Baggy Wrinkles

Baggy Wrinkles
S/V Nautica, Hull #614, Built at Whitby Boatworks Ltd., Ontario, Canada 1977, one of the most recognizeable Carl Alberg designs. A masthead sloop displacing 9000 lbs, keel hull, Yanmar 15 hp diesel, LOA 30.27 Beam 8.75, Draft 4.29, roller furling headsail, tiller, berths for 4, interior teak bulkheads, teak cap rail and cockpit teak coamings, 12 volt lighting, aluminum mast support, Harken self tailing winches, in its day was designed for customers as a Cruiser-Racer, the Alberg 30 remains a Classic design of the large Alberg inventory.

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Into the Bilge

Having eyed this location repeatedly while doing other things, I knew one of my upcoming challenges would be the bilge area.  A funny name for the place on any vessel where at the lowest point, the sides of the hull meet and where any residual fluid, water, tools or any loose change, will eventually arrive in a dark, forgotten place that swishes about with ambiguous pipes and wires of some intent.  It is out of sight but not out of mind.  It is where the catastrophe can begin aboard but where it also may be avoided. 

That's my office in case you didn't recognize it.  At the bottom two gerrymandered holes made by some well-meaning sailor, to access the very bottom of the bilge and insert a pump device which today does not function.  Tools are everywhere, but the tool I want is always not here but down the ladder in my truck and vice-versa.  Of course.
And so, with glee, I began my journey downward into the Berg.  By now, I have begun to accept the routine of rising very early and making my way in the ease of pre-dawn traffic to the club where only silly squirrels and curious deer await my arrival.  The summer heat from about 11am until 4pm has been so oppressive this year that I gave up on trying to push through during the day and have selected a morning shift rather than suffer.  I've even taken to parking in the shade on one side of the Berg and moving the Burb to another location as the sun moves.  Plus, I've been very attentive to the fact that the sun has changed positions quickly and the heat has begun to lessen in severity.  Fall is coming.

My work environment below shows the initial jump into the bilge where a non-functioning bilge pump begged for my attention.  Some previous adept sailor had afixed the bilge pump to some sort of fiberglass footing, then used ordinary screws (that's a problem eh?) to affix all to the bulkhead and to the liner flooring.  After several attempts to extract the pump device like a gentleman, I resorted to more primal methods and began to use extreme force to penetrate the bilge area.  Cutting, breaking, and pulling, I managed to extract the arcane but sensible mounting and saw what I was wise not to trust.

What?  Very resourceful and creative but this is going to the trash.  Too arcane and complicated.  Plus the wires were simply hand twisted.  Unreliaible, unsafe, unwanted.  Notice my blue gloves were simply to keep my hands from getting dirty on the job, nothing toxic here lol.

Yes.  Hand-twisted electrical wires to the bilge, the little motor which will save your vessel. 
It worked once or twice but then stopped buzzing and never listened to the electricity again.  Time to toss.  They only cost about 30 bucks!
The surveyor for the Berg had put a price tag of just under a quarter million to rebuild such a yacht as this.  And to trust that to the looks of such a pump are silly.  Replace and verify.

Not being the fount of wisdom, that decision to open the bilge felt pretty good.  I traced the wiring upward out of the dark bilge toward the power source and realized that this system was built for failure.  Extraction and a new pump were in order.  After not much deep thought, I decided this sort of thing need not be fixed with brick and mortar.   I will use NASA's veclro to affix my pump in the bilge.  If it fails in the future or becomes clogged and sticky, out it will come with a snap and be replaced easily.  Why not use a simple solution?

