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Monthly Archives: May 2015

“Refit my dinghy” is so easy to say, but represents a deceptively large effort. This always surprises me: the boat is only 8 feet long, after all. I’ve been doing dinghy refit things for a month now – I began on 30 April, and I finished yesterday – 30 May – so every day for a month that I’ve had time, weather, and inclination converge on the same day, I’ve worked through necessary steps. Since my last post I’ve painted the shear stripe (twice – 2 coats), reinstalled the hardware (oar locks, pintles and gudgeons, bow ring) and lashed on the firehose rub rail. I did anticipate that lashing on the firehose would take a while, but forgot just how long (about 2 hours). Amazing really – such simple task, yet so time consuming to get it to look right and lash down tightly.

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The sheer stripe turned out a little wider this time. For some reason I felt like the stripe needed to be as wide as the joint at the bow transom. Now I’m not so sure.

Firmly pressing down the tape, it turns out, is really important. . .

Firmly pressing down the tape, it turns out, is really important. . .

. . . and here's why. This one-part polyurethane tends to be very thin, and easily gets under any imperfection in the tape seal.

. . . and here’s why. This one-part polyurethane paint is very thin, and easily gets under any imperfection in the tape seal. I did go around the boat one last time to press down the tape firmly. Fortunately, with a wooden boat there is always “next time” so next time I’ll use a better grade of tape.

But from 6-8 feet away it's difficult to notice the imperfections.  That's fine. My goal isn't perfection here, it's preservation, functionality, and general respectability.

But from 6-8 feet away it’s difficult to notice the imperfections. That’s fine. My goal isn’t perfection here, it’s preservation, functionality, and general respectability. Perfection takes a lot more time and effort than I’m willing to give.

Lashing the firehose.  Part of what takes so long is pulling 50 feet of line through each hole.

Lashing the firehose. Part of what takes so long is pulling 50 feet of line through each hole.

Binding the hose tightly and neatly is the challenge.

Binding the hose tightly and neatly is the challenge.

Once done, though, there is no better rub rail in the world. This covers and cushions everything, and the hose casing cleans up really well. These sections of hose have lived outside at least ten years, and they easily scrubbed up bright again.

Once done, though, there is no better rub rail in the world. This covers and cushions everything, and the hose casing cleans up really well. These sections of hose have lived outside at least ten years, and they easily scrubbed up bright again.

I like how well the hose covers the corners. Extra protection is needed at the corners because of point loading - as the hose turns the corner, extra material gathers and provides that extra cushion.

I like how well the hose covers the corners. Extra protection is needed at the corners because of point loading – as the hose turns the corner, extra material gathers and provides that extra cushion.

I didn’t anticipate uncured green paint in a few of the lashing holes. That left traces of green on the cord and hose. My final task for the day was sanding the seats and applying varnish (first coat of many to come) to protect the epoxy sealant from UV damage. She’s now ready for Ruth to paint the name on the transom

I’m finally to the place where paint can be applied. After going back and forth on what kind of paint, I settled on cheap one-part polyurethane from West Marine. I had a balance on a gift card, so it didn’t cost me too much. I was hoping to use an oil-based porch and deck paint, but these are not commonly available anymore. Oil-based paints are becoming scarcer and scarcer. A couple years ago I used an oil-based primer to coat the cockpit sole, and that would have worked, I think, but I was not confident about it’s longevity while constantly submersed, like the bottom of our dinghy will be from time to time. I used the half quart I had left over and painted the inside of the dink. I had just enough!

I know it says primer on the can.  I'm okay with that.  It covered the surface, encapsulated the sand, looks white and not shiny.  That's what I wanted.  It's not much trouble to repaint the surface every couple of years to keep it looking fresh.

Left over from painting the cockpit sole. The rest of this can covered all the interior of the Sea Minor.

From the West Marine website.  The can says Jet Black!  I used semi-gloss white.

Image from the West Marine website. Although this can says Jet Black, I used semi-gloss white.

