Top 5 things I learned painting my car at home

It was challenging. It was rewarding. It was heartbreaking.

During the month of March I tackled what I consider to be the pinnacle of a car restoration — the paint.

When this project began in August of 2017, the 1967 Mercury Cougar arrived wearing dull white paint. I actually wasn’t sure if it was primer or a topcoat. There was overspray on most of the trim, rust was bubbling up on the doors and quarters, and the body panels looked as if someone had played bumper cars in a parking lot full of shopping carts.

Almost four years later, I finally finished the mechanical and interior refurbishment, and I was ready to tackle the paint and body. Here’s the most important things I learned during the process.

Number One: Don’t buy your paint online

I had a white Mustang in high school, and I know white is a popular color for Cougars, but I just wasn’t feeling it. To be honest, if I was building the perfect Cougar it would be Hunter Green with a Saddle Leather interior. However, I ended up with a white Cougar with red interior that originally was Onyx black. I decided to take it back to black, but with a metallic paint. Like many others, I’ve gotten in the bad habit of just ordering things online instead of getting out to a store to see what I’m buying. I ordered all my paint from Eastwood.com. I lucked out with their Epoxy Primer. It sprays really well. The 2k High Build — not so much, but if you dilute it enough it’s ok. The real problem was the Midnight Metallic Black.

The Eastwood base colors mix 4:1, so while it’s $185 per gallon, you’re actually only getting 5 quarts. By comparison the PPG Shopline paint mixes 1:1 at $205 per gallon, so you’re getting 8 quarts. Even with slow reducer I suffered solvent popping in the Midnight Metallic Black, which left dotted lines on the roof and trunk lid of the car. I also screwed up and accidentally drug my air hose along the edge of the roofline. There was nothing to do except sand it all down and start over. I needed more paint. Unfortunately, Eastwood had a big message on their site saying they were out of stock until May. I took a trip to my local Tasco where I should have gone in the first place. They gave me a handful of color chips to pick out exactly what kind of metallic black I wanted and then mixed me up two gallons. Their low-end Shopline paint sprayed better than the Eastwood, and by choosing Ford Tuxedo Black, future color match is easy. I can get touch up paint at any auto parts store.

Number Two: You need good lighting in your work area

I have fluorescent shop lights hanging in half my garage, but the other side is really dark. There is a noticeable difference in the paint work done on the bright side of the garage versus the dark side of the garage. Good light helps you see the wet edge, the extent of coverage, whether or not you’re running the paint, and if you have solvent popping or other issues happening. If I was going to paint more cars in my garage I’d add lighting to the other side of the ceiling or at least set up some shop lights on that side.

Number Three: Sanding is tedious and messier than spraying

Sanding cars is incredibly tedious and messy. I was expecting the spray mess, but being covered in enough poly primer powder that I looked like a ghost was a new experience. The powder gets into the air and settles on everything. It got tracked all over the house. Having a clean area is really important for a good paint job, and it took days of cleaning and washing out the garage to remove enough dust to spray again. Also, use blocks to sand, not your fingers. If you sand without a block you’ll end up with a sad, wavy finish. 2k is the only layer that will hide a few of the issues you don’t spend time sanding before you apply it. Every other layer is going to show everything, so spend the time sanding. But yes, it is really tedious.

Number Four: Carefully read your paint data sheets

Yes, the data sheets show mix ratios, but many of them also specify gun pressure and tip sizes. More importantly, it lets you know how soon you can spray your next layer. For instance, the epoxy primer I used took three days to cure enough for sanding. Three days is a long time to wait for the next coat when you’re trying to fit a paint job into vacation time. However, you could overcoat the epoxy primer with 2k primer after 30 minutes, but if you waited more than six hours, you were stuck waiting the full three days. Once the 2k was on the epoxy, you could sand it within an hour. The clear coat also has to go onto the base coat within a certain number of hours or you have to scuff and spray another layer of base before you can clear. Each paint is slightly different, so always ask for the data sheet when you’re buying the paint.

