of wind and amphibious superheroes

There’s really no way to describe the de-launch of my crippled, ugly Huck Finn raft posing as a pontoon boat. As I said, my neighbor, Craig, had agreed to tow me to the landing with his pontoon, so with Tim’s help we pushed her into the water, I jumped onto Craig’s boat and took the tow rope.

It had occurred to me as I fell asleep the night before (lots of things occur to me in that state) that there was nowhere to tie a rope to the boat. So in the morning, I took a couple of the cleats from the old deck and attached them to the front, reinforcing them with a couple of pieces of 2×4 so they wouldn’t rip out the plywood under pressure. It was brutally cold at 8 am while I did this. I knew it would be impossible to use the drill wearing choppers, so I went inside for another cuppa and tried again when the sun worked its magic. Which it never did. Why is 40 in May colder than 40 below in January?

Can’t use a drill driver while wearing these. They’re essential for ice fishing, though.

When we got to the landing, I could see that there was a boat being launched, which I thought was probably my pickup. The marina schedules pickups for when they’ll be launching another boat at the same landing. In an effort to pull my boat alongside Craig’s and maneuver it up to the landing, (there was NOTHING to grab on my boat. It was like working with a jellyfish) we started blowing all over the place and ended up two doors down from the landing bumping into the dock of these people who ran out of their house. (In alarm, I’m sure but I was too alarmed to tell, although I did notice they had a $40,000 pontoon on a lift and a sparkling new dock which my raft was bumping wildly in the wind when the rope let loose from one of the cleats.) It was mayhem.

Nope. Not fit to be tied. And NOTHING to grab when pulling alongside. Rails are really handy on boats. And not only to keep people from falling overboard.

My vote was to simply go to the landing and let the Professional Boat Launchers lure the boat onto the trailer in some magical way. All this was negotiated in yells over the wind while trying to instruct the poor dock owner how to use a cleat and a rope. At one point, Craig gunned the motor and we were inches from hitting my boat broadside and pushing it into the peoples’ dock probably maiming Mom, Guy Trying to Tie, Child and Two Large Yellow Labs who love to be in small spaces with lots of people yelling and proclaiming alarm. The louder we yell the faster their tails wag.

My knees went weak.

Finally we cleated (a new verb as of today) the rope and swung back around to the landing where 97 people were waiting to launch their boats — annoyed, freezing, but no doubt plenty entertained by the Craig and Barb Huck Finn Raft Show. As we approached, four guys in wet suits ran down the landing into freezing water up to their shoulders, grabbed my boat and pushed it onto the trailer.

I was aghast.

I yelled, “Do you hang around landings just to save boats?”

Deadpan. “No.”

how rude. that’s why it’s called an evinrude

But the worst thing that happened was that the motor. . . well. . . . It fell off the boat. In fact, the entire assembly that holds the motor on the boat fell off. This could possibly be the result of my having unbolted it from the boat. Yes, I’m sure it’s because there was nothing holding it and the boat together.

So a couple of days ago, during one of my climbs over the big round pontoons to get under the frame, I noticed that the transom was a bit unstable. It suddenly occurred to me that there was nothing holding it in place but a couple of rusty bolts. It was staying in place only because the motor itself was standing on the ground inches from the bottom of the lake.

Now it had slid down and was IN the lake and took the entire transom with it. With my usual razor-sharp quick thinking, I pulled one of the old pieces of decking over and detached the motor to lay it down.

Yes, I see that my finger is in the picture. I had just run up the Killer Hill for my boots, was standing in the water and was still totally freaked out about this accident. It was one of the more discouraging moments of this project. I have no idea what they’re filled with, but boat motors weigh 850 pounds each (warning: exaggeration). But really! What kind of junk is inside there that makes them so impossibly heavy?

Not to be defeated, and knowing I would need help, I removed the four bolts that held the transom to the motor (or vice versa, if you think that way) which now made the thing light as a feather and I was able to bolt it to the bottom of the boat while holding it up with my knees. Lying on my back.

