Weather break yields some work…

A little over a week ago I enjoyed my first 2 dry days off in a row since July. Yes, you read that correctly. We have had some dry days this past week, but I worked six days in a row, most of them 12 hours.

So I was very glad to take advantage of the dry spell and fix a serious problem. The boat has a slight starboard list right now, and all of the water that landed on the boat was supposed to be draining off on the starboard rail amidships. Except there was some rotten and missing wood that allowed every drop of rain to run down inside the hull – the opposite of what we want to see. Here is the problem area:

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The water is all supposed to drain off in the little cut scupper just to the right of the last bronze railing. The old steamed curved piece of wood was lost to history, and many years ago someone had placed a temporary plywood patch to keep the rain out. The plywood had long since failed too. So on the first day of a 2-day dry stretch I threw a couple of things in the wheelbarrow for the long trip down the dock and got to work.

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The lighter wood is leftover plank ends of Norwegian larch. The darker wood is Philippine mahogany. My wife recently returned from the Philippines where she traveled to the southern Bicol province and sent me a picture of a mahogany tree farm. I’d never seen the actual trees before. Speaking of wood I started by removing the mulch formerly known as wood:

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I spent a lot of time over the summer fretting that removing the gentle curve would alter the character of the boat. Then I realized squaring it up would be stronger and match the railing stanchions and stopping the water was more important at this point. The old material was removed and new short frames added to give strength.

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All the existing wood was treated with chemo and the new wood was given the 3-way of pine tar, linseed oil and turpentine. Eventually two short planks were added, a section of marine-grade birch plywood on the inside (to reduce intrusion into the narrow side deck) and a caprail was cut and fitted from the mahogany.

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Next every screw hole must be filled with a wooden plug, or bung, ideally cut from the same piece of wood as it is going into. These are cut with a plug-cutter on a drill. It’s best to use a drill press, but a) I don’t have one, and b)it’s 1/4 mile from the truck to the boat. That’s a long way to carry a drill press. So some time was taken up drilling dozens and dozens of plugs. I used mahogany for all of them.

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I needed to figure out how I was going to cover the aft end of this new bulwark wall, where the plywood, frame, and outside planks were exposed. I have found that there is frequently a “sit and think about it” phase in boat projects. Skipping this phase can lead to financial ruin, public shaming, and in some cases – divorce. I have also learned over the years that this phase is often more productive if gently lubricated with English Harbor rum and a little (not too much!) coke.

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So after an intensive planning phase and a trip home to sleep overnight, I decided to make a mahogany cap to cover the end pieces. I made liberal use of the table saw and a little chisel work and we had a working cap:

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I needed to cut a new channel to let the water drain off the deck – that’s when the scope of work suddenly increased…

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The rot in the cap rail had extended further than I had thought. With the rain just hours away I had to remove almost three more feet of this piece. Did I mention not to use modern fir on a boat?

The rush was now on and there was no time to take pictures. All of the rotten piece you see above was removed, and a new piece fit to join the deck and the hull. This piece is stepped underneath and took a while to cut. Finally the skies were darkening but the wind picked up and helped dry a coat of white paint and varnish.

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The gap in the upright piece is to allow the handrail stanchion to fit in place. After the handrails are re-installed I will make a custom piece to fit and match the caprail. First I have to cut the bronze pipe handrail stanchion and take it somewhere to be threaded to meet the new lines of the boat. I have matching wood to be able to modify the other side to match later (next spring?) but for now the water that lands on the boat leaves the boat without going through a bilge pump! The paint and varnish survived the inch of rain that started about 4 hours after they were applied. I’ll add another photo when the handrails are modified and back in place.

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Not much of a summer…

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You see the flags flapping above? That was the normal state of affairs for the months of July through September this year. From about 10:00 on, almost every day, we experienced winds in the 20-30 knot range. I had forgotten how frustrating the wind is at South Beach Marina. I had exactly 1 day off from July through the end of September where is was dry enough and mild enough winds to be able to paint. I wish that were an exaggeration. That being said, I did have some help for the time I was able to spend aboard the boat:

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My trusty little deckhand was going around the boat taking measurements. She has been a big help whenever we are working on the boat, always ready to pass a tool or board up or down the hatch. Always keeping me on track, under close supervision.

