don’t believe everything you think

So, I’ve been enjoying the company of this fawn and his mom since late May. I first saw them when the babe was no taller than my cat and wobbling through the woods on his newly-birthed little legs. What a sight that was.

Yesterday at dusk, he was alone on the lawn, but I knew his mom wasn’t far behind. Sure enough, a minute later she stepped from the woods. Imagine my surprise when I saw that she’d grown antlers. Blink. Blink. Really? Get the binoculars (though the couple was quite close). Sure enough. A couple of genuine antlers, complete with forks.

Apparently Mom was off shopping while big brother babysat? I mean, earlier in the summer, I did see the fawn nursing several times. And the dude with the antlers doesn’t have the right equipment for that particular activity.

even during COVID . . .

. . . friends drop by. And sometimes they hang around for a bit.

This dude hung out with me for about three days last week. I would have zoomed in and cropped the photo, but I wanted to remember his littleness. He was mighty minute.

always go

When the water looks like this

there’s no reason not to take a slow, easy trip down the lake. So I packed a cocktail along with a few edibles and jumped on the pontoon. I met only one other boat on my two-hour cruise. Nice having the lake to myself, except for a few fishermen working quietly in the bays.

best boat on the water

OK. Let’s catch up my many thousands of readers with what’s happening with the pontoon project.

With the first coat of thinned-out spar varnish happily lapped up by the bare pristine marine plywood, I applied the required coat of marine wood primer.

I had to tape off the fence and helm. Would have been easier to do the painting without the fence, but I wanted to fish during June and somehow driving the boat around without the rail was very disconcerting. So I opted for the extra work of painting the deck in two stages.

I was finally able to put my roller into some blue paint and get started on the real color of the boat deck.

Yikes. I ended up with this splotchy mess. 🙁 Do I need to resort to carpeting? I added grit (actually pumice) to the paint to prevent it being slippery.

Here’s hoping subsequent coats don’t look like finger painting by a toddler.

It actually turned out pretty good. Hard to get a detailed look because of the sheen, and since it’s not perfect, you don’t really want a detailed look anyway. But, you know what? When I’m boating on Trego Lake? I don’t spend a lot of time looking at the boat deck.

I took a little break in here because of some strange weather — a lot of wind. It’s hard to paint with the boat moving around and also tons of rain, which wreaks havoc with 24-hour-dry-time marine paint. But finally I removed the fence again, parked the boat against the shallow, sandy shore and began painting the sides and back. Five full coats of stuff again.

Finally, with the entire deck painted, I was able to replace the fence and for the first time attach the front part with the gate.

I didn’t have enough of the teal for the front skin, so I improvised. Both sides of the fabric are exposed when the skin is finished and since I had nothing in my stash suitable to show both sides, I sewed together this patterned teal and an off-white.

I cut the patterned vinyl 1/2″ larger than the off-white, spray-glued them together, then top-stitched around the perimeter. This, I hope, will prevent moisture and mold from accumulating between the layers.

Because of its fragile state, and the fact that it takes octopus arms, I waited for Kent and Brenda to be here before I attempted putting on the bimini. I plan to buy a heartier bimini next year. The vinyl on the floor is not attached, so I can easily remove it and hose it off.

I still want to build some unique furniture, which is hard to describe and the helm needs a door on the driver’s side. That should have been done this past week, but it rained. A lot.

No project is ever completely done. That would spoil all the fun. But the boat is very comfortable for now and the motor always starts. Yay.

who needs a play date

Every morning in summer I stumble from bed, brew a coffee and take a spot on the front steps of the deck. The photo above is my front yard and you can bet I’m aware of how lucky I am.

This morning I caught movement to my left and was treated to a sight I’ve never seen before: a fawn playing tag with his mom.

God knits

It’s the only way He maintains His sanity after a day of watching our madness.

