Category Archives: Annabel Lee

Solid to the core…

I’ve been promising these pictures, so at long last I bring you (drum roll please) COMPLETELY re-cored (and very solid, but pre-glassed) decks!

decks 039   This photo was taken before the final lapped ‘plank’ of 1/2 marine ply was lagged into place. Every thru-deck (cleats, fuel, water, waste lines) have been set with reinforcements that will keep water from reaching the new core.  Next, two layers of biaxial from bow to stern, and all deck leaks will have been banished!

Letting go of Perfection

Another winter is right around the corner, and once again, Annabel Lee remains right where she’s been for far too long.  No, the work I’ve been doing should have never taken this long, but sometimes health, hurricanes, and life in general get in the way. All the same I do know for certain (with the exception of any unforeseen impending disasters, of which I’ve had enough, thank you very much,) I am on the home stretch. If all goes according to plans (okay, go ahead and laugh. I know the boat gods are even as I type this.) her completely re-cored decks will once again be sheathed in fiberglass, and she WILL WILL WILL be afloat come spring, her decks nice and solid, her engine gleaming and purring, and her new-old mast standing high and proud. I may have mentioned in the past, it’s my delusional optimism that keeps me going. Hey, sometimes you just have to work with what you’ve got.

Now, I’ve heard the whispers. I know what some people are saying. I’m a perfectionist, and until I come to terms with that, the boat will never be done.  And that is true to some extent. For one, no boat is ever truly done –that just goes with the nature of boats. And I am a perfectionist when it comes to the boat, but only to a point. For example, I have a strong dislike for leaking decks, and I believe if you’re going to tear them all up and re-core them, you might as well do it once and do it right. So no, I won’t cut corners there. And I strongly believe that the engine room should be the cleanest, shiniest area on the entire boat, because then if there are any leaks, they are clear and easily located and addressed. But beyond that, I’m actually rather partial to the New England workboat philosophy – minimal brightwork, minimal shiny bits, and simply freshen up the paint once a season.  Let the boat look respectable, let her show she’s maintained, but don’t sweat the finish. Personally, I’m seriously considering simply rolling the hull with a nice, flat, off-white paint.  It’s a look I’m rather fond of, and not just aesthetically.  It’s a look that says, “This boat isn’t just a show piece.”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m the first to admire a truly beautiful, meticulous finish. You’ve got to respect the work and discipline that goes into achieving and maintaining it, and brightwork that gleams with flawless richness is truly a thing of beauty. I’d been that obsessive on my old catboat, Myra Lee, and took great pride in the admiration she attracted. But these days I’m letting go of that ideal. So long as she’s mechanically and structurally sound, I’d prefer  Annabel Lee be less of a show piece and more of a functional, functioning boat. A boat I won’t mind dogs romping around, and one I won’t mind hauling a striped bass aboard. A boat that guests don’t have to remove their shoes to board. A boat that dinghies can thump against all night without concern. A boat I don’t have to pamper. A boat with the lowest maintenance-to-use ratio I can achieve.  A boat I can simply enjoy.

It’s easy to get caught up in the quest for perfection. As a writer, there’s always another sentence we can tweak, and on boats, there’s always something that could shine just that much more.  But there’s a point where it might be best to let go of perfection in exchange for ‘good enough’. Because in the end, once Annabel Lee is finally anchored out, as the sun dips below the horizon as the clouds streak the sky with a magnificent pink and orange display, the last thing that will matter is how shiny her hull is.

And on that note, I found this video had been emailed to me from Jamestown Distributors, and it sums this philosophy up perfectly. It’s well worth watching.

You have a… WHAT?

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Over the years my husband and I have spent countless hours on the phone, trying to track down various components for Annabel Lee, our 32’ 1977 Cheoy Lee trawler. And the responses we hear are consistently the same.

“What kind of a boat is that?”

“Never heard of them.”

“I thought they built only sailboats/megayachts/ships.”

Actually, Cheoy Lee did, for brief span of years, build various small trawlers. But it isn’t just the boat itself. The parts she was built with lead to an equal amount of dead ends.

“What kind of helm pump? Oh. Can’t be rebuilt. You got to replace it.”

No. The Wagner 701 can be rebuilt.

“An inner cutlass bearing? No such thing.”

That’s odd, because I’m looking at one right now. Only it isn’t in a standard size. The inner diameter is for a 1.75” shaft, but no standard outer diameters available match the dimensions of my apparently very unique stuffing box/inner cutlass bearing housing, which a friend with a machine shop will be boring out this weekend so we can use a standard size cutlass. The same goes for the rudder bearing.

