Monday, June 30, 2008

Minor Setbacks


On the drive out to the boat I started hearing a new squeak from under my mobile workshop. Turns out the parts that connect the frame to the rear axle had completely broken off on one side and nearly broken through on the other. New parts on order but it will probably be a week with the upcoming holiday and all.

All part of the process. Life is what happens when you are making other plans.

Stay tuned for another update in about a week. :-(

Friday, June 27, 2008

Life, and other annoyances...

I got a lot more done on the boat before I had a life.

Since I have been roundly accused of making too many excuses I thought I should defend my position with a few more.

1.) Hot, humid, random thunderstorms popping up every day.

2.) A family member who continues to play the "I'm injured" sympathy card.

3.) Taking care of my girfriend who has been taking better care of me than I have her of late.

4.) A long lost friend living in China is back and I have been trying to catch up.

5.) A day of sailing on another Triton. This was extremely instructive. Knowing that this Triton faced similar daunting issues with a hull and deck paint job, I took a few discreet opportunities to inspect the finish job. With my intimate familiarity with all the tough curves and crevices I knew just where to look. I have been on this boat several times now and have always admired the finish cosmetics. With my new found knowledge of what the job actually entails I was able to compare the current state of my boat with a boat of known good finish. Happily, I can report that my boat is on par and well on its way to an acceptable finish. When you stare closely at any boat you will find minor defects and my boat is no exception. The fact that this other Triton turned out so well was very gratifying to see. The sailing was great too. Even the company I found amusing.

I did get something accomplished this week. The rain highlighted a problem I had with simply draping a new large tarp over the whole boat. The cockpit was filling up creating a large bathtub with several hundred pounds of water inside threatening the tarp. I built a short 'A' frame and ridgepole that just covers the cockpit and keeps the rain flowing off instead of in.

I grabbed a chance betwen rain showers to cut out and fit plywood panels that will close off the rear of the cabin. I was working too quick between the rain to take pictures but I will show before and after shots before I am done. I took the small panels home and, as is my usual process for hidden panels, gave them a liberal dose of boiled linseed oil and a coat of bilgekote on the exposed surfaces. I will probably put a second coat of bilgekote paint on the panels but these are simple fir plywood panels and are nearly impossible to keep the grain from showing through the paint. Not really an issue since they will only be seen if you stick your head under the cockpit through the access hatches. I am more conerned with protecting the surfaces from water and other contact with non-friendly chemicals. The white also tends to make the whole area brighter by reflecting the light around better. White always looks a little cleaner too.

A brief chat with the painter suggested sooner was better than later so I am going to sort out the boat transport soon. With my current rate of progress I am worried about setting a deadline but I need to get this project moving and done. All I really need is one day of decent painting weather. Hopefully, I won't have to wait until the fall to get it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Devil in the details

They were still working on that boat next door (why are boatyard mechanics so S.L.O.W....) I also wasn't too excited about the weather so I put off priming. There is still plenty of other things to do.

The devil is in the details.

This little edge that goes around the outside of my deck has proven to be too much fun. Naturally, it has to be hand sanded. This burns though a lot of paper fast and in fact actually burns your fingertips if you work for more than 4-5 seconds at a time. Note to self: Next time I won't be sloppy and just goop the primer in there thinking it will self level. It didn't and the primer was uneven. The high spots plugged up the sandpaper quickly and working the high spot aggresively usually made me cut into the adjacent low spot. Cutting the drips with a sharp chisel helped. Next time I will prime more carefully. I was using a brush in the corner and the brush was putting it on a bit thick. I might have done better with practice but this little lip was the last thing I primed after covering everything else with a roller. Next time I will be more careful. Because there is an awful lot of this little lip to hand sand...

All the nooks and crannies are done. Now I just need a good cleaning and some decent weather. I am hoping the quart of white primer I have left is going to be enough. I am going broke over paint supplies.

This is a week's worth of sandpaper. All good high quality and expensive stuff.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Beautiful, clear, sunny day. Temperature in the 70,s. No wind. Low humidity. Perfect priming conditions.

