Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New anchor locker, Part 1

My Pearson 35 came with a very large anchor locker that unfortunately drained into the bilge. Access to the anchor locker was by a hatch in the v-berth. None of this arrangement was very practical. I decided to seal that hatch, make a new hatch on deck, and redesign the interior of the anchor locker to hold two anchors as well as provide convenient storage space for dock lines, fenders, etc.

First I had to cut out the anchor locker hatch or lid from the deck top. Part 2 is about the interior work inside the anchor locker, including dividing the space, building a shelf and cutting drain holes.

The location of the hatch was about 3 inches forward of the anchor locker bulkhead, with sufficient clearance for cleats on the sides, and for the windlass and bowsprit. I drew a couple of outlines of hatch shapes and locations until I settled on one that seemed most practical.  I sat on the deck, placed my feet where the cleats would go on the two sides of the locker lid, and pretended to be hauling up an anchor to make sure that the location was appropriate. 

Using a black marker, I drew the outline of the hatch on the deck to provide a guide for cutting. I had to be real careful because I didn't want to make a brand new lid for the anchor locker hatch, but planned to use the cut-out piece of deck material itself as the lid. My friend who is a professional boatbuilder did the actual cutting, just to be sure, using his Festool.  The boat deck has a camber to it, higher in the center and curving down towards the the sides, so the hatch had to match that curve and I was not about to spend the time to make a new anchor locker hatch which matched that curved deck shape. 

Festool don't fail me now!

The hatch cut-out from below

Once a shelf is placed inside the anchor locker, everything will be within arm reach
But before I started cutting anything, I had to make the lip that would fit beneath the lid to support it and prevent it from falling down into the its own hole. Since the deck had a camber to it, this lip had to also match that curve of the deck.

So, first I taped-over the outline of the hatch (which I had drawn on deck) with plastic packing tape, making sure everything on the deck and within the vicinity of the hatch was well-covered with plastic tape.  ( I used clear packing tape because I wanted to be able to see my drawing of the hatch outline through the tape. )

Then I laid two layers of thick resin-coated fiberglass roving mat strips, about 4 inches wide, over the outline of the hatch lid, making a rough trapezoidal shape which matched the shape of the hatch outline, and also had the camber of the deck. Once this had cured, I was able to easily pry it off the surface of the deck since the fiberglass could not bond to the plastic tape beneath it. Sorry, no pictures of this process!

Digging out the balsa core around the hatch.

To prevent moisture intrusion, I dug out about half-inch of the balsa core around the hole and around the new lid, and filled the gap with a thickened mixture of epoxy and filler. Once this had cured, I sanded down the edges of the hatch to even it out and make it smooth. (I used epoxy rather than polyester along the edges because I wanted to strengthen the hatch as much as possible, even though I new that epoxy may cause problems with gelcoat later.West assures everyone that you can indeed gelcoat over their epoxy if it is properly mixed and cured. Many are doubtful but I tested things and indeed gelcoat seems to stick fine to epoxy.)

Also, since the fiberglass cabin headliner extended past the bulkhead a few inches into the anchor locker,  I trimmed it back to the bulkhead too, and tabbed the bulkhead top directly to the deck with 2 layers of 1708 biaxial ( and the entire bulkhead was covered with 2 layers of fiberglass on the anchor-locker side.)

Filled in the gap left around the edge of the hatch with thickened epoxy, then sanded down smooth.
To put the lip in place that supports the hatch lid,  I trimmed off and cleaned up the excess fiberglass material from the trapezoidal-shaped piece that I had layed-up earlier so that it roughly matched the shape of the hatch. Using epoxy and milled fiberglass adhesive filler, I glued this piece beneath the hatch cut-out and held it in place overnight with clamps. The next day, I further trimmed it back with my grinder so that about 3/4" of it stuck out to provide support for the hatch lid and prevent it from falling into the anchor locker, and glassed over it with another 2 layers of 1708 biaxial.

The "lip" glued below the hatch cutout, about to be further trimmed.