I suppose this should be expected when one buys an old boat of unusual pedigree, and I did anticipate it to some extent, though as with all things on a boat, the reality of the situation often far surpasses what you first imagine. This has become amusingly apparent whenever I’m on the phone with some supplier or another, who, in an attempt to find answers Googles “Cheoy Lee” + whatever part we’re discussing.

“Oh, hey,” I’m told, “there’s a web site here with someone doing just what you’re talking about, with lots of pictures and information.” Every time, without fail, it’s my site and my boat they’re looking at.

If there is a positive to this all, and I always try to see the positive side, as a result, we’ve become highly skilled at rebuilding what can’t be rebuilt, repairing what can’t be repaired, and coming up with creative and innovative solutions to the unsolvable. We’ve had to design our own tools and friends have welded up massive wrenches to our specs. We’ve devised ways to remove long-frozen parts, to adapt things in the oddest ways, to fix what can’t be fix, and ultimately, to gain a sense of humor about it all in the process.

The WHOLE thing?

The whole hole. Think it’ll leak?

I’m often amused by the reactions our work aboard Annabel Lee draws from onlookers and passers-by. Last weekend a fellow stuck his head into the shed, hoping to locate one of the mechanics and a set of jumper cables to fire up his Jet-Ski. He looked up at my husband and I, decked out in tyvek pjs, filtration masks and full-face eye protection, then he looked to the powertools in our hands and the massive opening where the salon ceiling once was and said, “You’re fixing this boat? That WHOLE thing?”  Another fellow once told me how he’d love a boat like ours, with all her character, though he didn’t feel he was “brave enough for a project like that.” But the comment I most frequently, and the one that amuses me the more than any, is how lucky my husband is.

Me, looking my most glamorous!

If I had a nickel for each time I’ve heard that one… well, nickels don’t go that far these days, but you get the idea. I’d look from our boat, which appears to have come through a missile-testing site, to my stylish apparel, and in truth, at first that statement used to baffle me. Apparently, it turns out people are under the impression that my husband has the most understanding and helpful spouse; after all, I’m always down there at the boat, working away. In fact, I’m down there more often than him. And around our yard, around the scary-project boat area at least, it’s a man’s world, one where women are few and far between. I never thought much of it, after all, compared to Christine and several other friends, I’m merely a weekend boater; an amateur by comparison. It still comes as a surprise to me that others find my presence odd.

Myra Lee – MUCH less work!

Years ago, when I had my lovely little catboat, I heard some strange remarks as well. When I first bought her she was a bit rough around the edges, but each season I tackled more projects, and as time went on she really began to shine. My husband didn’t sail and I think in all the years I owned her, I had him aboard twice. But I recall walking down the dock one summer day to find an admirer gazing at her.  He pointed to the boat and smiled, saying how much he would love to have a boat like that… but all that brightwork! He told me, “I heard some girl owns that boat.”  I nodded as I climbed aboard. “Some girl,” I agreed. “Oh, it’s yours? Who does all that work for you?” he asked.  “Some girl,” I replied. It’s my boat. Who else would I have work on her? And when we first went to look at Annabel Lee, the broker immediately angled his conversation to my husband, who informed him, “Talk to her. She’s the one buying this boat. She’s the one who knows boats, not me.”

Perhaps if it was just me alone, it might not seem so strange. But as a couple, the assumption is that it’s the husband’s insanity, and he has such a supportive, understanding wife. But in our case, it’s the other way around. Yes, we work as a team and we’re in it together. Truth is I’m the insane one, (which is the reason we named her Annabel Lee, as you Last Exit readers might have caught) and I have a wonderfully supportive, understanding husband, though people seem to think he’s joking when he tells them, “This thing? It’s her boat. The whole thing.”

Annabel Lee – A whole lot of work!

The right tool in the wrong hands…

“Oh, you mean the fellow with the belt sander,” came the reply on the other end of the phone.

A bad feeling crept up my spine. Belt sander? When you work in a boatyard, you often identify customers by certain traits, distinctions, or habits. The guy with the blue-eyed dog. The woman who always wears tie-dyed shirts. The dude with the long ponytail. But the fellow in question, the one with the belt sander, was at that time the owner of a boat I was coming to see. The boat I ultimately purchased. And the previously mentioned belt sander was, tragically, his preferred method of keeping the teak decks bright.

By the point my boat and I came together, the decks had been sanded, for the most part, clear down to the fasteners. In some cases, even the fasteners themselves had been sanded smooth. Which didn’t exactly aid in keeping the planks secure, or water out.

