Farewell Gypsy – Blanca 08may2010

We have the title to the boat!  So Gypsy is officially no longer abandoned.  We’ve decided to rename her, against many complaints from the “locals”, who see this boat as a fixture of the marina– as Dave likes to say, he’s been here so long, he’s no longer a “regular,” he’s furniture– and the boat’s been here far longer.  She’ll soon be in the water, which will change the whole look of the boat-yard.

So what shall we name her?  In homage to her color, her various nick-names (“the Bow of Gibraltar” being my favorite), one of Dave’s favorite shouted quotes from Moby Dick, and Isabel’s Spanish heritage, the new name will be–   “Ballena Blanca”.  (“White Whale” in Spanish.)

Of course, we’ll follow the traditional denaming and christening ceremonies–  here’s the one I plan to use.  First, every vestige of the old name must be removed from the boat.  I’ve sanded the name off the transom, and donated the circa 1990, framed radio license to the marina “museum.”  I can’t find any other trace of her name, but I’ll keep looking to be sure.  Once that’s done, we’ll throw a party, and hold this ceremony (with thanks to the author, John Vigor):

“In the name of all who have sailed aboard this ship in the past, and in the name of all who may sail aboard her in the future, we invoke the ancient gods of the wind and the sea to favor us with their blessing today.

“Mighty Neptune, king of all that moves in or on the waves; and mighty Aeolus, guardian of the winds and all that blows before them:

“We offer you our thanks for the protection you have afforded this vessel in the past. We voice our gratitude that she has always found shelter from tempest and storm and enjoyed safe passage to port.

“Now, wherefore, we submit this supplication, that the name whereby this vessel has hitherto been known, Gypsy, be struck and removed from your records.

“Further, we ask that when she is again presented for blessing with another name, she shall be recognized and shall be accorded once again the selfsame privileges she previously enjoyed.

“In return for which, we rededicate this vessel to your domain in full knowledge that she shall be subject as always to the immutable laws of the gods of the wind and the sea.

“In consequence whereof, and in good faith, we seal this pact with a libation offered according to the hallowed ritual of the sea.”

Then we’ll pour or spray a bottle of good champagne over her bow, consigning her old name to history.

Later, when she’s ready for the water with fresh paint and new livery, we’ll perform the christening ceremony:

“I name this ship Ballena Blanca.  May she bring fair winds and good fortune to all who sail on her.”

And according to custom, break a bottle of bubbly on her bow.  I imagine I’ll intone the first ceremony, and Isabel will stand in for Queen Elizabeth for the second.

It’ll be quite a party!



Chipping and Scraping and Sanding, Oh My! – Gypsy 27mar2010

Now that March Madness is over (I’m talking about the annual spree of archaeology conferences– what did you think I meant?) it’s back to work on the boat.

The weather was warm enough to be comfortable, but not warm enough for fiberglass work.  That’s ok– there’s plenty of sanding to do.  Here’s a pic that shows the existing bottom paint, what’s left of it.  The red color is the original gelcoat.

I’ve also got the spot where an old thru-hull was all sanded and ready for glass.  Here it is from the port bow:


And closer.  You can see the wood core and the inner glass.  The inner glass is about 3/8″ thick, and the outer more than an inch.

The old green bottom paint just flakes off, and the sander makes it just shower down.  By the time I quit working on Saturday I was covered.  Cap’n Dave said I looked like an “Irish Smurf”.  Didn’t come off too easy in the shower, either.  Nasty stuff.  Glad I’ve got a dust-mask.

 Next weekend is supposed to be nicer– I’ll get my fiberglass supplies and start makin’ plastic!

Fuel Tank Port – Gypsy, 06Mar2010

The weather has finally broken in Southern Maryland and it was warm enough this weekend to get some work done!

The ice in the bilges finally melted completely, letting me pump out all the water.  Unfortunately, two out of three old pumps didn’t survive the winter ice.  The important engine-room pump made it, though!

This week’s goal was to cut an inspection/cleaning port into the port fuel tank.  The starboard tank already has one– I opened it to see the tank was full of what used to be diesel fuel.  To get the boat ready for a swim, I need to pump out those tanks and dispose of the old fuel.  Which means an inspection/cleaning port in the port-side tank, too.

Most of the rotted cabin-sole has been removed at this point– the fiberglass tank tops need to be cleaned before the new sole can be laid.  I cleaned one section where the new hole is to be cut.  The tank’s top looks so bright when it’s been scrubbed!

I started by hand-drilling (with a brace-and-bit) a hole along the edge of the 8-inch circle.  My reciprocating saw couldn’t turn tight enough to cut the circle, so I resorted to a pattern of 1-1/2 inch holes cut with a hole-saw, then connected them with the reciprocating saw.  That’s why the scrap pieces are disc-shaped.  Not perfect, but once the port hardware is fastened down, I’ll clean up the circle.

