Category Archives: Upgrades

Love my varnished entryway

Spa Time to Beat the Boatyard Blues

Boatyard blues effect Matt and I as well as our boat.  I think it’s a necessary evil, but it takes its toll.  While we are waiting for repairs to be completed, we decided to beautify Sugar Shack.

Five years ago, we painted our dinghy davits that were showing some wear and tear.  Then 2 years ago, we painted the mast, boom, and bow sprit while we were in St. Maarten.  We have wanted to paint our bimini support poles for some time now, but thought that the best way to do it was to remove our bimini which was just too big of a job for the two of us to tackle on our own.


The support poles get a lot of rubbing from our jib sheets and the paint has just worn down over the last 18 years.  So, since she is on the hard and the bimini is raised to thread the solar panels wires, we decided to get the job done.  We hired Bristol Marine to do several projects for us.

They masked off all areas, sanded and removed all flaking paint and glue residue, prepared metal with acid wash Alumiprep 33, rolled/brushed Zinchromate Yellow, Primer, applied Epoxy Primer White, sanded, and then painted by brush, 2 coats of Stark White AwlGrip (should have been cloud white, but they are close enough).

Bimini Supports Getting Some Love

Before photos of Bimini Supports

Photos below below show bimini supports with primer (lovely green), the cockpit table is gone (being sanded) and the entryway is being varnished.

Bimini Supports with Primer

Bimini Supports with Primer

We had to have the team redo some pieces because they were not done to our satisfaction.  But to Ben’s credit, they re-sanded and re-painted until we were happy.

Here are some shots where there was paint drip, low paint coverage, yellow primer on the bimini track, and bubbles in the varnish.  Matt even got in on the action to show them how it he wanted it done (and they call me the “perfectionist”)

Few places to fix on the bimini supports

Few places to fix on the bimini supports

And now it is simply smooth and lovely:

Bimini Supports Completed

Bimini Supports Completed


Back in 2013, we had “Vision” varnish our entryway in St. Lucia.  It has had many a feet stomp across wearing it down and it was time to refresh it.  After all it is the first thing you see as you enter our dwelling.

This process requires a lot of masking as the old varnish is stripped way with a heat gun and scraper.  Haner, our worker said that it is a bit more difficult as we have a thin layer of varnish.  He has to be very gentle as not to overheat or burn the natural wood while removing the varnish.  If there was a thick coat, he could make better use of the heat gun.

The photo on the right shows where he removed some varnish and then shows the depleted varnish.

Repairing the Varnish on the Entryway

Repairing the Varnish on the Entryway

Once all of the old varnish was removed, they block sanded it, cleaned, applied yellow primer AwlWood and 10 coats of gloss (while sanding in between coats).

Entryway Completed and looking marvelous.

Entryway Half Way Mark

Entryway Half Way Mark


Our cockpit table is protected with a wood stain, but it tends to need updating every other month.  The sun fades the stain and exposes the wood which could cause damage.  We decided to have the team sand the table and apply Semco Oil Natural Color to see if this will last a bit longer.

We really liked the look of the entryway at the half way mark and asked Bristol what the cost would be to do the same treatment to the cockpit table.  Unfortunately, it was way out of our budget at $2500 so we opted to go back to the Semco Oil Natural Color.

This is a photo of the table using StarBrite Stain. It actually is not really bad now, with the exception of the center edge where the flaps leave exposed surface.

Before Photo: Cockpit Table StarBrite Stain

Before Photo: Cockpit Table StarBrite Stain

The cockpit table all sanded and ready for Simco Oil


All ready to host dinner parties:  Super pretty!



Both the Port and Starboard Engine Teak is coming up off the cover.  We decided to remove them so we could properly glue them down.  It was so bad that when it rained it leaked a little bit into the engine room – and we can’t have a wet engine room.

Photo shows corner teak coming up and 2nd photo is Matt stepping on it and you can see the water seeping out.

Engine Teak Coming Up on Cover

Engine Teak Coming Up on Cover

Bristol sanded both hatches, so now we need to sand down the other teak steps on each sugar scoop before sealing with Star Brite.