The SeaGloss one-part polyurethane seems okay. It’s thin as water, so it runs and sags easily. When rolling it on, I really had to use very little paint to keep it from making a mess. I’m a little concerned about how long it takes to cure. After 10 hours, some of the thicker sags were still too soft to sand. It says recoating is possible after 8-24 hours, so obviously 8 hours isn’t long enough, and this was a perfect day to paint – low humidity, temps in low 70s, clear sky. It does level out very well, and the satin finish is going to look much better than a high gloss for this imperfect surface. Really though, a flat white would have been best. It took me about an hour to paint the outside, and another hour for the interior. Incidentally, the instructions say this is for above the water line. . .   We’ll see how it does.

We’ve got rain scheduled for the next several days, so it looks like final coating will have to wait at least until Friday or Saturday. Meanwhile, here are a few images of the dink with a new first coat.

It was such a relief to get that covered up.  I had to restrain myself from going too quickly.

It was such a relief to start painting, and getting a new finish on it, I had to restrain myself from going too quickly.

Partially covered.  It was relatively slow work ensuring that the surface was covered, but not with too much paint.

Partially covered. It was relatively slow work ensuring that the surface was covered, but not with too much paint.

Sorry about the shadows.

Sorry about the shadows.

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And here are a couple of photos of the interior.  The seats have been sealed with epoxy resin, and are awaiting sanding, then varnish.

And here are a couple of photos of the interior. The seats have been sealed with epoxy resin, and are awaiting sanding, then varnish.

You also get a better view of the outboard pad/transom reinforcement.

You also get a better view of the outboard pad/transom reinforcement.

After glassing the inside and outside of the stern transom on Sea Minor I noticed the plywood (6mm ocoume) stiffened up a good bit. However, there was a vertical crack right in the middle at the top, and that was not really repaired with the glass plies on either side. It just wasn’t robust, and I was certain that it would fracture again. To remedy this, I decided to add a panel of 1/2 inch plywood to the outside. This would completely fix the fracture, and would give me an option to add a small outboard, if I ever wanted to. This will not interfere with reinstallation of the rudder gudgeons, and the gudgeons won’t interfere with an outboard either.

Here I'm planning the clamp locations.  No bolts or screws - only thickened epoxy adhesive.

Here I’m planning the clamp locations. No bolts or screws – only thickened epoxy adhesive.

Plywood pad trimmed and edges chamfered so that it can be glassed over.  Glass fabric won't go over a right angle edge.

Plywood pad trimmed and edges chamfered so that it can be glassed over. Glass fabric won’t go over a right angle edge without leaving a void. I chamfered three sides with my angle grinder and flap disc in about 5 minutes.

Glued up and clamped.  Lots of squeeze out means I got enough epoxy on the piece.

Glued up and clamped. Lots of squeeze out means I got enough epoxy on the piece.

I scraped up the squeeze out and tried to reapply so as to create a gradual transition from the transom  to the pad.

I scraped up the squeeze out and tried to reapply so as to create a gradual transition from the transom to the pad. There is no sanitary, non-messy way to work with epoxy. I made a big mess doing this.

After it cured, I cleaned up the hard squeeze out with a sander, then mixed more epoxy. I painted the pad and surround with plain resin, then thickened the rest of the batch with fairing compound and applied it to the places where the transitions weren’t smooth. While that was all still wet and gooey, I applied two layers of glass fabric, then left it to cure.

Here's the pad glassed on and curing.

Here’s the pad glassed on and curing.

Just another view.

Just another view.

When all of that cured to a green state, I applied more straight resin to fill in the weave of the fabric.

Little steps that are nevertheless important get me closer to actually looking like I’ve made real progress. Real progress looks like new paint and varnish, rubrails covered with firehose, etc. But measuring by that standard is a false rule. Important work goes into surface preparation, without which paint won’t stick very long. It also involves this very small step of redrilling holes underneath the rubrail for 1/4″ cord to pass through and bind on the firehose. Sealing the holes with epoxy isn’t a very visible step either, but it’s critical to preventing rot beneath the often wet firehose. So those are the small but important steps that have compassed my efforts recently. A few not-very-impressive photos will illustrate:

New epoxy washed and sanded again.

