Starting to look really good

One of the maintenance tasks of owning a steel boat is the never-ending battle against rust.  When we bought Orontes II there were quite a few places that needed treatment and  two areas that were serious enough to require cutting out plates and rewelding in new ones.  We have owned her six years now, and each year we have had a major boatyard bill to repair and paint rusted areas.

This year we did it differently.  First, we had 40-50 places where we were developing rust.  All were small, anywhere from one to three inches in diameter.  This was surface rust and only needed removal by wire brushing before painting with an epoxy paint.  I did the rust removal and epoxy painting here in the marina over a period of two months.  This left us rust free, but with a lot of areas of primer showing.

This was when we called the pros.  Chavos Yacht Service is a local firm that does boat repair and painting.  They worked almost a month filling the areas I had painted and sanding them smooth before finish painting the areas to match.  They did a great job and the final buffing and waxing makes Orontes II shine!

We also removed the long wooden toe rails to give us better access to the rusted areas.  These had weathered to a natural gray and Laura had been trying to talk me into letting her varnish them for a long time.  I resisted, feeling I had other things with higher priority, but now that they were removed and sitting on the dock, there was no reason not to work on them.   We had them sanded to get down to fresh teak, and then Laura applied a three step sealing process by Semco to clean, brighten, and seal the teak.  They now look GOOD.  Laura is justly proud of the toe rails and I have to tell her she was right.  It really does add to the boat appearance.  In the photo below, the newly finished toe rail is just above Laura’s head.

Laura getting ready to apply the boat lettering to the bow

Laura getting ready to apply the boat lettering to the bow

The final step was to add the new boat lettering decal to the bow.  Our good friends in Baton Rouge, Randy and Cecile Geauthreax, have a business making signs.  They have a commercial-duty machine to cut vinyl lettering of practically any size. Cecile said they have actually done lettering and graphics for a semi trailer, but that was an unusual order.  While we were visiting them in December, she and Laura went to her shop for an hour and looked at all of the options that were available.  They finally agreed on a font, color, and size, and made two very good looking decals ready to apply.

Here is a short video showing off the port side…

Port Side video

Living on Orontes II

I know it is hard for most people to imagine what it is like for us living on a boat.  After all, we moved from a 2200 square foot house with a two car garage, enclosed workbench area, and 12 x 24 foot storage building into a boat with perhaps 350 square feet of total space.  Well, I won’t say that it’s not different.  However, we have enough room for the things we need, and certainly enough room for us.Forward cabin

Above is a photo of our berth.  It’s hard to get scale, but it is about equal to a queen-sized bed.  It takes up over 30 of those 350 square feet I mentioned!  We purchased a custom made mattress to fit the space and it is very soft and comfy.  Our berth is located near the bow (front) of the boat, and you can see there is some tapering of the berth as you get near the foot.  The only access is from the head, so you climb over your pillows to crawl into bed.  You can see we have storage lockers on either side of our berth.  These are very roomy, and mine is full of clothes while Laura’s contains books and some medical supplies she wants to keep handy.  There are two three-speed fans to keep us cool at night, and they are very quiet, especially on low speed.  The boat has central air-conditioning and heat, but when at anchor a fan is all you need.


Everyone asks about our galley.  For a boat, ours is very spacious, with lots of storage.  Orontes II has a central island where the large double sink and trash compactor are located.  This photo was taken standing on the other side of the island and leaning over the sink.  It shows good detail of the galley, but you don’t see the sink.  The open door to the right is the built-in refrigerator.  Top-opening is generally seen as an advantage on cruising boats.  A front opening door allows a lot of cold air to escape each time it is opened, and when sailing, a lot of the contents may escape as well!  The top opening door makes it harder to get to the things on the bottom, but they stay colder and are more secure.  We use a variety of baskets to hold condiments and small items to keep the interior organized.