Not much holding this teak down, aside from the black goo, which was sticky in some places, dry and crumbly in others. Best we can determine, this was a result of the prior owner’s fondness for certain quick leak cures that ultimately could not cure the issues,  but temporarily hid the symptoms.

As a result, the decks suffered an abundance of leaks, seeping through the fiberglass beneath that teak, and into the coring.

The only saving grace was that the now saturated coring was also teak, sparing it from turning to a rotted mess. I knew this, and it was one of the reasons I was wanted this specific boat, despite the work I suspected she’d need. But it’s the work I couldn’t begin to imagine that bit me in the backside, to put it politely. Years of repeated freezing and thawing had taken their toll, delaminating a significant area of the bridge.  And the more things came apart, the more apparent the extent of the damage became. And the more we began to realize this wasn’t going to be a simple repair.

This was around the point my husband began grumbling under his breath about taking a saw to the boat, and I suspect he wasn’t referring to repairs. Either way, it was time to take some drastic steps. Pictured below is the first section of the ceiling/deck being cut away. Ultimately, two thirds of the bridge deck were removed.

Hmmm. Now, WHERE is that leak coming from?

openbridge

There was no turning back now.  We constructed a new core, consisting of three layers of 1/4″ marine ply, laminated over a mold to duplicate the original camber.

It was easier to work on ground level, so we did this in the garage, then trucked the whole thing, mold and all, to the boat, then had it forklifted to a support set to bridge height.

At this point, folks around the yard were speculating that we were building a new cockpit enclosure. Not quite. But the structure supported the new core and allowed us to ease it into the space between the outer sides of the bridge, secure it, then laminate new ‘ribs’ into place. The screws you see were used to temporarily secure each layer as the epoxy cured.

Then the whole the whole area was glassed over with glass cloth and yet more epoxy.

And then it was time to tackle things from above, in this case with three layers of biaxial fiberglass/mat cloth, laid up with epoxy resin.

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We’d saved the ‘skin’ of the rear contours of the bridge so we could more easily duplicate the original contours, and you can see that in the left side of the picture.

Next step, one more layer of biaxial, covering the entire bridge from end to end. Yes, it might fall along the range of overkill, but I can confidently tell you at this point the bridge is now rock solid, leak, (and possibly even bullet) proof. Anything worth doing is worth doing right.

As for those hole running along the sides of the bridge, I had cut access so I could pour in epoxy, filling the gap between the inner and outer walls of the bridge where it meets the deck — which was probably already completely sealed in previous steps, but then again, if you’re going to go with the overkill approach, you might as well go all out.  It was an interesting process involving a funnel and section of hose, but sorry, no pics. I saved the cutouts, which were glassed back in place and faired out.

Today’s task will be the first barrier coats, and then topside paint and non-skid. It’s been one hell of a long, itchy, sticky road to reach this point, and in the end we’ll have a deck that looks like any other normal deck, which, I suppose, is a good thing. And lest anyone think the deck is the only thing we’ve been working on — the engine room, steering, and countless other mechanicals have been getting a complete overhaul as well.

As spring rolls around, we’re drawing closer to actually being afloat once again. Throughout the Sandy-battered boatyards, there’s a sense of optimism as things gradually return to some level of normal. Some boats are gone forever, hauled away to salvage yards, while some new (and new-old) boat have taken their place. Other boats have been professionally repaired and you can’t even tell what they’d been through. Some owners bought their storm damaged boats, or someone else’s boat, back from the insurance companies, and they’re learning the fine art of DIY fiberglass repair. Yet other boats escaped unscathed, and their owners are happily prepping for launch…including one merry fellow I passed the other day, blissfully sanding away at the teak decks on his boat.

“Yeah, they leak a bit,” he explained, “but all decks do. And they look so nice after a fresh sanding.”

 

Transmission, transformed…

From this…
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to this…
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followed by some heavy duty cleaning…
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disassembly…
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soaking, cleaning, and, for some areas, sandblasting, (other parts included)…

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followed by new seals, bearings, and very careful reassembly, and a few coats of primer…
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and finally a nice coat or three of classic Ford red…
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No more rusty, oily, leaky tranny. The transmission is all set to go back into the engine room, along with new motor mounts, hoses, lines, belts, filters, and more. More leaks banished, and best of all, the engine room will SPARKLE!

Today’s Agenda…

Engine room must sparkle! (Click on the text for a very funny comic. The entire piece is brilliant, but scroll down to the sixth panel for the reference here.)