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The other deckhand, the four-legger, takes a more relaxed approach to management. It usually involves taking lots of naps on deck and managing to step in any wet paint or epoxy that may be available.

We did manage to get the salon cleaned up a little bit, install Celeste’s television, and put up Caomi’s lantern fish painting for some color. The TV will get hidden behind a nautical painting on a panel that hinges up out of the way eventually. One has to make compromises when trying to convince one’s wife to eventually live on the boat.

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The life rings were repainted, marked with the ship’s name and hailing port, and 12 fathoms of lifeline added.

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A new(er) and working faucet was found onboard and installed so we now have cold running water at the galley sink. The plumbing overall looks good but I haven’t tested the hot water system – that’s on the winter project list. The water heater can be run off shore power, the engine’s heat exchanger, or the galley’s diesel stove.

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Occasional breaks were taken at the noon hour, to stave off wind-driven depression and read about Admiral Lord Nelson’s battle tactics. Sometimes these breaks were followed by a safety nap, while the wind howled in the rigging outside…

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A little work was done in the engine room, but all in all the summer was not that productive. After leaving the shipyard in June we started getting really busy at work, culminating in August with almost 350 hours on the clock. One of the few things I could accomplish on my windy days off was taking an inventory of the forward deck planks. The rear of the boat had been rebuilt several years ago, and the old deck planks were removed and replaced with plywood and fiberglass. I know. That offends my sensibilities too, but we get 80-90 inches of rain a year, and the decks were well done, and they don’t leak. Contrast that with the forward decks, which leak like Hillary’s email servers. So every inch of every forward deck plank was sounded. The results were not good.

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Over 50% of the decks on the forward half of the boat need to be replaced. This is now the top priority on the boat work list. And it needs to be done this winter, preferably the first half of the winter, so I can complete my goal of overhauling the engine room over the winter as well.

I have spoken with the Harbormaster about getting a more protected spot so I can erect a partial shelter over the decks. There is a service dock next to the brewery warehouse which would offer great protection. My current slip at the and of “A” dock is directly exposed to the up to 100 knot winds we get from winter storms. No temporary shelter can hold up to that.

The other big decision is to redo the planking or be consistent with the rear decks and go plywood and fiberglass. Given our wet climate and the high cost of planking, I have voted to replicate the ply/glass method as on the rear decks. It will be built up to the 1.5″ thickness of the current planks, but will probably keep the inside of the boat dryer longer into the future.

But first – I must repair or replace the carburetor float on the 1939 gas pony motor, which recently failed and leaked gasoline into the engine compartment. Not for the weak of heart, this boat rebuilding…

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Idiot’s Guide to Cutting and Fitting Planks

I had promised a separate post on planking. What shipwrights do is an ancient and mysterious art – there is a lot of well-written information in old musty books, and even some online – about spiling planks. This author will not be adding to that collection of information.

But there was a time when every small river along the northwest coast and the inlets of Puget Sound were dotted with fishermen and coastwise traders who would build their own boats and then work them. Some would build a boat and fish it for decades, others would build a boat, use it for a year or two, sell it, and then build a bigger one or one designed for a different fishery. These men were not shipwrights who built and repaired boats for other people – they simply gained the knowledge they needed to provide for themselves. What I am learning is more in the spirit of that. I have observed shipwrights in action over the years, and tried to learn what I can to be able to repair my own boat – if for no other reason than I can’t afford to pay somebody else $100.00 per hour to do it.

So the first step is to remove the old plank. In the picture below the old guard planks were removed (dark wood area) and the plank immediately below has been removed:

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“Removing” planks from an 86 year old vessel is not as easy as it seems. She had been put together with iron square nails originally, and over the years silica bronze screws, stainless steel screws, and even galvanized lag bolts had been used. Here are some from the guard removal – and none of them wanted to come out easily:

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Next, we cut some strips of 1/4″ plywood that are slightly undersize of the plank dimensions. These will be used for our patterns.

