Sunday, October 27, 2013

It's Not Like I Didn't Expect This

I really didn't have too much time to do much work this weekend, but I did make a little progress on fitting the new rudder tube and found out what I'm going to do about the rudder.  After finally cutting the rudder post and dropping the rudder I set to work removing the stuffing box.
The stuffing box was a big corroded mess and I decided that instead of trying to free up the bronze part, I loosened the hose clamps attaching it to the rubber hose and the hose to the rudder tube and pried it off. This took a fair amount of time and swearing, but eventually it came off.   

The original rudder tube extends into the boat roughly about 6" and the outer diameter is 2.5".   My plan was to sand down the inner surface of the new rudder tube (inside diameter is 2") so that it fits over the old tube. Once fitted, then I can epoxy the two together with

several wraps of biaxial fabric.  The glass on the new tube is really hard, so it took quite a bit of time to sand a 1/2" from the inside of the tube using a 2" sanding wheel mounted on my drill.  Once I got close to the 2.5" mark I'd check every thirty seconds or so until I had a tight fit.

Unfortunately, the weather is getting pretty cold now and we are having nights that are in the 20's and daytime highs only in the low 50's so my glassing work may be done for the season.  I still have lots that I can do in the shop especially given what I found once I opened up the rudder.

It wasn't really a surprise, but I did have some hope that I wouldn't have to replace the rudder, but it didn't take long to realize that it was a bit of a mess. I was able to pull large chunks of the glass sheathing off fairly easily, exposing a core of Mahogany boards (I think) that were soaking wet in places.  It appeared that the waterlogged section was limited to the middle (of three) boards edge glued together.  In any event, I'll be building a new one, since I can't really do much with wet, rotten core.   I did find several epoxy filled pockets hiding the nuts for some of the drift pins, but out of the 8 drifts in the rudder, I only found 3 pockets. I'm not sure where the others are or if the drifts were set without nuts.

I haven't decided how I am going to be rebuilding it yet.  I see two possible options for this; solid wood with drift pins, or plywood sheathed in glass (also with drift pins).  I need to do some research before I make any decisions.

Finally, I drilled pilot holes next to each of the drift pins and took the sawzall to them about 2" from the shaft. I didn't see any need to wrestle the long drift pins out when ultimately the thing is going on the burn pile. Once they were cut, both the upper and lower shafts came out with zero difficulty.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Things That Once Seemed Difficult

I am trying to wrap up the new rudder tube and cockpit construction before the cold prevents any new epoxying and needed to pull the rudder so I can have a new post fabricated.  It remains to be seen whether I need to replace the rudder as well, but I won't know until the old post is off.  So, as much as I despised the thought; I found that I would need to pull the propeller shaft prior to removing the rudder (nothing really surprises me anymore).

The last time I did this was right after I purchased the boat and found that the cutlass bearing was pretty tired and had worn a nice groove in the propeller shaft.  This kept my stuffing box from keeping the water out very well and I needed to pull the shaft to replace the bearing and have a new shaft made.   Although I did this more than 11 years ago, I still remember that the project did not rate as 'fun'.  In fact, I remember it being firmly in the 'no fun' category, mainly because of really difficult access and the fact that the shaft coupling was extremely rusted and just didn't want to let go of the shaft.

So I approached this project with trepidation, thinking that I'd be subjected to the same knuckle tearing fun as the last time.  As it turned out, it was not too bad.  Sure I sliced my knuckles open, shot it up with PB Blaster over the course of a week, and had to explain to my wife and kids why I was yelling at a rusty metal thing on the bottom of the boat, but it never seemed so bad.  In retrospect, it seemed like a breeze compared to what I have had to do over this restoration and now realize that things that used to be difficult just seem easier now.

Anyway, with the prop and shaft out of the way I went right into attempting to drop the rudder.  I knew that I would be applying for a Darwin Award on this one because in order to remove the rudder and shaft I have to dig a hole under the boat about 2 - 3 feet deep and extending forward under the keel right under one of the large wood blocks supporting the boat.  Seems like a recipe for disaster, but I planned out my escape routes should the boat tumble and made sure I had my cell phone on me in case I was pinned.

As it turns out I never got far enough to apply for my award because about 1.5 feet down, I hit ledge.  Not a rock, but solid ledge and I can go no further.  It's funny because when I built the boat shed, I was able to sink all my knee wall posts 4 feet deep without issue, it was nice and sandy.  I've probed all around the ledge for any signs of weakness and have found none, so now it looks like I am going to have to cut the post.  I wish there was another way (jack the boat up), but I don't think it's an option even I'm comfortable with.

