Sunday, March 25, 2007

What's In A Name?

Removed Old Name Decal, Waxed Hull, 3/25 - 3/25/2007

Renaming a boat is generally considered bad luck, but I'm not all that superstitious. The real hurdle to renaming, in my mind, is the work involved in removing the old name. In our case, the prior owner named the boat "Cuanna", and applied the name decal, in huge font, to the transom. In addition, the home port "Annapolis, MD" appeared below the name.

The low tech approach for removing vinyl decals is to heat with a hair dryer and scrape them off with a plastic scraper. I tried that (and it worked fine on our old boat), but it was painfully difficult and slow in this case. The fancy solution is a 3M stripe removal tool. The tool is essentially a wheel, made of layers of eraser-like material, that attaches to a drill (3M actually recommends a high-rpm air tool, but my 1200 RPM drill worked fine). It still took some time and effort to remove the decals, but for $20, this was definitely the way to go. It makes an unbelievable mess, so if you do something like this, I recommend a painters suit or at least long sleeves. Once the bulk of the decal was gone, wiping with acetone removed the rest of the adhesive.

Following that effort, Michele and I cleaned and waxed the hull for the first time since our purchase. What an exhausting chore! The hull was a bit oxidized, so we made three full passes: wash, 3M Cleaner & Wax, 3M High Performance Paste Wax. We applied the cleaner/wax with a terry cloth bonnet on a random orbital buffing tool, then applied the paste wax by hand, buffing it out with a clean terry cloth bonnet on the buffing tool, some touch-up buffing by hand, and a final pass with a lambswool bonnet. On the transom, I made one last pass with Starbrite Teflon, in hopes that the teflon coating would help prevent sooting from the diesel exhaust.

Here's a shot of the transom with the letters removed and the new stern light installed. It all turned out great, but wow were we sore on Monday.

Keep The Water On The Outside, Part 3: Stanchion Bases

Rebed Stanchion Bases, 3/18 - 3/25/2007

I was absolutely dreading this project, concerned that it would be a disaster. The bow railing includes vertical supports (stanchions), mounted to the deck in 8 locations. The stanchion bases are attached with bolts into the cabin below, and sealed against water intrusion. Two of the bases on the starboard side were not sealed properly, so water was getting into the cabin in heavy rain or heavy seas. My main concern was whether I'd be able to break apart the bases from the deck to remove the old sealant. If the prior job was done with a permanent adhesive like 3M 5200, removal would be very difficult and likely to damage the deck. Fortunately, they came up easily, so it seems the prior seal was done with something more appropriate.

Rebedding deck hardware is not a trivial task, but it is a manageable two-person task. The hardware is through-bolted into the cabin, so removal and reassembly requires two people: one on the outside with a screwdriver, and one on the inside with a wrench.

Here's a description of the process Michele and I followed. Hopefully it will be helpful to others who have to tackle the same project.
  1. Remove old fasteners, using a screwdriver on deck, and a wrench from below. Sometimes, just getting to the nuts on the underside is difficult, but Cape Dory provided reasonable access.
  2. Remove old adhesive with a scraper and/or sandpaper. Scuff the surface to provide some grip for new adhesive.
  3. Wipe up any dust or residue with acetone.
  4. Examine deck for coring issues. If the deck is soft, the coring must be repaired. Otherwise, it's generally considered best to overdrill the fastener holes (or just dig out some of the wood core around them), fill with epoxy, and then drill new holes through the epoxy for the fasteners. This way, the epoxy prevents any intruding water from getting in the wood core. In our case, it appeared that this had already been done -- the wood core looked sealed already.
  5. Place wide painter's tape over the area where the base will sit. Then place the base down on top of it, and score the tape (don't damage the fiberglass!) around the edge of the base. Lift the base, and remove the circle of tape from underneath the base, leaving an outline of the tape to protect the surrounding area.
  6. Apply a polysulfide sealant, such as 3M 101. Using a putty knife, spread a layer of sealant on both the deck and the underside of the stanchion base. Apply a small amount to the underside of the bolt heads as well.
  7. Gently set the base against the deck and insert the bolt. Be careful not to apply to much pressure, or all the sealant will squeeze out.
  8. Have helper place a backing plate over the screws from the inside, and thread on nylon locknuts. (At minimum, use big fender washers for the backing plate.) Snug the locknuts, but do not tighten. It's best to turn the nuts, not the bolts, so that the sealant under the bolt heads does not come out.
  9. Remove tape from around the base, lifting any squeezed out sealant.
  10. Wait a minimum of one week for the sealant to cure. Protect from rain if possible, but a good sealant will cure even if wet.
  11. Have one person hold the bolt heads firmly with the screwdriver, while the other person tightens the nuts from the inside. Again, turn the nuts, not the bolts. At this point, it is crucial not to break the seal under the bolt heads. The nuts should be tightened firmly and securely, but not so much that the deck compresses.
Once completed, there should be a nice layer of flexible, cured sealant squeezed down tightly between the base and deck.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Now Hear This

