Category Archives: projects

Project: Rebuilding Rotted Interior Walls

Project Time: 40+ hours
Project Cost: ~$150

In December I discovered there was some serious wood rot in two interior walls between the engine compartment + below-berth storage compartments. The wet wood was visible as peeling paint, but the worst of the rot was hidden behind the battery boxes, so my surveyor had missed this issue – and I myself had taken 10 months to find it!

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These were not bulkheads so the good news was there was nothing structural about them. But the wall behind the batteries did have the battery tie down straps screwed into mostly rotted wood, so that added some urgency to the project. If we were ever knocked down on a port tack or just hit a big wave the right way, the straps could pull out and the batteries could perhaps fall / spill.

Wood rot is an evil thing. You can ignore it for quite a while, but it will never go away, and might get worse. This deterioration had probably taken years of moisture or standing water from a leak. A prior owner had tried to patch the problem by epoxying over the rotted area. That didn’t work.

This project probably had me go a little loopy, because I started saying things like

I love gelcoat, and fiberglass is god’s gift to mankind.

Gelcoat is as hard as a rock and never rots. Fiberglass is stronger than the strongest wood you could ever find. The nostalgic attachment some boaters have for interior woodwork, or even exterior wood, makes no sense to me – modern production boats have gotten one thing right, and that is getting rid of most wood. The one good thing about wood is it’s easy to work with, and for mainly this reason I replaced the bad wood with – you guessed it – new wood!

This was an intimidating project because I knew going in it was a 40+ hour project and had several points where things could go wrong. There were 2 partially rotted walls to remove and a very rotted wood platform supporting the Vernalift lift muffler (part of the engine exhaust system). Cutting and painting wood sounds simple, until you realize all the steps it involves on a boat:

  1. Unscrew berth floorboard and 2 teak trim pieces.
  2. Figure out how to raise the floorboard and realize you’re not going to be able to get it out. Tie it suspended above your workspace instead and squeeze in under it.
  3. Remove or move various wiring runs that go through the wall being removed.
  4. Remove the battery platform which is blocking access to some screws securing the 2nd wall.
  5. Unscrew the tabs securing the 2 walls, and unscrew the rotted wood below the Vernalift muffler.
  6. Remove the walls and clean up the rotted wood dust / strips that got left behind.
  7. Buy a 4’x6’ sheet of marine plywood and get cut to approximate sizes.
  8. Cut 3 wood pieces using the old wood as templates with a Fein MultiMaster.
  9. Test fit the pieces and trim some more.
  10. Drill 2 holes for wiring runs.
  11. Drill and mount the edge trim that runs along the top of each wall for securing to the berth floor.
    Sealing/painting the new wood:
  12. Paint with Interlux 1026 wood sealer. (1 coat)
  13. Paint with Interlux Pre-Kote primer. (1 coat)
  14. Paint with Interlux Brightsides 1-part polyurethane. (2 coats)
    Reinstall:
  15. Do 2 more small cuts with the Fein for fit issues I messed up.
  16. Drill 4 holes for Vernalift platform mounting + 4 holes for the lift muffler itself, and install screws.
  17. Drill holes (8) for trim tabs on wall #1 and install.
  18. Drill holes (9) for trim tabs on wall #2 and install.
  19. Disconnect house power + battery charger and reinstall batteries. Accidentally short the starter battery when the positive cable gets bumped into the engine (which is the ground), creating sparks. Oops! 😦
  20. Drill and attach battery tie down clasps.
  21. Reinstall the berth floor and teak trim pieces.

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Decisions, Decisions

When I first discovered this rot I was really bummed out. I knew the project would displace 5 to 10 other smaller projects, and might interfere with sailing time (because the batteries wouldn’t be secured). But ignoring it wouldn’t make it go away.

The first thing to decide was how to fix it. There were a few options, a couple of which were shortcuts:

  1. Inject GitRot into the wood and epoxy or fiberglass over the rotted parts.
    I decided against this because the area of rot was too large and too far gone – GitRot wouldn’t fix wood this bad, and fiberglass patching would just be a bandaid – and might not stop the rot from eventually spreading.
  2. Cut out the rotted sections and scarf in new wood. (“scarf” is a woodworkers term for glueing in a patch basically). This would be pretty difficult because I’d be working in very tight quarters. Doing the woodwork in the boat would be quite messy, and the finished job might not be as strong as a solid piece of new wood.
  3. Replace the entire panel with new wood. C&C installed all their interior walls in a neat way, with screwed in edging strips, which would actually make it fairly easy to just remove each wall unit entirely.
  4. Replace the panels with Starboard or some other plastic composite. I decided against this because large sheets of Starboard (½” by 4’x8’) are expensive – and it’d be more difficult to work with than wood.

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Painting

The wood prep and painting part of this job was probably the hardest part. I wanted to select the right wood and treat it in a way that it would never rot, or at least not for a very long time, in the way that the original wood had.

