Patrick Nance–Advice for Sailboat Restorers

Can you tell us your name and age?
Patrick Nance and 45.

What do you do for a living?
I am the Director of Information Technology for Intex DIY. The company is in Georgia–but I am able to work from my home in North Carolina. I travel to Georgia one week of every month. We sell rags. A lot of rags.

Where do you live?
Mt. Pleasant, North Carolina (The NC is very important; otherwise people think I live at the beach in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina – neither of which has a mountain.)

Where can people find you on the internet?
Facebook: patrick.nance (but closed to only friends and family)
Twitter: @patrick_nance – for my Panthers and political rants
Instagram: patricknance – started to keep tabs on my kids but now I post some on CrossFit / Fitness

The most interesting place you’ve visited?
There are several – and for different reasons.
My wife and I spent our honeymoon in Ecuador on a small 16 passenger catamaran yacht cruising around the Galapagos Islands. I will never forget the beauty and remoteness of that trip. One moment that sticks in my mind is snorkeling out around a very small rock island (you could swim around the entire island). It was literally as if I was swimming in an aquarium with sharks included. Oh and also I lost my wedding ring snorkeling on that trip. Yes, not exactly a great way to start!

Did you ever replace your wedding ring?
We bought a wooden replacement for the trip at a local souvenir shop which I do still have.  We bought a replacement when we got home and I haven’t lost this one, fortunately.

We also spent a week on the Big Island in Hawaii a couple years ago. Where a lot of people will try and “island hop” or visit one of the larger locations such as Honolulu or Maui, we chose to spend our entire trip on the big island. It is the largest of the islands, yet has the least population. We were able to enjoy black sand beaches, volcanoes, remote jungle beaches, cliff side beaches, snorkeling, and hot springs – often times virtually alone.

Another interesting place I have visited several times – not because of the tourism value or beauty – but because of the starkness of it. I have spent several weeks, with work, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. San Pedro Sula is the most dangerous city in one of the most dangerous countries in the world. The sheer poverty seen in most areas is overwhelming. To meet the people, know how hard they work, know how nice and honest they are – to know they are working their entire life just to meet the absolute bare necessities in life, you quickly realize how fortunate you really are. You cannot spend anytime with these people and then come home to the USA and support building a wall or knocking on doors and deporting entire families only because they are trying to better themselves and they came to the “land of opportunity” in the only way they knew how to.

Thanks!  Your favorite meal would be?
I’m not really that picky when it comes to food. Give me a nice home grilled burger with bacon and cheese and I am happy.

Pet peeve?
I don’t like no double negatives from no people.

Favorite book, or movie, or TV show?
Books: Memoirs of a Geisha, The Pillars of the Earth, October Sky, The Last Kingdom Series, Game of Thrones

Movie: Airplane!

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for….?
Well, Henry – you know I am an atheist. So of course I feel this would just be a waste of anyone’s time. So based on that answer – I think that gives you an answer. However – as prayer cycles are finite – they might want to spend theirs on more worthy subjects.

Are you married or have you been? Any kids?
I am married to Heather, the second marriage for both of us. I have two kids (my “naturals”) from my first marriage – a girl Lyndsey “Daboo” 18 and a son Riley “Dude” 15.

From my second marriage to my wife Heather, I gained two more “unnaturals” (yes they LOVE that phrase) – a girl Jordan “Jordie” 22 and another girl Samantha “Manther” 17.

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
A lot of people don’t know that I have been programming computers since I was around 13. When most cool kids my age were out doing whatever cool kids did – I was sitting in my room playing on my Commodore 64.

What will computers be doing in ten years that they can’t do now?
Devices will continue to go Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). We already see this with the VR goggles you can buy for your smartphone. Even the most basic cardboard VR goggle that you can buy for $10 is a jaw dropping experience. Google experimented with and released Google Goggles a few years ago which was a head’s up display / AR projected on a small lens in front of your eye when wearing a pair of their special glasses. It was never really meant to be a mass-market product and has since been discontinued – but that along with the Google VR Goggles – the last version called Google Daydream points to continued development of this technology. I expect that eventually there will be a way that images will be projected directly into or onto the eye reducing the size or eliminating the need of goggles. The need for computer screens will be replaced by this technology.

If you had any spare time, what would you do with it?
I bought and restored a sailboat two summers ago. I would love to have more time to learn to really sail it – for it to become second nature. Right now, frankly, I am still scared of it.

Patrick, I appreciate you sharing the saga of boat renovation which follows in the next section, and may I say your adventures have convinced me to never buy a sailboat.  However, for my readers who may be hardier of spirit and firmer of purpose than I am, can you give some advice for sailboat restorers?
I have always had a love of the water and of boats. As a toddler and young child, I would spend endless afternoons in the summer after a thunderstorm dropping sticks, leaves, acorns – anything that would float into the overflowing creek behind our house after a big rain and rush along the banks watching them “race”, getting stuck, or oftentimes even sinking. In our kitchen sink I would imagine myself as a submariner as I loaded the toy submarine I dug out of the cereal box with baking soda to watch it dive under the water. In the bathtub I was always surrounded by various plastic boats, some that I could wind up and they would move on their own.