But wait. There’s more. As with most projects, I’m eager to get to the upside, meaning that the tear-out is fun and all, but the best part is seeing the project take shape as you build up the new part. So I was eager to get that new plywood bolted down. So eager that I put this piece on three times.

First, I realized that the cables were still stuck under there in a way they couldn’t be released. Remove new plywood number 1. Next morning I walked down tools at the ready and realized that I hadn’t removed the old bolts from the transom and they were occupying the holes in which I needed to put the new bolts. They were trapped under the plywood. Remove new plywood number 2. And this one entailed hacking the rusty bolts off, one broken hacksaw blade and. . . a transom/motor-fall-off-the-boat disaster.

For the record, I did try clamps, but they didn’t work.

Now I had two major issues. Get the motor out of the lake and get the boat into the lake. Neither of these activities were lone jobs. I like to do things myself and asking a friend to come over on a day with a high of 44 degrees, 20-mile-an-hour north winds, stand in water up to his knees and lift a 250 pound motor out of the water is way more than any friendship could endure.

Every problem has a solution:

When Tim said he’d use his tractor for the motor, I thought he’d be nuts to drive it into the lake. Just shows you how different brains work on different paths. Maybe I should accept help more often. He pulled the hood off the motor, had me jump in and attach a hook to the gadget on the motor (presumably made for such things), drove to the edge of the lake, picked up the motor and placed it on the boat along with its accompanying cables and steering.

Unfortunately, in my excitement I didn’t take a picture of the crusty old motor laying on the boat on a tarp. Too bad, because I had ample time before Craig arrived to tow me to the landing.

And that is a story unto itself.

Meanwhile, Tim cut down a rotten old tree in the yard.

steering committee

Indeed, I should have had a committee to figure out how to get the steering and gear cables maneuvered around all the obstacles so I could disengage them from the boat without disconnecting them from the motor. Believe me, I tried that and it wasn’t going to happen. As in life, it’s the steering that’s the most complicated, right? ha.

So here’s the strange homemade aluminum console we’ve had for 20-some years:

Very strange. And no cup holders. What’s a captain to do with her Leinies?

I managed to get enough slack in the cables to detach it from the deck, but the cables are still attached to the gear box and steering wheel, which are attached to the console.

And here’s how it met its demise at the hands of a reciprocating saw:

I just cut out a big hunk of aluminum with the steering wheel and cable attached.

Reciprocating saws are an amazing invention, but I’m afraid I have rattled my brain to the point of no return. It’s an octopus job. One needs at least two hands to hold the saw and if the object being cut is not stable, it’ll just bounce all over the place. I thought of clamps, but that wasn’t going to work, so I used knees, feet, butt, legs and every other body part until the deafening roar of the saw was over and I had this steering mechanism with a hunk of aluminum attached. Probably should have worn a football helmet. Me, not the steering.

There have been a lot of really lucky aspects to this project. In spite of a few stubborn rusty bolts and broken hacksaw blades, a lot of things fell into place beautifully. I ordered marine plywood from the lumberyard and they said it was out of stock and might not be in until …..yada yada. Of course, I’m under a tight deadline here. And yada yada won’t work. Then I was concerned that they would drop it at the top of the hill near the cabin which would be pretty much useless, since I can’t carry 4×8 sheets of plywood around by myself. I happened to be coming up the hill when the yard driver pulled up in a 4×4 pickup. A day earlier than anticipated! Yes!

I said, “You can back down the hill and drop it near the water.”

He said, “I don’t think so.”

I said, “Yep. Do it.”

We unloaded five sheets of beautiful plywood onto the boat deck. HA! All I had to do was slide them into place and bolt them down. Well, “all” is a pretty misleading word.

