Restore a Sailboat - November 2017

WelcomeWith the boat in the shipyard, it is indoors temporarily while the two side decks are being “re-cored.”  Many boats are built like plywood, with layers glued and sandwiched together.  The deck has a layer of gelcoat on top, then a layer of fiberglass, then a layer of balsa wood, then a layer of fiberglass on the bottom.  Eventually water works its way into the balsa wood and rots it separating the layers of the laminations making the deck (or hull, or rudder, etc.) weak.

A professional removes the top layer of fiberglass, scrapes out all of the rot, sands down the lower layer of fiberglass, as this is an expert, he fashions solid fiberglass pieces for the areas that bolts will go through, such as stanchion bases as they are the entry point for water into the balsa wood.  He glues in those solid fiberglass pieces, then fills in the remaining area with new balsa gluing it down.  Next installing new fiberglass on top, smoothing, then painting with non-skid on the walking areas.

I get the advantage that he allows me in the shop on weekends and it is warm.

71. Long bolts were used by prior owners to mount fittings on the deck and stick out on the ceiling below.  I’m 6’2″ and need all of the clearance on my noggin I can get.  With a Dremel I cut off the bolts.

72. With the deck re-coring complete, I install messenger cord on the lifelines on the bow in a zig-zag pattern to keep sails on the deck later on when sailing.

73. Many pieces were removed for the re-coring, and I re-assemble various lines and fittings to bring things back to a ready state.

74. A rule of the Mackinac Race is that the engine must be able to run at all times, and is noted at the finish line if it isn’t working.  Then that boat receives a penalty.  The most common cause of an engine not starting is a dead battery after it has been running lights and electronics for two days getting to the Island.  We do carry two separate battery banks connected via a switch that can run one battery (intended for starting the engine only), the other battery (intended to run lights and electronics), or both.  If someone mistakenly switches it to Battery 1 or Both, the engine starting battery can be drained.  In a previous boat I installed an alarm that goes off at 12 volts on the engine starting battery, and it saved us more than once.  I acquire an alarm, and install it on this boat.

75. In the first article in this series I mentioned that all cabinet doors were swinging wildly under sail.  The catches do not hold.  I buy latches and install them on 5 cabinet doors.  It took hole saws I didn’t have, multiple days of cutting, fitting, gluing backing plates, sanding and four coats of varnish.  Later tests prove they work remarkably well with no failures.

76. Replaced a missing cap nut on the switch panel.

77. Again not trusting prior owner’s work, I trace the wires from the fuse/circuit breaker panels to assure the switches are labelled right.  Some are not. One called “Accessory” had a wire that was hidden in the wall and was cut off on the end. I transferred the use of this to the cigarette socket that was not switch in the companionway.  One was called “Master” however that was from 42 years ago.  A new master switch for both batteries has been installed, and I re-label this one “Spare.”  Another one was unmarked, tracing it, it was labelled “Spare.”  One was labelled “Auto Pilot” and the boat has an Auto Pilot, but no wire was attached to this switch, this switch was labelled “Spare.” One was labelled “Instruments” which included the Auto Pilot among four instruments on the steering pod, and labelled this one “Steering Pod.”  Now anyone can be told to flip a switch and it will operate correctly and with no confusion of redundancies, or mis-labelling.

78. The lifelines have a white vinyl coating on them, which has been outlawed.  The coating hides that the stainless wires inside may be rusting and on their way to failure as has happened on some boats causing crew to go overboard.  The coating has dried out and is brittle and hard to remove.  With some experimentation, I find heating it with a propane torch softens the plastic making it easy to cut with a blade, then pull off the other side.  Some remnants are left on the wire, I torch the wire to burn off the little pieces of plastic.  Then with a 3M Scoth-brite pad and Ajax with water, I polish the lifelines from one end to the other.  And, there was no rust or rot occurring.

79. The table top in the settee has two purposes.  First it is a table, and second, the post it stands on can be removed, then the table drops down filling the area and a cushion is placed on top to make a double berth.  When the table top was re-built, it hadn’t been tested to see if it fits in the drop down position.  It didn’t.  So I plane the edge, sand it down, then four coats of varnish and she’s good to go.

80. The spinnaker pole was extremely hard to raise in the one race we did in the fall of 2017. Upon inspection, the plastic pulleys (sheaves) in the mast have shattered and don’t spin.  Going online to find the same width, diameter, and hole size for the pin is a long search. I finally find a match that is made of Aluminum.  Perfect, never have to worry about plastic disintegrating ever again.  The pins that held the pulleys were welded in, I had to grind the welds off, drill the hole to size, then push a cotter pin, then a cotter key to hold the pulleys in.  They’ll work great next time.

81. The spinnaker halyard was completely external on the mast, I fed a fish through the mast putting a messenger cord through, so the halyard can be fed through in the spring before raising the mast.

82. I replace all halyards with messenger cord for winter storage.

83. The non-skid on the stairs was peeling, all of the non-skid on the stairs is cut to size and replaced.

84. While we have a ships VHF Radio, we also are required to carry a handheld VHF Radio.  I build a shelf out of Mahogany and install it so the charging base of the radio has a safe place to sit.

85. In the cockpit are bags that hold winch handles and lines. I clean off the ratty parts, and had to rebuild one of the tangs on the cockpit wall that hold them.

86. All lines and halyards for the boat are run through the washing machine.
87. A trim board over the navigators table is loose, I glue it on.
88. Mold and mildew are a constant fight on boats.  Its always humid and warm in summer, the water is cold making the hull cold and with warm summer moist air the water condensates on the inside of the hull.  The best way to prevent this is to have good ventilation, keeping air flowing through the boat at all times.  This boat has almost no ventilation holes.  We acquire two “Solar Fans” that run on solar power during daylight while simultaneously charging its internal batteries, then at night it runs off of the battery power.  I mount one in the forward hatch, and another in the main hatch.  Later this proves successful after we left the interior of the boat completely wet, and two days later it was completely dry with all hatches closed during that time.
89. After prior attempts to get the cleats on the traveler car to work, it’s time to throw in the towel. We send the cleats with pictures of the traveler car back to the manufacturer in Wisconsin (Harken), who sends replacements.  I install the replacements.  Later when sailing, we learn they work beautifully once again.
Professionals, my Dad, Stepmother, and Sister do some of the work too, here’s what they did:
  • The Chicago Mackinac Race requires that boats have stanchions at the most separated every 8 feet.  These stanchions are on the deck around the edge and hold two horizontal wires called “lifelines,” all of this is made with stainless steel.  When these boats were originally built, they did not put a stanchion in at the shrouds, as the shrouds they believed sufficed. According to the rule of today, the shroud does not suffice and while the deck is being re-cored, the professional installs a new stanchion on either side of the boat. By the way, it looks so much nicer too.
  • The two side decks are re-cored.

The next owner is really going to enjoy this boat.

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