Saturday, January 17, 2015

Crumblin' Down

We have made amazing progress over the last few weeks.  I should probably rephrase that and say, Paul Turner (our carpenter) has made great progress...we just went to our day job and wrote checks.  Alas, the holiday break is clearly over for us and our focus is split between doing the work that pays the bills, and wanting to be at the flouse making progress.

To date, all of the dry rot issues have been addressed and the place is starting to really come together (photos to follow).  We were so confident in our progress that we have hired a team of painters that are coming in on Monday (MLK, jr. day) to clean and brighten the place up.

We went over this morning, Saturday, to get all of our various cleaning and painting supplies cleaned up and tucked away so the paint crew had no hindrances in their way. 

As a last minute thought, I decided that it would be a good idea to pull the bathroom sink out.  It had gotten paint all over it and was pretty badly chipped.  I had found the exact same size sink insert on the web, so I knew it could be easily replaced.  I went to work thinking that I just had to release some silicone caulking and it would easily pop out. 

In the course of trying to remove it I ended up putting a chisel right through the wall.  Wait.  What?  Why is this wall so soft and penetrable?  It turns out we missed a big section of mold and dry rot.  As I continued to work the sink the rest of the infrastructure around the sink/vanity just started to crumble.  Fuck.  (See, the John Mellencamp reference make sense now, huh?)

I literally sat there on the floor, surrounded by old, soured dry wall and debated whether to keep going pulling down, or somehow stop and figure a way to put it all back together and forget that I even found it. 

Wise Dominic, while looking a bit frustrated, said it was better to find it now and we would adjust the project to take care of it.  He was right, and since Paul was coming by on Sunday to finish up some base board cutting, I was hoping I could toss my hair and bat my eyes to see if he would be willing to toss up a few more pieces of plywood.  ...and if he didn't have time, we would just wait on painting the bathroom until we had it more put together.

We are beyond excited with each step of progress we make.  We were talking tonight that true victory will be the night that we sleep at the flouse, on our matress, and wake up with the ability to make a reasonable breakfast.  I suspect that day will be here very soon.

Here's some photos of how far we've come:

Here's where the chimney used to come through the ceiling.  B'bye!
Great Room windows are now leak proof and no more "fishing" holes in the floor!
Brother Joe came by to lend a hand and helped dispose of the old toilet.
The lower level porch has been made water proof and the door frame has been replaced.
Walter sits in front of the heater and shoots judgmental faces at us.
Bedroom wall and windows repaired with new window sills and trim.  Hi, Walter!
Dom removing the carpet from the stairs so they can be painted.  Notice the new white baseboards!

 ...and for your listening pleasure, here's the video of Crumblin' Down.  Sing along at the chorus:  When the walls come tumblin' down
When the walls come crumblin' crumblin'
When the walls come tumblin' tumblin' down
Yeah yeah yeah

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Link to Tie Dyed Grate-ness?

The first time we went to tour the flouse with the realtor she said something about the family that owned it being musically oriented and that there was an upright piano onboard at one point.  Frankly, it kind of went in one ear and out the other.  Mostly, I was trying to figure out how the hell you would get a piano down the dock, through the front door, and how you would balance the ballast in order for the flouse to not be cattywampus.  Mind boggling, indeed.

Upon further investigation during our initial tour, we found a plaque and some cocktail napkins in the hull that said, "Poet's Barge".   Dom said he remembered sailing past the flouse in his early sailing days and vividly recalled the sign that called this home the "Poet's Barge."  By now, we are full blown into the buying process, but are also really curious about these artistic musicians and poets that have inhabited this home since the late 70s.  Our hope was we would win the bid to buy the flouse and as a bonus get to learn more about these folks.

Once we put a contract in for the purchase we learned that the family that owned the flouse is called Godchaux, and their son, Keith was a keyboardist for the Grateful Dead from 1971 to 1978.  Their other son Brian, who was the agent for his mother, is also an accomplished musician in the Bay Area.