Number Five: The cut and polish process is a completely different skill set

I was aware that I knew nothing about painting cars, so I invested in a weekend seminar to learn the basics long before I bought any equipment. We spent lots of time spraying, but the cut and polish process was just a PowerPoint slide with a quick demonstration. I was woefully unprepared to polish paint, and the Meguiars paste and $29 buffer from O’Reilly’s weren’t helping the situation. My first attempt wet sanding left too much orange peel. (By the way, did I mention sanding it incredibly tedious?) My second attempt was better, but after the cutting compound, you could still see swirl marks in the paint. My third attempt finally ruined the paint on the hood. After many, many hours I finally have a handle on wet sanding. A friend from the Cougar Club loaned me a professional polisher, and I bought some quality cutting compound and polish. The results are better, but if I could do it all again, I would have spent a long time practicing these processes on a car with bad paint, not the car I spent four weeks painting. Yes, when I mentioned heartbreak in the introduction, this is what I was talking about. There are definitely sections of the car I will have to paint again due to my own incompetence when trying to polish it. The wet sanding, cut and polish is not quick. It’s another job in itself, and it will make or break a paint job.

I know, there are no mind-blowing epiphanies here, but if anyone out there is debating whether or not to paint their car, I hope this helps.

The Houston Snowpocalypse of 2021

The Farmer’s Almanac predicted the last Houston freeze of 2021 to be February 17. What it didn’t predict was that the freeze would begin the evening of February 14 and stick around until February 19.

We knew the freeze was coming well in advance, and Mary spent quite a few hours relocating plants into the house and covering those she couldn’t move. Thankfully plants were the only casualties at our house.

The amount of snow that arrived for President’s Day was surprising and kind of fun. I was the only optimist on my block who thought we might still have trash pick-up. I cleared the sidewalk and built a snowman. I’ve lived in Houston since 1995, and while I’ve seen it snow here maybe a dozen times, I’d never seen it snow like this. We bundled Finn up and let him experience it.

Our neighborhood continued to have power and water overnight Monday, but we filled several containers with drinking water and filled the bathtub for toilet flushing just in case.

Tuesday the power was gone. We have a gas fireplace, so we moved everything into the living room and set up a safe baby area to catch the heat yet keep Finn out of the fire. We also repurposed an old photography backdrop to shut off the rest of the house from the living room to trap more heat.

Tuesday night it was still 65 in the house when we went to bed, but it was 55 by morning. Mary slept in the baby pen with Finn to share body warmth, but 8-month-olds aren’t really appreciative of life-threatening situations, and he spent most of the night climbing on her.

Wednesday we had Finn in several layers of clothes, which he did not like at all, and he was very tired of being in the pen. We took turns sitting with him wrapped in a sleeping bag, but that became a struggle. Cellular phone service went bad. With T-Mobile I could get texts and phone calls, but photos wouldn’t download and using Facebook or surfing the internet was our of the question.

Mary transferred some of the refrigerator and freezer food to ice chests filled with snow, and we started cooking other things. Have you ever grilled croissants? I think if we’d had a pizza stone to keep the bottoms from turning black, they would have been perfect.

My parents in Montgomery had gotten power back earlier in the day, and it stayed on, so around 5 p.m. with the temp in our house possibly dropping into the 40s overnight, we decided to drain the pipes and risk the roads to get to their house.

Previous apocalyptical survival scenarios were much easier when there wasn’t an infant involved. Mary and I could have sat in sleeping bags reading books by candlelight for several more days, but babies have no chill.

Thankfully we made it to Montgomery where the power stayed on, and we finally got Finn to eat and sleep.

The power was back on at our house Thursday, so we began cleaning, but we were still under a water conversation order and boil notice due to all the water line breaks throughout the area.

I was very glad to finally see this guy melting away.

Mary’s five-year-old pepper plants that were taller than she is all perished along with an eggplant. Our orange trees may or may not make it.

Replacing plants is easy compared to the struggles of so many in Houston trying to do major plumbing and drywall repair right now, not to mention the fact that many people lost their lives.

Despite knowing the cold was coming, the self-regulated Texas power providers had no incentive to spend the money to winterize systems. We have the 737 Max of power in Texas, and the plane has finally crashed into the mountain.

As we sat in silence Tuesday, I pulled out the guitar and wrote this song in hopes of alleviating some of the anxiety in the house and making things feel a little warmer.

I’m glad the sun is back in Houston.

