Taking the Tiller: Looking to Launch

Getting this boat dressed up for her launch take longer than expected. From Kitty Martin's "Taking the Tiller" for June 26, 2008

Well, it’s June, and I’d love to report that our Tartan 30 is floating happily on its mooring on the north side of the Padanaram Bridge in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. However, that’s not the case. May turned into a rather busy month. Factor in a few weekends out of town and some ill-timed rain, and well, we’re a little behind schedule. We’re aiming to launch soon, however.

Returning readers from last season may recall that the formerly and briefly named The Atomic 4 is now-drum roll, please-Magdalena. Catching up the three or four people on this planet who don’t read my blog, our 1973 Tartan has its original Atomic 4 engine, and since four people co-own the boat, we thought it was such a cool name-for about 10 minutes. It was all kind of a moot point anyway, because we didn’t repaint the boat last summer so we were stuck with the name it came with: Decibell. No offense to the former owner but that name just wouldn’t do.

Winter’s good one for one thing anyway, it gave the four of us plenty of time to mull over possible names. My partner, Charlie, his sister, Julie, and I were all quite agreeable when it came to any number of names. But Brian, Julie’s husband, was the big holdout. Every name suggestion brought a painful grimace to his face. So we finally settled on Magdalena, for no more particular reason other than it was the one name on which we all (read: Brian) could agree.


Though we’re behind schedule, we’re close. Magdalena’s original interior teak looked more than a bit dingy, so Julie and I were assigned that job. After some experimentation, we discovered that bronze wool and stove alcohol were the best combination for removing the old finish. Notice I said “best combination,” not “easiest.” It was a long, dirty job of seemingly endless scouring.

But I like to think there’s a bright side to even the most odious task. There’s an old alcohol stove on the boat we don’t use, and there was an entire gallon of stove alcohol leftover from the previous owner. And out of the several different solvents we tried, it was the most efficient, the vapors were the least noxious, and it was free. The rewarding part of sprucing up the teak was oiling it with West Marine Teak Oil after it was clean-much less work, no bad smell, and a warm, soft finish.

I’ve also cleaned parts of the boat I suspect haven’t been touched since the day it left the showroom, like the lockers in the V-berth, the ceiling over the aft quarter berths, and under both sides of the sink-the larger side of which I actually crawled into. Luckily, I’m not that big, and all those ballet and yoga classes pay off in such circumstances.


Other cosmetic work this year includes varnishing the toerails, handrails, and other teak trim. Topsides got a fresh look with Interlux one-part polyurethane in White Premium Yacht Enamel. We’d toyed with the idea of a darker color, but decided to stay with the white because we were concerned about heat and the potential for delamination on an older boat. Painting was mainly Charlie’s job, with Julie acting as his assistant. He found the application process a bit tricky at first. He’d used this type of paint before, but only on flat surfaces where sagging wasn’t a problem. He wasn’t completely satisfied after the first coat, so he put in a call to our friend, Captain John Brown, who’s painted more than his share of boats. John said to switch to “roll and tip” method, and to wipe a little paint thinner on the surface as they moved along the hull, painting with vertical rather than horizontal brush strokes.

On a recent trip to West Marine, I discovered that the shade of green that had been on the bottom was discontinued, so we all decided to go with a blue bottom and a fire-red boot stripe, both by Interlux. And as soon as we install updates, including Lewmar self-tailing winches and a brand-new fully battened North mainsail we got from Rigworks in San Diego, where Charlie’s son Ransom, works, we’re going to look some stylish.

The trusty Atomic 4 started up on the first try and only required a little effort from Brian to fix a leaky gasket on the water pump. It will also get a new coat of paint in its original bronze, which Brian easily found on the Internet. Repacking the stuffing box required bringing in the assistance of Charlie’s good friend Scollay Whitney, since Scollay had tackled this job before. Too bad I didn’t think to bring home a recent CW article on exactly the same task (see “Service Your Stuffing Box,” January 200, before they started the job, but we’ll see what happens when we launch.


And other things keep falling into place, too. Though we thought of it sort of late, we were able to secure a spot for our dinghy down at the town landing, which will be so much easier than having to tie it to the roof of Charlie’s car every time we want to go sailing. Actually, it’s my brother-in-law Dan’s dinghy. He and my twin sister Kerry have decided to keep their 29-foot Legacy (a powerboat-egad!) in Padanaram for the season. They got the last mooring left on the north side of the bridge, so it’ll be a family affair.

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