New epoxy washed and sanded again.

I've sanded out must of the drips and runs of epoxy that slide down the topsides too.  Just a very few runs to sand out remain.

I’ve sanded out must of the drips and runs of epoxy that slide down the topsides too. Just a very few runs to sand out remain.

See the holes across the top of the transom for the firehose binding cored?

See the holes across the top of the transom for the firehose binding cord?

Holes visible in the bow transom

Holes visible in the bow transom, and outlining the gunnels.

Sanding fiberglass ranks low on my list of favorite things to do, and I had the “itch” to do something else for a day (pun intended). I had ordered twist button canvas fasteners from Sailrite.com after researching price. I bought six sets (eye, twist fastener, and backing plates) for $.94 each. They were far and away the least expensive place to get them, even with shipping added in (about $6). A set of four would have cost so much more at West Marine ($14 for two sets) and approximately $2.60 each at Defender Marine. If there is any way you can avoid buying anything at West Marine, you should. On average, West marks up their prices at 1/3 above any other place on the web, and often above any other chandlery in town. Their stock in trade is convenience – one-stop shopping (or so they hope). On other items, they simply fleece the customer. There is no reason on earth to charge the sort of prices they do for some products, except that – amazingly – people will buy it anyway to avoid having to plan ahead. Occasionally you can get an item on sale at West that is a reasonably good deal. That’s the only time I really consider buying at West.

Oh yeah. . . the project!  I purchased a used headsail deck bag with my “new” (to me) jib, but it was a bit worn in one area.  The aft closure of the bag depended on UV damaged hook-and-loop fasteners. The hook-and-loop tape and had lost most of its grip, and I planned to change the closure method with canvas twist-and-eye sets. I don’t really like snaps – they corrode, can be difficult to operate when they age, and can lose their grip. These twist fasteners are fool-proof, don’t hurt your arthritic hands because they don’t become difficult to operate, etc..

Image from sailrite.com. This is what you get in one set. As you can see, the eye is fitted into one side of the canvas, and the twist lock into the other.

Image from sailrite.com. This is what you get in one set. As you can see, the eye is fitted into one side of the canvas, and the twist lock into the other.

I installed 4 sets right through the hook-and-loop tapes – and I managed to install both male and female pieces facing the right direction in the correct sides of the work piece! I’ve found that the most effective way to form the holes through acrylic canvas (like Sunbrella) for the eyes and the push-through points is to use a soldering iron. Just get the iron hot, set the piece  where it should go, and touch the iron to the fabric several times. It will melt the material while forming a hole, and seal the fabric threads at the same time. This probably will NOT work with regular cotton duck/canvas. You’ll have to some sort of cutting tool for that.

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The piece of green webbing above was used to form a loop in the back of the bag for support off the deck.

Webbing sewn into one side of the bag - not one end on either side of the bag - that would have made stowing the sail very difficult.

Webbing sewn into one side of the bag (starboard side) – not one end on either side of the bag – that would have made stowing the sail very difficult.

I sewed down a preexisting length of hook-and-loop tape to form a loop on the forward top of the bag (it was originally intended to go around the forestay), and fashioned a harness from line. The line is temporarily knotted into the correct length and shape. Next week I’ll get a couple brass snap hooks from the hardware store and substitute them for knots. That will expedite stowing the sail and hoisting the bag when needed – I won’t be standing on the bow retiring knots each time.

Here's the harness, knotted to the right length.  The jib halyard lifts the whole off the deck when managing the ground tackle, and keeps it off the deck when at the slip or at anchor.

Here’s the harness knotted to the right length. The jib halyard lifts the bag off the deck when managing the ground tackle, and keeps it off the deck when at the slip or at anchor.

