Monday, January 9, 2017

Hole In The Boat, V. 2.0. Port Light Rebedding

'Tis the season.  At least here in the PNW:  rain, rain, and more rain.  And over on s/v Rubigale, Dana has found a solution to a problem we have all had at one time or another... a leaking port:
“I’m so happy to have found a leak on my boat!” she says with a big smile. The expressions on others’ faces are astounded, confused, or horrified.

“OK, how about I finally LOCATED a leak on my boat!” The response is definitely more congratulatory, occasionally tinged with a little sadness or jealousy.  Rubigale’s starboard side has been plagued with leaks since I bought her in the summer of 2014.

Once the torrential downpours of the Seattle fall appeared, drips ran down the overhang in the salon and puddled on the shelf. One of the three screws that holds in my barometer would cry every time it rained. I started finding things in the starboard aft berth wet, requiring everything to live in a plastic bin.

I thought I had it solved when I replaced one of the larger windows in the salon after I spotted dampness at the corner, and although the leaking seemed to have lessened, it was definitely still there. I tried caulking the toe rail and honestly most anything that looked caulk-able. I had the rigging tuned, and the shroud plates were rebedded in the process.

Still, the insides of cabinets mildewed and were regularly vinegared and bleached. Every time it rained, a pile of boat rags came out to soak the puddles, and on a particularly hard pour, a few pots came out as well. The bilge pump would come on. The dehumidifier got a workout. The headliner remained mysteriously dry.

There was old water staining around the aft-most starboard port light, but all six of them were brand new when I purchased the boat and I assumed that the new ones were the fix for that problem. I began to blame the jib track and the bow hardware, and started to wrap my mind around how to do all of these things, or what it would cost to hire someone to do it.

Everyone knows it rains a lot in Seattle, but it is typically a persistent mist rather than the torrential downpours I remember in Mississippi. Recently, Seattle experienced one of those deluges and I caught the leak from the port light red-handed! I had already rebedded one window, and this was so much smaller and seemed easier. You can probably see where this is going.

Preparing to Wrestle This Port Light Out

Preparing to Wrestle

This Came off Much Too Easily

This Came off Much Too Easily

Since it was a different type of window, I watched a YouTube video on the process and felt I was ready to go. I unscrewed the inner portion of the port light with it’s spigot and removed it easily. I had expected it to be much more difficult because some veneer is torn away from a couple of the ones in the V-berth, suggesting it was going to be a bear. With the larger window, there had been screws attaching the inside frame to the outside frame to create compression for the sealant. None of that was here. The inside was screwed to the wood and the spigot extended to the outside of the fiberglass where a trim piece was simply adhered with some sort of sealant which was pressed into the gap. The trim piece was also easily (too easily) removed and staining on the underside and on the fiberglass showed where the leak was happening.

Staining Where Water Intrusion Was Occurring

Staining Where Water Intrusion Was Occurring

Area Where the Leak Was Damaging the Wood

Area Where the Leak Was Damaging the Wood

I’m fortunate to have solid fiberglass, so there was no soggy core. There is a small gap between the fiberglass and the wood walls which was where most of the water had been going. The side of the wood facing the fiberglass was soggy and spongy in the area of the leak. The uncharacteristic 90 degree weather helped it dry out over a day with the assistance of a fan. Meanwhile, I started looking for answers. Why didn’t the screws connect the inside to the outside? How could you achieve a seal without the compression?

It was time to phone a friend. John, who had helped me replace the larger window, came over and looked at it, and agreed that it just didn’t seem correct. We made a field trip to the marine store and described the problem and brought the port light. After tossing around some ideas, a solution was proffered to cut a larger hole in the wood so that the inside section of the window would be directly against the fiberglass! To say I was skeptical, and a little bit horrified was an understatement. I said I’d think about it and picked up the type of sealant that was recommended for plastic.

