Here she is, a collection of leaks loosely assembled into the shape of a boat:
Annabel Lee – 1977 Cheoy Lee 32′ Trawler
Built in Hong Kong by Cheoy Lee Shipyards, she cruises contently at a sedate 7 knots through hell or high water, burning a mere one gallon an hour, and her 80hp Lehman diesel can run just fine on biodiesel. She draws 4.5′, (the specs state 3.5, but my ruler reads otherwise,) weighs in just under 20,000 lbs., holds 360 gallons of fuel, 200 of water, and carries full electronics. Aboard, there are V bunks forward, a head with shower, full galley with 4 burner propane stove/oven, fridge, pressurized hot & cold running water and LOTS of teak.
Our crew, underway…
And awaiting shore leave.
I’ll be grouping past posts about Annabel Lee and the endless work as it gradually progresses from start to eventual finish, but until then, you can still just click HERE for a not so organized summary of the insanity.
30 days and counting. One month, possibly less, and Annabel Lee will be off the hard. The yard is looking to get everything that floats floating ASAP, so as soon as we give the word, in she goes. But first, she needs bottom paint, new zincs, and there’s issues with the steering and shifting that need attention.
I finally found them, but it took all weekend, and required a whole lot of scrubbing, scraping, and tossing of many hefty bags. This is what you get for buying a 31 year old boat. We knew the previous owners had let maintenance slide over recent years, and in the light of a bright sunny day, it was becoming apparent just how much. There was a point we began to question our sanity, but forged ahead all the same. Gradually she began to resemble the boat we imagined her as.
Then there’s the ladders. The boat is backed to a retaining wall beside a launch ramp. We park on the side of the ramp. I put a ladder there so I don’t have to walk the long way around. That’s about 4 feet. A 10 foot ladder beside the boat almost reaches to the side deck. Climb aboard, down into the cockpit and it’s another 8 feet up to the bridge, where I was doing much of my work. Add, then multiply by every time I got to the top, then realized a tool I needed was down in the car. On the bright side, my arms and legs will look great by time we launch.
And yes, I am having fun! (Which again, says something about my sanity.)
I guess this is what comes with a 31 year old boat that’s been through several owners and declining care. Fortunately the mechanical issues were handled, oil changes and such, were attended to, and that is what counts the most. But when it came to other random maintenance, I suppose the intentions were good, but the repairs, in some cases, did more damage than good. Boats, by nature, develop leaks as they age and bedding loses its bond. Hatches, ports, fittings, you name it. Water finds its way into places it isn’t meant to be, and left unchecked, does damage. I suppose you can say he tried, but apparently, the previous owner’s solution was to apply liberal amounts of silicone to the areas in question. As I said, it seems well intentioned. But often, silicone is NOT the ideal sealant, as it has a tendency not to stay sealed, yet is near impossible to remove. One such example, the running lights, while minor, is aggravating all the same. These massive, heavy, intricately constructed masterpieces are presently buried beneath a rubbery, opaque film of gop that has sealed them together, yet did not keep the intended water out. Internal electrical in the starboard light was replaced with non-marine grade components, which corroded to a lump of rust. Yesterday, I spent three hours with an assortment of razor blades and picks, removing this silicone snot, yet more silicone long ago oozed into inaccessible areas, and the light is still sealed quite securely together.
Too many hours on the road. Too many hours in the bilge. In the engine room. Too many things to list. Too tired to even list them. I’ll just let the big picture speak for itself.
She looks quite respectable, and by Saturday, she’ll be floating. Amusingly, over the last few days, I’ve had several people approach asking if I’d consider selling her.
Asking if I knew of any others like her.
Now, that’s funny.
Best I can guess, there’s about a dozen of these little Hong Kong built Cheoy Lee Trawlers in existence, scattered around the world. Including the very neglected, abandoned Laura Lee, about 15 minutes from my house. But that’s another story, and another post. Yes, coming tomorrow, the sad, tragic story of Laura Lee, a story which may at last have a happy ending. Tonight I need some sleep. Much sleep.
I’ve been gone the last week, some by road, most by sea, moving Annabel Lee down the coast from the north side of Cape Cod and down through NYC’s waters and up the Hudson to her new home in Piermont. The weather, for the most part, combined with a non-operational lower helm, conspired to make this a rough, cold, wet trip.
But in the end, we made it in one somewhat rattled piece.
I’ll elaborate further over the coming days. Right now I’m too wiped out!
I’ve started putting pictures online of the recent voyage. More will follow, along with a rundown of the trip’s high (and not so high) points.
So much to do, so little time!
I haven’t spent much time online these days as I’ve been spending more of it on the water. And while I’ve discovered the ability to access several Wifi signals drifting unsecured around the area, if I’m aboard Annabel, I have other priorities. Such as digging out old bedding between the teak decking and resealing so, with any luck (we’ll see when it rains tomorrow,) the port bunk remains dry. Or removing the upper and lower helm pumps, to rebuild the first and replace the second. Or pondering the rate of drip on the stuffing box. Or contemplating the lack of water beneath the keel at low tide. It’s a new moon, so low is especially low, at my dock roughly six inches lower than Annabel draws in the stern. Twice a day her transom sits somewhat elevated, and while it’s only mud below, and with a full skeg her prop and rudder are protected, I’m still not overly happy. Yesterday I decided to do some mid-tide prop-wash dredging. I fired up the engine, eased her into gear, and realized I was close to ripping the docks out. Back to neutral, and I tied her off to the pilings and sea-wall, then gave it another shot. Hopefully that flushed out a little room below.
I’m surprised again and again how people make a point of hiking all the way over to the outer docks just to comment on my little boat. True, I think she’s the most beautiful boat in the marina, but I figured my opinion is somewhat biased. Still, the compliments keep coming. I’ll give you, my old Annabel is quite distinct among the rows of sleek, generic modern boats but I’m continually surprised by her admirerers. And amused. The words I hear most are ‘beautiful’ and ‘project’. A fellow yesterday came over for a closer look, admitting while he’d love a boat like her, he didn’t think he was brave enough for a ‘project like that.’
That’s how long we’re told it will be till the new helm pumps and steering cylinder arrive. Yep. The steering cylinder’s leaking as well. The good news is we found a supplier with reasonable pricing, but NO ONE has the parts in stock, they come straight from the factory in Canada, so we’ll be tied to the dock until mid-July. All the same, time passes fast these days, so we’ll just spend the next few weeks rebedding the remaining leaking decks and straightening up any other loose ends. I’ll get started on some brightwork, and go back to burning the midnight oil.
The static bottom-paint test…
…continues. As in, Annabel Lee remains unmoved, unless you count me adjusting the docklines, occasionally firing up the engine and spinning the prop to flush away the Hudson silt beneath her. Truth be told, I’m not surprised. This is the nature of a boat, especially one of advancing age, and the choice is to either gracefully accept the fact or be miserable. Misery is rarely a productive state, so I stick with acceptance. As one wise and experienced friend said, “Watch the engine hours. Every 25 hours or so, expect something to go wrong, and you’ll rarely be disappointed.” At least I have a delightful view of the river from the dock, and it is so tranquil down there in the morning when there’s no one else around. Unless you count the duck with her five tiny hatchlings bobbing along. I really should take some pictures. But for now, it’s back to my imaginary world, where at least the boats run most of the time.
Okay. Now I’m getting cranky. No parts yet, no definite delivery date, only a vague guestimate. Or maybe I’ll be surprised. Pleasantly, I hope.
This is what happens when the manufacturer you ordered from is in the process of being bought up by a larger company, and all the tooling was apparently being loaded up, relocated, reconstructed and brought back into operation. Or so I’m told. Bottom line, still no steering.
Life is so strange at times. Good strange at this moment. Forgive my vagueness, but specifics have been omitted for reasons I will elaborate on in coming weeks. But not yet. Things are still in discussion stage, then decisions made, and I haven’t crossed that bridge just yet. This could be very good, it could work very well for me, I just want to be certain, so I’m proceeding cautiously and doing my research first. It’s funny, when faced with a major decision, how you find yourself looking for a sign. You could go straight, you could take a right. Up ahead, the road’s blocked, and arrows point your direction. Turns out it’s a left, and I wasn’t even thinking of going that way, but maybe I should.