In the center of the picture is the three burner propane stove and oven and the microwave above.  The oven is a little cantankerous to light and the oven has no thermostat.  It does have a thermometer and you monitor this while baking, turning the heat control up or down as needed to stay sort of close to the temperature you are supposed to bake at.  As I write this, somewhere on a delivery truck is a brand new, state of the art, shiny, stainless steel stove and oven speeding in our direction.  I expect to receive it next week and it will be a big improvement over the one we have now.  The thermostat-controlled oven will be nice!

Out of the photo to the left is the deep freeze, again top opening.  Frankly, it is larger than we need, and if I’d been around during the original design it would be half this size.  The freezer is over twice as large as the refrigerator and keeps things nice and frozen.  This gives us lots of ice, frozen food, and two frosty beer mugs.


This area is called the salon.  You may call it a dining room, but I’m going to stay nautical here.  You can see the table and settees for eating, and bookshelves behind.  In a pinch, one can sleep here.  The table does not fold down to make a berth like some production boats, but is fixed in place.  Sneaking into the left side of the photo is a brass pole.  This is located on the galley island I mentioned, and provides a secure handhold when moving about while the boat is under way.

Aft cabin sans mattress

Finally, here is the berth located in the aft cabin, but without its mattress.  I included it because it shows the storage lockers we have under all the berths and the settees.  This is where we keep spare parts, tools, sewing supplies, and all the stores required to keep us going for months at a time.  Not shown is a very comfortable custom made mattress.  It was made by the same man who made the mattress for our berth, and we think is a vast improvement over those that came with the boat.  For all of those wishing to visit, this is where you will sleep!

I hope this gives you more of an idea of what our home looks like.  We continue to complete projects to improve her and make her safer and more livable.  We have lived aboard full time only eight months and we look forward to several more years of boat life.


Christmas is for families

First, a sincere Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your families!  Laura and I are blessed far beyond anything we may deserve and we wish the same to you.

It’s been a month since I last posted.  It’s not that we’ve been just sitting around doing nothing, it’s actually that I wanted to wait until a project was complete before I post anything about it.  Well, we have lots of “almost done” projects, and until they are done, I don’t have anything to write about them.  Hint – solar panels, security bars, batteries, and boat painting.

The last few weeks have all been about Christmas and family.  Traditionally, we travel back to Kentucky to spend Christmas with our families.  This is a great time to see parents, brothers, (neither Laura nor I have any sisters), aunts, uncles, nephews (we also have no nieces!), and friends.  We really enjoy getting back together with everyone and sharing time with them.

We always have our Texas Brown’s Christmas together before heading to Kentucky.  This year we met at our daughter Christy’s apartment for dinner and gift exchanges.  At 4:30 the next morning, Laura, Christy, her boyfriend Nic, and I headed north in our Four Runner.  We arrived at 9:30 pm, a little tired but glad to be out of the car.  The next week was filled with family time, eating great food, talking and remembering great times, Mass, exchanging gifts, and celebrating Christmas together.  It was a bit of a whirlwind week that we thoroughly enjoyed.

We had a major downer on the Christmas season, however.  Karen, our much younger sister in law, was diagnosed with a serious condition the day before we were to drive to Kentucky.  Without putting a lot of details here on the internet, let me just say that she and Jay (Laura’s brother) need prayers for support and her healing.  We saw her several times while we were in town and her spirits are good, but those prayers of healing are really needed.

Christy and Nic flew home the day after Christmas, leaving some of their packages for us to bring back in the car.  Laura and I headed back home on December 28, stopping by Fort Worth to pick up gifts we had left there and to deliver gifts to Cory and Christy.  We finally arrived home on Tuesday the 30th.

It is great to be back!  The boat is just like we left it, which means we have lots of unpacking and putting away to do.  Our Christmas lights stay up until this weekend for Epiphany, and then I’ll take them down and store them until next year.  For me, that is always the official end of the Christmas season, and leaves me just a little bit saddened.

Christmas is for families, and we greatly enjoyed our time together with ours in 2014!  Again, Merry Christmas to you and all the best in 2015!

Steve and Laura