Through-bolting the Port Light

Through-bolting the Port Light

Sealant Used

Sealant Used

It was time for a glass of wine and more research. It’s amazing what you can discover when you read the instructions. There were very clear directions (with pictures) on how to through bolt the window for a solid wall as well as a multi-layered wall like mine. There is 1/4” of fiberglass, 1/4” of space, then 1/4” of veneered plywood on the inside.

The solution was to fill the gap as much as possible with closed cell spray foam to provide some structure for the gap under compression. I dreaded this part because I have had a few experiences with this stuff in old houses that were pretty messy. I made a part list of screws, barrel nuts, mineral spirits and the foam and went shopping.

Closed Cell Foam

Closed Cell Foam

Closed Cell Foam in the Gap

Closed Cell Foam in the Gap

The following day the wood seemed dry and I filled the gap with the spray foam. Every time I revisited the opening, more foam had expanded out and had to be cut away, but by the next morning it seemed pretty solid and ready to go. The wood felt dry. Now it was time to drill holes in my boat which scares the living daylights out of me, so I again phoned a friend.

Using the Trim Piece as a Template for the Fiberglass

Trim Piece as Template

That Side Whole was a PAIN

That Side Hole was a PAIN

Following the recommendations on the company website, we drilled holes through the trim piece and the fiberglass to match those in the wood where the spigot was attached. Due to the placement of one of the shrouds, lining up one of the holes was next to impossible which was remedied by making a slightly bigger hole (giving me slightly more anxiety). The edges of the holes and the main opening were chamfered so they could accommodate more sealant. The product recommended to stick to both plastic and fiberglass was Sudbury Elastomeric Marine Sealant.

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Installation Complete!

Installation Complete!

Once the fiberglass dust was cleaned up and a dry fit done, it was a fairly simple job with two people to get it sealed and the bolts threaded into the barrel head nuts on the inside. I used plenty of sealant, resigning myself to a big clean up, but erring on the side of too much.

I’m very happy to report that after a couple of pretty hard rains, the window, the barometer and the shelf remain dry! There’s still the leak somewhere behind the oven, and I still have 5 more port lights to rebed, but for now, Rubi is drier than she has been in the last two years.

Update August 30, 2016- I am deliriously happy to say that after two crossings of the Strait of Georgia, the starboard side is DRY!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Sail Repair

Like most boat owners, Rick over on s/v Cay of Sea is a jack of many trades. Here he is working on his sailmaker badge...
The lesson here is that a sail’s stitching should be repaired before it becomes a tear in the sailcoth.

I just learned that lesson.

I’ve known for the past few sails that there was a section of stitching near the clew of the main that needed re-sewing. Yeah sure, I’ll get to it. Eventually. During a day-sail last week, eventually became immediately, as the foot of the sail tore out around the broken stitches for a length of about 12 inches. I pulled down to the first reef to finish out the sail, and took the sail down the next day to fix it.

I could have done this by hand with my Speedy Stitcher, but I have access to a marina neighbor’s heavy-duty sewing machine. It was time to give it a try.

Forthunately, I’ve watched my wife sew long enough and asked her enough questions to understand what has to happen with the machine – the concept of the locking stitch, what the bobbin does, what effect the tension knob has, and why a sewing machine is threaded the way it is – so I was able to figure out how to thread and adjust the machine, and how to refill the bobbin with a little trial-and-error.

I cut a patch to sew down over the tear, placed over the carefully positioned section for repairing with the help of double-sided sewing tape, and began to carefully feed it through the machine. Four times! This is a straight-stitch-only machine, so I had to make sure I had sewn down all the edges and fully supported the material surrounding the tear.

The machine is made by Thomas - heavy, strong gears and body allow it to punch through many layers of cloth.
The machine is made by Thompson – heavy, strong gears and body allow it to punch through many layers of cloth.


In the photo above you can see the patch applied – it’s to the left of the seam opening – through which daylight is pouring! I repaired this open seam, and inspected the rest of the sail as well. I restitched down the entire length of the leach, as much of the stitching was weak or missing, and reenforced a few other places too.

