Eliminating Stress and Covering Up
Coming off my swim grid at the stern is a ladder which gives access to the swim grid and back onto the rear deck. Right beside this ladder is my stern light post, attached to rear of the boat and reaching up into the air. The stern light post is just too easy to grab when you are using the ladder. This has led to stress cracks at the base of the light post, and as well the cracks have allowed rust from the set screws to follow the cracks down and spread out. So we have both a strength and an appearance problem.
The cracks and rust stains are quite visible here.
When the base of the light post was removed you can see the damage done to the gel coat around the bolt holes where the stress would be greatest
To cover up the worst of the cracks and rust stains, and to strengthen the whole area, I thought I would put a fiberglass plate on the outside and under the base of the stern light, and also put a plastic backing plate on the inside where the bolts went through.
I had previously made some flat fiberglass panels which I knew would come in handy for various projects. The panels were made using a sheet of melamine fiberboard as a layup table. Fiberglass resin will not stick to the melamine so no waxing or prep is needed. These panels were made by painting on a layer of white unwaxed gel coat, letting that set up, and then overlaying this with 2 layers of 1.5 oz fiberglass mat. However these stock panels were quite flexible, thus I added a layer of combo mat to stiffen up the fiberglass for this project.
Fiberglass panel with addition of combo mat. My top plate will be cut from this strengthened area.
Fiberglass panel after cutting out the shape of the top plate.
I had made a paper template of the shape I wanted, which was then transferred to the fiberglass panel and cut out using a jig saw. The edges of the oval shaped cutout were then filed and sanded to make them smooth and to give a small radius on the top edge. (This is where I say –I wish I had taken more pictures.) Next the fiberglass shape was painted, using Endura, a high end two part paint. The colour is Oyster White, which is a close match to the Tolly off-white gel coat. The paint was left over from my cabin door project, described earlier, although for the door project I had a body shop apply the paint. Here I just brushed on a heavy coat and let it self-level.
The base of the light post was then used as a template to match drill holes in the fiberglass panel. A hole was also drilled for the wires to come through. For the inside backing plate I used a piece of 1/4” ABS, a circle 1” in diameter bigger than the base of the light post. In the ABS I then drilled a hole for the wire and one bolt hole. To the back of the fiberglass plate I applied some caulking around all the holes, which along with some masking tape held the plate to the stern of the boat. I then inserted one bolt through the metal base, through the fiberglass plate, through the wall of the boat, and eventually through the ABS backing plate on the inside of the boat, and put on a nut and washer. With everything now all lined up I could drill through the existing holes from the outside to make the final 2 holes in the ABS inside backing plate. Now everything could be tightened up, wiring completed, and the light post reattached to the base.
Here is what it looks like on the inside where you can see the ABS backing plate.
And here is what the finished project looks like from the outside.
By the way, this project was only possible because of the air vent on the rear side of the boat. I was able to remove the vent and the hole was just large enough and close enough for my arm to reach the bolts from the inside, but it was a stretch. And I will avoid going into detail about assembling it without the wires going through and other similar distractions, such as my glasses falling overboard, and …………
The well placed air vent. Stern light post near top of picture.
This is another posting with nothing to do with plastic or fiberglass but I hope you find it interesting.
Just before I put my previous boat up for sale, a twin engine diesel of 36 feet, I blew an engine. I had previously installed engine overheating alarms, but had not yet extended them to the upper steering station. Many many boat dollars later I had the same boat as before I put out all that money. Thus when the alarm went off in my new boat I immediately shut the engine down. After a period of time I started it up again, only to have the alarm come on after a few minuites. So I shut things down again and put in a call to C-Tow. I was close to Collingwood Channel, between Bowen Island and the Paisley Islands and the water was fairly rough, luckily I was travelling alone.
C-Tow arrived and we hooked up a rope bridle through the fairleads on either side of the bow. Soon, due to the rough water, the cutting action of the fairleads, and the less than high quality rope, the rope parted. It broke a few more times before we reached safe harbor at Gibsons.
Later I examined the fairleads more closely. They were designed for the ropes being led through them to go aft only. When you lead the rope forward as we had to do for the tow, the edge, which did not look all that sharp was still sharp enough to wear a rope quite quickly. There must be a better way. So I began a search for a better design. All fairleads I looked at seemed to have the same problem. You could install them as aft facing or forward facing but I could not find ones that would work both ways. So I designed my own.