Once I had met the bilge pump, I turned my attention aft to the next part of the bilge, behind the diesel.  My mechanic had advised me to clean up the assortment of electrical wires, get the batteries out from under the waterline, and provide some sort of access to the prop shaft area.  I did this partially already in a previous post where I called this activity "Hot Yacht Yoga," and had cut a bit of an ingress area on the port-side underneath the cockpit where I had extracted the stainless steel muffler box.  It was large enough for a kindergartner but not a man, so I determined to remove the pedestal "mount" area and insert a 10 x 20 hatchway in the cockpit.  The pedestal ring was already under foot in that area and at minimum the hatch would be flat yet provide ample access to the assortment of other skippers' decisions as to where to run hoses and wires below.
Each of these Albergs are different due to various owners and periods of build.  This is the "pedestal ring" to which I refer, however as you see, there is nothing here to stop and see.  It is a hole in the cockpit through which a small tree monkey could climb but through which only an arm could fit.  Beyond in the very stern are electricals, hoses and clamps, the rudder fitment without a hatchway cannot be accessed. 
 While I banged my head on the bulkhead and poured sweat into the bilge, I had decided that easy access for the future meant decisive initiative.  A cockpit hatch, albeit not the most desirable of things to have under foot, provides in this case access to an important area.  My vessel has to be accessed by me because there is no one else who will crawl about and find deficiencies below as will I.  Done.

The hole.  This cockpit sole is so overbuilt that it was not any less sturdy with this gaping hole in it.  I weigh 190 pounds on a light day, and I was standing all over this deck.  There is absolutely no flex to it.  The hatch is rated to handle small elephants as well.  Are there any other questions?  I don't think so.
Using my Dewalt reciprocating jigsaw, I began to eat up my wood blades one by one until common sense chose a metal blade.  After a slow go with metal blades, I grabbed my battery powered skill saw with carbide blade and cut the straight edges and followed with the Jig to make the turns.  The hatch, from Defender, fit perfectly into the space.  The big decision was, "should I use 4000 or 4200 or 5200 3M adhesive?"  After scratching my forehead, now looking like I'd been in a domestic assault situation, I decided this was to be a permanent fixture, and 5200 slow cure would do.  Done.

I already tested getting down into this space and it is possible, however one must take the attitude that it will be a slow process and those wary of claustrophobia need not apply within. 
 There is so much trepidation amongst us non-builders in using permanent adhesive, yet it functions well.  Here, viewing the aft bilge area, not so scarey now, you see a through hull replaced, a white hose to evacuate a deck drain, and assorted wires and hoses, and that prop shaft area.  Leaving the hatch to cure, I will return to affix the 16 screws which will hold it down to the deck.  

For the inconvenience under foot of a hatch in the cockpit sole, this access is easily worth the cost of a hatch and the occasional wetness which might occur if water enters via the hatch seal.  I used the 5200 liberally around the hatchway both surface and vertical seal.  This view is before I glued the hatch down.  The sole is easily a good inch thick and hard as steel.
This hatch provides so much access to this area of the vessel that I cannot imagine not having it now. Am glad I did this now rather than debating the issue.  At this point I will now enter the aft and begin policing the cables and tubes which are randomly lying about.  Will certainly take that photo when I am finished in this area.

Next is the prop shaft however, and am awaiting the mechanic to extract that this week hopefully, and this provides me time to get wiring done, install bilge pump, and finish my house-cleaning in this aft section.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Diesel mechanic showed up to look over the Berg's power unit down in the bowels of the bilge area.  And of course, it was terrifically hot as usual.   This photo is deceptively harmless, and without closer inspection would seem to be just a fine illustration of the complexity of power-plants built into small spaces.  Yet upon closer inspection there are culprits lurking all about this thing begging to be re-routed, changed, put in better working order.
Looks harmless enough right? 
Before the mechanic arrived, I had cleaned up the general area and let him open the hatch door on the diesel and see the beautiful art work himself.  Surprise!  For 3 hours he methodically made his way around the unit, re-connecting wires, checking fluids, cleaning surfaces and putting in gaskets.  It was like a courtesy military inspection where you don't get "gigged" for items but receive guidance on fixing deficiencies.  And the great part about it was he was educating me on the unit at the same time, i.e., this probably came off when someone was leaning over the engine, this ought not to be here, it should be there, this is incorrect, do this not that way, and so forth all over the place.