This morning I go down to the boat before work to do my usual check-overs, run the engine a bit, and stir up some mud. Part of the routine is after running under load for ten minutes, I drop back to neutral and let her idle for five before shutting down. While she’s idling, I do a walk around, checking everything from waterline to bridge. So I’m up on the bridge, and pause for a minute to admire the view of the river. Three gulls swoop overhead, screaming at one another, and THHUDDDSPLATTTT!!!! (Emphasis on the SPLAT!) There’s a big, fat, very dead eel laying across the bridge deck two feet away from me. Based on the slime imprint, it landed a few feet further away, and BOUNCED to its final resting place. Well, not entirely final. I still had a paper towel in hand from checking the oil, so I picked up the deceased eel and tossed it into the river. I might have been more grossed out if I wasn’t laughing so hard.
So… is this some sort of sign? I’m still trying to figure how to read into it. Interpretations, anyone?
No, the new helm pumps didn’t come in. And no, we have no idea when they ever will. But after weeks of hunting down a spring here, a gasket there, and countless other tiny bits of discontinued helm pump guts, Frank rounded up enough to take a shot at rebuilding both the 700 and 701, as well as the ram. It was a messy, fascinating process, but in the end it all went back together, back into the boat, and after bleeding the system out, everything (knock on wood) seems to work. Turn the wheel on the bridge, the rudder turns! Turn the wheel in the salon, the rudder turns! By time we were finished, we were too tired and too dirty to consider heading out; that’ll have to wait a few more days.
One thing down, two to go.
Annabel Lee is back on course, running (knock-on-wood) fine, with both rebuilt helm pumps performing beautifully. Words can’t sum up how great it felt to be out on the water, under way once again, and neither can the pictures I may or may not get around to putting online. As per the laws of Murphy, word came this morning that the new helm pumps are in transit to us at last.
The dogs have new life-vests, the weather’s superb, and my calendar’s clear of any obligations. So why is it that rather than sitting up burning the midnight oil writing away while anchored at Croton after an afternoon spent scrubbing the waterline and swimming under to inspect the prop, I’m instead at home, high and dry, surfing the web for information on repairing a Maxwell windlass. Yeah, well, I’d say it’s pretty obvious, and it yet again ties into that whole 31 year old slightly neglected boat equation. The engine’s running fine (knock on wood), the steering’s doing just what it’s supposed to, (knock that wood again), but it seems the windlass decided it was time for some attention. The motor seems to work, though the control circuit’s acting funky, and the whole system operates only in the ‘down’ direction. We could drop anchor, but that’s where it and 200 feet of chain would stay. Tomorrow we dissect and see what’s going on inside. With any luck, it’s something minor and repairable.
One year ago today we made it official, we’re out of our freakin’ minds, and bought Annabel Lee. It’s been an interesting year, a busy year (in more ways than one) and there’s much in the way of photos and tales I’ll be blogging about through the winter, when perhaps I have more time on my hands. But for the moment, even this brief pause to blog is eating into time I should spend doing other things. Stay tuned!
If I recall, months ago I said I’d put on some pictures from the summer as soon as I had some free time. How optimistic of me! Free time. HA! If only.
All the same, here’s a few long overdue shots of the crew on warmer days past.
Up the river a bit… Rules are, all small children and such must wear their PFDs (and leashes) while underway. The dogs have run of the cockpit and salon, though we have to leave the lockers open so they don’t step up to the side decks or go forward.
Once we’re docked, jackets come off and everyone gets a walk ashore. Then Moxy naps in her favorite spot.
1977 to 2009. 32 years of Annabel Lee’s maintenance log, transcribed to computer. Over three decades of oil changes, injectors drained, impellers changed, heat exchangers cleaned, zincs replaced, stuffing box repackings, countless filters, and other standard maintenance. Then the not so day-to-day, the Racor fuel filter installed (2/85), a new water heater (7/88), rebuilt alternator,(7/95), oil cooler replaced (6/97), and a new propeller (4/03). There’s the major changes and upgrades, like enlarging the rudder (4/85) new radar and gps (7/98) and a new windlass (8/98), just to name a few. And then there’s the curious, head-scratching, why-did-they-do-(or need to do)- that-stuff, like the replacement cutlass bearing caulked in place with 5200 (why?) (11/97) and the Morse dual lever (WHY??) helm controls (8/98).
The world may never know.
There are certain things that go hand in hand with owning a 32 year old boat. A certain sense of adventure, I suppose. Optimism is helpful as well. Determination.Perseverance.I’m sure anyone with an old boat has their share of stories, and please, I’d love to hear them. Pictures are an added bonus. If you’ve been there and done that, I and all those lurkers (yes, I know you’re out there!) who visit my niche on the web would appreciate knowing how you took on your specific projects. What obstacles did you encounter, how did you overcome them, what lessons did you learn? In sharing war stories, perhaps in the end we can save the next soul some misery. Which is why I’ve chosen to document the various endeavors we undertake aboard Annabel Lee.
And so another phase of work begins. Yet again our old Sable Wagon (AKA the Mars Rover) is earning its keep, this time bringing home sections of the bridge decking. But why is the decking being removed from the boat,you ask. (For bigger, higher resolution, and therefore scarier pictures, click here.)
First, let’s roll the clock back to last summer. There’s our bridge. Look closely, see all the missing plugs over screws fastening it down. From what I’d been told, the former owner was very fond of his power sander. Evidence is all over the boat, where teak has been sanded clear down to the fasteners in many places. What had once been 1/2″ thick is now down to 1/4″ or less.
The sad fact is the decks look dismal from above, and from below… well… here’s a few thousand words in photo form.
Leaks, leaks, and more leaks. Of course, this was aggravated by one or more run-ins of deck bedding versus hydraulic steering fluid. We’re only too aware that the upper helm had more than once leaked, and in lowest spots of the bridge, (made even lower by years of zealous oversanding) the fluid ate through the bedding, through the bedding around the screws, and eventually, well, see above and below.
Also, notice what resembles a hole concealed beneath the headliner. That’s just what it is. A nice big hole, where the cables run up to the radar mast. You can see the mast in the photo from last summer. The bedding around that mast had long since failed, and the hole and the leaks it created are one of the reasons we’ll be replacing that mast. We plan to set up a mast with a steadying sail, and the radar will be set on that mast, with all cables route properly as not to lead water into the cabin. But that’s another project.
Some plugs have managed to stay, but some with the aid of a pick they can be persuaded out. The bronze screws beneath, on the other hand…
…are another story. Some come agreeably. Some snap at the head. Some strip out. They’re almost like machine screws, not very long, and blunt-tipped, and they go only so deep into the very very thick fiberglass beneath. But here and there, some have been replaced with much longer stainless wood screws, and these go further, down into the teak coring beneath the glass. There is, in places, some delamination, but far as we can tell it seems very slight. I’m sure given more time it would have progressed.
And so here’s where we stand. The planks are coming up in reasonable order. The fiberglass subdecking will need to be cleaned, any delamination addressed, all screw holes (hundreds) drilled out and epoxied closed. And then, well, that’s to be determined. PlanA. My hope is we can salvage the original decking, I’ve seen it done, by epoxying it down to sheets of marine plywood, and refastening that to the subdecking. That’s how they do teak decking these days on new builds. No screws. Of course we’ll have to re-plug all the screw-holes in the teak, so in the end it would look identical to the original decking. It depends on how easily I can clean down the old bedding to prep the wood for epoxy. Plan B. Frank’s looking into salvaged teak, which would be cut to size and epoxied down in the same manor as Plan A. Plan C. New teak. Less labor than A or B, more $$$s. Plan D. Flexi-teak or some simular product, but again, more $$$s.
One final note as we forge ahead. This is just the bridge. Eventually the cockpit, forward and side decks will all require the same attention.
We ache. Our fingers hurt. We’re exhausted and again questioning our sanity. The weather’s been miserably cold and uncooperative, though the cover is still up, so while things are cramped at least they’re dry.
