Boxes of rocks

We had never actually seen gabion (rocks in cages) walls in person. Phew, good thing we love the results! Turns out our new walls will take about 90,000 lbs of rock in total.

The work should be pretty straightforward but it was tricky to figure out how to stack a good looking outer face and keep it all vertically plumb. It was a wise move to hire Ari Reis and the two guys he brought. Pending the next rock delivery, we hope to finish the wall construction mid week.

The water trough veggie boxes came out well.

Each bin has a water feed from our existing sprinkler system. Picked up a couple of circuits from the former lawn.

Now I’ll make you look at pictures of dirt, so we can remember where the pipes lie.

While we were on lunch break, the LoneStar new owners came to take it away. They sail a Hunter 33 and had been looking for a day sailer to refresh.

It was good to clear a driveway spot :)

Back to the back yard

Today we wheeled the orange boat into the garage, to keep it out of the way for this weekend’s retaining wall build. Haven’t done much more on that boat – just the start of plugging the outdrive hole.

I think I’m stalled because, shockingly, I can’t find any epoxy around the joint. Time for a Svendsen’s order tomorrow.

This afternoon was to be the final run to the rice farm with the five boat situation. The guy for the LoneStar didn’t show! So I had to leave the red/white Coronado 15 up there, and towed the LoneStar home where it’ll be easier to ‘rehome’. Tell me if you think the ad is compelling enough:

But now the boats need to sit a few days, and we got yard work a’ callin.

While at Tractor Supply picking up those 16’ cattle panels to make the retaining wall cages, I got to looking at the livestock tanks… we planned to make fancy raised bed veggie boxes for a decent kitchen garden. But after drawing it up, I was seeing days of work and many hundreds of materials bucks. Turns out we both like this easy fix.

We fit 6 big tanks in that trip and got started on laying out irrigation pipe. Will button that up tomorrow.

It took three days to build the gabion wall rock cages. They’re all hog-ringed together. (Technically Shoat Rings). We bought 1600lbs of rip rap with the pickup early in the week and made the first small section to test the materials. It’s a winner.

Sadly, on a DIY budget, one faces the reality of what 46,140lbs of rocks really looks like. I calculated we need somewhere around 35 cubic yards of rock for all these walls. Was not thrilled when the Shamrock Materials dispatch guy said, “oh that’s about 70 tons, and $3,500. You know those aren’t easy to work with, right? I can’t guarantee the quarry will hit the 6-12” target.”

We’ve hired three men to come help on Saturday. We have to hand-place the jigsaw puzzle of the front facing. Then you can dump the rest behind. Tedious work. Standing in a cage. And forcast is for mid 90’s. What an idiot. All so we can get this done so there’s time to go sailing again. I can hear Ravenswing calling. But there’s a storm spinning in the Pacific west of Cabo. Geez.

Out with the old

July4th weekend was quiet around here. Jeanne noted it was the first time in decades we didn’t have doggies freaking out over fireworks. RIP Coco & Lola :(

We had a nice 4th afternoon with Dad here.

That nice shadowbox is a gift from the new owner of Dad’s long-time Catalina, Maggie. That was such a good ownership transition.

Sunday morning we grabbed the tools and climbed in to the SeaFlite, having decided to convert it to outboard power. It was a long day, but we got it done!

Oops, realized you have to pull the outdrive first, to get the prop shaft out of the back of the engine.

50 year old seals needed a little help from the gate post, and with a nudge of the pickup throttle, the drive popped right out. Then it was back to freeing the motor.

Then the transom brackets inside and out. Had to cut away two bolts that were frozen in place. That added probably two hours of trying various techniques. Typical dealing with old stuff.

Late in the day, we got back to a blank slate!

Also as we dug around, the original sales receipt and brochure were found. $4,500 in 1969. This thing was classy! And it was dark avocado. I like the orange respray, personally.

We actually have the pictured hardtop, in white, from that brochure. One leg is broken off, but the parts and here and some day that’ll get a refurbish too. It’s too nice to trash.

The whole drivetrain went up on Craigslist Sunday night for $250, and yesterday Ray from Santa Rosa was thrilled to come get our old junk. He’s a boat mechanic and will be replacing a four cyl in his 1963 runabout. Says he needs the extra 40+hp to get back up on waterskis now in his 40’s :)

RickWS checked around and suggests I cut in a transom mount. But Jeanne was disgusted by my taped cut marks, saying we shouldn’t ruin the good looking lines of this boat. She’s right, and instead later today I’ll start forming up an outboard bracket to bolt on to the existing transom. Gotta do it low cost, like plywood and fiberglass. Not spending a couple grand on a metal one like this photo below. There’s a lot of web info out there, but if any readers have specific experience doing this conversion, give me a shout! Thx

Finding homes for old boats

Today we picked up boats 2 and 3 of our save-5-boats project.

