Monday, September 25, 2023

Too Many Holes

I don't like boat holes, especially the ones below the waterline.  I'm not particularly good about servicing seacocks and as a result, I have had a number of them sieze up on me over the years.  The Marelon plastic seacocks are a bit better than bronze because they don't corrode and generally don't need much in the way of servicing so I appreciate that the new seacocks for the boat are Forespar Marelon, but I still don't like the idea of so many holes below the waterline.  

When I was looking at the boat before purchase I was struck by how many below the waterline openings there were.  My last 35' boat originally had 5 seacocks and I reduced that to 3 after the refit.  I was able to eliminate 2 because I switched to a composting head.  Velorum, on the other hand had 6 seacock openings (no seacocks are currently installed) and 2 instrument holes and it looked like swiss cheese.

After identifying what each hole was for, I determined that I didn't need one of the 1.5" seacocks up under the v-berth.  This particular hole was intended for a holding tank offshore discharge via a macerator pump and I just don't plan on dumping the tank offshore and will rely on either direct discharge if offshore or use a pumpout facility (boats and shoreside pumpouts are available in most harbors on the east coast these days).  I'll go into detail about the sanitation system later this year (I hope to get to it this year). 

Exposed balsa, not good
Another problem I found with this particular seacock was that it was the only through hull (above or below the waterline) that went through balsa core.  Hinterholler Yachts were pioneers in balsa cored hulls and they took great care with through hulls and made sure they went through solid glass. The one I'm eliminating was probably not a factory install because it goes right through balsa and it was not isolated with epoxy.  The only thing keeping the water out was a thin coating of sealant.  Fortunately, the core wasn't damaged, but that had to go.

Closing up a through hull is pretty straight forward when it's solid glass, but it gets a little more complicated with a balsa core.  The first thing that has to be done is to get rid of the core surrounding the opening.  I used a combination of an oscillating saw and a drill with a an allen key in the chuck to dig out the core between the outside and inside layers of glass.  Once that's complete the process follows what one does when closing up a through hull on a solid glass hull (12:1 bevel) except the bevel only goes as deep as the outer sking (in this case about 3/16") and the hollowed out core is filled with thickened epoxy before the outer skin is reapplied.

I cut out 4 layers of 1708 biaxial fiberglass and mixed up a small batch of laminating epoxy and layed them into the beveled recess where the hole once was and covered it with release plastic sheeting and painters tape to keep it in place until it cured.  Finally, I applied a thin layer of fairing compound to get a smooth surface after sanding.  Probably easier explained in photos below, but it's done now and time to move on to painting under the v-berth (where the through hull was located).

Core removed and bevel complete

Core filled with thickened epoxy

A layer of biaxial glass applied over the filled hole on the inside

4 layers of biaxial fabric
Fairing compound added

Faired and ready to go

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Refit Begins

Chillin under the cockpit
Let me first say that I have no illusions of getting Velorum in the water next spring (2024).  I've done enough boat work in the past to be realistic in my estimates.  Things happen and life gets in the way.  My Alberg 35 was out of the water for 5 years when I refit her from 2009 - 2014, but the nature of that work was dramtically different (Alberg 35 Refit).  The Alberg was among other things, a structural refit and required me re-coring ALL the decks.  I cannot begin to describe how terrible it is to do that kind of work.  It consists of long hours on your hands and knees grinding and sanding a cloud of toxic dust and I would never, ever do it again.  

With that said, this refit will have it's share of annoying work, but structurally the boat is sound and most of the jobs (except for the first few) will be fun engineering puzzles.  From scratch system installs are one of my favorite things to do; it involves a lot of thought, design, and research up front and once it all falls into place in my head, the implementation is fun.  Ultimately, if done right, I will be left with nothing to complain about and I know who to find if/when I do have complaints.

As far as a timeline goes, I'm hoping I can do all of this in the next 18 months and re-launch in the spring or summer of 2025, but don't hold me to that.  Because of Northern New England winters, working on an unheated boat between December and March is basically untenable so I've set some seasonal goals for the near term and adjust as neccesary.  

So, for the next 2 months (Fall 2023), I hope to accomplish the following (in general order):

  1. Paint bilges under cockpit.
  2. Install above waterline scupper, cockpit and propane through hull fittings with new hoses.
  3. Close up unused seacock. There were 2 - 1.5" head discharge lines, 1 for direct discharge and 1 for holding tank discharge.  I'm removing the holding tank discharge because I plan on only holding tank exit to be via on-deck pumpout.
  4. Paint bilges under v-berth.
  5. Re-enforce engine mounts with additional layers of glass.
  6. Paint engine room compartment.
  7. Install raw water intake seacock.
  8. Paint bilges in main cabin.
  9. Install remaining seacocks.
  10. Design and install marine head, holding tank, and associated plumbing.
It's a fairly ambitious list, but I've already started on items 1 and 2 and should have those finished up by weeks end.  

