I decided to refinish another section of brightwork during a small window of good weather. As long as I got the section stripped and sanded, applied the primer and 2 coats of Awlwood Clear, the remaining coats could be done as the weather allowed. So in a fury of 3 sunny days, I stripped, sanded, primered, and got 2 coats of clear on the cockpit inner cap rail and the cockpit vertical teak planks (the cockpit horizontal planks will be done later). The lower parts of the vertical planks have been an eyesore for some years due to water wicking under the varnish at the joint between the vertical and horizontal planks.
After the 3 sunny days, it rained in Seattle for almost 2 weeks until we finally got another few days of clear weather, during which time I applied Awlwood Clear coats 3 through 8.
In my last post, I wrote about how bad Apropos’ teak brightwork looked and how I would have to tackle it “some day”. Well, I decided to get started on it after seeing the long-range weather forecast showing sunny conditions for most of September and into October.
Over the previous 12 years, I applied 2 “refresher coats” to most of the exposed brightwork–cap rails, turtle/hatch, coach-roof trim, cockpit, boom gallows, etc. The brightwork that was normally covered by canvas would get refresher coats every other year–deck boxes, grab-rails, helm seat, butterfly hatch, etc. But after spending 2 years in the tropics, sitting on land for 6 months in Fiji, and sailing 16,000 nautical miles in the ocean, all of the varnish was in very poor condition. The worst were the cap rails, outer planks, cockpit, and coach-roof trim since they were exposed to UV rays most of the time. I decided to attack these first.
I used a heat gun and scraper to remove the old varnish. It’s time-consuming but effective, and I got better at it the more I did. When I first started, I hadn’t removed much from the boat besides small things like cleats and fender protectors. But as time went on, I realized how much easier (and how much better of a job) it would be to remove as much as possible, so I ended up removing the stanchions, lifelines, bimini, genoa tracks, whisker stays, and the stern pushpit. Even though it took over a day, it was worth it as it made the varnish removing, sanding, taping, and applying the new finish much easier and faster. Since I was working with the boat in the water, I was able to use the finger dock when working on the port side. For the starboard side, I borrowed a small Boston Whaler from a friend and used it to move along-side Apropos. I tarped below the outer planks to keep the removed varnish chips from reaching the water and vacuumed up gallons of it from the tarp. It took about a week of full-time (10-hour days) work to remove the varnish from the cap rail, outer planks, and coach-roof trim.
Next came the sanding to remove any scrape marks left behind after melting and scraping off the old varnish. This also removed the gray areas where the varnish had completely lifted, exposing bare teak to the elements. I first used a 5″ orbital sander with 120 grit paper and followed it by hand sanding with a 15″ long-board to get the surfaces as level as possible. This took a couple of days. A friend helped with masking the joint between the cap rail and outer planks and I applied a marine sealant to fill the small void, possibly the cause of some of the water entry we experienced during the trip.
Now that the surface was ready for re-finishing, I made sure to cover it with plastic to keep the overnight dew from reaching the bare teak.
Finally it was time to apply the new finish. I looked into alternatives to varnish, and decided on a product called Awlwood system made by AwlGrip. It’s a one-part system that catalyzes by the moisture in the air (as opposed to a 2-part system that requires a hardener). It’s relatively new, but testing claims it outlasts traditional varnish and can go several years between refresher coats. Some of the downfalls with it–it’s expensive at $65/quart, and it takes some getting used to applying. Since it catalyzes with moisture, you need to work with a small amount at a time. I settled on 4 ounces and found that I could apply that amount in 20-30 minutes, before it became too thick.
The first step with the Awlwood system was to apply a primer coat for the clear coat to adhere to. The primer coat contains a yellow dye to give the teak a more consistent and deeper tone. It was easy to apply with a cloth–similar to applying stain. This was an important step and without it, the top coat would just peel right off.
Finally, the clear top-coats were applied using Awlwood Clear. They recommend 8 coats, and one of the advantages of the product is that multiple coats can be applied in one day. A 4-hour dry time is needed between coats, and it took me 3 hours to apply, leaving an hour to rest in between! I settled in on applying 2 coats per day for 3 days, lightly sanding at the beginning of each day to remove imperfections. I found tiny bubbles forming in the first few clear coats (not sure why this happened, but a friend who used the same product on teak also found this). A light sanding each morning removed these imperfections and allowed the next coat to flow better. Prior to the 8th (final) coat, I let the 7th coat dry for 24 hours, gave it a final sanding, then applied Awlwood Clear thinned 5% with Awlwood Brushing Reducer and was pleased with the final outcome.