The Snark is indeed an easy car-topper. Just tossed it right up on the paddleboard rack, about 7’ up. It has no glamour left after so many years in the sun, but after the new owner sews up a replacement sail, I think this little craft will be a good seat of the pants sailing trainer. Hey, remember all the soda pop merchandising displays in the 80’s? I got a laugh when this sail was unrolled today.

Wendy, everything you need is here. So if these photos don’t scare you off, the Snark is yours.

Boat #3, the Chrysler LoneStar 16, needs your help. Perhaps Anton wants to take the plunge? Or Don has a line on someone who wants it on Tomales Bay? This one looks to have all the needed parts, and the sails appear usable (made of decent fabric). The main needs a restitch along the foot, but I’d be willing to fix that if this ol’blue doesn’t have to come to my yard!

This one comes with all the paperwork since they bought it 40 years ago. Including clear title on the little trailer. Let’s find this one a home ASAP, and I’ll deliver it.

Boat #4 was a surprise bonus from the nephew of sailboat donating man. When I picked up the Lido last week Steve the landowner asked if we’d be interested in an old ski boat. He didn’t know the Carters owned a ‘69 Corvette this very same color, and I regret losing that car to child-rearing practicalities 30 years ago. So heck yeah, who wouldn’t want a ‘69 SeaFlite?

We put on new trailer tires and fresh bearings. Made the afternoon run Sacramento to Novato on 1987 license plates, non stop in the left lane of two freeways with no trailer lights. This boat sat in a shed unused since the early 80’s because one day they launched with the on-land motor flushing plate still attached, blocking intake flow, overheating and cracking the exhaust manifold. He even bought the new part 20 years ago (it’s still in the box today) but never got back to it on their big busy farm. Piston hole 1 has a lot of rust, so we’re looking in to engine swap options. Charlie, can you and Ben tell me what to do with this Chevy mercruiser six? Outdrive and hydraulic steering look good. I’ll have to revamp the gas supply and redo wiring.

This boat will get a makeover and move to Colorado for Griffin & Taylor. My goal is to be dragged around a lake on a tube by my kid driving his ‘69 ski boat within a year. We even got the original removable hardtop, although it has some bad damage and I have other fiberglass projects ahead of that. Jeanne and I really dig the lines and vibe of this Apollo era retro ship.

OK good people, let’s get the LoneStar re-homed, and then I can tell you about the original owner Coronado 15 that is #5 in this unexpected adventure.

FINALLY, a boat posting!

I know some of you are trying to be patient with the whole yard makeover deal.

So Ravenswing sits on her mooring, and I got a call from a friend of a friend… her dad has three small sailboats that need new homes. There’s an 11’ Snark (lanteen rig) that’s complete, but will need a new sail sewn up or bought. We have the paperwork showing the boat was won in a 1985!Safeway grocery store raffle. Cool provenance!

#2 is bigger, a 16’ Chrysler LoneStar. This was the family sailing workhorse. It’s a huge cockpit, comfortable for 4+. Has twin swing up center boards. Maybe one for each upwind tack? I saw at least a mainsail, but didn’t inspect closely yet.

The Snark and LoneStar need new homes, for free, and I’ll help make that happen here in the Bay Area. They’re going to need cleaning and all new lines. The LoneStar sits on its decent, original road-ready trailer. Snark is a car topper.

#3 is the Carters’ keeper. The 84yr old gentleman I met yesterday went to a boat show in 2006 and fell for a lovely little Lido 14. He bought it new, very well equipped, and placed it at his dock lakeside in suburban Sacramento. It joined the fleet (the two listed above) plus his Laser and his ElToro. And for some reason the Lido didn’t get sailed. The hull topsides are badly sunburned and the bottom is really dirty. The forestay wire unraveled. But with some elbow grease, I think we’ve found treasure!

Anton probably already noticed the very nice Pacific galvanized trailer. I think this must have been parked inside a storage unit for the past 14 years. Looks new.

And we know it wasn’t sailed because of these:

Main and jib, in their class #’d bag, crisp as one of Eggleston’s freshly printed Benjamins.

After the yard is done, and I finish a couple other projects, we’ll give this sweet Lido a makeover and launch her at the ramp a mile from home. I’ve been wanting a quick-rigging day sailer for the Petaluma River because it’s so close to the house. Yea, I know it’s only one hull. But you gotta love SoCal’s Schock boats!

For now, this little gem will sit under her nice cover. Hopefully soon we can fulfill our promise to her donate-tor that we’ll use her to take kids and newcomers sailing, and spread the joy of wind & water.

Let me know of potential homes for #1 & #2.

And with a little luck, next time I’ll tell you about two more found watercraft…

Shed shenanigans

Last time we showed you the gardening shed in front of the house, making way for the final grading work out back. For my fourth tractor rental this year, we got the bigger 550 model bobcat, and paid a pro $400 to drive it for a day.

