Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Deadly Visit

While I'm not fond of rodents taking up residence on the boat, I was a bit disturbed that a little mouse met such a gruesome death.  I did some pre-fairing on the starboard deck last night to get ready for the 3rd layer of glass and the little bugger must have stumbled across the fairing just as it was hardening up and got stuck.  When I came back this afternoon he was part of the boat and removing him was somewhat unpleasant.

Once I took care of the mouse I laminated 8 feet of the third layer on the starboard deck.  We'll be heading down to the Vineyard for Labor Day weekend but will be back Sunday so I should have a good chunk of Monday to get more done.  With any luck I'll be able to work my way back to the aft deck and get the entire starboard side complete with the third lamination.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Come on Irene

Queue bad karaoke version of Dexys Midnight Runners... Nevermind; probably means nothing if you didn't grow up in the 80's.  Anyway, Irene has fizzled out and left behind a mess, but fortunately Magic and the boatshed made it through unscathed, despite a few scary moments.

I was never too worried regarding the structure of the shed in the predicted 40-60 mph winds, but the forecast for 4-8 inches of rain dampened my spirits (pun intended).  I don't live in a flood prone area but when we get that much rain and some wind, we generally get a bunch of downed trees.  The forest on our property is predominately Eastern White Pine and some are quite mature with crowns in the 100 foot range, so when they come down, you know it.  There aren't any big ones near the boatshed but there are a few maples that could make a mess of things if they came down on it.

I checked on the shed a few times during the day and all was well, not a drop of water on the boat, so there wasn't much to worry about.  We lost power all day so sanding was not an option and I went to bed around 10. I thought the storm was over because the rain had stopped and the wind had died to nothing.  Unfortunately, at around 1 am or so, another wave came through with much more force that what I had seen during the day. The winds sounded like a jet coming through and the first sickening crack I heard was a very big willow tree coming down on our garden shed next to the house (although I didn't know it until this morning).  The tree delivered a glancing blow that shattered one of the rafters and ripped a bunch of shingles off, but the worst thing was that the tree came to rest on top of our vegetable garden.  Direct hit, it literally turned the garden into tomato paste.   I heard several more loud cracks coming from the direction of the boatshed but knew there wasn't anything I could do.  Quite a helpless feeling.

With the exception of the garden shed that took the willow beat down, we lucked out.  A decent sized silver birch and a giant white pine (~2.5 feet diameter) came crashing down about 50 and 150 feet away from the boatshed respectively.  I'll cut up the birch for firewood and let the pine lay where it fell, but my first order of business is to clean up the garden shed mess.  Hopefully, I can get this cleaned up quickly and I can get back to boatwork.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Third Dimension

My decks - not to scale

Or at least the third layer on the foredeck.   Despite my sander troubles (the repair shop found another part broken and part is on order), I managed to get the entire foredeck sanded, pre-faired, and glassed up over the weekend.  Overall the whole process went pretty smooth but I did find 2 small (quarter sized) areas that were resin starved.  A little disappointing, but not a big deal.  I'll have to grind those out and refill before I move on (I can't go any further until the sander is fixed anyway).  Not perfect, but a whole lot better than the peat moss decks that I used to own.

I broke the job up into 3 sections: the bow, port foredeck, and starboard foredeck.  I could have done the whole thing at once, but it was fairly warm in the shed (high 80's) and I didn't need any big batches of epoxy kicking before I had time to spread everything out.  Also, I have just about enough sandbags to cover each of the areas (not all at once).

The process generally followed:
1. Pre-fairing each section and letting it cure.
2. Sanding pre-faired section.
3. Cut glass to shape so it lays flat over all the flanges and right up to where the bulwark starts to curve upward toward the toerail.
4. Mix 24 oz epoxy and coat pre-faired section and lay glass on with some of mix.
5. Saturate glass with remaining mix and make sure the everything is laying flat.
6. Cover in plastic, and lay sandbags over layup.
7. Wait.

Below are some photos of the progress.  Unfortunately, I'll be idle until the sander gets fixed, but should be able to crank out the sidedecks pretty quickly after that.  Once I get the third layer on the rest of the decks, I get to go back and start the real fairing process.
Glass Cut
Layed up with plastic sheet
Sand bags to weigh it down

Bow complete

Foredeck prefaired
Glass cut
Third lamination complete with original deck camber

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Good Things and Bad Things

I got a call yesterday morning from the service desk at the repair shop to tell me that the warranty repair on my 6" Rigid sander was all set and I can come pick it up.  Fantastic, it took a full month to sort out the warranty issues and I wish I had it a day sooner, but not a big deal.  So I drove down to Manchester at lunch and picked it up and when I got home I went straight to the boatshed to try it out.  The 5" DeWalt is really more of a finish sander and just wasn't up to the task of sanding down some of the crappier parts of my fiberglass job.