We’re still at it. The main planks are all off the bridge, and the black goo beneath as well. Now it’s just the outer trim pieces. But it was so bitter and damp today, we called it quits a bit early, and we’ll start over tomorrow. And I’m bringing a space heater this time.
And the headliner’s down, revealing fascinating details of the construction closer photos will show more clearly. This boat is built like a tank. But that’s for tomorrow, if I’m not to beat to post it.
As I’ve been removing wood in the cabin, I planned to number it for reference when things go back together. Only I’ve found it was already numbered during construction 32 years ago. The amusing part is,as the boat was built in Hong Kong, it’s written in both English and Chinese.
“I love this boat. If we keep taking parts off, soon it’ll be gone!”
Boat news. So, the main cover is off at last. However, with a multitude of holes through the bridge at the moment, it must be kept dry.
So let’s see. First off, the bridge is all cleaned up.
But it hit nearly 80 yesterday, and under the main cover, with no air circulating, it was suffocating and impossible to sand. So we pulled the cover. Now we’ll start opening up the holes where water came in.
Time to dry things out, above and below. Interesting thing is how the teak plank coring can be seen from below. 4″ wide, 1/2″ thick teak planks. Fortunate thing this boat was cored throughout with solid teak, something otherwise unheard of, but 32 years later, all this coring, though damp in places, is solid. This may take several weeks, and while we plan to launch in roughly two weeks, I’d prefer not see Annabel Lee motoring around sporting a plastic tarp. So today I ordered oodles of goodies from Sailrite.com, a hardware store for everything canvas related. Tools, threads, fasteners, canvas, some nifty attachments for my two Singers, ages 46 and 79. Don’t kid yourself, old sewing machines are amazing. These modern, computerized plastic toys can’t compare to these ancient chunks of iron. They can sew through canvas, leather, misplaced fingers, you name it. Anyhow, I’ll be counting the days till this package arrives, and then sewing away furiously to make a nice tailored bridge and cockpit cover. And covers for the windows, to make things look even prettier, as well as keep people from peaking in and wondering ‘what the hell are they doing inside this boat?’
And finally, something shiny and pretty.
So here’s the math. 60 planks, 120″ x 93″ = 900+ screws.
Bronze ones. Stainless ones. Straight. Phillips. Stripped. Snapped.
And that’s just the bridge. Keep reading…
The week in review…
Not so hot, but raining.
Supposed to rain, but actually perfect.
Supposed to be only slightly rainy, but VERY rainy, at least until the flood rose under the boat, we threw in the towel, and the rain slacked off.
Where to begin? It all runs together, but here’s a summary. This week Frank and I set out to fix the leak in the keel. Years ago a skeg was added. In the process a section of the keel was cut and reglassed, then drilled for the bolts securing the skeg. Unfortunately those bolts eventually allowed water to leak in, then weep out when the boat was hauled. This year we pulled the skeg to take a closer look. We found a gap in the repair which easily separated, revealing waterlogged cement ballast. Someone with more fiberglass experience was supposed to tackle this one, unfortunately when the time came he was too busy with other work and we were on our own. yay.
First off, the old cement (yes, cement) ballast had to come out. Frank got some strange looks as he used a sledge hammer and chisel to excavate the core of the now open keel, but eventually he reached clean, unsaturated ballast. The plan; re-core the keel with solid teak, reinforcing the bolt holes, and re glass the whole area from the bottom up, wrapping it completely rather than just the strip of glass, which clearly failed. Step one. Grind away some very thick fiberglass along the outside of the keel. (Look on the projects page for all the scary pictures.) More strange looks. It’s the end of April, but pushing past 90 degrees as we’re working in dust masks, covered in heavy clothes and glittering with sparkly, itchy fiberglass dust. It gets through the clothes anyways, and the best way to wash down is (shudder) unbearably cold showers. If there’s one thing I hate more than fiberglass dust, it’s cold showers.
The new core we constructed from three pieces of teak, laminated with West and layers of fiberglass reinforcement. Then the core was epoxied into place, the bolt holes re-drilled over sized. These holes were then filled with reinforced epoxy. After everything is re glassed, they’ll be re drilled to actual size, and there should be no way water can find a way in. And finally, we had everything set to go, but the rain started. Friday a girlfriend and I were going in to see Blue October at Webster Hall so we wrapped up early. Even getting soaked on the way in I had a great time, the concert was unbelievable; unfortunately I was so exhausted from the week and knowing I’d be up at six the next morning to tackle the scariest step yet on the keel repair, I wasn’t in the best frame of mind. Still, Blue October is amazing live, and they performed nearly every one of my favorite songs. I wished I could have enjoyed it more.
I was up bright and early the next morning, despite getting home at 1:30 a.m., and Frank said “Go back to bed, it’s raining.” And so it was. Weather claimed the day would be a washout. So I set about prep for the canvas work, (another fun project, but far less itchy). By ten it wasn’t really raining, but no sense in getting started, it’s supposed to rain all day. This was probably just a break. By mid-day that break had turned to patches of blue, and we loaded the car. We plan out the whole process, figuring each layer of glass, even do some test work. The trick to fiberglassing a complex shape while fighting gravity, we’re learning by trial and error, involves letting the resin start to kick, then laying up a layer and working in fresh resin, rinse and repeat. It’s that whole ‘wait till it kicks’ part that takes the time and patience, and now it’s too late in the day. But tomorrow isn’t supposed to rain nearly as much as today, so maybe we could pull this off.
Sunday dawned gray and gloomy, but dry and better than Saturday began. On the way over it starts to mist. We figure we can still work, so long as things stay dry underneath, so we set up a tarp tent between the boat and the Mars Rover. It’s raining now, but we’re still dry where we’re working so we forge ahead. We’re all set up, the glass mat measured and cut, and the minute I mix that first batch of resin the rain turns to torrential downpour. The island of dry beneath the boat flooded and we had to throw in the towel. Of course, no sooner than we load the car and break down the tent the rain slacked, but now there’s a small lake under the boat. *&#%@!
It’s supposed to pour for the next two days. Just f’n great. Grrrr. Stay tuned for the next round.
Fiberglass and more fiberglass…
At last! The keel is solid once again, structurally reinforced in every direction and built back out to (almost) proper dimensions. I didn’t take many pictures in the sticky, messy, itchy process, not until we neared the end. And I’m not going into details now, I’m still too tired. It turned into a 12 hour marathon, and that after getting home at midnight the night before after stuffing the entire contents of one dorm room into one brown station wagon. Coherency is low at present. I need more caffeine.
Next step, sand the cure glass, fair it, Pettit Protect, and THEN we can start putting working parts like the shaft, prop and rudder back in place.
More details tomorrow, maybe.
More work tomorrow, definitely.
Fun facts I’ve learned this spring…
People get very nervous and avoid you when they see you take a carbide-blade grinder, chisel and mallet to your boat’s keel. However, EVERYONE stops to talk when they see you laying up new glass and actually putting it back together. (Guess they figured we never could. Truth be told, we had our doubts at times.)
Murphy controls the weather. It will always be too hot/cold/wet to do the task at hand.
Inspiration comes when you’re too tired to write it all down.
The bridge is big. Really BIG, especially when it comes to covering it with a fitted canvas cover.
Old sewing machines are still the best choice for heavy work.
(Knew this one.) Fiberglass itches. Fiberglass gets everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
Cuts full of fiberglass dust don’t bleed, until you wash them.
The easiest way to get West resin out of your hair is to not get it in to start with. The next best option is to just cut it nice and short.
No, I wasn’t afraid to get prop wet! (Haha. Very funny.) I was just trying to keep bottom paint from getting on it.
One tiny little $2.35 brass fuel line fitting can stop a 20,000 lb. boat from moving.
A big shiny bronze prop attracts boaters like moths to a fly-zapper.
Everyone seems to LOVE our boat. She attracts admirers like a magnet, often looking to talk when we’re in the middle of some rushed work when we can’t really stop to talk. Still, I will admit the positive comments do feel great. But when I know we’re too busy to talk, I’ve taken to covering parts of the boat and tossing towels over the transom, (Are you from East Dennis? I used to live/have an aunt/cousin/evil twin who lives there/vacationed there 30 years ago/want to live there some day.)
