Wednesday, July 6, 2016

We are sailing!

After an early morning with the family at the boat yard's dock bedding and attaching the parts we were ready to motor down the West River and under the fixed railroad bridge to the little platform with the crane to step the mast. Sam, Lily, and I donned our life vests and started the engine and we were off. Amanda went back to the house to get some food, drinks, and ice for us and would meet us at the Guilford Yacht Club pier were we would put on the sails and prepare for the trip to the new summer slip we rented on the Branford River. As always the dock staff at the Guilford Yacht Club were fantastic and very accommodating and we spent about 45 minutes getting ready and filling up the fresh water tank. I thanked the dock hands and Sam, Lily, and I set off for a nice sail.

Sail Log of the trip from the boat yard to the new slip.
There was not much wind but we managed to sail more than half way before we started the engine again to motor the rest of the way in.

Lily at the helm and Sam "fishing" on our way down the West River.
The children did a fantastic job of keeping a look out for lobster pots and buoys and we made it without any issues at all. Bigtooth performed perfectly.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Back in the water after two years!

Now that we have Bigtooth in the water and able to sail I have been horrible with updating this blog so instead of making one really long post I will break it up into parts.

So, on July 5th I finished enough of the work to get Bigtooth launched at the boat yard and she was in the water for the first time in two years. When I say that I finished enough, I mean just enough to ensure she was mostly water tight and would float. I still did not have the chainplates, main sheet traveler, lifelines, cockpit rail, swim ladder, bow pulpit, and all the epoxy repairs painted yet. The launch went off without a hitch and everything was fine.

Moving the poppets for the yard trailer to move Bigtooth for the first time in two years.

Yard trailer getting into position.

Hauling Bigtooth to the water.

Almost there.


In the water and ready for more work.
I spent as much of the day as I could working on the chainplates and anything else that I could install by myself. The plan for the next day was to get to the boat early and bring my wife and children with me to attach the parts that I needed a person above and below deck to complete. I also needed to bring my dock lines and fenders since I totally forgot them and the yard loaned me some of theirs for the day.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Almost there.

With the help of my nephew and my sister-in-law, Bigtooth is so close to splashing into the water after a two-year wait. All the portlights are mounted and the opening portlights are sealed. At least I hope they are now water tight but only time will tell. The new deadlights are going to look amazing after I seal around the edges of them with Dow Corning 795 silicone. I used 3M VHB tape to surface mount the new deadlights and I think that they will look fantastic. The last of the epoxy filling has been completed and after a little sanding on the port side deck, we can get ready to paint the foredeck and side deck to protect the epoxy from UV damage. The Pettit Easypoxy is amazing paint. It rolls and brushed very well and seems to self-level nicely. It is a gloss finish so we will see how it looks in the little parts we are painting. When I am ready to paint the entire deck and add new nonskid I might go with more of a satin finish. Only time will tell.

So over the next few days, I have to varnish the teak to protect it from UV and mount it on the boat. Then all of the hardware gets bedded and I get the engine running again. My sister-in-law gave us an amazing gift of hiring the yard to sand and paint the bottom next week. I am getting so close that I feel giddy like a school boy. It's wonderful.

Here are a few pictures of what's going on.

Looking forward on the port side. Everything is epoxied and sanded except for the aft most portion of repair.

This is the deadlight on the starboard side viewed from the inside of the cabin. Eventually, I will fabricate wooden trim for the two deadlights and the two hatches.

Here are one of the new Beckson self-drain portlights installed.

This is the new starboard deadlight from the exterior. It is 3/8" tinted acrylic adhered to the cabin exterior with 3M VHB tape. I will seal it with Dow Corning 795 silicone.

This is the opening for the new cabin top hatch with the second coat of Pettit Easypoxy paint applied. If the coverage is good I will mount the new hatch tomorrow before work.
Once the deadlights and hatches are sealed the winter cover comes off and we can start to bed the hardware with the 5-gallon bucket of 316 stainless steel nuts, bolts, and washers.

More updates to come.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

I'm gainin' on it!

The projects are really getting close to completion now. While there is still a lot to do I am quite sure that we will be back in the water by the end of this month and that should still leave plenty of sailing opportunities for me this summer.

Today I spent most of the time laying down some 1708 fiberglass over the cracks that I cut open to replace the rotten core. After I cut the fiberglass strips I spent some time dry fitting the first new portlight and found that I ordered screws that were too long. But thanks to the wonderful interwebs I ordered the new 10-24 x 3/4" screws for the Beckson portlights and the screws for the new Bomar hatches from my phone and received notice just a few hours later that shipped them.

So after a really hot day last week grinding through the gelcoat along the seams of fiberglass deck I was ready to clean it down with acetone and start cutting the 1708 fiberglass to width and length.