For those of you who may be wondering, there’s a reason behind those cryptic and occasionally changing pictures I’ve been posting of my very dirty engine. Online photos aid in conversations with very nice and extremely helpful folks over at American Diesel Corp. For anyone with a Lehman, these are good people to know. And I’ll admit, at present the engine is not a pretty sight. But there are brighter days ahead! Parts are coming off, the bad stuff is being replaced and the good will be cleaned and repainted. When it all goes back together, everything is going to be shiny, in oh so many ways. Missing from the picture below but on the way, cans of white bilge-coat.

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It may not look like much right now…

but three layers of biaxial fiberglass/mat cloth, laid up with epoxy resin, is truly a thing of beauty.

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Everything is level and smooth, flush and even.  Next step, one more layer of biaxial, covering the entire bridge from end to end. Yes, it might fall along the range of overkill, but once I’m done this deck should be reasonably resistant to leaks, as well as missiles and/or the zombie apocolypse. Anything worth doing is worth doing right.

As for those hole running along the sides of the bridge, I’ve cut access so I could pour in epoxy, filling the gap between the inner and outer walls of the bridge where it meets the deck — which was probably already completely sealed in previous steps, but then again, if you’re going to go with the overkill approach, you might as well go all out.  It was an interesting process involving a funnel and section of hose, but sorry, no pics. Whe I’ve saved the cutouts, which will be glassed back in place and faired out when all is done.

Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the boat, the new rudder bearing is securely in place. Progress moves forward.

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I know I haven’t been posting much these days. I’ve been a bit busy, between hurricane damage to the house, the marina where the boat is, and the marina where I’m working. But rest assured, work aboard the boat still continues, and I still continue to write.  Something has to give, and these days it seems it’s my online time….along with my sanity. But that’s another topic.

Looking a bit more ship-shape…

I know. Technically, she doesn’t look much different than she has for far too long,  at least from this angle.  But inside is a different story altogether as things all come together.

WE HAVE RIBS!

And here’s where the new overhead joins with the original section.

Two layers of double-width ‘ribs’ are laminated over an original rib and a new single rib to give maximum strength. The screws in the photos are temporary clamps; we’ll remove them and fill the holes with thickened epoxy, and the bolts hanging down are attached to 2×4″ ‘guides’ on the bridge to keep everything aligned as the epoxy set. Next: hardware out and layers of glass cloth go up, then it’s topsides to glass from above.

And finally, the aftermath of the weekend. This is our cockpit work area by day’s end. I usually just let everything in the Mix-n-Measure pots harden, then pop the set epoxy out, resulting in a clean, reusable container and a levitating chip brush.

Bonding with the boat…

Technically, not just with, but actually bonding the boat.  When she was first constructed, the bridge was set down after the salon was completed. Seems logical and makes sense.  However, once we’d removed the saturated salon overhead/bridge deck coring, all that held those regions together was a small bit of filler, much of which had separated.  Needless to say, once water found its way in, it was easy to see why this was yet another source of leaks over the years.

Both areas are quite solid and strong, but there is little holding them together. Here’s a closer look at particularly bad spot.

 

Being that this particular joint is the same location where the new core will rejoin the cabin, some reinforcement were in order. We prepped the area, and yesterday I first wet it out with some West System, then filled and faired all gaps and voids. I’d cut strips of fiberglass mat and laid them over these areas, creating a smooth bond between the salon and bridge.  Today, a bit of wet-sanding before the epoxy fully cures, and I’m going to mold in a small ledge in either forward corner to give the new core that much more to bond against when it goes in.

This small but critical step may not look like much, in fact once the glass was wetted out it’s almost impossible to see, but this represents a key turning point. This round of destruction has rounded the bend. Things are now going back together. This coming weekend, with some willing volunteers on hand to assist, the cabin should once again be solid and bonded on all corners. It will take a few more weeks before everything is structurally reinforced and glassed into place, but we’re getting there.

And once that’s done, THEN we can focus on removing and resealing the salon windows as well as (first) replacing all the damaged wood covering the salon interior bulkheads. Fortunately that is a 1/8″ laminate, so that shouldn’t hit the budget too hard, and with that done, she’ll start to look the way she should… on the inside, at least!

The weather’s looking great for the weekend, so the plans are to pack a cooler with some nice steaks, and once the main work is done we’ll be firing up one of the grills the boatyard has by the river’s edge. It’ll definitely be a celebration, and one thing that makes boat work that much nicer is a bit of fine dining. Hmmm. Maybe I should pack a laundry bag… but I wouldn’t want to scare anyone.