June 2nd is NOT 2 WEEKS after April 19th!
High tide tomorrow: 6:06 AM EDT
Last weekend: The keel is reinforced and back together, the skeg fit perfectly, the rudder’s on, everything’s primed and painted, so we go to fire up the engine and…… crank crank crank crank…. Uhm…. no. Okay, so there’s diesel leaking below the fuel lifter. We kind of saw this coming and already have a new lifter and lines waiting in a box. Simple. Only the connector on the Racor fuel/water separator doesn’t match the one on the new fuel line. And it’s Memorial day, so no such luck finding anyone with an adapter. Order one Tuesday, get it Thursday only to find it’s wrong. Check every possible source, find everyone has the same wrong fitting. Seems it’s in a box marked 9040-6-6, but it’s really a 9020-6-6. Friday morning finally located one on a shelf down off the Parkway, picked it up. Hooked everything up Saturday morning, bled the lines, run a hose into the raw water intake, pressed the starter and hear happy sounds. Of course the yard wants to launch us last month, we understand that, still we’d like to get chance to polish and wax the hull and I still haven’t finished the canvas and there’s no lines at the dock. Fortunately some unknown kind soul blocked the travelift, and once the weekend kicks into gear the lot fills up with cars, so there would be no launching until Tuesday morning. PERFECT!!! We actually had time to do much of what we wanted to tie up loose ends and get things nice, or at least as nice as could be expected. I just have to fit out the last part of the canvas and I’m done with that as well.
As of yesterday. Annabel Lee fired right up and the stuffing box required only minor adjustment. All is good, except I have a horrendous cold that went into my ears (painful!) and I’m out of commission, weak, tired, and getting by on antibiotics and Nyquil. It’s not fair!
I haven’t posted much these days not for lack of stuff to post, but for lack of time to post stuff. If that makes sense, you have my sympathy. Needless to say, I’m still feeling meh, overtired, underslept, and finding not enough hours in each day to make a dent in the things I need to do.
Such is life. Oh, and it keeps raining. Lots of rain. On the bright side the bridge canvas fits like a glove and all is dry above and in the cabin.
It must be July, as once again we rebuild the steering. In truth, more like replace. This goes back to last summer when the helm pumps and ram were failing, which goes back to the previous fall when, prior to our ownership, a mechanic, while replacing the cutlass bearing, reinstalled the rudder with the tiller arm upside down. This was done after the initial survey and days before we picked up the boat to move her from Salem to East Dennis in horrendous November seas. This was reportedly inspected by Rob Scanlan, CMS/MMS Master Marine Surveyor, both before and after the initial survey, but was clearly overlooked.
This was just one of many issues, such as our well documented keel problem Rob Scanlan failed to note in his initial survey, as he was supposed to inspect the cutlass replacement and was reportedly present while the skeg was removed. I would like to note Mr. Scanlan NEVER sent me a final, complete survey following the sea-trial, even after numerous polite requests, all made prior to our realizing any of these overlooked issues. This oversight allowed the tiller to overswing the rudder stops, which in turn left the ram cylinder completely misaligned and allowed it to move far beyond the proper 30 degree angle, causing it to alternately bleed hydraulic fluid and draw air into the lines. This lack of hydraulic fluid contributed to the ultimate failure of both helm pumps, as well as the hydraulic fluid ‘burping’ from the upper helm destroying the mastic bedding on the bridge deck, which in turn caused leaking into the cabin and damage to the interior joinery. Needless to say, it was one very costly, and potentially critical oversights.
When I consider the conditions we travelled through with steadily failing steering, I realize we were fortunate things hadn’t turned out worse. Far worse. We hired Mr. Scanlan, a “Certified and Accredited Master Marine Surveyor”, as an agent to inspect the boat thoroughly, a boat many hours from our home, and we paid for a full survey, not just the ‘insurance’ survey, knowing we’d be travelling a good distance in an unfamiliar boat late in the fall as the weather went from bad to worse, only to find oversights such as this. Mr. Scanlan’s site http://www.mastermarinesurveyor.com/index.html was filled with glowing praise and testimonials, and it seems oddly surprising that his survey missed a number of critical points. It is unfortunate that Rob Scanlan never returned my calls or sent me a final survey, and it is unfortunate that ultimately I’m left wondering whose interests he was serving; the buyer, who he may likely never meet again, or the yacht broker with whom I’m sure he’s had past dealings with and will likely see again through his career.
So back to the present, as in last weekend. Frank knew last year’s rebuild of the old pumps and ram cylinder weren’t permanent fixes, but they carried us through the summer while we waited for the new parts to arrive. Maybe we’d get another season out of them. Maybe not. The bridge helm was starting to act up, so we decided to be safe and swap it out for the new one. I suggested if we were going to open the lines, we might as well just do it all and leave the old parts packed as spares. Of course, there were the usual issues of one or another random bolts that needed replacement, which ate up hours of running around looking for the right hardware. By Sunday night all was installed and the bleeding had begun, but it’s likely there’s still a bit of air to clear out. A good day or two of chop should do that.
Update: I have since discovered a discussion on the Wooden Boat forum where another dis-satisfied customer with a boatload of problems states “beware of a surveyor named Rob Scanlan…” and “if I ever do get the survey I paid $1500 for, I will show that to anyone who wants to see it.”
And this little tidbit recently came to my attention and I found it rather interesting. I’ll let the article speak for itself:
Massachusetts resident Rob Scanlan advertised himself as an accredited marine surveyor, using the acronym “AMS” to the chagrin of the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS), which alleged it owned the certification mark “AMS.”Odd, that wasn’t on Rob Scanlan’s resume.
SAMS sued Scanlan in Florida and a U.S. District Court there found Scanlan in default. SAMS then tried to enforce the judgment in Massachusetts before Judge George A. O’Toole Jr.
O’Toole held SAMS failed to provide proof of proper service in the Florida action. On the merits, Scanlan counterclaimed to cancel the “AMS” mark. O’Toole granted SAMS summary judgment on that issue since Scanlan failed to prove “AMS” was generic. Soc’y of Accredited Marine Surveyors, Inc. v. Scanlan, 2005 WL 670541 (D. Mass. 2005).
I haven’t posted much lately, simply due to the fact that I’ve been busy doing all those fun things I don’t have time to put online. In other words, Annabel Lee running fine, other than a few minor kinks we’ve quickly resolved, and we’re dividing our time between using the boat and working on her. All is good in the world.
This past weekend the weather has been perfect, if somewhat gusty at times. Yesterday was the 4th of July, my favorite and most sacred of days, observed perfectly with good friends, good (barbecued) food, and wrapped up with a night on the boat watching fireworks. No, we weren’t among the crowds I’m sure were there along the Manhattan waters. The 4th is a day when many who rarely if ever use their boats head out, loaded to the gunwales with family, friends, food and drinks. Rules of the road? What road? I don’t see no road! Needless to say, the 4th is a day we leave the waters to the amateurs, those braver than us, and the professionals who get to sort that whole mess out. We happily watched five different fireworks shows while sitting on our bridge, tucked safe and sound in our own slip, then went below to read a bit before sleep.
Passing wakes, however, made for a bumpy evening. At one point I went up to the salon to silence a few noisy items as we rocked away, and noticed our neighbors heading up the fairway. So I step outside in my pink pajamas to lend a hand with lines. They’re coming in fine, nearly docked, when a sharp gust of wind blew their bow around, up against ours. They tried to move clear only to find the boats firmly locked together, with their bowrail lifeline fouled on our anchor. Others were on hand, trying to help, and I scrambled around and back aboard, working the boats apart, and they backed neatly into their slip. By this point Frank, realizing something was amiss, had come above. As our neighbors tied up and shut down, they apologized profusely, expressing concern that we’d sustained any damage. For a moment everyone nervously looked things over, but fortunately both boats appeared unharmed. Frank leaned over, inspected the pulpit, then grinned and said my second favorite movie line: “Hey, you scratched my anchor.”
