Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Lewmar replacement hatches arrived

The foredeck hatch on my boat blew off in the last hurricane so I was right about to start making a plug to mold a new hatch in solid fiberglass, when I decided heck, might as well buy some modern plexiglass replacement hatches to bring light into the v-berth.

Afterall, I was going to install a 10x10 inch hatch to ventilate the head area anyway

And heck while I am replacing the fore hatch, might as well replace the aft one beneath the boom too.

"Heck, might as well" is how project inflation works.

Anyway, the fore hatch is a Lewmar 60 Ocean with a flange (not flat) bottom and it is just about a half-inch smaller than the existing hole in the foredeck, so fitting it in place won't be a big deal; I will just need to shim the sides with fiberglass and grind down the area on top of the existing hatch hole to remove the camber and make it flat.

Installing the other two hatches will require cutting out new holes in the cabin roof, and probably building-up a level base for the hatches to set on.
The hatches are meant to screwed-down but I want at least 4 bolts that go clear through the deck with washers and cap-nuts on the other side. All the screw holes will have to be pre-drilled a larger size and filled with fiberglass too, to prevent water intrusion into the core around the hatch. Easy-peasy.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Sanding down interior cabin sides

Previously, I had plugged-up the old holes on the cabin sides left by the removal of the previous portlights, with foam and fiberglass filler placed between the exterior and ceiling liner. All together, I will be installing 8 opening Lewmar portlights, which in combination with the new opening hatch in the head and the two existing ceiling hatches, will ensure maximum boat interior ventilation.

I had faired and sanded the exterior but I hadn't paid much attention to the interior of the cabin-sides, largely because I hadn't decided on the decor. There are a bunch of options: wooden panels, vinyl, bare fiberglass, or laminate veneers, or a combination of each. I mentally played around with a variety of ideas before settling back on my original plan.

Bare fiberglass would make the interior look too plastic-y, even if I added some texture and color to the surface (with a coating of Kiwi Grip applied with a low-abrasive texture pattern). That would have been the easiest route of course. Stencils etc were also an option to make it look less like the inside of a Clorox bottle.

Another option is to put a wooden panel up against the interior cabin sides either with glue or heavy-duty velcro (the installed portlights would hold the panel too) maybe even with an insulating backing, then finishing the front-face of the panel with several layers of glossy varnish to bring out the texture of the wood, maybe using a veneer laminates with an exotic woods, add some trim... etc etc.

However I really didn't see the point of trying to simulate the interior of a wooden sailboat. My decor philosophy is to create an open, bright, functional space. Keeping the panel uncluttered was a priority, except for the addition  of unobstrusive courtesy wall lights that will go in between the portlights, and shoulder-level teak grab rails.

There's also the complication of the curve where the cabin sides meet the deck. Any paneling would have to account for that shape.

 So, back to the original plan: vinyl, but attached very securely with contact adhesive to make sure there would be no future sagging, and kept in place with wood trim. The vinyl will provide a nice clear surface, some texture, as well as insulation (but I'll mainly rely on the air-gap behind the ceiling liner for that.)

I had decided a while ago to go with vinyl and I had already bought a bolt of very high-quality vinyl from France, with felt backing (not the cheap foam that crumbles into dust).  I wanted to go with white vinyl because it is easy to maintain, waterproof, and if I ever decide to on something else I could just tear off the vinyl.

But, before any of that can happen, I have to sand and fair the cabin-sides because any bumps or irregularities would show-up on the white vinyl. This required taking some dust-control measures including an 8-inch blower with with aluminum venting stuck down the cabin hatch, plus my shop-vac connected to my random orbital sander, and of course the whole place was more or less covered with plastic drop-cloth -- much to the amusement of the cats -- but lets face it, fiberglass dust gets everywhere no matter what and so I'm going to have to vacuum the place well later anyway, For now, I mainly just wanted to keep the dust out of the v-berth where we sleep with the cats, but the rest of the boat interior is bare and empty anyway.

