Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Investigating the rudder shoe

While sanding the bottom, I had the chance to investigate a crack in the fiberglass where the rudder shoe would be located under the keel. I was concerned that the crack may be a sign of corrosion in the bronze rudder shoe, which is typically protected under layers of fiberglass.

Sanding away at the epoxy barrier coating near the rudder, I discovered two things: first, the rudder shoe is fine, with no corrosion. There are a few small voids in the fiberglass filler around it, which I will fill-in before glassing over the entire rudder shoe once again.

Second, as I was trying to sand out the last remaining patches of stubborn antifouling, I discovered that the previous owner (or more likely someone he hired) had put epoxy barrier coat over the red ablative paint on the rudder.  Not sure how it managed to stay on for so long. I will have to sand the epoxy barrier coat off entirely.

Stripping Bottom Paint

One of the benefits of the new yard location for Whimsy is that we're allowed to do our own bottom-jobs. Needless to say the red ablative anti-fouling on my boat had long expired and needed to come off. I also wanted to check everything under the waterline, to make sure there were no hidden surprises under the anti-fouling, and to take care of a couple of projects including checking the rudder shoe.

Options for removing old antifouling are: sanding, stripping with chemical stripper, or blasting (usually with something relatively soft like walnut shells, to avoid damaging the gelcoat underneath the antifouling). Since blasting was not allowed in the yard and I wasn't a sucker for punishment, I decided to try the paint stripper option.

I bought pail of Peel Away paint stripper from the local hardware store (about $50/pail), and tried a test patch on my hull. This material is basically drain opener chemicals but in cream form, which you trowel onto the hull. Cover it with the paper/plastic sheets provided, tape the sides to make sure the stuff stays moist for as long as possible.

 It worked amazingly well once left overnight and then washed with a power washer. The antifouling stuck onto the now dried-up chemical stripper, and I was able to scrape it off with a handheld scraper. The remaining residue sloughed-off under a power washer, especially once the dried-up chemical stripper absorbed the water and softened-up again.

The area around my boat was an environmental disaster, flooded with several inches of orange-colored slurry. And once it all dried, the antifouling turned into dust and settled on everything including my car. Yet this is normal in the yard, and worse has been happening for several decades since the Navy owned the place. I suspect this is where I will catch cancer.

WARNING: Peel Away is highly corrosive so I suggest taking all the necessary precautions (especially eye protection and gloves.) A little bit of it was accidentally smeared on the inside of my wrist, under the glove, and now have a scab there. I'd hate to think what could happen if even the dust from the dried-up material got into anyone's eyes - so I suggest not only eye protection but also keeping a water hose nearby and handy as an emergency eyewash station. 

The stuff I used was the regular hardware store version of Peel Away that comes with a plastic spreader, some pH testing strips, and the plastic/paper sheets used to cover the area being treated, and a packet of neutralizing powder (which I suspect is a mild citric acid. Vinegar also works.) Peel Away makes a "safe" version for use on boats that won't damage underlying gelcoat, which I also tried. (Since my boat had an epoxy barrier coat under the antifouling, I wasn't worried about gelcoat damage using the regular stuff.)  The "safe" marine version is slightly runnier, so you need a better trowling technique especially on the upside-down surfaces of the keel to avoid plopping it all on the ground. They were both equally effective.

The spread the material, I used a notch trowel with 1/4" notches. First, I smeared a heaping of the stuff on the trowel using the provided plastic spreader. Then I smeared that on the surface of the hull using the straight edge of the trowel, much like smearing butter on toast with a butter knife, spreading it all out as smoothly as I could until a patch on the keel about the size of one of the plastic/paper sheets was covered in stripper. I scraped the notched side of the trowel across the patch, leaving 1/4" high streaks or lines of stripper running horizontally. I then knocked down the straight lines by moving the spreader lightly vertically across the lines, to even it all out. Finally, I covered the patch with a sheet of the special paper/plastic provided, gently kneaded all the air pockets out from under it, and taped the edges of the sheet to prevent air from drying out the stripper too soon.  Left over night, the stripper was mostly dried especially in areas where it was applied thinly. The paper and tape was removed, and the stripper was scraped off. The rest was washed off with a power washer.

