Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Windlass Locker Refit: Epoxy is Your Friend

Rot is insidious. It sneaks in quietly, eating away at the structure of your boat. Mike and Melissa on s/v Galapagos discovered the rot monster eating away at their anchor locker - this is how they defeated it:
When we bought Galapagos we were kind of enthralled with our Lofrans electric windlass. It’s a love affair that continues to this day and because we love her, we want her to live in a nice place. Long ago we noticed that her locker on the foredeck had seen better days. It looked to me like there was wood rot underneath her foot switches and a couple of times when we pulled up anchor, Mike saw the floor of the locker move a little bit. This gave us pause.

So it came to pass that we decided we better get to it and refurbish that part of the boat. This has been one of those projects that takes much longer than you’d like, simply because there are a lot more parts to it than you think, and because Mike still works for a living. That leaves the weekends. And me.

Mike pulled the windlass off and carried her home to take her apart and make sure all of her parts were shiny and new looking and give her a general going over. He can write about that part soon. The windlass has always worked great and we want to keep it that way considering that pulling up anchor by hand on this boat, even given the hand ‘crank’ we can use, would cost a lot in terms of energy, time, and effort. Whatever needs to be done to keep this windlass in good shape is time and money well spent.

When we examined the wood under the switches it was clear that there was not only rot, but that there was a lot of it. If it were not for the fact that this entire locker is hell for stout, we would have had a bigger job on our hands. The wood in this area is about 10” thick meaning you can have a lot of rot before things start getting serious. That also means that after I removed all the rotted wood, we still had plenty to work with. We decided we did not need to remove the entire floor (thank you, gods of windlass lockers!) and that we could fix the area with a series of epoxies, from the liquid kind that soaks into wood to give it new structure, to the kind you smear on like wood putty.

After drilling holes all over the place to make sure we found all the rot, and a good thing we did, too because water came out of some of the holes, we waited as everything dried out in the hot summer sun. Then, over a week or so we mixed batch after batch of System Three End Rot liquid epoxy and their wood putty version called Sculp Wood. When we ran out of the End Rot stuff, we used the straight System Three liquid resin epoxy. We poured the liquid stuff down into the holes and let it seep into the surrounding wood on the topside. When that was cured, we poured in more. We added fiberglass fibers to thicken the paste and troweled it onto the inside of the locker from below, filling in gaps left by the wood we removed. It was a long process that involved a lot of boat yoga, waiting, and sanding in close quarters.

You may be wondering how rot got involved with this windlass locker in the first place. Two reasons became apparent. Let the first reason be a cautionary tale about being sure you are bedding your screws with butyl tape or the equivalent if they are going to be exposed to water. On our two foot switches, the screws holding one switch onto the wood were bedded with something that protected them from water. The screws on the other side were not. So one side had rusty screws, proving that water was ingressing in that area. The wood around that switch was where the rot started and it spread from there. Of course, it’s probably been 20 years or more since those switches were installed. Let’s keep things in perspective here.

Second, the drainage in this locker was poorly designed in our opinion. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that drains that are above the level where water stands make sense. Think about it. In your sink, the drain is installed slightly lower than the bottom of the sink. That’s because water runs…..down. Not up. So a drain that stands proud of the surface will never, due to the laws of the physical universe, drain all the water out. Standing water is a bad thing, especially if it is close to electric switches installed with unbedded screws. Voila, rot.

So Mike decided to redesign the drains making them much simpler, and making them drain correctly. You know how when people are married for a long time they start thinking alike? We both came up with the exact same idea independent of each other. When that happens, it’s a go. So instead of reinstalling the drains as they were, he filled in the hole where they would be set, cut off the top of the drain that was too high, then drilled out an area and epoxied the drain directly into the hole. Then he attached the hose. It’s not going anywhere and it drains really well now. Plus with all that epoxy the wood will stay protected long after we’re dead. We are considering this simple solution for some other areas of the boat.