There was much to do, and so upon his departure he gave me the homework of removing this awkwardly placed and impossible to reach in-line stainless steel sea preventer (?) box from down below so that he might come over and extract the prop shaft later.  
Scary bilge creatures waiting for my arrival below decks.  Wires, tubes, dangling wires, broken tubes, water in the bilge, fiberglass tearing at my forehead every time I sought to surge forward.  Wiping the blood off periodically I pushed forward to extract this box to no avail.
 I was enthusiastic about the project though a bit cautious about what I would have to do structurally to get to this "extraction" point!   He advised an access point to port via the lazarette.  That made sense, however after some "Hot Yoga" trying to get positioned in there head forward body sliding toward electrical panel, I thought there had to be a better way.  Dripping in sweat, I gave it some thought, but before I arrived at an answer, I decided it was time for "Cross Fit" and I descended the ladder to get something cold to drink.  That would certainly boost my mental prowess I figured.
It's called Cross-fit.  As soon as you mount the boat via the ladder you realize you need something downstairs.  As soon as you retrieve it and return to down below you realize it is not the right item and you must return, and return and return.  I'm getting my work-out!
 Back aboard, I sat in the cockpit looking down through the sole, a pedestal mount being the only access from above, and thinking how useless this pedestal thing was for me.  I would not put a wheel helm at that point on this boat because the cockpit is simply not large enough to accomodate such a structure.  Too, there'd have to be a system of pullies and relays...too much.

Look just aft of the tools and mooring lines on the blue plastic inlay and you see the emerging pedestal protruding from the cockpit sole.  Notice also the brilliant coamings and cap  rail now finished.  The lazarette hatches inlay are treated with teak oil only.  The remain nice on the bottom.  There's just not much room for a pedestal in my opinion.
So, a deck hatch might be the preferred solution for this area.  Something large enough to enable hands-on work on the through hulls, the shaft, the tubes, etc., that was what I was thinking.  Armed with that decision, I went back to Hot Yoga and entered the lazarette, yes, entered feet first, then legs into bilge area back of engine, leaning against one of those enormous fenders to keep me from tearing up the electrical panel. Once in, what to do now?

I say Hot Yoga, because our neighbor's daughter introduced us to that idea in casual conversation, speaking highly of the art form.  Hot means you sweat in the heat.  Yoga means body contorting to fit the environment.  And so once there I left one leg in and the other 90 degrees toward stern permitting me just enough room to begin wrestling with the stainless steel box still holding on to its exhaust hose and its stern hose.  Unrelenting.  It was better at Hot Yoga than me.  But I managed to pull the box through the hole I had cut in the lazarette-to-bilge area.  While pulling, I twisted it like an arm wrestling contest, and noticed the slightest movement of the hose, aha!, I thought I would win!  It took me about 30 minutes of arm wrestling to wrest the box from the cyclops exhaust pipe which was suctioned onto the end of it.  I was soaked as I lifted the box onto the cockpit sole and took a breather before trying to figure out how to extract myself without injury from my predicament.

I have no idea why this is here other than that as one fellow "AlBerger" told me, it might have been a seawater preventer for situations where following seas might flush into the exhaust against the engine.  A probable scneario.
I like everything substantial about the pedestal ring and the stainless steel box but I have to have the luxury of getting to below this part of the deck in the event of mechanical issues.  I procured a 10 x 20 flush deck hatch to cut and affix in this area.  Once this was out, everything began to be easier to approach.  My homework was just about done while I turned to issues of the seized sea-cocks visible in the picture below.

So, next will be to insert the deck hatch and move towards re-arranging the electrical, putting batteries in the "ice box" to port of the hatch stairs, and re-routing the wiring to meet the needs of the batteries and remove them from tangling with the engine.  In no way am I proficient at this stuff, I'm taking photos so I can put things back in correct order.  I just know that the batteries were below the water line and the bilge was sketchy, so I've got to make some changes now while I can, as once she's in her slip all this stuff will be much more difficult.

