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annual sailboat maintenance

We traveled to South Korea for the last half of April and spent two weeks with my daughter, son-in-law, and their kids. So while the yard was unable to launch us in early April (we were blocked in by other boats) we decided to wait until we got home. We arrived home on Thursday 2 May, and Cay of Sea was launched the next morning.

                     Hangin’ in the the slings

 

My artist-wife’s interpretation of the launch. That’s me in the blue shirt (what, didn’t recognize me?).

 

                           Down in the water

I scrambled on board to check for leaks as she hung in the slings. All’s well (after a super quick adjustment of the stuffing box), and off we go to test the new prop.

First impressions of the new prop: lots of speed for a little rpm, and a lot more torque than the two-blade prop provided (although it wasn’t bad). But . . . I’ll have to have the pitch adjusted (decreased). I can achieve hull speed at 3200 rpm, but the engine is rated to rev at 3600. That means the engine works a bit too hard, although I’m not getting any black smoke at any rpm, which is good news. So there’s another date with the travel lift in the near future.

Two days ago, I spent a couple of hours cleaning the interior – almost done with the visible stuff.  I’ve still got the quarter berth to empty and clean. Then I want to go through all the lockers and clean and reorganize.

Because I needed an emergency haul-out last fall, I didn’t get a chance to do the normal fall maintenance, so I still need to change the oil. I’m going to change out the transmission oil this time too, and adjust the intake/exhaust valves, plus drain and refill the “fresh water” cooling circuit. Then I start on renewing some of the varnish, especially anchor platform, as the finish has completely failed on it. Last year I acquired a 50-foot length of anchor chain, which is more than twice has much as is currently on the rode, so I’ll install that as well.

Finally, I’ve included a page from Ruth’s travel journal. In particular, the last day of the trip when we were on the plane for 12 hours.  I think you will enjoy it.

We couldn’t sit next to each other, and we were in the middle seats of the middle row. I sat directly behind her. All told, it was a 28-hour travel day.

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So I’m done for now. All that remains is to launch, then begin the regular spring rounds of cleaning, varnishing, cleaning, rearranging, cleaning, sail installation, cleaning. . .  you get the idea.

Prop and Shaft – installation is finished with minimum of drama and back pain. Shaft and coupling went back together easily, and I’m satisfied with the fit and security of all the connections. When I uninstalled the engine six years ago for engine bed repair, I reassembled the coupling with waterproof grease. That was a good decision, as now the coupling comes apart with no struggle, and the bolts turn easily – no horrible corrosion to deal with. Reassembly this time was done with the same grease, all went smoothly.  Mating the shaft with the coupling and key can be difficult, but with the grease it slides right together with no problem. The shaft is then secured with the provided set screw perpendicular to the shaft, and the split coupling receiver that tightens the collar with bolts and nuts. I then checked the play in the cutlass bearing (can’t really do that without attaching the shaft to engine) – there was none, which is a good thing, because replacing that would have been a struggle.

This is an older photo of the coupling, but in it you can see the collar bolt holes and the set screw hole.

New Prop – I mated the prop to the shaft taper with lapping compound, which is done by working the wheel left and right on the shaft until it feels seated. I cleaned up the surfaces, then applied grease again, fit the key into the key way, and spun the shaft nuts into place, tightening them down with the same wrenches I use to adjust the stuffing box. That done, I installed a new split pin. Next item was to apply Lanocote to the prop. This is my first time using it, and it’s interesting stuff. Made primarily of lanolin and something else that’s really viscous and sticky, you have to heat up the surface of the prop apply it. I used a heat gun on the (50-degree day) I applied it. I also had to heat up the container of Lanocote to get it soft enough to apply. It cures/cools quickly, so I had to keep heating up the prop and the Lanocote until all the surface was covered. It leaves a pretty thick, tacky surface on the prop which prevents (discourages?) barnacle growth. I also fitted a new shaft zinc.

New three blade wheel installed.

Finally, I washed and waxed the topsides, shear and boot stripes. I made a new cleaning discovery: Purple Power (degreaser sold by Walmart and other outlets) does an amazing job of removing marks and even diesel soot from the top sides. I like it better than using On-and-Off, which is an acid-based remover of some sort. It seems less toxic to skin (though I still used gloves), and certainly doesn’t smell as bad. Maybe it didn’t remove the soot quite as quickly, but was certainly effective.

Shiny, clean topsides

I began the interior clean up, but stopped as I didn’t have a ready water source, or easy access to storage of the boat cover, and other bulky items which are on board temporarily (extra tools, heater, etc.). All of that can come off when the boat is pier-side and ladders aren’t involved. For now, the interior is a disaster area, probably qualifying for government resources.

I hate this stage of the spring recommissioning. What a mess.