Dom and I were never "Dead Heads" and really didn't know too much about the band.  That said, as we mentioned in our circle of friends there were some that instantly recognized the Godchaux name and asked if our new home was where the lost "house boat" tapes came from.  Huh?  It turns out that as Keith Godchaux was getting ready to join the Dead, Jerry gave him a box of tapes from their 1971 tour that he stored in his parent's home, in the bilge of the flouse.  Eventually, they were discovered by Brian and in 2005 were used in the Dick's Picks, Vol. 35 as became known in Dead lore as "the houseboat tapes."

I've already been a doing a ton of research on floating house communities and lifestyle, and now I've added learning about the Dead and the Godchaux family.  The thing that really strikes is me is the culture the Dead built with their fans.  I never knew about the tapers and how fans would follow them all over the place.  It seems to me like it was one big traveling jam-fest.  I almost wish I had paid more attention.

That said, this whole experience has been so amazing.  Finally finding a home in Alameda, one that is a tremendous balance for all the things that both Dom and I want in a dwelling, has been such an amazing gift.  Even just buying the house and finding out that accountants had owned it would have been cool, but learning about the creative mojo of the Godchaux family has been an amazing plus.

My only hope is that the musical Gods will find a way to patient with the new dwellers and their propensity towards punk rock ukelele tunes.   :)


Monday, January 5, 2015

Bah-Humbug, and Get Back To Work!

The nice thing about the holiday is that both Dom and I decided to skip almost all Christmas and New Years celebrations and instead worked on the flouse.  Perhaps a bit Bah-humbuggy, but Dom took to it easily, and I was so preoccupied with the flouse that I quickly got over it. I did worry a little bit about relatives and friends that may be expecting our annual holiday card, and anticipated us showing up to parties with lamp shades on our heads.  Alas...that was not us this year.  ...and it seems like we pretty much got away with it.  Something to remember for next year.  :)  That said, a big thank goes out to the Waterloos, who were kind enough to include us in their family dinners and celebrations, and were understanding when we ran out of steam early in the evenings.

The good news is our carpenter, Paul, joined us in the focus on the work.  Some good progress has been made over the past two weeks.  For example here's the sagging ceiling tile in the bedroom.

This was an early picture before the rain deluge.  When we finally pulled it down it had black strings of mold hanging from it like a stalactiteIt was pretty freaking gross.

Once we pulled it down we found this:

Oh great!  ...2 feet of wet, rotted wood, with an exposed roof that's made of canvas.  I believe I may have left the work site at this point and went home and crawled under the covers with a lovely bottle of savignon blanc.

Alas, never to fear...Paul got to work and figured a way to do a gentle patch that wouldn't upset our circus tent roof.
 This patch was then covered with more plywood and finally a finishing piece that had it looking like no harm had ever come. 

As you can see, above, it makes a big the white primer makes the place look so much brighter.

Progress, or Paul-gress (and Todd-gress) is being made throughout the place.  The bedroom has two coats of primer, the mud room is the same, the holes in the floor of the Great Room floor are sealed, which will make our fisherman friends quite sad. (Stay with'll make more sense in the next paragraph.)

There's been quite a bit of talk about installing fishing ports inside the flouse that can be removed for easy access to hospitable fishing from the confines of our living room.  We've even had a fishing rod, lures and extra hooks provided as an incentive.  (Thank you, Steve Waterloo.)  Dom is not a friend of anything that lives under the water, and I'm hoping to close more holes and not make new ones, so alas...I'm going to veto any fishing holes within the four walls of the flouse.

So, we are definitely making headway.  The only thing that seems to slow us down is when the inevitable sailing vessel goes by that requires commentary and discussion.  I can't tell you how many times I've looked up to see our work crew standing on the porch comparing notes about sail trim, debating what type of boat is going by, or providing helping tips and techniques on how the vessel could be going faster.  I smile...remind them we have work to do...and try to get them refocused.  It looks kind of like this:

Thursday, January 1, 2015

I'm fixing a hole where the rain gets in...