When all the epoxy was cured, he sanded everything smooth on top and on bottom. I followed behind him with two coats of bilgecoat, since this area is protected from UV rays unless the locker is open. Although I didn’t bother with a photo yet, the inside of the locker has a nice smooth ‘ceiling’ now. Our windlass will be much happier in her newly refurbished digs. And we have a locker that will see another 25 years in good shape. Stay tuned for part two, where Mike fills you in on the insides of the windlass. Or something like that.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sailor, and now Author

Drew, a frequent contributor to Practical Sailor and to this blog, has branched out - he is now a published author!  Aside from making a few bucks to cover his time and effort in producing these books, Drew is paying it forward; he is giving new and less-experienced sailors the benefit of his extensive experience.

Drew, as an engineer (disclaimer:  as am I), has a precise, unambiguous writing style.  But he will also wax poetic, in the fashion of a man who has carefully examined his own motivations.

What is rare in the sailing genre is that Drew, again being an engineer, does not shy away from experimentation.  He does not accept "everyone knows" without actually testing it himself, rigorously.  What Drew reports is derived from first person experience and experimentation.  If he says it, he's tested it, and you can believe it.

So far, there are four books in the bookstore:
  • Keeping a Cruising Boat on Peanuts
    PDF, Pending 2017 Kindle, about 400 pages
  • Rigging Modern Anchors
    Pending 2017, TBD, about 250 pages.
  • Singlehanded Sailing for the Coastal Sailor
    Kindle, 143 pages, PDF, 154 pages
  • Faster Cruising for the Coast Sailor
    PDF, 183 pages, Pending 2017, Kindle, about 200 pages

To provide a little view into what's included, here is the Table of Contents from Singlehanded Sailing for the Coastal Sailor:
  • Acknowledgments 4
  • Preface 7
  • Part 1: The Singlehander
    • Chapter 1: The Reasons We Go Alone 11
    • Chapter 2: The Costal Philosophy 14
  • Part II: Preparations
    • Chapter 3: Docks 21
    • Chapter 4: Sailing 24
    • Chapter 5: Safety 41
  • Part III: Practices
    • Chapter 6: Sailing 63
    • Chapter 7: Safety 74
    • Chapter 8: Living 80
    • Chapter 9: Kids 85
    • Chapter 10: Summer 87
    • Chapter 11: Winter 88
  • Summary 100
  • Glossary 102
  • Appendix I: Annual Inspection 103
  • Appendix II: Tethers and Jacklines 108
  • Appendix III: Rainwater and Water Filtration 122
  • Appendix IV:  Climbing the Mast, Ladders, and Falling 136
  • Appendix V: Extension Ladders and Webbing Ladders 141
  • Appendix VI: Stropes 148
Come on, you know these books are going to make for wonderful reading at anchor!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Valkyr’s Hard Dodger

Scott aboard s/v Valkyr needed more solar power to run his A/C (he is in Florida).  And shade is also a very nice thing...  So he took on the project of making a hard dodger to support all those new solar panels.  This is not strictly a small boat project, but shows some excellent construction techniques.  Enjoy!
So I thought I had posted pictures of Valkyr’s hard dodger long ago but it seems that I didn’t. These are not the best formatted pictures but should help to give an idea of what I did.

aft starboard view boat and dodger
Starboard view of whole dodger frame

dodger aft view handrail and boom protector mounts
We had 1/4 inch aluminum plates welded into frame to bolt the top rails onto. In finished dodger this is what actually holds it to dodger. There are 6 of them.

dodger aft view 1
Aft partial view of dodger frame

Drilling coring filling mount holes 7
We drilled the holes to mount frame to boat and then filled with epoxy and drilled again to make sure we would never have an issue with water penetration into the core.

deck mount and backing plates for under the deck
This is picture of the above deck mount and two of the backing plates for under the deck. As you can see the deck mount has a pivoting base. The reason we went with this is that once mounted we could unbolt the entire dodger with four bolts, and have no risk of water ingress while it is off the boat. also 4 bolts vs 16 bolts is a lot quicker and easier.