The final step was to re-bed the stanchion brackets, genoa tracks, whisker stay bases, etc. I polished all the stainless steel stanchions, push-pit, bimini, and genoa tracks using Fitz Polishing Compound prior to re-installing them.
While polishing the stainless steel around the bowsprit, I noticed that one of the whisker stay stainless steel turnbuckle bodies had nearly failed. A stress crack on the starboard turnbuckle probably occurred somewhere between Fiji and Seattle on a starboard tack due to heavy shock-loads on the bowsprit when beating upwind with the genoa. A complete failure of the turnbuckle could have overloaded the bowsprit and, in a worst case scenario, brought down the rig!
The entire job took about a month of full-time work and covered the largest area of brightwork on Apropos. But there is still lots to do–cockpit, deck boxes, butterfly hatch, grab rails, helm seat, instrument turtle box, winch bases, cabin doors, companion way hatch, wheel, boom crutch, and several small pieces of teak. These will have to wait until next spring when the weather is drier–phase 2.
Now that we’re back from cruising, it’s time to clean, repair, and restore Apropos. Being in the tropics for almost 2 years and sailing 16,000nm in the ocean is hard on a boat. We had every nook and cranny of the boat packed–under floorboards, under cabinet drawers, the v-berth (“garage”), etc. The first thing I did was to remove a lot of “stuff” and give the boat a thorough cleaning. A solution of tea-tree oil and vinegar was used to wipe down all the walls and inside cabinets and drawers. Next I tackled some of the recent problems related to fuel. I emptied both fuel tanks and scooped out the debris at the bottom. Almost all the refueling outside the US was done with jerry cans and never did we see any sign of dirty fuel in the bottom of the cans, so I assume the debris was from the growth of microbes. I always add a small amount of Biobore fuel additive when refueling, but maybe the tropical heat, and having the boat sit in Fiji for 6 months, accelerated the microbe growth. While I had the tanks empty, I also took the opportunity to replace the 4 old gate-style valves with ball valves. Refueling the tanks from empty also allowed me to precisely measure the tank capacity. I’ve always knew the total diesel capacity to be about 120 gallons (from the boat specs), and assumed the 2 tanks were equal capacity. I now know the port tank holds 64.4 gallons and the starboard tank holds 55.6 gallons!
Moving to the outside of the boat, I gave it a good wash to remove the salt that accumulated from the Hawaii to Seattle passage. I also removed some of the solar panels, the dinghy and outboard engine, the life raft and stored them in the garage until they’re needed next summer. Then I stepped back and looked at the poor state of the sun-wreaked varnish and thought about the monumental task “somewhere down the road”.
Apropos has 7 teak blocks that are used on the main and mizzen sheets. Somewhere between French Polynesia and Tonga, one of these blocks started coming apart. It was a teak double block with becket, used between the main boom and traveler. When sailing downwind with the boom way out, the sheet running through this block puts pressure on the side of the block, and after 30 years of use, the teak began to split. I found bits on the deck and was able to clamp it back together using 5200 marine adhesive, a short-term fix that lasted to Fiji. I carted the block with us back to Seattle to get it repaired since nowadays you can’t buy teak blocks like this at chandleries. I found a woodworker near Seattle and knew I had the right man when I went into his shop and there was a 23′ rowing sailboat that he was building. Although he never rebuilt a wooden block before, he had the woodworking skills and shop equipment to do it. Together we figured out how to disassemble the block into its components–a pin, 2 sheaves, 3 cheeks, inner and outer straps, and 4 swallows. As we took it apart, the teak cheeks and swallows broke apart and we realized they would all have to be replaced–a complete re-build. We were able to salvage enough to use as patterns for shaping the new parts. When I returned a few days later, Mark had all the teak pieces shaped and ready for assembly. I brought with me a bronze welding rod that we used for the 4 pins that, along with the main pin, help hold the 3 cheeks together. After assembling and driving in the 4 bronze pins, I gave it a quick coat of teak oil and it was finished–good as new!
While at Marina Vallarta, we saw a lot of boat work being done to other boats on our dock, so I asked around and found someone who does teak deck work. Apropos has all-teak decks and most of it is in good shape for a 33 year-old boat. Built in Taiwan in 1982 when quality teak was in good supply and relatively inexpensive, the teak decks on Apropos still have plenty of thickness, thanks in part to not using a course bristle brush to scrub them. Much of the teak caulking had been re-done during the refit in 2004 and is still in good condition, but all the panels on the coach-top still had the original caulk and showed signs of cracking with age.