...and stops my mind from wandering where it will go.

Or something like that...

We bought a home that had been vacant for many years during a pretty severe drought.  Of course, a few days after we close the heavens open up and we get many days of much needed, and severe rains.

We knew from the survey that there was some dry rot that needed to be addressed.  Alas, the good news about the rain is we found all of it, as the water just came streaming in.

We found a small river through the living room that was fed by leaking windows and a faulty chimney.  The small pond in the "mud room"was fed by water that was intruding under the front door, and the big sag in the ceiling in the bedroom was due to an 18 inch hole in our roof.

I teetered between being grateful for finding it to despair of buying the floating version of the "Money Pit."

What I learned in this process in that the house had been sitting cattywampus, listing a bit towards port, and being off balance with aft section sitting lower in the water than the bow.  As a result, water would pool in different pockets of door and window frames and then rot out the existing infrastructure.  So what do you do when you have this situation?  Well, you go down in the bilge and start moving around the balast.

The hull of the house boat has a bunch of cinder blocks, 5 gallon buckets of water, and other heavy objects that were in place to counter balance the contents of the prior residents.  (Apparently the contents included an upright piano [more on that later], so it's no wonder that things were a bit off kilter.)

We also hired Paul Turner, who is carpenter that came well referred from some friends that are going through a similar remodeling journey in their new place.  Paul showed up, got the boat level, and started digging into all the leaks and rot.

The other thing he discovered is that our roof is canvas, yep you read that read that's canvas pulled over plywood.  I understand its a normal maritime/boat application for this type of structure.  Still...weird to think that we're living under what is something that is akin to a circus tent.

Enclosed are a few photos of where we are in this stage of the progress.
Hole in the roof, intruding in to the bedroom

Beginning of repairs in living room...during the day you can see the Estuary through it.

Front door water intrusion into mud room.

Upstairs window leaks and moldy drywall.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The First Party!

We had our first "test run" party on the flouse the day after we closed.  Serendipitously, that Saturday not only was Virginia in town for the annual girls weekend pub crawl, but also was the annual Oakland Alameda Lighted Yacht Parade.

Dom spent the day down on the flouse, with a horrible cold, removing debris from the previous owners and taking some basic provisions down like our patio furniture, so we had some place to serve and relax.  In addition, he checked to make sure the water supply worked, the toilet flushed, the hot water heater functioned.

As the house had sent vacant for a few years, we had no idea the shape or stability of some of the working systems.  Luckily all seemed to work pretty well.

While Dom was working away, I was down on Park Street with a group of fun gals catching up on our annual retreat.  Usually we travel to new cities and terrorize their streets, but for a variety of reasons Alameda seemed to make sense this year.  I left the group a little early to check in with Dom, who is now ill to the point of going home to bed, and to make sure we had everything somewhat in order at the flouse.

A small group of friends from the Encinal Yacht club showed up with libations and snacks, and then the tipsy girls showed up slightly later, just as the lighted parade was getting started.

The parade this year was quite small, with only about 15 boats entered.  It honestly felt like it was over before it began.  That said, it was a great event to host a small quick party to see how the flouse responded.

All told we had 16 people on board, found that all of our household systems worked fine, got a ton of ideas/suggestions for future renovations, and were grateful for all of the supportive and kind words our friends had to say about our new adventure.

The only way the night could have been better is if Dom had been feeling well enough to be there.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Back to the Estuary

For the past year or so we have been earnestly looking to purchase our own home in Alameda.  It has been an uphill battle as prices are expensive and the inventory in town has been limited.  We got VERY lucky this year when one of the floating homes in the Barnhill Marina came up for sale.
We went for our first visit on November 8th and after a crazy, fortunate string of events, had our offer accepted and closed on December 5th.