Here's an image of the repaired sail in use. The repairs aren't beautiful, but the are strong.
Here’s an image of the repaired sail in use. The repairs aren’t beautiful, but they’re strong. And it looks like I need to adjust the wrinkles out of the trim too. . .


I discovered yesterday that I missed one weakened seam just above the first reef point – and it began to open up in the brisk breeze. I dropped the main as soon as I noticed it (see – I’m learning) and finished out the sail on jib alone. Today, I’ll take a closer look at it. This one may be small enough to repair by hand. If not, I’ll bring the machine down to the boat, simply pull the foot of the sail off the outhaul, and repair it right there on deck.

Finally, during a walk today through another marina in my neighborhood, I came across this beautiful lapstrake dinghy and though you would enjoy a photo of it.

Tender to s/v Hesper, featured in this post.
Tender to s/v Hesper, featured in this post.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The making of a hard dodger

This is not an easy project.

It is well beyond the "small boat project" range. And yet, it is so well executed that I couldn't resist drawing your attention to it. Mike of s/v Chalice has tackled the creation of a hard dodger. And he has done it in yeoman fashion. Pay particular attention to the tools and tooling that he creates in order to do the actual project work:
  • A rib glue-up table
  • A buck for gluing up the roof panel
  • An adjustable jig to support the roof panel in place in the cockpit while supports are created
  • A rolling gantry (!)
Given Mike's proclivities, I'm sure that this is not an exhaustive list.  Tho creation of the tooling and tools took perhaps as much time as the project itself, the result shows that this time was well-invested.

Yeoman work indeed.

What follows is a combination of two of Mike's posts (I wish there was a third showing the completed dodger).

The Hard Top / Hard Dodger. *Part 1*

So here we go. This was spread over about a year. First I made the actual top piece, then the bottom rail was made right on the boat. Then I built the gantry crane to set the top piece up there and join the two together.

I started with a table to make the mahogany ribs that are internal to the top.

Made with OSB, filled with thickened epoxy, sanded, then clear coated with epoxy again to give a nice smooth surface then waxed about 8 times so the glue would not stick to the form.

From Update_July 20, 2016


From Update_July 20, 2016


From Update_July 20, 2016


From Update_July 20, 2016


From Update_July 20, 2016


Next a large form was made that matched the same curve as the ribs. I did not take pics of that part. I have a few of the actual glue up of the top piece.

From Update_July 20, 2016


From Update_July 20, 2016


There is a layer of 1/4" luan on top and bottom. Mahogany ribs with 1/2"foam panel between them with solid Mahogany about a foot around the edges.

I used plastic nails to nail the first layer to the form. This allowed easy removal and sanding. I used a cheap Harbor Freight 18Ga. nail gun. Worked great and saved about $300 from buying a Italian gun made for them.

Later I cut it to shape and glassed it top and bottom.


From July 21, 2016



From July 21, 2016


The Hard Top / Hard Dodger. *Part 2*


So now we have the top up on the boat. I built an adjustable jig to hold it so I could get the right height and location. Here are some pics with the process of fitting the top to the bottom rail I had made earlier.

By the way, this was the most difficult part.

From Update_July 20, 2016


From Update_July 20, 2016


Starting to look good. I think.

From Update_July 20, 2016


Looking lean and mean.
Dirty boat.

From Update_July 20, 2016


Ok now we have it together (barely). So let's lift it off and to the ground.

From Update_July 20, 2016



From Update_July 20, 2016

From Update_July 20, 2016


On the work horses for final assembly and finishing.

From Update_July 20, 2016



Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!


May the peace and quiet joy of Christmas be with you and your loved ones. Merry Christmas from the crew of Eolian!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

DIY Drama - Big Hole in the Boat With a Storm Coming

A while back, Dana aboard s/v Rubigale (good news - s/v NoName is now s/v Rubigale!) had to deal with a problem while looking a storm in the teeth...

