Category Archives: Bridge

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.

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.

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.

A whole lot of loose screws…

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.

Sometimes things look their worst just before they get better. And they will. This is just the start.


A few loose screws, and XM radio alternatives…

Much of yesterday was spent as today will be, removing countless screws from the bridge deck planks. Lots of screws. I’ll do the math,  but I’d say probably 1,000 + screws. Frozen screws. Screws that snap. Stripped screws.  Each and every one has to come out.  And first each must be dug out from beneath a teak bung, some of which have been epoxied in place, or glued with some strange rubbery compound. Others just pop out. You never know what you’l find.  A tedious task to say the least. But that goes with the territory. Much of boat maintenance/restoration is tedious, monotous work.

One thing that made last spring’s work pass more pleasantly was XM Radio. Most times it stayed on X-country, other times Fred or Ethel. Stations all phased out when Sirus and XM merged. Which was the same time I cancelled my contract, vowing I’d only return when the programming I enjoyed did as well. Thousands of other listeners cried foul as well, but judging by the comments on the petitions, (4,450 at last  count) most remained customers, hoping things would improve. From what I’ve heard, it hasn’t.  But I’ve found some alternatives, and they seem to be working.  I still miss Rogue Calls, but at least I’ve found a place to hear most of the music I’d come to expect on X-country. The first, recommended to me by someone named Cody (hmmm?) is Texas Free Radio. Take a listen, there’s good things to be found there. The other is, which also lets me listen to their Americana station, Alternative Country,  or switch over to several of their Alternative Rock stations. They have plenty more beyond that, it’s just a matter of what you like. Optimum has WiFi I can log onto right by the boat, so with my laptop and a set of cheap speakers, so if all works as planned, there’ll be music onboard today. And you can get on Slacker via Crackberry. So for all of you still stuck on XM and unhappy, there are options. It just takes a little creativity and some loose screws.

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.)


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.

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.

Beware of falling eels…

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?