I used my Speedy Stitcher sewing awl to attach the loops. This is a great tool for a job like this. I’ve also used it to repair sails in place (on deck). It goes fast, and is practically the only way to sew a locking stitch by hand through the heavy materials we use as sailors. I’ve easily and quickly sewed heavy gauge leather chafe patches on canvas with it. An interesting price comparison is observable here:  This tool sells for $36.99 at West Marine, but you can order it through Amazon for $11.90.

I finished the very little bit of paint removal required to glass the inside of the transoms, vacuumed the surfaces, and wiped down with acetone. With surfaces ready, I mixed my epoxy and painted the bare wood with resin so that the glass fabric would stick to the resin on the upright-angled surfaces. I set the glass cloth into the sticky resin and worked out as smoothly as possible with my hands. With a chip brush, I thoroughly wet out the cloth, taking care to use enough resin to side-step any voids.

This is a pretty ugly photo – just not a very attractive subject.

Pretty gnarly looking.  I'm not glassing the area below the seats.

Pretty gnarly looking. I’m not glassing the area below the seats.

I cut the green-cured excess glass off with my pocket knife. I managed to get the second coat of resin applied today as well – the work area was in direct sunshine and the resin cured quickly. Looks like I’ll be using an epoxy undercoat on the seats – I’ve already dripped and wiped some off the seats – may as well fully coat them when the time time comes for finish work.

I took several hours today and washed, then sanded the new glass set in epoxy. This took about an hour, altogether. I allowed an interval of 30-40 minutes for the boat to dry thoroughly before sanding. When West System epoxy cures it leaves a wax-like coating on top. This has to be washed off. I used a little bit of laundry detergent in about a gallon of water and a scrub brush to apply. I washed the entire surface of new epoxy with the brush, then followed up with a rag in soapy water. Rinsed with clean water, and wiped down with the wrung-out rag.

Sanding came next, as subsequent coats of new epoxy bind best to the surface if it has been abraded. My random 5″ orbital sander with 60 grit disc did a great job. I used three discs. I confirmed that the shop vac is most effective at removing dust when the intake is connected to the sander, not the exhaust. Good thing I was wearing my respirator. Here are few photos showing how well the weave of the glass is filled.

Time for second (and final) coat of epoxy resin. This application went much faster than the first, as there was no fabric to saturate.  I used a three-inch foam roller, and again just poured the resin on the surface, then rolled it out. I made up 4 batches of resin (4 pumps each of resin and catalyst). The coating was done in fifteen minutes.  When I checked it several hours later, it was completely cured.

As I mentioned after applying glass to the bottom, I’m very pleased with the rigidity of the hull, especially at the transoms. There is a very noticeable improvement. I’m anticipating an even greater improvement when I glass the inside of the transoms. As I had hoped, the glass and resin have served to fill much of the unfairness of the grinder/paint removal. The finish is a good bit smoother and fairer than before.

Had I been really smart, I would have masked the top sides with tape and paper and caught the resin drips, saving myself a bunch of sanding. Oh well. . .  Next time, I’ll remember. Maybe.

After having the boat torn apart and put back together for various projects and changes to systems, we schedule an annual overnighter to really check it all out. Just one night, because if we forget something fairly essential to our comfort (like pillows – 2 years in a row) or safety (this year I need to update fire extinguishers), then it’s only overnight, and we’re not committed to something that is unlivable for several days or more.

As I mentioned above, this year fire extinguishers was noted, but we remembered the pillows!  We discovered that it is also important to sew lifting loops on the new headsail bag, so that we can lift it off the deck with a halyard while managing ground tackle and mooring lines. Speaking of ground tackle, we discovered that a chain lock on the sprit will make stowing the anchor quicker and more secure than the carabiner I am currently using (attached to the toe rail).  I also failed to get all the dishes washed before we cast off, so the first order of business before dinner last night was scrubbing up enough dishes and cookware to prepare and eat dinner.

Aside from those small items, we had a really pleasant time, with beautiful weather – calm wind conditions, but beautiful.

Beautiful, clear and warm weather.  Unlike other cruises we've taken in May, we experienced no fog this year.