The design was sketched out and sized so it could handle up to 1” diameter rope. The drawings were then taken to Pro-Tech over at Lynwood Marina in North Van. They did a great job of producing the items as I had drawn them out .
This is the new very skookum fairlead. The original one in the picture is great for tying up at the dock but not for towing, and is designed for the rope to led aft only.
Oh yes, and that alarm which led to the tow and all this fairlead business – it was my newly installed depth sounder that had not been programmed properly.
Ponding Water on Cover
Here on the wet coast, even in summer, it rains regularly. A previous blog showed how I dealt with ponding water on my winter cover using posts and plastic plates. This is the same approach applied to the summer cover, however here rather than plastic plates I used fiberglass. A panel of fiberglass was fabricated by doing a layup on melamine and then using a jig saw to cut it to shape. The actual piece of fiberglass I used was left over from a previous job, but you can see pictures of the technique used in my blog write up on making a new entry door.
On one side of the fiberglass plate I glued a square of carpet, somewhat larger than the fiberglass. This would prevent the hard edges of the fiberglass from chewing through the canvas cover. On the other side of the fiberglass I glued a block of wood with a hole in it using epoxy. The wooden hold up rod would go into the hole in the wooden block.
The steering seat on the upper deck lifts off quite easily, and the pedestal it sits on is a hollow tube. Thus I can just remove the seat and store it on the deck, drop a wooden rod into the seat holder, put the fiberglass plate on top of the wooden rod and zip up the cover. The cover now has slope to shed the rain and prevent it from ponding.
Wooden hold up post sits in the pedestal that normally holds the upper helm seat.
The result, a nicely sloped cover that sheds water and prevents water from ponding.
Bird Wars, Continued
A previous blog entry detailed my attempts at keeping the birds off my upper cover. My K.I.S.S. solution detailed in that write up worked, but I was never totally satisfied with it as storing the long rods with the plastic blocks was not easy, they had to go inside the cabin at the edge of the forward berth. So this is the latest version of what I now call my “Bird Away” system.
I began with a small piece of 1/4” white ABS plastic, which I bent at an angle, at home, using a heat gun. The ABS just slips into the unused bimini cover holders, drill a hole, put in a bolt and the ABS is locked in place.
Next I purchased a short section of 1/4” ID stainless tubing. I cut the tubing into sections about 2.5” long, drilled a hole in the end, and using small bolts attached the tubing to the bent ABS. The idea was to position the tubes at a fore and aft and upward angle, so that when a fiberglass rod was inserted in each rod it would sit above the cover and keep the dirty birds from landing on the cover.
Long narrow strips of 1/8 and 1/16 thick ABS were cut from scraps. These were then cut into short pieces and used as shims to position the metal tubes at appropriate angles. The shims were glued to the ABS base, and to each other using methylene chloride, but ABS plumbing cement would also work.
The holder bolted to the rail fitting, with all the bits and pieces.
The fiberglass rods were then inserted into the tubing and cut to length to give a fan effect providing a sort of canopy over the cover. This has proved very effective in keeping the birds off. It has not been necessary to fasten the fiberglass rods to the metal tubes, they just slip in and none has ever worked its way out. This makes removal easy. I just pull the rods out and store them on the upper deck between the seats and the outside edge. The rod holder remains bolted to the upper rail and only needs to be removed when the winter cover goes on.
The finished “Bird Away” system. Note the lack of sea gull droppings!
(Another) Cover Up
This is part of the console of the upper helm station of Morning Star, my 26’ Tollycraft. Shown here is the depth gauge which I installed some time ago and holes from installs done by previous owners. I assumed the depth gauge was water tight, it is not. Returning recently in the rain the gauge began to malfunction, but luckily returned to normal when it dried out. Time for a cover up, and while I am at it why not cover up the ugly holes in the vicinity.
What I came up with was a plate which would go under the depth sounder and cover up the screw holes. A water proof cover would then go over the sounder and be glued to the plate. To cover the hole in the vertical step in the dash I would mount a box on the stepped up part of the dash, and the front of the box would come down below the bottom of the box to cover up the hole in the vertical step. The front of the box would come down to, but not be joined to, the plate under the sounder.