I also had to find someone to tow me to the boat landing and found my really good friend/neighbor, Craig Roesler was not busy Friday afternoon and happy to help. Then, there was the problem of getting the boat pushed into the water. Although it’s inches from the water — I can’t walk behind it without getting my feet wet — it’s pretty solidly set into the ground. This is a good thing, because I’ve spent a lot of time under that rascal and I was glad it wasn’t rolling around threatening to take me for a wet ride into the Namekagon.

Tim Sather is the one who does my spring and fall maintenance — dock and boat put-in and take-out. He just happened to call yesterday and said he’d be in the neighborhood taking down some trees. I had mentioned that I wanted a tree taken out and he was following up. He offered to stop over and help out.

So everything falls into place.

the accidental project

So since the pontoon is still on land because the @)$%*@^&@)%* motor won’t start AGAIN, I decided to clean these crusty pontoons that have been sitting in the water for 35 years.

The Namekagon Waters are tannin stained meaning they’re supremely clean, but brown with the stain of whatever’s upstream.

What causes that “root beer” color in some lakes?

from Wisconsin DNR

Sometimes described as root beer, coffee, tea, or bog stain, such coloring is natural for many waters in northern Wisconsin. The coloration is not harmful and results from incompletely dissolved organic materials, sometimes referred to as tannins, which come from the decomposition of wetland plants in the watershed of the lake. Often, the greater the amount of wetlands in the watersheds, the darker the color of the water. Since the predominant land type in the watersheds of northern Wisconsin lakes is often a mixture of forests and wetlands, this can result in many lakes having this dark coloration.

Knowing full well that they were swamped with eager anglers wanting to get on the water for the fishing opener, I called Shell Lake Marine to see if they could ONCE AGAIN fix my poor crippled Evinrude and they said they could pick up the pontoon next week Friday. That gave me exactly eight days to get some maintenance done. You know, the kind that can only be done on land.

Thursday was a nice day, so I loaded the wagon with every cleaning agent in the house and shed and headed down to the lake. I sprayed and sponged on pretty much everything in my arsenal and here’s what happened.

Magic. It was Flitz Metal Pre-Clean that did this. Yes, Flitz from our own Waterford, Wisconsin. Since I had one little spray bottle of it, I knew I needed more, so I went online and ordered a gallon, paid expedited shipping and had it in hand Friday morning. Well, first I talked to a very kind woman who told me this would happen. I was delighted.

No more tannin:

I used it very sparingly and did not scrub. Just used a sponge.

Pontoons came out nice and clean. If I get time, I’ll crawl around underneath and get the black stuff off the bottom, although it’ll be far under water when the boat is launched.

It started to rain just after noon on Friday, so my work was cut short and I had to run for cover with my big rolling toolbox and collection of rags and sponges. Up The Killer Hill!

Here’s the accidental part: I pulled off the skirting around the edge and discovered that, although the deck is still firm, it’s pretty rotten and the carpeting has been driving me nuts with its colonies of algae. I debated on whether I had time in eight short days to replace the deck. [cartoon of me with hair standing on end] Yikes.

I guess the decision made itself. I’m committed now. I’ll need a new deck by next Friday when I need to have a friend tow the boat to the landing for pick-up by the marina. A deck would be mighty handy during that process..

Saturday was sunny and warm. Potential for a full day of work. So I removed the rail, skirting and the first of the 4×8 deck sheets. Everything is going well and suprisingly all the bolts and nuts removs easily in spite of a lot of rust. The only problem is that some of the carriage bolts holding down the deck are turning with their bolts because the wood is too rotten to hold them. So those have to be cut off with the oscillating tool from underneath. A bit cramped and very loud with the sound bouncing off aluminum pontoons. Plus my blades were far from sharp.

Trip to the Hardware Store for one new blade that should make it through this project, I hope. By 4:00 my body was wearing out. This morning it’s rebelling mightily. Could it have been lifting that 4×8 water-sodden, carpet-covered piece of 3/4″ marine plywood? Huh.

can-can canopy

So for the last five years, I’ve been putting up a 10×20 foot canopy on the deck at Libby’s. This is incredibly useful for things like watching Cubs games. Better than Wrigley because you have the lake and no problem with parking.

