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A Dazzling Makeover

Sitting around watching the Kiwi world pass by one day at a time gives you time to ponder many things.  Spiritual, metaphysical, chemical, biological and interior boat design.  Where did that come from?  LOL  Well, Dazzler’s interior saloon cushions have been on board since I purchased her in 2003.  In fact, her saloon cushions may even be original making them 33 years old.  That’s really not bad life expectancy if you ask me.  In 2014 I did replace the seat cushion foam but not the fabric.  With the reality of seeing tread bare areas on some of the cushion surfaces it was time to consider having new cushions made for her.  

You can imagine all the possibilities to consider.  What kind of foam? What kind of fabric? What color fabric?  What style of finished cushions and so on…  If I need to fix something on the engine there is only one part that fits that one engine.  You don’t care about the color or style as long as it is the right part to correct the issue.  Cushion hunting is a different animal.  It’s not like buying a pair of men’s Levi’s 501 jeans.  No no no!  It has to be uplifting, add style and refinement to her interior with just the right amount of je ne sais quoi.

So, while being locked in New Zealand at level 2, we headed to one of the local canvas shops to look at marine fabric and ask enough questions to create another Spanish Inquisition.  We first stopped at Canvas and Covers here in Whangarei as we had bought some fabric from them for other projects on Dazzler.  Lynn at the front of the store was very happy to answer all of our questions and Jilly found a fabric sample that met her criteria for possible cushion fabric for Dazzler’s interior.  

We next needed to schedule a time for their cushion specialist, who by the way, has been sewing fabric and cushions since he was 15 years old.  He looks to be well seasoned with several decades of experience.  A day or two later Paul was on Dazzler taking measurements for a quote.  The quote was provided the next day via email.  It seemed reasonable but we wanted the get a second opinion, as you do.  We made arrangements with another canvas company here in Whangarei.  Their specialist was timely and provided his company’s quote within a day of being on Dazzler.  

The second company was a few hundred dollars cheaper but had too many restrictions on finished styling.  Plus, we both had a very positive feeling from Paul and his level of expertise as well as the personnel at Canvas and Covers.  All of which made our decision very easy.  We had a good Sunbrella fabric selected, a good finished style and a business that we both felt a high level of comfort with.  

We stopped by on a Friday afternoon to leave a deposit and went back to Dazzler to bask in our buyer’s glow.  About 10 days later Paul was back on Dazzler making patterns for the cushions. He was on and off in little over an hour.  The business did allow us the opportunity to take some photos of the manufacturing of the cushions along the way.  We even caught Paul behind the machine actually working.  LOL  Seriously though, from what we’ve seen he is an exceptional worker with a high level of experience and integrity in his work.

The saloon cushions would be removed during the process which would make it a bit uncomfortable.  We decided to be a bit more comfortable and decided to acquire an Air BnB that was about a block away from Dazzler during the cushion construction phase.  While off the boat, I decided to add a little face lift to the galley and navigation station varnish as well.  

Oh…the mess!!!!

The first day I started by removing all the hardware to make varnishing a bit easier.  Bells, whistles, cleats, lights, barometer gauges, wooden phallic symbols, I mean tiki statues, adorning the top of the navigation station.  Once all items were removed I started sanding.  We hadn’t moved up to the Air BnB yet so I made some plastic drop cloth curtains that separated  the saloon from the galley area.  I then started creating a white cloud of sanding dust.  The vacuum was running and the orbital and dermal sanders were whirring; followed by intermittent hand sanding of all the nooks and crannies.  

Day 2, we moved daily operations up to the Air BnB so Jilly could start binge watching West Wing with the provided free Netflix and Amazon Prime video along with full internet access so she could also work on our blog.  I walked down the hill and finished sanding and vacuuming and preparing surfaces for varnishing.  A long day, but a lot was accomplished.  Tape was put down, initial sanding done and I was ready for the first coat of varnish.  During this job there were several areas that did not require being sanded down to raw wood, however, many of the fiddle block edges needed a deep sanding to remove all the old finish from years of use.  Before heading back up to the flat on top of the world, I wiped the raw wood with some good quality teak oil as a wood sealer to help bring back some of the rich teak look on all of the raw wood.

