Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Other People's Mistakes and Lessons Learned Therefrom

It Started Like This
Coffee to start the work weekend at The Boat Yard. All I can think of is how great our boat will look on the mooring out there.

What's Under All That Paint?
I truly thought I was done uncovering the sins of the Previous Owner. We discovered his prohibition era whiskey stash under the v-berth. We unwound his "installation" of orange extension cords that stood in for an AC system, we pulled rusty staples out of the woodwork, and replaced brittle PVC pipe with actual marine grade hose. We took the ghastly outboard bracket off the stern.

That was the first weekend.

Then we discovered engine controls tied together with twine and a muffler hanging from the lazarette by a cup hook. Oh, and an engine that was so addicted to starting fluid that it was beyond any rehab program and had to be put to pasture.

Then we started stripping the bottom paint. At least 10 layers of old, red, ablative paint. In some places it simply flaked off like peeling a hard boiled egg. In others it was as permanent as welded steel.

Several months ago I found the first major sin. PO had, at one point, attempted to convert the aft cockpit locker into an outboard well. He, or more likely some dirtbag at the shipyard with a Sawzall, had cut a gap out in the bottom of this locker, just forward of the transom. Some sort of bracket was then bolted to the forward bulkhead of the locker. In theory, an outboard would then be hidden in this nice little locker, hidden from sight and pushing the boat along at a better clip than the little Yanmar thumper under the cockpit. It should be noted here that all of this was done in the place of actually maintaining or fixing the problems with the inboard engine. It just got to sit there and rust (when it wasn't used as a generator to charge the Sears DieHard automotive battery).

A look at the stern and the ill-fated outboard well the PO tried to create. Note that the antifouling line comes up just high enough to cover it up.
The main problem with this outboard well, aside from the fact that the boat wasn't designed for a big cutout under the transom, right behind the rudder, is that the locker itself isn't watertight. It, in fact, is wide open to the rest of the boat (a little design flaw that I intend to rectify before we go off shore...if the flimsy hatch on that locker came off or was stove in by a boarding wave, the whole boat could downflood).  So I'm sure the first time he fired the outboard up and got up to boat speed, the stern sat down in the water, and the stern wave rose up and flooded the boat.

So they likely hauled the boat right out and "fixed" their fix. This fix is what I found when I stripped the bottom paint off the stern. A crappy, unfinished, unsealed fiberglass job covering a 1 foot square hole in the boat.

And this revelation eventually led to another. The one that I spent this weekend cursing the PO for.

The CD 27 originally had anti-fouling paint to the waterline, a 1inch or so gap and then a 3 inch boot stripe (red). Here is a look at another CD 27 with something close to the original look.

Not our 27, but she looks nice.
With our boat, here's what I imagine happened to this look. The PO started loading the boat up with things like, oh I don't know, extra outboard engines and extension cords. As he did so, the resting waterline of the boat dropped a bit. And this, along with what is obviously some long-term neglect, let to marine growth above the waterline.

Then, when he cut that giant hole in the boat and subsequently "repaired" it, he had to cover up his sins. The answer? Raise the waterline. So...when we got this boat, the antifouling paint was about 5 inches higher on the hull than it originally was, a fact I did not notice until I started stripping the paint.

(Is this where I tell you also that he apparently used both hard and ablative antifouling paint on top of one another? Awesome.)

Here is what the boat looks like right now (on the port side, anyway)

Naked Boat.
Want a walk-through? Ok. The blue is just painter's tape that marks the level of the old antifouling paint. It took epic work days to get here. I could have just smoothed the surface of the old paint a little bit and moved on, but the old paint was in terrible shape, and like everything else I've decided to do it right the first time. I think the extra work will be worth it. I hope. There was so much paint on there that just this one side took two gallons of chemical stripper (Interlux 299e for those boat yard nerds out there) and about a million sanding sheets. But now we're down to this.

