Cabin Sides and Overhead
- Installing Interior Cabin Top Sides
-Installing Overhead Cleats
-Installing Overhead Insulation
-Installing Overhead V-Groove Panels
Installing the Cabin Sides
I had planned on using the "mish-mash" trim rings that were part of the original interior. You can see them in the first photo below. They were installed to fill the gap between the one piece fiberglass headliner and the FRP cabin trunk. I wanted to incorporate them because they were molded to the bronze Spartan port-lights. But, to use them would have created an air gap between the backside of the plywood sides and the FRP cabin trunk. Additionally, the depth of the port-light spigots could not properly span the thickness of the ply, the "mish-mash" trim rings, FRP cabin side, and external bronze port-light trim ring. So what to do? I drew out some schematics, revised, measured some more, revised again, considered, talked to boat builders I trusted, and then thoughts some more. Finally, I decided to removed the mish-mash trim rings. They came off in an hour with a chisel and mallet. Then I sanded the inside of the cabin side smooth and while I was at it, because I love grinding and sanding fiberglass so much, I sanded the over head some more where the cleats will go that will support the false beams.
Next, I bought a couple of sheets of 1/2" type I marine grade mahogany plywood. I thought about how far down the trim would need to go on the bottom edge of the plywood cabin sides. I would like to incorporate a drip rail and I would like to have some false beams under the side deck to cover the seams in the 1/4" ply "v-groove" panels, etc, so the trim would have to accommodate these things. I made some more diagrams. To support the buildings of the patterns on the cabin side and to make sure the bottom edge would be lined up properly I fastened some temporary cleats to the underside of the side deck with a hot glue gun. Then, I made patterns with doorskin strips and hot glue gun. I secured the patterns on the cleat ledges and clamped them to the cabin side through the portholes with squeeze clamps. I took the patterns down and laid them on the 1/2" mahogany ply. Normally, I like to lay them on the back side of the ply I am working on and cut them face down so the edge is cleaner from saws that cut upward. But, I wanted to match up the wood grain pattern I best as I could so I marked and cut them face up. I took the freshly cut ply up to the boat. To hold them in place I had made up some clamps that would hold the plywood sides tight to the FRP cabin side after I applied the 5200. What I came up with were plywood backing plates, some bolts, and 2x4 braces. I drilled a hole through the backing plate, then with my wife holding the plywood in place, drilled through the plywood in the areas that would eventually be cut out to make room for the port-lights, then through the 2x4 brace. A bolt was inserted through all these holes and tightened forcing the ply against the FRP cabin side. It seemed to work well. Once I had all the ply temporarily clamped on the starboard side, I looked it over. I was satisfied with the plan.
I removed the plywood and took them into the wood shop. I laid some plastic over the assembly table in the garage. I taped the edges of the mahogany side of the ply to protect them from any drips and flipped the ply over and laid it across some 1"x1" sticks with the plastic mahogany side down. Then, I mixed up some unthickend epoxy and rolled it on to seal the back side of the ply. I dragged a foam roller, cut length wise in thirds with a strip of wood for a handle, to removed any bubbles. I finished off by carefully brushing epoxy along all the edges of the ply to seal it as much as possible. No matter how much you work to maintain your boat, water will eventually find its way into any holes. Hopefully, the sealed wood will provide some protection if I wait to long to rebed the port-lights. After the epoxy was tacky to the touch I applied a second coat.
In between the work on the plywood cabin sides today I applied two more layers of 17.7oz epoxy tape to two bulkheads. They did not have a proper radiused corner against the skin of the FRP cabin side. It was a mistake I made last year but now was the time to correct it.
Tomorrow I go look at some quarter sawn black walnut to see if it will be suitable for a cabin sole.
I spent the day with my family but this afternoon I managed to mix up some fairing compound and spread it around the portholes and then faired it with a straight edge and a plastic squeegee. The FRP cabin side are not perfectly flush with the plywood when it is placed against it. This results in a few gaps around the edges of the portholes between the FRP and ply. Hopefully this will result in a better fit.
After putting up the panels on the starboard side I built the patterns for the portside. Tomorrow I will cut out the port side panels and apply epoxy coating the back and edges of the ply. I'll make up some more bracing and backing plates. I'll also tape and apply protective plastic sheeting around the outside of the portholes to limit the mess created by 5200 squeeze out.