The first year, I just stuck it out there and it survived the summer without a hitch. I maneuvered a clever way to put it together myself and had a great summer. The next couple of years, with the wind as its partner, it took to dancing. Once, I found it lying on its head in the yard. Last week I watched it shuffle off in the direction of the lake taking several lawn chairs with it.

So, following the “keep doing the same thing expecting different results” rule, I


As you know, the hardware store is one of my favorite places, but this trip was especially exciting after four weeks of pandemic isolation.

After drilling 3,465 holes

through the support pipes and adding the bolts and locknuts, I had the thing pretty sturdy. I used a corded drill from Ancient Sears because my cordless was too wimpy to take on this job. I also had to make another trip to the HS to get a new drill bit when the old one wore out. I discovered the amazingness of drill bits that don’t walk. In other words, when drilling into something round and slippery, it’s nice to have a bit that’s disciplined enough to stay in the spot where you want the hole throughout the drilling process.

I also made a contraption for the one leg of the canopy that had to be on the lower deck.

In past years, I’d used the milk can that happened to be exactly the right height. But the leg never wanted to stay on the milk can. Or, it’s possible the can didn’t want the leg standing on its head. Who knows what goes on in the night?

A bit of paint on this pegleg should spruce it up a bit. And it looks like painting the deck should be added to my list of summer projects, too.

Of course, after all the work of bolting this thing together methinks it will spend its winters outside. Without the actual canopy attached, there will be no snow load so it should survive just fine.

fair faucet*

Most projects result in that domino thing and this was no exception. Dominoes: one project requires you to first do another and that one requires another, etc etc.

The dishwasher (yes. I wanted a dishwasher because I use a lot of dishes and like to hide them when they’re dirty. A dishwasher is good camouflage for spaghetti-stained plates and mungy coffee cups.) required a new countertop. Libby’s was due for a new kitchen counter anyway. That was in The Plan way back when I first put in the kitchen. I left a 24″ space at the end of the lower cabinets so I could move them down and fit a dw next to the sink. The New Faucet, however, was not in the plan. I really liked the little faucet that lived there for the past 20 years.

There it was, serving its purpose and being cheap and plastic for, you know, years. But, when the dishwasher and counter were installed (I didn’t attempt this. Bruce did it and he did a great job.) it lost its flux capacitor. When he reinstalled it after the new counter, it began with a bit of stiffness which led to more aches and pains, then a lot of stiffness to the point where I needed two hands to turn it on, which kind of renders the single handle idea moot. I dissembled it and thought I’d get a new cartridge. Up North has many attributes, but convenience isn’t among them. It’s about 30 miles to the nearest Menards, where I could even hope to find a cartridge for a Very Old Inexpensive Off-Brand Faucet, so I bought a new one. Faucet. Not cartridge.

So here it is all shiny and new and I guess I can part with the old one now that this one is installed and working. And so fashionably matching the old stainless steel sink.

*If you didn’t live through Charlie’s Angels, you won’t get the reference. Is there anything NOT on Wikipedia? I mean, who sat down and wrote an in-depth article about a tv show from the 70’s?

your private suite awaits

Sofa bed #2 got itself done today, thanks to the weather (no rain) and many other lucky charms, luck which apparently didn’t extend to either the kitchen faucet or my trusty laptop. So after a fruserating morning squeezed under the kitchen sink with my back arched awkwardly over the cabinet base, my patience reached its limit and I and went outside to wrap up the project that’s been languishing out there. The good thing about this project is that there are no persistent leaks or nuts that won’t tighten, just boards to be sawn and screwed together. I got the bottom portion done yesterday.

So I put on the casters and flipped it over. Then I made the backrest.

Aaaaaannnddd, prepare to be amazed! Finished product in the Shower House / Craic House / BunkHouse.