Here is the plate, in position under the depth sounder.
Box is positioned, held permanently in place with double sided tape.
Front of the box has now been glued on with methylene chloride, only the water proof cover for the gauge needs to be installed. Water proof cover is a ring of black plexi, with a clear plexi cover, that will be glued to the base under the depth sounder.
And here is the completed project. Depth sounder now protected from the elements, holes covered up, and as a bonus a box for drinks, note book, pen, cell phone or whatever.
For a long time I have had a hole in the port side of my aft deck. The previous owner had installed a steering wheel and related hardware in this area – he must have been a very avid fisherman who wanted to steer the boat without leaving the aft deck. I had earlier installed a circular access plate where the steering wheel was, but I was waiting for inspiration on what I could do with the nearby square hole.
This is what the side wall looked like before the cover up.
So, lacking inspiration, I decided just to cover up the hole. I just cut a piece of 1/8” sign white plexi, bull nosed the edges, applied double sided tape to the back of the plexi and pressed into place.
And this is what it now looks like.
While it seems like the plexi stands out I can guarantee you that no one except an experienced boater will notice it. No one has yet commented on the hole that was there.
If you look carefully its just behind the chair on the right.
Under the forward seat of the dining area on my boat is a locker, a cupboard. It is a good size, but it is difficult to access anything in the back. Thus one of the first things I did was to install a drawer in the lower half of this locker, the upper half being accessible by lifting the seat. Now I could pull out the drawer and have access to the far reaches of the locker. This became the designated area for storing navigation charts, oversize cruising books (that would not fit on my bookshelf – see previous blog entry) and manuals. It became annoying to have to remove the cruising books to get at the charts, pull out the chart I needed and then replace the books. (Even with GPS I always keep the relevant chart handy.)
So while sitting at anchor in Garden Bay at Pender Harbor I went looking for the chart for Smuggler’s Cove and thought – I can improve this system.
The way it was.
The way it was, books on top, charts buried below. The little lip on the inside of the drawer is to strengthen the sides of the drawer where the drawer sliders are attached. I can make use of that!
My idea was to make a tray that would sit on the lip at the sides of the drawer. I would give the tray hand holds to make it easy to lift the tray out. To contain the books that would sit on the bottom of the drawer I would make another tray. Heck, let’s make two trays.
This is how it always starts, with illegible notes from my boat book.
Now days I just give a drawing to Alex, our CNC man, and he programs and computer cuts the pieces. The pieces will be cut from 1/4” clear acrylic (plexiglass). I know I said I make the trays, but really I give the pieces to Jay, our Sri Lankan, Canadian lead fabricator, and Jay does the assembly. By the way Jay is a true sailor, having worked for many years on ocean going freighters, and literally having sailed the seven seas.
The computer cut pieces are bent, the sides are solvent welded on, the units are dressed up by flame polishing with a hydrogen/oxygen torch and voila!
And how did it all work out – great! One of the bottom trays holds all the books, leaving the other tray soon to be filled, which will not be a problem. The top tray lifts out easily, holds all the charts with room for a few more, is a big organizational improvement, and looks good to boot. A thing of beauty and a joy forever! Hey it’s my blog and I can wax poetic if I want.
The cover on the upper deck of Morning Star is the perfect spot for sea gulls to land, have a leisurely meal of mussels, or other products of the sea, or of nearby garbage cans, and then leave their calling card. I cannot tell you how many times I have washed the cover down. A simple hosing down is ineffective in cleaning the crud off. And so I declared war on the sea gulls.
My first attempt at keeping the gulls off the cover was aluminum pie pans on cord, strung in various ways across the cover. This was not the way to go. I quickly found that to make the pie pans work I needed a spiders web of cord to hold them in the right position as they always seemed to end up just dangling over the edge. Plus the put up, take down time was excessive.
