Monday, November 30, 2015

Clean, plan and move forward...

Ronin deserves better.

It has been better than a year since she was given any attention other than painting, sanding, unscrewing bolts and running wires. And in the time, she has slowly acquired a patina of dirt, mold and just plain scum. In my zeal to keep working on the “big” projects and get them done, I had not really notice how run-down and tired she had become. I think she was trying to tell me that the project was more about me than her.

I work on Ronin in a boatyard that had more than a few abandoned boats that were chopped up, sent to the landfill and quite a few more that although the yard fees are being paid, it is pretty clear that those old boats are probably never going to see the water again. You can see it and feel it when walking around the yard. They’re faded, tattered and covered in a faint verdigris. Projects started and then stopped with a hasty cover thrown over the work with what I am sure is a resolve to get back to it in the spring. But it doesn’t seem to happen.

That is one of my biggest fears. That I will get to a point where I walk away from an unfinished project. I’m not cowed by the costs, the labor involved or the technical difficulties. I’m not fazed by the shear scale of the project.

I fear that I will just lose the drive and the concentration necessary to complete the refit.

But I have a partner is this effort. He’s been with me for years and is aways on the boat waiting for me to show up and get back to the tasks at hand. He’s fearless. He doesn’t take No for an answer and he certainly isn’t sentimental. When I see him, I smile and get back to work.

“Salty” the croc...

I m watching you

So, the other day I downed power tools and sandpaper and picked up a bucket, brush and cleansers. After doing yet another vacuum of the boat I scrubbed down the entire interior. The fiberglass liner that I had painted was showing dirt and spots from the wasp “ejecta”. The melamine covering the cabinetry was covered in large swatches of mold. The teak paneling was growing a new species of moss as near as I could tell.

It took two days to get it nice again. A huge difference in feel just going below despite the fact that with everything removed it looks like an industrial site.


A wash is good


Clean aft

When I was done with the cleaning I moved on to next important item. Project planning. This is where I will fall down and not complete this project if it is not updated and followed. The refit will become just another random set of chores with no completion.

I’ve been focusing on the larger effort required to get the decks ready for painting this coming spring. That’s pretty simple on a day-to-day level; grind, fill, sand, fill, sand, etc., etc.

But as that effort is starting to wind down, I need to focus on the remaining large tasks and what can be achieved during the winter months. I sat down at the nav-station with my notes, project plans and Salty to work on a list of jobs that could be worked on in the colder weather. 

After that effort I’ve got a nice list of items and a renewed sense of where to go and what to get done in the next 3-4 months.

Paper technology

Work continues.

'Glassing in the quarterberth port

Thanksgiving with my family and a few doctors visits. Just part of the schedule when trying to get time to work on the boat. All of those events took me away from Reedville for several days. Driving to and from Washington, D.C. can be tiresome. And I will be going back in a few days for some minor out-patient surgery.

In-between the interruptions I continued work on filling in the old round port providing ventilation to the quarter berth. I cut up some layers of 17 oz. biaxial cloth to fit the diameter of the opening and epoxied them in place. From there I used the plastic template I had created some days earlier to cut up successive layers of 6 oz. woven cloth. These were epoxied into place until the entire area was built up.

Plug it and cover it.

Glass mat plug

Yes, still more wetting out to be done...

Old port layup

Pro tip: don’t use paper or tape for the epoxy overrun. The epoxy just ignores it and sets up on the glass anyway. And I knew that prior to taping it up. Dummy at work yet again...

I put a heat lamp on the whole thing and let it set up for the day.

The next day I came back and started in on sanding the hardened epoxy. After a quick wash to remove the amine blush I did a a couple of passes with the 5” grinder and the 6” sander. Despite my weak fiberglassing skills the layup was nice and fair with virtually no high spots that needed working down.

Ready for AwlFair.

Old port layup sanding

I grabbed the vacuum to remove any dust and then washed the entire area with acetone. After mixing up a batch of AwlFair and troweling it on, I was done with that for the day.

I love AwlFair...

First coat AwlFair

I took a quick trip to the bow and sanded the last AwlFair application near the forward part of the anchor locker and it is ready for priming when that occurs next Spring.

Done enough.

Anchor damage ready for primer

When I came back next I discovered the limitations of PeelPly. I had considered just using plastic between the wood backing plate and the epoxy buildup. I should have.

The wooden plug was firmly fixed in place. If it had been in a more accessible location it would have been fairly easy to remove. It was not.

So, breaking out the “Wonder Tool", my Fein Multimaster I was able to cut and pry the plug out in small bits. Ultimately it was notas onerous a task as I had envisioned.

Bits and pieces.

PeelPly has limitations


Favorite tool deals with it

And since I had it ready I changed the blade and chopped off the wooden dowels I used to plug the old winch holes on the cabin top near the cockpit when filling them with epoxy.

