Saturday, May 28, 2011


I have not been to Key West in over fifteen years. A twenty four hour stopover a few weeks ago allowed me to get a glimpse at how the city had changed or not changed. We checked into the Westin Hotel and Marina with a great location on the waterfront at Front Street. It's one block from the end of Duval Street and just south of Mallory Square where the ubiquitous Sunset Celebration is held every night. I don't recall the hotel being here on my last visit. I think it was a dusty uneven industrial space with an occasional tug or two tied up and offered a quiet alternative to the carnival like atmosphere of nearby Mallory Square. Back then I recall there was a lot of controversy about cruise ships docking in the city. That controversial issue now seems moot as there is cruise ship pier:

But, the good news is there seems to be additional waterfront dockage now for voyaging sailors who don't like sailing in crowds and judging from the name of this boat a reminder of the old times in Key West.

While the dusty industrial lot is gone. It's been replaced by a paved waterfront with a railing. Perfect to lean on and watch the comings and goings of various boats.

We took a nice shady walk down Whitehead Street and stopped by the Banyan Tree Resort a place I had stayed at many times in the past. The Banyan Tree out front seemed to provide shade for the entire block. We stopped by the Tiki Bar in the back which is a quiet and peaceful place to enjoy a refreshing drink compared to the bedlam of Duval Street just one block away.

We then headed up Eaton Street and turned left on Duval. There were a lot more five dollar Tee Shirt shops lining the street but, some old haunts still survive. Like the Bull Bar. Live music still spilled out of the place and the Bull still emerged from it's wall. I think this piece of bar art was supposed to convey an angry Bull (as evidenced by the red eyes) but, to me the Bull always looked bewildered as it smashed out of the wall.

Then of course Sloppy Joe's Bar is still here:

Captain Tony's Bar still survives too though Capt. Tony is gone. Back near the waterfront there is a glimpse of Key West's notorious past as many here made their living off of the misfortune of others using this replica of the wreckers craft.  The Hollywood version can be seen in the John Wayne movie .

Meanwhile outside the Shell Warehouse this fellow is showing the strain of decades of trying to sell natural sponges to the tourists passing by.

Nearby Sponge Bob Squarepants father stands like some creepy Tom Traubert character here in Key West.

Back at nearby Mallory Square the roosters have expanded from  the residential streets to the waterfront. Not sure if this is an improvement or not for the city.

 But, Mallory Square also seems to be more accommodating these days to all creatures who enjoy the fishing lifestyle.

Another good improvement is that the city now has a great waterfront walk. People can now walk along almost the entire waterfront from Mallory Square to beyond the Half Shell Raw Bar. With lot's of bars, restaurants,shops and benches to stop at along the way.

It was during this walk we came upon the historic ship Western Union.
 The Western Union was a cable laying schooner that was assembled in Key West back in the 1930's and maintained the communications cables from Key West to Cuba. My girlfriend was working for Western Union International years ago when an upstart communications company called MCI bought them. The schooner Western Union was one of the company "assets" that was sold at the time. We were in Key West a few years later when the Western Union was again sold and left Key West despite efforts to keep her in the city. We did a sunset sail on board her around that time too. It's good to see her back in Key West. She looks in much better shape than the last time we sailed her in the 1980's.

All in all it was a great stay in Key West for Captain Mike. Though my greatest fear was that I was going to be hearing Jimmy Buffet's song Margaritaville (a song I am so sick of hearing) pouring out of the bars all over Key West. Happily, I did not hear it once as we walked around the city. By the end of the day I thought I would get through my visit without hearing it at all. Which was fine by me.  Then outside the Westin listening to a solo musician playing some delightful soothing steel drum music on the dock while we enjoyed our dinner. I saw a dyed platinum blond  grandma in a mini skirt go up to the musician. Next thing I knew he was playing Buffet's Margaritaville while I cringed.  Good thing I was leaving Key West in the morning. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

REBEDDING HANDRAILS: Part 3 Remounting the rails

 Back at the boat I first used a Brad Point drill run in reverse to enlarge the screw holes along the cabin top. I learned about this technique from an informative blog from Compass Marine Services.