Day 3, I was on board Dazzler early and started the electric heater to warm up the air.  I wiped down all the surfaces to be varnished with a wet rag followed by acetone in an attempt to clean the surfaces from any moisture and dust particles.  Varnish stirred and mixed at about 5:1 ratio of varnish to thinner for the first coat.  I was done varnishing by 0930 hours.  The varnish was setting up well so I added a second coat to those areas that had been sanded down to raw wood.  It was now about noon and time to clean up for tomorrow.  

Day 4, again I was up early and walking down the Vale Road expressway, LOL, at about 0700 hours on my way down to Dazzler for another productive day of sanding and dragging a wet brush of varnish across the boards.  Anyone who has done varnish work knows that preparation is about 90% of the whole job.  I personally find that scratch coating freshly dried varnish is much easier than grinding down those old finishes preparing for the first coats of varnish.  As is the case today.  I scratch sanded all the varnished surfaces and was ready for additional coats of varnish by 1000 hours.  I applied the second coat all over and in some cases a third and fourth coat on those areas that had been sanded down to raw wood.  By 1400 hours I was in clean up mode and getting ready to lock things up for another day completed.  

Day 5, I struggled with the decision of whether to apply a hand rubbed varnish finish or leave the gloss finish.  I finally decided to pull up short and leave the gloss finish in the galley and the navigation station.  Part of me wants to believe that it may be a bit more water resistant around the galley and the opened companion way.  Only time will tell if I have chosen wisely.  LOL

Day 6, early morning again and down the road of life to start cleaning up the mess I had created down below.  Pulled all the tape, re-installed all of the hardware, radios, electronics, gauges, phallic symbols, I mean wooden tiki statues, hula girls, Hector the fire breathing alien and other assorted doodads.  Next clean the saloon with the vacuum, and dust to get Dazzler’s interior ready for the new cushions.

Magic day!  The cushions were going to arrive.  We checked out of our Air BnB, loaded up the car and decided to stop by Canvas and Covers to check on timing of delivery.  We were given a mid afternoon arrival time, so we headed over to one of our local watering holes for an early lunch and then back to Dazzler to wait around the Tiki Statues for Santa Clause to arrive with our new cushions.  Funny that Santa in our case was Paul from Canvas and Covers with his elf, Brendan, the owner.  Just as I had to leave to pick up our floor coverings from the dry cleaners, I saw the Canvas and Covers truck pull up near the dock.  Oh well, I had left Jilly on board just in case they called while I was out.  Upon returning to Dazzler I found Brendan and Paul were still onboard.  A small measurement error and a few cushion backs had to go back for modification.  Knowing how boat projects go from living on board since 2003, we took it in stride.  Just a small bump in the road and everything will be just fine tomorrow. 

The final day.  We were told that it would be about noon for the cushion return.  Actually it was about 0900 hours when the phone rang to inform us that Paul was on his way.  The West Wing binge marathon had caught up with Jilly as she was still slumbering in the bunk.  Even after my attempt to be a human alarm clock earlier.  I’m not sure I have ever seen her move that fast before.  Grape Ape and I just stood back out of the way while the white tornado dressed, applied make up and did her hair in about five minutes flat.  So now the truth has been revealed.  It is possible to get ready to leave the boat in much less than 1-1.5 hours.  Note to self here.  And then Paul was here with our new cushions.  Push here, push there and snap!  Everything looked outstanding.  Dazzler’s interior is so much brighter and cleaner looking.  It is awesome and completely exceeded our expectations.  Color, style and function have now pulled her interior into a much needed fashion update from her time capsule era. 

Jilly is a happy camper!

The finished product looks amazing and we are very satisfied with our choice of fabric, style and the upholstery services of Canvas and Covers in Whangarei, New Zealand.  A little varnish work completed along the way and we are now ready for our next project.  Something greasy I’m guessing!  Ha Ha Ha


Captain Dan

P.S. A few notes from Jilly:  I’m not going to address the West Wing comments because, well, he’s right. I did find myself completely immersed in a week long marathon of West Wing that kept me up until the wee hours of the morning. That said, I did manage to get a lot of work done on the blog for our Dazzler Approved Business pages and I got a nice new haircut!