Eh, no one will see it.

Cut off the bungs

After some sanding with the 6” Mirka DA and some of board filing I applied another skim coat of AwlFair.

Break out the heat lamp again.

Heat rays

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Filling and fairing never seems to end.

I awoke this morning to the sound of rain beating on our metal roof. There are times when it is a comforting tattoo that signifies a quiet day of coffee in bed, catching up on the goings-on the world (via the Internet...) and finding some small chores around the house to work on.

Not today.

I rolled out of bed early, put on boat-yard clothes, grabbed some breakfast, checked the NYT and then started to load the yard-truck with the required tools for the day's effort. I did a quick run down the street to check in with George Butler to make sure the skiff was covered and dry. Check.

Next stop was “Ronin”. Despite being a dismal drizzly and rainy day the temperatures were in the mid-sixtes. I unloaded tools and set up the work table. The goal was to sand off more AwlFair compound, check for imperfections and continue on the iterative process of getting the decks ready for priming and painting.

Grey day.

DSC 0068

First thing was to identify those spots that needed sanding and more filler. I grabbed my new LED work light and went around the decks hand sanding the smaller spots. I had filled the hardware holes a few days earlier with West System epoxy and a little bit of micro-fiber filler. At the same time I worked some AwlFair into low areas and scratch marks.

Plugged and some fairing.

DSC 0034

Wooden dowels to stop the epoxy leaks.

DSC 0040

After that I spent some time working the board file on the cabin-top near the cockpit to get the area fair. Still not done yet but getting there.

Before and after:

IMG 5650

IMG 5651

Up front in the bow there was an area that had a bad layup and probably some hits that destroyed the deck where the anchor line ran. I had worked up a couple of applications of West System with microfibers to build it up. I machine and hand sanded the buildup.

Ugly epoxy layup.

DSC 0038

Sanded, faired and AwlFair applied.

DSC 0065

The next effort for the day was to prep the old quarter-berth hole for patching. I measured the opening, adding a few inches to the diameter of the backing plate. I cut the backing plate out of some scrap wood that I had lying around the shed but quickly found out that the gap between the hull and cabin liner was pretty tight.

Where’s my compass when I need it?

DSC 0049

I ran the 2” pneumatic sander along the edges of the filler plate to make if fit. The problem was that it was thicker than than the opening available to me. Next step, fit it.

DSC 0056

When I went to put it in place,the plug didn't even begin to slide into place. So, since I was going to have do some glass-work to finish off the ragged hole at the base of the quarter-berth I cut it away at the interior liner. 

DSC 0051 

After getting the plug to fit I wrapped it with Peel-Ply and maneuvered  it in.

Ready for epoxy.

DSC 0057

DSC 0059

The day was getting on and I decided to wait until the next session to finish the repair. I’ve learned to never rush a task.

Race, sand and paint.

The weather in the Mid-Atlantic and middle Chesapeake Bay has been surprisingly mild this Fall. I wish I could say that I have maximized all of that great weather on boat repair but I have snuck away for a little riding time on the Ducati Multistrada before it gets too cold.

I also had to attend to some yacht club business in Annapolis so I drove up last Sunday to fulfill my membership duties but not surprisingly I confused the event by one day. The club business was on Saturday and I showed up on Sunday. Doh!

I changed gears and hooked up with my good friend, former Cal 25 crew mate and competitor Charlie Husar to join him for a wonderful day of Annapolis Yacht Club Frostbite Series crewing on his boat "Chicken Little". Two quick races in Annapolis were a great way to remember my racing chops. And realize how much I missed it...

The Butler skiff has been over at Reedville Marine Railway getting some repair work done and is now complete. It is up to me to finish the job. That requires sanding and painting which is right up my alley.

There was a good bit of new raw wood that needed to be dealt with. A hour of sanding with 80-grit paper on my Mirka 6” sander smoothed out the finish enough for paint. Another hour of sanding the paint off the hull prior to putting on new paint completed the effort.

After scrapping off the barnacles below the waterline I slapped on a sheet of 80-grit Stikit on the Porter-Cable DA and readied the sides for some bottom paint.

I quickly painted the new woodwork and sanded hull with a coat of white primer. Simple job with simple tools; a bristle brush and a gallon can of cheap white paint. I like the simplicity of working on “working” boats in a working fishing town. The watermen don’t get to tied up in the perfect finish using the top-of-the-line paint.

Work-boats. No fiberglass in sight.

IMG 5633

Primer coat on and ready for finish paint.

IMG 5640

Tuesday’s work was completed but scheduled meetings in Richmond required missing Wednesday’s great weather to apply the final paint. With rainy weather forecast for Thursday I figured on working on “Ronin” in the shed and finishing up the skiff this coming Friday.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Tools for removing stuff.