We taped off the fiberglass around the portholes on the outside with painters tape and brown paper to reduce the mess caused by any squeeze out. We also covered the good side of the african mahogany with brown paper (which you can see in the photos) to protect them from any 5200 we might inadvertently get on our hands. Next, with the ply temporarily clamped in place, we used an indelible marker to traced the porthole edges on the backside of the ply. Then we applied 5200 directly to the plywood. We laid beads around the portholes, along the edges of the ply and back and fourth across the panel. Then, with Ron on the outside pushing the bolts through, I held the panels in place until we could fit the cardboard protectors, backing plates, washer in place and screw on the nuts. Then we tightened the nuts down with a socket wrench until we got good squeeze-out around the portholes. It went very smooth. No problems, no drips, and no mess. Easy day. They need to stay clamped for seven days.
Tomorrow I will start making the templates for the plywood to cover the forward face of the cabin and the two athwartship section on each side of the companionway ladder.
Today, I removed the clamps that had been holding the mahogany ply wood panels on the cabin top sides for the last seven days. Next, I removed the paper carefully so I could reuse it after I cut out the portholes. The plywood needs to be protected until I can apply several coats of varnish which I plan to do after the portholes are cut out and the overhead cleats are installed.
In order to cut consistent holes of the proper size I made a jig by tracing around the spigot of one of the bronze Spartan portlights on a piece of plywood. I used a jig saw to cut the hole out slightly larger than the spigot. I carefully sanded it smooth. Though counterintuitive, a portlight spigot that fits too tightly has an increased risk of leaking because you can't get the proper amount of sealant between the spigot and the surrounding wood/fiberglass.
Next, I placed the jig over the old porthole cut out, still visible from outside the cabin and traced the slightly smaller hole on the plywood. I used a level to make sure the tops were horizontal. However, the forward two holes are angled up slightly. That is the way they were cut from the factory and there isn't room to level them. The cabin top is level/horizontal but as the shear of the boat/deck rises the relative height of the cabin side is reduced, thus less room for the portlight. You can see this different angle from the photo taken inside the boat. Note the aft most three are level and then the next/fourth porthole is angled up. After I I traced the new holes I used a jigsaw to cut the holes out.
What a difference in how the boat looks from outside and inside. The FRP cabin side has a slightly bigger hole (original hole--and cut pretty poorly I might add) than the hole in the plywood I cut today. You can see it in the photo shot from the outside of the boat. The slightly smaller hole in the plywood will allow me to take the jig I made today and clamp it in place tomorrow whereupon I will use the inside edge as a template to cut the proper size hole with a router and laminate bit. The bearing on the laminate bit will ride against the plywood template to ensure a smooth clean cut. Once that is complete I will slightly champher the edge of the plywood hole from the inside and then lay on several coats of epoxy to seal the exposed edge of the plywood. By having a slightly larger chamfered hole I can better fill the gap with butyl rubber and seal it properly. That way, the portlight will be "floating" in the hole and can expand and shrink as it is heated and cooled from changing outside temperatures. The gap needs to be large enough to fill it with enough butyl rubber to provide the elongation necessary to resist breaking the seal. Right now, I don't plan to install the portholes till next spring, after I paint the outside of the boat.
By then my friend Ron Mason had come by to give me a hand and speed things along. We positioned the template over a porthole centering it more-or-less over the original holes (with the exception of the most forward porthole we were able to get them all level on top). Once we were satisfied with the position of the template we clamped it to the cabin side with three squeeze clamps. Then, with a mask, hearing protecting, tyvek sleeves, and gauntlet gloves I routered each hole flush with the template. Ron worked the vacuum from the outside, moved the clamps in succession always keeping at least two in place to prevent any movement of the template while repositioning the third clamp, and made sure the template was not moving. It went pretty fast and I am pleased with the results. The portholes have a much more refined look. It's always great to have a knowledgeable helping hand, especially someone as skilled with tools as Ron.
With the routering complete, Ron departed and I went back to cleaning up the portlights. With a heat gun, multi-tool scraper, SS brush, and a file I went to work. The original Sikaflex was pretty hard and firmly attached to the bronze flange. There was also a fair amount of silicone on the flange where the PO had attempted to stop leaks around the portholes--it didn't work as evidenced by the water streaks I discovered on the inside of the cabin top and hull of the boat when I gutted the Far Reach. Despite the thick hard Sikaflex, the heat gun worked wonders softening up the the old bedding compound and the multi tool worked well scraping it off. I was able to get five cleaned up before supper.
