After our 2 summer trips, it was time to finally release "Help Me Rhonda" to J's Landing in Muscle Shoals for repairs, hoping that she would be ready for a late fall trip of some sort. We said our final farewells to all of the staff at Joe Wheeler State Park and Lodge. We had come to know all of the folks there by name and one of the dining room staff even made us a "Goodbye" banana pudding. The story - the dining room's most common dessert was cobbler but it was not one of our favorites with too much cinnamon. On the other hand, they had a killer banana pudding but it was very seldom on the menu. So, Haley decided she would make us a treat. She somehow managed to drop the first one she made coming down the stairs, so she made us a second one! Thanks Haley, hope to see you and the others again (but glad to be moving back to the condo for now!).
Wheeler was a great place for temporary quarters as temporary quarters go. It was only about ten minutes from the condo, we were able to dock the boat there, the dining room and menu were good, walking trails, bike riding, lots of boats, nice pool, and occasional special events to break up the monotony of living in one room for 5 months! The deer have come to trust visitors to the park and are always in the area. The golf course was closed for the summer for repairs so a good spot to catch the deer out grazing was on the course.
One of the special events was a Shrimpfest and BBQ, sponsored by Baumhower's restaurants to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Alabama's State Parks. The food was great and the band was pretty good also.
Another event was an antique "woodie" boat show - you get the idea.
Did I mention that the condo was ready for furniture again? It had been a long and tiring few months. Contractors, sub-contractors, and insurance companies make it difficult but it turned out nice. We especially like our new floors. The last ones were oak and I was personally very tired of that look. So, we took a leap and went with an "exotic" floor - Brazilian Tigerwood. Here's the living area close to being ready and before the final trim work was done.
Anyhow, back to the boat. We were barely small enough for their travel lift and they had to turn it around backwards to accommodate the vertical clearance limits but it worked. They got her inside and all blocked up. This would be her new home for a couple of months.
The service facility was very accommodating and allowed me to come over anytime I wanted to oversee the process and help out as well. So, I chose to redo the swim platform and ladder myself. My friend, Bob Hopson, helped me cut new teak steps for the ladder in his workshop, and I applied twelve coats of varnish on our back deck at the condo - turned out nice.
I forgot to get a shot of the swim platform before I started the work but let's just say it was in rough shape as a whole. Also, the tornado had damaged one corner and the ladder had pulled loose from the platform, damaging some of that teak board also.
Take a close look at all of this surface area. Every square inch had to be sanded and taken down to the original wood - top, bottom, edges, and inside all of the slotted openings. I sanded for a week working 8 hours a day just to get it ready for finishing.
I happened across a product I had never used before - Deks Olje' which is basically a teak oil. Teak oil generally looks great but does not last long at all. However, Deks Olje' has a different twist to it. Not only is the teak oil (Deks Olje 1) much heavier and penetrating (made in New Zealand, which has no EPA regulations), but after you soak the teak in the oil until it will not absorb any more (for my project, 5 heavy coats over two days), you then add 3 to 5 coats of Deks Olje' 2 which is teak oil with a FLEXIBLE VARNISH! Never heard of such a thing but it looks great. We'll see how she holds up but a service yard in Ft. Myers, FL that has used it for 27 years assured me it will with a couple of fresh coats of the #2 every year (and that is in the salt water and steady sun of south Florida).
"Help Me Rhonda" got lots of repairs, but the big ticket items were all new hull paint from the rub rail down, 4 coats of Interprotect 2000 barrier paint, 3 coats of Interprotect Micron Extra bottom paint, new cutless bearings, new dripless shaft stuffing boxes, new water intake grilles, new handrails along the walk-around exterior deck, and new canvas and isinglass on the aft deck. Here's the boat after the Interprotect 2000 coats.
And the finished product.
The progress on the marina here at the condo has been very slow after the tornado (primarily insurance delays) and it will be spring before any docks are ready and available. In the meantime, we have rented a slip at the City Harbor Marina in Florence, AL to be "Help Me Rhonda's" home for the winter.
We took the repair opportunity with all of the improvements to go ahead and get a new survey for the boat. While she was out of the water at J's Landing, we had the surveyor come over and complete that portion of the survey. A couple of weeks later when were able to get over to Grand Harbor Marina in Pickwick, TN, he completed the in-the-water part of the survey and she got a great review with only a couple of recommendations to get done - things like up-to-date inspections of fire extinguishers and posting a trash disposal plan in the galley, nothing mechanical or structural in scope. The surveyor had never surveyed a Gulfstar trawler in his 20 years or so of experience. When completed he said; "This is quite a tough old boat, she is built like a tank! She is in great shape and has lots of good years left in her."