Sunday, April 26, 2009

SS Doghouse

That should probably be the name for the boat. I am always blowing something or someone off in order to get work done on the boat thereby putting me squarely "in the doghouse'. It seems appropriate. This week, everyone was going down to my girlfriend's mother's place to celebrate her birthday. 'Mom', sat alone at home over the recent holidays so everyone was going to make it up to her. Apparently working on my boat is more important to me. Yep. Squarely in the doghouse this weekend.

On a more postive note, after a slow start, there was some progress of sorts.

I have been waiting for some warmer weather so that I could break out the epoxy. I didn't want to put holes in the cabin so the plan was to epoxy in the spice rack/ engine switch panel. Two weeks ago I prepped.

And last week started off with a huge cleanup. What a mess.

For more surface area and a cleaner installation I had a backing panel made and counter sunk screws to hold the actual rack in place. This way I could remove the rack if I need to.

Then I spent some time shopping for clamps and rummaging around for some scrap lumber to brace the panel in place while the epoxy set up. I had fears of coming back the next day only to have the panel hanging at some crazy angle and firmly cemented in cured epoxy.

A distant shot. I was planning on hanging a full paint can off the large 2x4 to press the panel into place.

Well, that was the plan at least. The closer to being ready I got the more uneasy I became about the whole installation. The final straw was the fact that it became clear just how unfair the cabin side really is. Even pushing quite hard on the back panel, I still had 3/16ths of an inch gap in places because the cabin face is curved so much. I knew there was some warpage. That's why I didn't prep the lower left hand corner. But it became more and more clear that the fit just wasn't very good. I can fill gaps with epoxy but this was a lot of gap and I was worried that this much oozing epoxy was going to come out in drips and make a permanent mess somewhere. In the end, I just didn't like it and resorted to the original installation. Bolts.

I was really, REALLY hoping to avoid displaying bolt heads on the outside cabin structure that I had spent hours and hours fairing, prepping, and painting. It wasn't to be.

Eventually, I will be running some lines back from the mast and I think I will hang the coils right over the bolts. All that prep and waiting for the temperature and in the end I went back and did the five minute installation.

With the panel in place I could finally go about finishing the engine wiring. That took a bit longer than I expected. I think whoever wired up the panel (moi) was a bit overly tired or something because some of the wires were mis-labeled. I started testing it all out and nothing was working right. In the end, I got it sorted. Its not 'finished' but it is reasonably close. I replaced the water temp probe and the oil pressure switch with units that match my new guages.

The old oil pressure guage was a direct reading guage. The new one is electrical and the sender was too big to fit in the original port. Luckily, I had some leftover fuel fittings from my previous installation and I was able to make it work. Someday I will revisit the installation and make it better. Someday. I ran wires from the senders back to the guages too.

I was going to put a switch in the alternator field circuit so that I could turn off the alternator when I wanted to. I did it more for future upgrades when I have a great big alternator and a depleted house battery bank loading it up. Right now I have a 35 amp alternator and it isn't really important. The problem is the alternator is internally regulated. I thought the extra wire coming out was for the field windings but now I am not so sure. For now I think I just want to hook the loose wire back up where it was before. I just don't know where that is. Any suggestions?

I also noticed that as soon as the alternator output is connected to the bus strip I get a connection to ground. That isn't supposed to happen. Diodes in the alternator are suppose to prevent it. On the other hand the alternator was working the last time I ran the engine so I don't really think the diodes have suddenly failed. My suspicion now is that I am seeing a path to ground through the field windings - however that works in an internally regulated alternator. I took the regulator part off but its all potted up and I can't see anything. I need to do some investigation. Except for the alternator and the battery ground cable end fittings, the electrical system is ready to go. I was expecting the rewire job to take one or two weekends. I have no idea how it dragged on so long.

This is a ten inch cleat -one of a pair I picked up somewhere a long time ago. I was going to use them on the stern and then I started thinking they was too big. In this picture it doesn't look too bad though. Some extra size could be good when everyone dinghies over for cocktails.

The first application of varnish this year. A sealer coat on the engine instrument panel frame.

With a little luck, the tarp will come off next weekend and I can start varnishing my naked toerails. They are crying for some coverage. They look okay but they are wimpering. I can hear them.