(Number one favorite movie line: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”)
…to repack the stuffing box WITHOUT sinking, despite Frank’s dire predictions. In fact, I didn’t see it as nearly as dramatic as he did, then again, I suppose critical is in the eye of the beholder. Yes, we had repacked it earlier this spring, and it seems I was right, it was a bit too snug the first time, warmed up more than I liked, and the choice was made to switch from flax to synthetic with teflon. I was convince we could do this without short-hauling, and only a small bucket of water came through in the process. The bilge pump could have easily kept up, no sweat.
And now both rebuilt helm pumps and the ram have been swapped out for their new replacements, and all the hydraulics work perfectly, BUT the rudder still seems to hang up at one point, which, we suspect, is that bolt where the rudder sets into the skeg binding up. At the time of the Great Keel Ordeal, nowhere around here had the correct style bolt for the purpose, and Frank voiced concern that the one we did use could cause problems. Only one way to be sure… high tide tomorrow we short haul. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that’s all it is, because if it isn’t we have no idea what it could be, and we won’t be moving much for the rest of the summer. Ironically, had we realized we’d be short-hauling, we could have repacked the stuffing box then, and spared Frank some anxiety.
It’s that time of year again…
The leaves are just starting to turn. The nights have begun to grow cooler, the days shorter, and my thoughts turn to…. yet more work aboard Annabel Lee. And strange as it seems, I’m looking forward to the prospect. Not the expense or the inevitable exhaustion, but actually doing things Frank and I spent the summer discussing, considering and planning. Things we couldn’t do last year, cocooned beneath the winter cover, and not afloat this summer, exposed to almost endless rain and occasional baking sun. No, this winter we’re biting the bullet and going with INDOOR shed storage. That way we’ll be sheltered enough to overhaul the decks, re-bed the salon windows, and several other random repairs Annabel Lee’s 32 years are necessitating. When temps get to low for resin-related work, we’ll shift our attention to the diesel, replacing motor mounts, the damper plate, heat exchangers, hoses, and whatever else calls for attention. There’ll be some carpentry work; we’ve decided to extend the bridge to cover a portion of the cockpit as well as provide a spot for cradling the dinghy. That, of course, will in turn require we also add the mast and steadying sail, providing means to lift said dinghy to the cradle via the boom. And while it’s out, I wouldn’t mind seeing if that forward center salon window could be changed to one that opens, allowing breezes to flow through the cabin. Oh, yeah, and while the windows are out, that would be the time to replace the water-damaged wood inside the salon. Am I forgetting anything? Most likely.
The forecast for the coming winter… busy, with extended stretches of sleep-deprivation through the weekends. There will be a chance of passing frustration before clearing to hopeful satisfaction.
The day is rapidly approaching and preparation is in high gear. And yes, my lurkers, the rumors are true. We’re heading up to a boatyard with indoor storage so we can get down to the serious work, unbothered, unrushed, and without having to be dinner theatre. So Sunday was a day for oil changes and the like. And while the engine ran, getting the oil nice and hot, we cleaned things down. Even if we were only putting the boat away for the coming winter we like to have her spotless, but being she’s going indoors, once she’s blocked we won’t be able to properly wash her, so now was the time.
Aboard Annabel Lee I hold a strict live-and-let-live policy, and through the summer I’ve come to expect a few spiders will take up residence on the rails and ladder. With a mercury vapor light on the sea-wall behind us, flying insects gather and our arachnid clan eat well, some growing to rather impressive size. Every boat around us has them. They seem to spend the days unseen, then emerge at night, doing their part to keep the biting insect population down. The way I see it, bugs bite and sting, fly around, get into food and generally make themselves known in rude ways, behavior never exhibited by any of our self-respecting spiders. True, I’m constantly clearing off webs the next morning, but aside from that I don’t see them as much of a nuisance. But every time we started to scrub another area spiders appeared, running for safety. I’m amazed how well they’d all hidden, wedging themselves into tiny nooks behind the bridge ladder or beneath the boathook bracket. I figured we had a few, maybe a dozen or so. Growing up around the docks left me with zero fear of spiders, so I’d gather them up and gently relocate them to the sea-wall. And a few more. And some more. And yet more. By day’s end, the count (Felicia asked me why I was counting in the first place – I don’t know) hit 47.
I’d like to think that counts for some good Karma.
Such wonderful words, and so refreshing to hear after last spring’s ‘rushing’, it turns out, is what led to our major rudder headaches that rippled through a good part of this summer and, in turn, left us with yet another repair for the coming winter. More on that later. But first, Saturday went PERFECT.
The original plan was to move Annabel Lee to her new winter home on Friday, with both high tide and daylight in our favor. But by Friday morning the wind was ripping from the north and the river churning. By afternoon high tide, the only time we can ease our four foot six inch draft out from Piermont’s shallows, conditions had only worsened. We still had the option of the next high tide at 4:16 a.m., which coincided with a predicted lull in the winds, which would shift to a more agreeable easterly direction as well.
Saturday morning we were underway beneath a crisp, star-filled sky, with a light breeze and smooth water. Traffic on the Tappan Zee Bridge was light, and even lighter beneath it. The only other vessels we saw through our trip were a pair of tugs pushing barges.
Continuing north, daylight gradually lit the sky and the sun rose as we reached Haverstraw. We tied up as the yard opened and then moved Annabel Lee into the pit. The lift went smoothly and the yard crew worked with easy, practiced precision. One minute we’re floating, next, suspended high in the air.
While the yard crew pressure-washed Annabel Lee’s bottom, we took the car, dropped off two nights earlier, and ran up the road for breakfast. We would have brought back coffee for the guys, but they said they were good. After they finished up, we set to work removing the skeg and disconnecting the rudder. We checked to be sure we weren’t holding things up and were reassured there was ‘no rush’, and we could do whatever work we needed. So we proceeded to flush the engine, winterize it, and yet again change the oil. Again we checked, and again were told ‘no rush’. After last winter and spring, where everything was ALWAYS a rush, always hurry-hurry, this was a pleasant, though unfamiliar, change of pace. So we washed the boat down before she would go indoors. Then the yard lifted the boat higher and we eased the rudder out. Sure enough, there were suspicious wear marks, slight, but telling. By now it was lunchtime and the car was loaded to capacity with no room for the rudder, so we ran home to grab lunch and switch over to the truck. The yard told us after lunch they’d move the boat to the shed. When we returned, there she was off to the corner, blocked neatly and perfectly, right where we’d hoped they’d put her.
The nicest part was seeing how professionally they’d set her, with blocks running the length of her keel (not just TWO, like two winters ago in Massachusetts, and six stands, chained together, not four, the way we began last winter.) This is the proper arrangement for a boat of her size and weight, and seeing that the yard set things up so well only added to our confidence that we’d come to the right place. Being in a yard where work proceeded smoothly and efficiently, without rushing and shouting, was very reassuring. I’ve both worked at and been a customer in yards where a sense of urgency, real or imagined, creates tension, mistakes and unnecessary damage, such as dismastings, dropped boats, toppled cranes, and our rudder. (Back to that later.) True, we deliberately hauled prior to the peak fall haul-outs, but even when yards aren’t busy I’ve seen them racing themselves, as if they’re scored on how fast they can get a boat from water to blocks. This doesn’t appear to be the case here, and that makes me very happy. And considering they have no issues with our intentions to do extensive work on the boat ourselves, it seems we’ve at last found the ideal location for Annabel Lee.
At the moment we have much of the shed to ourselves, aside from the Wiggins forklift and a graceful little wood sloop tucked safely behind a large stack of wood. By the looks of things, someone was moving along with an ambitious restoration, though it seems work came to a halt years ago. She looks quite sound and sturdy, and being well protected, doesn’t appear to have suffered any further deterioration. I’m curious what her story is, and glad to see she’s not outdoors, where weather would take its toll.
And the rudder…
You regular readers may recall my mention no only of our ongoing aggravation with the rudder sticking at a certain angle, but of last spring’s gray-hair-inducing rudder installation, which occurred at the end of the Great Keel Ordeal. Following repairs on the keel, we reinstalled the shaft and rudder, which required the Travelift raise the boat high enough that we could c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y lift the large and heavy rudder back in place. This involved several volunteers above and below. We were midway through gently jacking the rudder in position when the yard manager, ever in a rush, insisted he’d speed the process up by LOWERING the boat over the shaft. Even as we shouted “NO!” he proceeded anyways, and for a moment something hung up in the housing, with all the boat’s weight bearing down. After what seemed an eternity he finally heard our frantic shouts of “UP! UP!” and lifted the boat enough for us to align the shaft and things to slide into place. Needless to say, we could only hope no damage occurred. Fortunately everything seemed to aligned perfectly, and we hoped for the best.
