Sunday, May 14, 2006

What else have we been up to?

Besides working on the Columbia, we've had a few other adventures in the last 4 months. Most notably, our friend Ken invited us to help him sail his boat from San Diego, California, to La Paz, Mexico. You can see his account of the adventure by clicking on Ken Scott's Blog in our links section and then going to his archives for February and March.

The trip was wonderful. We had fine weather, well, mostly motoring instead of sailing, I suppose it could have been a little windier... but it was nice for us Pacific Northwesterners to go and see what the sun looks like again.

Ken treated us great, supplying good food, a comfortable old boat, and a little entertainment once we got to La Paz, as well as transport to and from Portland, Oregon.

Along the way, we learned about sailing a traditional gaff-rigged vessel, saw great sunsets, whales, birds, and when we got to La Paz, Mangrove trees. Corey assembled Ken's life boat, the Tinker, and sailed it around Marina de La Paz.

Ken aloft in San Diego

Full sails in light air on the way to Mexico

Working the foredeck. Mmm, this sailtie is yummy!

Whales playing not far from Cabo San Lucas. We sailed quite near to them, what a rush!

Sailing the Tinker. This is a quick little boat in a good breeze!

Mangrove tree across the bay from downtown La Paz. Pretty novel to have barnacles on tree roots...
Well, here it is, the LONG overdue update!

January to the present (May)… dates uncertain, I guess I should update this more often so I can get the dates right!

We glassed over the mahogany reinforcements on the edges of the bulkheads (the doorway leading into the V-berth). Next, we fastened some mahogany cleats to the forward and aft sides of the bulkheads to fasten the bunks to. They were rounded on the bottom edge with a router, epoxied and screwed to the bulkheads, and the holes plugged. Then we gave the bulkheads and all their glass work a coat of resin. They look great.

Here they are just before the final coat of epoxy.

The Keel…

My dad has an engine hoist that was pressed into service for manouvering the keel while we had it inside for fairing. The surface of the keel was extremely rough, partly, I think, from poor casting quality, partly from years of corrosion. When we had it sandblasted, we also had it powdercoated, kind of as a primer layer. We could have had them leave it bare, but it was nice to not have to worry about getting resin on it immediately after the sandblasting. In fact, it waited a couple weeks. The powdercoat stuck very well, is very durable, and the epoxy sticks to it very well.

I gave it a good scrub with a wire brush, wiped it down with acetone, and then we brushed on a layer of unthickened resin, working it well down into all the rough spots in the casting. Next, we spread on a thick layer of resin thickened with phenolic micro-balloons. The micro-balloons are more expensive than some other fillers, but they make a very easy to sand fairing compound. We discovered the Fiberglass Supply has them for about half the price I found them anywhere else.

When the resin was dry, the sanding began. We used faring sheets available from the autopaint store. Rather than buying a fairing board to stick them to, I made one from a piece of 3/16 plywood with a couple chunks of broom handle screwed to it for handles. I think there is a photo of it in one of the rudder pictures. Each side of the keel required three applications of fairing compound, and three sanding sessions.

I figured that the bottom of the keel should be faired with something harder than the micro-balloons because it will sometimes be sitting on a hard surface, when the boat is hauled out, trailered, etc. So for the bottom, we mixed resin with cab-o-sil, or colloidal silica. This cures into an extrememly hard finished project. The bottom aft corner of the casting was broken off, and I used the same mixture to re-create this corner. Here it is:

When all the fairing was done, we put on two layers of tooling cloth. This was done with the keel laying on its side, one side at a time (see photo below from January 28). The cloth overlaps on the bottom, the leading edge, and the trailing edge \, giving the all the potential high stress areas four layers. We wet the surface with resin, layed dry cloth over the surface and smoothed it, then finished wetting out the cloth by pooring resin on it and spreading it with squeegees. Both layers were done at the same time. When both sides were glassed, I suspended the keel from the engine hoist and added one more coat of resin to it.