As I got older – I more and more gravitated to boats I could get into myself. On weekends my father and I would often go fishing at my uncle’s house and there I would float around for hours in a little blow-up raft my father had bought me. One of his favorite stories that he still tells to this day is the time I hooked a large-mouthed bass and that fish proceeded to pull me all around that little pond.

In the summers we would spend upwards of four weeks at my aunt’s house who had a house waterfront on the Albemarle Sound in Kill Devil Hills. They owned a 14’ (and later a 16’) Hobie-Cat. I looked forward all day; heck all week until my cousin or uncle would have time and the wind would be right and one of them would take out the sailboat. As these were small boats and the crowds at my aunt’s beach were often large – many times I did not get to go out on the trips as it was generally adults only. But on occasion, I would get lucky and get to go out. Being propelled by wind alone was something that grabbed me and never let go. Several times my cousin Richard got the boat up on one pontoon which was exhilarating and terrifying all at once. On other occasions; if the wind was low enough – he would let me man the tiller (which is quite a tough task for an 11 year old in anything more than a light breeze on a Hobie). But the shot that finally drove the nail home for good on my desire to sail was the day he let me man the jib sail, the small sail forward of the mast on some boats. To be asked to pull in the jib and to feel the response to that action was what made the boy feel like a true sailor! (Where in reality I really wasn’t doing much!)

Life moved on, I went away to college, began my career and my family and had still never owned or sailed a sailboat. However – my love of the water did not wane. The sailboat had to wait – but until then I found the art of the kayak. I started out with two sea kayaks and since then our family of kayaks has grown where we currently own eight kayaks ranging from an 8’ white water kayak to a 19’ Kevlar sea kayak. My kids have all grown up kayaking; paddling their own boats since ages as young as 6.

Two years ago, at age of 44 I finally had the opportunity to own a sailboat. I don’t recall how now, but I ran across a Craig’s List ad where someone wanted to trade a Sunfish style sailboat for a kayak! Well just so happened I knew where I could get my hands on a nice kayak and he happily made the trade! It was one of those odd trade situations where I feel both parties truly felt they came out on top. (In my opinion I traded a $300 kayak for a $1000 sailboat.) This sailboat was in pristine condition and was perfect to learn to sail on. However, this boat was located far out on the east coast of NC, near my father in-law. He so happens to also live water front on the Albemarle Sound in Roper, NC so I sent the boat home with him. This was in May and we would be spending the week at his house in July. So the sailing would have to wait a couple more months – but I had my boat!

Or should I say I had my FIRST boat!? Yes, that would indicate that I now have two sailboats. Shortly after (and I mean like within weeks), I was browsing Facebook and an ad popped up where someone was selling an old sailboat for $300 with trailer! Now mind you, a Sunfish is often called a dinghy. It is best sailed by only one or two people max, is a day sailor with no cabin area (or storage as all) and its overall length is only about 14’. It’s a “toy” where this was a “real” sailboat! And it was only a few miles down the street. I sent the ad to my wife Heather thinking she would just laugh it off – but she jumped right on it and said we needed to contact these people NOW before it was sold. She didn’t have to tell me twice. An hour later I had a deal made to buy a boat sight unseen. On top of that, I was in Georgia that week working so it was up to Heather to go complete the deal and tow the boat home.

We didn’t really know anything about the boat but Heather grew up with this style boat as her dad owned them and also built them for a company in Edenton NC. So she quickly recognized the boat for what it was and when she got it home – we quickly identified what we had. We had purchased a 1977 O’Day Mariner. She is 19’ in length and has a sleeper cabin that will sleep 2 comfortably or 4 if two are children or really comfortable with each other!

Once I got home from Georgia and we were able to look at the boat closely – we felt she was in pretty good shape. We quickly surmised that she had not been sailed since 1992 (based on the previous license stickers on the bow) and had likely been sitting in the woods for the last 10 years or so. However, everything was there, and the (original) sails are in decent condition. That did not mean there wasn’t a lot of work to be done though! The first step was pulling out the rotting cabin cushions that had become home to 74 billion large black ants. Most of them came out with the cushions, however the rest were “gently” transported out of the boat with the aid of a vacuum.

I am not an expert at boats by any stretch of the imagination; I slightly know more than any random person you might meet on the street. However – I have learned a key to purchasing boats of this age – find one that does not have a wood core for the fiberglass hull. Many boats use wood, some even soft wood such as balsa to add stiffness. This is all fine for a properly maintained boat, however for a 40 year old boat that has been sitting in the woods for half its life, a wood core is oftentimes a cancer. Honestly, we got lucky that the Mariner has very little wood and is not wood cored at all. A boat this age with a wood core that has had major water penetration would oftentimes just be considered “totaled” beyond reasonable cost to repair.