Unfortunately, hoping was not enough. Through the coming weeks it became apparent something was clearly wrong, something that even the mid-summer short-haul could not correct. We spent the summer suspecting the worst and ultimately using the boat very little. Sure enough, when we pulled the rudder, as stated, there were some wear marks, likely from a slight bend in the shaft. This is repairable. A quick inspection of the housing, shining a light up inside, revealed marks in the metal, and damage of some degree. It ‘s possible that was bent as well. Fortunately the good people at S&S Propeller assured us this is something they know how to tackle, so it looks like I’ll be heading over to Flushing in the coming weeks.
If anyone wonders why we put ourselves through all this, as I’ve stated from the beginning, we’re clearly out of our minds. But our sanity was somewhat reassured as we paid a visit to the Norwalk Boat Show earlier today. We went there hoping to find some resources for repairs, parts suppliers and the like, but discovered that was not to be. The vendors, for the most part, were either offering their services or selling things like (I kid you not) LED lighted cup-holders. Clearly, this was not a show for the do-it-yourself crowd. I’ve heard the wooden boat shows may be more of what we’re looking for. But we’d paid our admission, so I suggested to Frank we take a stroll down the dock to view the shiny new stuff floating there. I can’t even venture to guess the price-tags on those gleaming toys. As the saying goes, if you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it. But amusingly, as we strolled among the window-shoppers, we paused to study construction on some of these multi-million dollar yachts, noticing the nice and the less-than-nice workmanship. There were details that impressed us, and just as often, places where corners were cut. For that kind of money, I expect my corners to be steam-bent and perfectly fitted. The more we looked, the more we came to appreciate our well-built little boat. I’d like to see how some of these fine boats weather 32 years of love, knocks and neglect. Will all this work we’re doing restoring this boat be worth it in the end? Financially? Probably not. We knew that going in. But the more I look around, the more I see, they just don’t build them like they used to.
And finally, in the life of Moxy, Loki and Rex… we’re gonna need a bigger couch!
That is the question of the day, (besides what did that guy do last night). It’s orange, and I mean BRIGHT orange, in that day-glo fluorescent this picture doesn’t do it justice way.
So what is this stuff we’ve been scraping away? Turns out, it’s Phillybond Orange, a two component, epoxy paste, developed for sealing exposed edges on stern-tubes. Which is precisely what it’s doing, bonding the stuffing box to the stern-tube. And quite firmly sealed between them is the inner cutlass bearing. And by all appearances, that particular bearing is years past needing replacement, which brings us to why we’re trying to separate that brilliant orange bond.
Here’s the outer cutlass bearing and stern-tube. If you look real hard, you can almost see the engine from here. So what exactly is the stern tube constructed of? Yet another thing to ponder.
That’s what it says on the Cheoy Lee web site, and through the weekend we gained a new appreciation for that statement. Since 1870 they’ve built a range of ships, tugs, and an assortment of yachts. Overbuilt is a more accurate term. The further we delve into our boat’s construction, removing the stuffing box and disassembling the steering, the more her shipyard lineage becomes apparent. Every book and article we find on stuffing boxes bear no resemblance to our specific stuffing box… until I found THIS. There it is… that one on the right! That’s our stuffing box. Then I scroll further down, only to see the image of an ocean liner. O-kay.
The steering is another curious situation. Again, nothing resembles the parts we’re dealing with, and there’s no manual to how it was assembled or how to take it apart. That is, if we can even get it apart. I’d swear this boat was built to break ice! Bit by bit we’re making cautious progress, learning more about our boat’s construction than we ever imagined. So for anyone treading this unfamiliar path, here’s what we’ve determined so far. Below is the main steering housing, mounted to a massive block of solid teak, with the rudder and tiller removed.
With all bolts removed, it does NOT budge.
It turns out the housing is threaded on, and with great effort is gradually turned counter-clockwise until it is unscrewed from the bronze pipe beneath.
The bronze pipe is then coaxed out the same way, leaving us with a cockpit full of parts. However….
The lower steering tube is bolted securely into the hull. We first removed the teak block, and discovered all four lag bolts were ever so slightly bent, a minor thing, but just enough to throw the main housing out of alignment with the lower housing. It’s likely this misalignment was just enough to result in last summer’s sticky steering. Whether the rudder or the bronze tube are bent remains to be determined. But it looks as though the main stress went to the weakest point, and that appears to be the lag bolts.
We removed the four carriage bolts, but no amount of persasion will separate this tube from the hull. We suspect there may be some 5200 at work here, and some research revealed a bit of assistance with a heat gun, combined with some gentle upward pressure and rotation may solve the problem. However, rotation is the problem, as no tools are large enough to grip the housing. This week Frank will be welding up some custom ‘wrenches’ to tackle this and the stuffing box base.
So here’s the sum of my weekend….
Funny thing is, when we bought this truck all those years ago, it was with the intent that it would tow something like a 23′ Steigercraft or the like. For several years it served as tow vehicle for Myra Lee. But never in my wildest imagination did I ever see it hauling parts like these.
The stuffing box is still within Annabel Lee. No efforts, banged knuckles or colorful language could persuade it otherwise.
It took some fine-tuning to make Really Big Wrench #2 fit properly but once it did Frank was able to turn the stuffing box, breaking it free from the bulkhead. So far, so good. Our next question — was it threaded on the stern tube or just pressed and bedded in — was answered when we found a gasket within the orange PhillyBond. I think it’s safe to say a gasket like that wouldn’t be present if it were threaded on. Unfortunately, without any means of apply pressure from behind our only option is to pull it from the bulkhead. That will require creating a bracket to mount on the stuffing box, a bracket we’ll mount to the motor mounts, and some turnbuckles to gradually increase the pull between while rotating the stuffing box back and forth within the bulkhead. More fabricating.
Sometimes we feel like Wile E. Coyote, constantly inventing our next solution. At least he had Acme. There are no tools built for this, or at least none we know of, (then again, dynamite might be an option!) no instruction manuals we can find, and the worst part is knowing we’ll have to put it all back together again when we’re done.
But at least it moves, and it it moves, that means it can come off. It’s just a matter of figuring how.
And now, in the sh*t you never think to check but should department… I give you the stern tube water intake.
We wanted to replace this plastic fitting on moral grounds. I strongly believe plastic like this has no place separating the inside of a boat from the water surrounding it. There is a reason bronze was created. Many reasons, in fact, and keeping the ocean out is high on that list. Anyhow, we removed it to facilitate stuffing box access and found it nearly plugged solid with some white substance… but what, and why? Closer inspection of the fitting itself revealed the problem. When this fitting was first installed someone applied a liberal amount of what I can imagine was Boatlife or a similar substance, with the intent of avoiding leaks. When the fitting was tightened down the sealant was displaced and formed a significant obstruction to water flow. It’s something to bear in mind when there’s an overheating problem, though fortunately in this case that hadn’t become an issue, and it’s definitely something to consider when installing fitting of this sort.
It most certainly didn’t leak, though.
I’m often intrigued as to how people stumble upon my blog, though my ‘stats’ feature provides some clues: the search terms that draw in traffic. These searches are a source of constant fascination, curiosity and occasionally, sympathy. For starters, a good number of you come in under various combinations of the following words:
Cheoy Lee Trawler
Cheoy Lee 32 Trawler
But then we reach the more serious terms, the ones that make me realize I’m not alone in my projects/suffering. Others roam the web seeking answers for things such as:
saturate encapsulated ballast
remove skeg rudder
reinforcing phase of fiberglass
hollow fibreglass keels filled with metal punchings
concrete and scrap metal ballast
concrete grp OR fibreglass OR fiberglass keel repair
dry out the encapsulated ballast
how to keep keel from leaking
teak deck repair core remove cheoy lee
grinder carbide blade
stern tube housing and “a” brackets
hydraulic cylinder lines fittings
brass fuel line fittings
mastic for bedding done cutless bearing
cheoy lee stern bearing housing
cheoy lee cutlass bearing
cheoy lee hydraulic steering
keel skeg fixing
sailboat rudder shaft housings
This is one of the reasons I began this blog, documenting the restoration and maintainance of an aging trawler, sharing the good and bad. Each time I discover a blog or site that provides good photos and clear details showing step-by-step how some other poor soul tackled their repairs I’m grateful they took the time to provide this information. When I see the finished results it gives me hope. If my photos and information can offer someone else guidance and a light at the end of the tunnel, I’m glad. And if you have a question, go ahead… write me.