I chose a good quality marine plywood from Dunn Lumber in Seattle (Home Depot doesn’t carry marine plywood in ½”, and Dunn Lumber is pretty awesome). I then decided on Interlux Brightsides marine paint. It’s typically used for hull topsides and decks, but is a very durable, waterproof paint. It might be overkill for interior walls, but I didn’t know any other recommendations, and wanted a good durable marine paint.

The painting was in some ways more challenging than expected. We live in an apartment, not a house, so we don’t have a garage or workshop. And this couldn’t be done outdoors at the marina because it’s raining every day, and wind would blow dust and stuff onto the paint. The painting would take up to a week because of how many coats are required, with drying time in between. Doing it inside the boat would’ve been very difficult and would mean making a trip to the marina nearly every night of the week. So we set up a painting station inside our apartment.

One other challenge was the 1-part polyurethane paint. It’s not the same as your average household paint. Don’t shake the can to mix it because that introduces bubbles. We had awful bubbles all over the painted surface when using a roller, but found either going very very slowly with the roller, or using a brush, worked.

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The *new* exhaust lift muffler platform

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The *old* exhaust lift muffler platform

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fein MultiMaster was a wonderful tool for cutting plywood quickly and with good precision. This was my first time using it for a big project, and I had bought it on recommendations from other cruising blogs and books. I could’ve used other tools like a jigsaw but the Fein is a more versatile tool that I can use for other things as well.

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In the end, this project sucked up a lot of time – potentially displacing other projects or actual sailing time. Lately I’ve been worried I’ve been worried our project time to sailing time ratio has gone out of whack. But, it was rainy and stormy for much of January and February while I was working on this. And I’m glad to have nice clean wood in there now and know there isn’t rot slowly eating it away.

Electrical Projects: A Trip Down the Rabbit Hole

This winter, as the rain poured down day after day, I found time to start some electrical projects. Since I’ve never done electrical work in my life, this was a bit intimidating initially. What if I electrocuted myself? What if I messed something up and set the boat on fire? I had read the electrical chapters in Nigel Calder’s book – twice – but some parts were pretty advanced, and I still didn’t feel like I understood it all. Getting started turned out to be the hardest part.

windGen

Oh, our boat has a wind generator? Just kidding, it has a wire labeled wind gen connected to nothing!

Fortunately our boat had a pretty good electrical setup, so nothing major was required – but on a 32 year old boat there are always minor improvements to be made.

Detective Work

One thing I discovered I like about electrical work is it’s like being a detective – there are lots of little mysteries to work out. Electrical wiring is like the cardiac system of your boats – lots of arteries and veins leading everywhere and serving useful functions – or serving no function at all! One of the surprises was how many old wires had been left in place after boat hardware was removed.

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The First Year: Projects Done

This Valentine’s Day will be the 1 year anniversary of delivering our boat (from Vancouver to Seattle).

It’s amazing how far we’ve come in a year.

A year ago, I didn’t know how to change engine oil, how to crimp electrical wires, how to epoxy pot or how to use sealants, and didn’t know that drill + tapping was even a thing.

A year ago, we were spending most of our project time battling mildew and mold (just a mild case, but still a lot of work), doing lots of cleaning, replacing head plumbing clogged by petrified poop, and triaging only the most essential safety projects / upgrades needed for our summer cruise. Continue reading

Rebedding on a C&C Landfall 38

With day after day of rain lately, thoughts turn towards preventing that water from ruining wood coring. Almost all boats have it, and most boats have at least a couple leaks. If I had known all the locations of coring on the C&C Landfall 38 (LF38) upon purchase I would’ve resealed penetrations in those areas much earlier.

But as far as I know there are no online resources which map out every single cored location, and even the knowledgeable long-time C&C owners on the mailing list didn’t have a conclusive list of cored locations. The C&C builders schematics (deck plan, sail plan, cabin plan) – which I have from a prior owner purchasing – don’t document coring locations.

Now after a year I feel I know most of the cored locations, and will document them here for other’s use. This isn’t a complete list however, as there are probably still a few I haven’t found. Reader Warning: This post is a bit technical, and I’m going to assume you have already read a couple books / articles on coring and hardware rebedding (Maine Sail / Compass Marine’s excellent articles, Don Casey’s book).

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Crevice corrosion on one of the bolts for the backstay chainplate. Leaks can destroy your boat’s hardware and rigging – a good reason to catch it before that happens!

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How to Get Stainless Steel Rigging Parts Fabricated

The hardest part of boat repairs is often just finding the part you need. A lot of parts aren’t exactly sold on Amazon.com with 2-day Prime delivery. For the more unusual parts, for old diesel engines or custom rigging, local and online marine stores may simply not carry it.

When I discovered this crack in the link plate connecting my forestay to the boat, I knew it was time for replacement:

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In fact I was already working on replacing this – a rigger hired for the rig survey last spring had recommended replacement with a stronger piece, and I agreed it was definitely the weak link in the forestay.

Spoiler Alert: In the end, I don’t end up getting the part fabricated.