The boatyard blues are always made better when your home looks good. It’s a slow process, but soon Sugar Shack will shake off her boatyard blues and be back in the water.  Who said that the boatyard blues can’t be productive?


Here are some before and after shots of the interior cabin during work and after the boat has been put back together.

Before and After forward cabin and main salon

Before and After forward cabin and main salon

Main or master cabin


Master cabin head (bathroom)


Aft cabin / office:

After cabin office before and after.

After cabin office before and after.


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

Ceiling replacement project

Finally sourced some materials – over a month of phone calls, emails coordination to get delivered to SXM (St. Maarten) from San Juan.

Loading 4×8 sheets of into the dinghy from the delivery truck in Phillipsburg, was quite the fun and then loading the 12 sheets from the dinghy into the mothership in the wind was like kite surfing holding directly onto the kite.  The shipping weight was 700lbs – tho each sheet only weighed in at 15lbs.

Taking down the deteriorating corrugated ceiling is more work than it looks like.  The panels are held in place by gobs of silicon adhesive, after first cutting them down, they crack and drop pieces every where.  But then the real work happens, removing all the left over silicone.

Its taking about a full day per panel and we haven’t even tried the ones with lights in them yet.  So at the very least it will take 7 days if we were to do nothing but work upside down.  That is taking one down and cleaning ( surface prep ) and cutting and fitting a new one, and running the tape.

Now trying to decide beige or white, as the material was pretty in expensive so ordered enough of both colors to try out.

The material is 3mm Komatex PVC foam sign board (we bought ours from Caribbean Signs) usually used for outside signage.  Will be held in place by 3M VHB tape.  Hopefully it will not deteriorate as in the heat and humidity.

Beige panels up and testing

Beige, I’ll paint the ceiling beige?

Will we like it? Will it grow on ya.

Definitely better than the crispy white headliners.

If blue tape can hold them up certainly VHB tape will be up to the task

Would it be too dark?

Beige test fit, color didn’t quite match with the wood

In the end decided to go for basic plain ole white, here you can see we have 2 left to replace, the white actually lightens up the space.  But I miss the character of the cracks and peeling. The goal was to have it finished by the Heineken Regatta,as that is some serious fun.

test fitting white

2 of 7 panels done, 5 more removed and ready to cleaned prepped and new panels cut

Midway progress, cleaning old silicone off was a chore and messy

Only 2 left, didn’t get quite finished before the Heineken Regatta

5 of 7 done, looking better

Made it this far, 5 of 7 panels before the Heineken Regatta. The wind just wasnt cooperating to take a small kiteboard out on deck to try and cut it.  On one occasion I tried, saw a break in the wind but only after getting all set up noticed a rain cloud, er squall, coming.  Placed the gallon jug used to clean the silicon on top of the sheets that was 1/2 way cut, whoosh the whole mess went flying. The sheet got stopped by the lifeline breaking the sheet at the cut and ruining one of the outlined panels.  The mineral spirits jug went overboard, Christine tried to get it with the new boat hook, but the wind was just too fast.  Dropped the dinghy to go retrieve in the down pour.  All is well, I had ordered extras, and I guess we could still go beige.  The knife I was using to cut the stuff also went for a swim. A day later when it wasn’t quite as silted up, tried to find it for an hour and two more times after that without any luck, you would have thought a bright red and shiny knife would stick out on a sandy bottom. Oh well, we have a back up of that too.

Carefully slicing through the silicone used to hold them up, and not to cut the old panel as it will be used as the template when cutting new ones.

Removing the last old panel without destroying it to use as a pattern

Now in St Bart’s, its gusty but the last two panels were cut and ready – time to finish this project. Test fitting and scuffing up the edges on the last panel and noticed a crack that probably happened when that panel tried to go swimming. Ugh, one more to cut and its gusty here in this bay. Grab Christine and 2 sheets of material, one white and one gray, gray for working surface and wait for a lul. No major issues last sheet cut and installed.

Almost done just the last 2 light fixtures to go

Just some cosmetic touches

Finished product at night

Even the lights are now in alignment

The real test will be to see if they last while sailing in big waves, as I’m sure there is some flex that goes on. If they do come down might just have to source wider VHB tape.