Thursday, July 16, 2015

Installing a garboard drain

Today I finally had some time to work on Bigtooth and install the garboard drain I have been planning for some time now. Before I started I had to empty 30 gallons of rain water from the bilge. (At least this was the last time I have to do that.)

I used three drill bits to get this job done. The first was a small twist bit with a 90-degree angle attachment on my drill that I used from inside the bilge at the lowest point to drill a locator hole through the hull. On this Watkins 27 that hole was on the top, port side of the keel. This will be the bottom of the hole for the garboard drain.

If you look closely just above the corner you can see the small locator hole.
Next I went to the outside of the hull and held the drain up with the bottom of the drain spout on the locator hold and marked the center of the garboard drain. Then I used a 2" Forstner bit to drill the flat-bottomed hole to counter-sink the flange of the garboard drain. (This is of course not necessary but I think it looks nicer than just screwing it on the outside of the hull.)

The 2" hole to recess the garboard drain into.
Now that the Forstner bit left the center mark I used that with a 1" hole saw to drill completely through the hull and into the bilge. 1" was just a tad too small for the garboard drain and I wanted to leave room for the adhesive to create a solid bond so I used the side of a large twist bit to enlarge the hole.

Exterior view of the holes.

Interior of the bilge with the through hole drilled.
After scraping away the anti-fouling paint from the exterior of the hull, locating and drilling the pilot holes for the three screws, and cleaning everything up with acetone I was ready for the 3M 5200. I am told that nothing says permanent like 5200 and I don't want this to come out.

Cleaned up and ready to install the garboard drain.
Before the final mounting I put the garboard drain in place and marked it inside the wall of the bilge and used my bench grinder to make it flush with the inside of the bilge. A nice bed of 5200 and I pushed the garboard drain into it's new home and secured it with three #8 silicone-bronze screws. I had good squeeze-out through the screw holes and around the outside edge of the garboard drain so I am confident that I have a void free installation of adhesive. After some cleanup and clearing the slots of the three screws I was finished with this little project.

The finished project from inside the bilge.

The finished project from the exterior of the hull.
The final step will be a little fairing compound and sanding before applying the new bottom paint. Of course I will first strip all of the old paint off and make sure there are no blisters or damage to the gelcoat but that's for another day.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A little woodworking

With my job, yard work, my son's baseball games, my daughter's gymnastics and dance recital I have not had much time to work on Bigtooth during that past couple weeks. Today since I had a little time before the children get out of school I thought I would start on some of the woodwork for the boat. The companionway drop boards are the only teak from the exterior of the boat that I will be able to salvage. The drop board retainers and the companionway sliding hatch retainers are split so I will create new ones from new teak using the broken ones as templates. I used my 6" random orbit sander with 80-grit sandpaper and the task went rather well. It took four sandpaper discs to complete the initial sanding since there was old varnish on the drop boards and this clogs sandpaper quickly.

Here are the outside faces of the drop boards after removing the hardware. The bottom two were scraped and sanded by my son and me using a card scraper. This was not very efficient at all.

After about 30 minutes of sanding using the random orbit sander and 80-grit paper the drop boards are ready to be cleaned and detail sanded.
Unfortunately I don't have much more time today but it feels good to get any work done on Bigtooth. I plan to first use Smith's Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer (CPES) then put on a spar varnish before it fully cures to ensure a strong bond between the sealer and finish.

As for the other teak parts, I think I will buy the pre-made teak hand rails from West Marine if they match my old rails. 4/4 teak locally is $30/board foot and that makes buying pre-made rails less money. It will also save me precious time and that is at a premium these days.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The point of no return.

Today I started the process of replacing the damaged core on Bigtooth. I decided to start with the port side foredeck since it is in the worse shape. I used my Rockwell Sonicrafter oscillating tool with a new metal/wood/plastic blade in it and started to cut a triangular piece of the top fiberglass/gelcoat lamination off. This tool worked well but was by no means fast. The up side to this is that moving slowly allowed me to really see what I was doing and not over cut and cause more damage than necessary. It was difficult to know where the cored part of the deck stopped at the edge of the deck where the toerail mounts so I drilled a couple exploratory holes and cut to the inside of where the bow pulpit mounts to the deck (about 4" inboard of the edge of the deck). After prying the section of fiberglass/gelcoat off I found that I could have gone a little closer the the toerail but better safe than sorry. I will have to clean out the bad core material under the 2" lip and slide the new material under it. The only spot that was still glued down was near the forward hatch that was fiberglass and not wood core. Overall it was still rather easy to pull up with a little elbow grease.  On the starboard side I will try to get closer to the edge of the cored area but it seems to be uneven and I can always cut the starboard piece of new core shorter and add a filler in between the port and starboard pieces to accommodate this.