There are the random searches that make me smile, recalling days when we’re not fixing something or another:
tappan zee bridge
PICTURES OF SAILING IN SCITUATE MA
And finally, sometimes random words from different topics combine, resulting in a hit for:
screws for sable wagon
At first we were pretty much alone.
Then others arrived. First there was Fair Winds, a lovely wood 36′ 1973 Grand Banks.
And now, looking astern, more trawlers!
We’re surrounded by Grand Banks!
So much for our theory about the stuffing box being pressed in. The come-along did nothing of the sort, and we decided to see what several rotations would do to budge the stuffing box. Despite being secured down to a gasket with four massive bolts and an abundance of Phillybond, which I’d best describe as day-glo orange MarineTex on steroids, it turns out the stuffing box was actually threaded onto the shaft tube! It took a massive custom-welded wrench, liberal application of WD-40 and 25 full rotations, each involving four repositions of said wrench, within the confines of the engine room to ultimately remove the stuffing box.
And it’s OUT!
And why, you might ask, would we even embark on such a disturbing undertaking to begin with? To replace the inner cutlass bearing, buried deep within this stuffing box. An inner cutlass bearing? Yes. Never heard of that? You’re not alone. And while perhaps it may have been possible to access this particular bearing without removing the stuffing box, no one we spoke with could venture a guess as to how it was installed.
One very worn stern bearing…
The next step is to determine how this bearing is set in, removed and replaced, not to mention finding that replacement. The fun never ends!
It had been a long, brutal day, heading bow on into driving southwest winds, spray, then thunderheads ahead and astern. So we duck into a sheltered harbor and tied up, soaked, cold, miserable and questioning our reasoning on many levels. No sooner than we tied up the sky began to clear… everywhere but directly above us. It was like something from a cartoon; there was a single black cloud hovering over Annabel Lee, pouring down, and Frank remarked that it pretty much summed up the way things were going at that point. As we plodded up to the marina office to pay for the dock this lovely craft caught my eye and I snapped a quick picture. Around us I noticed several people stopping and staring back from where we’d just come and Frank said, “I wonder if the boat’s sinking.” We turn to see this…
And suddenly everything didn’t seem so bad.
Quote of the day: If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there. – Lewis Carroll
Life in the shed continues…
It’s a reasonable expectation that if you own a boat, that’s the place you’d spend the 4th of July. Of course it’s reasonable to imagine that the boat in question is floating tranquilly on sparkling summer waters, not high up on blocks in the far shed. But I did spend this holiday weekend aboard, with the bridge uncovered I could look out the doors and see the river, and the roof overhead provided some relief from the blistering sun so it wasn’t all bad. Still, how is it that when ever Frank and I find ourselves armed with power tools to cut and grind away old fiberglass the temperature tops 90? More accurately, it bordered 100 as we worked to remove areas of delaminated FRP from the cabin-top.
For those who have never experienced this task, fiberglass work involves wearing goggles, a dust mask and protective clothing of some sort to cover all bare skin, or else suffer the consequences as thousands of pollen-sized glass shards finding their way into every pore of exposed skin. Sweat or itch, that’s your options. I know some hardier souls are less sensitive the fiberglass dust; I’ve seen them working oblivious to the irritating glitter, but I’ll admit it: I’m not that tough. Needless to say, our weekend would have been far more bearable had the temperature been less excessive.
So, what destruction are we up to this time? We’re onto the next phase of the leaking cabin top/bridge deck. Phase one was removing all the teak from above, revealing the fiberglass and its approximately 900 or so holes from where the teak had been fastened. For the most part, the majority of these holes had not penetrated that fiberglass to the core beneath, though a few, mostly ones changed by previous owners, had. Unfortunately, a few is all it takes for water to find its way into the coring and that’s where the headaches begin. That water will remain, saturating the core, and between compression and expansion from freezing over the winter it will eventually cause the fiberglass to de-laminate from the core, compromising the deck’s strength. This process occurs silent and unseen until ultimately some small drip finds its way through the headliner and into the cabin, and at that point the damage is done. Worse yet, on so many boats by this point the wood coring, normally constructed of balsa or plywood, has begun to rot. All in all, not a pretty picture and certainly not a simple repair.
On a boat of Annabel Lee’s age, the odds are high that there is wet core to be found. It would be more surprising if all was dry. Fortunately, our little boat has a certain unusual, exceptionally rare feature. ALL her coring, in fact all wood used in her construction, be it structural, joinery or cosmetic, is TEAK. Aside from the engine and the concrete in the ballast, if it’s not fiberglass, it’s teak. Teak has many wonderful qualities, most important in this case being its resistance to rot. And as we’ve cut away the delaminated fiberglass, the teak we’ve found is indeed wet, but as solid as the day the boat was built.
The photo below shows sections of glass we’d removed, exposing the core teak planks. We’d start by cutting a small square, just big enough to wedge a prybar in, then work out from there. The dark are is wetter wood that’s freshly exposed. With the day’s heat the surface was dry within minutes.
The fiberglass itself, despite being delaminate, put up one hell of a fight. Once the damp wood is all exposed and allowed to dry over the coming weeks, then we’ll begin the process of re-glassing it back together.
There’s still more to go, but this is the majority of it. Heat exhaustion was taking its toll and we quit for the weekend, with hopes that next weekend is at least a little cooler. Below: a few slabs of the cut away fiberglass.
From here I’ll be drilling out each of the old screw holes on the bridge deck just enough to remove some glass in order to let them air out and dry out. Then it’ll be time to start filling them all until NO leaks remain, grind off the gelcoat and lay down a few layers of fresh glass cloth until it’s all sealed tight. Any fasteners for deck hardware will be fully encapsulated and bedded down, and drains added to the low spots on the bridge to keep water from puddling there as it had for years. Meanwhile, due to a drip in the shed roof directly above us, we’ve thrown a tarp over the bimini until all is said and done.
The Great Keel Ordeal…
The latest issue of DIY Boat Owner is out, and page 45, 46 and 47 look awfully familiar, with stress on the ‘awful’. Yes, that is Annabel Lee’s keel in those photos, but every time I see pictures of the repairs we’d done they still make me shudder… and itch! Recalling how we’d gone into that project with what could best be described as outright dread, I’m very pleased with the final results. It’s satisfying as well to see the whole ordeal in print, where hopefully it will provide guidance to some other poor soul faced with the same unnerving task (not to mention it’s helping pay for some boat parts). And reading this makes me particularly happy:
“Like all issues of DIY, the Tools & Gear section is full of product reviews and the Projects section lays out several major renovations (read The Great Keel Ordeal — it’s great stuff).”
The article itself can be found in the Summer 2010 issue of DIY Boat Owner Magazine, but more pics of the messy process from start to end can be found here.
And looking back, it did turn out quite impressive in the end. We do nice work!
This in no way relates to the other ‘big’ announcement I will be posting in the coming days, but we’re preparing for the next big phase of leak elimination, this one from above.
Shown below is the frame built to duplicate the actual dimensions and shape of the area we well be replacing, with 3 layers of marine plywood clamped down to ‘shape’ them into the proper curve. The ply will be laminated together with epoxy resin, supported by stringers that duplicate the originals and glassed in from above and below. This laminate will be transported to the boat by laying it, frame and all, across the truck’s bed and driving it down to the boatyard, where it will be lifted by the Wiggins forklift to the proper height and guided into place. Should be interesting.