Adding XR7-G exhaust cut-outs to a 1967 or 1968 Mercury Cougar

There’s one detail of the 1967 Cougar that always bothered me — the way the exhaust sits under the rear valance.

Originally, I believe the Cougar had turn-down exhaust tips that were somewhat hidden, but through the years almost everyone has run the exhaust under the valance, both to keep fumes out of the car and to give it more of a muscle car style.

However, in 1968, the XR7-G package boasted exhaust cut-outs with chrome trim rings, which to me, makes the back end of the car look much classier. Since I was undertaking body work to prep my car for paint, I decided to retrofit the XR7-G trim rings and exhaust tips onto my 1967 standard.

I ordered the trim from West Coast Classic Cougar. While it seems like a high quality reproduction part, all repro parts have their quirks. The odd thing I found about these trim rings is that one mounting peg is a different size. With pegs facing up, the right peg is a size smaller than the center and left pegs. This really doesn’t matter except that the spring nuts supplied with the rings are all the same size. They fit tightly on the center and left pegs, but fall right off the right peg. You will have to source a smaller size spring nut to mount them.

One good part about these trim rings is that they are symmetrical, so you can easily flip them over to trace the pattern onto your valance.

Step one was to remove the rear bumper guards and brackets. Not all Cougars had the bumper guard option, but if yours had them, and you are removing them, don’t throw them away. Each bumper guard has a core value of $50 and the brackets trade for about $100 a pair.

I got varying measurements from XR7-G owners as to how far apart the cut-outs should be spaced. I found my exhaust pipes lined up right under the top mounting holes for the bumper guards, so I used those to mark the centerline for my cutouts. I’m not trying to pass off my car as an XR7-G, so I would much rather have good exhaust alignment than perfect factory specifications. If you’re measuring from the bottom edge of the valance, on mine the outside edge cuts were exactly 8″ off the end-curves of the valance.

I could have probably cut the entire shape out with a dremel, but on the Classic Cougar Community forum, a member suggested using aviation tin snips to quickly do the bulk of the cutting and then just clean up the edges with a dremel. I decided to give that a shot — plus it gave me an excuse to buy some nice tin snips.

The only downside to the tin snips was the bend it puts in the lower portion of the valance, but it was easily tapped straight with a hammer and a dolly. I finished cutting and cleaned the edges up with a dremel.

Drilling the mounting holes precisely enough to get the bottom edges to line up perfectly straight was the trickiest part. Using good metal bits and stepping up the hole sizes made it much easier. In the end, I had to oversize a few holes to give the trim some adjustability.

My exhaust hangers were adjusted all the way down to get the pipes under my rear valance, so it was easy enough to raise them up to move the exhaust tips into the new cut-outs. However, it wouldn’t be a DIY project without an unexpected challenge. I didn’t notice that the backside of one hanger bolt had two nuts on it, and I twisted off the head trying to tighten it back up.

Thankfully I had a replacement nut and bolt rolling around in my toolbox, so it only caused a short delay.

The old rusty exhaust tips already look better poking through the new cut-outs. It will look really great when I have the larger, shinier XR7-G tips welded onto the system.

Once I had proof of concept and good measurements, I ran through the entire process again on the reproduction rear valance that I’m prepping to install before I paint the car.

I think I may toss the flat nuts and use speed nuts to install the trim rings, so that they are easier to unscrew if I want to repeatedly install and remove them while I continue doing body work and changing things on the car.

So now that I have the XR7-G exhaust trim, the real question is whether or not I should add the XR7-G hood scoop!

Learning to Paint: Cut and polish

I only had an 18-hour window to apply clear coat after the last coat of color to ensure adhesion. However, I needed to wait a minimum of 24 hours after spraying clear before I could start the cut and polish process.

The clear coat brought out the color of the black cherry paint, but it had noticeable texture. I also had two runs on the air cleaner lid, which were easy to see, but very hard to photograph.

While I had plenty of lower grit sandpaper for paint prep, I hadn’t thought about the grits required for the polishing process. I made a run to my local True Value, but the finest grit they carried was 320. Thankfully O’Reilly’s had a full section of polishing supplies, so I purchased 1000, 2000, 3000, and some polishing compound.

