Surviving the Doldrums: Varnishing, Part 3

Dominic motors through the estuary doldrums.

In nautical terms, the doldrums refers to the intertropical convergence zones in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Here, the wind streams converge and move upward, resulting in zero wind or water current at the surface of the ocean--a notoriously mind numbing experience for sailors.  My first memory of the doldrums comes from watching A Muppet Treasure Island growing up. Kermit, Gonzo, Beaker, and the rest of the muppet crew sit listlessly on the deck as their frigate bobs in place, making no progress toward their gilded island.

Then the muppets break into song, the salient lyrics being, "I've got cabin fever, and its driving me insane". 

These lyrics have passed through my mind a time or two as, having varnished the cockpit coaming, I turn my attention to the rest of the brightwork on the boat: about 80 feet of toe rail around the perimeter, 60 feet of decorative trim, and three companionway slats (aka the front door).

It feels, in some ways, as though I'm in the varnishing doldrums. Back in square one, heat gunning and scraping, with an ocean of sanding and varnishing ahead. 

How long will the ten coats of varnish take to dry completely when I'm done?

Six months.

When do I need to start sanding to apply the first refresher coat? 

Six months.

Doldrums. 

The word comes from the Old English root dul meaning stupid or tedious. Other connotations (inactivity, laziness, zero measurable progress), are less apt to my situation. Sure, I'm fighting my own inactivity, laziness, and preference for novel reading over manual labor; but, there have been some serious gains in efficiency and progress of late, thanks to the awesomeness of our little brothers.

While Dimitri stayed on Helios, he scraped the starboard toe rail while I was frolicking in the Shakespearian woods of Ashland, and he pioneered the purchase of a second heat gun. My brother, Craig, picked up both heat guns this week while I scraped and vacuumed. We cleared 30 feet of old varnish from the port toe rail in 90 minutes--breakneck speed! No doldrums here!

Above: Craig demonstrates double gunning technique. Below: he is amply rewarded, as are all crew if you're interested!

Above: Craig demonstrates double gunning technique. Below: he is amply rewarded, as are all crew if you're interested!

Thus far, the lessons in surviving the doldrums include: breaking into song; getting a younger sibling to help; and admiring the completed brightwork in the cockpit with a beverage of choice. Nate, a professional varnisher working nearby who became an early mentor, said I should just never look up and calculate how much of the boat is left. I also thought it would be helpful to mix up my varnish stripping game by using a chemical stripper that coordinates with my toe nails.

Coordinating in cantaloupe can't hurt, right?

Coordinating in cantaloupe can't hurt, right?

So, I'll be singing songs, hoping for help, keeping my head down, fixing up my pedicure, feeling proud of my successes along the way, and rewarding myself with cockpit happy hour until the varnishing is done. Which will be never.