Attaching the hinges involved the usual process of making bolt holes in cored decks to avoid water-intrusion: mark the intended location of the bolt holes, drill a slightly larger hole through the deck, dig out about half-an-inch of the balsa core from around the hole (I used the old "bent nail in a drill" technique to do this), vacuum the hole out, put a piece of tape under the hole and then pour fiberglass resin into the hole from the top (I like to just slightly thicken the fiberglass resin with structural filler, while keeping it still runny and fluid. See below for explanation.)  Over-filling the hole so that a dome of resin forms over the hole is a good idea, since there may be shrinkage as the fiberglass cures, or as the fiberglass resin gets absorbed into the surrounding balsa core inside the hole.

Bent nail used to dig out the balsa core around the hole

Once the fiberglass has cured, I sanded down the fiberglass flush. Drilling a smaller hole directly through this plug for the hinges, ensures that no water can reach the balsa core around the hole.  

It is normally recommended un-thickened resin be poured into the bolt holes. However plain resin may crack when subject to pressure, allowing water intrusion. Mixing up a small amount of structural filler with the resin would minimize this, however you can't mix too much filler since then it won't flow properly, and may leave unfilled air pockets inside the drilled holes. That's why it is always a good idea to poke a toothpick into the hole while filling it, to remove trapped air bubbles.

Since the rest of the boat hatches used brass hinges (except for the new propane tank locker) I decided to use heavy-duty brass strap hinges on the anchor locker hatch. Since I was not able to locate large brass fender washers quickly, I made some backing plates for the hinges from G10 board. I don't expect the hatch to have to hold a lot of weight or anything, but I didn't want to "mix metals" by using stainless washers with brass nuts and bolts. The G10 is great for backing plates because it is of course non-conductive yet super-strong and can be cut and shaped with a grinder easily.   

Monday, April 10, 2017

Removing a cruddy old generator from a sailboat

Not my boat. Thank god.

On a delivery in Miami

On a delivery from Miami to St. Augustine.

The boat had been docked for 2 years. Nice-looking and well-maintained boat but it was amazing to see the damage caused by just sitting there in the sun. It was covered in rat droppings and leaves. Many rubber items had started to fall apart too.

We had to turn back twice -- blew a water hose the first time, then blew the engine gasket. We got as far as Port St Lucie

Boatyard yoga

Sometimes you have to be Houdini when restoring a classic old yacht

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Random photos

"We don't really need this thingy, I hope..."

Some boats have been on the hard for far too long
My Sasha dreaming of mahi-mahi and flying fish

Training on how to upright a life raft.
...how to put out a fire...

how to survive in open water

...and how to enjoy lunch.

Pulling the impeller.

New base plate welded onto compression post

Taking apart the head to get to the compression post base

Looking for gremlins, Approved Engine Course at MPT 2016

RYA Powerboat Tender Operator Course

Sailboat archeology

My toy, Firefly (now Siren, repainted red)

New compression post base, later discarded in favor of G10 block

Chainplates look good

Overnight fishing, St Augustine

Ft. Lauderdale, 2016

Down to gelcoat

This tool was a lifesaver

My giant pdf, used on oil rigs

Half Moon Bay, California
Maas my neighbor who is a great mentor and teacher on boatbuilding

New internal teak handrails, at shoulder-level

Propane tank locker, part 1

At some point Whimsy had a propane stove, based on the stove gimballs as well as the hole in the galley-side bulkhead for a propane gas line. However there was no dedicated propane tank locker, which leads me to assume that either the propane tank was mounted above-deck, perhaps attached to a stanchion, or more likely the tank was located below deck, inside the port cockpit locker  (this is in the days before the ABYC code, which now requires a dedicated locker for props e tanks stored below deck.)

Yes, it can fit
Naturally I want to do a lot of cooking aboard but I don't want to have propane tanks hanging around outside, off the rail or stanchions, just waiting to be washed away by waves and generally making my boat look bad. So I decided to make a dedicated propane tank locker which is fully compliant with the ABYC code.

I chose to put the locker under the port-side aft-quarter of the cockpit seats. There was mostly wasted space below the seat there, and a convenient place for the propane tanks. Based on my measurements, I could fit two 10-pound tanks into the space, while having enough free vertical space to allow the locker to vent overboard well above the waterline as required by the ABYC.