There are too many anomalies in this bilge so my idea is to replace and refit as necessary and to re-route electrical, making this area as difficult as it is, manageable even so.  I don't anticipate a lot of use of the diesel but I do want it to be regularly tended to so that in times of crisis it is available and ready.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Punishing heat.  Clear beautiful skies are a bane to me as I load my cooler for the daily commute to work on the Berg.

I stuff it with the same gel packs that Tri-Care uses to keep my insulin refrigerated on its way from Tuscon to South Carolina.  I keep the last half dozen every time they send it and the cold gel packs keep drinking products cooler than a Yeti!  And off I go, many mornings I'm very tired even though I slept all night--that's unusual!  Seems the older I get, the less I sleep.  My mother told me she had the same strange occurrence.  Well, she's in another place now where sleep does not occur as far as we know.

 And when I arrive at the work yard, the Berg reminds me of my Collie, very happy to see me and welcomes me aboard for the daily grind.  Today it is port-lights.  I've just finished varnishing the cap rail, and while doing that I ordered some acrylic 3/8ths tinted plastic for the salon replacements.  
This is 3/8ths acrylic.  A tiny bit thicker than the original product.  Looks very dark but has a UV tint that enables one to view out the port-light in direct sun without glasses with ease. 

After removing the interior aluminum window frame, I left the exterior frame glued to the exterior and put my 3M 4000 around the interior lip of this frame pushing it in to its pre-seated position I had done earlier. 
This is called "homework" for adults. Original fiberglass had gotten attached to the frame, the glue used was way too effective making removal a torrid affair in the heat.  But once done, they responded well to treatment.

But before I can put the acrylic into the frames, I decided to clean the openings well, and to rid the exterior aluminum frames of their paint, which had trapped in a few places corroding aluminum.  So their exterior will be natural aluminum, coated with Permalac, designed to sustain metals in extreme exposure to the elements.  Inside, they are much better preserved and despite a bit of grinding and repainting with appliance spray paint, they will be white.
This was taken in broad daylight.  Rather dreary isn't it?  I have one pane out and another old portlight pane waiting for extraction.  I labeled everything and replicated the designs at home for insertion later.

And this is later.  You see the aft port pane is seated and frame attached and the forward pane awaiting its tinted acrylic.

And both are in here showing the incredible change made by the Brightsides and the nonglare acrylic UV tinted plastic.  If you can see the original and this and still want the original then you simply don't care about your surroundings.  And some don't.  I do.  This environment inspires me!

And oh, the salon, yes, that I painted with the Brightsides, and what a difference a coating makes!  The dour faded mustard color is replaced with Brightsides.  In fact, I like it so much, as I continue work on her I will paint the interior foc'sle area white as well.  If I have time, I'll do that this month.  

Lots of details in the heat.  Here, soaking wet, I'm removing some handles in anticipation of mounting the original wooden teak handles.  I also removed the "first step" from under the hatch as I think it may interfere with later installation of a shore-power panel.  Not sure yet, but time will tell. 

And the view after the Brightsides, handles replaced, electronics to be rerouted and everything made shipshape.
 The work site is punishingly hot.  Maybe it's because I'm 63, or maybe because it really is hot, it depletes my energy rapidly.  I feel like I'm engaged in some masochistic version of "cross-fit a la berg" as I have to go down the ladder to the truck to find something that was right in front of my eyes in the salon.  Yes that happens more often than I'd like to admit.  I am up and down that ladder like a gym rat, hoping every day that I don't misstep and tumble onto the gravel below.  I wonder if I did fall who'd care to look over and help me?  No one I suppose.  And that would really suck to lie on the gravel, a broken arm, sprained back, burning in the hot sun, just out of reach from my truck and unable to rescue myself.  That's morbid.  But I think about that event often.  So I try to be more than careful.

When 2 or 3pm arrives, I am more than happy to punch my card and head for the shoppette for a cold drink and a cool ride home on the freeway.  I feel rather successful that as I write this entry, it has been 30 days since the Berg arrived and lots of changes have been made.  