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The plywood strips are tack-nailed into place where the missing plank is. If the plank is longer than the plywood, then two plywood strips are screwed together. Often they will have to be offset because the plank is not actually straight – that’s also why a 6 inch plank takes a 10 or 12 inch piece of wood to carve it out.

Once the plywood is tacked into place where the plank will be, I place white stickers just touching the planks above and below. I use one sticker for every frame, or rib, where the plank will be fastened. Then you carefully remove the pattern.

 

Set your plank stock out for measurement. Remember we went to Port Townsend to find this wood, which is Norwegian Larch that has been air-dried for over 20 years. Here you can also see that two pieces of plywood have been joined to form the proper length pattern. I place the pattern upside down so the white stickers are laying directly on the planking stock.

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Once the pattern is tacked down, use a black magic marker to made a mark across the end of the sticker. This should now give you a sharp line exactly where the edge of the existing planks above and below are.

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Once all the marks are made, you can remove the pattern. Then lightly set a nail in all the marks:

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Then use a thin but sturdy strip of wood as a spiling batten, which you can use to trace the curve of the plank from nail to nail onto your planking stock:

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Now we have a line for the saw to cut.

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Always cut to the outside of the line, then use a planer to finish shaving down the plank edges for a tight fit. After it’s cut your straight piece of planking stock becomes a curved plank that fits just right (in theory).

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The edges of the planks should fit tightly together, with the outer facing edges beveled in a V-shape to accept cotton and seam compound. It’s hard to see but in this picture the rear half of the planks are seated firmly together, the outward-facing half of the joint is beveled.

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If you are going to remove more than one plank, as in the picture above, you mark the framed with the old plank edge before you remove the second plank. This mark can then be used when you make your pattern. The planks are then fastened (I use #14×3 stainless steel fasteners above the waterline and silica bronze below) and bent into place using clamps. It often takes some patience to keep shaving off bits here and there to get a tight fit. Then repeat and repeat until the bad wood is replaced by good wood:

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While there are still planks that need to be replaced, half of the battle is making a realistic refit plan and prioritizing projects. Most of the bad planks are gone, but it was not realistic to tackle all of them this year. Also whenever a plank is removed, the frames behind it should be inspected and another frame added if warranted.

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In the end we have a much safer and much stronger vessel. The real shipwrights, Reino and Ted, very kindly inspected my work and offered encouragement and advice. I feel like the boat and I are carrying on the maritime tradition of captains who take care of their own boats, learning just enough to be dangerous…

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Hauling Out

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My friend Dan came with me for a short boat ride to the slings. On Tuesday morning, May 31st, we motored upriver and slipped into the lowered slings of the Toledo boat lift. They yard guys came down and measured the boat alongside the pier and looked at some old photos to determine where to place the slings. They then slowly lift the boat up until the bow is almost at the pier in front, so the crew can step off onto dry land. Then it’s up, up and away until the boat hangs over the pressure washing pad.

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This was our first glimpse at the bottom, and it looked pretty good. As usual with old wooden boats in the northwest, they are better preserved underwater. The only planks that needed to be replaced were above the waterline.

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While she was having her bottom pressure washed, Celeste and I made a speed run to the valley to pick up a decent ladder and scaffolding from Home Depot. The Toledo boat yard charges a daily rate to rent the ladder and scaffolding, which was new to me. So I figured we would pay for them in the first two years – and I can loan them out to friends so they don’t have to pay either. This pad next to the shipwright’s whop would be her home for the next 9 days. Here’s the boss inspecting the bottom:

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I did find a couple of butt seams that got some new cotton while we were out:

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Here’s some pictured of the some of the new wood we installed. I’ll go over how planks are cut and installed in another post, but the short of it is you expend a lot of energy removing the old planks and old fasteners, add new framed or ribs if possible, then pattern and cut new planks to replace them.