Being a boat owner without unlimited funds usually means learning to do many of the repairs yourself. As a brand new boat owner with no experience in this area, I have been chipping away at tackling things I have never done before. I started with my very first oil change, and with instructions, a hand pump and 2 hours, I managed it without incident. A few small woodworking projects  and installing blinds ensued, but nothing very exciting.

Weepy Barometer with Old Water Staining
Weepy Barometer with Old Water Staining

Since our first big rain, several months after I bought the boat, I have known there were leaks on the starboard side. I usually found them coming from the headliner above the shelf behind the settee.  Three stubborn dribbles continued to occur with heavy rain, or water over the bow. Once I even saw water dripping from the screw hole in the barometer which is mounted above the other leaks, making me realize my problem was higher up.  I naively applied Captain Tolley’s Creeping Crack Cure to everything I thought suspicious. I re-caulked the toe rail with no effect. I had the mast boot replaced, which stopped the dripping into the head, but the starboard leaks remained. The base plates on the shrouds were re-bedded when the rigging was tuned and I hoped for the best. Just in case, I re-bedded the Charlie Noble, having seen water from there in a windy rainstorm. A scorching dry summer in Seattle didn’t allow me to test the changes for some time.

In early August we finally had some rain. Not the typical plant mister rain, but real rain. The three little rivers on starboard showed up on queue. The barometer cried. The chimney was dry, but it wasn’t a windy day. BUT! a new clue appeared. Drops of water came from one of the screws of the forward starboard aluminum window frame. BINGO!
Corrosion from the Leak
Corrosion from the Leak


I had never re-bedded a window before, and I didn’t have the slightest idea what the internal anatomy of a window frame looked like. However, I had a friend that had just done this project on his boat and he emailed me detailed instructions. I bought what I was told was needed, and he even stopped by to make sure it was the same type of frame and prodded me to take the inner frame off to get a better idea.


Gap in the Sealant
Gap in the Sealant

Not only did it become more clear how the windows were mounted, and that this should be a doable project for me, but it was very clear there was daylight coming through the forward edge of the caulking and it was an obvious leak source.  It was also obvious that whoever had cut the hole for the window did not have the steadiest of hands. The cuts were undulating and erratic, and at one point the inner frame barely covered the cut.


Slow Process of Prying the Window Loose
Slow Process of Prying the Window Loose

My first job was cutting through the bedding compound from the inside, then going outside and trying to lightly pry the frame from the compound and the boat, millimeters at a time with two flathead screwdrivers. The top and forward edge (leaky side) came loose easily. The aft and bottom took forever. I was starting to sense the frame coming out as I could hear the bedding letting go slowly. I had a vision of a small victory dance on the dock with the window in hand.


CRACK!
CRACK!

Then I heard another sound.  CRACK might be the sound of victory on some circles (lumberjacks, chiropractors, gladiators), but it was not a good sound for me.  Yes, I cracked the glass at the one area that the wood pinched the frame inside. I got the frame out, cleaned it up, cleaned the old compound off the boat, and taped plastic inside and out. It was a weekend, and apparently no glass places were open. The drama was starting, because I was leaving (with the boat) for over a month in 15 days (10 business days), and most glass companies had shorter workdays than I did, so getting the glass there and back would be a challenge. I did research, left messages, called friends, went on rushed lunchtime field trips, only to be told “at least two weeks”.

I was starting to panic, but with some footwork help from my friend John, a place was found that could do the job based on the photos I texted him of the glass and the frame. It happened to be one of the places I called Saturday, but hadn’t yet returned my call. They gave an estimate based on the photos and size, and quoted a twenty four hour turn around. I drove the frame there on Wednesday (my day off), but wasn’t sure how I was going to get it back again in time since they were closed on weekends.  John agreed to take possession on Thursday, and the plan was to install Saturday. Then we got the forecast.
Summer Storm
Summer Storm


The storm was coming early Saturday, and it looked ugly. Rain and 25-35 knots of wind. It was great news for our wildfires, but bad news for a boat with a big old hole. I didn’t think the plastic on the inside and the shower curtain taped on the outside were going to make the grade. I was worried. John came through again and he and Lisa brought the new window around the time I finished work.