Our Air BnB was absolutely perfect for us and the added bonus of being able to watch TV and movies we haven’t seen in years was even better. Susan and her hubby David live upstairs and were excellent hosts. The location, just up the hill from the marina was perfect and we definitely recommend their place for yachties or anyone who wants to be close to town and have a terrific unit at a great price.

My new friend, Paul. He’s certainly a gem!

As for the cushions…I’m beyond happy with them. Paul, Lynn, Brendan and the entire crew at Canvas and Covers did an outstanding job! I simply cannot thank them enough for everything. They were helpful, easy to work with and their work is top quality! I HIGHLY recommend them to anyone looking for canvas or upholstery work in this area.

Stand by though…the job is not complete yet. With the beautiful new cushions our old throw pillows simply don’t fit. They don’t match and they look old and ugly so now we are working on finding material to have new ones made. Of course Dan is enjoying every second we spend in fabric stores while I pour over swatches and samples. HA HA  Honestly I think he’s ready to fly my mother in to help. 

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Spreading Happiness

As you all know due to Covid and border closings Dazzler chose to sit out this cruising season and stay in New Zealand until next June. Fortunately for us and many other cruisers the New Zealand government has been very gracious in providing blanket visa extensions to allow us to stay through cyclone season this year. So far, we are clear through February but we’ve also applied for a formal extension to get us through until June.

Not going up to Fiji this year meant we were not able to begin delivering any books to the children. You know, the 2000+ books we raised money to buy and that were donated from organizations like the Lions Club of New Zealand and Kokopu School? The biggest issue became what to do with all of them as we wait for next season to come along. Fortunately our dear friend Allan Gray who owns Wynn Fraser Paints here in Whangerie came to the rescue. He offered to keep them stored at his paint store. There are so many wonderful people who have played a role in this endeavor.

The good news is that we did find three crews that were planning to sail to Fiji this season in spite of not knowing whether or not they would be allowed to come back here or go to Australia during cyclone season. So, two months ago we made arrangements with the Captains of these yachts to drop off boxes of books to them. It was really exciting to know that at least some of the books would be making it to the kids this year. 

Last evening we received word from Richard & Michelle Marshall of SV Pogeyan that they have made their first delivery. They chose the island of Makogai. We visited Makogai last season and spent quite a bit of time with the people there. We donated some clothing and other items to them as well as a brand new volleyball. While I sat and chatted with the ladies Dan played volleyball and soccer with the kids so it was nice to know that some books have made their way to people that we know and love.

Here’s some comments from Michelle and Richard about their delivery…

“Makogai has a small primary school on the other side of the island so we made arrangements to take some of the books over in our dinghy.  But, the weather and seas were too rough the next day so we geared up with backpacks and hiking boots instead.  John (one of the islanders)  led us on the 5 kilometer hike across the island and I was so happy he carried my backpack.  It was heavy!  And he walked there and back in thin rubber dive boots!  He said it was no problem and that he does that hike every day.

As we approached the school I saw one of the students spot us then run over to a large brass bell and start ringing it.  I guess that’s how they announce visitors.  The rough trail we had been hiking emptied onto a large flat open field that was perfectly manicured.  The six or so school buildings lined the edge of the field and were brightly painted and very tidy.  We arrived right at the end of the school day and stood attention during a brief flag ceremony.

The headmaster gathered all the students together on the lawn and introduced us.  He then asked Rich to talk about how we arrived and where the books came from.  The books were then passed around so the kids could look them over. There are 31 students in the school broken into two classes, 1-4th grade and 5th -8th grade.  The kids were very attentive and they seemed to really like the new books.”

We can’t even begin to tell you how delighted we were to get the news. Our hearts were full and for me, tears streamed down my face. To see the smiles on the faces of these children is something I will never forget. I just can’t wait until next season when we will get to deliver books ourselves. For now, we are so grateful for people like Richard and Michelle who volunteered to assist us in this endeavor. They are a treasured part of our cruiser angels team and we look forward to seeing more of their adventures as they continue to spread joy and happiness around the islands of Fiji. 

As for our donors, we hope you enjoy these photographs and assure you that, as promised, we will provide you with continued updates, photos and videos as more books are delivered.


