Pylasteki is a 1961 Pearson Triton sailboat. She is one of my personal project boats... I am rebuilding her as a blue water cruiser.

Enjoy, if you have any questions or comments, drop me line:


Friday, December 19, 2008

Ever feel like the floor got yanked right out from under you?

Well... The weatherman lied... again. They told me bright sunny skies, 65 degree days and 55 degree nights. Prime epoxy working conditions... Or not.

Fog! Rain! Wind!

So... instead, I removed my sole.

Inside a boat, what you walk on is called the sole. Some boats have floors... which are supports that span from the top of the keel (the boats backbone) to the underside of the sole. Confused? Outside, what you walk on is the deck... unless you are standing in the cockpit (where you steer, lounge, and make big knots of line) then its the cockpit sole.

The sole on Pylasteki, flexed under foot, and was a little stinky. It extended all the way back to the engine stringers, and all the way up to the main bulkhead. This meant that when I overfilled the crankcase on the Atomic 4... it peed on my cabin sole. It also meant, that when in rough waters, and the oil was sloshing around in the engine... it'd pee on my cabin sole. To solve the "Oil on walking surfaces" problem, I put an absorbent rag under the starting battery… which meant that my boat was on the rag. That is just a tough connotation, as boats are demanding enough... (Grin)

*Atomic Fours do not have front main seals, instead they rely on being run on a steep incline so gravity drains the oil back into the oil pan. It also means the dipstick reads "wrong" there is no full... as that depends how they are sitting. Sitting pretty = leak no oil.

"While I was in there" I used my Multimaster to cut the fiberglass tabbing loose from the old engine stringers. (Still in serviceable condition, if any of you out in cyberspace need a stringer for an Atomic 4, I’ve got one.) I was not looking forward to this job, before the multimaster came into my life. Back in the old days, I would have had to bend a long sawzall bade sideways so it ate only the stringer and not the hull. A toothy bi-metallic arc... the more you try to influence its direction, the further off course it goes!

At the moment I'm thinking to go back with plywood and fiberglass, after dropping the height two inches. (Old Head room = Zach + shoes - 1/2 inch.) That way it'll be low enough to be provide headroom, and if I ever want to strip plank teak and holly or some other exotic wood... there will be room. I'll have to get over the "Lighter is faster" mantra, and realize that 7 miles an hour, is still slower than riding a bicycle. Sigh... once a gearhead, always a gearhead.

But before that… The Bilge! Front half is cleaned up as whatever sealant Pearson put in peels off easily leaving only slightly slimy laminate below.

No pictures - Forgot about them till I was heading home.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Deck Recore Continues!

The weatherman lied this week.

I was told by the magic box, that there would be no rain and 55 degree days and nights. Prime weather for epoxy during the time of the year where broke boat owners, have trouble working on their broke boats. So, I took a circular saw and angle grinder to Pylasteki. (Camera was out of batteries that day, so you'll have to imagine the funky super hydrated balsa wood...)

While I had the grinder out, I faired out some of the high spots in previous months glass work on the port side of the bow. The wind was blowing quite nicely, so I had the pleasure of standing up wind of the dust cloud! I use a flap disc on an angle grinder, to do most of my grinding and sanding. They last almost forever when working fiberglass, but take an artistic touch or your boat will disappear in the dust cloud.

Next, I pulled out a Fein Multimaster with the flat scraper and enjoyed easy removal of the good balsa strips. While it would probably be just fine to leave the firmly attached balsa in place, I figure that replacing everything with new end grain will yield a longer lasting and better quality repair.

If you are wondering what the big deal is about balsa wood: Well, it is used as a stiffener. If you want something stiff, you make it thicker. If you want something light... you make it thinner. If you want both stiff and light, you cut something in half and hold the two pieces as far apart as you can and let the height difference, and rigidity of whats doing the holding apart take over. If the two skins of fiberglass don't move relative to each other, they act like an I-beam. Stiff, light, and strong. Nevertheless, I haven't found the reason why the stuff smells like socks.

The way balsa wood soaks in a little resin... just like celery standing in a puddle of food coloring dyed water. (Probably the best use for celery...) When the resin cures, it has become one with the wood. So in order to get the well adhered, non-stinky balsa off the boat it takes patience, putty knives, chisels... Until the Multimaster was invented. Doing the work of twenty men, it vibrates quickly with a harmonic hum. Where it comes into its own, is that two inch wide ledge that has to be left to give something to fiberglass the top skin back down. Otherwise, one is stuck cleaning it out by hand, step by step... inch by inch...