I'm Free! Yipee!
So, it's about 4 hours later (from when I wrote the post above) and after consulting with some members on the Woodenboat Forum, I decided to cut the shaft.  Using my Bosch reciprocating saw and 4 metal cutting blades I spent about 20 minutes cutting through the 1.5" shaft.  It took me three to realize that running the saw at a fast speed destroyed the blades in short order and did very little cutting.  On the fourth blade I slowed it down and at that point the cutting went much faster.  I lubricated the cut with WD-40 periodically, but it just seemed to burn off.

Now that the rudder is off I see how heavy that beast is.  I could barely get it to my truck; I'm sure it is over 100 pounds with the shaft.  I'll figure out whether the rudder is re-buildable over the weekend.  If it's a waterlogged mess, then probably not, and given how heavy it is, I suspect there's some water trapped under the flimsy glass skin.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

On the Mend

After the fiasco last weekend pulling up the old cockpit sole, things this week have gone much more smoothly.  The 3" fiberglass tube for the new rudder tube from McMaster Carr came along with 5 yards of biaxial cloth to build up the new cockpit.  I also got started rebuilding the cockpit sole.

I cut out the new core for the forward part of the cockpit and epoxied it in on Tuesday evening and let it set overnight.   The following day I layed in and epoxied the first of several layers of biaxial fabric, again letting it set overnight.  Yesterday afternoon, I epoxied in part of the core in the aft section of the cockpit leaving a wide margin where the new rudder tube will be.  I plan on using a fiberglass plate (similar to g10 FRP) with a 3" hole in it as the mounting point for the rudder tube, but I still have to accurately measure where that will be so I left lots of room to shift the plate around.

Next up, I put down the first layer of biaxial fabric in the aft section of the cockpit and the second layer in the forward section.  I know this is all very convoluted and I would like to wait until I have the new rudder post fabricated and installed, but given that I haven't even dropped the rudder but still need to work in the cockpit to do so, I need to get this done and I need to do it before the weather turns too cold (I won't be able to glass much longer).

Finally, using a hole saw I cut the hole for the new fiberglass rudder tube and test mounted it in the cockpit to make sure I had enough room.  I probably won't glass this section in until I do have the new rudder post mounted (which may not be until next spring), but it's nice to see it start to look like a tiller steered cockpit again.  I also ordered some very expensive jewelry from Edson Marine today ($600 with shipping); I hope to have it here early next week.

Below are the pictures of progress in order

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I Think God is Mad at Me

I'm not sure what I did, but based on what I found in the cockpit this weekend, I clearly pissed somebody off.  I figured that I would ultimately need to re-core the cockpit sole, but I did harbor a faint glimmer of hope that the deck would be sound because there wasn't any signs of sponginess or flex at all.  Apparently, the teak decking must have really stiffened things up because when I finally got to it, the core was a complete mess.  

To say that removing the teak decking was difficult is a serious understatement.  The tenacity of that black goo seam compound is just ridiculous.  It was so tough that in some cases it tore up the underlying deck and the teak often actually cracked and broke while pulling it up.  In some cases I couldn't even pound the pry bar underneath the planks because the compound absorbed all the blows and bounced it out.  Eventually I came up with a method of pounding a flathead screwdriver under the plank to lift it slightly and then was able to get the pry bar under to rip it up.

When I finally exposed the actual deck, it was a patchwork of holes and old repairs that were probably done (poorly) to stiffen the decks instead of actually addressing the real problem of the bad core.  So, armed with my skill and saber saw (for cutting the corners and around the scupper areas ) I cut the perimeter of the deck leaving 2 inches or so exposed for reglassing later.  I cut across the deck in a few spots as well to make it
easier to pull off the deck if the core decided it was going to be clingy.

When I was satisfied that I had made all the necessary cuts to pull the deck I found that it was still clinging hard and couldn't easily lift it off.  Very surprising given that it was pretty clear that any core underneath was very soft.  I took a wide chisel and scraped off some of the remaining teak seam compound on the deck thinking I missed some fasteners that were holding the deck down.  I partially solved the mystery when I found a bunch of 1/2 bolt heads underneath the seam compound that corresponded to three mahogany beams bolted to the underside of the deck running athwartship.  I always assumed they were original, but never paid much attention.  However, with the seam compound scraped off I could see the bolt heads right on the surface of the deck.  I can only assume that a previous owner bolted them on prior to installing the teak in hope of stiffening the deck (again instead of addressing the core problem).