I hired Misha, who makes a living taking care of large yachts for their owners, to re-caulk all the deck panels on the coach-top. We agreed on an hourly rate (about 1/4th what it would cost back in Seattle) and he said he could start immediately. He didn’t mind if I helped and I soon became an apprentice working alongside him for 3-1/2 days. After removing deck hardware, deck boxes, the traveler, and anything else in the way, we began by removing the old caulk. This is very labor intensive and involves using a utility knife to score both sides of the channel of caulk along the teak. The channel is U-shaped and about 1/4″ deep, so a small amount of pressure is applied. The caulking can then be removed using a handmade tool to help pull out the caulk. Long strips can be removed by gently pulling on the caulk while using the tool to scape along the bottom of the channel. The tool, similar to a reefing hook, was made from a flat screwdriver that was heated, bent, then shaped to a tapered point. I ended up doing the majority of the caulk removal job while Misha followed with hand-sanding the channel to remove any leftover caulk for better adhesion of the new caulk, and masking the seams with blue 3M tape. As I got more efficient, I would have another panel ready by the time Misha finished masking a panel http://blogs.asburyseminary.edu/blog/cialis-online.html.
There are 2 methods for re-caulking. One is to mask only around the outside edge of the panel (where the fiberglass gel coat is), then apply the caulking (Teak Decking System SIS 440) to the channel and smooth it out with a putty knife. After the caulking dries and cures in 48 hours, some of the excess caulking is cut away with a razor knife and then the entire panel is sanded until only the caulk in the channel remains. The disadvantage of this method is that some of the teak gets sanded away. The advantage is, as long as the teak is thick enough, it removes the ridges in old teak and leaves it nice and flat. I decided to test this method on 3 of the small panels towards the bow.
The second method is what we ended up using on the majority of the teak panels. It involves masking every seam so that only the channel is exposed, then applying the caulking and smoothing it with a putty knife. After the caulking cures, the tape is carefully removed and the panel is sanded. I did the masking of a few of the panels and realized how painstakingly a job it was, especially going around curves! The extra time spent masking the teak in this method is about equal to the amount of time spent removing all the excess caulking in the other method. But in the end, I believe masking every seam is the better approach.
After 3-1/2 days of hard labor and 22 tubes of caulk, the job was completed. The coach-top panels are much smoother and the caulking came out great. The final step was to re-bed all the hardware, deck boxes, and traveler back in place.
As the saying goes: Cruising is fixing your boat in exotic places
I spent a good part of the day fixing things:
One of the dual Racor fuel filters had been dripping fuel into the bilge (onto absorbent pads) for a couple of weeks. I’ve tried replacing o-rings on the threaded drain knob at the bottom of the bowl several times in the past, but it continued leaking a few ounces per day. It was a nuisance cleaning up the pads and once I forgot to check things for a week and had to remove a half gallon of diesel from the bilge using a drill pump. I noticed if I tightened the plastic drain too much, the o-ring compressed too much and it leaked faster. But even loosening it by various amounts wouldn’t stop the leak all-together. Removing and inspecting the drain plug, I noticed the bottom of the plastic bowl was a little uneven, so I filed it smooth with a very fine file. I also put a bit of silicone gasket sealer on the threads next to where the o-ring seats. After screwing the plug back in and re-filling the bowl with diesel, it seems to have stopped the leaking–at least 24 hours later, I’ll keep an eye on it!
Our Fleming self steering wind vane, nicknamed Ian, never really worked right and I think I finally found out why! Another cruiser (Scott from SV Velvet Sky) was telling me how well his wind vane steered his boat and offered to take a look at mine. His is a Monitor, but works the same by turning the wheel in response to veering off a set course with respect to the wind. The problem with Ian, is that he seemed to turn into the wind all the time and never corrected course. Analyzing how the wind affects the vane, which affects the servo-pendulum rudder, which in turn moves the wheel, we realized that the lines going from Ian to the wheel drum needed to be reversed, or criss-crossed, to make the wheel turn in the correct direction! I decided to cross them where they were routed through the lazarette, which was more difficult than crossing them near the wheel drum, but provided a fairer lead through the blocks. Can’t wait to test Ian out on our next sail!
The head felt like it wasn’t flushing properly. The Y valve that steers waste either into an onboard stainless steel tank or overboard was getting harder to move, and with the valve in the tank position, you could hear some of the water going overboard. So I disassembled the Y valve and right away could see the problem–lots of calcium deposits had built up so the valve wouldn’t completely move to the tank position. This was not a fun job, but was finished in about 2 hours and now the Y-valve operates much better.