Because I needed to remove the two runs in the clear, I started the process with 600 grit dry sanding. Once I got a cross hatch pattern across the entire surface, I rinsed the lid and sanded with 600 grit wet. I did another rinse, then sanded 1000 grit wet. Then I went to 2000 grit wet. Then I used my random orbital sander for 3000 grit wet. Then I finished the lid with a buffer and polishing compound.

The difference in depth, shine and texture was amazing. I still had some unwanted texture in the grooves, so I actually repeated the entire 600 wet through buffing again. The lid looked fantastic.

I was actually using the air cleaner before this project started, so I was anxious to get it back on the car. I tackled the bottom of the assembly next. I decided to forego the 600 dry sanding portion and just start with the 600 wet. By the time I finished, I could barely move my arms. I don’t think I’ve done this much intense sanding and polishing in my entire life.

I got the air cleaner back on the car, and I decided to tackle the valve covers and oil pan later.

The biggest lesson learned is that preparation is everything. My paint is smooth, but if you look down into it, you can see that the surface of the metal is not. There was quite a bit of pitting in these old rusted parts, and I should have done more sanding before the primer and more coats of primer to smooth it all out before the color coat.

Here’s a side-by-side example of the difference the cut and polish makes.

I do have confidence that I can tackle painting the entire car with the turbine sprayer and get an acceptable result. However, unless I fix some of the underlying alignment and body issues first, it’s just putting lipstick on a pig.

Learning to Paint: Applying clear coat

I spent an entire morning sanding down the color coat I had applied the day before to remove all of the cardboard and plastic that had stuck to the paint when I flipped various pieces before they had cured. I had previously sanded it all with 400 grit, but this time I wet sanded with 600 grit to get a better finish.

I dug out some wire hangers and worked out a new tactic for the my second attempt at color.

I mixed, re-mixed, and then mixed the color again hoping it would be more red this time around. It looked the same as it had before.

Once I had two nice coats of color back onto the parts, I let them cure for an hour, and I prepped for clear coat.

The Eastwood Clear mixes 2:1, so it’s a bit thicker than the color and base coats that mix 4:1. In the future I think I would add reducer when using it with the turbine sprayer.

The Eastwood instructions only call for two coats of clear, but the Kindig It Paint with the Pros instructions call for five coats of clear. It was going on really thick and really clouding up the air in the garage, so I quit at three coats. There really had been virtually no overspray with the base and color coats, but even using the low VOC activator in the clear coat, it was creating serious fumes. People walking their dogs along the street were coughing as they passed the house.

The first coat went on really well and made the color shine, but the second and third coats went on cloudy and had me worried. Thankfully, they dried clear.

I gave all of the parts plenty of time to cure before touching or moving them this time. I’m proud to say that after having to prime twice and shoot color twice, I got the clear right the first time.

I would have liked less texture in the final project. I think reducer would have helped. As I analyzed the parts in the light, I thought, it’s not TERRIBLE, but I wouldn’t have paid for this job. However, it can only get better after the cut and polish.

Learning to Paint: Laying down color

Before jumping to the color base coat, I decided I need to spend more time working with the gun and attempt the primer again. I diluted it 3:1 instead of 4:1 and made sure I had the paint feed all the way open. I got slightly better coverage, but unfortunately there was still too much texture to the spray.

At left is my second attempt at primer, which still has noticeable texture. At right is a valve cover sanded with 400 grit.

Frustrated, I turned to the internet. After watching a half-dozen videos, it became apparent that to get good results with the turbine sprayer, you HAVE to use the pressure cup. I was using a PPS 2.0 disposable cup liner system. There is actually a 3M PPS pressure cup that uses the disposable liners, but I only had the gravity feed cup. I decided to use the stainless pressure cup that came with the gun for the color round. It made a HUGE difference.

I mixed up the Bonneville Black Cherry. I was really excited about this color, and I have debated whether or not I should paint the entire car with it.

The paint looked very black, but as I stirred, the metallic red began to appear. However, as I sprayed it on, it looked black with a hint of plum. I did some parts with what I would deem a regular coating and some I went heavier to see if it would affect the color at all. However, as it dried it seemed to become more of a bronze champagne? I’m not sure how to describe it. The photos below required the camera exposure to be pumped up to see the color because without direct sunlight, it looks more or less black.

