This week we’re starting from the front and working back. In sailing terms: forward to aft. Tom fiberglassed the new platform for the windlass in place and Bill drilled the really big holes. The platform was needed to get the chain feed from the anchor roller to the windlass level. Nina is looking forward to having an electric windlass so that she will no longer need to be the cranking lass to get the anchor up or down.
All of the holes for the toe rail got drilled out this week with a 5/8″ bit. That’s 164 holes! Drilling went much faster after Bill learned how to sharpen drill bits. The pipes work better and are faster to install than tape, and leak less than tape, at least on top. The height helps get rid of epoxy bubbles from air escaping the wood. We had a couple of holes that that kept on being leaky nuisances inside the cabin, but they’ll be fixed this coming weekend.
Nina’s bulkhead project was installed! The pieces of wood were epoxied together with a spline and glued to the after end of the cockpit. She also made fillets on both sides at the bottom to make fiberglassing them in place easier. They were sanded to smooth them up for the glass cloth and resin, and sanded once the glass was in place and cured. She was quite pleased to be told by Tom that she’d done a good job!
The boat is really starting to feel like it’s going back together rather than being torn apart. That being said, we don’t have much time left to get it to a state where Tom and Chris can begin prepping for paint. Once that starts, we’ll need other projects to work on, like the mast.
We have been busy and it is starting to show. For awhile it has seemed like not much was happening. This week progress has been more apparent, which means all that prep is paying off. We have finished filling in the gaps around the holes for the ports so that they will have solid, tight fits. We have even made shims on the inside of the cabin to create a flat spot in the curving sides of the cabin for the forward-most ports. This should mean trouble-free and leak-free ports.
The dodger got glassed. The edge stiffener and hand grip that we have been working on has been covered in fiberglass. Last week we were gluing on the PVC pipe. Chris smoothed all the curves and we gave it 3 layers of glass cloth and one layer of mat. It’s a nice, strong edge. Now it has to get sanded and finished.
Dorades are another project we need to get done. These are water trap boxes that ventilation cowls will be mounted on. This lets us get fresh air in the boat even if it is stormy. The old wood boxes were showing their age so we are making fiberglass replacements that will get glassed to the cabin top.
Nina has been working on the bulkhead that will go at the aft end of the cockpit. It will provide support for the cockpit. The cardboard template has been cut out in plywood and fitted to the hull. It is made in two parts so it can fit into the boat. They will be glued together with a spline and epoxied to the hull. Her last job for the week was to prep the hull with 36-grit sandpaper (full bunny suit, goggles, respirator and many layers of gloves while creating storms of fiberglass dust in a small enclosed space. She’s glad that’s over.)
Other things that have been happening this week.
Marsden meanwhile, has been working on stanchion brace parts. He’s milled the straight pieces, bent them to shape and smoothed out the rings and prepped the mounting brackets. They’ll all be sent off to be welded. Hopefully the new stanchion posts will arrive this week.
It has been a five day weekend at the boat shop. We made progress on several fronts. The propane locker got its holes and top joint glassed again and is now done. The engine beds logs are prepped for glassing and the mounting holes for the deck hardware on the fore deck and cabin top have been cast and drilled out. Marsden made a new floor for the anchor locker. The new engine panel mount has been made. Now it needs to get installed in the cockpit.Nina has spent the last two days crawling in and out of the cockpit lockers with cardboard and tape and she now has a template for the cockpit support bulkhead. This will stiffen up the cockpit and prevent problems in the future. It also gives us something to mount the under deck auto pilot to.
While we have been working Tom and Chris have been finishing the cockpit combings. We will be able to comfortably sit on them as well as have real estate for winches and cleats.The dodger has been moving along. We epoxied PVC pipe to the curved parts. This took a bit more clamping.
The toe rail has been fit all around the deck. It is beautiful. Nina would like to add that it’s really gorgeous, even after it’s been put on twice now to fit the aft end of it, to locate the stanchion braces and get ready to drill the big holes.
We have also been working on the holes in the cabin sides that the ports mount into. Gypsy had had a couple of different styles of ports prior to the opening ports we installed. The cabin sides had holes that were sort of butchered and rescued. Bill made molds to fit into the port opening so epoxy putty can be formed around them.
This week had its ups and drips. We plodded along both making progress and getting set back while cleaning up epoxy leaks. Then came Monday and we started on fitting the toe rail. What a great day! The toe rail looks fantastic and the fitting went very smoothly. This was one of those moments when you know that the hard work will be worth it.