Today, the yard crew has belatedly decided to start de-winterizing a boat six feet away from mine. Just when I thought that boat was going to sit idle for the summer. I just can't don my respirator, crack open a can of toxic Awl-Grip and gas the guys out. Out of everyone in the yard, the yard boys are not the ones to piss off.

I will try again tomorrow.

Once again, the lesson is: Major boat projects need enclosed shelters, preferably within walking distance of the tool and supply sheds. Any other way means to wait and delay an awful lot.

I vented my frustrations on the starboard side shelf in the saloon. I had decided it had to go last fall. The port shelf had been removed early in the 'redesign' process a few years ago. Today was the perfect day to wack it with a big hammer until it broke lose (Along with my cheap wood chisel that I use for cutting through tabbing). I think it was laying on my back on the settee and kicking it that finally knocked it free. While I was at it, I cut back the tabbed in piece that formed the starboard front of the galley counter. I figured there was no point in limiting my future design options by working around it. I feel slightly better now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

One more time

Okay, one more time and then I am moving on. I am sick and tired of sanding the cabin top, cockpit, and decks. I am reaching the point of 'achievable perfection'.

Hand sanding with 220 grit still took some primer off the edges and it was still a little thin to begin with anyway. I am going to prime one more time to fill in some remaining areas and go over the corners again. Then I am going to retire the 220 and hand sand with 320 only. Whatever I am left with is what I am going with. I have had enough fun. A contributing impediment to a smooth solid surface has been the brightness of sun on the white primer. Between the extreme brightness under the direct sun, and the inevitable shadows from me and the structure, keeping a close eye on what I am doing is tricky. At this point a single extra hand swipe is enough to go too far. I do what I can by feel and sight but there are limits to what I can do apparently.

I still need to go over the decks and cockpit well. I was run out by impending thunderstorms. The decks should be quick as I am going to machine sand them. They will have non-skid on them anyway so the primer is not critical. I just need to make sure the edges are looking nice. I did manage to do the outer edges. Of course the toerail is going to cover most of it so it isn't very critical either. The drips on the hull are fixed too. The weather just might be nice enough to prime the hull tomorrow. I expect one coat of the gray to do it.

Yesterday, I managed to get some insulation under the galley area. I would have put in the bottom panels but priming takes priority over everything else at the moment. I am going to be glad to put that sanding block down.

Another day another few inches forward...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Closing in

Closing in on the finish

- of the priming at least.

The wind has continued to blow which limited my painting options. Yesterday, was the only near windless day and I was able to put a coat on the decks and cabin top. The lack of wind really helped the primer lay down flat and I had a LOT less roller stiple than my first attempt at priming with wind. There is still some dark spots on the edges so the edges are not quite done. I had to remove all the gel-coat earlier and the underlying resin is quite dark. In addition, it is tricky to sand the round edges smooth enough without 'point loading' the sandpaper and cutting too deeply. I am going to carefully try to hand sand and prime just the dark spots. At the same time I will prime the last areas left unprimed- the non-skid portions of the cockpit.

The deck and cabin top only have a single application of primer and you can see through it but priming really wasn't necessary to begin with. I just wanted to protect the surface from the sunlight. I have been worrying about the raw fiberglass exposed to UV radiation when the tarp is off but now that is a non-issue.

My plan yesterday was to do the deck and hull but I had a few drips when I rolled on primer along the outer edges of the deck and I couldn't clean them up properly while they were still wet. Not wanting to create more work for myself later I decided to postpone the gray primer on the hull for another day.

That was just as well because when I went home for lunch I was asked to take a family member to the doctor's and that resulted in an afternoon of doctors, hospitals, more doctors, waiting rooms, more driving, and finally getting a restaurant meal in exchange for my efforts.

Any progress is progress.

I applied the first little bit of varnish to my boat. I got tired of looking at my sad little stemhead 'breasthook' piece of teak so I varnished it along with the teak trim around the forward hatch. It gives a taste of things to come I think.

Today, I had some plans (too much wind for priming and rain is coming this afternoon) but when I got to the boatyard I found my supplies of colloidial silica were quite low and the shop I can usually rely on has stopped opening on Saturdays. I have been trying to reduce my level of inventory since my housing situation is becoming more uncertain and I don't want to get stuck moving a bunch of supplies or having to rent additional storage to handle it. Boat work needs lots of storage space and inventory. I could do some piddly projects on the boat but I decided to clean up my act around the home instead.

