Monday, February 18, 2019

Interior sailboat cabin insulation

The interior of the cabin side over the starboard settee was bare fiberglass when I got the boat; there was only a splotch of gel coat. I had considered many options to cover up the area including just sanding it smooth and gel coating or covering it with the vinyl but I decided ultimately to do a proper job of insulating the hull, and again "might as well" do the v-berth too later. I don't expect to sail a lot to cold places since I hate the cold but since I have access, and may one day want to go to the Pacific Northwest, I might as well insulate now to minimize condensation.


It wasn't a complicated job. First, I had to strengthen the knee where the chainplate attaches. Then furring strips made of 1" by 3/4" lengths of PVC trim bought from the hardware store was cut to length (about 2 feet) and sanded to provide some "tooth" and remove the smooth surface, wiped down with acetone and stuck to the hull interior vertically using fiberglass filler (I had to hold them in place by hand for a few minutes each until the filler hardened.)



Next some closed-cell foam insulating sheets (3/4") were stuck to the hull between the furring strips using contact cement and I used a bottle to roll over the foam to make sure it got a good contact with the hull surface, in order to make sure there were no air gaps where condensation (and mold) can accumulate. Later, I covered the furring strips themselves with some neoprene tape though I don't think that was strictly necessary.


Next I got some cedar tongue-and-groove boards that are used to line closets, stained and then sealed them with a few coats of gloss lacquer (which dries much faster than the traditional epoxy-varnish thought it doesn't  result in as hard a surface -- the weather was too wet and cold for that), cut them to fit and screwed them into the furring strips using some brass slot screws (thank you Mike at Sailor's Exchange!) with finish washers.


The project isn't totally done -- I have to to the top row of cedar planking still but I'm going to put that off until I re-bed the jib track screws that are around there but otherwise that's one thing checked-off the to do list!

I will have to insulate the rest of the boat later -including the v-berth - and I have bought a couple of rolls of closed cell foam that is 1/2" thick with an aluminized/mylar face on one side, which I will be gluing onto the interior "ceilings" of the closets and cubby holes. The mylar will help reduce the "solar gain" from above 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Installing a hatch over the head compartment

I decided to install a Lewmar low-profile size 20 hatch to ventilate the head compartment. The head will already have an opening portlight but the more ventilation, the better and there's no serious risk created by this hatch, so I figures why not.

I made a point of getting hatches that have a flange rather than the Lewmar hatch models with a flat base, because I figure the flange provides a bit more security but also because the trim kit for the hatches only fit on the models with the flange base. Since I definitely want the fly screen attachment, I need to get the trim kits, and so I had to order the flange-base hatch.


The installation process was pretty straightforward: make an outline of the hatch base on a piece of cardboard, and figure out where you want it to go from the interior, making sure that the hatch won't catch on anything (especially once opened) nor require cutting away electrical wires etc.

Drill a hole through the center of the cardboard cutout straight up through the "ceiling" to the deck so you can then find the location of the hatch from the outside, and then line up the same cardboard cutout over the same hole from the outside (since the hatch is a symmetrical square shape, you don't need to keep track of the "inside" and "outside" of the cardboard cutout) and trace the outline for cutting the hatch hole on top of the deck.

I used hole saws to make the corner cuts match the hatch, but if you're handy with a jig saw you can do the whole thing using only a jigsaw. Because of the camber on the deck, there's a 1/4" gap around the sides under the hatch frame which, weather permitting, will have to be filled-in with shims and fiberglass filler to create a flat surface.

Having cut open the deck I was happy to see that it was more than an inch thick, and balsa wood in the core of the deck was in perfect shape. I dug the wood core out from for about an inch all the way around the interior of the new hatch hole using a chisel and oscillating tool, and then smothered the gap with filler and sanded it down smooth and flat. This ensures that no water can sneak into the wooden deck core from around the hatch hole to cause rot.