It was amazing to watch Ari whip this thing around, making my splotchy hack work all smooth. He turned our excess dirt into a great level workshop area, and created drive-able paths on to our otherwise inaccessible hillside.

I did however make a huge mistake, neglecting to tell him where the electricity and gas enter the lot, and where he COULD NOT further scrape the earth wall next to the new gates. I had hand dug this area per Pacific Gas & Electric orders when the utilities locator guy came and flagged it for us. So while Ari was bobcatting (new verb?) the RV parking area and I had my back turned, I heard the hiss of escaping gas. The sharp bucket blade severed the gas line and the 200amp electric cables. Within an hour we had 7 PG&E trucks in front of the house. Of course we blew the breaker at the transformer and knocked out power for numerous neighbors. The work-at-home crowd came it out to glare at me (rightly so). The fixes were relatively easy and very fast. All of that will now get entombed under new retaining walls.

Today was time to put the garden shed on its new pad. But the long wheelbase truck and very short utility trailer are a bit of a maneuvering nightmare, so this was good reason to finish getting that new receiver hitch up front. Loving wife knew this was an excellent birthday present, especially as we kept the winch from the lemon-law EcoDiesel surrendered truck.

Pull the winch & tray out of the receiver and replace with a tow bar, and hook up your garden shed!

The front hitch gives much quicker turning, and allowed us to pretty much jackknife the shed in to final position. Then came a flat sheet and furniture dolly so we could push it the final bits in to position.

Things got more treacherous as the wind picked up and the corner blocking grew tall enough to pull the trailer out by hand.

In the end we landed just fine, but this exercise took most of the day and frayed some marital nerves. We don’t want to move more buildings any time soon.

Yesterday I went to Tractor Supply to start on the hillside walls. Get ready to learn here about DIY gabion construction. These are big rocks in wire cages. We’re using this method in lieu of very expensive concrete or block walls. It starts here, with 16’ long welded wire hog fence panels. Yep, I got 25 of these huge things on the pickup and drove 15 miles without anyone having to call 911. The damn potholes on CA-116 bounced the load bad enough to crack the 2×4 over the cab, but luckily it all held together. So glad we pay all those road taxes in our $3.50/gallon fuel here :(

So you’ll keep getting yard updates for a while here. The Ravenswing watchers cleaned the bottom Saturday and sent me photos of the boat comfortably on the mooring. Looks beautiful there but MX is struggling mightily with COVID. I’m going to try to stop worrying about the boat and turn that energy to deciding what I’m personally to do to end racism in America. Credit to the protestors – it’s time for me to end my silent complicity… God I wish I could take everybody sailing right now. The sea would show us what equality looks like.

Good night, good people.

Momma, there’s some hillbillie in the driveway!

Still not a boat post, but this little 6×12 TuffShed is the same one that got whacked by the oak tree fall in Santa Rosa. It was disassembled for the move to Novato. Jeanne and I struggled those panels back together and reroofed it to hold all the garden / yard gear. But it’s in the way of makeover progress, so today was a total “don’t try this at home, kids” kind of deal.

First we spent a couple hours emptying the contents all around the yard edges and dump pile. Gotta be as light as possible. First we had to drag it a few feet into trailer loading position. One misplaced rope split a wall panel off the framing. Oh well, I expected some patch up work after this move.

With its fenders removed we could just squeeze the venerable $300 Harbor Freight trailer under there.

Trailer is rated for about 950lbs load. We’re thinking the shed is way above that. The yellow straps are there just to make it all more spectacular when the springs fail and the whole thing rolls. We CREPT along around the house and out to the front driveway. Amazingly we didn’t have to put suspension cancellation blocks between the axle and frame. Now it’s completely out of the way for the final grading work next week, and the shed’s new site pad, which goes out here once leveled out.

So there you go, neighbors; Carter’s version of tiny house done wrong. Just keeping it real, making sure everyone whipping by in the Lexus & Mercs remember we’re still in the country here. The ‘burbs start about a mile down the road.

Boat relaxes in MX, humans toil in CA

OK, good people, I’m finally figuring out how to transition from a mostly-photos blog to more videos. You guys are the guinea pigs here; can you stand the amateur editing job you’re about to see? We have a lot of good footage from Ravenswing in Mexico, but that’s too valuable for hacking with first time iMovie attempts. This Memorial Day weekend has been the time to figure out the editing software. I’m completely humbled by the people making their livings as “YouTubers”; S/V Delos, Salt & Tar, and all the rest spend hundreds of hours making their high quality movies. Here at we’re just going to work to the limit of my attention span :)

Ravenswing is fine, according to the folks keeping an eye on her. I hate this separation, and we’re missing prime Baja cruising season. But of course we’re really only concerned about the safety of friends and the Baja Sur residents, avoiding a COVID outbreak. With all the uncertainty of what’s coming in the next year, our current thought is to sail the boat home to San Francisco as soon as it’s permissible. But right now I need to heal up from last Friday’s prostate surgery, and get the prior trips’ videos out to you all. And as you’ll see here, we’ve got some new retaining walls to build…  yea, it ain’t a boat video yet, but just think of it as taking care of the boat workshop back at home.