Cozy up to sleep, read, or enjoy a bit of craic. Once I get the whole space spruced, I’ll show off the rest of it. Fit for a king. Or maybe just a Jackpine Savage.

my bed-brained idea

I love things — furniture, gadgets, utensils — that are able to serve more than one purpose. Topping that list is furniture. It’s a sofa AND a bed. A sofabed. Genius. Wish I’d thought of it. (even though it was probably invented sometime in the 1850’s, I’m sure) So when I came across plans on a website called homemade-modern.com, I ciphered and outlined and thinked and reconfigured the design around in circles until I came up with the thing I wanted. Don’t laugh. It looks like this:

Tricked out with cushions and pillows, it’s much more comfortable.

I’ve always wanted a sofa-type thing in the bunkhouse, and got by for years with a fally aparty futon. I never liked that futon (I hope it found a good home after I donated it to wherever). What I wanted was a way to offer guests a couple of beds for singles or a double for couples. Most sofabeds come in Size Queen — and the bunkhouse has no business entertaining royalty, the building being classed size Gnome or littler.

The backrest is not attached so it lifts out to add more room for cozy sleeping. Here I have it tucked against the wall. Looks like a fence, I know. Don’t Fence Me In.

So that’s one single bed. The other is under construction. Don’t hire me. I’m slow. (And very bad.) But not idle. Between making the two beds, I’ve installed the water line for the ice maker in the new fridge, took a long boat ride, fixed the lawnmower so I could mow the lawn, planted the garden, created a new garden where we dug up the spot for the new deck steps last summer, went to the Spooner Garden Club plant sale to sell raffle tickets for FISH, replaced the pump head on the presser washer so I could pressure wash the deck, cleaned the tool shed, put up the canopy, took down the canopy in a blizzard, put the canopy back up, spent a weekend in Duluth to see Connor Scaro play music (he is incredible!), helped my friend, Jim Bishop, create a PowerPoint presentation, confirmed Internet service at the Trego Town Hall, and watched seven Cubs games. (Silly me. I end every day and week saying “I didn’t get anything done.” Even though I know Cubs games don’t count.)

I’m building the second bed down near the bunkhouse because they are Very Heavy. Several friends have randomly stopped by — a couple of them skilled carpenters — and politely asked why I opted for treated lumber. Because. Remember my first sentence in this post? I like things to be multi-purpose. If I ever decide I want to use these as benches on the deck or around the campfire, then we’re all set! Never mind that we need a football team to move them. They’re MULTI-PURPOSE.

Casters help.

homeless shelter

Someone has taken up residence in the outdoor shower.

They really are robins egg blue. I wonder if she’d mind if I borrowed an egg to match paint at the hardware store.

forecast: showers

So, when I ripped the old shower out of the “shower house”, as it was called then, I really liked the way the space opened up. In fact, I had thought of making it into a bunkhouse or kind of a tiny home, but I couldn’t finagle a bed in there unless it was standing up. I thought guests might complain. But WHOA! Once I removed the plastic stand-alone shower, there were copious possibilities for my little shack.

Next, I bought a little portable building in which to put tools, nails, screws and presumably lawnmower and pressure washer, but the two last ones were pushed out by whatever-the-hell-is-taking-up-all-the-space and continue to reside under the deck.

Once the place was empty, I painted, spruced, cleaned and got Orkin to evict the mice who’d been living there for generations. That was in 2016. Then! Then it struck me that I should put the shower outside. It would be easy for me to plumb it into the back side of the building because there’s water there already AND a water heater. HA! Hot showers in nature.

I thought I would just build a little platform and put a new plastic stand-alone shower out there. It would look kind of ratty being all white, but I had some ideas. Well. Justin Pistohl who did the siding on the house and shower house surprised me with this new cedar shower. He texted me this picture while I was gone for the weekend. What a guy.


Soooo glad I didn’t put a white plastic shower out there.
I just took my first shower. It’s awesome.
A roomy shelf for extras.