Jilly & Dan

P.S. Our fundraising effort made the news last month as our efforts were mentioned by Cindy Smith in an article she wrote for CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE

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Rebuilding Saves Money

Last cruising season while enjoying the warm tantalizing waters of Fiji, you may recall we had some electrical difficulties with our windlass motor and engine starter.  

I had saved the defective windlass motor with thoughts of possibly rebuilding it.  A few weeks ago Jilly alerted me to a cruiser advertisement of a used Lighthouse windlass motor and parts for sale in the Opua area which is about an hour north of Whangerie.  We made contact with Gary Slidell and eventually made a day trip up to Opua to have a closer look at the used motor.  

We met with Gary and I examined the motor which had been taken apart.  The magnets were still attached and in place inside the cylindrical motor housing.  The end caps and the brush assembly although covered in carbon dust all appeared to be in serviceable condition.  The armature, windings and commutator appeared to be in good condition as well.  Gary only wanted $89 USD for the unassembled, used motor.  He, in fact, sweetened the deal by offering a chain gypsy and a guarantee that if the motor didn’t work once I got it back together, he would provide a full refund.  I figured I had nothing to lose except my time.  

A few days later back in Whangarei, I decided to begin tackling the motor restoration.  One of the long skinny bolts that holds the case together had broken off in one of the end caps.  The first order of business was to get some new bearings, an end cap seal and a new long, skinny case bolt.  Here in Whangarei is a business called Donovans, a place where you can get or order just about anything needed to rebuild electric motors.  This is where I obtained the bearings, seals and some treaded stock and nuts that matched the tread pattern of the damaged end cap.  Next I took the end cap and treaded stock to a local machine shop to have them extract the end bearing, broken machine screw, cut the treaded stock and weld the nuts onto the rods to make new long, skinny case bolts. 

Back at Dazzler I cleaned up the brush assembly, case and other end caps.  Everything was starting to look like a clean motor that might return to life.  The armature and commutator were inspected and found to be in good order.  I did take it to the machine shop to have it turned on a lathe to clean up the surface of the commutator.

Once everything was back from the machine shop it was time to start to get it back together.  First I wanted to give it some fresh paint.  The exterior surfaces were all prepared, primed and finished with a top coat. 

The next day after letting the paint dry, I installed the new bearings and seal and began the reassembly process.  Both end cap joints were slathered with silicone sealant to help keep out water.  Everything looked proper and I didn’t have any parts left over which is always a bonus. The Kevlar coating was then replaced with the aid of a good contact cement.  Now it was time to apply a 12 volt power source and see what happens.  Jilly provided the drum roll and Bam!  It worked both forward and reverse.  Dazzler once again has a replacement windlass motor.  

There are those that might say why not just buy a new motor?  The company address for Lighthouse Manufacturing is in Riverside, California.  The cost of a new replacement motor is approximately $1,200 USD and then there is the shipping of a very heavy electric motor to New Zealand.  I hate to think what that may cost.  Obviously, if we had no other options we would have ordered a new motor. 

All in the cost of rebuilding this used motor in US dollars.

As you can see a working motor at a fraction of the cost of a new motor and it leaves money left over for the next project.  Sometimes rebuilding something can be worthwhile.  This was the first time I have ever rebuilt an electric motor.  Thank goodness for the internet and the plethora of “how to” videos and other valuable information at your finger tips.  As I have said before, “If it’s already broken or not working, You can’t hurt it any more.”  Besides I had a return refund waiting for me if it didn’t work.  LOL  Trying to fix something not working is something I believe in and have employed many times in fixing other issues on Dazzler.  The worst case scenario would be buying and shipping a new motor from the States.  The best case scenario is we saved some money and I learned a new skill of rebuilding an electric motor.  The satisfaction of a “can do” attitude….Priceless!

By the way, the old motor that had stopped working in Fiji would have required a $650 USD rewind on top of new bearings and new brushes.  This motor is identical to the replacement motor currently on the windlass.  I decided to cannibalize some of the parts and save them for a rainy day down the road.  You never know what can happen in Water World and what is useful until you need it and seashells and coconut husks won’t work.  LOL

Until the next time this old man writes another article, stay healthy my friends with fair winds, following seas. 


Captain Dan