Beautiful, clear and warm weather. Unlike other cruises we’ve taken in May, we experienced no fog this year.

This time of year is striper season.  Striped bass school in the bay (not sure if they are coming into the bay or going out) this time year, and the sport fishermen are out in force.  There were at least 75 fishing boats within our view as we tried to cross the shipping channel.  They are all going slower than we are (!) and pulling plane boards port and starboard.  These three-tiered boards are towed in such a way as to allow the fishermen to set more lines without tangling them, and move them away from center-stern orientation as well. A boat trawling with plane boards can set 10-12 lines.  It’s nerve-wracking to navigate a whole cluster of striper fishing boats. The boats don’t really keep to any semblance of traffic pattern – they’re all going every which-way – and with the long (and numerous) lines off the stern, each boat can make a footprint at least 100 feet long and 30-40 feet wide.  So we alter course often and make the best guess as to which way is best to cross their paths.

A course of 103 degrees took us from Herring Bay to Knapps Narrows, the gateway into the eastern bay.  We passed through the Narrows and turned left (north) in Harris Creek, stopping for the night in Dun Cove.  We dodged a big barge and dredge on our way up Harris Creek. We were the fourth boat in the cove that evening.  Eventually, there were 6 sailboats in the cove, all widely spaced in this large anchorage. This is a fairly popular place to overnight.

One of the yachts anchored with us.

One of the yachts anchored with us.

Anchor set, and Ruth made dinner. I cleaned while she relaxed. Then showers and bed time.  I’ve noted this before, but time on the water is exhausting.  We couldn’t keep our eyes open.  I rose once at 0430 and checked our position. We had swung all around the anchor in the light evening breezes. Typical for us at anchor, I rose first and started coffee. Then we began our long morning of reading and drinking coffee. Commitments in town for the afternoon had us cleaned and stowed for travel by 1015. Back through the Narrows, through the fishing boat gauntlet, and in our slip by 1308.

30.8 nautical miles round trip, all of it under power.  Transit time one way – just under three hours.

Well, not that kind of glass-bottomed boat - not see-through-the-bottom kind of boat.

Well, not the see-through-the-bottom kind.

I filled more small splits with peanut butter-consistency epoxy on the bottom today. These are super small splits – just narrow cracks – I forced epoxy into them with a putty knife, filling with cross-grain motion, then scraping up excess with the grain. Had I prepped the bottom for glass and resin, I could have gone directly to sheathing without waiting for resin cure. But I didn’t think it through, and needed to solvent wash the surface first and grind a few patches of cured epoxy. After letting the crack fills cure, I finished the prep.

Draping the glass over the bottom showed me where to trim the excess, and where likely relief cuts were going to be needed: at the keel, in the corners, and a couple of places on the transoms I didn’t anticipate. It’s easy to push the weave of the fabric around while it’s wet, but care has be taken to keep pockets of void from pushing up as a result. Relief cuts are the best way to get the fabric to lay flat.

Trimmed and ready to wet out.

Trimmed and ready to wet out.

Squeegee moves the resin around efficiently on flat horizontal surfaces.

Squeegee moves the resin around efficiently on flat horizontal surfaces. Thanks to my wife, Ruth, for taking these photos while my hands were in the resin.

A large squeegee or putty knife/scraper is the best tool for wetting out on horizontal surfaces. It was a beautiful day – about 70 degrees – but the sun shining on dark surfaces made them warm, and consequently the resin set up pretty quickly. I had ample time to wet out each section, but I still had to move quickly. I spread out the resin and thoroughly saturated the weave, then quickly replenished my resin container. Three pumps each of resin and catalyst provided just the right amount to spread at one time. I used about 20 ounces of resin and catalyst to saturate the whole surface, including transoms.

Cutting a relief for the skeg.

Cutting a relief for the skeg. I should have done this before pouring resin.