You can see how thick the tank is– about 3/8″ of solid fiberglass. Of course, running right through the middle of my hole is the top of a baffle that had to be cut away.  You can just see it below the level of the fuel.  Now I can call the oil-disposal guys to come pump out these tanks!

I finished up the weekend removing an old thru-hull fitting– it had to be cut out.  Next week I’ll get some pictures of that and how I plan to glass in the hole.

Stay tuned!


Restoration Plan – Gypsy, 12Feb2010

No work on the boat this week– you may have heard we had a touch of “wintry-mix” in these parts. I’ve gotten down to the point where things need to melt before I can go further.

So what does a boat restorer do when he’s not restoring the boat? He thinks about restoring the boat!

I’ve put together four major milestones to work toward: launch her into the water, make her “sleepable”, make her liveaboard-able, and finally operational. Beyond that is the rather nebulous (at this point) goal of long-range cruising (to points south of here, where there’s no snow!) The tasks aren’t in any particular order with each milestone, beyond the order that I dreamt them up.

The first milestone is primarily one of motivation– the sooner she’s in the water, the more I’ll want to work on her. Also, in a slip she’ll have a continuous power supply (to keep the batteries topped up and the pumps running if need be), and she won’t freeze up in the winter. As much. I hope. So before she can go back in the water:

  • repair/replace the port prop-shaft; it has pit-corrosion at the stuffing box.

  • replace stuffing box packing in the prop-shaft and rudder-post tubes.

  • inspect/repair/replace all thru-hull fittings.

  • install proper bilge-pumps and wiring.

  • install battery charger/inverter.

  • sand/paint topsides (or rehab the gel-coat, if that’s an option).

  • sand/paint bottom.

  • decide on a new name – paint it on the transom.

  • drain/inspect/clean fuel and water tanks.

  • find/repair all weather leaks.

  • install proper shore-power connection for the battery charger.

The second milestone is the ability to spend the weekend comfortably aboard. This allows the sale of our other “sleepable” boat to pay for more boat-wiring. Before we can sleep on her, we need to restore the starboard sleeping compartment at a minumum:

  • gut the starboard cabin, saving what brightwork is in good enough condition.

  • repanel stbd. cabin bulkheads.

  • replace stbd. cabin sole.

  • repair/replace stbd. cabin door.

  • paint/finish stbd. cabin bulkheads.

  • replace/rebuild bunk frames, etc.

  • replace bunk cushions/covers.

The third milestone is a biggie– the ability to move onto the boat and join the ranks of the liveaboards. Before we can live aboard:

  • gut/repair/replace entire cabin space (similar to the stbd. cabin above).

  • install washer-dryer. we’ve found one that would work: http://www.splendide.com/splendide_wd2100xc.htm or something similar.

  • repair/replace all galley fixtures.

  • repair/replace stove.

  • install new refrigerator.

  • replace/install new AC wiring harness, including breaker panels, etc.

  • replace/install new DC wiring harness (breaker panels, etc.)

  • replace/rebuild the aft deck hatch covers.

  • repair/replace all head fixtures, and install a proper holding tank and shower sump.

  • repair/replace water system – fresh-water tanks and pump, and allow shore-water hookup.

  • install a hot-water solution – either a new hot-water heater or an on demand (diesel?) hot water system.

And finally before we can take her out of her slip under her own power:

  • replace all engine room hoses.

  • install full-size house battery bank.

  • install starter battery bank.

  • get engines running- new alternators and starters.

  • get generator running.

  • acquire proper ground-tackle including repair/replace the windlass.

  • install VHF radios and other electronics (GPS, chartplotter, autopilot, etc.).

  • install Coast Guard required equipment (PFDs, flares, etc.)

  • repair/replace navigation lights.

  • repair/replace salon helm and flying bridge controls.

And before we can cruise anywhere far away:

  • install new mast/rigging.

  • acquire sails.

  • wind-generator?

  • solar panels?

  • learn how to sail?? 😉

So there it is– pretty short list, eh?

Fair winds– and if you’re on the east coast this week: remember to lift with your legs!



“‘Tis not a fit night out for man nor beast!” – Gypsy, 04Feb2010


The beautiful weather last weekend made it an absolute joy to work on the boat… NOT! More like an scene from Ice Station Zebra. By Sunday morning, we had almost a foot of snow in the boatyard, with 2 foot drifts here and there. True to form, they’re predicting a second foot-plus snowfall for this coming weekend. More fun!

I found the aft hold filled with solid ice– somewhere down in there is a bilge-pump. Not a good idea to try to run ’em when they’re embedded in ice, so it’s a perfect time to re-run the wiring and install the fused switches. They’re done (short of mounting the panel), but can’t be tested until the ice melts.