The job went faster with three pairs of hands. I grinded a bit off the areas that pinched and re-cleaned the surface. The window was dry fitted and the inside from secured lightly while the outside surface was taped off. The window came back out and the portion of the frame that fits against the hull was given a healthy bead of 3M 4000 UV. As John fitted the frame back in, I started re-attaching the screws on the inside frame loosely until they were all in, then tightening them all a little at a time like putting a tire back on. Finally after the screws were all tight, we got to work scraping off the excess sealant and cleaning any mess with denatured alcohol. Once that was finished, the tape came off, and the job was done.
Taping to Avoid a Mess
Taping to Avoid a Mess

Applying the Sealant
Applying the Sealant

Putting the Frame Together
Putting the Frame Together

At about 5 am the following morning, what was described as the strongest summer storm in Northwest history hit. Gusts of 40-50 mph were recorded.  It is being called a mid-latitude cyclone. Read more.

I awoke at 8am to a text…”how’s the window?”  Honestly I was afraid to find out, but the bilge pump hadn’t come on so I figured it couldn’t be too bad.  I crawled from the V-berth and inspected the window frame-dry. The three rivers that ran down the wall beneath it-dry. The barometer-weeping like a willow. Oh well, three out of four is pretty good in my opinion. The barometer leak will wait for another day. I have a few leads and a lot of work, but at least I didn’t have a huge hole in my boat during the biggest summer storm in Northwest history!
There's a Big Hole in my Boat!
There’s a Big Hole in my Boat!

Photo Credits: Lisa Mize – Sunrise Photography by Lisa

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Lexan vs. Acrylic

This post originally appeared on Windborne in Puget Sound

If you are replacing fixed ports on your boat, you will be faced (or should be faced) with the choice between Lexan (a trade name for polycarbonate) and Plexiglass (a trade name for polymethylmethacrylate, aka acrylic).  Here are some features of each which might help you decide which to use:
  • Plexiglass is transparent to UV radiation.  That means that anything inside the boat will be subject to UV degradation if the sun shines thru the window.  That also means that UV radiation passes harmlessly thru Plexiglass without having any effect on it.
  • Lexan is opaque to UV radiation.  This means that it protects the boat interior from the ravages of UV.  But because the UV radiation is stopped by the Lexan, that means the Lexan is subject to the damage that it is preventing on the interior.  UV damage to Lexan causes it to turn yellowish brown and craze (millions of tiny surface cracks).  The effect is that your view eventually is destroyed:
    Lexan window after 7 years
  • Plexiglass eventually crazes too...  But after a much longer time period.  However it does not turn brown or discolor.
    This Plexiglass port is 38 years old.
  • Lexan is often touted as the "bullet-proof plastic":

    PropertyUnitPolycarbonateAcrylic
    Tensile strength σΜ at 23°CMPa 60-70 80
    Flexural strength σbB MPa 90 115
    Impact strength acU (Charpy) kJ/m2 35 15
    Sources:
    • Lexan 9030 Sheet Product Datasheet
    • Plexiglas GS Product Description

    In tensile strength and flexural strength Plexiglass is stronger than Lexan.  Plexiglass is weaker than Lexan only in impact strength (resistance to penetration by a quickly moving sharp object). 

    These comparisons are made on virgin material in both cases.  I have no data, but all that surface crazing has to act as stress risers and therefore crack starters - much earlier for Lexan than for Plexiglass.
  • Lexan is two to three times more expensive than Plexiglass.
  • Lexan is less scratch-resistant than Plexiglass
So, as in many things in life, the choice is not as clear (pun unintentional) as it might seem at first blush.  As the midway carny says, "You pays your money and you takes your chances."

I will say tho, that for Eolian, we have chosen Plexiglass whenever it was available.



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