My second attempt was to make some 2” thick plastic blocks by bolting together 1/2” black Starboard. These blocks could then be attached to the 1” railing going around the top deck of the boat. Holes were then drilled into the block to receive 1/4” round fiberglass rod. The holes were drilled at angles so when the fiberglass rods were inserted they would fan out above the boat cover, preventing the sea gulls from landing. And – it worked! The rods kept the gulls off and my cover remained clean. No longer did I have to remove, roll up, and store a shitty cover whenever I took the boat out. But I was never very satisfied with this solution, which is why it never made it to this blog. While the Starboard blocks could remain on the railing all year, they did not look good, and they had to be removed for the winter cover to be put on, and they were bulky and tough to find a place to store.
So on to my third attempt at building a better mouse trap. At some point I had discovered that the clamps on the upper rail, there to hold the bimini support frame (I have never used the bimini cover), had 1/4” holes, perfect to accept the 1/4” fiberglass rods I was using. From this discovery the current design evolved.
A k.i.s.s. solution.
A length fiberglass rod is inserted in the unused bimini frame clamps on the upper railing. The spring in the rod holds it in place. Attached to this side to side rod, via swiveling plastic blocks, are two fore and aft rods which project above the flat sea gull landing area of the cover. The swiveling blocks allow the whole affair to be rotated so all the rods are parallel with each other, allowing for easy storage.
Bimini FrameClamp with side to side rod inserted in it.
Swiveling blocks, with holes drilled that rods pass through. The black is electrical tape on the rods to position them relative to the blocks.
Amazingly – it works! The two rods are just as effective as the previous 6 in keeping the birds away. Even though the rear sloping part of the cover just has the rods lying on it the birds stay away. (This sloping area was never much of a problem but with the flat part of the cover protected I was concerned the gulls would migrate to the sloped area, but this has not happened.)
After proving up the system I did modify the side to side rod by cutting it in two, and then using a plastic block with a hole drilled in it to join the two pieces together. This shortened the overall length when taken down and folded, and made storage easier.
So come on in, grab some chunks of plastic and let your mind free range. And remember our new address Surrey Plasticworks Ltd now at 12198 86th Ave, Surrey BC.
The latest project at our place, a bathroom reno. Reno’s always produce something unexpected, this time it was dry rot at the hinge side of the bathroom door. It turns out water had been coming down the furnace B vent, and then continuing downward behind the door casing until it pooled on the floor, under the carpet, never leaving a visible trace, but causing a pocket of dry rot in the plywood floor. The floor in this area consisted of 5/8 plywood, overlain by a sub floor of 3/8 plywood. The dry rot had consumed the 3/8 plywood but had not penetrated through the 5/8 plywood. Plus the area of dry rot was located in an area that would not be subject to the weight of traffic, or any other stress for that matter. Thus I felt a non structural repair would suffice.
Looks pretty ugly after a couple bangs to loosen the rotted wood.
First I scraped away the dry rot. I was not that thorough on this, I hate working slowly, but I did get most of it. The area removed was very irregular in shape as well as in depth. As a first step in filling the cavity I cut a piece of 3/8 plywood roughly the shape of the cavity, but trimming it back so that it sat in the cavity but did not project above the surrounding floor level. Next I mixed up some epoxy, I used Cold Cure, and thickened it with wood flour. I could just as easily have thickened the epoxy with cab o sil or glass bubbles or micro fibers, but wood flour was what I had at hand. I then spread the thickened epoxy in the bottom of the cavity and pressed in the 3/8 cut to shape plywood, additionally secured with screws.
The cavity cleaned of rot, thickened epoxy ready to go in.
Plywood set into the thickened epoxy, and held in place with screws.
The next step is to fill the cavity up to the level of the surrounding floor. PlasticWorks sells a product called SculptWood, made by System Three Resins, the same company that makes Cold Cure. SculptWood is a two part epoxy putty with a mixing ratio of 1:1. Because the material is so thick I could not think of an easy way of measuring the parts to get an equal amount of each. So, I just scooped out a ball of part A, and by eye scooped out a matching ball of part B. By hand, using rubber gloves, I kneaded and mushed the two parts together until I had a uniform consistent colour. In my first attempt to apply this mixture to the cavity and to cover the 3/8 plywood I used a metal spatula, a wide putty knife. It did not work. As soon as the spatula passed over an area the SculptWood underneath would lift up and curl back toward the top of the spatula. I abandoned the spatula and resorted to using my hands to press the SculptWood into the cavity and on to the plywood, using a straight edge, my level, to check that the SculptWood had filled the cavity to approximately the level of the surrounding floor. Since the floor was to be finished with ceramic tile I felt the thick mortar under the tile would make further leveling unnecessary.