All told about 80 feel of new planks were added and 175 feet of seams were caulked.

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It made for some very long days. Out of the water I usually worked until 8 or 9:00 at night. The heat during the day was horrible – for 5 days it went over 90 degrees during the day, so I would switch sides and hide from the sun. I did have some occasional helpers…

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Eventually she got a new $1000.00 coat of bottom paint, and I spent half a day cleaning the propeller. The new zincs went on and she was ready to go back in to the water…After paying the yard bill, which was over $3800.00 for 9 days.

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A quick splash, and then it was back to the service dock to keep an eye on the planks while she swelled back up. The planks had shrunk quite a bit in the 9 hot and dry days we were out. most wood boats were trying to haul out day one, paint & zinc day two, and go back in the water day three in this weather. The pumps had quite a workout the first night. The main float switch stopped working so I had to stay onboard and get up once an hour to pump her out.

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After a pump replacement on Friday and the planks swelling up for 36 hours I could finally go home and relax. Saturday morning we took a quick boat ride down the river, making 7.3 knots at 600 rpm. Uncle Pat came along as engineer, and went around checking things and greasing the shaft. It felt good for the old girl to stretch her legs. This was her first real voyage in over a decade, 11 river miles to South Beach.

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carlyle III first voyage

After an uneventful hour and a half, Pat and I tied up at the end of A dock in South Beach. There’s plenty of work left to do, but all the people who thought she would never leave Toledo were thankfully proved wrong. Thank you to my beautiful bride for being patient for the last three months as I’ve literally spent seven days a week either at work or at the boat in Toledo. It was all worth it though, as we will one day have a sturdy and beautiful family cruiser.

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The Longest Short Journey

The old girl made her first trip under power in many years on Sunday evening. She is now sitting on the river channel on the outside of the dock, waiting for her haulout later today.

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This was the most nerve-wracking journey the boat will ever make. It’s always a bit stressful driving a new boat for the fist time, because each boat handles differently with different hull profiles, propeller sizes, and rudder sizes and angles. Add to the mix that the throttle and gear controls are unlike any boat I’ve skippered in the past 25 years and there is a new level of stress. At least there’s plenty of water, right?

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Wrong. The above picture at high tide is very deceiving. Most of the water you see between the boat and the shore is only a foot deep. The Carlyle draws almost six feet of water, and we have to squeeze into a narrow channel basically scraping alongside the boat house. One wrong move, and we could get stuck in the mud and the boat would roll over when the tide goes out. Many boats have been lost this way. Here’s a shot of how narrow the deep enough water is to sneak around the boat house:

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Doesn’t look as wide now does it? A couple more pictures with more water:

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So we had to wait for high tide which gave us barely enough water to turn the boat around. My friends Dan and his son Daniel from the F/V Pheonix III came and helped get the boat turned around and Dan joined me for the first short boat trip. He spotted us as we ran the narrow channel to get out past the boat house and helped get tied up in the current. We went about an hour before high tide so if we did run aground we had some more water coming in to lift us off. All went well. The old motor chugs away and the boat moves some serious water. She had excellent rudder response. The controls will definitely take some getting used to – instead of moving a lever forward or reverse to change gears, it’s three turns of the big wheel clockwise for forward, three turns counter-clockwise for reverse. And good luck if you forget which turn you are in. Did I mention the throttle? The lever is backwards, you shove it forward for less throttle and back towards you for more. And there is about a 3 second delay in the old engine rpms…

Here’s a picture of the controls from before we bought the boat. The big wheel on top is the transmission control, the assembly with the vertical shifter on the right is the throttle. To kill the engine, just shove it forward until you run out of fuel. Shoving it forward is exactly what you would do on 99% of boats if you need emergency throttle – more power. And this engine doesn’t restart with the touch of a button. So it takes some real thinking to get used to these controls.

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Daniel took some pictures from the dock – when he sends them over I will post them. Now we wait for the haul out at slack water, scheduled for 09:30 this morning.

