Monthly Archives: May 2013

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?


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.

bridge 003

bridge 031

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.”


A great place to hide a body!

Improperly stowed body. The bigger they are, the harder they are to hide.

Anyone familiar with Travis McGee’s houseboat probably recalls how the Busted Flush had a strategically hidden space, all but undetectable and just large enough to hide one human. On more than once occasion Travis utilized that space, either to avoid or to ambush his enemies. And while my boat is nowhere near as big as the Busted Flush, I’ve often considered how handy some hidden space like that might be. I’ve always know there were a few odd areas tucked here and there, it wasn’t until we needed to remove the midship cleats and fuel fill pipes from the side decks that I discovered just how much space I really have aboard.

Let’s look at the dimensions. On both sides of my salon, vacant spaces measuring roughly twenty inches wide by thirty inches high by twelve feet long. One side is accessible through the hatches beneath the dinette seats, which takes a bit of bending, but can be accomplished by even a 6’4″ 190 lb. man. As a 5’2″ woman, I had no problem slipping in there. The other side has a larger entrance, except that it involves pulling the entire stove out first. All the same, it is fascinating seeing just how much space we have aboard that we’re not putting to good use. Still, short of smuggling whatever, what could be done with this space?  At the moment, I’m considering setting up more accessible entryways, and making these caverns a combination storage space as well as cabins for our four-footed crew.

More Shiny Bits!

It’s always nice to have something to show for endless hours of hard work.  I suppose that’s one of the reasons I enjoy brightwork – it’s so very visual and satisfying.  But my brightwork days are still far off. Much of the work I’ve been doing aboard Annabel Lee has been on things that most observers will never see. Passers by rarely pause to comment on the fairness of a keel, or the smooth, even curve of a firm, solid deck.  And while I realize few people will ever venture deep into the engine room, at long last, I can look in there and smile…because things are really starting to shine!

One more coat to go and the block will be finished.

The valve cover, starter and alternator are next in line for their makeover, then they and all the other nice painted parts, including the resealed tranny go back in. New belts, hoses, lines, clamps and more, and this little engine will at last look as good as it runs. And that makes me very happy.

I guess this means now I’ll have to start cleaning and repainting the rest of the engine room.