Tag Archives: tech nitty-gritty

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.


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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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).


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:


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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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