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Anchors and Chain

The emergency brake of any ship is its anchor. And on a pre-WWII boat with a huge engine that can only be started with a little engine, it becomes even more important. The anchor winch was until recently fitted with 22 fathoms (132 feet) of chain followed by 22 fathoms of steel cable.

I opted to reuse the existing chain and back it with line instead of steel cable. Cable is used in parts of British Columbia and Alaska where there are jagged rocky bottoms. For here and Puget Sound chain and line are more common as are sand or mud bottom anchorages.

The chain is what really keeps the boat in place, and keeps the anchor from slipping. I always opt for a fathom of heavier chain from the anchor to the anchor winch, as additional insurance. First on the winch is the anchor line. I picked up a coil of line from a friend for a screaming good deal, you can see it here next to the old greased and rusty steel cable:

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I spread the line out on the dock and measured it – 44 fathoms, or 264 feet. Then the bitter end needs to be tied to the anchor winch:

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Since I haven’t run the hydraulic hoses back through the deck, I needed to spool the line on by hand. I immediately regretted not having completed the hydraulics before doing this part. But after an hour the line was on.

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The next part I didn’t really get any pictures of, because it was so messy. To move the anchor winch all the chain was dropped to the chain locker in the forepeak. The chain was really rusty, so I had to drag it out through the deck hatch (which knocked quite a bit of rust off). I then laid it out on a tarp on the front deck and sprayed it with a cold-galvanizing finish. Then all the links were turned over and the other side galvanized. Then as I hand fed the chain onto the winch the links were spray galvanized a third time. Hopefully this will protect that chain a little longer. In the end, 22 fathoms of chain were in place with the new fathom of larger chain between the winch and the anchor:

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Finally I added a cover to try to slow down the rusting process. Eventually I’ll have a canvas cover for the whole winch fabricated.

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Stepping the Mast

Last weekend we raised the mast. The mast that came with the boat was a small affair made of two chunks of wood bolted together. It was gathering dust in the shipwright’s workshop, but it did have a real gem – it was topped with a fairly new (and fairly expensive) LED anchor light. The anchor light is a white 360 degree light that sits on the very top of the mast and is to be lit when you are anchored up.

The new mast is a repurposed mast from a salmon troller called the Saga Wind. It was sitting around at the welder’s shop for several years, Uncle Patrick had it and was going to use it on the Kay. It wasn’t quite big enough for his boat, so he had a new one built. He offered the Saga mast up for the Carlyle and I had Welder Dan (Dan Lais Equipment Surgery) in Eddyville make some modifications.

The chief quality of the new mast is that it is built of old-growth aluminum.

First we installed the base that Dan built.

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Then I carefully raised the mast and held it in place with temporary lines. This was a near disaster several times over. I had a couple of long aluminum poles at home that I turned into the “A” frames to give the mast more stability.

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These are held to the cabin roof with stainless brackets.

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I must have had those brackets for years and years. I found them in the shop and they were marked for will-call pickup.

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It’s been three years since Angus died. I still miss him every day. He would have loved this boat. Here he is resting in the sun on the foredeck of the Henrietta W.

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Back to the mast. The next job was to hook up stainless wire stays, instead of the temporary lines holding her up. Here’s the hookup at the front of the boat connected to the bow iron:

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Once the mast was properly stayed, the heavy boom could be added. The boom came down from Canada on the BC Troller, now known as the Jessica A. The boom will eventually be rigged to lift our tender on and off the back deck trunk cabin roof, so we can row to town if we are anchored up somewhere.

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Then it was time to add the masthead light. These lights are rated for 2 nautical miles. All of the navigation lights are from Aqua Signal and manufactured in Bremen, Germany.

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To change a bulb, just undo the hand screw at the top and drop a bulb in…

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The bulbs are $50.00 each. so I hope I won’t be changing them too often. There are cheap incandescent versions available, but I opted to use the LED versions which are rated for a huge amount of hours, and have about 1/30th the power draw. Power draw becomes very important on a boat.