The floating house (or the flouse, as we've been calling it) was built in 1969, and was one of the original houses in the Marina.  Richard Boland had partnered with Barney Barnhill to fulfill his vision of a floating house community on the Alameda Estuary.  Alas, upon reaching out to Richard, we found out that our house is not one of the ones he built.  We inquired at the Marina to see if they knew anything of it's origin and they had no idea.  At this point we know that our home is a bit of an orphan and is definitely different in size, construction and hull material than most of our neighbors.  If anyone has any ideas of where to look for more information on this history of the marina or the flouse, please let us know!

We are beyond excited to back on the Estuary and will be posting updates on our adventure here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Great Success.

Okay, a quick rundown of our victory in the Oakland Yacht Club Sunday Brunch Series.

The OYC Sunday Brunch series is a five race series run on the first and third Sundays of January and February, and the first Sunday of March. Sadly Gonzo was still not ready for the first race as the mast was still down from when I dropped it on my foot in November. This, as discussed previously, had left me with a ruptured Achilles Tendon and so out of action for a while.

So, after doing what I should have done to start with, which was pay Glen Hansen of Hansen Rigging to fix the rig, we did make it out for the last four races. We did have Glen make one major change and that was to put the roller furler back on the boat. The OYC gives us a three second credit for using the furler, which I figure we get back in the ease of use that the furler gives us. That and the old J-24 headsail that we were using was such a piece of junk that I don't think we gained anything from it. We had also gotten an additional 3 second credit from the local PHRF committee over the winter, which meant that we had gone from rating 186 to 192.

The new and improved Gonzo.

I drove the first race, sailing with Jeff, Sid, and RT and it was obvious right out the start that whatever Glen had done to the rig had made a huge difference. The boat felt great and we actually sailed away from most of our fleet upwind. When the wind came up I could actually use the backstay to de-power things, something that had never really happened before. Anyway we kept in touch with the leading 30 footer for most of the race, eventually passing him when he had a bad drop at the final rounding and ended up hitting the day marker. So we won the first race boat for boat as the slowest rated boat.

The second race I drove again as my foot/ankle was still really not up for me doing anything else. This race was on Super Bowl Sunday and I don't remember a lot of the details about this one. It may have just been Jeff, Sid and I and I know that once again we were the first boat to finish and easily won our division.

and this is the good ankle...

The third race Jeff drove, Sid showed up late and very hungover, and RT sailed with a separated shoulder. I did bow and the ankle felt fine and once again we sailed to victory and a four point lead going into the last race of the series. I seem to remember diving the boat before the race and it being very, very cold.

So, going into the last race we had to finish less than four places behind Zeehund and we would win no matter what. Jennifer joined Jeff, RT, Sid, and I and it was Sid's turn to drive. The wind was from the south for the first time in the series but they sent us on the same course direction as usual. This meant a downwind start and a spinnaker run out of the Estuary. Sid, with Jeff on the bow, and with us using a real watch for the first time ever, got us a good start with the kite up and pulling right before the gun went off, sadly what this did was put us directly in front of a fleet of 6 or 7 masthead 30 footers that created a wind shadow across the Estuary behind us. We soon where overhauled by the fleet and where actually in last place with Zeehund sailing away from us at the front of the fleet.

After a few harsh words, and an ill considered gybe that took us even further off the course we made it to the top mark around the corner at Jack London Square. Apparently there was some confusion in our fleet as to whether the course was to be sailed in reverse or not? The course, as I said was pretty much the same course that we usually sail, only the wind direction was backwards. This led to some of the boats approaching the mark the wrong way. This was the break we had been looking for. We managed to get around the mark cleanly, our boat handling always allows us much faster rounding's than our competitors, and sailed off up the course in second place.

Second in the last race gave us three firsts and a second for the series, easily enough for the series win. We were also the lowest scoring boat in any of the divisions giving us the overall trophy (if one existed). Needless to say, there was much rejoicing.