Most atolls in the South Pacific have surrounding coral reefs. To safely get to the inner lagoon, you sometimes have to carefully steer through a narrow passage. Charts may not be accurate so it’s always good to keep a good lookout whenever you’re near reefs. Positioning yourself high up in the rig makes it easier to see the changes in water color to spot the reefs. Ratlines are an age-old method for quickly climbing up rigging. One method is to use a set of lower shrouds coming off the spreaders on the main mast to tie the ratlines to. I used a combination of ratlines (3-strand rope) and ratboards (teak wood). The rat boards help keep the shrouds from pulling inwards as they do when only using ratlines. Two or three ratlines between ratboards seem to be a good combination.
Ratboards–The ratboards came from a 3″x3.5″x8′ stock of teak, which was ripped and cut to produce enough 1-1/4″x1-5/8″ ratboards for port and starboard. A hole was drilled through each end and a groove was routed along the top, end, and bottom for lashing the boards to the shrouds. Next I put on 2 coats of teak oil. A bronze screw was used for added strength.
I used #72 tarred seine twine for the lashing. Riggers tape was wrapped around the shroud for a better grip. The lashing started with a buntline hitch to the shroud, then a series of square lashings followed by figure-eight turns finished with a few half hitches.
Ratlines–The ratlines were made from 5/8″ 3-strand polyester (vintage style). I spliced eyes in each end and lashed them to the shrouds. A buntline hitch around the rope followed by square lashing as before, but this time finished off with frapping turns between the wire and the rope, and 2 half hitches. I worked a figure-eight knot into the end up close to the last hitch to prevent the end from pulling out.
Port-side progress–Since a lot of this work can be done after we depart from Seattle, my goal was to get all the ratboards cut and have enough 3-strand rope to be able to finish port and starboard steps while in Mexico. The progress I made on the port-side was 3 ratboards and a total of 7 ratlines. I’ll add another 2 ratlines and 1 ratboard above the top ratboard shown below, then repeat everything on the starboard side.
Not all boat trip-preparations are serious! Since we’re sailing half way around the world, I figured Apropos could use some protection from things like lightning strikes, pirates, sea monsters, and rogue waves. So I placed a figure of Captain America atop the mizzen mast.
Since Captain America had flexible joints, the first thing I did was to make him non-flexible with some gorilla glue (forgetting that it expands about 10x as it hardens, but who’ll notice 40′ in the air). That way he’ll stand upright in 30 knot winds. I attached him to a small piece of teak then used 5200 adhesive to affix him to the masthead.
I’ll bet that no other sailboat sailing between Seattle and Australia with a Captain America on the mizzen mast has ever suffered from any of the above mentioned perils!
Preparing for our 14 month-long cruise has been a huge effort, and for me, a full-time job for the past 6 months. During these months I installed a watermaker, outfitted Apropos with new sails, replaced the whisker stays, replaced 4 halyards, modified the autopilot to rudder post connection, had the fuel tanks polished, re-painted the bottom, changed all zincs, marked the anchor chain, and added more solar. Over the past 2 months we rented out our condo and moved onto the boat, where we’re slowly getting things organized. Deciding what to bring on the boat and where to store it isn’t easy (it was hard saying goodbye to my big-screen TV with surround sound!). One good thing is that we’ve found some new, out of the way areas on the boat that make nice storage for small things that are not often needed (extra watermaker filters, spare parts, etc).
Bottom Paint and Survey This is always an exhausting 3-4 day job. This time I hauled the boat out on a Friday, spent most of that day with a marine surveyor going over nearly every inch of the boat looking for any problems, defects, or issues. The boatyard prepped the bottom by first pressure washing it, then power-sanding. On Saturday we taped above the bottom line and all the thru-hulls, then rolled on the first coat of Cukote Biocide Antifouling paint. On Sunday we applied the second coat, changed the zincs, and greased the feathering 3-blade MaxProp. On Monday we applied a 3rd coat of paint at the waterline, and polished then waxed the entire hull. The good news over these 4 days was that each day I had help from someone. The bad news was that the weekend also coincided with the weekend we were packing up the condo, the weekend of my daughter Jacintha’s birthday party, and the weekend of my other daughter Amanda’s ballet recital. And to top it off, Jacintha got sick at camp on Monday and I had to run and pick her up, race back to the boatyard to finish the polishing and cleaning up before the 3pm haul-in and motor up the canal before the drawbridges stayed down for rush hour traffic! Despite the ultra-busy weekend, everything turned out nicely. No major problems were found in the survey and Apropos is looking good with her darker green bottom!