  • cap rail repaired, sanded, varnished and complete
  • garden variety gate valve replaced with Groco lever
  • coamings repaired, sanded, varnished and ready to put
  • replaced to dorets on the stern
  • replaced the zinc on the rudder with magnesium
  • pulled portlights without mishap, reputting tinted acrylic
  • chainplates manufactured with 5/16ths bolts ready to reput with strengthening plywood and fiberglass
  • refurbished the V-berth sole with Epiphanes
  • reput leaking stanchion on portside
  • refurbished port side salon cabinet and backing
  • sanded, repaired and painted the cabin salon with Brightsides
  •  validated functionality of bilge pump and automatic indicator
  • inspected interior of forward water tank to determine next best solution
  •  compounded and polished entire freeboard of hull with 3M high speed polish and polisher
And one last photo from lots I took.  Here is a glimpse of one of the teak coamings before rehab:
Looking like a juicy board ready to lunge at you, this is layers and layers of varnish, perhaps added without proper time or conditions.  At minimum they sought to preserve the teak as best they knew.
And here is one taken after I installed the coamings this morning:
And here the partner coaming after rehab, sporting a matte finish, installed with stainless steel Philips' head screws, which will not tear at clothing like the flathead variety.  Quite a difference a bit of work makes.
Of course I'll have to keep after the varnish work, all part of maintenance, just like with the Cape Dory Typhoon.  But time and again people love a boat well cared for.  She might have age, and some awkward this and that, but she's getting to look like she might have game:
In the early morning light, finish varnish on the Cap Rail, some triage of gear taking place, she looks like she's going to be getting in the water soon.
Diesel mechanic is scheduled for this week!  Hope that goes well...

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Another Blistering Hot Week

It's not easy to work in direct sunlight in this southern climate this year.  Temperatures have been pushing the 100s for weeks now and only in the past week have we begun to see some climate shifts as clouds have begun to provide some respite to those of us who are laboring away at a renovation on a classic yacht.

I sat in the local tire shop waiting on my truck tire rotation and fiddled with my sketchpad/notebook in which I keep my daily activities during this renovation period.  There are so many items calling for attention I began to "mind map" the situation aboard the Berg while waiting for my tires to be rotated.  They've been great tires, already 40k miles and only half the tread is used, I think they'll take me quite a bit further.  The commute to the yacht club alone will rack up some mileage as there's no easy way to get there but going backwards to go forwards.  So I mused and scratched at my design, noting everything that seemed to be calling for my attention...
It's a method.  Conceptualize the project's various urgencies, then prioritize according to splash date.  Some things must be done, others can wait.  Yet with the heat, some things must be delayed, like varnishing in the hot sun is not advisable, and working the deck under direct sunlight in this increased summer heat can be exhausting.  Nonetheless, there is a project, many items raise their hands for assistance, but only certain ones warant a fix right now. 

Meanwhile, beyond the items I listed, I dreaded the blistering heat that was awaiting me this past week.  Sort of playing catch and mouse with the sun and trees in the work yard, I would work until I was thoroughly drenched from sweat, drink water to hydrate often, and yet pushed on racking up an average of about 8 hours a day on the project.  I include my commute in that figure, one hour to and one hour from.  Plus, I include my resupply visits at West Marine, which usually occur after a days work, in order to prep me for the next day.  

I think I've begun to get a pace now after 3 weeks.  I dodge the sunlight as best I can and carry a cooler filled with drinks to hydrate.  But the process is also quite mentally demanding, to focus on priorities and not give in to pet-peaves aboard.  I let stuff lie about like the life-lines and stanchions which I dumped in the salon and left there or the sails in the v-berth area, or the head area which I've not touched.  It is a priority driven approach but I really would like to clean things up a bit.  