Prepping the hull for keel installation:

The keel stub was in pretty good shape, especially the outside. I sanded off the old bedding compound, or what was left of it, exposing clean white gel-coat. The inside was another matter. There are three side to side reinforcing stringers or ribs, originally 3/4 inch plywood covered with a couple layers of chopped strand mat. Unfortunately, the ends were not sealed, and there were a couple spots near the middle where water got in too. Needless to say, the plywood was mostly powder.

It took a couple hours to get everything clean enough to put resin on it. I made a fillet of resin thickened with milled fibers along each edge of each stringer, and covered it with biax, then a layer of tooling cloth. There were a couple of other spots I reinforced while I was at it, and I sealed the ends of the stringers.

The keel bolt holes are covered over here with a couple layers of tooling cloth and biax, but if you look closely, you can see them.

Bedding the Keel:

We jacked up the keel with the engine hoist and rolled the whole works outside.

There, we set the keel down on a piece of cardboard and attacked the top with a disc grinder to expose bare steel. When the top (bedding) face of the keel was clean, we bolted a sling to it and carried it over in front of the boat with the backhoe. We set the keel, lined up with the boat, on a pallet, which in turn was on pipe rollers. With a couple of motorcycle tie down straps, we secured the keel in an upright position and then rolled it under the hull, which was hanging from the rafters of the shed.

To aid in the bedding operation and lining everything up, we put some pieces of threaded rod in the keel bolt holes. Once the keel was in place under the hull and we had lowered the hull enough to be certain everything was going to line up right, we mixed a small batch of resin and worked it into the top of the keel with scotchbrite. Then we mixed a larger batch thickened with milled fibers and cab-o-sil and spread it liberally on the bedding surface.

Now the fun part! Lowering the hull onto the keel! We knew that originally the keel was off to one side a degree or two, so before putting it in place we rigged a system we could use to apply side to side force to the bottom of the keel in relation to the hull. We placed a large nylon sling under the keel and ran ratchet straps from the sling up through the windows in the cabin. By putting more tension on one strap or the other, we could easily line up the keel with the center line of the boat.

We lightly tightened the nuts on the temporary keel bolts, put plastic around the outside of the hull and put the heater on.

After a few days of cure time, we came back to inspect the results. Things looked great. The original keel bolts were just pieces of threaded rod screwed into the top of the keel. Large washers were placed inside the boat and nuts were tightened down on them. One of the problems with this is that it leaves threads exposed in the hull where the bolts pass through. The threaded surface is more susceptible to corrosion than a smooth surface would be. Also, the threaded rod isn’t very strong. We decided to use grade 8 bolts instead. I also didn’t feel like the washers were sufficient, so I made large steel backing plates for the bolts and bedded them in the same epoxy mixture we bedded the keel in.

One at a time we removed the temporary bolts and measured the depth of the holes, both the threaded part in the keel, and the non threaded part in the hull. From these measurements we could get bolts just the right length for each hole. The bolts were installed with Loctite and epoxy was pumped in around the smooth portion of the bolts with a syringe to fill the slightly oversized holes in the hull. After the bolts were torqued down tight, we painted three coats of resin over them to seal out water.

On the outside of the boat, we sanded off the bedding compound that had squeezed out and then faired the keel to hull joint with resin and micro balloons. Over that, we put two layers of tooling cloth and another sealing coat of epoxy.

The Rudder Tube:

Originally, the rudder tube was a piece of heavy copper tubing about 18 inches long, glassed into the hull. The top of the tube is above the water line so water doesn’t get in the boat. The rudder shaft goes up through the tube, then through a stainless fitting in the cockpit and the tiller attaches to the top with a bronze fitting. The old rudder tube was worn out, so we removed it. Finding a suitable piece of copper tubing to replace it with was a bit of an adventure and required a trip to Seattle, as well as a rather painful cash outlay.

