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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