As for the core material, it was made from 5 3/4" x 5 3/4" x 1/4" pieces of plywood like a patchwork quilt. Most of it was so wet that I could wring the water out of it. I also noticed that this method left a lot of spaces between the individual pieces of core and there was not enough epoxy resin used so it was working like a water channel in between the fiberglass skins. I used a paint scraper to remove the parts of old core that still were glued in but there were not many of these. I will bring the top skin back to my house to clean up and sand to prepare it to be used again. I will have to sand the bottom skin before doing the new core layup so I get good adhesion. My only concern is that the inner fiberglass skin is much thinner than the top skin and since there is space between the inner fiberglass headliner and the inner skin I will not be able to push the inner skin up from below to get good contact with the bottom of the new core material. I hope that the thickened epoxy I will be using will fill any low spots and not leave voids. Of course it will likely take 30 years to find out so I suppose it's okay.

I am working under the winter cover so that I have less wind to blow around the dust that will be made during this project and the sun won't be beating down on the deck and my back. Of course this makes for poor lighting for the pictures.

Here is the panel after cutting and before removing it. You can see that on the port side it lifted up after the cut was made.
No wonder the core stayed wet after it penetrated the deck. All of this wood was wet. The darker the color of the wood, the wetter it was.

After removing all of the damaged core material.

I will be replacing all of the core on the deck and cabin top but I thought I would have to use 3/4" balsa but only needing 1/4" saves me about 50% of what I was anticipating. That's a good thing indeed.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Winter cover

After a couple weeks of working on my days off I was able to complete a frame for Bigtooth's winter cover. I used the Kover Klamps system and 3/4" EMT conduit to construct the frame. I measured the height of the boom and built the frame slightly higher so that if I ever store the boat with the mast up I can do it without much alteration beyond bending a new center ridge pipe around the mast. This height also will allow for me to have some room to work on Bigtooth with the cover on if I find time and the winter weather is not too harsh.

Most of the frame fitted.

Here is a view of the port side of the frame being constructed.
The Kover Klamps are really easy to use and the videos on their website are really well done. When I called and placed my order they were very helpful and shipped the parts quickly. I needed to order a few more to finish the frame and they were on my doorstep a day later. I hope that this frame will last for at least ten years and I don't see any reason why it shouldn't last even longer. The ready availability of the 3/4" conduit from any hardware store will make any repairs easy.

Completed frame looking forward.

Completed frame looking aft.
The temporary tarp cover for this winter on the completed frame.
I used a basic 20' x 40' tarp to cover Bigtooth this winter and will make a proper canvas winter cover this spring that I will be able to reuse each winter. Next year will be the second year without putting Bigtooth in the water but I hope to have all of the portlights and deck core replaced before next winter. The weather and my work schedule did not lend itself to allow me to complete these projects this past summer.

I will have a lot more project pictures in the spring.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


I have to say that this has been a very frustrating summer. It seemed that every day that I was off work and not having commitments with the family, it was raining so I could not work on Bigtooth. 

Now that the cool weather is setting in I was sure that I would find a day to work on her. I actually found two and I started to build the frame for my winter cover. For this I am using Kover Klamps with 3/4" EMT conduit. I decided that I would build it tall enough to go over the boom if I end up storing it with the mast up in the future and it will give me more room to work on her with the cover on. The initial measuring, cutting, and bending of the conduit took a lot longer than anticipated. So after two days of working on it I am still not finished. I need to purchase some more conduit and spend another day at least to finish the project. The good part is that it looks great and should last for years and after everything is fitted properly and labeled then assembly should only take me about an hour or so every season after this. My plan is to make a custom canvas cover with either Top Gun fabric from Sailrite or marine canvas from Big Duck Canvas. I ordered samples from Big Duck Canvas and am very impressed with the quality of their marine canvas and the price is hard to beat. My other concern with using Top Gun fabric is the weight of a cover for a Watkins 27. Of course I forgot to take any pictures of my progress on the frame so in my next post I will show the completed frame ready to be covered with the temporary tarp for this winter.