Anyway, the new rudder tube doesn’t end in midair inside the boat like the old one. I elarged the hole in the stainless cockpit fitting to match the outside diameter of the rudder tube and we ran it from the bottom of the hull, all the way up through the cockpit fitting. The bronze clamp which holds the tiller bears directly against the end of the new rudder tube.

Stripping the Hardware:

We spent an entire day removing cleats, bow and stern pulpit, lifeline stanchions, etc. Most of the fasteners were mismatched, some were badly corroded, and nothing had a backing plate behind it. There are extra holes in lots of places where other things have been mounted over the years. Filling the extra holes, making backing plates, and re-fastenening all the hardware will be a large project, but luckily it can be taken in small bites.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Glassing the Keel

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

A couple of days ago, we started glassing in the aft side of the new bulkheads, having finished the forward side a week or so earlier. As before, we made a big fillet of thickened epoxy and covered it with one layer of biax. Since it had been a number of days, we sanded the biax to insure a good bond with the next layer. This had the added benefit of smoothing out some rough edges and getting rid of stray fibers.

I know we talked about using slow hardener for the two layers of tooling cloth, but at 48 degrees F, I just couldn't see it working, so we went with medium. Heather agreed with me that maybe we should try doing it one layer at a time this time. To give ourselves as much working time as possible before the resin got too sticky, we mixed seperate batches for each side. After helping me get under way with the starboard side, Heather started in on the port side.

Maybe I'm predisposed to being frustrated by fiberglass work- my dad used to do a lot of it and really hated it- or maybe I just get frustrated easily. My side didn't seem to be going much better than it had on the forward side, but Heather's did. I somehow finally got all the wrinkles worked out, but even though I had a big headstart, Heather finished her side before me, and it looked better. She also managed to maintain good humor throughout, unlike me. Thanks to her words of encouragement, I did manage to regain a tenuous grasp on my composure.
It's amazing what dinner and a few hours of cure time can do. I just went out to check on the heater- it's cold again tonight so the resin needs a little help- and the job looks great. Much better, I think, than the forward side. One layer to go!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Rudder and more bulkhead work:

December 25

Merry Christmas! We took the morning off and went for a bicycle ride with friends.
Heather removed all the hardware from the boom and stripped the paint a couple weeks ago. It’s in good shape and all the hardware came off e are aluminum. The spreaders are just sections of aluminum tubing with a plug in each end. We'll probably replace them, since the old ones are badly corroded.

We had a nasty cold snap (as low as 13degrees F) so Corey decided it was time to work on the rudder because most of that could be done inside. He made a sanding board and used it to attack the remaining bits of bottom paint with 36grit sandpaper, and realized the surface was far from fair.

The foot was gouged all the way into the foam core at the leading edge from some sort of impact, and there were a few spots delaminating along the trailing edge. The gel coat was discolored and cracked at the shaft.

Corey ground away all the damaged area and feathered the edges with a die grinder and a disc sander, then filled them in with a mixture of MAS Flag resin, cab-o-sil, and micro balloons, and filled in the low spots on the surface. When it was hard enough to sand, he faired the whole thing with 36grit paper on the sanding board, then added more fairing compound to the remaining low spots and sanded again with 80grit paper. He also, almost as an afterthought, put one layer of 6oz fiberglass cloth down the leading edge and along the foot, as well as four layers around the shaft. The whole thing was coated with unthickened MAS resin. Unfortunately the finish was horrible. Forty-five degrees is enough for bonding and fairing, but it doesn’t do it for clear coat. According to MAS’ own literature, the temperature should be at least 65 degrees for clear coating. Turning up the heat for subsequent coats helped a lot.

Today (Hey, I’m up to the present!!!!) we began glassing in the bulkheads. We had already glued them in place with Flag resin, thickened with wood flour and cab-o-sil. Made up some more of the same mixture and formed it into large fillets at the edge of the bulkheads. Joel Mill suggests on his website that the glass be laid down while the fillets are still soft, this is excellent advice because it means that any imperfections in the fillet can be smoothed out through the glass, and that the surface of the fillet will conform to the texture of the glass. We used one layer of biax and followed it with two layers of 6oz tooling cloth.