There’s a fairly long running thread in the C&C email list that I fanatically follow. It concerns the travails of removing and fixing/replacing the fixed ports of some of the new models of C&C’s. I thought that I’d put up a quick post to address some of the questions that others had and to show some tools that posters on the list had recommended.

I knew early on in the ownership of our boat that cleaning up the old Plexus would be a significant effort. I had pulled and replaced to original ports 15 years ago and just used silicone sealant between the new ports and the old, hard Plexus.

Not ideal but worked okay for the subsequent years.

As part of the deck repainting project, I decided to do it correctly this time around.

So, as a response to some the listers who are getting into this project and to answer some questions about what tools to use to remove the old Plexus I thought I’d post a few photos of the tools that I used.

3” Angle grinder.

IMG 5221

This tool is brutal but effective. It takes a careful hand to keep from really making a mess of the exterior gelcoat but it can be done. This removed large quantities of Plexus.

Ingersoll-Rand 2”/3” high speed pneumatic sander.

DSC 0024

This tool will remove a large amount of material also but it is much, much more delicate.

An air compressor is required for this tool so the overall investment is high. The tool itself is not very expensive and I bought a bag of 50 2” 80-grit sanding disks for cheap money. Like all sanding projects I buy lots of sandpaper and the minute it is no longer pushing dust I pitch it and slap on another. It’s cheaper than my time.

Fein Multimaster.

IMG 5577

One of my absolute favorite tools. I bought this before the patent expired and before other tool makers were allowed to produce oscillating tools. Were I do buy another I’d still buy the (much) more expensive Fein. The quality is leagues ahead of the new tools. I used 40-grit paper initially and then graduated to 80-grit for the fine detail sanding of the corners and the final passes on the inside flats.

Last but not least, hand-sanding blocks.

IMG 5563

Don’t laugh but a small 3M soft hand block with 80-grit Stikit sandpaper does an amazing amount of material removal. And it has the benefit of allowing me to do some fairly fine and detailed sanding when necessary.

Sanding doesn’t always have to be a chore. Good tools make a big difference.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) and (bonus!) wooden boats.

I have been doing quite a bit of sanding, primarily using my Mirka Ceros 6” DA sander on successive applications of AwlFair filler. I’ve been doing so much of it that my left forearm is beginning to exhibit some of the symptoms of RSI. Makes sense I suppose.

Nothing terribly interesting to report as far as the work goes. I continue to fill and sand and fill and sand. One of the things is the disturbingly large number of spots that I miss. I’ll work my around the deck, inspecting and marking potential spots for grinding and filling. After finishing that process and then coming back the next day to sand I am continually finding cracks in need of grinding that have been missed. Worse are those spots that I have ground out and completely missed when it came time to apply the AwlFair.

Nonetheless, although it is fairly uninteresting work I am making progress. I think that after a few more passes on the deck I will be ready to cover them with the construction paper I bought earlier this week. Since it is pretty certain that I will be shooting the primer and topcoat sometime next Spring I want to try and keep the decks dirt, grime and grit free as possible.

Second pass with AwlFair.

DSC 0005

Filling large depressions and bolt-holes.

DSC 0009

Interestingly, in the picture shown above, the large area filled in with AwlFair is a slight depression in the deck that contained one of the original winches, in this case for the mainsheet. I’m assuming (and hoping…) that it was designed in from the factory. The same thing occurs on the port side as well.

The original control setup that I inherited was comprised of four non-self-tailing winches arrayed across the cabin top to work all the halyards and lines that were led aft. Early on I ditched two of the old Barients and replaced them with Harken 40 aluminum self-tailers. When the boat is put back together I am completely re-designing the layout of the lines led aft. A reduction in the number of lines is high on my list but that’s a chore left for later. Bottom line is that all the used and un-used holes in the deck will be filled, faired and painted over.

The port side after board sanding.

IMG 5563

After that session more filler went on. Before leaving for the day, after cleaning up my tools and equipment I decided to just sit and ruminate. Catch up on progress and to-do notes for the project.

Does this qualify as a “man cave”? Not with that pink chair...

IMG 5569

The next day I came back and, surprise, did more sanding, concentrating on the four fixed port openings. I’ve been paying particular attention to these because of the large radiating cracks in the gel-coat and the damaged backing lip for the ports themselves. I’m carefully prepping these for installation of new ports when the decks are painted next year.

Went on heavy and got sanded away.

IMG 5574

IMG 5575

What would I do without my trusty construction pencil?

IMG 5578

While my work effort was proceeding over the past week or so, I managed to move the Butler skiff over to the the place where it was built, Reedville Marine Railway, so that some leaking and rot damage could be attended to. Since I have neither the time nor the skill to do the woodwork on it, I hired a local woodworker and wooden boat repair professional to deal with it. Smart move on my part.