Now if only I can get some time off work with good weather an no soccer practice for the children I will be in great shape.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The deck is ready.

Today I thought I would try and beat the rain and get the rest of the hardware removed from the deck of Bigtooth. I removed the mast step and the two leaking cable outlets from the top of the cabin. Then started the task of removing the two toe rails. While there are a lot of screws and bolts it went very smooth. There were three thru bolts at the stern end of the toe rail and two at the bow end. Then it was two screws, one thru bold, two screws, etc. I remove all of the screws from the top of the deck then went below deck to remove the nuts from the bottom of the thru bolts. The only three that were difficult to get at were the three aft bolts on the port side. My 1980 Watkins 27 has a finished berth going from the saloon almost to the transom. That meant that I had to climb into the cockpit locker on the starboard side and climb over the exhaust pipe and cockpit drain tube, behind the rudder controls, over the other cockpit drain tube, to reach the three nuts. All this while not putting my weight on the tubes and breaking the thru hulls. Wow is it dirty back there.

After the nuts were removed I went back to the topside and started to pull up on the starboard toe rail form the bow. It was really easy to lift the bolts with the toe rail and as I lifted, the rail began to straighten out. Apparently extruded aluminum does not have a memory and even after 34 years of being bent to the shape of the hull it went right back to being straight as an arrow. I now had half of the rail removed and realized that I needed help to get it completely removed without damaging the toe rail, my boat, or the boat next to mine. I gave my Father-in-law a call and he was nearby running errands and was willing to swing by the boat yard to lend a hand. Since the bow end of the toe rail was too high for him to reach I started to lift the stern end and he held it from the ground while I went forward and pulled up the toe rail from the bow end. After it was removed he set the stern end of the ground and walked forward lowing the rail until it was safely on the ground. We repeated this for the starboard side, removed the bolts and put the toe rail under the boat.

Half of the toe rail removed and it is straightening out quickly.

This view shows how far it moved away from the bow as I removed it.

Nice and straight and stored until ready to re-bed them on the new deck.

I also noticed that the screws that were holding the toe rail went all the way through the fiberglass and into the cabin. I will replace these with thru bolts and bed the toe rails with butyl tape instead of polysulfide caulking. That should give me a lot more protection from leaks than what was there. This boat was leaking though nearly EVERY hole on the deck. In fact the duct tape I covered the holes with kept the interior more dry than when the hardware was installed.

I cleaned up the dirt that was under the toe rails and put some Gorilla Tape over the holes until I can get to the real work of repairing the deck core and the gelcoat cracks that radiate from almost every hole that was drilled into the boat. I plan to paint the deck, cabin sides from the toe rails up with AwlGrip after the repairs so most of the gelcoat cracks on the top will be filled with epoxy mixed with fairing compound and gelcoat will be used for the parts that go below the toe rail on the sides of the hull.

I also began to find the delaminated and rotten section of core by tapping the deck with a hammer. I also drilled holes in some of the areas that had a dull "thud" sound to see what was going on with the core. Some of the core that the drill bit took up towards the front of the delaminated section was dry but as I moved aft it was damp to the touch. So the prognosis is that I will have to replace almost all of the core on the foredeck, half of the deck above the saloon, and a section around the port and starboard chainplates. It seems that I am building a new boat on top of this one. At least the time and money I am spending now, if done right, will give me a few more decades at least before anything as major as this will have to be done again.

Holes drilled into the core on the starboard side of the deck above the saloon.
During the removal of the toe rail I had to also remove a naugahyde vinyl liner that was in the v-berth to give a finished look to the area covering the deck/hull joint. That was nasty.

If I don't die from exposure to this mold I will likely live forever. (One can hope.)
Until next time...

Happy sailing!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Deck project started

This summer we are not putting Bigtooth into the water. Instead I am focusing on some restoration work. There are lots of leaks from the deck around the deck hardware, portlights, hatches, and hand rails. The deck also has spots that are soft and the fiberglass has delaminated from the core. I don't know how long it has been since the hardware was re-bedded and there are cracks in the gelcoat.