I had to buy 6 pails of Peel Away to complete the project but in the end I got a nice clean hull with no sanding. Of course, then I had to sand it all with 80 grit in preparation for the new coat of barrier paint. While sanding, I occasionally accidentally went through the old barrier coat and got to see the gelcoat underneath, which while crazed was still in decent condition. There's no sign of pox or blisters; boats as old as Whimsy generally didn't have problems with blisters. I figure, if there was going to be osmotic blistering, she would have shown it by now. However a couple of extra coats of epoxy barrier coating comes next.

Also, while the antifouling is gone, I want to check out the rudder shoe and investigate a worrying crack in the fiberglass around there.

Moving to new boatyard

The boatyard where I started working on Whimsy has decided to gentrify, cater to big fancy catamarans and open a seafood restaurant. Needless to say DIY-type liveaboard types were no longer welcome and we were given a deadline of Nov 30 to leave the yard. Which is too bad because it was a great location, very centrally-located to all the stores I regularly visited plus relatively close to my storage lockers where I keep my tools and supplies.

St John's River

Unfortunately the new yard is not nearly so well-situated, though only 30 minutes West of my previous location. The nearest store is a 20 minute drive; the nearest hardware store is an ACE branch that is not really adequately stocked compared to the large Lowes and Home Depot I used to visit, and getting to my storage unit is a pretty long drive. Not to mention the new yard is almost twice as expensive and the boats are jammed together quite tighly (that may resolve as more of the snow-bird Canadians splash their boats soon.)

On the more positive side, the new boatyard is obviously more oriented towards the DIY crowd. There are grizzled old snaggle-toothed guys here who look like they've been working on boats their entire lives. Actually some of the boats here look like they're pretty permanently on-the-hard too. Yet there are plently of cruisers -- lots of Canadians -- who are working diligently on their boats from early in the AM when the rooster crows (yes, there are chickens and ducks running around too) 'til dusk and sometimes into the night, sanding and polishing and painting things. It reminds me of the mothership scene in Water World, the post-apolocalyptic movie with Kevin Costner. 

But I see all this as just further encouragement to get going and finish up my project.

More importantly, this yard allows people to do their own bottom-jobs (though no blasting) so that allows me to save a lot of money rather than having a yard do it. The estimates I was hearing were well over $2500. The cost of the move to the new yard was $1400 but apparently most of that is in the loading/unloading of the boat, the mileage itself is quite reasonable. That means that I could have kept going south to a boatyard that was a in a warmer clime  - and I may still do so, since I can't paint the boat with the average temps around here for Jan and Feb. On the other hand, there are enough other  projects to keep me busy until the weather warms up. 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Giant bow cleats

Living through a few hurricanes, I've learned to get the biggest, strongest bow cleats I can get. These are 12" long, solid bronze. For some reason no bolt-holes have been drilled in their feet. I think I'll go with 5/16th stainless steel bolts, and with appropriately-sized 1/4" G10 laminate backing plates.

Hurricane Dorian

Hurricane Dorian was a near-miss for us in St. Augustine, Fla. However that didn't mean I still didn't have to pack up everything and prep the boat for a hurricane.

The workshop came down, all the tools and supplies are now in storage units, but I kept a fridge and electric kettle under the boat. All of that took quite a bit of time but having prepped for hurricanes twice already, it was all old hat. I'm not resetting-up the work shed because I have to move this boat in a couple of months anyway

Dorian brought us a few inches of flooding in the yard. Irma and Matthew each brought about 2 feet of flooding, in comparison. I stayed onboard through Irma and Matthew but this time, due to the cats, I decided to go to a hotel. Having air conditioning for a few days was nice.

I feel awful for the folks in the Bahamas however. Those places weren't 20 feet above sea level, not sure how anyone can survive once the surge alone is over 20 feet. The whole place would have been underwater. I think we're going to need new charts too.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Safe working loads of shackle blocks

I'm a fan of Garhauer Marine's blocks because they're pretty solid things that seem like they can take a pretty good beating, and relatively inexpensive. Practical Sailor has rated them well too, and they generally get good reviews on various forums and websites. People have good things to say about their quality and especially about their customer service.

However I am somewhat disappointed in the statements regarding the safe working load (SWL) for their shackle blocks. I bought several of their single stainless steel 60-13-sized shackle blocks and noticed that the shackles seemed a little smaller than what I expected. So I read the website a little more carefully: The Garhauer website states they use 1/4" shackles, and that the blocks have a SWF of 3500 lbs.

The 1/4" shackles made by Wichard have a SWL of about 1800 lbs. So I don't understand how the Garhauer shackle blocks could have a SWL of almost double a high-quality 1/4" shackle.