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The next step was to get some new VHF radio antennas up there. I stopped in the middle of this operation and went to the hardware store and bought a ladder. It’s not high enough to get to the top of the mast, but I can reach the antenna bases. I’m getting too old and fat to be hanging upside down from the crosstree trying to hang on and tighten nuts and bolts at the same time.

Eventually the antennas went up and even the anchor light on the very top. Not one tool was dropped into the bay during this operation, but some bad words were said…

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Saturday at the Shipyard

Before we retell Saturday’s adventures, here’s a short video I made the other day just so I can hear the sweet sound of the 1939 Caterpillar running when I’m forced away from the boat by work or real life…

Man I love that sound! And I have a much lower chance of being blown to smithereens with the gas starting engine now that I’ve installed a blower fan right above it.

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But on to Saturday…

The two early risers found ourselves awake at 0600, so I invited Caomi out for breakfast. She chose Pig and Pancake. With full bellies we drove the bay road to the shipyard at about 0700. She was fascinated to see the other boats. The Vixen is still tied up there:

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And Henry’s boat just got a new coat of bottom paint. When I started fishing Henry had the Clara B II, which he had fished for over 20 years. He ran down to fish California and somebody hit his boat when he was drifting at night and it sank. Luckily the ocean was flat calm that night and Henry got in his kayak and was able to paddle up to the boat and reach in the wheelhouse windows and save some things before she went down. His new boat is bigger than the old Clara B II.

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Well I have some new planks on the back of the boat, on the trunk cabin roof. They stick out about six feet onto the back deck.

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When we got down to the boat, I headed forward to unlock the wheelhouse. Caomi headed aft, then she called out “Dad – I have a nosebleed!”. No problem, she often has nosebleeds and every now and again she goes to the doctor to get the silver nitrate treatment. Then – “Dad – I hurt my eye!” That got my attention. I turned and she came forward, holding her hand over her dripping nose. She had a huge scuff mark under her eye. It turns out she was heading aft, looking down into the water and turned left where there is usually a clear expanse of deck – bang! – and hits my new wood with her face. About ten minutes later the drama was over and she wanted to have her picture taken:

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So we had the talk again about how you have to be careful on a boat, because you never know when a hatch could be open on the floor or something new could be sticking out. And I asked her to be nice to my expensive wood, and stop hitting it with her face. She really is a cheerful little deckhand, and she helped me handing tools and parts down while I repaired the main electrical panel.

We also finally got a coat of varnish on the new hinged hatch from the master stateroom to the back deck:

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And the day slipped into a beautiful evening as I put the tools away and headed home…

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Working on the hull

There are about half a dozen planks on each side of the boat that need to be replaced. All of these are above the waterline, and all of them are fairly new having been replaced in 2007-2009. They are one of the reasons I don’t trust fir for hull planks anymore. Here is a shot of the first area of concern, where the water drains off the decks on the port side:

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Here I have removed the fasteners and cut a butt joint in the plank where the wood is still good. The multi-tool is just the right tool for this job. The unpainted wood is mahogany planking that was never bunged or painted and was left for years. It will get sanded and painted in the shipyard and be good as new.

Once the bad piece was removed, you could see the condition of the frames and shelf beams underneath. I was pleased that everything seemed pretty solid:

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The next step was to mix up some chemo – a wood anti-fungal and preservative. Every piece of wood that was near any rotten wood will get a good dose of chemo. Celeste and I spent about an hour driving around town getting the ingredients. I had to smile because Dad and I have actually been to the mine where the borax is produced and have seen the life-sized bronze sculpture of the Twenty Mule Team.

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The ingredients are mixed together and heated until the boric acid and borax are totally dissolved in the liquid. It is then applied with a paint brush or put in a garden sprayer for hard to reach spots. It doesn’t look very appetizing but the shipwrights swear by it, and I have used it for years.

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So now we have cooked up some chemo and applied it to the newly exposed wood. Now it’s time to prepare the replacement planks. I brought three planks in from the driveway and took them to Reino’s shop at the shipyard. He has an industrial planer and we started making sawdust. The rough Norwegian timbers started turning into smooth planks 1 7/8 inches thick.