And just think. What if there are hundreds of other planets where beings are just as idiotic as we are? Good God!

life on a continuum

Life itself probably runs on kind of a continual timeline, but blogs, not so much. So let’s back up a little. What I called a pontoon boat — but was really a raft bereft of anything but four sheets of expensive plywood and two pontoons — left my hands on the fateful day that the Amphibious Superheroes jumped out of nowhere at the Trego Boat Landing. I subsequently delivered a homemade helm. At that time Tom at Shell Lake Marine said I would get the boat back with a motor in about a week.

And it was exactly a week. Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend, I got a call from Shell Lake Marine and met Tom at the landing where he had my, um, kinda “boat” ready for launch. I brought a lawn chair, a life jacket, a throwable (part of boating regulations is that you have a throwable life preserver on the boat), boat registration and one Leinies Summer Shandy. Because no boat should be launched without a beer. In Wisconsin Leinies is mandatory. (Sorry other Wisconsin breweries. I love you all, but in my family Leinies is a tradition.)

So here’s what I sent to the marina:

And here’s what I drove back from the landing:

Huck Finn would be jealous. I must admit that it was a bit unnerving driving along with no rail. And I loved waving at all the big shiny boats out on the lake on the busiest weekend of the year. That odd lady with the . . . thing on pontoons. But look how easy it is to clean! Just drive real fast and the dirt blows off!

I did enjoy my Shandy, though. Should have taken a selfie and sent it to Leinies with a caption “Join me out here. And don’t fall off.”

Unfortunately I managed to take the picture without showing the motor. But it’s a motor. You know. A boat motor. The most admirable thing about it is that it starts. Unlike its predecessor.

the sunflower pontoon

Every now and then there bursts upon you a terrific solution that should have been there all along — and probably had been. While I’ve been struggling away trying to strip the layers of paint from the aluminum pontoon “skin” — I discovered recently that that’s the official name for the stuff — I’ve also been searching for an innovative material with which to replace it. There HAS to be something better than aluminum that will require hundreds of dollars in stripper, at least that many hours of my time (picturing myself next November wearing blaze orange to prevent being shot by deer hunters while I’m still scrubbing away at layers of faded paint) and still end up looking like, well, repainted aluminum.

Then it happened.

I know pretty much every boat that goes by here. OK. Maybe not by heart, but the boat that came rocketing around the corner last Saturday was definitely not one I’d seen before. Sunflower yellow and occupied by a lone young blonde, she scooted on past. The color of the boat and the driver sans companions were notable. But the incredible thing about this boat was the skin. It was floating…. ok, billowing. It was made of something like parachute material. The wind caught it just so, which had it fluttering quietly up the lake like nothing I’d seen before. This was not a boat. This was a butterfly on pontoons driven by the Princess of Trego.

Kent and Brenda went on a canoe ride last week (long after my first sighting) and FOUND the sunflower pontoon. So we drove up there and took some pictures. That’s all fabric on the sides. Sunflowery, huh?

And suddenly my solution was upon me! I too, could use fabric for pontoon skin. I SPRUNG into action. Well, no. To tell the truth. I stood there for awhile because I’ve seen thousands of pontoons drive by my house and I have to say that not one of them ever fluttered. So I watched awhile as she met up with another boat and they did a sort of mating dance in the wide bay upstream before disappearing into the evening mist.

Then I trudged up Killer Hill and took stock of my fabric. Nothing worked except one piece of vinyl canvas. I scratched my head and measured and re-measured and determined that I didn’t have enough. Trouble was that the fabric had to show on both sides and I didn’t have enough of anything that was suitable. All my vinyl is backed with something either kind of fuzzy and white or printed with the manufacturer’s logo. Not what you want on the outside of your boat. I walked around for two days with a deep frown.


But then I measured again. In fact, I took the half-stripped skins and laid them out on the fabric.

They just barely fit, but I was able to do it. I cut them out 1/2 inch too big all around, then hemmed them on the sewing machine. I started out ironing the hems, but was terrified that I’d melt a hole through the vinyl-coated fabric. I have no idea what this fabric is, where I got it or where to get more. If I managed to melt it, there would have been no way to replace it. So I ended up just sewing the hems without ironing, which turned out easy enough.