I sent an email to Garhauer to ask; they replied that the website was incorrect and that these were 5/16th shackles. So I measured the shackles on the 4 blocks I had purchased:

The pin diameter was 19/64th, which is  I guess within tolerance of 5/16ths.

However the shackle body was not that size. The shackle body is slightly rectangular, not round. The "inside" diameter of the saddle was 15/64 and the "outside" diameter was 9/32 -- these are both pretty much 1/4".

I wrote back to Garhauer and they replied that shackles are measured by their clevis pin diameter. They are not actually,

Shackles are sized according to the diameter of the bow section rather than the pin size.

(Specifically by the diameter of the "saddle" in the bow-section.)

But in any case I replaced the shackles on my blocks with "true" 5/16th shackles. (I measured it to be sure)

It is important to note that the strain on shackles have to be centered on the pin, by using washers to act as spacers. If the strain is placed on one end, you could end up losing 70% of the SWL of the shackle.

Starting on rewiring the sailboat mast.

I was hoping to dedicate August to the mast, standing rigging and the stanchions entirely but the weather is not cooperating to allow me to finish the paint job from last month.

The 40' mast itself is in OK shape, no big dings or anything but it needs a good cleaning with vinegar and maybe an aluminum cleaning compound. I don't plan on painting the mast since that's a lot of work and really not necessary. All the old blocks, shackles and internal wiring will of course be replaced.

Looking at the masthead: The VHF antenna base was still there but seeing the singed marks on the cable, I assume it was zapped-off by a lighting strike at some point. The masthead light is the old incandescent variety, broken. The windex has fallen off.

The sheaves in the masthead sheave box are aluminum and seem to be in good shape; I will just need to replace their axle pins. The boat's original halyards were a combination of wire cable spliced to 1/2" cruising line so the existing sheaves are designed to handle wire cable. I have already bought 5/8" cruising line, and was considering changing the sheaves to use all-line rather than cable (sheaves for cable have a groove in them) but now I see switching the sheaves will involve a lot of metalwork on the sheave box (the existing slots for sheaves are too narrow to accommodate the wider halyards). So I'm going to have to go back to the combination cable-line halyards and will be splicing some 7x19 1/4" stainless cable to the line I have already bought. Since I had already bought enough line to run the lines back to the cockpit plus an extra 10 feet, that will leave a lot of extra line cluttering the cockpit - an issue to deal with when the running rigging project starts in a couple of months.

In the meantime I need to rewire the mast too. The mast doesn't have a built-in raceway for the wires; the previous owner had zip-locked the wiring together every few feet and wrapped it all in some foam insulation. I spent some time pulling out the old wiring, which was not marine-grade stuff. There was a big ball of wire, an old bird's nest, some errant foam bits and leaves blocking things up in the mast so I resorted to clearing it all by ram-rodding the mast with 4x10' lengths of PVC pipe until I was able to clear out all the junk plus the old wires.

The wires had wrapped around the internal bolts for the spreaders so I had to take the spreaders off, which was a good thing because I got a chance to inspect things and clean off the white aluminum oxide corrosion that had formed under the stainless steel spreader tangs. However the bolt threads had galled, and also I was not able to find replacement fine-thread 1/2" nyloc 316 nuts locally. The spreader tangs are currently at a machine shop so the bolts can be rethreaded, and I have ordered a couple of new nyloc nuts from

I replaced the blocks for the spreader flag halyard lines with small Harkens. The old Sunfish brand spreader blocks had started to leave chalky residue so I'm guessing they've just about had it. I'll replace the rest of the blocks later, when I handle the running rigging. 

As for electrical wiring, I have bought a couple of Caprera 2 red/white LED spreader lights by Lumitec, to be installed in addition to a steaming/deck light. I will also need to wire the new VHF antenna plus the radar dome and the Echomax XS active radar reflector.

Mast steps are another project - I will be installing folding aluminum ones by Sea Dog, and using 1/4" aluminum rivets to secure them. I know that some insist on using Monel rivets but I don't have a rivet gun capable of handing steel rivets, and three 1/4" aluminum rivets per step should be strong enough anyway (no issues with corrosion that results from steel-aluminum contact either.)

Meanwhile, I'll just watch the dragon flies and hope for better weather... I have to remind myself this is all supposed to be fun and not a reason to stress out.