Tag Archives: bridge deck

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.

Still itching…

I’m a bit behind schedule today, but that’s mostly because my schedule, once again, is non-stop. I’ve been going since 4:30 a.m. … okay, technically 5:00, if you want to count actually functioning as opposed to merely waiting for the caffeine to kick in. It’s another one of those days with more to do than I have day to do it in, but such is my life.

As for the primary task at hand, it involves prepping to wrap up the final fiberglass work within the salon. It’s one of those big-scary jobs, the sort that once you start, there’s no turning back. Every last detail must be in place and waiting, because as the saying goes, once it’s mixed, resin waits for no one. And laying up three successive layers of glass on a very contoured overhead surface… well… that just adds to the challenge.

Last weekend was spent very meticulously discussing, planning and diagramming every detail. Measuring distances and profiles, debating various approaches to fiberglass lay-up. Which pieces overlap where, in what order they’ll go up and how we’ll go about it. Below, the ribs, now with filets faired out and sanded.

Then crunching all those numbers and measurements into a roadmap of sizes and layup order…

Then once again verifying that every last number is absolutely correct, so I could begin cutting 20+ yards of fiberglass cloth into various boat-size pieces.

A quick note for anyone attempting an undertaking such as this. The ‘rotary’ style razor often found in the quilting section of most fabric stores, (it resembles a pizza cutter, only with an actual razor blade serving as the wheel,) cuts fiberglass with smooth precision and makes this task immeasurably faster, neater and easier than either scissors or a utility knife. Explaining precisely what I’d be using that rotary razor for when asked by the curious saleslady in the quilting section… well, that was amusing. I suppose I’m making a quilt, of sorts, actually, though I don’t think it was the type she had in mind.

Each section, once cut, I wrapped in its own piece of plastic, which will serve both as a fresh surface to wet it out, as well as a neater way of laying it out overhead. Every section I labeled to its corresponding number on our paperwork, and sequence of layup. Those numbered and pre-wrapped pieces I grouped into bags, ready and waiting for their round of layup.

Ultimately, we’ll be positioning seventy-eight pieces in total, and from the first to the last, there will be no stopping. I suppose this might be the point to say something clever about how preparation is half the job, or make some analogy to how it connects to writing or something else in life.  But right now I’m more preoccupied with double and triple checking every number, while watching the weather forecasts, which predict excessive heat, and figuring how we’ll rig an air conditioner into the cabin to keep temperatures in the cabin within optimal working range.

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.

At last…

Last week was a rough one that blindsided me, and home feels a lot emptier for it, but I’ve been dealing by lavishing attention onto the other four-footed residents and by keeping busy.  And keeping busy at this time of year means boat work, in this case in the form of the salon ceiling/bridge deck, which is at long last securely in place.

When last I left off, we’d been prepping out the areas where the edges would join. This included the forward edge of the remaining deck, the salon bulkheads and underside of the bridge.

Think of it like a layer cake – one where the upper and lower layers are fixed in place, and the inner layer (the new laminate core) would be *very* carefully slide in between. Only this layer measures approximately 8’ x 8’, weighs I can only imagine how much, has a camber to match the original curves and exact dimensions of the opening with only millimeters to spare and would be eased in by two people, (one of which is only 5’2”.) Add into this equation that every edge, inner and outer, upper  and lower, needed to be prepped in epoxy, and upon alignment, lagged into place before that epoxy set.  In other words, there was zero margin for error.

Below: The space we need to slip the core through. (Small scrap piece of correct thickness in place to test clearance.)

Below:  The Gazebo with the core on top — this made things much easier.

The key to pulling this off was tons of preparation and planning, repeated ‘dry-fit’ test runs, and everything coming together just right. We had everything in place. Resins, mixing pots and spreaders, fiberglass, brushes, hardware, tools, clamps, stands to support the wood, braces for alignment, etc. With the frame we’d used to originally laminate the wood set up on legs and looking like a gazebo in the cockpit, it supported the core at the right height and allowed us to slide it smoothly into the cabin.

Below: the view from the cockpit. This extends slightly further than the original bridge, which will provide more space above and more protection to the cockpit door below.

Once inside, we angled it down, braced it, wet out all areas that would meet with West System epoxy. We eased strips of pre-cut chop strand mat up from beneath where they would extend down, and smoothed the upper halves of these strips onto the top edges of the core.

Next,  we quickly spread West, thickened to a peanut butter consistency with 406 filler, along the salon bulkheads and bridge underside. At this point I wasn’t taking pictures, as we were racing to cover large areas and get everything in place before the epoxy began to cure. That, and were I to pick up my camera it would likely still be covered in resin. Once everything was wetted out the core was raised into final position and screws went in to set it into position, joining it to the leading edge with clamps, the bridge, and temporary 2’x4’s shimmed and angled to match the final alignment.

And there you have it. Next round, screws out and we’ll be laminating ribs in. After that, we’ll re-glass the underside, then go above, fill all the screw holes with epoxy, and glass the bridge deck.

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!

Watching the thermometer…

One of the oddest but most vital tools we keep aboard Annabel Lee is a cheap little thermometer masking-taped up to the salon window. It’s nothing fancy, but presently, that little device and the readings it provides determine all else that occurs on and around the boat. And while we’ve had some unusually warm weather over the last few weeks, it hasn’t been consistent enough to risk mixing epoxy just yet, so we’re waiting a bit longer before launching into the next phase of boat work. However, from past experience I’ve come to be wary of the weather when it comes to any project that involves epoxy — in fact that was the subject of my  3/29/12 post at Write On The Water: Murphy was a Meteorologist

Meanwhile, Evacuation Route is taking shape quite nicely, and I’ve located some excellent contacts to guide me along with some fascinating and twisted research that plays into the plot, and brings me back to my 3/22/12 W.o.t.W. post regarding the inspirational mayhem the marine environment offers:  Thanks for the inspiration, but…

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.



Holes…

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.

We now have a well-ventilated salon to match our well-ventilated engine room.

This should make passing sodas up to the bridge easier.

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…

Here we go again…

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.

The bridge deck… It begins.

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.)

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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.

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The sad fact is the decks look dismal from above,  and from below… well… here’s a few thousand words in photo form.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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…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.

000deck4And 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.