Wednesday, February 23, 2011

On Dead Things

Taxidermy is a helluva thing. Growing up, it was pretty much relegated to the natural history museum or rednecks. It sought to educate or it was shorthand for "dumb hick" in the media. Note, when I talk of taxidermy, I don't mean antlers. Antlers have an artsy, structural appeal that transcends preserved skin on the walls. Alaska, is the land of stuffed dead things. It does one of those circle things where you start at "kinda cool" move into "holy shit, that's a lot of taxidermy" right into "that's so many dead creatures it's cool again." like a John Belushi sketch.

I realized there are only a few categories of mounts (that is the technical term for taxidermed things). These are: Fierce, Majestic, and Furnishings.

Fierce runs the gamut from wolverines to bears. I challenge you to find a bear mount that doesn't have it's mouth open, ready to tear out your trachea. It is 100% like that Far Side comic. In the Anchorage Airport, there is a display with two mouth-open polar bears in a plexiglass display. One is standing up on two legs, one is down on all fours. Both want to eat your innards. In the wild, though, these two would fight each other rather than you since their personal space bubbles are huge due to the sparse food in their range. Also, up on two legs is a curious, checkin things out pose for a bear. Think of it like prarie-dogging in cubicle land. Up is not a fight pose.

The smaller, varmint critters are usually taxidermed as fierce. Perhaps the hunter wants to feel justified killing a 9-pound thing. These have their teeth bared and are protecting a kill or carrion. These approach furniture category since they often are in a coffee table, but they are fierce first. Wolverines are the most common fierce little thing, but they are pretty much super badass so they get a pass from me.

Next up are the majestic creatures. These are often antlered/horned quadrupeds looking wistfully in the distance with their dead, glass eyes. You will find several deer, sheep, boar, goat, moose, caribou, elk or bison heads staring wistfully through you, to your soul. I doesn't matter if it is a full cape mount or just the face, they all look like this. They are pining from the leas or crags they came from. Ducks on the wing or other fowl in flight fit here too. Look at that goose, trying to migrate when someone shot it and decorated the den with it's carcass.

Last is furniture. This category includes all the wall hangings, rugs and decorative items featuring the skins of dead things. Wolves are most often furniture. Wolf pelts as decorative throws are common enough not to warrant notice anymore. Bear skins on the wall and floor are in about every other home in Alaska. The funniest by far are the plexiglass scenes under the fauxoak coffee table. You can stick anything in your own, personal natural history museum in the rumpus room. I have seen fish, quail, muskrats, and snakes. The taxidermist is an artist and likes to include various twigs and berries to complete the life-like scene.

Anyway, taxidermy is inherently funny. It's doubly funny to me since I found out how much it costs. (It is incredibly expensive.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My boat is sexy

I've been buried by a boat for about a week and a half. I have ate, slept, breathed boat work. Fun isn't the word I'd use.


Axel on the lift in the Ventura Boat Yard. This is after her wheelhouse was cut off so it could be trucked.


Boat, right after she arrived. Note the abundance of crap stuck to her hull.


So clean, pretty and gray. Getting her to this state was an awful affair. I have done many dirty, gross jobs in my life but scraping/grinding/painting the underside of this boat was by far the worst work ever.


From this...


To this. It's all worth it, I guess. She is so pretty. I like to stand under her bow and just rest my head against the steel. It will be a lot more work.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Hello Gorgeous

I finally saw Axel. She's beautiful. Although Axel is a german boy's name (Thanks, H!) the boat is clearly a she. Axel is simply too lovely to be masculine. She is stout and graceful, in the way Ed Monk hulls just are. My camera crapped out so I don't have any pictures (will have some soon).

We'll start the transformation process tomorrow, and all the ugly will go away.

The keel is a thick steel i-beam with a 10-inch flange. I think the steel cladding the hull is 1/4 corten steel, but it may be A36. (I've been learning ASTM steel standards and specs. Yay for me!) Everything is largely intact and there will only have to be small patches over some pinholes in the hull. The deck is about 80% intact and a few panels will have to be scrapped and replaced. We had to cut the wheelhouse down to be able to truck it so that will require an entire rebuild.

I only have 2 weeks to be here and work on this with tDF. Hopefully we'll make some strides and be able to weld right after I leave. In the meanwhile I'll be scrapping all the assorted sticky gunk from everywhere. The stern has a pretty attractive accumulation of bilge water, hydraulic fluid, diesel residue, and fish ick.

I never knew I could love a boat, but I love Axel. It's my first child.