We wet out the two layers of tooling cloth together on a piece of cardboard and put them on at the same time, which was a little bit of a problem. Up to now, we have only used medium hardener with our resin because it hasn’t been very warm. The tooling cloth is harder to smooth out than the biax, and we used wider pieces, which made the problem worse. Corey was extremely frustrated and afraid he would have to remove the tooling cloth layers and start over, as was Heather, although she seemed to be in much better humor than Corey… Anyway, we succeeded in getting the laminate to lie down. In the future we will use the slow hardener for this operation and things should go a little better.

Bulkheads and mast step:

December 1
Well, records are a little shaky, but during the last couple months we have made a fair bit of progress.

The bulkheads in place when we took possession of the boat were made of low quality half-inch plywood and painted with some kind of yucky sticky white paint. They were glassed in very poorly too. No fillets were under the glass where it goes from bulkhead to hull. Since the bulkheads hold the chainplates, and thus, keep the mast from coming down, we decided to replace them.

Originally there was an oak stringer glassed into the core of the cabin top, parallel with the bulkheads, which served as a step for the mast. When the bulkheads were replaced last time, whoever did it cut away most of the glass holding in the mast step. Then they attached the bulkheads to it with a screw (one!) on each side, and a single layer of 6oz fiberglass cloth.

When we got a chisel under the edge of the glass, which was ostensibly holding in the bulkheads, we could peel it up like masking tape. A couple of swift kicks and the old bulkheads were history. The old mast step was a little more robust, so Corey attacked it with a mallet and a chisel.

Then began several hours of grinding with a monster 7” Milwaukee disc grinder and 36-grit sandpaper to prepare for new bulkheads and mast step.

Here is a shot of the new bulkheads, and mast step fitted, but not yet glued in. The brace in the middle is temporary...

We settled on a 3/4-inch plywood, nine ply plus mahogany veneer, for the new bulkheads. Corey found a piece of mahogany to use for the new mast step. The new mast step is three inches thick (fore/aft) by almost five inches deep under the mast, tapering out to just under three at the windows. It is slotted to receive the bulkheads.

Here is a side view showing how the bulkhead is slotted into the mast step.

Our resin and fiberglass arrived a couple days ago. While we were in France Bruce Schwab exposed us to MAS epoxies and after talking with Joel Mill of Devlin boatbuilding up at the wooden boat show in Port Townsend, we decided to go with it. Joel runs a website called where he sells MAS products at a significant discount, and has posted lots of advice about using it. The glass came from Fiberglass Supply in Bingen, Washington. Corey saw an ad for them in the back of Good Old Boat magazine, in addition to stumbling across them online. They were easy to deal with over the phone and are only one day away by UPS Ground.

We also got our keel back a couple days ago. We could have sandblasted it here, but it would have been a lot of work, so we took it to a place in Centralia. While it was there, we had them powdercoat it. It still needs quite a bit of filling and fairing before it can be reglassed because the casting is quite rough. Epoxy should stick to the powdercoat alright, the powdercoat provides an extra layer of corrosion protection for the steel keel, and it also means that we didn’t have to immediately epoxy it when we got it back from sandblasting.

Corey was sick for a few days so he sat down and spent some quality time with Skene’s Elements of Yacht Design and calculated the loads on the standing rigging to see what size wire we will need to use for the shrouds and stays. Maybe he’ll post the calculations later, maybe not. The shrouds and stays will be 5/32” stainless wire, which gives a safety factor of 2.8.

He also decided to make new chainplates because all the holes are oversize in the old ones. The new ones will be held to the bulkheads with five 5/16 bolts, which provides for about 200 pounds more strength than the shrouds.

Bottom Paint Removal:

June 8
Scraping the bottom paint proved futile. After trying to scrape it, we were seduced by West Marine safety strip which sounded much nicer than grinding.