And I await my appointment with the diesel mechanic, assured that I would be included at about this time, I think I'll do something to clean up the hodgepod of assorted scrap and tools which lie about in the galley.  I would not want the mechanic to think I'm a careless vagabond with whom one could overlook small but important items to fix on the diesel.  And I did see a couple of rusted bolts I would like to pull out and replace!
This is where it began to collect and spread across the salon, with bits and bolts, tools and tubes, this and that, all awaiting some sort of triage and re-engagement to the bulkhead. 
So, at the end of week 3, I've managed to reset a leaky life-line stanchion, dry out a leaky area portside in the salon and clean and re-attach both cabinet hinges and screws, and coat with their first drink of teak oil.  I also grabbed the sole in the v-berth and in between other things, revarnished it to see the difference I'll have once done with all of the teak sole.  
Makes a difference to keep up with things doesn't it?

I've re-put hatch trim pieces, coated with 7 coats of Epifanes varnish, now a matte finish, and have finished also the coamings which will be attached to the cockpit area on a cool day.  I've also fabricated replacement pieces for the port quarter area and painted with some white Brightsides in the area to brighten the cabinet interior and the bulkhead/instrument area.  Awating me is to sand, prep and paint the salon in Brightsides white to liven up the joint.  In addition I've procured some acrylic 3/8ths tinted plexiglass in order to reput the crazed portlights aboard (however, I know this can wait and be done in the slip, so have pushed back on installation).  I've repaired the stern taff-rail corner, and scraped and sanded the entire cap rail on the vessel and begun just yesterday with the initial burst of thinned Epifanes gloss which serves to seal the teak. 

One of the consuming and urgent tasks was to scrape the cap rail, sand and prep for its varnish sequence.  Using the heat-gun was great but afterwards sanding with 80 grit was necessary to pull the surface back to receive its treatment.  The first photo here is a close up of what the entire cap rail looked like before work and the second, a close up of it ready to receive its successive coats of varnish:
Yes, it was greyed in many areas, varnish had been carelessly applied without protecting the hull with various places chipped and broken.  A thankless and tedious task in the heat to revive but I knew it had to be done.

This looks clean as a whisper now that the ages of peeling varnish has been removed.  Notice the varnish still somewhat caked onto the genoa track.  It was inside the track and I had to use a narrow flathead screwdriver to reach inside and force it off the aluminum track.
Along with that scraping I had the messy task of extracting spongy silicone which had been shoved in-between the cap-rail and the hull to perhaps attempt to prevent water from entering the joint between deck and hull.  I don't think that is a great idea due to the fact that silicone products also can retain moisture.  A sailboat's hull and deck joint is a fortified junction and unlikely to be so easily compromised.  Besides, there is a bilge pump right?  The stringy silicone has left its presence under and around the cap rail, something nearly impossible to remove but by specific removal one by one.  It will take some time.  

This joint was seeking attention so I pulled the culprit out of its hiding place and will re-put with epoxy.

Awaiting the shade of the afternoon, I taped off the cap-rail and began with a 50 percent thinned gloss Epifanes mixture to seal the cap.  I used a sponge brush and lightly coated all around the vessel killing my knees in the process.  Once done I knew that this would be a week long process, every day, retreating, gradually building the varnish base before the last two coats of matte are applied.

These foamies are just fine for these stages of varnish.  Will use my special Badger Hair brush when we get to the matte finish coats, a week from now.
After a first sealing application of Epifanes gloss thinned 50%.  Upon this will be put increased thicknesses of the gloss until we reach about 6 coats and then will change to the Epifanes Matte finish which permits wood grain to be visible but reduces the impact of imperfections in finish look.  Not being a professional or having the skills or the environment to do this in a top-notch fashion, this is as good as it gets!

 It also begins a 7 day process of application, not an easy task either as it has to be one of careful coatings, no drips, no slop.  And I've cleaned the genoa track of globs of old varnish which blocked the cars from moving, and reput the hatch cover, stripped and oiled the handrails on the cabin above and its associated railing on the inside of the salon below.  No need for varnish on either, just oil, teak oil for the exterior and some old Danish oil for the interior wood which is not teak.

Late afternoon in the shade finally, the gloss seals the teak.  A nice start to its rehab.