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.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Light Is Returning

As I sit here with a horrible headache, fever, and nausea I look out to a rainy day here in Connecticut. The hope that I feel is that this very cold and long winter is finally drawing to a close and that I can start to give Bigtooth some tender loving care. This all starts with fixing all of the leaks that Bigtooth has and fortunately for me they are all on the deck when it rains and not through the hull. There are several places that are soft the largest being the foredeck on the port side. It looks like I will have to cut the top layer of fiberglass off, remove the damaged core, replace the core with new dry core, and patch the fiberglass back on. I will be following the instruction of Andy Miller of Boat Works Today. If you have not watched his instructional videos yet you don't know what you are missing. His is doing a great job for those of us who are handy but don't know where to start. I have sent Andy emails with questions and he has gotten back to me quickly and with great advise. If you find value in his work please consider going to his donation page to help fund his website and videos.

I will also remove, clean, and hopefully reuse the two hatches, four opening portlights, and two fixed lights. After the core is fixed and a nice coat of Awlgrip with non-skid is applied I will bed all of the hardware using the method on the Compass Marine website using butyl tape. This is another great source for boat repair information and step-by-step instructions and great pictures.

This year we will not have Bigtooth put back into the water so that all these repairs can be completed by the end of summer. The last project for this year will be to assemble the Kover Klamps frame that I have purchased and fabricate a winter boat cover using Top Gun© fabric and the information from Sailrite's Make Your Own Winter Boat Cover DVD.

This is an ambitious plan for this summer and I am looking forward to having a dry boat by the end of summer and starting on the interior the following year while we are sailing her on the Long Island Sound again. As always any comments or suggestions that you have are welcomed.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Getting ready for the New England winter.

Bigtooth has been hauled from the water and is sitting on stands at the boat yard. I have started to winterize her and so far the engine, head, and fresh water systems have been finished. I did have to wait a week to winterize her since the batteries were both dead when I went to the boat yard a couple weeks ago and had to wait for another day off when it was not raining. This raises the question as to why the batteries were dead. The main switch was turned off and it was just sitting on stands. Seems that I have a short somewhere that will have to be found and corrected. Since we are keeping Bigtooth on the hard next summer this will be worked on and I am thinking that I would like to replace/redo the electrical so that it is correct and I have no doubts about the wire being used and the connections. I already planned to run a new VHF wire up the mast to the masthead antenna and add an anchor light. This just expands some of that work but I feel it will be well worth the time and expense and should not have to be redone for quite some time after that. I have removed two of the six stanchions so that leaves four more and the bow pulpit and cockpit railing. These have to be re-bedded along with all other hardware to fix the leaks we have from the deck into the cabin and by taking them off now it allows me to cover Bigtooth with a tarp and not have to build a frame for it. Last year we had a lot of wind here and having a lower profile will work better.

Bigtooth on the transport trailer after being hulled out and pressure washed.

Bigtooth on the transport trailer heading to her home on stands at the boat yard.

Who knew to paint the prop with the same bottom paint as the hull? I do now.

The bottom paint seemed to do a fine job of keeping growth off the hull but it is now completely used up and will have to be sanded down and repainted before splashing again. I also had no idea that the prop should be painted as well and there is a lot of barnacles on it that will have to be cleaned. The deck and cockpit will have to have the gelcoat cracks fixed and the soft spots on the deck corrected. I might paint the deck and cockpit with Awlgrip and add new anti-skid as well. This all depends on the gelcoat cracks and how extensive the soft core is. If I can just drill holes and fill with epoxy or if I will have to remove large sections of the fiberglass skin to replace the core. Time will tell.

Lots of work to be done but looking forward to all of it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

That sad day that comes once a year.

Well, today was the annual day of sadness. We left our slip at the yacht club and Bigtooth had her mast un-stepped and put into storage. Bigtooth is now docked at the boat yard waiting to be hauled out for the winter and possibly all through next summer while we do extensive work on her. By extensive I mean fix the soft spots on her deck, replace the opening and fixed port lights and re-bed all the hardware. This will fix all the little leaks that Bigtooth has in these areas and allow me to start working on the interior and doing the woodworking that I have missed so much since the children were born. I would also like to rework all of the electrical that is questionable on her and add an anchor light on the top of the mast. I will be sure to take lots of pictures and be as descriptive as I can be during all of the work that I will be doing so that I might help other Watkins owners with their projects.

Amanda waiting on board after docking to have the waste holding tank pumped out before having the mast un-stepped.

Bigtooth with her mast off and waiting for the tide to lower a few inches so we can get under the fixed railroad bridge. The West River is really beautiful this time of year.

I scrubbed the infamous "low spot" on the sides of the cockpit that water and lots of dirt accumulated. The water that I rinsed it off with got onto my homemade winch covers and shed the water as planned. Sunbrella fabric is wonderful stuff.

In the short term I still have to winterize the engine, fresh water tank and head. Cover her up and bed her down for the cold winter ahead.