Screwing down the hatch will require good weather but I don't think it will be necessary to through-bolt the hatch. Things can't simply be screwed into the deck as water will intrude into the wooden core from around the screw holes and cause rot. I bought 8x 1.25" number 10 Philips-head stainless screws to attach the hatch to the deck but first I will drill out the screw holes to a larger size, fill the holes with structural fiberglass filler and put the (wax-covered) screws into the screw holes along with the filler. The wax will prevent the screws from getting stuck permanently into the filler once it sets but the fiberglass will take the impression of the screw threads well. The idea is to let the filler set around the screws to give them a real solid "bite" to hold onto the deck top when I permanently install the hatch, and also keep out moisture. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Strengthening chainplate knee

It has been unusually cold the last few days as a record-breaking "polar vortex" has covered the Midwest and we catch the tail end of such storms here in St Augustine, so I've just basically hibernated rather than work on the boat.

But I still managed to get a couple of things done. One was to consider insulation and the other was to strengthen a chainplate knee

The boat came to me with the interior side above the starboard settee already down to bare fiberglass. There was a splotch of gelcoat on the surface so I suspect someone was considering just gelcoating the area but stopped because the weave pattern of the fiberglass would show. I have sanded it down so it is relatively smooth now but I intend to cover the area with insulation so I'm not as concerned with looks (but I will be gelcoating the surface to protect it anyway)

Meanwhile I have taken the opportunity to strengthen the knee where the aft stb chainplate attaches. I drilled a hole into the knee to made sure the wood inside was still in good shape and it seemed to be so there was no need to replace the knee, however I want to take this chance to strengthen it. I have epoxied-in 1/3-inch thick plate made of G10 high-pressure fiberglass laminate to act as a back plate for the chainplate, waiting for it to cure (put a heater nearby) before sanding it back a bit so I can put strips of fiberglass directional matting to extend the knee a couple of more inches, and get it really stuck well to the hull interior. Then, I will smooth it out with fairing and wrap it in some laminate wood veneer. The chainplate itself attach on the outside, over the veneer, so I can check it visually regularly

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Installing new Lewmar Ocean hatches, part 1


I went with Lewmar hatches, to stay consistent with the Lewmar portholes I will be also installing. The forward hatch is a Lewmar Ocean 60 which is just about an inch smaller than the existing deck hole for the forward hatch, and the aft hatch located under the boom will be a Lewmar Ocean 40 which is just about an inch larger than the existing hatch hole. A Lewmar Low Profile size 20 hatch will go over the head compartment. The hole for it will have to be cut out of the deck since there's no hatch or ventilation there already (a decent sized opening porthole in combination with the hatch, should keep the head quite well-ventilated.)



Since the aft hatch was going to be easier to install (simply enlarge the existing hole, rather than make a larger hole smaller, or make a new hole) I started with that one. The process was simple: I made a pattern from the new hatch out of cardboard, and transferred the outline to the deck top, around the existing hatch frame. It was obvious that the whole frame had to go, so I cut it off with an oscillating tool (I started with a smaller tool, but after having to repeatedly re-tighten the blade, I brought out the Makita oscillating tool to finish the job.)



Once the old hatch frame was cut off, you could see the gap between cabin liner and the external deck. I put some off-cuts of foam and wood in the gap, and filled it all with filler which I then sanded smooth and flush with the deck top.



Then, it was simply a matter of finessing the fit of the hatch flange into the newly-enlarged hole. I had to sand down a couple of places around the new hole but the hatch flange dropped into the new hole without much trouble. The good thing was that since the new hatch is not much larger than the old one, I don't have to do a lot of fairing and finessing of the interior area around the hatch -- the hatch fills the pre-existing interior hatch frame in the ceiling quite well.

Since the decktop is cambered, there is a slight gap of about a half-inch on the sides of the hatch frame with the deck top that I will have to fill-in with shims that are glassed in place. I also have to drill the screw holes for the new hatch, making sure to fill over-sized holes with resin to prevent any water intrusion around the new screw holes. I also have to cut the 4.5 inch hole for the solar vent in the center of the hatch plexiglass.

Next, installing the forward hatch.

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.