I am impressed... with this spectacular piece of German engineering.

But all good days must come to pass, on the next:

It rained. I'd like to state for those thinking about boat projects... that filling the holes left by hardware bolted to the deck with caulk works to keep rainwater out. At least until, you've cut a 2 foot wide four foot long hole in the top skin of the deck. I woke up to rain drops pitter pattering against my window... Luckily there is plenty of work to be done, some of it even pays...

With the leaks mostly stopped, I decided to try out the saw on the Fein, and cut out the primary head bonker on Pylasteki. I've performed a partial bulkhead-ectomy on two of the semi-structural bulkheads. The partition between the head and hanging locker are largely removed. Mainly because my shoulders had a habit of getting stuck between them as I walked by. - Insert more deranged blathering here -

The Fein, allows you to flush cut by laying the blade against something smooth and remove anything that stands proud. If you click back to earlier pictures, you'll notice that my jig saw can't do that... and I was forever banging my head on the leftovers.

I like uninterrupted horizontal lines on boats. So the visual in the cabin suits me... it adds a lot of volume so she feels larger!

I had a few minutes, so I fired up the grinder. On previous sections I'd done my beveling after epoxying the top fiberglass skin down. So I've been curious if its any easier to grind the bevels before putting things back together. Fiberglass is like an ogre... err... an onion. It goes together in layers, and thankfully on my boat Pearson alternated between mat (kind of looks like a shag rug woven out of a hairball...) and cloth which has similar pattern to burlap, except it is smooth and less itchy. After resin has been added, and it has time to harden the consistency is that of a bowling ball. All that means, is that when I am grinding, distinct layers appear. I keep the bevel the same angle and width by keeping the layers evenly spaced.

The bevel is required so the new fiberglass does not just bridge the gap and build up a high spot. By grinding down to a knife edge (you can see through the edge!) there are no hard spots to bend and crack. The boat believes it is whole once more. I start with a wide piece of fiberglass and work to skinnier strips alternating corners until I've built up a thickness higher than the surrounding glass. I use biaxial fiberglass, which I cut into strips of various widths. The name changes to "tape" when you start talking about long strips. They sell premade tape by the roll, but cutting custom widths makes for less expense. Biaxial fiberglass has bundles of fibers running on 45 degree angles from each other, rather than 90 degrees. It has two layers of bundles, going on opposite 45's. Rather than being woven together, the fibers are held in place by stitches. All this adds up to mean, that it is one of the lightest, strongest materials to use in fiberglass repair. I do like my overkill!

I worked into the sunset, mixing up epoxy with cabosil. Cabosil is a trade name for Fumed silica powder... it is a bulking agent. So light, that a cardboard box full feels empty. The property which I use it for, is that it makes things thixotropic. If you have ever mixed up cornstarch and water to a thick enough consistency that it acts like a solid... but still almost pours like a liquid, you have played with thixotropic. Cabosil allows epoxy to be mixed up into a putty, that stays where you put it. Put a dab on the ceiling and its not going anywhere. Mix it up thick enough... and its not even going to sag.

Only trouble... its like rock candy after the resin hardens. Take a hunk of epoxy filled with cabosil and smack it with a hammer, and it shatters. So, I use milled glass fiber, tiny strands of fiberglass. It looks like dust, but it makes things very strong.

Once the pot of goo was mixed (takes a while...) I filled that two inch wide gap around the edge of the deck, and edge of the cabin top full... and grabbed my camera.

Such a colorful back drop makes it hard not to wax poetic, even if the topic is dealing with fossilized snot!

Friday, December 5, 2008

So you want to buy a boat.

So You want to Buy a boat.

Get a survey! From a SAMS/NAMS certified surveyor, no matter how inexpensive the boats purchase price, there's a whole lot of expensive stuff on board to go wrong. It's cheap in the long run, maybe 2-3 gallons of epoxy

I had a survey done on another Triton, prior to Tim Lackey ( pointing me towards Pylasteki... Didn't have one done on her 'cause I'm dumb, and didn't follow my own past experiences with boats. I still would have bought her knowing what I know now... but it would have been nice to have the head start finding some of her problems. "Gee, you won't be sailing for the next year..."