It feels pretty good to be moving along with some visible results inside the boat.
Installing Overhead Cleats
There are a lot of recesses and protrusions on the surface of the overhead. The outside edge where the overhead and the cabin top sides meet is very uneven. To achieve any sort of consistent camber I have to cut the ends of the cleats about an inch or so from the cabin top side. Some of the unevenness is caused by thick wood substituted for balsa core in the deck to reinforce high load areas. Others are due to extra roving and matting. Since the boat originally had a one piece fiberglass headliner the builders didn't have a reason to make sure the unseen skin was smooth and fair. To deal with these imperfections I cut shims for the low spots under the cleats and trimmed away some of the cleat in the high spots in order to get a smooth uniform camber. I initially tried to spring the 3/4" ply cleats in place without cutting kerfs but they snapped. So, almost all of the cleats running athwartship require kerfs. After they are attached with 5200 the kerfs will be filled with thickened epoxy.
To this point, I have only temporarily attached the cleats with some small self-tapping screws. Once I am satisfied that this is the right approach I'll attach them with 5200.
This is frustratingly slow work but when complete progress should pick up. The Refleks heater arrived a few days ago so I will have what I need to get the right measurements for the starboard settee modifications.
This is more time consuming than I thought it would be. There are so many imperfections in the underside of the deck that it takes all kinds of grinding, beveling ,and shimming of the cleats to get a good fit. Also, in the bottom photo you can see the original mastic adhesive that held the one piece fiberglass overhead liner to the underside of the deck. Last year when I was grinding the inside of the boat I attempted to grind this stuff off and it got the better of me. It was a beast. I don't give up on anything easily but after hours of holding a high speed grinder with a 30 grit flapper disk overhead (I easily went through a half dozen of these supper aggressive disks) I reconsidered the necessity for removing it. I stayed with it long enough to remove the mastic from around the bulkheads where they needed to be tabbed in but that was about it. So, I am paying for it now since I have to to notch the side deck cleats to span the mastic. Each of the side deck cleats, except the ones next to the bulkheads, has to be scribed then trimmed with a jigsaw. Plywood does not scribe that well when cutting the long axis so I have been using Douglas Fir for these. The one good think about the side deck cleats is I don't have to cut kerfs. The mastic is very tough. Last year, before I made my decision to leave it be, I tested its strength by epoxy taping a small piece of wood to it. After it cured I could not break it off and had to grind it down. So, it is pretty strong and there should be no problem using 5200 to secure the cleats to it. Besides, the cleats and the v-groove panels they will support are not structural.
With luck, I'll finish up the cleats tomorrow then I can get organized to install them permanently.
In the photo to the right you can see the 5200 bead that holds the cleats to the overhead as well as the epoxy filled kerfs. It took a lot of time to get them filled. I have not yet scrubbed the epoxy on the cleats with water to remove the amine blush. Because the cleats are overhead I did not want to drip any water down the unprotected cabin sides. The plan is to get three coats of varnish on the cabin sides and coat the edge grain on the porthole openings with epoxy. Then scrub the cleats down. We are expecting rain for the next three days so no varnish till the end of the week.
After working on the cleats I spent some time determining the footprint for the Refleks heater. Once I make a decision about that I can make the cut in the starboard settee locker bottom that will support the platform for the heater then I can glass in the locker bottom. However, I am not sure what the next task will be. I will sort it out in the morning. I may start milling the African Mahogany I'll use for the vertical staving or I may glass in the locker bottoms. Then again, I can't go much further before I epoxy in the copper foil tape for the HF radio. It's just a question of the proper sequencing for the next couple of steps.
It feels good to be moving along. I am looking forward to roughing in some of the furniture. Though I have made a lot of progress, I still can't see any light at the end of the tunnel. No matter, I know its out there. Just got to keep eating the elephant a bite at a time.