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How to Recondition a Diesel Pot-style Cabin Heater

In order to cruise year-round in the Northwest, cabin heat is essential. On cold, wet days you don’t want to be shivering at anchor while the temperature drops to 35 F. So around October, repairing the Sig Marine diesel heater that came with our boat became a #1 priority.

Working on a diesel heater was scary to me though – these heaters involve setting a fire inside your boat! Fire is usually the last thing you want on a boat. But, as I learned more about it I gained confidence. It was a bigger project than expected though.

On a club meetup at Port Orchard last month with the Puget Sound Cruising Club, we were on 3 or 4 other boats in 30 degree weather that had nice, calm burning diesel heaters keeping their boat nice and toasty. This was a stark contrast to our heater which had flared up into an angry inferno a couple weeks ago. Getting the fuel and air mixture right on a heater that hasn’t been used in a number of years is more difficult than it seems.

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Projects, Projects and More Projects

I have never changed oil in my life, even though I’m almost in my mid 30s. That probably makes me a disgrace to Tim Allen types, considering I grew up watching Home Improvement.

I remember my dad changing his car oil all the time in the 80’s and even 90’s. I think many people from my parent’s generation learned to change oil as a rite of passage to adulthood; but few people of my generation (Gen Y / Millennials) did. We’ve had no reason to, because quick-lube car shops change oil for $30, and that includes the oil! Considering the oil and filter probably costs at least $15-20 at non-wholesale prices, and you’d need to lay down some cash for tools, changing your own oil makes little sense unless you’re doing it just because you enjoy it.

A deck fill port after epoxy sealing the balsa core

A deck fill port after epoxy sealing the balsa core

But now that I have a boat (and no car), changing the oil myself makes sense. There are few engine mechanics that work on small engines in tight boat spaces, and they don’t do it for anywhere near $30. Plus working on the engine builds valuable familiarity with your engine that will come in handy if it ever breaks down in a remote place or at an inconvenient time.

Coolant stored in a water jug

Coolant stored in a water jug

With boat projects I’ve learned to double or quadruple however much time people online say it takes. Since I’m learning every step of the way, changing the engine coolant took 4 hours where most people would probably say it takes them an hour.

There are always unexpected challenges:

  • How to drain out all the coolant when changing engine coolant. Only 3L of 4.9L came out of the lower heat exchanger drain plug. My engine didn’t have a drain plug on the engine block, and I couldn’t figure out a way to get the old coolant out of the hot water heater lines.
  • Epoxy potting deck thrubolt holes (a technique described by Don Casey and MaineSail / Compass Marine). When the deck coring is marine plywood, I’ve found Dremeling it back to be very difficult – bordering on impossible. The plywood was just so tough that my Dremel routing bit (#654) barely made a dent.
  • When running new bilge hose, the job ballooned when I realized I needed to take up a floor board which required unscrewing the steel guard rail in the galley, then had to clean all the nastiness under that floorboard, and discovered an old broken section of drainage hose (for the hot water heater) that had been cut short but never removed.
This is why you always check your raw water impeller after buying a boat - broken vane!

This is why you always check your raw water impeller after buying a boat – broken vane!

Since I’m a type-A engineer, I keep notes and logs of all the projects. A year from now it’s useful to know when something was done or how, or if nothing else it’s a way to remember how much I’ve done.

I’m not sure if readers of this blog like hearing about projects (I know my non-sailing friends + family are more interested in photos of cruises), but hopefully other boaters doing projects will find something useful here.

The old rotted wooden base of the heater deck exhaust

The old rotted wooden base of the heater deck exhaust

The finished teak cap plate

The finished teak cap plate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frayed spinnaker halyard - glad I replaced this!

Frayed spinnaker halyard – glad I replaced this!

Here’s a sampling of recent projects:

  • Installed a Raymarine i70 for speed readings, to replace the old broken Datamarine speed instrument.
  • Replaced 2 engine mounts.
  • Rebuilt manual bilge pump and replaced bilge hose which had a hole in it.
  • Rebedded deck fill ports.
  • Removed and rebuilt the wooden base for the diesel cabin heater deck cap (exhaust).
  • Rebedded two U-bolts and two deck-to-bulkhead tie downs.
  • Installed a longer hose length between the raw water filter and raw water pump. The pump needs to be removed from the engine to inspect the impeller, so a longer hose allows me to move the pump into an area where it’s easier to access.
  • Replaced all halyards with new line.

These projects sound like a lot of work – and they are – but I actually don’t look at it as work, since I enjoy it – I’m learning new skills and making the boat better in the process.

An old engine mount

An old engine mount

Rebedding U-bolts with butyl tape

Rebedding U-bolts with butyl tape

The duck bill valve from the manual bilge pump - pretty disintegrated

The duck bill valve from the manual bilge pump – pretty disintegrated

Old bilge hose - getting this out didn't take too long (because I could cut it), but getting the new one in took way longer than expected

Old bilge hose – getting this out didn’t take too long (because I could cut it), but getting the new one in took way longer than expected