After 8 years of pretty much continuous use, I needed to strip and revarnish the drop boards. I’ve repaired nicks, dings, chips and breaks in the finish up to now, but there have developed several dark spots under compromised varnish that are too extensive to repair.  The boards are red oak, which is a strong, heavy material that looks beautiful under varnish.  The drawback with this wood is that it is prone to rot, which means any break in the protective finish needs to be repaired right away, or deep dark stains result, followed by deterioration.

The middle board has two vents built into it for fresh air movement.  With the forward hatch open an inch or so and the vents in the middle drop board, I never have any problem with mold/mildew through the sailing season, and not much of a problem during the winter when the cover is on.  However, where the vents are epoxied into the board has been a problem area, and it’s been difficult to keep them sealed from the weather. Aside from chips and wear spots on the upper and lower boards, the middle board in the vent area is affected the most.

I spent several hours out of two days with chemical stripper and a scraper, only to remember a little later that a heat gun would have done a more efficient job. The heat gun is not the tool for the epoxy-glued vents. Heat would weaken the glue bond and I’d have more problems, so regardless I would have needed to use the chemical stripper on the middle board.

It’s a messy process. The only way I could do this at the pier was because it was a windless day, and I could collect all the varnish shavings.

There were many, many coats of varnish to remove. 16 or 20, probably.  This is because I refresh the finish at least once each year, often twice. It’s not really a lot of labor to refresh the varnish – really, just a light sanding with fine sand paper, wipe down with mineral spirits, and then a quick coat of new vanish thinned 10 to 15% with mineral spirits or paint thinner. But it does build up and begin to look bad after years of refresher coats, and needs to be all removed. An important tool for this job is a paint scraper (or two) with a mill file handy to sharped the blade every so often. It is surprising how tough the varnish layers really are. They were hard to remove.

The louvers in the vents, as you can imagine, were the most tedious to prepare. I used the scraper and several applications of stripper, working on both sides of the board. After that, I wrapped sandpaper around a paint stir and sanded all of the interior surfaces of the louvers.

It looks most of the way stripped here, but it’s actually only about half done. Two or three more applications of stripper were needed to get most of the varnish off.

This board is finally done, and I have also bleached it to remove any water stains that stripper didn’t get.

I used oxalic acid to get any dark stains out of the wood, followed by a neutralizer (baking soda in water). I discovered a few years ago, that if the acid isn’t thoroughly neutralized – not just rinsed with water – that the finish would turn milky underneath the varnish after some time in the sun.

The vents are taped off so that I can fill the seams between the board and vents with thickened epoxy. The sanding process excavated some of the original expoy. This is also where the finish failed, and I want to ensure that the crevices are completely filled and sealed.

First sealer coat of varnish applied. Not very shiny yet, but protected against the weather until I can add additional coats.

Cay of Sea is unwrapped, sanded, painted, signed, sealed. . .  but not delivered. I’m waiting for the boat yard to launch her.

As usual, I used Hydrocoat antifouling paint, and continue to be satisfied with its performance. It effectively keeps the hard growth at bay for two seasons, and is easy to sand smooth after the second year, prior to recoat.

The winter cover greatly reduces deterioration due to weathering, and effectively keeps rain water on the outside. Like most older boats, Cay of Sea has her share of deck leaks, typically along the gunnels. Eventually I’ll need to recore the side decks and rebed hardware. The decks aren’t soft anywhere, but I know there are sections of saturated core along the sides.

Here are a few photos of the spring work.

 

Winter storage

Sanding in progress

Sanding complete. Topsides washed and waxed.

Not shown, but I coated the prop with cold galvanizing spray this year. I usually use bottom paint, which works fairly well. We’ll see how it works – I’ve heard good reports.

Starboard view.

 

I finished the sailing season with a series of solo day sails, as my mate was deeply involved in an art show for the past two weeks of the season. Now with holiday madness upon us, it’s time to haul and put Cay of Sea to bed for the season. Here’s a photo from one of my final days on the water.

One of those beautiful light, sky, and water moments.

As usual for haul-out time, I pumped all the water out of the bow tank and “shop-vaced” the water lines clear. I pumped antifreeze into the holding tank (which was empty except for that last half-gallon that you can’t get out), and left the head as-is this year.  Next spring will require a head rebuild anyway, so no need to disassemble now.

The next morning I warmed up the engine, then extracted the old oil. Removed the filter, installed new, and refilled with oil. Now we’re ready to motor across the creek for haul-out and winter storage. On the way over, I met the boatyard crew in the yard skiff – they were coming to get Cay of Sea, as today was the scheduled time to haul and they wanted to get it done! They turned around and followed me back to the travel lift slip, promptly lifting her out as I stood and watched.

Hanging in the slings.