With the teak planking off and nothing to help stiffen the surface I could see that the beams would actually move, so they were only bolted on, not glued to make them part of the structure (and increasing the deck's stiffness).  Ultimately I cut around the bolts to pull the top skin of the deck off, but it was still holding on hard. I finally just said f-it and tore the thing up with as much force as possible thinking that rebuilding the entire deck would not be the end of the world.

With part of the top skin off, the mystery of the tenacious deck was finally solved.  At some point in the boat's history, somebody did realize the core was bad and decided that using a hole saw they would drill out a series of 3" cores and refill them with epoxy and then add some floating deck beams (they are not attached to any supporting structures). I suppose it is a reasonably standard approach if your goal is to stiffen things up a bit and avoid entirely re-coring the deck, but in my mind it isn't really fixing the problem, it's a bandaid approach that will gain you a few years but truth be told, the teak planking was really the only thing that was giving the deck any substantial rigidity.  I should also say that using this approach makes it WAY harder to fix down the road when you want to do it right.

Anyway, I ripped up the rest of the deck and found 6 of these hole saw fixes and one for what I assume is the original pedestal mount location (at some point in the boat's history, the pedestal steering while not original, was moved to the forward end of the cockpit).  Unbolting the beams from below proved surprisingly easy considering (my definition of easy has changed drastically over the course of this re-build) and now there is much better access under the deck.

The core was as expected a smelly, mushy, stew and was best scooped with a garden trowel.  Once I cleaned and vacuumed everything up I was left with a swiss cheese like bottom skin of the deck and the solid glass plug for the rudder post.  Knowing that I will be glassing in a new rudder tube and glassing it structurally to the deck, I cut out a big square where the old rudder tube passed.

From there it was pretty much standard re-core prep work; tape all the holes from the underside to keep epoxy from dripping down, brace the underside so when weight for laminations is added the deck won't sag, and then sand everything down with 60 grit paper.  I didn't bevel the perimeter because I don't see the need to maintain the same deck height, I will probably lay in 2-3 layers of biaxial to build it up flush with the perimeter and then add 2-3 layers more on top of the perimeter to tie it all together.

I finished the day off by mixing up a small batch of epoxy and filled in the bigger holes with 2 layers of biaxial fabric and then thickened up the remainder of the batch and filled the myriad of holes in the deck.  I left the big square hole as is for now while I figure out the new rudder tube arrangement.  All in all, it was much more work than I had anticipated, but at least I can start rebuilding now. Stay tuned...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Caprails Really Complete, Sort of...

The only thing left to do is varnish them now, but the caprail construction is actually 100 percent complete.  I planned on getting one coat of varnish on this weekend, but the weather was just a little too damp so I held off.  Unless we get a few warmish, dry days, it might not happen until spring.  I'd rather wait for good weather than put down a first coat that is less than tenacious.  I plan on getting 8-10 on before the boat is launched so whether I do it now or wait is inconsequential from a time standpoint; I want the varnish to last as long as possible.

Last week, the family helped me plug all the screw holes along the top of caprails with 1/2" plugs.  The next day I spent a few hours alone plugging up the rubstrake screw holes with 3/8" plugs.  I gave it all another day to dry and then in one marathon 3 hours session cut off all the plugs flush with my Marples flush cut saw (cheap from Home Depot, but works great).  Since the saw cuts so close, I only needed to do a little sanding with 150 and 220 grit paper to get everything looking good.  I'm really pleased with how they turned out.  I expect that they will last for many years to come if I don't pile the boat up on the rocks or get clobbered by someone else.

Next up, on to the dread cockpit sole.....

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Plugging Along

I was able to get the whole family involved to help put the plugs in the screw holes this afternoon.  It's one of those monotonous tasks that always goes way quicker with help.  It only took about 20 minutes with all four of us working to get all the caprail plugs in.  Each was dipped in varnish before tapping into place to effectively 'glue' it in.  I'll get the rubstrake plugs later this week and cut the plugs down once dry.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Caprails Complete

Almost complete anyway.  There's some sanding and lots of screw holes to plug with bungs that I need to cut, and there's the varnish of course, but that's all gravy at this point.  All the hard work is done.  I finished sanding off the epoxy squish out and rounded over the transom and port caprail this morning and I'm really happy with how they turned out.

That's not to say that there aren't some flaws here and there, but I really can't complain considering how big a job this turned out to be.  I had been mulling this over in my head for at least a year and went back and forth on the design many times before settling on a design that was pretty much the same as the original.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


I got back to work on the rubstrake and caprail this week.  I started out by turning most of a big, expensive board into sawdust by planing it down from it's initial 1" x 13" into 6 - 1/2"  by 2" strips with the help of my son.  The cats now have some very fancy Sapelle shavings for their cat litter.  I'm sure they appreciate it.