It is getting there...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Cooler. and windy. Tomorrow I will get up extra early before the wind wakes up. I promise.

Once upon a time this boat actually sailed.

No, the hull never looked that good. It is just the lighting.


By the way, I keep meaning to mention it. These foam sanding blocks are the best thing ever for hours (and hours and hours) of hand sanding. Buy a roll of matching adhesive paper and you are all set for weeks of fun. Jamestown distributors has them. I am sure other places have them too.

The grip is comfortable. When your hand cramps you can reverse your grip on the handle and it is equally comfortable the other way and uses different muscles so the cramping muscles can rest while you continue sanding. The foam material is tough yet flexible and works itself around corners helping you to keep from burning through on the edges. Highly recomended.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Sweating it out

95+ degrees and 90% humidity. Definitely not priming weather. Not really sanding weather either.

The cabin and cockpit well is machine sanded. I need to go back and hand sand the corners. Today I got chased out by thunderstorms. I can only manage a few hours a day in the heat anyway. After a while my sweat starts running faster than I can clear off my sunglasses and working without sunglasses leaves me blind. The respirator also starts filling up with sweat and dripping icky stuff all over my clean white deck. And then there is the onset of heat stroke symptoms. Cooler temps are expected in a couple of days.

The deck is 95% covered. I think one more coat will be needed before I am happy with it. I should have done the outer edges when I did the cabin top so now I still need to do that. The hull is just waiting for better temperature/humidity conditions before putting on some gray primer. I am expecting/hoping that my priming technique has improved and I won't have to machine sand again. Just in case I bought some more sandpaper but I think I am down to the handsanding only phase. I have used a full 50 pack of 220 grit sandpaper on this latest round of sanding.

A buddy of mine is having some mooring troubles and since I won't be in this year he asked if he could borrow my anchor temporarily. "Sure, no problem, here is my 33lb Genuine Bruce and 30 feet of 3/8" BBB chain." "What's the problem anyway?"... Seems there is a vigilante lobsterboat/clammer running down the channel cutting people's mooring pendants. I am going to cry if I lose my Bruce.

Oh well, at least I got a free lunch out of the deal.

Time for a cold shower.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Rainy Daze

The third day of steady rain. Tomorrow's forecast is slightly better but not much. The day after the temperatures are supposed to shoot up into the 90's with high humidity so I might not be getting that final coat of primer on as soon as I would like. So close and yet so far.

I have consoled myself with some boat shopping, visiting with other crazy boat re-builders, and cleaning up my opening ports.

The more I look at these ports the more I think about simply replacing them with shiny new ones.

As you can see the ports were sealed in with silicone. I hate silicone. When it sticks, it sticks too well. Note the chunks of gelcoat that came off with the port requiring some repair work on the cabin. When silicone lets go, it does it without reason and then you have leaks. To really rub it in, if it is not fully removed (and believe me it sticks tenaciously sometimes) it will mess up your topcoat/paint applications for a hundred years. You can't sand it out. Sandpaper just grinds it into the substrate. I hate the stuff. If it worked better I could live with it but it isn't clearly better than other options so I won't use it. Pearson treated it like a miracle product, and it probably was in the 1960's, and used it extensively everywhere. I have spent lots of time trying to erradicate the evil stuff.

In some places there was an awful lot of silicone in what must have been some pretty big gaps.

The little frames that go on the outside and hold the port were well stuck on too. Note the chunks of gel-coat again. Also note that the frames, being quite thin, and being more than a little corroded, got pretty bent up on removal. Two of the frames were cracked clear through and I will have to replace them. Being an aircraft mechanic by trade I am pretty comfortable working with aluminum and I have the tools to do so but I really have to wonder if aluminum is the right material to use in a marine environment.

I found quite a bit of pitting on the retaining frames. The deep scratch marks are from the original manufacturer. I didn't cause that with my brass wire wheel or gasket scraper. Hardly quality manufacturing practices here.

