01 September, 2017

Tiles & Tribulations

Location: Blacksburg, Virginia, USA

You may have noticed that it's been a while since our last Khronicle. Well, let us tell you a story...

In May, when we were up in Deltaville working on Rachel, we received an email from the friend who is managing our house. "A supply pipe to one of the upstairs toilets broke and flooded the basement apartments." Yikes!

We gave him a call. He had already arranged for a remediation company to come in and start drying things out. Thank goodness for our friends.

During this time we managed to fit in two weeks of sailing with two different grandchildren followed by a wonderful week long visit with the other four, including the world's most epic pillow fight – ever! Loads of fun, and a welcome respite from all the work we'd been doing on Rachel. We also learned that we have a 7th grandchild on the way! Seven grandkids! Holy molies!

At any rate, after about a month and a half of drying, in mid-July things were dry enough in the basement to begin rebuilding. Both apartment's bathrooms needed to be re-tiled and the remediation crew had removed most of the baseboards and drilled holes in the plaster to facilitate the drying process. So all that needed to be patched, replaced, and painted.


 We decided not to renew the lease on the apartment that had suffered the most damage so we could work on it first without having to worry about a tenant. The lease was up on 31 July, so the decision was made to start demolition on that apartment on 1 August, with the expectation it would be ready to re-rent in a couple of weeks. Then we'd quickly knock out the other apartment that suffered much less damage without inconveniencing the tenant too much. Another scheduling quirk was that we could only do 1 basement bathroom at a time so that our remaining tenant could use the other bathroom while his was being worked on.


 So in the last week of July we headed down to Blacksburg with Houdini and Wanda. Because the upstairs (our house) is rented, we've been living in Houdini in the front yard for the past month, making weekly trips to a nearby campground to empty the holding tanks. Sigh.

The demolition crew came in and was pretty much done in 3 days. In the process they damaged some cinder blocks in a couple of walls, so we had to wait for a subcontractor to do an estimate, then effect repairs. Sigh.


Finally, a week after originally planned, we were ready for the tile guy. But wait! The tile guy quit his job the day before he was scheduled to start! Another was contacted, he never called back. The 3rd tile guy agreed to start the next day. Yay!
 After his first day of work, the tile didn't line up in 2 corners (this should have been a big red flag!). The contractor made him take it out. After 2 more days, the tile at the door into the shower was an inch shallower than the surrounding plaster (red flag number 2!). The contractor made him take it out. He then built out the doorway to the proper dimension. The next day, the door into the shower looked horrible, the drain was a disaster, there were big gaps in several areas, and several tiles stuck out further than others. The upshot is that after almost two weeks of stop / start / undo / redo, the contractor finally decided to fire him because of his shoddy work. Unfortunately, two weeks later, we still don't have a tile guy. Sigh.

 Today, exactly one month after work was begun, we are in almost exactly the same place we were a month ago – we still need to demolish the first bathroom and install new tile. The only real progress that's been made is the work that we have done – new paint throughout (except the bathroom of course), new countertops, painted the old wood kitchen cabinets, installed all new outlets, switches, light fixtures, etc., etc. It is very discouraging and we are on the verge of firing the contractor, asking for our deposit back, and acting as our own contractor. Sigh.

 To top it off, we still have a few weeks of work to do on Rachel (install a new fridge, solar panel, associated wiring and controllers, etc., etc.) before we can begin to head south. At this rate, we may run out of time and end up having to put her "on the hard" next month, head south in Houdini for the winter, and try again next year. Sigh.










We are managing to keep our spirits up and maintain positive attitudes, partly by looking out Houdini's window at the lovely flowers Julie has planted over the years in front of the house.   We can't live in it because it's rented, but we can enjoy looking at it.


But sometimes it's been difficult as we suffer the "tiles and tribulations" of construction....

Best to all,

Mark & Julie


Update 8 September: Yesterday we decided to stick with our contractor and we now have a tile guy! He's got a great reputation and he's starting work next Monday, so we're guardedly optimistic that the apartment might be ready for it's new tenant by the end of the month.  We'll keep you posted.

22 June, 2017

Hello Rachel

Location: Deltaville, Virginia, USA

Well. Here we are again. Launching a boat. For a change. Hmm...

We got back from Vietnam and spent a few weeks in Blacksburg, tending to our house, spending time with family and getting ready to leave again. Then we headed up to Deltaville with Houdini the RV and Wanda the Honda to spend some quality time with Rachel the Catamaran. After 52 days of pretty much constant work, we launched today. And we're happy to announce that we actually stayed within our budget (just barely), despite a couple of surprises. Good thing we don't bill ourselves for our time!

 We knew the refrigerator and air conditioner didn't work. Fixed in two days. We knew the batteries were dead so we replaced them. We knew the running rigging (the ropes that control the sails) was shot, so we replaced it. We knew the whole boat needed lots of elbow grease as it had not been used for 3 years...the list goes on.
 Our friend Anna helped us with some "up high" jobs.
 Mark working on one of the rudders.
 At least we had a short commute.
 We knew the centerboard lines needed replacing. When we started doing so, we discovered several other issues that required removal of the centerboards. So we had the yard bring over the travelift and raise us from 4" to 4' off the ground so we could pull them out. Then we had to grind off all the old bottom paint, repair several places, recoat them with a special barrier coat, then apply bottom paint. This caused our launch date to slip by about two weeks.

Repaired board ready to apply barrier coat.
 All sealed up.
 And now it's time for the bottom paint.