Been sittin' for a year and the barnacles were happy...

IMG 5498

Rotten wood coming out.

IMG 5503

IMG 5507

I think we found the leak….

IMG 5513

New wood!

IMG 5524

IMG 5525

Of note: the original mast from the Chesapeake Bay buyboat, "Elva C” shown in the background of the picture below is now a feature in the main room of our house. A bit of local history that fits with the fact that our house used to have a wooden boat building concern in the backyard.

IMG 5561

Anyway, the woodwork is completed and now I need to do more sanding on this boat too.

My arm is not wild about the prospect of that... 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Things that shift deadlines.

Well, it’s pretty clear that I view deadlines as movable moments.

I haven’t worked on the boat in any real fashion since last August. Even those work sessions were less than highly productive.

My wife took an apartment in Barcelona, Spain for a month starting the last week of August. I flew in on the 1st of September and proceeded to eat and drink my way through the city for the next three weeks. It was my second time there and it is still a wonderful city to visit. A young Marine friend of mine and I rented a couple of Ducati Scramblers and spent two days leaning into turns in the Pyrenees and the Costa Brava. A superb time and a great ride.

After all that I came back, spent four days making sure that things were in order and then took off for a week in Top Sail Beach, NC for my 45th high school reunion. No, I didn’t go to school in North Carolina. Canadian Academy in Kobe, Japan actually but one of the hosts of the reunion live in Top Sail Beach now and it became the destination for the class. Easier to drive to than Kobe...

Came back home from the reunion, checked on the house and cats and then my wife and I flew to Santiago, Dominican Republic for our annual medical mission work. Another week of no progress on “Ronin."

Now I’m getting back to work.

Last week I finished off sanding all the non-skid that was butting up to the base of the toe-rail as the final effort on the deck. Using the Fein Multitool with 80-grit sanding pads worked fairly well. As I was doing this I made a note to run a strip of gloss (non non-skid?) along that edge instead of running non-skid right up to the bottom edge of the toe-rail. Should be easier to shoot and a better look for the finished product. As part of the sanding process I noted that pretty much all deck surfaces were non-skid and I made a note to not re-apply it in areas that have bolts and sealant like I found under the chainplates and jib-track.

80-grit works quite well:

DSC 0013

After that final bit of effort I spent close to a full day vacuuming and cleaning the decks and interior to remove copious amounts of gelcoat dust that was blown in. When I do my next boat refit project I’ll make sure to tape up the ports and openings. No, wait, what am I saying? I will never, ever do another refit….

A light dusting, that’s all really...

Dust Everywhere


Today I loaded up the tool truck with my Makita compressor and a new Ingersoll-Rand 2”/3” high speed sander and drove to the boat.

After getting the air-hose led and tool attached I started grinding out the small, hairline cracks that were present on the deck. Most were around the stanchion bases and radiating out from the edges of the fixed ports. There were scratches and gouges from previous work that I had done. Edges and corners that had grooves work by halyards that had run directly across them without any edge protection had grooves down the glass. There were divots from old halyard winches on the deck that had been removed and given a quick fill by previous owners that needed a fairing prior to primer and paint.

Chicken pox.

DSC 0039

The fixed ports required special attention. There were significant spider cracks radiating from the edges in addition to the inner surface that the port glues to that needing fairing compound.

Never looked nice from the day we got the boat.

DSC 0015

DSC 0046

It was messy and I was not doing my best work. The upside is that the AwlFair is easy to sand after setting up so the overall level of effort isn’t much. I tend to under-apply filling and fairing compound and then have to re-fair at least one more time, often several. I’m not efficient that way...

Mix Part A to equal amount of Part B...

Mix Well

The stern edge of the cockpit coaming had some fiberglass voids that needed work. A couple of passes with a very large amount of fairing compound was in order.


DSC 0006

and semi-after….

DSC 0036

When the fairing application work was done, I still had an hour to go for the day.  Last week I did some research on Lewmar opening ports and decided that I would go with a Lewmar Atlantic 30 port to replace the miserable old round screw-in port that ostensibly provided air to the quarter-berth. After making a template to insure that it would fix, I started in on readying that area for the new port. First thing is to glass in the old opening.

Bringing out my trusty DeWalt small grinder I worked out a rough 12:1 radius surface grind. Later this week I’ll glass it it.

More before and after.

IMG 5518

DSC 0050

DSC 0052

Anyway, back to sanding. But only after I get back from taking one of our cats back to Maryland in the middle of the week for some vet work at my sister-in-law and brother’s veterinary practice. 

There goes that deadline again...

Also, too. Holiday snaps:

IMG 2418