Electronics, March/April 2007

Our boat, at the time of our purchase, included only basic electronics: depth sounder, VHF radio (lower helm only), and LORAN. This was enough to get us by for our limited use during the first season, but we had to do all our navigation by charts and compass, and step down to the lower helm any time we needed to use the radio. Upgrades were certainly in order.

Our adventures on the bay don't demand a whole lot, but minimally I wanted a new VHF with DSC capability, an extension microphone for the flybridge, and a GPS. Down the line, I'd like to add RADAR and another depth display (possibly on the GPS) for the flybridge. The GPS was a bit of a dilemma, though, as I wanted a display at both helms without having to program routes and waypoints on two separate machines. The only choices that meet those requirements are a networked system (big bucks), or a portable that can be moved between helms.
  • For the VHF radio, I chose a Standard Horizon Quest-X GX-1500S, with a RAM+ extension microphone. Some makers, like Uniden, offer a wireless extension microphone. That sounds great (easy to install, at any rate), but brings two drawbacks in my mind. First, you have to keep the remote charged somehow, which means some kind of wiring anyway. Second, wireless means it can be dropped overboard. That would be an expensive contribution to Davy Jones' locker!
  • For the GPS, I went with a Garmin 478. It includes a built in antenna, all coastal chart data, separate marine and auto mounts, and rechargeable batteries. The benefit of batteries is that it can be removed from the mount and transferred to the other helm without ever turning it off.
Installation raised only one serious issue. The old electronics, attached to the ceiling above the helm, had wires routed through the cabin headliner. Nightmare. I removed a molding strip, peeked above the vinyl headliner, and realized that the entire panel would have to come down to get at the wiring. With some trepidation, I went with an alternate plan: I drilled a hole (with a 1" holesaw) in the column used for routing wires to the bridge. This turned out to be a piece of cake, and vastly simplified installation. The only complication is ensuring that that, while drilling, no wires or cables already in the column are damaged. To protect them, I took several layers of heavy cardboard and inserted them into the column to shield the existing wires. A rubber grommet dressed up the hole, and all the new wires were routed easily. Removing old wires was as simple as cutting off the connectors and pulling them through; they pulled out easily without disturbing the headliner.

I installed the VHF right where the old one was. The LORAN is now in a box in my basement, destined to be a collector's item. The depth sounder moved to the right, where the LORAN was. Since the roof is curved, I added spacers to the left side of each so that they are more level. I kept the GPS down at the helm, where it would be more easily visible and have a clearer view of the satellites through the cabin windows. I expected to have to buy an additional marine mount, but as it turned out, the automotive mount worked perfectly well at the lower helm. It also came with a "beanbag" mount, which works perfectly fine in the car, so we can easily take it along for road trips as well.

I have two steps yet to do:
  • I have not connected the power cables for the GPS. For now, it will run on the rechargeables at both helms.
  • I want to connect the GPS and VHF together. Once done, the DSC automated distress signal from the VHF will include position data from the GPS. Likewise, any DSC calls that we receive will display position data on the GPS.
These, however, are projects for another day.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sounds Good

Replaced Stereo, 3/17/2007

The old stereo was dead. I swear it worked when the boat was surveyed, but we had to live without it for the first season.

The stereo is in the cabin, just above the galley area, well-protected from the weather. In general, a marine stereo would be a better choice to stand up to salt air and spray, but since this one is so well protected, I used a regular car stereo (a Sony CDX-GT310). I chose this one for three reasons: 1) it plays CDs, 2) it's satellite ready, and 3) it has a front aux input for an MP3 player. OK, four reasons: I got it for about $100.

I had to file the box opening just a little bit to make it fit. The speaker wiring was a bit of a mess, and it appeared that the old wire was split between the front (cabin) and rear (cockpit) speakers. Generally, that's not good for the amp, so I also ran new speaker wire to each of the speakers. Now I just need to spring for an MP3 player. I have my eye on an iRiver Clix2 -- can't wait for the 8GB model!