Ok, HALF Naked Boat
So here is a look from the bow, where I can show you what stripping the paint reveals. Notice on the starboard side there is a little blue paint under the red? In this picture you can see the original look (somewhat). Starting at the blue painter's tape, you can see the dark red. That is the antifouling paint the PO put on with a spatula. But where the antifouling has been removed, you can see a lighter red color. This is the original boot stripe. Then just below that, a 1 inch gap of white gel coat. Below that, the original waterline. See the blue paint? This was the original primer coat. Where I can find the upper edge of the blue primer, I can find the original waterline. And the top of the extended antifouling is the top of the original boot stripe (or near enough, anyway).

Another look at the starboard side paint excavation. Blue primer under antifouling, light red bootstripe under antifouling.
So now I am stuck in my own "do it right the first time" rule, because the "right" thing to do is to carefully reconstruct the original look, stripping the hull all the way down, re-establishing the waterline and boot stripe, and then repainting. But holy hell that seems like a lot of work, and getting a good do on a boot stripe is - according to every boatyard guy I've talked to - one of the hardest things to do in boat painting.

After cursing and kicking things around The Boat Yard, I settled down and went to the web and my trusty colleagues at the Cape Dory discussion boards. It turns out it is pretty common to paint up over the boot stripe. The waterline on the CD 27 was, well, optimistic, and even a lightly loaded boat rode low enough to get marine growth above the theoretical waterline.

There were even some nice photos of boats without the boot stripe, looking very salty indeed.

Photo by Gary Cohen
So, I am starting to lean toward keeping the raised waterline and painting up to it with primer and antifouling, but I haven't made the final decision yet.

Meanwhile, the paint removal has uncovered what HAVE to be the last sins of previous owners. Specifically I have unearthed evidence of a pretty nasty grounding. The rudder appears to be almost completely rebuilt. And not well, I should add. The fiberglass is pockmarked and thin, wide open to water intrusion (which explains why the rudder post dripped water for a month after we hauled her out.

I punched two 1/4" holes in the bottom of it recently just to make sure it is dried out. It seems solid around the rudder post (no play) and sounds fair when wrapped with a plastic hammer, so I don't think it warrants a full rebuild. But I do need to fair in the pockmarks and but down a good sealer coat.

Also, the leading edge and the bottom of the keel are full of repaired spots. I know boats hit the bottom on occasion, so I'm not cursing the PO for that, but I am skeptical enough of the work that has been done on this boat that I am grinding out a few of these larger repairs and doing them myself before repainting anything.

Break Time!
The Management of The Boat Yard has Upgraded the Beverage Selection

The Painting
I will be laying down several coats of Interlux 2000e, a two-part sealer/primer that is used to protect fiberglass from water intrusion and blistering. This is a not cheap step that nonetheless makes me far less worried about the fact that my scraping and grinding and chemical stripping has more or less destroyed the gel coat below the waterline.

Then it is the Northwest standard copper ablative paint, which as yet hasn't been completely banned in Washington.

The Interlux primer is gray. I will do the first couple of coats of ablative in red and the last coat in black. This simple old trick makes it very clear when the effective top coat has washed away and when it is time to repaint. Also, in theory, on the next haulout I can just go down to where everything is red and then re-coat.

Small Stuff
This past weekend also found me finalizing some wiring projects (propane solenoid is wired and functioning, for example). One thing I installed is a propane sniffer.

It is a simple but not cheap product that sounds an audible alarm when propane fumes reach 20% of the low explosive level in the boat. The sniffer is in the bilge well above any realistic water level.
This little guy keeps us from 'sploding
The propane sniffer instrument tucked away under the galley stove.
The panel instrument is on a panel right underneath the galley stove, where I will also put the three-way bilge pump switch and the fuel gage.  The CD 27, like a lot of old boats has very little usable panel space for electronics and instruments, so I'm being creative here.

Speaking of the galley, here is how it looks now.

The rebuilt galley, ready for action.

And It Ended Like This
I Believe The Boat Repair Gods Demand I Sacrifice Driftwood in Their Honor