I learned some important lessons this round beyond just the fact that I have to use the pressure cups.

Lesson 1: Laying the paint on thicker did not improve the color, it just caused solvent popping.

Lesson 2: I’ve got to stop painting on a table. The first round of paint keeps drying on the plastic sheet, then it cracks off and blows dust up onto the things I’m painting.

Lesson 3: If I have to flip something I’m painting, give it extra EXTRA time to cure before flipping or it just screws up the paint I’ve already sprayed.

Lesson 4: Don’t remove the coveralls until after you clean the gun or you will probably splash thinned paint droplets all over your clothes.

The valve covers, which were stacked higher than everything else and don’t require flipping were the only pieces that came out “good.” There’s one very small run on one of them, but I can’t decide if it’s worth fixing or not. The oil pan was great until I went over it with a SUPER thick experimental coat to see if I could get more of the red color to come out. The red did show while I was spraying it. It then dried the same color as everything else but with lots of bubbles from solvent popping. I think I’ll re-sand and re-spray it. The air cleaner lid and base both fell victim to having cardboard stick to the bottom side while I painted the top. The snorkel was sitting right on the plastic, and it has plastic coating the entire bottom side now.

I will definitely find a way to hang my parts to do another color coat before I move on to clear coat.

One thing I have decided, I do not want my entire car painted Bonneville Black Cherry. I will not order the paint for my car online. I need to find a local shop where I can lay my eyes on the real colors before I commit to spraying the car with it.

Learning to Paint: The first attempt

In September 2019, back when the world was normal, and we jumped on airplanes to breath up each other’s exhales without thinking twice, Mary and I made a trip to Salt Lake City.

During that trip Bryce Green and Freddy Carlson taught us how to paint.

When you have pro equipment being set up for you in a climate controlled spray booth with two of the best painters in the world coaching you, it’s hard NOT to paint well. Recreating that magic in my garage has proven to be more of a challenge. I didn’t really have the space or want the noise of an 80 gallon compressor. Additionally, I was going to have to install multiple moisture traps along the walls. I decided to take a chance on an Apollo 5-stage turbine sprayer.

Allegedly it delivers a continuous 9.5 psi of dry air, and it has a nice HVLP gravity fed gun similar to the SATA guns we used during our class. It’s fairly quiet, and I can spray anywhere there’s a wall plug. I’m hoping we can spray varnish and maybe even gel coat on the sailboat as well.

When we learned the Kindig It paint method, it started with bare metal, then epoxy primer, then filler, then polyester primer, then 2k urethane primer, then sealer, then basecoat, and finally clearcoat.

First off, I’m on a budget. Second, I don’t really have the time or energy to take the Cougar all the way down to bare metal. For my test run, I decided to see what would happen if I sanded the parts, used a little rust encapsulator where necessary, then jumped straight to a 2k primer.

By the way, I never thought I’d have a favorite sandpaper, but I ordered several rolls of Indasa paper from Big Kid Blocks, and I have to say, I love Indasa sandpaper. It is so much better than whatever I usually grab at the hardware store. I also highly recommend their Show Gun cleaner and AngelWax products.

All of the engine parts for this test were giveaways from various members of the Southeast Texas Cats Mercury Cougar Club. The valve covers were from a 68 Cougar. The oil pan was from a 65 Mustang. All of the pieces had different color paint and varying amounts of rust. I cleaned them with a wire wheel, but the gold paint on the oil pan was especially stubborn. I gave it all a spray with rust encapsulator, then sanded with 220.

I emptied all 22 ounces of 2k primer onto the parts. At times I felt like I had the gun spraying well, but at times it felt like I was barely getting any paint out at all. I was using a 1.5mm nozzle, but I think I probably needed a 1.8mm. (Unfortunately, I haven’t purchased a 1.8mm.) I kept turning the air pressure up, but in fact, I probably needed to turn it down to increase paint flow.

When the primer dried, it had a very rough texture. It smoothed out easily with 400 grit, but sanding won’t be an option when I get to the color coat.

I finished sanding, wiped it down with paint prep, then re-assessed. The coverage had become a little thin in some places, and there were a few spots showing bare metal.