A clean bilge is a happy bilge!
Although painting bilges is not high on my list of fun things to do, Velorum came to me with clean, pre-sanded bilges with no oils or grease to contend with, so it was just a matter of cracking a can of TotalBilge and getting to work.  Compared to my Alberg, getting into the lazarettes is a comparative breeze and access is generally easy (especially with the engine out).  I cut all the trim with a brush and then rolled it out with the 6" hotdog style rollers to cover the bulk of the area.  Despite having to use a full face respirator, I like working with TotalBilge Epoxy Paint becuase it is thick and covers lumpy mat glass extremely well. 

Thanks Steve!
I gave that a day to dry and then moved onto installing the deck and cockpit scupper through hulls.  The previous owner did all the hard work of machining backing blocks out of G10 board for every through hull and deck fitting, so all I have to do is find the correct one (they are labeled) and glue them into place along with the through hull fitting. It almost feels like I'm cheating.  I could have epoxied the backing plates into place first, but for the extra work required (for little benefit) it wasn't worth it to me.  Instead I used 3M 5200 (slow cure).  It's rated for above and below waterline through hulls and is much faster than using epoxy.  All told it took me about 3 hours to get the 5 through hulls (2 scupper drains, 2 deck drains, 1 propane drain) installed over 2 days time.  Now I just have to wait until the 5200 fully cures and I'll get the hoses installed and finish up a few spots of bilge painting I missed on the first round.

Propane and cockpt drains and backing plates
Keeping some of the goop off the hull
Oooh, Shiny!

Monday, September 18, 2023

On The Move

Lots to do!
The end of August brought about a whirlwind of sorting, packing, repacking, and storing all the equipment I had picked up from the seller's home.  It was a lot.  I rented a storage unit for a month so I could organize everything and pack them in storage totes that I could bring home and store in the attic of my shop until needed.  Along with that, I secured transportation to get the boat hauled from Great Bay Marine in Newington NH, to my neighbor's dairy farm about a half mile from my house in Canterbury. 

The farm is the perfect spot for the boat with a nice flat area with no trees around it, complete with power and farm equipment that could eventually be used to help get the engine back in the boat.  The owner actually seemed excited when I asked him if I could store the boat there.  His grandfather was a cruise ship captain and he always loved the sea.  Once the boat arrived, he told his kids that he was selling the farm and was going to go sailing off into the sunset (they quickly found out that it was a joke).

The weekend before the move, I went out to Great Bay Marine with my wife and son to start getting the boat ready for transport.  This was a big task because the boat had been covered for several years with 25'x40' tarps and a steel tubing frame.  The big job was to get the boat uncovered and mark and dismantle the steel frame so I could reassemble it once the boat was moved. In addition to that, there was a bunch of equipment up on the deck under the cover that needed to be stored down below.  

We started by partially re-assembling the interior so we could move around a bit better when disassembling the frame.  This included reinstalling the galley peninsula and all the floorboards and cushions.  Once back together it was nice to see how the boat could look inside and I was really impressed with the quality and condition of the cushions and floorboards.

Looking like a yacht again
Once everything was cleared off the decks (including taking down the dodger), we started dismantling the cover and frame. All told there were 4 - 25'x40' heavy duty tarps covering the boat and they were in excellent (but unwieldy) condition. We folded and numbered each one as they came off the boat.  I had originally thought that once the boat was back home I would shrink wrap it, but considering how dry the boat was (zero water leaks) and the quality of the steel frame, I decided that it would be best to save some dollars and reassemble exactly what had been working for so long.
A quick note on the previous owner who had passed away. He was an incredible engineer who's acheivements among other things included desiging and building a vacuum pump on the Mars Curiosity Rover. It was apparent that he thought through every aspect of the rebuild and it was up to me to decipher his plan (in the many 3 ring binders of data he collected).  I have yet to find anything that he did that was half-assed and some of the solutions to problems he encountered (the steel frame for example) were actually brilliant.  With that said, we labeled every piece of the steel frame and then started dismantling and orgainzing it for reassembly.  Once it was all taken down, it was a pleasure to see how great the boat looked.  The Niagara 35s have that classic 'salty' look that I have always loved and is one of those boats that looks great from all angles.

The frame
After that we spent about 2 hours securing everything for the move and temporarily plumbing the deck and scupper drains in case it rained prior to me covering it again. It would be a crime to do all that work only to have a rainstorm (the norm in New England this summer) ruin the interior because the deck and scupper drains had no hoses and would just fill the cabin up with water.