June 18
Did a test patch with the safety strip. It seems to take off the first layer ok, and then it dries out. Should we cover it with plastic and let it steep a little longer? Removed the winches while we were thinking of things to do. They are very classic and should polish up nicely. They need backing plates, and were mounted with mismatched bolts.

July 28
Have admitted defeat with the stripper and resorted to grinding. Corey’s friend and former housemate Scotty loaned us his Makita dustless grinder and Corey is lying under the boat, grinding away in slow agony, wishing he was almost anywhere else, doing almost anything else. Heather is chipping all the old glass of the keel, which she doesn’t like too much, but Corey is jealous…

Removing the motor mount and rudder:

June 2
Removed the motor mount today. The plywood between the mount and the transom never had any kind of finish put on it as far as I can tell. There was another piece of plywood on the inside of the transom, presumably to spread the bolt stresses a bit, but the bolts were recessed into the plywood so far that it did not serve this purpose at all. A set of holes from a previous motor mount was not properly filled. The mount itself is in good shape and decent quality. When I get it all apart, we’ll send it out to be powder coated.

Corey also kicked the cradle out from under the bow of the boat and lowered it while raising the stern so he could remove the rudder. The rudder post is a one-inch stainless steel shaft and it turns in a copper tube glassed into the hull with no bearings or packing at all. The copper is worn and needs replacement, we’ll probably do the same thing because it is simple, and after all, it’s lasted since 1965!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Removing the Keel:

May 31
We’ve been doing loads of research on the Internet regarding bottom paint, gelcoat and general restoration. We were hoping to save the gelcoat but the crazing is too widespread and it seems to be very thin in places so I think we are settled on painting the whole boat.

We are lucky to be endowed with a very well stocked garage, courtesy Corey’s dad Steve. We have air tools, power tools, hand tools, and loads of supplies. A fabulous person we met in France, another Steve, owns a large marina and has also provided us with great advice and the offer of a motor. We are going to plan a trip down to California to see him and visit a fabulous rigger Jason Winkle, whom we also met in France. We want to suck information out of him too.

Since the keel is steel, we found where it meets the hull with a magnet and ground through the glass there in preparation for dropping the keel. Then we removed the keel bolts, which were made of threaded rod and very corroded. When the bolts were out we hoisted the boat so the keel was a couple inches off the ground and gave the keel a good solid thump with a block of wood and a ten-pound sledgehammer. It groaned and then dropped to the ground with a nice thump. We carefully tipped the keel onto a little dolly and rolled it outside.

Projected Project List:

Only Two Major Structural Issues That We Are Aware Of Now:

1. The keel seems to have a slight list and the keel bolts need replacement. We will remove and re-bed the keel and replace the bolts.

2. Over time the pressure of the mast has caused the top of the cabin to sag a bit, so the reinforcing stringer inside will have to be strengthened or replaced.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Pandora's Box Opened....

Around July of 2004 I heard an ad on the KAOS radio community billboard advertising a “free boat, you haul”. Being a free stuff addict I decided to investigate. What I found was Columbia 22 in sound condition. I asked Steve, a shipwright, and Steve, a captain, to come and check out this boat to determine if there were any insurmountable problems. Both Steves declared her sound and a great deal for the price. $0

Steve, the shipwright, also happens to be Corey's father. How convenient. He has lived and worked in this area for a long time and through his connections we were able to get a boom truck to lift the boat onto a trailer. The cradle situation was precarious and riding in another vehicle I clutched the dash white knuckled as the boat swung a little to each side and pogoed a bit on every bump. Happily we made it to Tenino, visions of the boat falling into a ditch nearly giving me heart failure along the way.

Corey and I were on the verge of leaving for France to pursue teaching positions. We would also end up working on the OceanPlanet during the Vendée Globe, which gave us some information, skills and contacts, which we are using on our project.

So the boat lived, suspended from the rafters until our return. Work has progressed on it since we returned, somewhat slowly, but very surely.