portside aft handrail and boom protector mounting plate underside
Underside of one of backing plates for top rails.

aft port side view of whole dodger
aft portside view of entire dodger frame

aft starboard view down dodger
starboard view down top of frame. You can see the next attachment point at the center of the handrail and then forward attachment point. Dodger has 3 rails, hand rails on either side that are full length of dodger and attached with 12 1/4 inch stainless bolts. I’m almost 200 lbs and can yank on a rail as hard as I can and it barely shivers the dodger. More rocks the boat the the dodger. The third rail is what you can see in the left foreground of the picture and is simply to keep the boom from hitting the dodger if it falls and for tieing it down if you need to.

visibility sitting at helm looking under dodger
We spent a lot of time making drawings and sitting on the boat taking measurements to get the height of the dodger correct. This is the view sitting at the helm. You have clear unobstructed view under and if you stand up you can see over it. We also did a lot of different version of the side supports to finally end up with the graceful design we got. The curves added strength and elegance yet still left us with a lot of unobstructed view forward under the dodger. The top of the dodger has the same camber as the deck under it.

dodger pad mounting 7
dodger bolted down with sealant.

dodger pad mounting 1
sealant to keep water from running down the bolt.

dodger pad mounting 6
again sealant to keep water from running down bolt. All epoxy filled holes through deck were counter sunk to allow the built up sealant around bolt here to fill and compress in the holes.

dodger pad mounting 8
It took several go around over a few days to fully tighten down. The sealant we used was pretty thick and it would gradually ooze out as it sat after being tightened. After a couple go arounds it was all good and hasn’t leaked in the 4 years since it was installed.

Temp attachment of forward port side handrail on dodger.

temp attachment on starboard

port side view of dodger frame

Middle starboard side attachment for handrail.

Waterproof junction box
This is a bit out of order but has to do with dodger. This is the central junction for all the solar panels on the dodger near the starboard aft leg of the dodger that the main wires from it run below to the charge controller. We used a water proof document case that we modified into a junction box. notice all wires into have a drip loop. All exposed wire and buss bars are coated in di-electric grease. 4 years later it still looks like new. No corrosion.

Wires from solar panels penetrating dodger top
You can see the deck penetrations where the wires from the solar panels penetrate the dodger. It was a lot of work drilling and then filling all the holes with epoxy and then drilling again. We actually glued the wires to the underside of the dodger in neat runs to lead to the junction box. It has also worked well.

solar panels1
Solar panels on dodger roof. We used a adhesive sealant to attach them to roof. It has held really good. Forget what it is called, something kevlar 400? from PPG.

solar panels2
another view of solar panels. Each one of the panels is 25 watts. They are a thin flexible panel that it is safe to walk on. There are

junction box closed
junction box closed

wire runs to junction box
roof penetration for solar panel wiring and runs glued to roof as they go to junction box. I used quick set gel super glue to do the gluing. Run a line of glue and press wire into it for a few inches and hold for 15 or 20 seconds and then repeat. It took a while to do it all but in the end it was very neat and held good. when I painted it is hardly noticeable under there. Sadly I should have sanded before glueing the wiring in. Not that it was an issue with the wiring but some of the paint flaked off on the under side.

underneath of dodger
another view under dodger. If you notice the chips in the white paint on the aft upper edge of the dodger, That edge takes a beating sometimes an has to be touched up on a regular ( annual basis )

butyl mastic used to seal under the hand rail pads.
Hand rails being attached to the top of dodger once roof is installed.

Hand rails installed
Picture with 12 panels attached. For some reason I think I added a 12th panel behind the aft most two panels for a total of 275 watts on the dodger. There is another 190 watts in one big panel on the dingy davits also for a total of 465 watts on the boat. We had power hooked up at the dock when we lived on the boat to run the AC. Since then though the boat has been powered by the installed solar. We turned off the dock power to save money and never noticed the difference.

Kaylin helping paint!!