This past Monday I began the restoration process by removing ALL of the hardware above the gunwales. I spent the past three days working on this project and was helped by my Father-in-law. I can't believe how many bolts and screws there are on this boat. The design of the Watkins 27 makes everything accessible even though it took a bit of contorting myself in the cockpit locker and squeezing behind the rudder shaft to get at all the nuts and washers below deck.

I started by removing the portlights and this took some time. I gave up on using the hand tools and used my Rockwell SoniCrafter with a scraping blade. This made short work of the polysulfide adhesive that was holding the portlights in place. After removing the portlights I found that the outer part of the cabin sides are about 1/2" thick fiberglass with a space and then a 1/8" thick layer of fiberglass that lines the interior of the cabin. There is some epoxy "spacers" that are separating the two surfaces and most of those are cracked.

This is the exterior of the aft, starboard portlight. I did not crack any of the fiberglass or gelcoat although I am not concerned since I will be painting the entire deck with AwlGrip.

This is the view of the construction of the cabin walls from the interior of the boat. Most of it is hollow with epoxy spacers separating the two and keeping a consistent overall thickness.

You can see how the epoxy spacers are cracked and not bonded to the fiberglass on the outer or inner surfaces.
I will be replacing the opening portlights with Beckson self-drain opening portlights. The fixed ports need to be replaced as well and these will be installed on the exterior. After chatting with Andy at Boatworks Today about the best way to replace these I will clean up and finish the cutout. Then have new acrylic windows cut locally and use 3/4" 3M foam tape that is used to hold windows on city buses and is UV resistant, waterproof, and won't require any mechanical fasteners. Then I will glaze around the windows with Dow Corning 795 silicone and maybe make a wood trim for the interior. I am still considering recessing the new acrylic windows but I don't know if I want to go through that trouble. I can always do this later as a separate project.

This is the familiar view from inside a 34 year old boat.

The acrylic is fixed inside the window frame. I don't see anyway to remove it without destroying the frame.
I did find a lot of rotted core around both hatches. The forward hatch is an easy fix since I can replace the marine plywood blocks that were water damaged. The cabin hatch however will need to have the outer fiberglass skin removed and new core installed. Nothing that time and money can't fix.
On the cabin hatch most of the wood core is not even there. Strange.

Here is a lose piece of the core that I pulled out. Still wet.

This is the upper edge of the forward hatch. The wood is rotting and the outer and inner fiberglass skins are delaminated from it and deformed a little.
I continued to remove all hardware including the cleats, chainplates, anchor platform, big aluminum bow thingy, and everything else. All that is left are the two toe rails and the mast step plate. I did manage to break the stainless steel bolt holding the bow chainplate to the big aluminum bow thingy. It did not take much effort for me to break the bolt so I am guessing that it was fatigued from doing it's job for the past 34 years.

Until someone can tell me what this part is called I will refer to it as the big aluminum bow thingy.

Here is the broken bolt in the big aluminum bow thingy. Stainless steel and aluminum mixed with salt water really weld themselves together quite well.
There is rain in the forecast here for the next few days so I used Gorilla Tape over the holes and to tape plastic over the ports and hatches. This should keep things dry enough until I get back to the boat.

Stripped deck looking aft.

Stripped deck looking forward.

Cockpit looking aft with the railing, mainsheet traveler and vents removed.

I also removed the ladder from the transom since I found this to be useless. The ladder is too short and does not go very far into the water (about chest level while swimming) and leads you to the aft stay and railing. I will fill the holes and patch the gelcoat.
All of the ports and hatches had quite a bit of silicone applied around the edges. Previous owners seemed to try and fix the leaks without understanding that silicone has very few uses aboard a boat. I purchased this boat knowing that this type of work was needed and I am really enjoying the work so far. When I get some more time off work and fair weather I will begin to fill all the holes with epoxy and fix the core issues. Then refinish the deck including the nonskid with AwlGrip. Then bed all the hardware using as much butyl tape as possible and polysulfide for all the other parts that butyl won't work on. I will be using Bed-It Butyl Tape and following the directions that can be found at Compass Marine.

Take care.