I decided that instead of moving on to the base coat, it would be better to troubleshoot my issues and try another coat of primer. I’m going to spend more time adjusting the gun and increase the amount of reducer for better flow. Hopefully I’ll have time for attempt number two before the weekend is over.

GBCA Icicle 5: We end the series with a spirited DNF

Friday evening our outlook for race 5 was still dependent on whether or not I could repair the cabin top winch that raises and lowers the centerboard.

Once I got the winch open, the mechanism turned out to be incredibly simple. There is a gear on the drum, a gear on the winch handle, and one pawl that is supposed to release whenever you turn the handle. I will have to completely remove the cable and lift out the entire drum assembly to identify why the pawl is staying locked, but I found a way to pull it clear with my finger. Using the finger method we could raise and lower the centerboard with no issues, so we were a go for Saturday morning.

The lack of wind that had plagued us the entire series was not an issue Saturday. In fact, it was the most intense conditions we had ever experienced in the Kadey Krogen — an all new test.

The first thing I learned was that 30 knot winds put Mary into a complete freeze-up panic. I know she was struggling hard with being out in those conditions, so when she asked that we only fly the reefed main and the staysail, I complied. The rest of the crew did not seem as worried, but I did notice they all put on life jackets for the ride.

We had a beam reach for the first leg with apparent wind frequently gusting to 35 knots, and we were consistently making 6.5 – 7 knots on our way to the first mark. I attempted to take some pictures and video, but Mary promptly took my phone away and told me to focus on steering. However, she did take this one video clip before zipping my phone into her pocket for the duration of the race.

The second leg, we were dead down. The main was blocking all of the wind to the staysail, but we were pushing ahead at 5.5 knots and steadily running down the one or two boats that started ahead of us. The better strategy would have been to roll out the genoa and drop the staysail and main, but with the extreme conditions we decided it was better not to change sails. We did try to push the staysail across for wing-on-wing, but with the single-line system we have on that sail, we couldn’t get it to stay.

By the time we had reached the second mark, we had seen some torn sails on other boats along the course. We made the second turn and that’s where our competitive edge ended. The wind had dropped to the 15-20 knot range, and we really didn’t have enough sail out. We also realized the line brake that held the outhaul was slipping, but the outhaul and the mainsheet share a winch. There was no good way to get the outhaul tight and then off the winch to a cleat. We also had no winch at all for the staysail line, which was taking serious muscle to sheet in. We had lack of sail, poor trim, and I was having to pinch to make any forward progress on the course. We were lucky to get 3.5 knots boat speed even with all of the wind. Then the real kicker was that we learned the boat cannot tack with only the main and staysail, so each time across the bay, we had to do a slow loopy jibe. It was terrible.

After crossing the bay four times we were the last boat still on the course. I REALLY wanted to finish, but Mary had been sitting in tense fear for more than four hours and kept suggesting we start rolling in the sails, so I finally turned on the motor.

While our sailing performance in this series was absolutely dismal, we did learn some important things about the boat. I think for safety we’re going to switch the mainsheet system because having the controls on the cabin top puts the user in a prime location to get hit by the sheet and traveler as it swings across. That would also fix the outhaul winch situation.

I was impressed with the way the Krogen handled the 30 knot winds. One of the boats had their traveler ripped off. The Krogen wasn’t phased at all. However, it is a real conundrum that Mary only likes sailing in less than 15 knots of wind, and the Krogen really only sails in more than 15 knots of wind.

I wish we had sailed better, but getting off the dock four out of five weekends in January was a big accomplishment. I can cross the first thing off my list of goals for 2021.

GBCA Icicle 4: Pure heartbreak

You would think that after three weeks of focused boat repairs and adjustments, sailing performance would go up.

You would be wrong. Icicle 4 was the worst race yet.

When we re-installed the jib, we tied on the old slightly smaller diameter sheets that had been found in the bottom of the lazarette. The theory was that our new sheets were too large for the turning blocks and were binding up during our tacks. Unfortunately as we unfurled the jib on our way to the starting line, one of the sheets came untied leaving the jib flapping in the wind.