Zsanic in the galley and kaylin hanging out under dodger.

forgot to mention. If you look in the lower left corner of the dodger you will notice a drain. We custom made drains in all 4 corners of the dodger with 1/2 inch hose leading down on deck from it. No matter what angle of heel rain will drain off and if we wanted we could lead it to the tanks.

Good view of the aft rail that protects solar panels and dodger top from boom if it falls.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Room in the Reefer

This post originally appeared on Windborne in Puget Sound


I am guilty as charged.

Yes, there has been an unconscionable gap in posting to this blog - it's just that not everything in our lives is related to boating, and a bunch of that stuff came up recently.  OK, enough of the Mea Culpa.

Eolian's refrigerator compartment is huge for a boat.  But because it is so tall, much of the space in it either goes to waste, or we spend a long time sorting thru piles of things in there with the door open, looking for something.

Something had to be done.

I decided to make a shelf that would add 50% to the horizontal storage space in there, and put some of that vertical space to use.  Because I am a professional scrounge, I have a good collection of teak scraps discarded by others, gleaned from the dumpsters.  I brought some of this, and a collection of tools to the boat:

Some of the tools

Making a mess of the dock
In a project like this, it is important to make dimensional decisions that will fit with what you plan to store in the reefer.  To that end, I think I may have disturbed some folks at Safeway by walking around with a tape measure, measuring beer boxes, soft drink cartons and other things.  It was kind of surprising to see the variability in carton sizes, even for canned drinks.

The trick in building this shelf was that it needs to be removable, yet it needs to stay in place with a load of food on it when the boat is in a seaway.  I was most worried about the shelf tipping over toward the door when on a starboard tack.  Here's how I dealt with that:
  • The left-hand support bracket has a foot that goes all the way to the door, about twice the length of the bracket.  With this extension, it would be very difficult indeed to tip the shelf on this side.
  • On the right-hand (aft) side, I made the last of the shelf boards extend behind the holding plate, preventing any movement on that side.
Finally, to lock things together when it is in place, I made rabbits in the top edges of the support brackets to accept a rabbit on the cleats on either side of the shelf.  When the shelf is installed, it cannot move toward or away from the door because of these interlocking notches.

Three pieces, with clever interlocking

Yes, the shelf slats seem to be sort of unevenly spaced from side to side.  This is because the left-hand side of the reefer is deeper than the right-hand side due to hull taper.

Sadly, in my first attempt at making the side brackets, I failed to take into account that the rear wall of the reefer matches the hull contour.  So I had to redo the brackets.  In fact, every board was custom cut and fitted because of the hull contour and because the hull is tapering in as you go aft (to the right in the picture).

But in the end I got it.  And we've added 50% to our reefer storage.

Et voilĂ !
Seems like a pretty small thing for a day and a half's work.  But there was a lot of thinking and trial fitting.  And that beer box is no longer full...

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

To Helm with It

Rich & Jeni continue the re-fit of their Tayana 37, s/v Ramble On. Here, the helm gets treated to a new finish.  Note also the transformation of the house teak in the background between the first and last pictures - lotta work going on there...

In keeping with getting this beast ready to take out for a spin, we finally put the steering wheel (the boaty term is the helm) back on the boat.  Way back in early 2013 we took a bunch of stuff off the boat, the wheel included, and it’s been in storage ever since.  Some previous owner coated it with lovely Cetol over and over and water had gotten under the Cetol and it was peeling.  Rich stripped off the Cetol a couple years ago and a few weekends ago we sanded it with 320 grit sandpaper and put two nice, clean coats of our favorite Star Brite teak oil and sealer on it.  The post that the wheel attaches to has been a real leg-bruiser these past few years so it’s nice to get the wheel on, though I have banged my shin on it already.  Rich also made new teak knobs for the throttle and shift levers (the old ones were cracked).

Little by little, one step closer…

Light sanding with 320 grit

Getting ready to apply teak oil and sealer

First coat drying

Finally back on the boat

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!
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