The 25hp Honda outboard, our main engine, also wouldn't start. After spending a lot of time on it, finding and fixing a particularly tricky wiring issue, Mark gave up on it and we took it to the local outboard repair shop. Two days later we got it back running perfectly.
 Just like old times several cruising friends passed through while we were there, putting boats on shore for the summer, launching boats, and just plain stopping in to see us as they were passing through. We were envious when they sailed away, but we had some wonderful times in the screen room having cocktails, cooking on the BBQs, and socializing.
 Finally it was our turn! We launched the boat today and went for our first sail in near perfect conditions. We were able to tack the boat well, and were able to sail closer to the wind than we managed to on Rachel the Tayana. At one point, close hauled, we made 7.3 knots! Can't wait to see what she'll do on a reach.


Feelin' good!
 We have sails again.
On the dock.






We know this is all a bit technical for those of you who are non-sailors but suffice it to say that after 6 weeks in the boat yard (thank goodness we had Houdini to live in) we have made the great escape back into the world of sailing. New Rachel is happily sitting at our friends' dock waiting for us to do yet another good cleaning and take care of a few minor issues. After that, we'll take her out and do some cruising on the Bay so we can get used to each other on the water.

09 April, 2017

Farewell To Hoi An

Location: Hoi An, Vietnam



Our 3 months in Vietnam is over and we fly home today. We have really had a great time and feel blessed that we have been able to share so many special times and places with so many very special people.

 We feel we found a good balance, splitting our time between immersing into the community and doing some sightseeing. We've seen many wonderful things and know we've only scratched the surface of what Vietnam has to offer.
 Mr. Sinh, our "go to" bike and motorbike rental agent.

The next three ladies - Linh, our eyeglasses lady,











Mark is sitting down :)
 Moon, our shoe lady, and 
 Ngoc, our travel agent were extra special friends. We met and became friends with them early on, and with their excellent English, they really helped us begin to understand their culture.  Not to mention all the willing and able help they gave us when we needed translation or shopping help. 





Our vegetable lady.
 We have gone to the market almost every day to buy fresh food. A few stall holders have adopted us and we eventually became regulars, paying close to Vietnamese prices rather than “tourist” prices for our regular purchases. They don't speak English and we don't speak Vietnamese but we've managed to communicate just the same, using pointing and sign language, calculator and pictures and translations on the cell phone. We didn't want to just disappear from their lives, so we went to the market with a handwritten note in Vietnamese, thanks to Google translate.

“On Sunday we will go back to America. Thank you for your help and patience. We are sorry that our Vietnamese is so bad. We will miss you.”
Our bread lady.


Our chicken lady














We were pleasantly surprised by their reactions. They all read the note, most looked sad, one rubbed her eyes pretending to cry, and another looked like she really might cry. One showed it to her neighboring stall holders. They all smiled, too, and she gave us big hugs. We think not many tourists make the effort we did and they all really seemed to appreciate it.
Our coffee and hard goods lady










We were given a few parting gifts, too - a tiny vial of tiger balm, some extra baguettes, a few extra veggies, a piece of chicken, and, best of all, a lot of smiles. We will miss them all and think they might miss us too.
Our noodle ladies

 We also showed it to the neighbors who had invited us to the street parties. They hugged us and shook our hands and wished us luck (at least we're pretty sure that's what they wished us <grin>).


Our meat market ladies.









Awesome suits!!
It took a lot of discussion, but Julie was finally able to talk Mark out of ordering one of these.












Crack Noodles at Hi's Restaurant.

 Today we were walking along the water front after taking some pictures, passing the tour boats. Their crews always ask "You want motor boat ride?" Every one of them, every time we walk past, the whole time we've been here. Until today.

One lady asks “You want motor boat?” We reply "No boat today, thank you". Like we always do. Every … single ... day.

She then asks "You stay here?"

"Yes we've been here 3 months on Luu Quy Ky St."

She says "Ahh, now we know you live here we will stop asking".

Our jaws drop - what the $&#()><?!!??

"We're leaving today." we say with a smile and we all laugh.

A short break



Traditional music.

A lovely old house.

Looking out into old town.




The Vietnamese love caged songbirds

A very special municipal agency.













SMASH!!
 One traditional game we first saw during the Tet celebrations involves being blindfolded and trying to walk up and break a terracotta pot with a single downward swing of a stick. We were able to give it a try at the Pottery Village Museum and Mark smashed the pot in both of his tries, winning his lovely wife a terracotta prize in honor of International Women's Day.




The 4 of us with Hi and Thao
 Restaurant Hi is right around the corner from our house. We've eaten there many, many times, and have really enjoyed it every time. Hi and Thao are warm, hard working, good natured friends, and we've really enjoyed getting to know them. Their popularity is on the rise as a result of many positive reviews – they've been full up the last two times we've had dinner there. We wish them the best of luck and hope they keep serving those delicious, inexpensive meals!
Happy hour on the front patio.

 Many people come to Hoi An for wedding photos.  This is a pretty typical tableau.  The happy couple in traditional dress and a photographer who sets up and shoots the photos.  We see similar scenes many times every day here.







On Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, Mark met this wonderful old lady while she was selling floating lanterns. He said “Happy New Year” to her in Vietnamese, she replied in kind, followed by the cutest giggle. Since then, we often see her and her husband selling boat rides when we go to the market. Every time we walk past, Mark says “Happy New Year” in Vietnamese, she replies, then giggles. Today we finally stopped and took a photo and a short video - make sure you have the sound up for this one.



video


We were sad to say goodbye to them all. Many thanks go out to all of our lovely friends who helped make our visit so delightful and enriching.