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annual sailboat maintenance

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.

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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.

No, I’m not plucking. . .

I applied the second coat of Cetol to both sections of eye brow trim today. Before all the rain and wind last week, I scraped and sanded smooth the trim pieces, and applied the first coat of Cetol. I also deepened the plug holes with my drill press for closing up the screw holes with bungs. However, I had to buy a new plug cutter, because I have mislaid the one I already own. Oddly, this didn’t work well at all. The hardware store sold me a 3/8″plug cutter, and I duly deepened the 3/8″ holes to accommodate a longer plug. However, the diameter of the plugs cut by the new cutter turned out to be slightly small, and didn’t bind into the holes at all. I rechecked my drill bit, rechecked the plug cutter. . . all the sizes matched, but the plugs didn’t fit the holes. I wound up buying some 3/8″ teak plugs at West Marine, and they fit fine.

Today I also cleaned up the coach roof edge where they will be reinstalled. I’ve found that a product called “Goof Off” works really well for this, but as I was in the hardware store today buying a new bottle of it, it occurred to me that lighter fluid might be a similar product. I know several craftsmen who use it for cleaning purposes. Regardless, I came home with Goof Off.

Materials and tools for this task.

Once back on the boat, I used a rag saturated with Goof Off and wiped in on a 12-14 inch section, then took a putty knife and scraped the loosened bedding compound. This took off about 75 percent. I re-applied Goof Off, and scrubbed it with a 3-M pad, which almost always removed the rest of the material. This entire process took about a half hour to do the port side (rehabbed the starboard side last year). So it’s clean now, and ready for re-installation of the trim.

Close-up of the cleaned vs uncleaned area.

Just a longer view of the project area.

Finally, I began the spring Cetol re-coat of the other teak trim still installed in place. I actually got smart this time, and didn’t try to do all of it at once, there by avoiding bumping into sticky Cetol as I work my way around the deck.

 

I sanded smooth the first batch of fairing compound on the port side, and did the same with a couple of other smaller areas, then refilled the same area (port side) with another batch of compound to bring all the repairs up to surface level – and picked up the scratches that I missed the first time.

Thought I would add this photo of the sheer in sunny conditions. You can really see how well the paint leveled out.

I resanded the filled areas, and repainted the repairs, then added a second coat to the repaired areas again yesterday. Now the sheer has two finish coats of paint. I began the painstaking task of pulling tape – I don’t know what I was thinking when I used the blue painter’s tape. The difficulty of removal just isn’t worth the $5 I save by using the cheap stuff. I had to leave a couple areas taped on the rub rail, as I couldn’t peel them off easily, and the paint was still too fresh to work on it without marring the finish.

Finished repair and two coats of paint.

And today the boat yard launched Cay of Sea – Nice to have her back in her slip!

Home for the season.

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