I started up on the bow and sanded down the fairing mix I had slathered on the day before and the big sander made short work of it.   Sweet.  Smooth as a baby's bottom (with a little diaper rash);  The last layer of glass will go down nicely and should make the final fairing much easier.

Since I was having so much fun, I decided that I would tackle the rest of the foredeck that hadn't been faired.  I was thinking to myself: "Wow, this sander rocks, it does more in 5 minutes than the DeWalt did in 30".  It really cut down the ridges and resin squeeze-outs like they were butter and got the deck down to where I would need only a thin skim of fairing compound. 

About 20 minutes in though, I noticed that the sander started losing power and speed.  I thought that I might have bumped the variable speed control, but it quickly became apparent that there was something very wrong with the unit.  I kept at it and fiddled with the speed control adjustments and the rotational axis a bit, but eventually came to the conclusion that the sander was still screwed up.  Damn!  

So it looks like I will be headed back down to the tool shop again to hopefully get this thing fixed once and for all.  I hate the thought of going back to the DeWalt because it is just sooo slow; I may have to spring for a new sander (probably not a Rigid) if this repair job takes another month. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Am I done yet?

Um... NO!  Not even close.  I ordered another 12 yards of 1708 biax cloth (from ebay) for the final layer yesterday.  It should be here sometime late this week, so in the meantime I decided to start cleaning up the existing layers of glass so that the third layer lays flat and will minimize the amount of fairing at the end.  I started up forward and found that there was a lot of resin lumped up in ridges from where I put the plastic and sandbags when I did the lamination.  It was clear that I wasted a lot of epoxy here and consequently, I needed to do a bunch of sanding.  I only had 15 - 60 grit sanding disks for my 5" DeWalt (my 6" Rigid is still in for repairs) so I was only able to adequately sand about 3 feet from the bow before I ran out of disks.

Since there were a fair amount of imperfections in the form of little valleys caused by laying down the plastic and sandbags when the layup was done, I vacuumed everything up and wiped it down with acetone and the mixed up a 12 oz batch of epoxy and thickened with a 50-50 mix of Aerosil and glass microspheres.  This mix should provide much better sandability (is that a word?) to the job once it cures.  I troweled it out on the prepped area and spread a thin layer over everything to fill in the bumps and valleys and called it a day.

Hopefully the 6" Rigid will be fixed soon (especially since I have over $100 in sandpaper sitting on my bench), but in the meantime I will need to purchase large quantities of 5" 60 grit disks.  The glass job gets better as I go aft (on the job training, I can see my improvements), but there are still a few resin ridges here and there.  As much as I despise it, it might make sense to break out the angle grinder for the really high spots so I don't spend a fortune on sandpaper.

Just keep on movin on...

Bad picture, but the white section is actually fairly flat.  Flat enough for the third section of glass anyway.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

My slow plod toward the finish line helped me complete a big milestone this past weekend.  As of 6:30 last night I officially sealed the entire deck from the elements for a long time to come.  The last push began late last week when I sanded and prepped the aft and starboard side decks adjacent to the cockpit.

On Friday afternoon I cut and laminated biax glass for the pushpit mounting points and the backstay (4 layers for each).  I followed up with thickend epoxy to level it to the surrounding core and let that cure overnight. 

The next day I started by cutting and fitting glass for the aft deck area. At this point my 1708 biax cloth supply was running very low so I opted to gather up all the remnants from previous layups and use them for the first layer.  The first layer looked like quite the jigsaw puzzle, and combined with all the edges and odd corners on the aft deck, there was a lot of extra fitting work before I even began the layup.

For the second layer I used part of my remaining supply of 50" cloth to keep the seams to a minumum.  Once I had everything cut and fitted I layed both layers up at once with 3 - 16 ounce batches of epoxy.  I had a little leftover once everything was saturated so I thickened it up with aerosil and leveled out a few low spots (the previously laminated pushpit mounting points).  I covered everything up with plastic and sandbags and came back the next morning to find a nicely cured aft deck.

Prior to the first lamination of the pushpit and chainplate mounting points, I wrapped the backstay chainplate with a few layers of blue painters tape, followed by a layer of clear packing tape. This allowed for roughly 1/16" tolerance around the chainplate so once I re-bed it, the chainplate won't cause excessive loading on the deck when the rig is strained. I'll pack the area around the chainplate with butyl tape and chainplate cover to keep the water out. Once everything cured, it was a bit of a job freeing up the chainplate, but I'm really happy with the result.