Ready for fiberglass.
I will tell you, I have not done anything this messy and uncomfortable in my life. I happened to do all the grinding on the hottest day so far this year, while in a Tyvek coverall, inside the winter boat cover/greenhouse. There was gelcoat and fiberglass dust everywhere. It was falling out of the winter cover like snow and coated every surface of the boat. I spent more time vacuuming up the dust than I spent grinding, but the worst part of the project is now behind me and I can get on with the fiberglass work.

After laying in the 1708 fiberglass with epoxy.
Before I laid the fiberglass over the seams I filled them with slightly thickened epoxy so I would have a solid foundation for the 1708 to go on. Hopefully, this will prevent the seams from showing through the fairing epoxy I will be applying next. In a couple days, I will wash off the amine blush and lightly sand these seams then apply the epoxy thickened with West System 407 filler.

Next, I began to fit the new Beckson portlights. During this process, I found that the 1" screws I purchased were too long so I stated before I ordered new 3/4" versions. These new portlights are going to look fantastic! I have chosen to use the Beckson flush mount barrel nuts on the exterior so the trim ring will not have any fasteners showing on the exterior of the cabin. This will be a nice, clean look. Combine that with the new 3/8" thick acrylic deadlights that will be surface mounted on the exterior of the cabin using adhesive tape and caulking and the boat should look sharp. I cannot wait to mount the deadlights. I was going to make them myself but I am so glad I spent the money on a professional to make them. I could not get them to look as good as they do.

This is the Beckson Self-drain portlight dry fitted inside Bigtooth. I have the screen removed so I can work on the interior and exterior simultaneously. I think the clear lenses will allow plenty of light into the cabin that the original Bomar portlights did not. Even better is that these won't leak like the originals.
That's about it for this update. I hope to have all four opening portlights and the two deadlights installed by the end of next week and the two new hatches shortly after that. Then I only have some epoxy filler and some paint to cover the epoxy patches and re-bed the hardware. There will be some little things to do along the way but the bulk of the work will be complete and Bigtooth will be closer to getting back into the water.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Almost ready for more work.

Today was another beautiful day to work on Bigtooth. I was mostly pleased with the way the spacers turned out in the four opening portlight cutouts but there was still a void where the old drain spigots were and these needed to be filled. The new Beckson Self Drain portlights don't need the extra drains so I added some tape to the exterior of the cabin and filled them in with thickened epoxy.

I taped and filled the eight old drain cutouts with thickened epoxy.

Tomorrow I will be able to clean the amine blush off and sand them flush to the cutout before I go into work. I did learn not to forget about the extra epoxy in the plastic cup since it gets a bit warm as it undergoes it's chemical transformation.


The forward hatch was a bit of a trial but taking what I learned from the other hatch and the portlights I was able to get the new wooden spacers epoxied and clamped in place without too much hassle. I was also pleased that I only had a few drops of epoxy fall but since I had a plastic drop cloth on the v-birth and floor that was no trouble at all.

Clamps doing their thing on the forward hatch opening.
I also cleaned the amine blush off the epoxy I applied to the cracks along the transom where the traveler track and cowl vents mount. Then I sanded it all smooth, enlarged the holes for the new vents and re-drilled all the holes to the proper size. Working on solid fiberglass is so much easier than cored fiberglass. Before mounting the track and vents I will brush on a coat of Pettit Easypoxy to keep the epoxy protected from UV. This is the same thing I will be doing for the hundreds of gelcoat cracks that I am filling. It won't look nice but it will be dry and protected until I get to the point of painting the entire deck and adding new non-skid. The new vents will be installed at the same time as the opening portlights are installed since they all need the 795 silicone to seal them.

Here is an overview of the repaired cracks and enlarged holes for the vents.

A little closer look at the work area.
Tomorrow before work I will remove all the clamps and tape and then continue to grind out the gelcoat cracks and get ready to fill them with thickened epoxy.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


I have been making a lot of progress on Bigtooth but it does not look like it. There must be hundreds of gelcoat cracks that I have ground-out, cleaned with acetone, filled with thickened epoxy, and sanded smooth. However, when I stand back and look at it there are still hundreds of cracks left to treat the same way.

I did finish the repair on the top hatch opening and while it does not look nice it is solid and should accept the new hatch perfectly. I made four wood spacers to fit between the headliner and the inside fiberglass layer and four more to fit between the inside and outside layers of fiberglass. I used come wood that I had at the house and it turned out to be poplar. Now I am sure that poplar is not the first choice of boat builders so after milling it to the correct thicknesses and cutting them to length I used Smith's CPES to make sure that they would be as water tight as they could be and still provide a good substrate to screw the new hatch down properly. I taped wax paper over some wooden cauls I made from scrap 2x4s to use with the clamps. One of the most important things I learned over the years while woodworking is to not over-tighten your clamps. It's really easy to wrench down and put hundreds of foot-pounds of pressure but all you do is squeeze out all of your adhesive and leave a weak, dry joint. With the epoxy thickened a bit, I only applied pressure until there was a little squeeze-out. I left the clamps in place for a week since I did not have a chance to get back to the boat until then. The wax paper made it easy to remove the cauls and I have an edge ready to sand.