We left our starting position to partially furl the jib and get the line re-attached, but that put us about 10 minutes behind and quite a bit off course.

Once the jib actually caught the wind, the bow of the boat started turning uncontrollably giving me a clear indication that the center board had not actually dropped when we lowered it. Apparently the centerboard winch was jamming up. We spent another 10 minutes finessing and finagling it while I was inside the boat jerking on the centerboard wire trying to get it to deploy.

At this point we were 20 minutes late and completely in the wrong spot to start. We had to spend another 10 minutes motoring back to to race area before we could even get into a starting pattern.

We started VERY late. There was only one J boat and a trimaran behind us.

The jib sheets did seem to bind up less during tacks, but it was hard to know if it was the line size that was making a difference or if it was the fact that I cleaned quite a bit of corrosion out of the jib cars, so that they were operating better. Unfortunately the self-tailing winches did not always hold the smaller line.

One of the biggest problems I’m still facing is that with our undersized shallow draft rudder, we have a major issue with the boat continuing to turn in a circle once it starts the tack. I don’t think there’s any cure for this. This boat was designed by a single man for anchoring in shallow water and drinking in the spacious cockpit. It’s essentially a trawler with a mast, and it sails like garbage. The fixed keel version handles much better, and I’m quite sad we didn’t go that route.

We managed to make one tack on the first leg of the course, then the wind dropped to 7 knots, and we stopped moving. Everyone was content to drift, but eventually we were drifting into a children’s regatta area, so we had to give up and turn on the motor to make sure we didn’t float over a bunch of kids on optis.

To say I’m more than a little depressed about the boat’s performance would be an understatement. Every other heavy, cruising class handicap boat finished the race. To be fair, they all had a 30-minute lead, so maybe there was jmore wind down the course or they were able to make the first turn to be on a better point of sail before the wind dropped, but I think something is seriously wrong with our rig and sail plan.

We have one race left in the series, and my aspirations of placing have diminished to just hopes of finishing. Of course, unless I can get the centerboard winch unseized before the race, we may not be able to sail at all.

At least we’re getting off the dock. That’s progress over the past two years.

Still, it’s hard to stay positive in regard to this boat when it’s sailing so poorly. I don’t mind having a pig, but this is ridiculous.

The low tides and high times of GBCA Icicle #3

Spoiler alert, we did not start (DNS) Icicle Race #3. The north wind was gusting all day Friday, and there just wasn’t much water left in Clear Lake.

On a normal day, there is no beach here along the bulkhead of our marina. Due to low water and a low wind forecast, we decided not to risk leaving Finn with a baby sitter and getting stuck in the bay for hours. Had we made it to the race, we would have had less competitors, but sometimes the risk is not worth the reward.

Earlier in the week Mary began re-stitching the sacrificial sunbrella that was ripped on our jib during Icicle 1. Her Sailrite sewing machine has seen at least five years of hard use, and it finally gave out. While it awaits repair or replacement, we had to hand stitch the sail. I finished about four feet, and that has put me over my sewing quota for all of 2021. I don’t know what kind of sewing machine Mary wants this time, but I will buy it.

Despite the extreme low tide, the weather was really nice, and Finn enjoyed his weekend at the marina. His crawling is getting more advanced, and he made dozens of laps around the cabin floor.

He also tried out the swings for the first time.

During one of his naps we managed to get the jib back on the roller furling unit and ready for Icicle #4 (knock on wood).

It would have been a perfect, relaxing weekend except for one thing.

At some point, my wallet disappeared. The most likely timeframe is when Tex decided to randomly start peeing on the rug in the boat, and I rushed to grab him and corral Hemingway, then wrestle and carry them both up the extremely high bulkhead to get them to the grass for a bathroom break. I think as I was stretching and then sitting and twisting on the bulkhead, my wallet must have broken loose and taken a dive.

I spent several hours retracing my steps all over the marina and turning the boat inside out in the hopes that I had just set it somewhere, but with no luck. It is gone. Now starts the process of canceling cards and ordering a new driver license.

Honestly, I’m surprised I made it almost 43 years without ever losing a wallet before, especially since I’ve spent the past 11 years on boats every weekend. Here’s to hoping that will be the big loss of 2021, and the rest of the year will be smooth sailing.