With the aft deck complete, I only had about 7 feet of starboard side deck to complete and I had enough free time to tackle it yesterday. It was a fairly straight forward lamination except I added an additional layer of biax cloth to the already solid glass winch pad area because even with 6 layers it was still a little below the surrounding core. I let that kick for a few hours then did the final layup yesterday afternoon in 2 sections (more jigsaw patterns for the first layer). Again I had some leftover epoxy that I thickened up to level out a few low spots. I sand bagged the area and let it set up.

I know I'm no where near completed, but this is a big time milestone in my head at least.  Next steps are to start sanding the new sections flush to the old decks and to fill in any low spots so the final layer will sit flat and minimize the amount of fairing needed.  Of course all of my estimates for time are off, but I'm getting there.  So far I've used a little over 14 gallons of epoxy and gone through 30 yards of 1708 biaxial glass.  I know I could have gotten by with a lot less of both if I were more efficient, but it's a learning process.

I ordered another 12 yards of biaxial cloth today and will get started prepping for the final layer.  I'm looking forward to this because once the prep work is finished, the last lamination(s) will go fast comparatively.

Woohoo, decks.
A bit dirty eh?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Moving Aft

Getting close now.  Last night I layed up the port side adjacent to the cockpit including the winch pad void (see starboard-side-core-check post).  Now I just have the aft deck and starboard side cockpit areas before I can start sanding to prepare for the third (and final) layer of cloth.

I need to pick up another 3 gallon batch of Progressive Epoxy this week before I go further though.  I am pleased with this epoxy; it's easy to work with, reasonably priced and it's only about 20 minutes away so I can pick it up myself and not deal with shipping costs.  With any luck I should have the entire deck cored and covered with 2 layers of glass sometime next week (Cabintop already has 3).

Monday, August 8, 2011


This past weekend I drove up to Brooklin Maine to take part in the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta on my friend Pete's beautifully restored New York 32. I showed up just at dusk on Friday night and hitched a ride out on a boat carrying photographers around the harbor and got to ogle at all the beautiful wooden boats. Some were old, some less than 1 month old but all were astoundingly well kept and the whole harbor seemed to glow in the light of the sunset.

After a rousing game of Go-Fish and some wine, we turned in for a good night's sleep. The next day we made it out to the race course to find light winds, but soon after the start the breeze filled in and we had a great sail and ended up beating the 2 other New York 32s, but lost on corrected time to one of them. The whole day we were surrounded by scenes that you find in the Wooden Boat Calender. I was thrilled to be a part of it.

Days like that just reinforce my commitment to getting Magic back in the water as soon as I can. It won't be tomorrow, or the next day, and maybe not next year, but I won't give up. I know that Magic will never look like some of the boats from the regatta, but as long as I can immerse myself in that setting again all will be well.

Here's a few shots from the day.  Back to my real job and more layups this afternoon.  I'll post details tomorrow once the layup has cured.


The course

Concordia and 8 Meter in distance

Isla - New York 32

Friday, August 5, 2011

Boat Turtle

In the past I found myself getting jealous when I'd surf the web looking at other restoration jobs.  It seemed as if everyone was so far along and did everything so fast, it made my head spin.  Sure, I have a job, 2 young kids that need to be watered, and a whole host of other competing interests; but doesn't everyone else?  I have now come to terms with all of that and from now on I will embrace my slowness; I am the boat turtle.

Fortunately, the boat turtle is on a roll now.  No, I haven't finished the glasswork, replaced the coamings and toe rail or painted anything yet.  But I have found a routine that is working for me right now and should get the boat back in the water sometime before June of 2083.  This past week I have been able to carve out a few hours each day to do 2 smaller layups that have gotten me almost all the way down the port side with 2 layers of biax.

These smaller layups have given me better control over the process and I don't feel like I am out of control and desperate to get everything in place before the epoxy kicks.  An additional benefit of the smaller jobs is that I don't run out of sandbags and can fully and evenly weight down the layup.