It was a full days work, but I knew how much more was to come before I even began on the actual refit.  2 days later I showed up at Great Bay Marine again at 7:30AM to wait for Miles Marine to transport the boat to it's new home.  They arrived right on time and they got right to work and by 9:30 the boat was loaded and heading back to Canterbury.  I drove ahead and waited at the turnoff to Velorum's new home.  They made the move look easy and set the boat down right where I had planned and got it setup without a hitch.  

A new home (for a while).

Over the next few days I reassembled the frame and got the boat recovered and ready for the refit.  Normally, Northern New England has a few late summer days that are warm(ish), but each day I headed over at lunchtime it was 90+ degrees and the work was brutal.  The steel tubing was so hot I could barely hold it as I bolted it in place, but I got it done and before the rains hit so everything stayed dry.  After that I needed a few days to rest, knowing that the real work was just beginning.

It's a wrap!

Friday, September 15, 2023

Honey, I Accidentally Bought Another Boat

I thought I would never utter the phrase: "I just bought a big boat" again, but apparently I'm a sucker for pretty boats (and punishment).  I had sold my previous boat (an Alberg 35) after a 5 year rebuild followed by 3 years of trouble free sailing before I came to the realization that if my wife and I were to afford to help send our kids to college, something would have to go. Not having a big boat and all of the associated expenses would be a good place to start so I put Magic up for sale. I had always thought that maybe when I retired I would get another boat, but that all seemed very far off until earlier this summer.

It started back in July while I was recovering from surgery and on short term disability.  I was just sitting around and sick of watching Netflix so I decided I would pop onto Craigslist and see what boats were for sale (it's just something I do).  As I was scrolling through the list of sailboats in NH, I came upon a somewhat vague ad describing a 1986 Niagara 35 for sale in Newington with a few small pictures that appeared to be stock photos.  I don't remember the exact words, but it said something to the effect of: "looking for someone who can manage big projects".  I had always liked the design and salty looks of the Niagara so I decided I would reply to the listing to get a little more information and see if it was still for sale just to satisfy my curiosity.

The seller quickly responded that yes, it was still for sale and told me the following story:

My friend, Steve, died on December 1st. Incredibly sad. He and I were sailing partners for decades. He left the boat for me. He was a talented engineer, and had designed and built (with help from me) a 30' steel cutter, inspired by the Cape Dory 30 design. He retired 7 or 8 years ago, and saw the Niagara 35 for sale in Annapolis, went down, liked it, bought it, and had it trucked to Great Bay Marine, up river from Portsmouth, NH. There she sits. He was in the midst of a refit when he got sick, and work stopped. All systems are out of the boat, including the engine. He had dropped the keel, installed new keel bolts, resealed the keel to the hull and she is whole again. He had purchased over $40k worth of equipment for the boat, all of which is at his wife's home in Kittery. I had the boat surveyed in March, and it was a good report.

The seller sent along the survey that had been completed in March of 2023 and went on to say that I was free to go take a look and see what I thought. Since I was just sitting around on disability with nothing to do, I decided to take a ride out to the seacoast and have a look.  The survey hadn't turned up much to tell me to run away as fast as possible, but for the price he was asking, I figured it would be a total disaster anyway.

What I found was not what I expected.  The boat was well covered and after shimmying onto the boat through the stern I was surprised to see that the boat was actually in decent condition and everything was dry despite being on the hard for about 10 years.  All the systems except the electrical had been removed and there were brand new water, fuel, and waste tanks sitting on deck waiting to be installed.  All the cabin flooring was up on deck revealing bilges that were sanded and ready for new paint.  Another item of note was that the keel had been dropped and rebedded with GFlex epoxy along with new fasteners.  

So the boat was not a dog at all and structurally it was in good condition, just waiting for someone to come along and re-install everything.  I figured that this was the next insurmountable problem.  Sure, I could purchase a solid hull, but if all the equipment is junk then what's the point.  I don't think my wife would go for me spending a few years and $50k just to put the boat back together.  

I was getting sucked in though, and I got in touch with the seller again and asked if I could take a look at the equipment.  We arranged to meet a few days later and when he opened the garage door I couldn't believe what I saw.  Piles and piles of new in box pumps, chartplotters, radar, anchors, rigging, etc..  The sails were used, but in great shape and had been professionally cleaned and serviced.  The engine, a Westerbeke 27 was torn down, but the list of new OEM parts just for the engine added up to almost $8k.  

At this point, I had entirely forgotten that I had no intention of owning a new boat and started working on the logistics side of making it happen.  I won't go into details, but on August 27th I showed up to the seller's house in Maine with a 15 foot UHaul and a check.  2 hours later I was the proud owner of a huge pile of stuff. Oh, then there's the boat, but that comes later a bit later when the towing company could schedule a pickup.