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The wood is beautiful, and I’m really glad Dan and I made the trip up to Port Townsend to pick it up a few months ago. I cut off a 25 inch chunk to replace our first area of rot. The planks have to be beveled on all edges to accept cotton and seam compound. After spending half an hour shaping the piece, it finally would be persuaded to fit into place with a block and hammer. Then wood bungs were glued in over the #14×2.5″ fasteners.

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After sanding down the bungs I think this wood will serve the boat well. Now I can only dream of seeing more new wood in the hull. This was the shortest repair – the longest is 19 feet long.

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This wood is about half of the total planks needed – looks like a lot of work left to do…

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Changes on the foredeck.

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The foredeck, as it appeared two months ago…

What’s wrong with the picture above? Well. the first clue is multiple coats of rubberized deck coatings. Like a snake-oil salesman or late-night TV preacher, companies constantly promise the elixir of waterproofing coating that will “adhere to any existing coating” so you can “paint right over it and be dry”. Yeah, right.

Second problem? Plywood over a planked deck. No wood boat designer has ever said – “and here we’ll put some cheap plywood right over that fancy planking”. Ever. It’s always a near end-game move of a desperate, dripping wet boat owner. I know, I’ve done it. There was more plywood and even roof tar paper under the anchor winch. The horror!

Third problem, for me, was that 2 foot by 2 foot pieces of plexiglass made a poor substitute for a sturdy deck under the feet of a fat man. Especially when they are in the only passage from one side of the boat to the other. Add to that the wood around the plexiglass hatch was so rotten it qualified as mulch and you get the picture…

Step 1: Rip it all apart

Remove the anchor winch, the plexiglass hatch, the plywood, the tar paper, and see what you are really facing. This is like the discovery phase in a trial, or going to your wife’s family reunion for the first time after you are already married. You don’t know what you are getting yourself into…

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We found mulch!

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Some of the deck beams were good…

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Some were not.

Some beams had to be entirely replaced, some could have the rot cut out and new wood spliced in. Areas that could not be replaced now but will have to be dealt with later were soaked in as much Smith’s Penetrating Epoxy as it would handle and then covered with good wood. Any surface of the new wood that will not be painted was treated with pine tar, turpentine, and linseed oil mix.

The general plan was to move the anchor winch aft toward the wheelhouse and more centerline; replace the plexiglass hatch with a real keyed deck hatch; replace the rotten king plank and any other deck planks that were too far gone to be saved.

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The picture above shows some of the new wood beams and the first two new planks. The big square hole at the top will become the new round escape hatch.

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The rest of the planks went on and the square hole changed to round. This took several hours of work with the chisels, because the outer ring cut falls over some existing deck beams that I didn’t want to cut into.

Then the screw holes were filled with teak deck plugs and oakum was driven into the seams. The oakum is hemp fibers soaked in Stockholm tar. The compression of the oakum forms a watertight seal and keeps the deck planks tight. As you pound it in with the irons, you can hear the sound change when the seal is tight.

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The next step is to heat up marine glue, which is basically pitch and india rubber, and pour it into the seams. This tar boils at 350 degrees, and protects the oakum. Turns out that boiling tar will immediately remove the top layers of human skin, too. Don’t ask me how I learned that…

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I then picked up a piece of purpleheart from a local shipwright, cut it in two, milled it down with the hand planer and made the support beams for the anchor winch. You can see from the shavings where purpleheart gets its name. It’s a tropical hardwood from Africa.

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Finally the anchor winch was mounted and the round deck hatch was mounted! At the end of the day it started raining. I’m on duty today but tomorrow I’ll find out if it leaks or not…

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There are still a lot of planks to be replaced on the side decks. The front deck will get completely stripped and varnished later this summer, when we can count on dry weather. With two weeks until the big haul out it’s time to concentrate on the lengthy and unforgiving pre-survey to-do list.