Then the frame will serve as the template to make a foam-cored hardtop for the bridge itself. And finally the frame will be ‘roofed’, given walls and a concrete foundation and serve as a uniquely shaped utility shed behind the house.
Work, work, work…
But it’s all good.
Annabel Lee is actually progressing at such a rate that I’ve been too busy to properly document the mayhem. I have been taking pictures, and when the epoxy cures and the dust settles I’ll take some time to post it all. Meanwhile, I’ve been writing like mad and I’m quite pleased with the resulting murder and mayhem. While some writers may turn to alcohol for inspiration, my muses appear to be fueled by resin fumes and the fragrance of sawdust. Seems fitting, I’d say.
Mmmmh! Good stuff!
This *was* the salon sole.
There’s a very nice old Ford Lehman diesel beneath this lovely teak parquet. At the bottom of the photo you can see a small access hatch. And while the engine room is, in fact, quite roomy, to work on the engine involves much climbing around on hands and knees. Work would be much easier with greater access. On many other boats there is often a larger engine room hatch, and it seems our boat was built with one as well – only it was covered over when the cabin was fitted out. From below you can see a portion of the actual hatch edge. I’ve marked the dimensions from above with tape.
And with a bit of persuasion and the removal of much of the pretty teak, we now have what I would term excellent access to all areas of the engine room.
And as for all that teak, it will be returned, refinished and re-installed around an ultimately redesigned hatch so when all is said and done we can access the engine without having to dis-assemble half the cabin.
Technically, three bearings, and it begins with that original cutlass bearing. Looking back, that should have been the first sign that some unusual headaches would await us down the road. Back when we were buying Annabel Lee, the initial attempt at a sea-trial revealed a severely worn cutlass bearing, and the seller needed to replace that as one of the conditions of the sale. Simple enough? Apparently not, as days stretched into weeks and we were told the mechanic he’d hired to do the work was having difficulty locating a proper sized replacement. In truth, being that it was October and haul-out season was in full swing, we believed the delays were more a case of this job falling on the low end of the mechanic’s priorities, and being that it wasn’t our boat yet, things were out of our hands. Eventually a bearing turned up, I’m told, when the seller discovered he had a spare he’d completely forgotten about aboard. But the job was completed, the sea-trial and survey wrapped up, (including an inspection of the work by the surveyor, who completely overlooked the fact that the mechanic had installed the rudder tiller upside down, which led to another string of headaches, but that’s not today’s topic.) We’ve learned several lessons from that experience, including the realization that if no one could locate a bearing for a boat with a 1.75″ shaft, that might be a cause for consideration.
Move ahead a bit and we find ourselves working out various other mechanical kinks, including a stuffing box with a worn inner cutlass bearing (yes, they do exist) and numerous steering issues, including a rudder with (among other things) a bit too much play from a worn lower bearing. As with everything else on this boat it took some doing, (and thoughts of dynamite for more than one reason,) but ultimately we removed both the stuffing box and the rudder bearing with the innocent and simple intention of replacing both bearings… and that’s where things got interesting.
Let’s start with the rudder.
Yes, this is the rudder on a 32′ powerboat. But as with everything else on this miniature ship, it is overbuilt. The rudder blade itself measures 20″ wide by 34″ high, and if you take the shaft into consideration that brings the total length to 59″. There’s even a removable deck plate in the cockpit that allows you to insert a manual ‘emergency’ tiller onto the squared end, should the hydraulics fail. Details like this are among the reasons this boat, despite the work she needs, impressed me to begin with.
Tiller and upper assembly (with soda bottle to catch hydraulic fluid as we replaced the ram with blown seals.)
Rudder tube leading to lower bearing.
Above: Upper assembly removed.
Lower bearing housing coming out.
Above: Lower bearing housing removed.
Above: You might think there would be a set screw or two to keep the bearing from spinning, but there were none to be seen. Still, the bearing didn’t wouldn’t separate from the housing until we resorted to a hydraulic press.
Ultimately it turned out there was a set-screw concealed under layers of caulking/???, and not only was it hammered into place as not to EVER back out, but the head was also ground down. Two strong men and a whole lot of persuasion later and…
The tube is clear. And here’s the first bearing I’m trying to locate. It seems to be made of some hard composite.
And that brings us to the stuffing box.
The orange dust you see here is called ‘Phillybond’, a flexible stern tube sealant. It turns out that in addition to being bolted into the hull, the stuffing box was also threaded onto the stern tube, and sealed with Phillybond epoxy as well.
Another view, to show just how deep this is set in.
First round with hydraulics only managed to remove the very much crudded-up collar that (theoretically) directs water around the shaft, but not the cutlass sleeve.
And victory at last!
But why was it so hard to remove the sleeve? Perhaps another hidden set screw, also hammered down and ground smooth then covered under years of age?
There it is. And here it is, the reputedly non-existent inner cutlass bearing.
And not surprisingly, this bearing is the same inner and outer dimension as the outer cutlass bearing. The inner diameter of 1.75″ is easy enough. It’s that outer dimension that makes things interesting. It’s 62 mm or 2.44″, a size we’ve discovered is harder to locate than you’d first imagine. And that’s where we are now, trying to track down two cutlass bearings with outer diameters of 62 mm.
We have a plan B and even a plan C, but ultimately the ideal would be plan A – replace these bearings apples to apples. Surely with all the trawlers and sailing craft coming out of Hong Kong during the seventies and eighties, ours can’t be the only boat built with bearings of these dimensions.
Update: presently we may have located a Duramax bearing with an outer diameter of 65 mm and an outer wall thick enough to be machined down to 62 mm. It’s a start but I’m still curious if there’s anything that starts out at a closer fit.
And they said it couldn’t be done! Thank you, Shad at Lauderdale Propeller!
Below: We had two of the cutless bearings machined to our specs, and ordered a third as a spare. Note the difference between original sleeve thickness and the machined thickness.
So here’s the logic. If you’re going to replace the motor mounts, it’s easier to do with the transmission removed, especially when the rear seal appears to be leaking. And it’s easier to remove the transmission with the exhaust removed, when the exhaust runs directly above the transmission. Therefore, today we removed the exhaust.
The more parts we remove, the roomier the engine room becomes!
A little bit.
Crawl around the engine room and attach our custom-designed temporary motor mounts to the engine and prep to pull the transmission?
These temporary motor mounts, will support the rear of the engine once the tranny, resting on the rear motor mounts, comes out.
We would have gotten further, but upon closer inspection of the winch arrangement I decided I’d be more comfortable if it was thru-bolted to the 4×4, rather than lag bolts.
However, due to yesterday being a holiday, local hardware stores were closed, and by time we completed the two hour round trip to the mega-stores that were open it would have been too late to start the next phase of madness.
Such as pulling the transmission last weekend. We hooked up the straps to support it, removed some bolts, and winched it up to deck level.
That’s not to say anxiety levels weren’t set to ‘high’, though happily none of the worst case scenarios running through my head manifested. The tranny rose from the bilge, we slid the temporary engine hatch beneath and eased it onto a dolly. From there we rolled it out to the cockpit…
And from there, moved it down to the truck, where it was secured and hauled home.
What’s next? Well, the tranny will get a proper service, replacing the old seals and anything else that might be worn. We can replace the worn damper plate, replace the motor mounts and a multitude of other odds and ends around the engine. With the transmission and exhaust removed the already roomy engine room is downright spacious. But now that temperatures are dropping we’re coming into optimal ‘glassing’ range, so the time has come to cut away the delaminated section of the salon ceiling/bridge deck and replace it with the laminated mahogany plywood we built earlier this year, then glass that in place.
I foresee much itching ahead.
I often refer to Annabel Lee as a collection of leaks in the shape of a boat, and a boat, by definition, is a hole in the water into which you throw money. So cutting large holes into that already leaky hole might be viewed as a questionable action, but that’s what we’ve gone and done.
I have emails to return, mountains of writing ahead, and a cabin full of itchiness. This is just the start, but as which so much else in my life at the moment, there’s no turning back now.
Right now, I’m turning in. Much to do tomorrow. Too tired to think tonight.
Update: In case you’re wondering how we’ll close this big hole, that’s why we built this…