I switched to a chip brush for the transoms and turn of the bilge, as pouring the resin wasn’t going to work on vertical surfaces. After an hour’s steady work, the entire surface was done and beginning to cure in the sun. I’ll do an additional coat tomorrow (or next time, depending on weather).  One more coat will serve to completely fill in the weave pattern of the fabric, and provide a smooth surface. When I removed the boat from its elevated supports, I could readily feel the increased rigidity the glass and epoxy provides. The transoms will get even more rigid when I glass their inside surfaces.

Bottom sheathed, waiting for second application of resin.

Bottom sheathed, waiting for second application of resin.

Lookin' ugly in mid-refit.

Lookin’ ugly in mid-refit.

One of the things I love about our plywood pram is that it endlessly repairable. Not so with a hypalon inflatable. There comes a point in every inflatable’s life when the only thing left to do is pitch it in the dumpster. 10 years? Is that the average life span of an inflatable? I don’t really know.

I think we built this little pram in the winter of ’98, so it’s 17 years old, and on it’s third or fourth refit. Were I to build it now, I would certainly do things a bit differently, but as it is, it has held up extremely well, especially considering that it’s lived the bulk of it’s life outside. I have about $800 dollars in materials in it, and it’s been a tremendous value and a hard working yacht tender.

Today I fixed two corner joints that had opened up. I think this damage occurred because of how I sometimes maneuver it – pivoting on the transoms – and hauling it on board the yacht by the bow ring with a halyard. For repair, I mixed some epoxy and added filler, thickening to a soupy consistency. I drew up the soup into a large syringe and squirted it into the opening joints. I used liberal amounts of soup and refilled the syringe several times. There was lots of drippage, which I wiped up. Then I used a band clamp on the stern section to hold the joint together, and a pipe clamp on the bow transom. These two areas will also receive several layers of glass fabric inside and out.

Band clamp on the stern transom.  I had to figure out the clamp position before applying the epoxy.

Band clamp on the stern transom. I had to figure out the clamp position before applying the epoxy.

Pipe-clamped bow transom.  I love pipe clamps!

Pipe-clamped bow transom. I love pipe clamps!

I thickened the remaining epoxy soup into peanut butter, and applied it to various gouges and voids I’d opened up while chasing small areas of rot.  In fact, I had to mix up several batches of peanut butter, as I found a fairly large area (not surprisingly) underneath the repaired stern corner.

Here's the rough fill.  There is a hole through to the inside, which I backed with a small piece of plywood covered with plastic so it wouldn't stick.

Here’s the rough fill. There is a hole through to the inside, which I backed with a small piece of plywood covered with plastic so it wouldn’t stick.

Here is the same place as above (inverted - dinghy is now upside-down).  I pared down the excess with a rasp, then smoothed with an orbital sander.  The darker bit at the bottom is fresh filler - 2nd round of repair.

Here is the same place as above (inverted – dinghy is now upside-down). I pared down the excess with a rasp, then smoothed with an orbital sander. The darker bit at the bottom is fresh filler – 2nd round of repair.

Wood rasp is another favorite tool.  For rough-shaping epoxy repairs, it can't be beat.  It is the fastest, most accurate way to get the basic shape.  It requires a light touch because it's so coarse and removes material so quickly.

Wood rasp is another favorite tool. For rough-shaping epoxy repairs, it can’t be beat. It is the fastest, most accurate way to get the basic shape. It requires a light touch because it’s so coarse and removes material so quickly.

Finally, I bleached the thwarts with oxalic acid, but it only seemed to lighten the dark lines. I could use a stronger solution, but I think I’ll just live with it. I don’t like using the chemicals, and it’s a several-step process anyway: you apply the solution on the wood several times; allow to dry, then rinse thoroughly with baking soda solution to neutralize the acid; clear water rinses follow, then allow to dry; re-sanding is needed because the water raises the grain.

Here's the midship thwart. It will look okay under varnish.  Not perfect, but serviceable.

Here’s the midship thwart. It will look okay under varnish. Not perfect, but serviceable and protected from the weather.

Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy, so I may need to wait a day or two for clear weather to continue.

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