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.

 

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