Before starting on the toe rail we had to layout and fit the fore deck stuff. This included the bow pulpit, the mooring cleats, anchor cleat, where the anchor windlass and its foot switches and chain stopper will go. These holes had to be over- drilled and cast with epoxy, which led to more epoxy leaks and subsequent clean up. Lesson learned, vacuum up the saw dust beforehand. Epoxy and saw dust is much harder to clean up than just rivers of epoxy. We sanded the epoxy blobs on the deck and re-drilled the correctly sized holes for the gear. While this was going on, the inside hand rails on the inside of the cabin top were getting fitted. On the dodger, we also epoxied sections of PVC pipe onto its edge which will be fiberglassed over to strengthen it and provide a better hand grip. If you want to know how you fill a tube with thickened epoxy so it can be glued on, the answer is, you use a pastry bag – frosting sized, not chou pastry.
I was talking to a friend who said “the blog was not as exciting last week”. I have been dealing with this too. In the beginning there were big changes and progress was easy to see. Then we got into that middle ground where things were happening to Gypsy, but it was hard to show progress. Well progress is still illusive, but to quote one infamous politician of my youth, there is now light at the end of the tunnel. What I am trying to say is we are now into the reconstruction phase. The destruction is over and we are working on rebuilding Gypsy. It takes a while to realize that this corner has been turned.
We have a completed new rudder, the cockpit is taking shape. The new cockpit sole is going in and the combings are starting to get finished. We have glued all of the extra wood to the shear clamp, which was a two weekend project. The deck hardware is getting located and the bolt holes for it are getting cast with epoxy. The propeller shaft strut was aligned this week. We discovered that it has been out of alignment since the boat was new. So lots of little things are starting to come together. There are of course pages of to-do list yet to complete so there will be no rest for any of us for a while.
The other thing I am learning is scale. I used to buy a gallon of epoxy to do little repairs on Gypsy and it would last 5 years. This last weekend we were going through a gallon of epoxy a day. That is just one illustration of how the scope of this project dwarfs our past experience. But what experience we are getting!
When we left off last week we had molded the dodger to the cabin top. Friday when we got to the boat shop we unscrewed the dodger and popped it off. It actually took a bit of banging and pulling before it came free. We now have a nicely fitted fillet.
On Sunday we added two layers of fiberglass cloth over the top side of the fillet. On Monday Bill got to once again sand the new glass to get an almost finished fillet. It still needs some touch up putty. Marsden also got to sand on the dodger. He ground off gel coat to smooth the under side of the dodger which was pretty bumpy.
A couple of weeks ago we showed off our new aluminum toe rails. Well the bolt holes are too far inboard so we need to beef up the shear clamp under the deck that they are going to bolt into. Nina has spent the last four days fitting the new mahogany pieces to extend the clamp. There are over 100 screws holding the new wood in place. It all now has to come off, get sanded and glued back in.
There is no end to grinding and polishing. Marsden found more steel to bring to a shine.
Bill finally has all of the blisters on the bottom filled with epoxy and ground smooth.
We also continued to cast all of the holes for bolting down deck hardware with epoxy. This can cause unforeseen problems. We started to fill the voids in cabin top where the slides for the companionway hatch mount. We glued tubes to one of the holes and started to pour epoxy in. All of a sudden Nina yelled that we had a leak. We had multiple epoxy waterfalls raining down into the cabin. We used half a roll of paper towels mopping up the mess. The good news is neither of us was wearing any of it this time.
The rudder is moving along. It got wrapped in glass cloth and epoxy and then covered in faring compound.
Our cockpit floor also is starting to shape up. We are adding a sloped wedge to raise the height of the cockpit sole and help water to drain out the aft end of the cockpit, where we are putting in big drains.
We are six weeks into the project and Tuesday marked our 30th day at the shop. The boat is progressing at a rapid clip. We are just trying to get everything we need to do done before we start painting, which should be early April.
This week we will touch on dams: tape dams to be precise. They are the teaser so you will have read through the rest of the blog to find out about them.
Our week started on Friday. Bill was busy sanding off the epoxy filler that is now filling the blisters on the bottom. You won’t believe how quickly an 8′ 40 grit grinder pad gets dull. He’s probably a wimp, but new sand paper makes the job go easier. He also ground the blisters on Saturday and Sunday. Thirty-six feet by about ten feet wide, and only 15 blisters per square foot. No wonder it took forever.
Nina removed old gasket material from the top of our propane locker. The sides of the locker were glassed to the hull and were gas tight, but the top edge had failing caulk. She removed the old caulk and on Sunday she got to glass the joint. This was Nina’s third experience with fiberglass taping. It was her first in a tight space glassing over head. She did manage to pour a good deal of her resin on her arm (not enough arms to hold the tape, the brush and the resin), but she got the job done and did not glue herself to the boat.
Gypsy has a fiberglass dodger that provides protection from sun and spray in the cockpit. Marsden ground the edges of the dodger to prep it for fitting to the cabin top. We had had a rather large gap between the dodger and the cabin top that had been filled with caulk. The gap also filled with gunk – dirt and mildew. To fix that, we covered the cabin top where the dodger fits with aluminum tape. Then we waxed the tape so the fiberglass would not stick to the tape and boat. Two layers of glass were laminated on top of the tape. On Monday we sanded the tape and covered it with almost a gallon of epoxy putty, which looked just like chocolate frosting. Then we set the dodger down on the putty and screwed it into place. We now have a perfect mold of the cabin top and the dodger will fit tight. There is still a fair amount of work to do on it, but we are off to a good start.