The cats, by the way, are now going outdoors regularly and are quite well-adjusted to the boatyard life. No more litter to manage! Pasha even brought home a dead bird once so I think they're happy.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Day, sanding the deck

I played Santa to myself and got a new, more powerful 6" random orbital sander made by Bosch, plus a variable speed polisher by Makita. My old 5" Makita palm sander, which is lighter, will be used for vertical surfaces and tighter spots. In retrospect I would have bought the Festools line of power tools from the start of this boat-building project, as a kit. Once you use good tools on a big project, you appreciate the better quality stuff.

Christmas day was spent sanding the deck again, while the weather was cooperating. It will go back days of rain again in the near future but I'm hoping to get the sanding done and out of the way by the weekend, and hopefully if the Awlgrip primer I ordered arrives on time, I can start priming this weekend (we're supposed to have sunny weather, and in the 70s.)

One of the problems I'm having is that the previously-applied primer is peeling off certain sections of the deck where there's a yellow material beneath. Not sure what that is, perhaps some sort of filler/fairing compound? Whatever it is, it absorbs moisture and causes things painted over it to peel off. In a way, leaving the boat for 15 months with the primer on was a good idea because it exposed such weaknesses -- had I painted over this stuff, the paint would have peeled off too and I would have had to completely re-paint the deck in a short while. So I'm glad I caught it. But now I have to chisel away the peeling primer and sand off the yellow stuff until I get to bare fiberglass.

I am also finding damaged gelcoat that needs addressing.

Project: Enlarge the cockpit seat drains

One of the weird things about the construction of Whimsy is the cockpit seat drains.  The cockpit seats open up, allowing access to the engine room and storage space below. There are gutters built around the seat lids, to collect water (from waves, or rain) and drains that are supposed to divert the water off the boat. However the drain holes are only about a quarter-inch in size, and what's worse the tubing for the drain consists of long, narrow horizontal runs with 90-degree elbows --- almost guaranteed to clog-up with leaves and debris. Once they're clogged, the water that collects in the seat gutters will inevitably back-fill into the bilge -- which I think is why there was 20 gallons of water accumulated in the bilge in my 15-month absence (along with a rotting frog corpse.)

Old drain pipe elbow compared to 3/4" PVC pipe

Fixing this was a small job that I finished between thunderstorms despite the cold, though I did resort to using a heat gun to carefully warm up the fiberglass resin and to make sure it set and cured correctly.  The drains can now be cleared with my pinky-finger.

Basically the project consisted of cutting out the old drain tubing, drilling the drains holes larger (3/4") and putting new drain tubes in place that were larger diameter (3/4"), shorter and more vertical.  I used PVC pipes as the drain tubing. PVC can bond well to fiberglass especially if you sand it a bit and pass a flame under it, to get rid of the slippery glossy surface texture. Wiping down the PVC with acetone further improves the bond with fiberglass.

Old cockpit seat scupper drain pipe-- long narrow horizontal runs with sharp bends
New, better draining cockpit seat scupper piping
New drain exit, will be glassed-in and sanded flush with cockpit interior, weather permitting

Cleaning the bilge and waiting for better weather.

It has been an unusually cold and wet December this year. This has caused some delay in my projects since it is either too humid or too cold to do any fiberglass work. With daytime temps below 60, fiberglass won't cure -- and then humidity and dew will ruin any fiberglass work. But there are enough interior projects to keep me busy... like cleaning out the bilge.

About 20 gallons of water had accumulated in the bilge during my 15-month absence. I believe this was due to the cockpit seat drains getting plugged-up, so one of my first projects was to enlarge and improve the drains -- more on that later.  I will have to thoroughly clean the bilge and prepare the surface for gel-coating, to protect the interior fiberglass from the water and also to be able to more easily spot any oil etc.- accumulating in the bilge. Keeping a clean bilge on a sailboat is important because that's where the bilge pump is located, and the bilge pump is what removes any water that manages to enter the boat. Bits of dirt or debris in the bilge can interfere with the proper functioning of the bilge pump and/or the bilge pump's automatic switch.