The plan for the rubstrake was to screw each of the 6 pieces into the side of the caprail (see July 25th post) and plane down the top of each so they are flush with the caprail.  First I had to work out the bow section which needed to have an 'end cap' put on so the rubstrake boards could fit into.  I guess I didn't pay attention when I originally cut the caprail boards, but the bow section didn't quite reach the forward most part of the bow.  Because of this, the
'end caps' became more complicated than I would have liked.  To solve this for each side of the bow (separated by the headstay chainplate), I laminated 2 - 1" pieces of Sapelle to form a 2" x 2" square.  When they had cured I shaped them down to account for the short part of the caprail and wrap around the bow so it could be shaped once epoxied and screwed into place.  I also notched each block to accommodate the 1/2" rubstrake coming in on the side (see photos above).   In hindsight, I should have oriented the grain of the blocks to run fore and aft, but now that it's done I'll just have to live with it.

Next, with the exception of the bow and stern pieces (which I left at full length to cut off later once the transom rubstrake was fitted) I cut 45 degree angles longitudinally on each of the 6 rubstrake strips so when they were installed, the strip aft would notch into the forward piece snugly.  I did a rough fit by tapping and countersinking screws 8" on center while I had my kids hold the strip to the curve of the caprail.  At this point the strips were anywhere from 1/8" to 1/4" proud of the caprail depending on where they were mounted (the forward sections along the bow curve inward more than midships), so I took a block plane and cut them down so each strip was roughly flush with the caprail.

 Being just a rough fitting, I still had to pull all the strips off and clean them up by running a roundover bit with the router along the bottom edge and sand them to 150 grit.  As with many things on this job, you get to a point where you build things up and then you have to tear it all down again to prepare for the final installation. The weather has been about perfect the past week or so (mid 70s and dry) so I clamped a big board to the tailgate of my truck and did the routing and sanding outside.

Before I could proceed further on the side pieces I had to get the transom piece in place so I could determine where to cut off the aftermost strip on the stern.  I channeled my inner cheapskate and coupled that with a healthy fear of trying to bend a board around my decidedly round transom and decided to laminate a bunch of strips together to form the transom rubstrake.  I just could see wasting a 10" board for this section when I had a lot of narrow pieces that would form a nice curve and would do the job just as well.  So I rummaged around the floor of shed and found the original  transom rubstrake and screwed it onto a flat piece of plywood to use as a form.  From my narrow stock I cut a bunch of 1/2" strips about 65" long and mixed up a batch of unthickened epoxy and laminated them all together and clamped them to the form.  The one mistake I made was using a piece of really thin plastic to put down on the plywood so the laminated piece would stick.  It bunched up like crazy and I subjected my wife and kids to special words normally reserved for conversations on the dock with commercial fisherman.  I should have used a piece of thicker plastic (7 mil shrink wrap has worked well for me in the past), but I eventually flattened it out well enough to get the lamination set.  After it cured I planed it down to 3/8" and brought it over to the boat and got it properly fit and the top planed flush with the caprail.  I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out.

For the final installation, I decided that I would run a bead of epoxy along the caprail to glue the rubstrake on (along with the screws) and then run a bigger bead of SikaFlex just below that along the hull-deck joint to prevent water intrusion.  This is where the epoxy cartridges with the static mixers pay for themselves.  They are very neat and allow you to really target specific areas for epoxy and you don't have to worry about batches kicking too early or that the mix you prepared will drip and run over everything.  Your guaranteed of a consistent mayo like consistency that will stay put until your ready.

With that said, once I ran the epoxy and SikaFlex beads, I enlisted my whole family to help because I didn't want any sticky mistakes and having several extra hands always comes in handy.  I stared at the bow with my wife or one of the kids holding the aft end of the strip and  mushed the forward end onto the caprail and got a screw in before seating the rest of the strip.  I slowly worked aft seating and screwing the strip onto the caprail and allowing a generous squeezeout of epoxy on the top to fill and mask any gaps between the strip and caprail.

With all the preparation beforehand (pre-tapping and getting everything properly fitted prior to epoxy), the whole process was uneventful and just took time and care.  We did the starboard side one day and the port the next.  Now I'll let it all cure up and then start cleaning up the glue lines and do the final roundover on the top of the rubstrake.  I was overly curious and decided to do a little shaping on the starboard side bow to see how the blocks I added forward will look.  It's not perfect; there's a bit of a gap where the rubstrake meets the caprail on that section, but I'm pretty pleased given the fact that that area turns hard under to accommodate the sweep of the bow and the initial planing of the caprail was not easy.