Finished. Bright and shiny but will I keep them?

The seals are very hard and I am scared to pry them out for fear of causing more damage. A couple of the dogs that lock the ports shut are frozen and don't work (lucky for me there are two per port and at least one is working on all of them). One of the forward facing ports is cracked through the glass several times. It doesn't leak but it doesn't look great. These ports seemed okay when they came out but installed on my freshly painted cabin top I am not sure they will come up to my 'standards'. I don't know. New ports are expensive and hard to find in the original size and shape. I really don't want to change the look either. Going to a more common and cheaper rectangular shape or a larger oval shape won't work for me. Its a Triton, maybe I have to live with it for now and replace them when the money situation gets better. Maybe something will show up on Ebay.

Okay, time to watch the rain fall some more. I wonder what is happening in the soap opera world these days?...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Going Blind

When I was figuring out how much primer to order it made sense to get one color for the hull and deck and since neither would require that much and the whole boat, hull and deck, could be done with a gallon of primer and a gallon of catalyst. That thinking was short sighted.

As it turns out, trying to sand a white hull perfectly smooth under a bright sun is quite painful on the eyes. Torturous really. I finally went home for my dark safety glasses and half face respirator which made things easier. Not good but easier. And to rub it in, because the first coat went on a bit rough (from too much wind I am sure) I had to sand quite a bit off. Between the heavy sanding and the light color I have a few of the dark fairing spots coming through faintly. The only solution is more primer. I ordered a quart of gray primer today...

The 545 primer actually sands quite well. Much better than the high build after 24 hours. Because it was so rough though I tried hand sanding and found it too slow and switch to my palm sander. That took most of it down on the hull in about 3 hours. To be safe I skimmed over the low spots so as not to burn through. I went back over the whole hull by hand. It seemed to be going quite well but I found the sun going down and my arms aching as I was finishing up. The hull is smooth sanded with 220 grit. I would show pictures but it looks just the same; only much much smoother and slightly duller.

At this point my boat is starting to look better than some other boats in the yard and an interesting thing is starting to happen. Random people are starting to come up to me and say nice things. These same people have avoided me, shaking their heads and laughing, for the last couple of years and now they are all smiles and being friendly. It is taking some getting used to.

The hull is really really smooth. One issue I had was that a single wipe with the sandpaper was covering up any visual signs of roughness. Between that and my growing blindness I found my hands to be much better indicators for finding spots that need more sanding. I bet tomorrow I will go back and find lots more to do after the wind has blown away the dust. The hull is so smooth that a minute amount of dust is hiding the rough patches. I think that means I am getting close.

I have to say that this whole experience has given me a whole new view of my boat and an intimacy with her design. The subtle hull curves are burned into my mind (and my aching arms) in a way that no book learning could ever do. I have a new found appreciation for the designer, Carl Alberg, and the masterful subtle shapes incorporated into my boat. I also have a new perspective on the builders and some of the odd shapes they put into the hull as part of the manufacturing process. Who knew a Triton had tumblehome on the stern? Did Carl draw in that little bit of flair right at the deck height or was that a Pearson mold issue? I know Carl hollowed out the bow a bit. I can see it in his drawings. He doesn't seem to have done it with his other boats so maybe it was an experiment that didn't pan out particularly well. I could go on and on...

Finally, this whole experience has been teaching me something else too. It would have been cheaper and easier to pay a professional. Of course I would never know that until I had done it myself but when I factor my hours and the cost of materials it is clear that paying someone $10,000 would have been faster and less costly. Maybe my labor was free but I could have worked a second job at McDonalds for the money and have been done sooner and with less hassle. Now if I had an indoor shop and spray equipment that would be another story. That is what the pro's use and that is why they can make money at it. No regrets though. I am learning tons and I never would have understood the true costs of the job until I had done it myself. There is also the pride in seeing it come together which is really priceless. All in all, I am quite happy, I just say this little bit in case someone is thinking they can save money by doing it themselves. They won't unless they cut corners and settle for a less-than-stellar job. They will gain knowledge that simply can't be obtained any other way though. There is nothing like hours and hours behind a sander to learn from...

Now I am late for dinner.