When I go to Lowe's to pick something up I always walk down the aisle that has insulation on it. I am always interested in what they have that I might be able to use for hull and icebox insulation. For the last year or so I have noticed a product called Reflectix. It is essentially a double layer of bubble wrap, 5/16" thick, with reflective foil on both sides. When my son and I sailed on Bill Primeau's boat in Halifax this summer he made a point of showing me how he had used Reflectix to insulate his boat and how happy he was with the performance of this material. Last week, I ran across an article in the back of the Nov Ocean Navigator that described using Reflectix as a hull insulator. So, I went to Lowes this afternoon and picked up the smallest roll of Reflectix they had. I took the plywood "cut-outs" from the plywood cabin sides and stapled some reflectix to it. Then I pressed them into the openings in the cabin sides. They filled the holes nicely. They are just pressed in there. I then made a template from 1/4" ply to fit the dorade and mast openings and did the same for these holes. It looks like it may do the trick. Next, I cut some 2'x2' squares from some scrap plywood and attached thin foam weather strip to the align with the flange on the hatch opening in the forward and main cabin. Tomorrow I'll make something similar for the companionway hatch. With all these openings plugged I believe I'll be able to keep the inside of the boat warm enough with a couple of electric space heaters this winter so that I can epoxy, glue, and varnish. What appeals to me about this system is it mostly used what I had on hand, it was easy to throw together, and I can quickly remove them as the SRF heats up from the solar heat during the day then plug them up as the temps fall in the afternoon.
I'll run some tests over the next few days to see how warm I can keep the boat when the temperatures drop into the 30s. Since the hull is not insulated, I'll need to also see if I get a lot of condensation and, if so, where it forms to better understand how it might also cause a problem for the curing of glue and epoxy.
Installing the Overhead Insulation
The trick to this kind of projects is to establish a single datum point, in this case it is the centerline of the boat on the overhead. I build each template from the centerline and work outboard. I also build each template aligned with the previously installed panel so I know that they will line up and fit together.
To make the seam invisible down the centerline of the boat, I cut a half V-groove on each panel, port and starboard sides. When I installed them they formed a V-groove on the centerline which blends in perfectly with the other V-grooves. Eventually, we will laminate and install 'thwarship beams about every 26". They will hide the screw and joint lines.
Happy Birthday Dad--you would be 89 years old today.
At the top of the photo to the right are the v-groove cabin top panels. In the center of the photo, under the side-deck are the panels above the galley area and portside pilot berth. The green tape marks the location of beams so I drilled in the correct place when I first installed the panels.
For the last four days I have continued working on the overhead panels. I removed them from the boat and set up some plank supports to hold them in the shed while we perform the sanding, sealing, priming, and painting. It was not till I laid the panels out on our back deck that I really got a feel for just how many panels we would be dealing with. I started off by sanding the backs of the panels with 80 grit paper and applying two coats of West Epoxy. After the epoxy cured I flipped the panels over and sanded the interior side with 120 grit paper. Then I began sealing the wood with Interlux Inter Prime Wood Sealer. The tech department at Interlux recommended I seal the ply wood before we prime and paint with Brightside LPU. They said the sealing would prevent the primer from being sucked up into the exposed end grain where I routered the V-grooves. After the first coat dried overnight, we lightly sanded the panels again and applied the second coat of sealer. We have some rainy weather coming so I don't know if I will be able to start applying the Prime-Kote primer tomorrow.
19 Nov: For the last two days we had cold weather so we did not prime the panels until this morning. Today the temps got up to about 65 degrees with night time low forecasted for about 55 degrees. We are supposed to have about five days of nice weather. We used Interlux Pre-Kote. No major issues. We rolled and tipped. It took about three hours. If they are dry enough to sand tomorrow we will apply another coat.
The V-groove panels were more difficult. Yesterday, when we applied the primer to the V-grooves with a brush and then rolled and tipped the panels it went on thicker than we anticipated. When we went to sand them this morning the primer had not cured enough to sand without tearing. So we set the V-groove panels aside and concentrated on the flat panels where the primer went on thinner. Later we went back and sanded carefully and primed one of the V-groove panels and applied a coat of Brightside. It came out pretty good. However, if you look closely you can see some of the tear out in the V-grooves. We left the rest of the panels to further cure. They will need more primer to address the tear out unless I come up with a different plan.
The panels fit together down the centerline very nicely except for about 24" forward of the saloon deck hatch. Not sure why. It is a very small gap. I can't really do anything about it so I will get covered with mahogany trim and will blend in just fine with the deck beams and hatch trim.