The Mariner does, however, like most boats use foam inside its bulkheads in order to add flotation and easy up-righting capabilities in case of capsize. If this foam gets wet underneath the fiberglass, the foam needs to be dried or you will be carrying around a lot of extra weight which could potentially make the boat unsafe or ride dangerously low. As a result, this should be one of the first things you need to check and dry out if necessary. Some owners cut small ports at the low point of their bulkhead in order to access the foam and dry out the water if necessary.

With little fear of water damage, we were able to begin our restoration project with a couple hours of work with the pressure washer and a good wet vac. The boat really looked like a different boat just after this first step.

Next I removed the wooden shelves in the sleeper portion and sent that off to my shade-tree carpenter father to made copies of the shelves which would later be painted and reinstalled. After the shelves came the grueling task of pulling down a thick vinyl wall-covering that ran from bow to almost the stern inside the cabin. I don’t know if there is an easy way to remove this; I just used a heat gun and scraping tool – which was NOT fun in the mid-afternoon summer sun. Instead of replacing the wall-covering we chose to paint it. We used an anti-mildew primer and then covered with a high gloss exterior paint which we believe will be easy to clean. The look, honestly, is not perfect as the walls are bare fiberglass and impossible to smooth perfectly; but we are very happy with the outcome.

For the cabin cushions, my wife took on the task of making new ones. She bought the foam and fabric and gathered some measurements by deconstructing what was left of the originals and other measurements she took anew. This was a huge task and a fairly costly one. Sewing our own cushions still cost more in supplies that the original boat has cost us! But they came out wonderfully!

The first rookie mistake I made on the restoration project I still have yet to recover from. Along the entire bow and inside the cockpit are wooden handles and various foot rails. I removed all of these, stripped off all the old varnish, and then reapplied new teak oil to the wood. Afterwards I put on three fresh coats of varnish and then remounted all the hardware on the boat. Between the boat and hardware one must apply a sealer/caulk of some sort to give a tight, uniform fit to the fiberglass and prevent leaks. Some will use a 3M 5200 type sealant. This is not really advisable on anything you may ever want to remove again as this is a semi-permanent seal. Instead of this I used Butyl tape. This tape is awesome and I highly recommend it for installing hardware on boats or even campers. It is easy to use and non-permanent. When complete my wood shone in a classic teak color that would make any sailor proud.

Fast-forward a month or so and a good rain or two and my rookie restoration mistake reared its ugly head as my beautiful wood began to have a milky look to it. Perplexed I looked more closely at the varnish I had used and realized it was not rated for exterior use. Ugh! It all had to be removed and done again. This led to rookie mistake number two! Ehh I can just lightly “rough” up the finish that is on there now to remove the milkiness and to give the correct varnish something to adhere to. This would save a lot of time and effort over starting completely over. This is what I did and it looked great – for a while. Today, if you walk out to look at the boat, you will see the wood is milky and the varnish is peeling off. I will have to do this entire project over – for the third time! So, as you can see – for an article on “Advice for Everyone” – where I can’t give good advice on how to do it – I am an expert on how NOT to do it!

If I were to detail everything I did to this boat, it would require a book; so I better tie things up just by listing all the other things have done. On the boat I have replaced all the running rigging (after a storm last July about brought the mast down while moored), straightened the mast (from where the rookie sailor running away from said July story got the mast caught in a tree loading it back on the trailer… that day is for another blog..), replace the upper and lower gudgeon, refinished the rudder, re-piped the cockpit drains, minor gelcoat repair of nicks and scratches, other than the wood also reset all other hardware such as the bowsprit, patched a couple small cuts in the sails, replaced the tiller, built a custom mast crutch that inserts into the gudgeon to make trailering easier, replaced the motor mount, rebuilt the trailer (another story on its own) and a lot of other odds and ends.

After all this work and effort – you are probably wondering about all the great sailing we have done? Well sadly, not very much. I have taken the Sunfish out quite a bit as it will fit on a lake here in the neighborhood. The Mariner, only a couple times. I am still a novice sailor and, frankly, do not yet have the confidence or experience needed yet to take her out on my own without a more experienced sailor on board. My confidence was greatly setback last summer with the storm damage obtained at mooring and my subsequent panic and making matter worse because of the panic. I am a bit gun-shy at the moment, yet I do have a sailor friend that I plan to spend time with this summer and hopefully she will see more time in the water in the near future!

That’s a story,  sure enough.  Good luck with it.  Can you finish up by telling us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered?
I have a large comic book collection and still read and collect a little today.
I have been doing CrossFit for a little over a year and love it; before that I trained for and ran two marathons.
I was left alone at the Lincoln Memorial on our 5th grade school trip to Washington DC.
When I was a kid I had to take a special speech therapy class at school because I had problems pronouncing some words. For instance spoon was “foon” and steak was “snake”. Even today there are words I cannot pronounce such as humiliate which is a bit humiliating and I can’t even tell anyone that, which is also humiliating.
My daughter Lyndsey and I are going on a trip to the UK in two weeks for her high school graduation.
I was equal partner in a custom software development company for 10 years.

Patrick, thanks for letting us get to know you a little bit.  Good luck with the sailing, and may your journey go well.