Progress???

Sometimes it seems that going forward requires several steps backwards, and that’s where we stand at the moment. After a long winter’s break, assured that the temperatures had now warmed enough to proceed with epoxy resin, (and equally as assured that the weather would immediately go to hell the minute we began,) we set forth to tackle the salon overhead. But a fresh perspective made us realize this might be more effectively accomplished if we could tilt the new overhead core down inside the salon, prep the areas where it would rejoin the salon bulkheads/base of the bridge, then raise it in place. If this doesn’t explain what we have in mind, don’t worry. All will be revealed in the coming weeks. But it suffices to say that there was one obstacle to this plan: the inner frames of the salon windows. The VERY leaky salon windows, the same windows I’ve been vowing to remove and re-bed before the boat leaves the shed, so…you guessed it. We were going to do it anyhow, so why not now?

I’ll tell you, that’s easier said than done.  These windows are set in teak frames, both inside the cabin and out, and even if the previous owner didn’t have a fixation with excessive though ineffective amounts of exceedingly tenacious caulk, these frames required first excavating the fasteners from beneath teak plugs and *very carefully* separating the teak frame from the boat by delicately hammering heated putty knives into the hardened black goo, (5200?) That then revealed yet more screws, also buried beneath copious amounts of caulking, and these screws secured the inner frames from the outside. From there it’s another round of putty knife/heatgun/hammer to remove the inner side. This stretched over two cold, damp, rainy days while we worked by the glow of droplights and the electric heater.

Below: First round of screws removed, commence prying.

Well, there’s your problem. (Below) Globs of caulking, silicone and bubblegum won’t keep the water out if not evenly applied. A single, narrow, clean bead of sealant would have been far more effective, not to mention kept me from cursing the misguided soul that made this mess to begin with.

No. More does NOT equal better if large areas are not evenly distributed.

The logic behind this baffles me.

Oh are my arms going to look good by the time this project is done.

Below, keeping the putty knives 2nd degree burn hot. It made caulking removal only a little less unbearable.

The galley. Isn’t it pretty?

Stay tuned. More fun (insanity) to follow!

I know…

I’ve been making myself pretty scarce lately… online at least. I’m still around and going like mad, so long as you know where to look for me. Best bets for finding me are 1.) locked in my little office typing away as fast as my little fingers can go, or 2.) down at the boatyard, hunched over a space-heater, Mix-N-Measure pot in hand as I stir metered pumps of West Epoxy to slather onto strips of biaxial fiberglass cloth, or 3.) in transit to, at, or from any of the surrounding hardware stores for lumber, drill bits, fasteners, sandpaper, masking tape or whatever else I suddenly need. This schedule will continue for another few weeks at least as I work to wrap up No Wake Zone to ship it off to my editor and the weather becomes too cold for epoxy and polyester resin to set. At that point I do plan to once again start posting here a bit more regularly, but until then, I have at least been fulfilling my posting schedule at Write On The Water, where I post each Thursday.  Today: Sorting Boats.
Last week: Thanksgiving already?
And the week before:Who? Me?
I think that’s where I left off.  Once the manuscript is finished and the fiberglass dust settles, I’ll post some more pics of the (hopefully) finished overhead.

On this day in history…

… on a blustery and fateful day in 2007, we threw in the towel on sanity and bought Annabel Lee.  Enough said.

On another note, it’s Thursday!

With minimal explanation I bring you…

…some of what we’ve been up to lately. These 2x4s will serve as guides to set the ceiling core to the correct height as we work from below.


They’re bolted to the ceiling up forward, and the layer of plywood duplicates the thickness of the fiberglass that will ultimately cover the core, set to match the original glass.

 

And here’s the core, down at ground level, measured and ready to be cut to proper size.

Once trimmed, we had the yard lift the core on it’s template frame up to supports in the cockpit, set to the proper height, so the entire core can be eased forward into place and dry-fitted, then epoxied and glassed into place.

And there we are, all lined up but out of weekend.



And sometimes, everything goes smoothly…

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.

What I did over my (last weekend of) Summer Vacation…

Beach?

Nope.

Barbeque?

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?

Yup.

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.

An ‘exhausting’ day!

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!

Getting our bearings at last!!!

They’re here! So shiny, so pretty! Our bright new Johnson Duramax cutless and rudder bearings!
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.

A tale of two bearings…

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.



This was going to require a bit more pressure…

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.

A well-ventilated engine room…

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.

And this is just one of several reasons I rarely go online, answer emails or do much else online over the weekends.  Next post… BEARINGS!!!