I then RUSHED to the hardware store and, with the help of Al, bought sheet metal screws and fender washers with which to screw the hemmed fabric to the rails. Skin at last.

It was impossible to keep all wrinkles and faults out of the canvas as I stretched it to fit the old holes, but did my best.

In fact, Kent and Brenda were here for the weekend and helped a lot with getting the last of the canvas attached to the rail. Sun angle and other factors make it look imperfect, but once it was on the boat. . .

I thought it brought some nautical class to the project. Not your typical pontoon boat. . .

Here’s the finished rail a little closer. Also showing the first coat of something on that poor neglected deck. Finally!

good sense

You have the admire the sense of humor of a God who invents a bird the size of a walnut that eats by sticking its tongue in the throat of a flower and flies backwards and another that sits sideways on branches and says whippoorwill for hours without taking a breath.

shine on

With hummingbirds dive bombing the feeder behind me, this was one glorious spring day of work. The weather finally decided to give up winter and handed over a day of sunshine and not-too-hot-to-work weather that didn’t require choppers and Sorrels. A welcome relief.

I put the long aluminum pontoon rails — I think they’re officially called fence — on sawhorses on the deck to be spruced up. Last year I’d removed the panels that prevented small children and pets from crawling overboard. Having none of the above on the boat as regular passengers, this wasn’t a concern, but I did mean to eventually replace these panels. Trouble is, they look like this.

Believe it or not, they looked worse when they were on the boat. That chartreuse is the color of the boat when we bought it in 1985. I’m sure we paid extra for the color. Some year in the past, I couldn’t stand it anymore and painted it navy. A different year I painted it red. THOSE colors are very cooperative in letting go their grip from the aluminum. The School Crossing Guard Green? Not so much.

So, here’s what I’m doing. I found some CitriStrip, which I’ve used on a few projects in the past that eats right through Red and Blue, but finds Chartreuse a bit of a challenge. The Pontoon Factory back in ’72 no doubt had a torturous technique for getting that substance to stick to the aluminum under pain of death. It doesn’t help that the aluminum is stamped with a wood grain texture. Probably made from aluminum trees. Quite rare. Found in the arctic, I believe, where they can withstand the cold.

I finally did get to the bottom of things using some stray brushes and lubricant of the elbow persuasion. Metal scrapers are out of the question because that fragile aluminum scratches easily. The pressure washer was only partially helpful. The panel above is for the pontoon fence door. About two feet wide. I only have 3, 784 square feet to go. Both sides. I suspect this is a summer-long job that will be done while there’s a good book on my headphones.

Because that little piece started out looking like this:

I’m not sure I need to get it to bare aluminum as the paint I intend to use — Rust-Oleum that’s how they spell it on their website –Top Side Marine Paint claims the metal primer doesn’t mind a bit of residual paint. I’m thinking that if my elbow grease, scrub brushes and chemicals can’t remove it, then it’ll stay put under a coat or two of paint.

I did actually consider leaving the sides sans paint, but Ansel pointed out that it might be a bit hard on the eyes. Especially on sunny days. We’d look like a block of Reynolds Wrap with a motor.

De Rail

Meanwhile, there was the rail. It’s in good enough shape to re-use, so I bought a magnum tub of Flitz polish and began to get it all shined up.

Photos don’t do justice to the magnificent difference the polish makes. Rub on the Flitz and you can see the black corrosion start to come off. It takes a LOT of rags to get all the black stuff off, but it really shines things up. I cut up several old towels to absorb the mess.

Flitz sent along a couple of these buffers that attach to a regular drill. I kept wearing out the batteries on my cordless drills, so finally plugged in the old reliable and it did a great job. But this was hours of buffing. I preferred the quiet of hand buffing. The strain on my hand was about the same when you factor in holding a 50-year-old 350-lb Craftsman drill that wants to spin out of control every five seconds. Indeed I may have missed the cry of a loon flying overhead during the hours of polishing.