The ice standing on the tops of the fuel tanks below the rotted cabin-sole also prevents me from cleaning that out– the splinters of old plywood are embedded in it. Eventually I hope to find/clean out/install limber-holes in the deck supports to let any water standing on the tanks to drain into the “slot” between them, where the forward pump is. Once she’s afloat, the motion of the ocean should help that along. You can see the “slot” in this picture at the bottom of the companionway stairs, mostly covered by a rotted, removable cover. The space-heater took the edge off the cold, but the snow I tracked in on the salon floor never melted. Draw your own conclusions.

Here’s a shot of the worst weather leak– the water runs in between the deck and the hull. The plywood bulkheads are completely rotted away and the fiberglass is discolored, but still solid. I’m continually amazed at how good condition the structural parts of this boat remain. The frames along the hull are solid as ever, as are the deck supports, etc. everywhere else. Only the cosmetic bits have rotted over the years.

Before the cold set in, I had been working on the thru-hulls and sea-cocks. Here’s a shot of an original engine raw-water intake. This one was in good shape, only needing to be disassembled, cleaned, lubricated and put back together. Another one forward, which had been connected to some less-than-marine-grade plumbing (one tee-fitting was so corroded it fell to pieces when I put a wrench on it) had to be replaced.

Here’s the new one (with the yellow handle). Somewhere above it some air (carrying blowing snow) is coming in, probably from a disconnected deck-scupper. You can see the remains of some of the old plumbing on the left. Sorry for the picture quality, but low light levels on a cell-phone camera, with shaky frozen hands… 



I heard from the original boatyard that built this boat this week– it’s confirmed to be a 1971 Ta Chiao CT-41 motorsailer. The chairman of the company remembered building her with “extremely solid construction.” Apparently, they only built two of this model. I wonder where the other one is? They asked for more pictures to maybe discover the original designer and perhaps other information.

Stay warm!




The Boat:  “Gypsy”, a 41′ fiberglass motorsailer, built sometime in the 1970s.  Currently “on the hard” at Tall Timbers Marina in Maryland, and has been for the better part of 20 years.  This picture was taken in August, 2009.

The Plan:  Refurbish and refit her, with the goal of a comfortable liveaboard, and potentially cruise to the Caribbean– some place warm with clear water.

 Gypsy was abandoned on shore– the previous owner paid her dockage fees like clockwork, apparently with the intention of someday refurbishing her himself.  He unfortunately died before realizing this dream.  His surviving family apparently did not share this sentiment– they paid one month’s slip fee, came to visit and took one look… and ran.  Never paid anything again.

 Learning of this last summer, we struck a deal with the marina owner: he would acquire the title through the abandonment laws, we would pay the back-dockage, and he would sign the title over to us.  From then on, we’d pay the ongoing dockage, of course.  A win-win, right?  Well, we’ll see about that.

 When we first went aboard for a look, we found a true diamond-in-the-rough.  Trash scattered everywhere, rotted panels falling away from the bulkheads from water incursion– the aft hold hatch-covers were stove in, the aft hold filled with mud and pine-needles.  There was the mummified remains of a cat draped over a cleat on the fore-deck; one area of the aft hold had a healthy layer of green moss.  A fellow IMHer quipped “you’ll need a wetlands permit to clean that up!”

 But underneath the years’ accumulation of detritus was a solid hull without a single soft-spot– this fiberglass hull is five inches thick at the turn of the bilge.  Rapping your knuckles on the hull feels more like knocking on cinder-block than on a wooden door, like other fiberglass hulls.  The deck is similarly built, with a teak top layer.  The teak itself is dirty and has some strips popping up, but there’s no sign of water incursion through the deck– only a couple of leaks where the deck meets the hull, around the salon windows and through the air vents from the bridge.  Most of the wood rot and mildew, it turns out, is due to condensation over the years.

 So far, I’ve inspected and repaired, replaced or capped most of the thru-hulls and sea-cocks.  Both stuffing boxes have been cleaned out and are waiting for new packing, once the port shaft is repaired/replaced.  It has some pit-corrosion at the stuffing-box that needs attention.  She has three working bilge-pumps and a battery now, so no more wetlands in the aft hold.  I still need to rehab the rudder packing gland and finish the thru-hulls and sea-cocks.  The noxious fluid-that-was-once-diesel in the fuel tanks needs to be pumped out and disposed of and the tanks cleaned.  The bottom needs to be sanded and painted– might as well do that before we put her back in the water.  With persistence, I hope to have her floating by late spring.

 We decided to rename her, but haven’t come up with a new name yet.  The proper denaming ceremony will be performed to appease Mighty Neptune before she is re-christened– complete with a re-launching party!

 Now I’m off to install bilge-pump switches…