For the tarp to come off I am going to have to install the two remaining opening ports. They need some backup fillers and I finished coating them in epoxy today.

That's about it. I also worked a bit on 'Other people's boats'. It hurts me to do it but it will hopefully cover part of the costs of my super expensive, not very acceptable mooring this summer. Any mooring is better than none at this point though. I have mixed feelings about being moored in the Merrimac river. Its close and convenient but its got a wicked current right where I am and the sailing options are limited. Oh, and I have to get a bridge opening to get to open water. Oh well, its a floating dock so that will help with the on-the-water varnishing and general-finish-up program I expect to initiate soon.

I measured my transmission shift fitting: The slot is 1-1/2 inches by 3/8 inches. The outer diameter is 3-1/8 inches and the inner diameter is 1-1/2 inches. Someone offered to root around for a lever that will fit so I am posting the dimensions in the slim chance I won't have to manufacture my own shift lever.

I epoxied in the blocks that the shift cables will anchor too. The picture of the throttle cable didn't come out well. Here is the transmission shift cable mount block. The cable is actually pinning the block in place until the epoxy sets up. Exciting stuff. 3/4 inch tapered okoume marine plywood blocks in a thick bed of epoxy...

Finally, the temps went from too cold too quite hot overnight. I was roasting inside. I opened up the ends of the tarp for the first time this year and let my decks get their first taste of daylight this season.

And that's it. I have a list of stuff to order for next few weeks. I am thinking opening ports, deck drains, engine exhaust and if I am lucky some varnish for next weekend.

Em tasol wantoks.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mired in details

The closer I get, the longer it takes to complete a task. All the little details start getting in the way of my 'big picture' idea in my head.

The real news this week is that I have secured a mooring for the summer season. Its a floating dock actually, and nearly straight across from where I will be launching the boat. If I can get the engine to run for two minutes I should have no problem. The real problem is going to be getting to the boat. There is a strong current in the river and it isn't possible to row at certain times. I really need an outboard powered dinghy. I have a 12 foot aluminum skiff but the marina rules limit the dinghies to 10 feet or less. I have a very nice little nutshell pram that is only 8 feet long but it won't take a motor. I have an almost new Honda 5hp outboard. I need to find a boat to match it with. If I had time I would build one. I really really don't have time.

The cockpit scuppers are permanently in place; well, done for now, I can remove them for maintenance.

The installation was a bit more fussy than I wanted. The countersunk holes for the drain fitting were actually cut square with a forstner bit. The whole area is a bit crooked so my idea was to use the sealant to smooth it all out and fill the gaps. I have used sealants where this was possible. This time I used Boatlife Lifecaulk, a white polysulfide, and it wasn't quite as simple as I had expected. Its okay. Not flawless or superb. To make matters worse, I realized at the last minute that I didn't have any cleanup rags on hand so I put a bathtowel into service that was being used to protect the cockpit sole. The bath towel kept shedding little blue bits that got stuck in the sealant. I may have to go back and touch it up. Polysulfides have a reputation of turning brown in the sunlight so I also have some 3M 101 polysulfide sealant that I was going to use as a personal test of which looses its whiteness soonest. I didn't use it today but I will on other deck hardware in the near future. Other sealants (like Sikaflex) I have been told don't darken but I wanted to limit the adhesive factor since these fittings will definitely be coming out when its time to replace hoses. I didn't want to tear up chunks of fiberglass when I do this. It happened to me when I was taking the boat apart and I wanted to try and minimize that possibility. The port side scupper was particularly difficult because the hose length is more critical. This is because the deadrise at the seacocks is considerably more on the port side than the starboard side. These boats are not in any way symmetrical. When I had first planned out the installation of the drains I practiced on the starboard side. Only later did I realize that the hose needs to bend more on the port side. Its okay. It works. It doesn't look as nice as the starboard side. Whew! - long boring paragraph.

I installed the fuel fill hose from the deck fitting to the fuel tank.

I seem to remember the Coast Guard or someone requiring two clamps on each end of the hose. I did it (using all stainless steel AWAB's of course- accept no substitutes) but I don't get the logic in it. No other fuel line in the boat has two clamps and they can and are actually more likely to leak than the fuel fill hose. Just in case, and to make everyone happy, I have two clamps on the top and bottom of the fuel fill hose.

The engine controls are installed in the cockpit well.