However, it was going to be a tight fit horizontally, especially as I didn't have a lot of space to create a hatch out of the seating area above the locker. The tank itself was 11-inches in diameter (I rounded up) but the seat was an irregular curved shape that just barely provided enough surface space to cut out a hatch that was large enough to let the propane tank pass through, plus a 1-inch gutter around the hatch to collect water and prevent it from entering the locker (where it could corrode the tank and fittings, even though it would also drain out the vent.)

The locker itself was is integral to the hull. It basically consists of 5 pieces of marine-grade plywood sheathed in fiberglass which form a box under the cockpit seat. The "ceiling" of the locker is the cockpit seat, the bottom of the locker is a panel shaped to conform to the sloped hull and hold the tank upright, and consisted of several pieces that fit together like a 3D jigsaw puzzle. The vent for any leaking propane to escape through, is a 1/2" hole cut through a corner of this box, right through the boat hull. There's no hose connection. The vent is located 5 inches above the static waterline externally.

Making templates for the locker sides

Temporarily glassed-in. The vent hole will be drilled through the locker and hull at this corner

Floor panel, cut to conform to the hull's curved shape. A hole was drilled through the locker and hull in the lower right side of this photo
Propane locker vent is just a hole cut into the hull above the waterline

The ABYC has code standards on the various designs of propane tank lockers. Generally they require a vspor-tight dedicated contsiner with top-opening hatches or lids and that have a vent to drain any leaking propane overboard. The code allows for tanks to be located above-deck (which makes them vulnerable to waves, and looks messy) or in specially-designed but quite expensive sealing boxes that can be placed inside a cockpit locker below deck. Since these boxes are airtight, vented overboard, and their sealed lids can't be opened without the cockpit locker itself being opened to the outside air too, they are deemed acceptable. What is not compliant with the code but apparently popular with boat designers are side-opening propane locker hatches, which would spill any leaked propane.

 I went with the preferred design for a propsne tank locker, which consists of a dedicated locker space below deck that has a hatch which opens directly to the air, and vents overboard of course.  The ABYC has specified in more detail what a compliant propane tank locker like mine requires:

1- It has to be dedicated to propane tanks only, nothing else can be stored in there.

2- The tanks themselves have to be secured and strapped down. I could have gone with one vertical tank but decided on two 10-lb tanks instead, for ease of transport and refill.

3- The locker has to be vapor-tight, so no leaking propane can get into the boat ( propane is heavier than air, so it will tend to accumulate in the bilge,  and then possibly explode when you start the engine.)

4- There has to be a min. half-inch vent that directly drains any leaked propane out of the locker and overboard, above the static waterline (and 20-inches away from any other hull penetration where propane may sneak back in.)

5- Use only approved flexible gas supply hose and connections (or copper pipe, but not in my case) which are supported along the runs, and protected from chafe

6- The gas supply hose penetrates through the propane tank locker via an vapor-tight gland. There can be no T-connections to the gas supply hose outside of the locker, so you can't really use the same supply hose for two propane-consuming items. Rather the gas supply hose has to run directly to the stove, and only to the stove. So any T-connections for other propane-consuming accessories such as a heater or barbecue have to be made inside the locker.  I'm considering one for a spare gas line for my Weber.

7- The gasketed hatch has to open to the outside air, and have a latch. I don't have a latch, just a lifting handle. Gonna have to fix that. It is not as easy as it sounds since the latch will have to be recessed. I may get a nice bronze one to match the rest of the old fixtures in my cockpit if I can find it.

8- There has to be a solenoid to keep the gas supply off at the tank until needed.

9- there has to be a pressure gauge, not to measure the amount of gas left in a bottle (the pressure would remain constant until the bottle is near empty anyway) but to check for leaks.

