but for the sake of education, we will show you Sweetie without her chaps on.  She looks so very sad.

Note the velcro coming off both inside and outside the dinghy, the rub rail (gray & white below the velcro) is coming off and she is all around a mess.

Dinghy in repair

Sweetie’s bow with velcro coming off & rub rail on

Matt removed the rub rail with little effort and looked mournfully at the mound of glue that had to be removed from the entire circumference of the of the dinghy and the rub rail.  All that brownish yellow stuff is old glue.

Dinghy in repair

Sweetie with rub rail off and side velcro in pieces.

The port side of the dinghy had been repaired in the past using Matt’s escalator glue (it dries black) so it was a bigger mess.  Matt tackled the dinghy first while I worked on the rub rail.   We both started with the worst part of the project-the port side.

The troughs had a combination of glue, dirt, sand, and muck.  They didn’t need to be totally glue free, but the chunks had to be removed.  The two gray outer rails and the white center had to be 100% cleaned with no sticky residue as that is where the new glue would be applied.

Dinghy in repair

Rub rail being cleaned. Top cleaned, guck in crevices and bottom full of glue.

It was frustrating because it took a lot of work that garnered very little progress.  It takes a lot of patience and elbow grease.  You can see that what was once yellow is now almost white again.

Dinghy in repair

Matt finishing up removing large pieces of glue by hand.

After removing the large chunks of balls of glue, Matt used a flap wheel.  This removed the last residue of stickiness.

Dinghy repair.

Matt removing last sticky residue with flapper.

The process for the rub rail was a little different  I used a small brush and mineral spirits in a circular motion to loosen up the glue and remove the large chunks.  Then I used the scraper to remove the chunks in the troughs on either side.   Then I used a bristle pad to get the rest of the glue off.

Dinghy repair.

Cleaning the rub rail. Top cleaned, bottom not.

After the chunks were gone, I used the flap wheel to remove the last of the residue.

Dinghy repair.

Rub rail before sanding begins.

It is amazing how nice it looks once all of the old glue is off.  The flapper wheel really cleaned it up and removed the last bits of stickiness.

Matt and I talked through the gluing process several times before he mixed the compound.  We had a lot of area to cover and a limited amount of time to do it in.  First, you mix the two elements together, then you spread a light coat over the dinghy and the rub rail, and then wait an hour.  It took us 50 minutes to cover all areas with the first coat.  So we had 10 minutes to get a drink, rest, and pat ourselves on the back while the compound sat in a bowl of ice water to prevent it from curing.

The second step required us to reapply another light coat over a 3′ section (both the dinghy and rub rail or both the dinghy and velcro), wait 15 minutes until it’s tacky and then stick the pieces together.

Remember how nice it looked all clean and white – now it is all black and gooey.

We were both working with 1/2 kg can that had to cover the exterior rub rail, exterior velcro and interior velcro.  And it had to be applied to all pieces.  Did I mention that the temperature speeds up the process and hardens or cures the compound?  And did I tell you it is HOT!?

Somehow we managed to squeak every drop out of the can to cover everything we needed.  We destroyed several brushes, but it was done.

The only unfortunate thing is that we came up short on one side.  We should have started in the middle and worked our way down each side.  Either the dinghy was super inflated due to the heat or we were supposed to stretch the rub rail more to make it fit.  Too late now, we cannot start over–it is stuck on good!

3" section that came up short.

3″ section that came up short.

We let her dry overnight which gave it strength of 32 lbs per square inch.  Pretty darn strong.

A Cartagena Fort, Castle, and Bastion

The Walled City is a giant fort in and of itself.  The construction of the Walls of Cartagena lasted nearly two centuries, ending in 1796. The historic center is complemented by fortifications and bastions, where you can watch sunsets.  The Walled City being the largest Cartagena Fort.

In addition to the 7 miles of stone walls that make up the Walled City, you can also visit other forts.  Matt and I had fun exploring several of them.

One of the largest structures built in Columbia is Castillo San Felipe de Barajas which is a World Heritage Site.  San Felipe de Barajas castle was the only access to the city from the mainland.  Not sure if a castle constitutes a Cartagena Fort, but just go with it.

We arrived at the Walled City just as a tourist bus unloaded its passengers.  Drat!  We bought our 15,000 peso tickets and scurried up the hill to get in front of the crowds.  Most of the people were not the “scurrying” type so we had some time to explore on our own.  This was a very large castle.  It just kept going and going and going.  We were able to stand on the walls, check out the bastions, and go on a quest underground.  They opened up several underground tunnels where we believed the soldiers slept.  We were not sure as we did not buy headphones or go on an official tour.

Images: Matt inside a bastion, me next to one, shot between the walls. Matt in a tunnel, fort walls with modern city in back.

Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. Cartagena Fort.

Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

Images: Fort entrance, me with a pretty view, me locked up, sleeping quarters, and wall exterior.

Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. Cartagena Fort

Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

As we were coming out of one of the tunnels, a tour group was at the entrance. The guide was showing how they built the tunnels in such a way to always protect them from intruders.  He joked, in English, that we were pirates so when we came out, I said “Argh, give me all of your money” which garnered muzzled laughs.

On the far end of the Walled City, we discovered a construction zone.  They are building an huge entertainment area.  New restaurants, bars, shops, and an enormous round outdoor theater are being built.  I sure wish we could see this completed – what a hoot it would be to see a play here!

Cartagena Fort. Round Theater

Round theater being built above and image of completed project below.

The Baluarte El Reducto is part of the walls of the Historic Center of Cartagena.  It is a fortification bastion facing the lagoon of San Lazaro.  It was the first work of fortification enclosure built as a result of the enlargement of the city.  On top of the fort is Casa Cerveza, a restaurant that has a beautiful view and a great name!  Who wouldn’t want to live in a Beer House?  (Casa Cerveza=Beer House)

View from Casa Cerveza.

View from Casa Cerveza.

EL fuerte de San Sebastian del Pastelillo is where Club de Pesca is located which is one of the 5 marinas in Cartagena.  Even though there is not much left of the fort, it makes for an impressive entrance to the marina.  I can imagine you’d feel safe keeping your boat within Cartagena Fort waters.

Fuerte Sansebastian

We visited several bastions:

  • Baluarte Santa Catalina
  • Baluarte San Pedro Martir
  • Convento de San Diego

Walking around town we found this cool world map

World Map - where are we?

World Map – where are we?

End to a perfect day – Matt and Teo

Matt and Teo walking and talking.

Matt and Teo walking and talking. Photo credit: Jon Wright