However this is a messy, dirty job, what with the dead frog and all, and it is really difficult to reach into the nether regions of Whimsy to give her a good scrub. Sanding down the surface is an important part in prepping for gelcoating but I can't really reach all the way to the back of the bilge and beneath the engine by hand.

Back when this vessel was designed, it was common to have the anchor locker drain into the bilge. Could you imagine the mess and the smell? But my bilge is pretty clean, compared to some others I've seen. The problem is really lack of access. As a centerboard vessel, the centerboard closet gets in the way quite a bit, and divides the bilge unto two parts along the fore-and-aft line. The connection between to two  bilge halves is way aft, under the engine, not reachable by hand. This is a bit of a problem and I'm seriously considering hoisting up the engine to improve access (I aslo plan to get one of those extendable grabber-thingies and an endoscope to help retrieve fallen tools and bolts etc out of the bilge.)

Bilge hose check valve, must go!
One of the interesting finds was the one-way check valve on the bilge pump hose. That's a no-no nowadays because should a piece of dirt get stuck in the valve, or if the valve just fails, seawater can potentially enter the boat through the bilge pump hose. I'm going to have to address this and the location of the fittings later. For now, I'm just cleaning the bilge in preparation for painting while the weather is bad. 

A silver coin to go under the mast

I got a 1967 silver Half-Dollar to go under the mast, as tradition requires. The coin has a portrait of President Kennedy, and was stamped the same year as the boat was manufactured. Unfortunately I'm a long way from raising the mast ... but at least I'm ready when the time comes. The mast will require a complete re-wiring and I plan to put some folding steps on it so I can climb the mast more easily/safely once at sea. The halyard winch will also have to be lubed and serviced, radar and lights installed, and I have to arrange for the lines to go aft into the cockpit...etc etc..

Cats onboard

Pasha is out hunting cockroaches

My fat, useless NYC apartment cats are getting used to the boat and boatyard life. This is the second time that they're here in Florida on my boat. so they were familiar with the arrangement from their first visit last year.
Pasha enjoying a nap in the warm sunlight in the chilly weather
Upon arrival, they initially ran off to hide in their favorite spots onboard but gradually started adjusting...well, Pasha more so than Sasha. Pasha has started to wander around the boatyard and has even brought home a couple of "presents" for me: half-dead, Florida boatyard-sized cockroaches that he placed on my pillow while I was half-asleep. Exciting things happened after that. But yesterday he brought home a little bird too. I was kind of proud of him, and happy that his cat instincts were still sharp enough. I'm hoping the little bell on his new collar will prevent any more successful bird-hunts.
Inspecting my sail sewing gear

Sasha is another story. She refuses to got out of the cabin, and only lounges on a settee all day, demanding food and regular petting sessions. She's gotten quite fat too; I am concerned she may be diabetic so I've decided to cut way back on the dry food for both of them, and will perhaps switch to human food with more protein for her. I once caught a catfish for them which they ignored. I can't carry a lot of canned catfood witth me once at sea, so they're going to have to learn to eat fresh fish too.

Chubby little Sasha just wants to be petted all day
 I have been encouraging them to get around a bit more by moving their food plates out of the cabin and into the cockpit, along with their litter box, but the wet weather has not been cooperating - rainwater gets into their litter. On dry days, Sasha is willing to go out to eat and use the litter box, but will rush back inside the cabin again.

I got them each their own little plush cat house so they have a place to stay warm and feel secure too but when the temperatures fall, they prefer to climb into the sleeping bag with me, and since they're warm and fluffy, I don't mind either. It has been quite chilly for NE Florida recently.

It is good to be a cat!