Marsden and Bill also located where the hand rails are going to go on the cabin top. They are moving outward about 6 inches. The new bolt holes now have to be cast in epoxy to protect the deck from any possible leaks. A locator hole is drilled and then you over drill your holes about twice as big as they were and fill them with epoxy. Filling holes on a sloping cabin top is not easy. You need to make tape dams to catch the epoxy and as we found out little dams don’t work. You need super dams.
Marsden got to polish more metal parts. All three of us learned how to use a milling machine to smooth out the tiller cap that goes on the top of the rudder tube. It’s now smooth and ready to be anodized with the other aluminum parts Marsden has been working on.
It has been a busy week in the boat shop. Nina and I put in 5 days and Marsden did 4. On Friday we started glassing the hull to deck joint. This will make the whole boat one solid piece rather than the deck just being bolted to the hull. When the waves are big this means a much stronger boat.
On Saturday Bill finished grinding the bottom paint off of the keel. The bottom is paint free! Now we get to repair the blisters, which means more grinding. Gypsy’s keel is very flat and so to make her sail better we are going to add a foil (wing) shape to the keel to make Gypsy sail better.While I was doing this, Nina continued to remove the galley counter and prep the engine bed logs. This means grinding old resin and paint off.
Sunday Marsden got taken off blister repair and put on the polishing metal task. He spent most of Sunday and Monday getting the companion way hatch rails polished to a mirror finish. Polishing is a slow process.
Bill and Nina did more sanding and demolition in the cabin. If you are wondering about boat work, much of it is repetitive. On Monday the final demolition work prepping the space for the new diesel fuel tank was done. Nina cleaned more butyl rubber off the ports. This stuff is sticky and messy, but it dissolves nicely in lacquer thinner. The weather has been great so this can happen outside. Then we helped to finish the glassing of the hull to deck joint.
While we were doing this Tom was making our new rudder. He laminated new fiberglass skins in the two mold halves. Then he had to fit the rudder post to the mold and glue the two halves together. After glassing the hull to deck joint we watched as Tom filled the open space in the rudder mold with foam. The foam is made by mixing the two component parts together. Then you have a minute or so before the chemical reaction starts and the foam expands. To control the reaction we did three smaller pours instead of one big pour.
Tuesday found Bill re-sanding the bottom blister epoxy fills. Nina getting rid of more old carpet glue and cleaning parts of old caulk and Marsden got to get the rust off of the engine bed plates. Luckily these are going to be painted so a mirror finish is not needed. While we did this Tom worked on grinding the newly glassed hull to deck joint into shape.
We also have decided to replace our wood toe rails with aluminum ones. The four 20′ rails came this week and they are going to be lovely.
We have finished another week and you may be wondering when we will be done? Well, if we are lucky and funds hold out we should be finished in June. Even though we have been racing along this is not a fast project. We are making progress. I finished sanding the bottom paint off and now I get to sand the keel to repair some poor glass work on it. While I work on the bottom, Nina is working on removing bulk heads, (dividers across the boat), in the cockpit lockers that we don’t need or want to move. She is also removing the counter top and some storage in the galley. This is in preparation for a new sink and refrigerator. Marsden has been fixing blisters on the hull. Blisters form when water makes its way into tiny voids in the fiberglass laminate of the hull. To fix them you need to grind out the blister and fill it with epoxy putty.
While we are doing our part Tom has been designing new water and fuel tanks as well as overseeing the project and Chris has been working on the improved cockpit combings.
We were thinking of calling this the weekly grind. Bill’s been working away at the bottom paint. The fun part of that is that it gets harder to sand the longer it’s out of the water. Today he pretty much finished and is now going back around to pick up all the leftover red bits. When that’s done, he gets to start grinding out blisters. Thankfully, we only have about 15 per square foot. It could be MUCH worse.
Meanwhile, in the inside of the boat, Nina’s been learning to use a Makita grinder. Carpet residue and glue is not the best learning medium since it gums up sanding sheets before you turn the thing on. She also discovered what a loose grinder with the lock on can do in a small space. Don’t try this at home. Luckily, a small rip in the suit was the extent of the damage.
Marsden totally escaped grinding or sanding. His particular version of boat purgatory was cutting 720 feet of fiberglass cloth into various widths for Tom to glass onto the hull to deck joint. His other fiberglassing experience was making the backing plates for the remaining thru-hulls. To do this, about an inch thick pile of fiberglass cloth was laminated together and then cut out on a drill press, very slowly.