Here's a story I went through while looking at a (Free) Cheoy lee Bermuda 30 project that wasn't much more than a fiberglass hull. There are some pictures later on of the interior construction... essentially a wooden boat deck on a fiberglass hull, with an added infusion of steel angle iron. There are some boats that fit the old adage "just because you can don’t mean you should" and Free is to much to pay for what you get.

If she has a wooden mast, under that paint you don't know what’s rotten. If she has concrete and cast iron ballast, there’s a good chance of water damage and other fun stuff.

I think a lot of us dream big... and the difference between dreamers that just dream, and dreamers that get stuff done: A lack of a social life, and love of instant gratification. You will be married to this boat, it'll crawl inside your brain and take up residence. Your priorities will change. The way you live your life will change... if it is to ever get done. (I blame Tim, a little tiny bit... Blame may be the wrong word, as there are few things I'd rather do than work on boats. So... Thanks Tim!)

The costs: If you can't drop the boat in your back yard. If it doesn't have a trailer, it costs money to get it dropped in your back yard. It has to be moored somewhere, or a plot of dirt rented at a boatyard. Then you have to drive to the boat, so tally up the hours both ways, and add in gas prices. Next up... the literature to learn the methods required to repair her. Now if you don’t have the tools, add those too. Now ponder materials costs. For the most part, you can't drive down to Lowes or the hardware store and pick up anything that will give a long lasting economical repair... Deck screws, solid copper wiring, sugar pine and ac plywood don't make the grade.

Nothing. Nothing... is square. Every piece on her must be hand cut, hand crafted, eyeballed, measured, and massaged to fit. Every piece of nautical equipment is slightly different... and must be massaged to fit properly. Do this while standing on your head, wedged into the most contorted position possible. You can't get to anything. Everything must be disassembled. Then "While I'm at it..." you put it back together the stripped screws and rotten wood you found have to be replaced... that bit of corroded wire, and rusted pipe clamp have to be fixed. Eventually something that should take an afternoon has monopolized three weekends, and 12 lunch hours, 7 hours of driving... Then when you get to the boat you forget a widget, and tomorrow you will be finished with it. Except "While I'm at it I need to...."

You've got to source everything prior to doing the work, or it'll take forever. If you don't have a tube of miracle goo, 27 1/4 20 stainless machine screws and 33 sanding disks and be able to produce them in a minute and a half, it'll take you forever. Catalogs coming out your ears... are stacking up all over the place. Pictures, loose sketches... books. Oh gosh, the books.

So: Plan. Everything takes 2-3 times longer (of actually working) than you think it should. Everything will cost 2-3 times more than you think it should. You will do one out of every 3 jobs, 2-3 times getting it right while the learning curve happens. You'll be driven to anger, to tears... and no one in your life (Except your fellow boat owners...) will understand why at dinner you smell like a chemical factory, have a nervous itch, take cold showers and often look like a space alien with respirators, ear muffs, eye glasses, latex gloves, tyvek suits...

100 dollars a week on boat parts is a small number during the buildup of this project. The materials are expensive, there’s a lot of scrap (Curves!) and a lot of potential for screw ups. Then there’s shipping. Can't get it here, warehouse doesn't have it, gotta order it anyway... cheaper online... P.S. Jamestown Distributors. Then there’s the markup, 30% retail so you find it in a catalog and wait for it to arrive. Speed = Expensive. Speed = finish the project. The longer it takes, the more it costs... work fast. Power tools baby!

It'll be to hot, then too cold. Rainy... windy... You can't paint because the humidity is too high. You can't finish installing the ____ because the paint hasn't dried... This all means that in order to make efficient use of your time you have to juggle multiple projects at once. Wiring, plumbing, rigging, engine, structural... and we haven't even started making things look nice.

The car blows up, you have to fix some other project with your new found skills. You take a week off that turns into a month... catch the flu, acquire a significant other... have to work another job to afford your boat habit.

If you made it this far, you have the bug. You will end up with a boat no matter what you do. What are you waiting for! Buy it! Send pictures... (Grin)
If you don't have time; hire Tim so he can send us pictures! We need more boat porn in this world! (Sorry for whoring you out Tim, but it had to be done... Grin)