Let me know what you think about video production. Clearly I need to get help on the audio side. Hopefully we’ll get some sailing videos out soon for your entertainment.

Click here to see the latest on the Videos page:



Gates are coming along well

We’ve turned that pile of scrap steel purlins into the gates cladding. First up was about six hours of cleanup work with sanding disks on the angle grinder. With 27 big pieces it took four hours with the car/boat painting compressed air rig. That was a lot of painting detail. It will really help the final paint to have all that primer done as parts.

My drill bits are getting dull and rather than suite up for the hardware store, it’s “be patient and use lots of cutting oil” time. Tonight the two big gates have teachers their final size (a bit under 7’ tall).

Tomorrow it’s the smaller side gate’s turn to gain a couple feet taller.

Puerto Backyarda

(Title courtesy of Cap’t Holway ;)

Yeah, this is going to be a stretch but I know most of you are sitting at home in the evenings wishing there were better movies or at least a sports event to watch. I’m supposed to talk about the trimaran in nice places or doing risky things. But how about we follow the project of making over our Novato yard to make it boat-work friendly? Cartershouse here is a mid-80’s two story sited at the street-front side of a one acre lot. We have a huge yard but there’s no vehicle access to it. The old wood fence and narrow gate off the garage are slowly falling down, and the space outside the garage isn’t wide enough to park anything bigger than our tiny utility trailer. All this room, but no where to work on a trailer boat. A travesty of lot layout! Plus it means our land-yacht (26’ travel trailer) can’t live here so we pay a storage fee monthly and a 30-40 minute drive each way to fetch the trailer. We want that to come home.

So, the fence and old gate need to come out, retaining walls get torn out, plumbing work, grading done, an RV & boat parking surface, and new gates built.

To be honest, we actually started back in January when I rented a bobcat and began tearing out the rotted wood retaining walls. That was tremendous fun until we learned why you don’t tractor-work NorCal clay in the winter.

And that would be the sticky mess that jams up the drive sprockets and tracks. We got about half way done moving earth, did the needed concrete sawing of the driveway edge, then gave back the powertoys and went to Mexico instead.

Here in April and COVID-19 time, we’re getting back to the yard.

When I was home in late February, having left Ravenswing in the LaCruz marina, we got these ranch gates installed.

It was no fun boring the corner post hole through the driveway cement, but a mix of numerous small-bit holes drilled as a perimeter circle, then cold chiseling, finally got it done. The center pole between the two big gates is removable, as it’s seated in an underground sleeve. This all will swing open to make a 16’ wide access to the yard. Even I can back the trailer through that without hitting the sides!

Those ranch gates are the skeleton. Now we’re going to clad them with hopefully tasteful looking ‘skins’.

We’re winging it here on the design, and one drizzly day we headed to the AMAZING scrap yard of

in Petaluma. So much fun to wander 7 acres of old building materials and get ideas. By the way, are any of you following YouTube stars as they hand-build the wood ship Rediviva over at the Napa Valley Marina? In one of last year’s videos you’ll see Salt’s Garrett cruising around Maselli’s finding parts for their boat’s driveline. When non-essential travel is OK, go check it out!

Back in late Feb we drug 25 of these purlins home. Nice 18 gauge steel from an old building.

The price was right because of surface rust. As of tonight I’ve done 4 hours of cleaning with the angle grinder and flapper disks, resulting in about 40% of the job done. I’m afraid the stay at home neighbors are pissed about the noise so I’ll space it out over a couple more days of short-ish sessions. They are cleaning up nicely though.

Should be ready for primer this weekend with the HVLP gun.

I haven’t left the compound since Jeanne brought me home from the airport last Friday, and we’re thinking I’m clear for a paint store run (with mask) on Thursday. But tomorrow eve I’m going to the Northwest Multihull Association April meeting at 7pm, because it’s by videoconference! Speakers include whoever is finishing up the build of a Marples 38’ tri, also in Napa (how did we not know about this???) and a cruiser’s report from LaVentana, exactly where Ravenswing was during the SuperBowl weekend. If anyone wants to join that meeting, find the Zoom link of the NMA site or hit me up for an email tmrw.

Ok, go look at those Salt and Tar YouTube videos and if you like what they’re doing, sign up on Patreon to support their build. Trust me, it feels good ;)