Except for the choke cable as it seems I forgot to bring the handle end with me and I want to think about its final location for a bit. I think the choke is going to have to go between the throttle and the fwd cockpit lid drain hole. I was planning on tucking it under the throttle but the house battery shelves are in the way. I thought about putting it close forward of the throttle but the exhaust runs right through here. I really was hoping to hide the choke handle a bit but that might not be possible. The good news is that it will be easy to operate from between the other two controls. The bad news is that an errant jib sheet might tear it off...

A view from behind the throttle.

I just need to epoxy in a block for the cable to clamp down to and then I can attach the throttle cable. I put a backing pad around the throttle lever just because. I don't really think it needs it but its there anyway. You can also see how crowded the area really is. Once the exhaust hose is re-connected there really isn't much room for the choke cable. The water injection hose is going to be re-routed soon which will help a bit. I have a leftover bronze vented loop fitting from the original head installation and I figured I would put it into the exhaust system as I don't have anything like it at the moment. The injection point is above the waterline but it helps the injection hose to run better, it can't hurt and is probably an improvement over the original installation.

Backside of the transmission shift lever.

I had cut out a backing pad and fitted it but at the last minute I realized that the pad interfered with the lever arm sliding all the way onto the shaft. So, no backing pad for the transmission shift lever fitting. I brought along a Southcoast winch handle to show the fitting ready to go but the handle didn't fit. I was hoping the same handles that I use for the winches would work for the transmission but its not to be. I am going to have to search out another winch handle and modify it to fit I think. I extended the length of the manual bilge pump backing pad down to the fuel tank and this will provide a good spot to anchor the transmission cable.

Speaking of the backing pad, I put a coat of epoxy on one side of the plywood backing pad, the opening port frames/fillers, and the head seacock trim pieces. I didn't take a picture and it really isn't very interesting to look at. They are in the cellar. I will do the other sides next week.

I had planning for a couple of years to get a pair of 1 inch deck drain scuppers directly from Spartan Marine. When I went to order them last week I found out that I couldn't order them online. About the same time, while I was ordering other stuff, I found out that Hamilton marine had a bronze deck scupper in their catalog so I added them to my order ($63 a piece). Well, they are a little bigger than I had envisioned.

They look nice but they might be a little big and they might be a pain to install nicely. That's a pretty large hole to bevel cleanly and I don't want to use sealant to fill the gaps like I tried with the cockpit scuppers. I held off on drilling the big holes for now and I will think about it this week.

And thats it. All the boatowners are coming out to the yard now and they all want to talk. Its a fine line between being polite and listening when I don't want to and being rude and walking away while they are still talking. I managed that balancing act with mixed results.

Nothing really great this weekend I guess but I am closer to the goal today than I was yesterday...

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Cold and rainy. Not good enough for sealants or epoxy.

I used part of the morning to hunt down a mooring. Why is it so hard to exhibit a little quality customer service at a marina? You would think the marinas were doing the boat owners some great favor by acknowledging their existence. I stopped into a couple of possible options but couldn't find anyone to talk to. I emailed a marina two weeks ago to inquire about mooring availability. They didn't feel like responding but they did add me to their email spam list :-(

Tomorrow is family day - Easter. My siblings don't recognize me, my mother can barely remember my name, my nieces and nephews run and hide behind their mother's skirts when they see me, and my girlfriend is feeling like a distant second to my boat. I really need to stop and re-aquaint myself with other humans in my life. Because tomorrow is shot... I mean, otherwise taken, I only had about a quality hour on the boat itself and a bit more back in the 'shop'.

Here are the engine controls set in place. The transmission shift control is aft, the throttle is forward. The transmission shift assembly accepts a ... what's that thingy called?... the lever that attaches to the rotating bits that wind up the sheets... its been a long week, sorry.

A view from behind the transmission shifter.

The wood is a filler and backing pad for the manual bilge pump installed by the P.O. I had forgotten that one was in there originally but trying to install the pump made it pretty clear, pretty quickly, that I needed something. Conveniently, the filler piece will also provide a good point to secure the cable end.

The hole in the aft end of the cockpit well for the access panel turned engine instrument panel wasn't very square so the frame didn't fit. I had to 'adjust' it a bit. Don't let anyone tell you they built these old boats too light.

With a few minutes of cutting with my saber saw I had the hole looking better and I laid in the frame to check.