When all the holes were enlarged I used another technique from the Compass Marine site to rout out the core material using a Dremel tool with a  115 Dremel High Speed Cutter bit in the now enlarged hole:

As you can see below it fits through the opening and allows you to grind out the core material in between the fiberglass deck and the inner fiberglass. This keeps as much as the deck intact as possible while removing as much core as possible:

The cunning plan I had here was to put the screws that held the hand rail back up through the cabin top and the newly routed core area and then fill area around the screws with epoxy like I did in Part 2 of this project. The photo below shows what I was planning:

Well it sounded like a good idea. Until I found out that many of the screws would never line up with the rail once the core material was removed. The screws did not have enough support to hold them in proper alignment.  Also  in one or two of the holes I had actually broken through the inner fiberglass panel.  To make things even harder the boat's manufacturer had installed a molded inner liner on the boat which limited access to small holes in the decorative liner as shown in the photo above. I decided if I was going to be able to use epoxy to replace the routed out core material I would need better access to the underside of the cabin top. So once again I used a Dremel Tool this time with a 199 high speed cutter blade to cut out a rectangular opening in the inner liner that would allow more room to work:

Notice on the left in the above photo the hose of my  two gallon wet dry vacuum that I carry on board. This really helps in sucking up any dust that comes from cutting into the liner. It's a practice I recommend when working on this project. Below is the cutout ready to be removed:
Once I had easier access to the underside of the cabin top I was able to use a strong gaffers tape to seal the screw holes and fill the routed out area with epoxy from above using the same technique I used in Part 2 of the project.

After the epoxy had set I used a drill with a countersink bit to countersink epoxy a little. If you look closely you can see the countersink in the epoxy:
Counter sinking also allowed me to easily find the center of the filled space. I then used an over sized drill to drill through the epoxy for the screws to fit through before they screwed into the handrail.
 The countersunk hole will also fill with some polysulfide chalking (I used Life Chalk)helping to create a nice seal with the screw threads once the hand rail is tightened down.

TIP FROM CAPT MIKE: I was able to re-install the rails myself. After first aligning a few of the screws into the handrail before adding others. But, it is important to make sure ALL the screws are aligned into the epoxied holes of the handrail before tightening them down. In order to make sure of this I found an inspection mirror laid on the deck allowed me to view the underside of the rail and make sure the screws were aligned properly in the handrail epoxied holes before tightening them down as shown in the photo below:

Finally after several coats of Cetol the handrails were ready to be installed back on board. With the holes on the deck and in the handrail now filled with epoxy I can sleep better knowing that I won't have any wet core in this area and the next time I have to re chaulk the handrails or refinish them it will be much easier to remove them and do the work off the boat.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

REBEDDING HANDRAILS: Part 2 Epoxying the rails

After I removed the handrails off the boat and moved onto phase one of the project. This was to make an epoxy plug that would hold the screws and help prevent any water from eventually loosening the screws grip on the wooden handrails. The screws were screwed into the handrails to about an inch in depth. So I drilled an enlarged hole using a bradpoint bit about a half an inch in depth using a drill press in the handrails. The existing screw hole provided an easy mark for this drilling operation:

After all the holes were drilled I took the screws that held the rail to the cabin top and coated each one with a coating of Tef Gel:

The coating prevents the epoxy from sticking to the screw threads as it hardens and allows the screws to be backed out easily. After coating with the Tef Gel the screws were screwed into the handrails:
First pure epoxy was placed around the screws using a syringe filled with epoxy. After a minute or two this epoxy was sucked out and returned to the mixing container where it was thickened with filler and then returned to the screw holes and allowed to set:
 As you can see above the screws are firmly set in the epoxy plugs. They were then unscrewed and bought back to the boat to be used on phase two of the rebedding project.