Polishing the Fuel Tanks Apropos has 2 steel 60-gallon diesel tanks located under the port and starboard aft bunks. When diesel fuel sits in tanks, condensation can occur especially if the tanks are not kept full. Water from the condensation sinks to the bottom and living things called microbes grow. These microbes make acidic deposits on the bottom of tanks that can actually eat away at a steel tank and create pinholes. One remedy that works well is to treat the fuel with a biocide that kills the microbes (I do this whenever I add fuel to the tanks). Even so, after so many years the bottom of a tank can get pretty dirty. When going to sea, rough weather can stir up junk in the tank and clog fuel filters, killing the engine–usually at a time where you REALLY need the engine. So as a precaution, I decided to have the tanks polished. Here’s how it worked–a boat came to the marina, removed the 12″ access plates on top each tank, pumped out the diesel from both tanks and filtered it as it went into a barrel on their boat. Next they used an industrial shop vac to remove all the sediment remaining in the tanks, then used a high pressure washer with 200 degree water to clean the tanks. My tanks have a baffle in the middle to reduce sloshing, so they used a 90 degree fitting on the pressure wand to reach around the baffle. After suction-drying the tanks, they inspected the bottoms for any sign of corrosion. There were a few very minor pits at the low points of each tank, but nothing to worry about (for badly pitted tanks, they need to epoxy the bottoms). Finally, they returned the diesel to the tanks, filtering it again as they pumped it back in. Now we can have some peace of mind when bouncing around in rough seas off the Washington/Oregon/California coasts.
Marking the Anchor Chain The main anchor on Apropos is a 60 lb CQR plow-type with 300′ of 3/8″ chain. When anchoring, it’s important to know how much chain is out, so I like to mark the chain at 25′ intervals. I do this with a combination of paint and colored zip ties. The last time I did this was 8 years ago and the paint was still ok, but I thought I’d re-do it since we’ll be anchoring most of the time on the trip. I lowered about 25′ of chain at a time into the water, then pulled it on the dock for marking. I used 3 spray cans of Rustoleum paint–red, yellow, and blue. The chain markings are observed as they come off the windlass gypsy and the code is as follows:
yellow–anchor is just below the waterline
1st red (1 red zip tie)–25′
2nd red (2 red zip ties)–50′
3rd red (3 red zip ties)–75′
yellow (1 yellow zip tie)–100′
yellow/red (1 red zip tie)–125′
yellow/red (2 red zip ties)–150′
yellow/red (3 red zip ties)–175′
blue (1 blue zip tie)–200′
blue/red (1 red zip tie)–225′
blue/red (2 red zip ties)–250′
blue/red/yellow (3 red zip ties)–275′
Rudder Post Modification The wheel turns the rudder via gears, a large diameter stainless steel cable, and a quadrant. The centerpoint of the quadrant is the rudder post. If the gears or cable fail, steering with the wheel won’t work, but an emergency tiller fitted atop the rudder post will work. The problem with the setup on Apropos was that there was less than a half inch of rudder post available to connect the collar on the tiller to. This had to do with fitting the boat with an electrical autopilot, which has a electro-hydraulic ram that moves the quadrant. The fix was to use ss washers as a spacer that stacks up to about 1.25″ to essentially lower the arm the ties the rudder post to the end of the autopilot ram. Lower the arm by 1.25″ exposed that much more of the top of the rudder post for connecting the emergency tiller. This was a simple fix in theory but made somewhat difficult by the cramped quarters inside the lazerette and the heavy-duty large fasteners (most wrench and socket sets end at 7/8″, this required a 1-1/8″). And working from above, accessing things from the opened helm seat, was difficult. But I had a 7 year old helper who I twice lowered down through the opening to retrieve a dropped washer and wrench!
Line splicing is an age old method of joining 2 lines or making an eye at the end of a line. Double braid 12-stand eye splicing involves separating the core from the cover and following a 10-step procedure. The only tools needed to make an eye splice are a fid (appropriately sized for the line), pusher-rod, marlin spike, and a needle and waxed thread for lock stitching the final splice. Lines on Apropos that have eye spices are used for halyards, topping lifts, lazy jacks, and dock lines. Below are pictures of the splicing procedure for a 5/16″ double braid line used for a topping lift.