I’m still happy with Hydrocoat anti-fouling paint. Second year on this application and there were very few barnacles. Lot’s of “muddy” soft growth, which is typical for this area, though. I scrubbed the bottom twice this year, so there was certainly less growth than if I had not done so, but I was still pleased with the shape she was in. I had maybe six or seven barnacles on the prop, and six or seven scattered elsewhere on the hull.

There are a of couple barnacles left on the prop after power washing. Not too bad. Hydrocoat stays on the prop through the year. I repainted the prop last spring.

Scotty is blasting the mud-growth off.

Soft growth before power washing.

Heading to her parking spot for the winter.

Shipwright Harbor, where I haul out each year, has changed ownership. The new owners are investing lots of money into the property and have re-landscaped, renovated the pool and deck area, cleared out all the storage (aka abandoned) boats, rebuilt piers, installed new pilings and aprons along the bulkhead. They’ve also changed practices for blocking and hauling, which seem much safer than before. I was never concerned with the safety elements before, but these changes make a lot of sense to me: now they block the boats much lower, keeping the center of gravity lower and less exposed to shifting in windy conditions. They also now place a plywood pad underneath each foot of each boat stand to keep the stand from sinking into the gravel through freeze and thaw cycles. Each boat now has a bow chock (never did before). Finally, the travel lift never moves without a spotter, and the boats aren’t parked as closely together as they used to be. All this seems like common-sense precaution and safety to me. I really appreciate it.

Blocked, chocked, and set for the winter.

I still have to finish altering the fit of her canvas cover, then install it. Another couple of posts on that forthcoming.

Hey, this is a different view for me –

Without the tiller pilot, I can rarely leave the helm. Note the fishing rods along the starboard side of the coach roof.

It’s really cool to get out of the cockpit and stand on the bow while motoring. I can do this under sail also, if the wind is moderate. Not a big deal I guess, just novel for me.

I’ve been on the bay several times lately – not sailing so much, as the wind has been very calm – but drifting, and. . .  fishing! Yes, another novel thing for me to do. I fished with my dad all the time growing up, but haven’t done so for years. When we moved from Jacksonville to Washington DC, I got rid of all my fishing gear, seeing that the kids we grown up and I didn’t have that much interest in it beyond the kids’ interest. But I’ve gotten my line wet several times this year (acquired some gear at the second-hand store near me). Sadly, my skills are less than poor. I haven’t even gotten a bite this year! Truth be told, I was never a very good fisherman and things very obviously haven’t changed in the intervening years. Oh well. . . actually, it’s kind of better if the fish don’t bite. That way my solitude isn’t interrupted. Still, my son and I are going this Saturday, and we are anticipating catching more fish than we can manage ;-).

I’ve started my fall rounds of varnishing with the nice weather. I discovered something interesting last year, and have decided to experiment a bit more with it. Last fall, I had a little varnish left over in my container, and wanting to use the same container for Cetol. . .  I mixed the two together. It was mostly Cetol, so I didn’t think a very little bit of varnish would have any effect. I was wrong. The varnish made the Cetol finish glossy. I noticed this fall that the small piece of wood finished like this suffered almost zero degradation since last fall, unlike the Cetol-only pieces. Hmmm. . .  So I mixed some varnish and Cetol and recoated all the woodwork that usually got only Cetol. We’ll see how it stands up over the next year. I like the way it looks too – it’s the dark natural finish Cetol, but has a hard glossy shine to it. I’ll get some photos of it next time I’m down at the boat.

Drifting around today, I hauled out my light-air sail and hoisted it. It’s actually (probably) a mizzen staysail from a ketch, but it’s so light-weight that it works okay as a sort of asymmetrical spinnaker with a high clew. It filled and drew well in about 3-5 knots of breeze. It’s fun to just slowly ghost along with a sail that draws that nicely. I should have taken a photo, but, well, I didn’t!

Finally finished up this little project. Always a challenge when I have to dodge rain drops. I installed the trim back into a fresh application of Boatlife teak-colored bedding compound, then installed the plugs with varnish as glue. Some folks use shellac, but varnish seems to work just as well. Gluing them in with anything stronger makes them difficult to remove next time.

Plugs set, waiting for the varnish to cure so I can trim and sand flush.

To trim, set a sharp (very sharp) chisel 1/8″ proud of the surface being finished, and gently tap. The top of the plug splits away. You can do this several more times for a curved profile to pare away excess material at the edges before you begin to sand. Just don’t set the chisel too closely to the base material, or the plug may split away below the surface. I set the beveled edge of the chisel towards the eyebrow so that plug tends to split up and away from the base. After trimming with a chisel, use a small block with 150 grit sandpaper wrapped around, and sand only the proud part of the plug, as much as possible. You will certainly sand a little bit of the base material as well, but careful attention to the level of the plug will keep it to a minimum. After all is smooth and flush, coat with your finish of choice. I use Cetol on these.

Done. Trimmed, sanded, and coated with Cetol.

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