Part A and part B ready to be mixed. The spatula is in the background.
The finished repair, ready for ceramic tile.
So the job was complete, a good time to now read the SculptWood directions! And I found that it is recommended that SculptWood be pressed in place and rough shaped by hand. Once the material has hardened it can be brought to its final shape using regular wood tools, rasp, chisel etc.
Because of the way the SculptWood had peeled off the plywood when I applied it with the spatula I was concerned about how well this material would adhere to the plywood. Thus, as a test, I pressed a lump of SculptWood onto a scrap of plywood and let it set. My concerns were unfounded, the lump of SculptWood could not be removed from the plywood!
All in all I was quite pleased with the way this repair went and I am confidant that the Cold Cure, plywood, SculptWood repair will last as long as the house will.
This is reaching back in time to my previous boat, a 36 ft. trawler. This was an older boat, and while it had received good care over the years parts of it were dated or just plain tired. This was my diagnosis of the lower station console. I wanted a fresh look rather than any change in function. I resolved to build a new console. The console held the engine controls, engine gauges, steering wheel, various other controls and gauges and AC and DC fuse panels.
The original console, fully functional but dated and lacking any snap.
There really was not the option of changing the size or shape or funtion of the console. It was a question of duplicating it in fiberglass. If you look back, I have an entry discussing reworking the propane system of my existing boat and the method of making a mold. I used the same technique here. I created a female mold of melamine particle board, where the inside of the mold duplicated the outside of the control console. This was a very easy 4 piece mold. Next I used a bondo type product to round the corners inside the mold. That completed the mold. Next I painted the inside of the mold with 2 layers of white gel coat, and once that had cured began laying up fiberglass. I laid in 1 oz mat, followed by 18 oz roving and did this twice (maybe 3 times, I kept no notes). The new fiberglass console was then removed from the mold, trimmed, bondo that pulled away from the mold removed, and the entire unit sanded ready for painting. As an aside here, I get a lot of people working on a project like this who want the gel coat to be the finished surface. It is just not worth the effort. Your mold must be flawless, and for a one off it is just not worth the effort. Further your skill levels are probably just not up to it. To be a fiberglass mold maker requires skills built up over an extended time with much trial and error. There is a reason fiberglass molds are expense and a reason mold makers are reluctant to share the knowledge they have painfully accumulated. Go the paint route and save yourself a lot of heartache. We all know how to sand.
This is the new console set in place. Holes have been cut for steering, controls and gauges. Top has been masked off to prevent scratching during insulation.
Once the fiberglass console was complete, but before the holes were cut, I attached plywood panels to the inside to the console. The plywood was not fitted to be seamless, it was just 4 pieces of plywood cut to shape, pushed close together, and attached to the inside of the console with thickened epoxy. The fiberglass looks thick in the above picture because of the plywood backing on the inside. The plywood backing was necessary to hold screws from the outside, and more importantly to allow easy anchoring of wires, cables etc on the inside.
This is the birds nest of wiring and cables that was contained in the console, all had to be sorted out and laid out in some way on the bulkhead or the inside of the console. The heavy cables to the right are the hydraulic steering cables, but I cannot even see the engine controls in this chaos. I love this picture.
Here is the new console in place and pretty well finished. There is a piano hinge at the bottom that allows the console to fold flat to the floor, so you have reasonable access for all the wiring work.
New AC and DC electrical panels on the port side of the new console.
The console finished, fully functional, and dressed up with a matching foot rest. Upholstery of the captain’s chair was changed from white to black, keeping the white clean drove me to drink. Note plexi GPS holder to right, ABS binoculars holder to left, and dark smoked acrylic sliding doors to storage area at bottom. All with material from PlasticWorks. Come see us!
Was it worth it? I think so. The salon certainly looked more modern, and all the old fuses had been upgraded to circuit breakers. And do not underestimate the satisfaction you will get every time you look at a completed project like this. I feel good just reliving it all as I write this.