For the first layup I pulled the chainplates and sanded the filled area around them that I had done a few days ago, wiped everything down with acetone and then reninstalled the chainplates. Then I mixed up 24oz of epoxy and wet out the entire area (about 7 feet). I still had about 1/2 of my batch left so I thickened it up to a consistency of dijon mustard (not quite runny, but not quite firm) and applied that around the chainplate areas and some of the other areas between deck and core to make a roughly flat surface for the glass. Then I placed the first layer of glass, flattened and rolled it out smooth and mixed up a 16oz batch unthickened. I poured that out over the first layer of cloth, ensuring that it was fully saturated and then placed the second layer. Note that the layup is staggered and the first piece of glass offset about 6 inches from the second piece so that when both layers are in place, there are no seams that go all the way through the layup.

Finally, I mixed and spread a final 12oz batch to make sure the top layer was fully saturated and covered with plastic and sandbags. The next day I pulled the bags and plastic off to find a nicely hardened up deck in place. I then repeated the procedure above another 6 feet aft.

The big time suck for this section was the chainplates. There is a lot of prep work like accurate glass cutting, taping and installing them, and just generally being careful when doing the layup.  I really didn't want to somehow epoxy the chainplates in place and have to cut them out with a sawzall.

The boat turtle boss gave me the weekend off to do some sailing research aboard Pete Cassidy's New York 32 and will take part in the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta in Brooklin Maine. Ground zero for the wooden boat elite. I won't tell them that my boat is plastic, but it's funny that people always associate wood boats with tons of work, but I suspect the amount of work I've done is right in line with many wood boats.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New Look

Now that work on the boat is coming along steadily, I decided to change the look of the site a bit.  The water background gives me a small taste of what will come when everything's finished (someday). 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Passing Glass

Today was one of those days where I made everything harder than it had to be.  First off, it was hot in the shed so I didn't bother to put on long pants; I just went with my shorts and sandals.  I almost immediately regretted my decision because I cut my knee and toe simultaneously on sharp fiberglass.  Oh well, not much blood, just get on with it.  Things didn't get much better from there, I was sweating so bad that it was difficult to keep the rosin paper templates I was cutting dry; every time I needed either the scissors, pen, or anything for that matter, it was just out of reach so I'd have to get up and go get it.

Anyway, I did manage to get 2 layers of glass cut and fitted, ready to be glued up tomorrow (I had hoped to glue today).  After I realized that things were not quite going as planned I decided to not rush things (as if that ever happens) and get things done methodically.

I spent a bunch of time cutting out the rosin templates and trimming them as accurately as possible before rolling out the glass for cutting and fitting.  Once each layer of glass was rough cut, I fitted it and did some final trimming before moving onto the next layer.  Looking back on the day, it was probably good that I got off to a shaky start and delayed the actual layup, because even though it's frustrating to make mistakes on the prep and setup, I don't want to have to resort to my angle grinder when my chemistry project goes bad.

First layer

Second layer


I Had a brief window of time this weekend to move forward and chose to tackle epoxying the chainplate areas where there is no core.  This is a bit of a pain because the chainplates (or chainplate templates) need to be in place when the epoxy work is done, so some care has to paid to ensure that the chainplate opening that passes through the deck is sealed to keep the epoxy from dripping through. Another consideration is that the chainplate hole tolerances need to be close, but not so close that the chainplates are potentially causing side loading to the adjacent deck area, so this gap needs to be filled with sealant to keep the water out once the deck is finished.

To begin, I wraped the top 3 inches or so of each chainplate with a single layer of clear packing tape to prevent the epoxy from sticking during the layup.  Next I installed all the chainplates (just a single bolt to keep them in place).

Once installed, I wrapped the topside exposed portion of each chainplate with several layers of blue painters tape to build up the clearance around them and finished by putting a final layer of clear packing tape over that to keep the epoxy from sticking.

Next, I cut out 4 layers of biax cloth for each chainplate area (and for the lifeline stanchions along port side) and mixed up a 24 oz batch of epoxy.  For the layup, I first wet out the areas around each chainplate (and one of the lifeline stanchions), followed by wetting out each layer of biax cloth.  I mixed in aerosil to thicken up the remaining epoxy to a paste and applied a 1/4 inch layer to the areas around the chainplates and stanchion base.  Then I layed in the wetted out cloth and applied the rest of the epoxy paste to level the areas up to just below final deck level.  I snapped a couple of shots and stopped back a few hours later to find that everything had set up well.  I left the chainplates in place for the time being because when I did this on the starboard side I made the mistake of pulling them before the epoxy had setup very well which resulted in a few chips in the areas surrounding the chainplates (still need to clean those up).

Tonight I'm planning on getting the first 2 layers of biax cloth layed up in this section.  The idea is that the continuous section of cloth spanning both the chainplates and the adjacent cored areas will bind everything together in a strong composite structure.  Stay tuned...