Here is a view from inside the cabin looking to starboard.

I only used an upper spacer since there was a huge block of polyester resin between the headliner and lower skin.

All eight clamps doing their job.

Firmly epoxied and ready to sand.
The hatch opening now is a uniform thickness and has a solid wood foundation for the hatch screws to firmly attach. This will allow the 3M 4000UV sealant to make a water tight seal between he hatch and the deck.

I was able to get the 1/4" spacers epoxied in place along the lower edge of each of the four opening portlights. This was a bit tricky to do alone as the epoxy makes the wood very slippery. I did lose one spacer to the void so it will either be permanently glued to the inside of the headliner or will fall out when I heal to starboard.  

I also glued the new balsa core into the foredeck and replaced the top layer of fiberglass that I removed previously. This did not go over too well.

I used almost all of the 2'x4' sheet of balsa to replace the old, rotten core material.

I was convinced by the person at the store I purchased the core material from to use a polyester cream to bed the core and then polyester resin to glue the top layer back on after wetting out the balsa. I did this but I did not get good adhesion and will have to figure out what to do next. I think that grinding down the edges and using chopped strand mat and fiberglass tape to seal everything back up is the best course of action right now. After the boat is in the water I can drill some holes and fill with thickened epoxy to get good adhesion and make the deck void-free. The important thing to me is to make sure that it is watertight. I suppose that only time will tell.

The last update for the day is that I finally finished sewing the nine dacron panels together to form the body of the new genoa. Now it's on to finishing the three edges and add the sacrificial sun protector. The sail project has taken a back seat to the fiberglass work since the temperatures are cooperating now in New England. More sail work will be done on rainy days and when I don't have enough time to drive to the boat yard.

Now all nine panels are sewn together and ready to finish the edges.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Work is progressing nicely.

Well, the massive work on Bigtooth is underway and progressing nicely. My great friend, Wade, from North Carolina, came up to have a working vacation with me to give a boost to the long project list. Since it snowed on the first day of spring (the first day we were going to work on the boat) we sanded and applied the second coat of TotalBoat Penetrating Epoxy Sealer. The difference in the appearance of the teak is incredible already and I will be applying a few coats of spar varnish to finish them off.

After two coats of CPES, the drop boards are looking so much better. Even after bleaching the top board has remained darker than the others. It seems to be a replacement since the color and grain are different and it is slightly thinner than the bottom three.
The CPES did a fantastic job of penetrating the teak and leveling the surface so I should not have to apply as many coats of spar varnish to get a nice smooth finish. There are blemished and a few nicks in these boards but they look so much better now. They should also hold up to the weather better now that they are sealed completely.

The following day we went out to the boat and tried to begin stripping the bottom paint but after fighting with the drop cloth in the wind we quickly gave up on that and moved to the protection under the winter boat cover. Here we began the very labor intense process of removing all of the old duct tape and the residue it left behind. Wade used a couple different scrapers and progressed nicely during the day. During this time, I began to enlarge the gelcoat cracks to prepare them for repair. The plan was to fill them with epoxy as a tempory measure until I can continue the core repair and then repaint the entire deck. After burning through a few different Dremel bits I finaly found one that worked like magic on the gelcoat. The Dremel 952 3/8" Aluminum Oxide Grinding Stone cut through the old gelcoat and left a perfectly smooth, tapered edge like a hot knife through butter. The other import thing is that it did not burn up, it just kept going.

After Wade was tired of scraping he started to remove the old polyester resin between the portlight openings and the headliner. Again, this was a task that took some experimentation to find the right tool for the job. The resin was almost as hard as steel and just about every cutting tool used just broke after a short time of cutting. Finally, we went to Home Depot and picked up a new blade for my oscillating tool and before too long all four opening portlight holes were clean and ready to take measurements for the new wood spacers.

The next day we brought the new Beckson opening portlights and Bomar hatches. We first put the portlights into the opening and my heart sank. The spigot on the self-drain model of portlights I purchased was too short and the trim ring would not fit on. This is bad since I am beyond the window for returns at JMS and would have to try and sell these on eBay and purchase the rain-drain version that has a 2.5" spigot. After looking at it for a minute I decided that I could cut thinner spacers to go between the outer cabin wall and the headliner and epoxy them in place. There seems to be enough flexibility in the headliner to make this work but I suppose only time will tell. Dry fitting the hatches went exactly as planned with the forward hatch fitting perfectly and the cabin top hatch opening needing to be enlarged slightly. Of course, it took seven jigsaw blades to make the four cuts through the fiberglass/polyester cabin top. Thankfully I had exactly seven saw blades in my toolbox.

We spent four days working on Bigtooth and made some wonderful progress. As the temperature increases here in New England I will spend more time on the boat and start the epoxy work and installation of the ports and hatches.

More updates will be coming soon.