Propane tank locker hatch closed, flush latch and hinges

Hatch open, showing the drain gutter round the hatch. Had to rush the photo since it was raining

So once the hatch was cut out from the seat, I had to make the gutter to fit under the edges of the newest hole in my boat. This gutter collects and drains any water that may fall on the propane tank locker hatch (rain, or waves.) Designing it was kinda tricky because among other things, the cockpit seats are not "flat" (parallel to the floor) but instead have a back-leaning, knee-raising angle (like any well designed boat should,  so that occupants can sit more securely on the cockpit seats in a heeling sailboat)  so the gutter had to be angled forward to drain water at one particular deep corner, where I cut  a drain hole into the footwell.

The other problem  was with the width of the gutter: the cut-out space needed to for the propane tank didn't leave a lot of space for a gutter to be placed around the hatch too (plus hinges) so the gutter around the hatch was made narrower than what I would have liked, and so I can't easily clean it out of debris such as fallen leaves with a simple finger-swipe as I can the gutters of the locker hatches, so the gutter and its drain can clog and force water to drain into the locker itself. This is a small annoyance, since like I said any water that finds its way into the propane tank locker would drain out the vent hole, though I'd rather not have too much water get into the locker and cause corrosion.

To make the gutter, I drew the shape of the lid and made matching mold using MDF board and gelcoat. The MDF board was then covered in tinted gelcoat, sanded smooth, and thoroughly waxed with mold release wax. This formed the mold.

Then a new white layer of gelcoat was spread over the mold (this would form the exterior of the gutter, so it is already gelcoated once popped off the mold) followed by several layers of fiberglass mat with polyester resin (polyester allows the mat to have better shape conformity than epoxy.)

After a few hours, the gutter was popped off the mold, and epoxied under the newly-cut hatch for the propane tank locker.

More pictures and detailed explanations will be provided in a post about the new instrument panel which was made at the same time using the same process.

The gutter was angled so that it drained water towards a drain hole in lowest corner, and into the footwell. If I had to do it over again, I'd make the drainhole larger. In fact, I may do so now, since it is already hard enough to clean out the gutter.

I still have to finish the project by gelcoating the interior and exterior of the propane locker, change the hatch lift handle into a latching one, install straps to keep the propane tanks secure inside the locker, and mount the regulator, hoses, pressure gauge etc. and then run the gas hose to the galley where I hope to install my cooker soon! See part 2

Centerboard cable reconnected

The Pearson 35 is a shoal-draft centerboard sloop. With the centerboard up, she draws less than 4 feet. With the centerboard down, her draft increases to 7.5 feet. The centerboard itself is a heavy piece of solid fiberglass that hangs from a pin inside the keel.

The centerboard is raised and lowered using a cable attaches to tangs on the top aft corner of the centerboard. The cable runs goes up the keel into the bilge of boat through some brass or bronze tubes that run aft towards the engine, then up through the starboard-side galley counter, ending next to a block mounted over the counter. This block in turn is connected to a 3/8th line that runs to the cockpit via a bulkhead fitting. Pull on the line, the block turns and takes up the cable so the centerboard moves up; release the line & the centerboard drops, etc.

The problem is that in many boats, the centerboard cable has parted so there's no way to lift the centerboard. That was the case for Whimsy too, which is why I had to dig a hole in the ground under her in the boatyard for the droopy centerboard to stay while I worked on reconnecting the cable.
Where the centerboard used to live

Splice eye and saddle clamps to connect to centerboard

Centerboard sheave

Fishing a messenger line through to pull up the new steel centerboard cable

Another sheave that needed cleaning
Of course, when the cable parted, it was pulled up and out of the tubing too, so I had to find a way to fish a new cable through the tubes and out the other end. This was not easy, and all my efforts using a variety of material (including weed-whacker line) failed because, as it turned out, the sheaves were block-up with dirt. I had to take apart all of the tubing and clean the sheaves, before I could run the centerboard cable through and connect it to the centerboard. This was not all that hard and only required a pipe wrench to accomplish.

I used stainless steel cable with an eye and saddle clamps to connect to the centerboard. I had wanted to do a proper steel cable splice but didn't have the time for it. I hope the saddle clamps hold.

I will have to take apart the centerboard cable tubes again, when I build the integral water tank. *Sigh*