Then I took the frame out to varnish.

When I got home I was going to epoxy coat the opening port fillers, the head seacock covers, and that filler block while I was at it.

And then I remembered I had the 5 gallon container of epoxy resin out at the boat to be ready the instant the weather warmed up a bit...


That concluded the work on the boat this week. Not as much as I wanted but better than a kick in the head.

Em tasol wantoks.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


...outside that is.

The wind was howling and with the tarp opened up so I could go in and out the cover sounded like it was on the verge of tearing loose all day. It didn't. But I thought it might.

Never as much progress as I would like but I did advance in a couple of areas this weekend.

I received the correct fittings and I was able to finish the fuel delivery system. Well almost. I left a spot for a disposable automotive type fuel filter to go just after the shutoff valve and just before the carburetor. A 'last chance' filter. I had to order a package of five fittings and this worked out well as I changed plans and used more than I thought I needed.

Fuel flows from the tank along the port side of the engine to the fuel filter (the elbow on the right as you look at the photo) and from the filter to the fuel pump and from the fuel pump to the valve and from the valve (soon) to the carburetor via the final filter. I also wired up the pump with an inline fuse holder.

And speaking of wiring,

I received the fittings to connect the battery. Almost. I tried drilling a hole for the ground wire but I was working in the blind and at a bad angle and decided to order a slightly longer cable for the ground wire and run it where I can get to it easier. This way I can have a yellow cable too which will keep with my color coordination too. I am using yellow for all 12v DC ground wires and leaving black wires for an optional AC neutral line later. I really only want AC wiring for boat projects and maintenance not for sitting at a dock and I am not sure a proper AC system is the way to go. That's a ways down the line anyway.

I wish I had left a bit more room around the battery for cabling. Short cables are nice and reduce system loss but they also make for difficult connections. A little more slack in the cables would have been nice and I think over this distance the 'loss' would have been acceptable.

With some trepidation I cut the hole in the cockpit well for the transmission shift lever.

I was going to install the shift lever, throttle lever and choke cable and have a nice picture to show for the weekend but I have been hemming and hawing about the need for backing plates on the levers. In the end I decided I had the material so I should use it. That didn't happen until this morning and now I don't have time to install and take a pretty picture. Soon.

I don't have a picture but I connected the choke cable to the engine. I received the choke cable from Hamilton marine this week and I have to say I was not very impressed. For $80 I thought the cable would be a little nicer. There isn't even an end fitting on the engine end and the wire shielding was rusty. I had it and I wanted to install it so I did. Not too impressed though. Hamilton usually does better by me.

G10 is great stuff but it is murder on the tools. That brand new drill bit is now toast. I finished the second cut but burning my way through and using a little practiced hammer action. I used up two saber saw blades cutting the outside shape too. G10 is great stuff though...

I was going to install the back panel for the engine instrument/spice rack but the molded wire channel got in the way. The only recourse was to remove it.

My flap wheel attachment on the angle grinder is a real workhorse.

What a mess.

What a mess.

I thought I was done with the messy part of interior work. If you thought some of my pictures looked a little dirty you won't like how the inside looks now. A dust bomb went off inside and everything is once again covered in white dust. Depressing.

I also sanded the fiberglass liner in preparation for glueing the backing panel in place. I was regretting not bringing along some 40 grit disks. It took seven 80 grit disks to remove the paint and gelcoat. I was going to take a picture but the dust in the air was horrible and un-picture-able. My full face respirator made it all workable but not viewable for others.

I mentioned my head seacocks last week. Here is the inlet for the toilet.

As you can see, the seacock is on a backing plate (marine plywood is so much nicer to make backing plates out of. Not as good. But much easier...) Foam insulation surrounds the backing plate and I have linoleum over it all. The cutout in the linoleum was difficult (for me) and a bit sloppy. The plan is to use cosmetic covers to neaten it all up.

Similar thing on the portholes in the head/hanging locker area. The inside liner is removed and the outside is too thin to clamp the ports too. Eventually, I plan on some type of headliner material here. For the moment, I have frames to make up the difference in thickness so that the ports seal tightly.

This and some work on other-peoples-boats rounded up this weekend. I feel like I am forgetting something. If I remember it I will add it in later.

Progress -Not as much as I would like- But progress.