Archive for the 'Aesthetic Improvements' Category


I (Jon) finished these jobs variously on April 1st.

The varnish on both rail boards was cracking and peeling. Also, I had fully broken off a part of one of the whisker pole mounts that had started to crack. Finally, the outboard mount had a bunch of grinder marks all across it from when we needed to chop the bolts that stuck through. This had to be done to accommodate the new outboard engine we had bought in Tahiti, but I had done a poor job of grinding and chewed up a bunch of wood.

I coated all of them with six layers of Defthanes’s polyurethane, which is three more than recommended. One of the rail boards was newer, less than a year old, but the polyurethane on there was already wearing through, so I decided to just go well above a reasonable amount and I was able to do two coats a day.

I also made some additional wood pieces to mount at the ends of our old rail board where it was cracking from the u-bolts that held the board to the stanchions.

I’ve also started sanding the coamings, caprail, and handrails in preparation for varnishing them when I take the boat back to Brisbane in a couple of weeks. All of the easy areas are sanded and now I’m just hand sanding the hard to reach areas.


I (Jon) finished these jobs variously on January 6th, 17th, and 19th.

The paint on the plinths has been peeling off over the last year. The plinths are the made of prefab’ed fiberglass and are very waxy, the paint doesn’t like to stick.

I sanded the hell out of them and repainted them. The paint seems to be sticking well, a few months later. No peeling happening. I painted two layers of primer and another three layers of paint. Hopefully that will do the trick.

I had problems with sanding the old paint off. I invariably had to sand some of the deck as well. Then when I went to mask them off, where do I put the mask? there’s not a clean line from old paint directly down to fiberglass. Maybe I should have masked the deck when I sanded… but the tape for the mask would just getting ruined quickly I’m sure.

So now there’s an obvious line where the new paint went down. It is particularly noticeable where it abuts the non-skid on the deck. The obvious solution is to touch up the non-skid, but I haven’t gotten around to doing that.


Refinished Deck

Ooh boy this has been a long time coming.  I have been looking forward to this job more than any other, for the past year, because it is one of the few jobs that people walking down the dock can actually see and admire.  Most everything else I do on the boat is hidden behind some panel and goes unseen and unsung.

Since we bought the boat, the deck has become increasingly ugly.  We made no attempts to keep errant epoxy or other crap from marring the surface; many spots have holes drilled for the purpose of repairing minor delamination; some areas jonny gooped over with plain epoxy in a failed attempt to fair the surface where there was some crack or hole.  The final state of the deck before I started sanding it was undeniably shameful.  Some might argue that appearances don’t matter and that our deck only looked ugly, but the truth is that there were cracks and holes all over the place that were admitting water into the balsa core and causing increasingly serious delamination (see my post regarding the delamination mess).

Since other projects have been so much higher priority, I have had a really long time to dream up how I was going to tackle this project.  I went through a number of different options for which non-skid to use.  For a few months I was planning on going the way of Wally, using a product called Ultra-Tuff.  Fortunately, Wally’s boat Stella Blue happened to be in a marina less than 10 minutes away at the time, so I got in touch with him and went over to see for myself how it turned out.  I have the utmost respect for Wally–he does the most meticulous and ridiculously successful work on his boat of anyone I know and his project pages have been invaluable to me–but I didn’t like the ultra-tuff that much.  Largely because it was a sharp, fairly brittle feeling surface, and not too pretty.  I definitely didn’t want to do the shake-sand-on-paint route, or the route of putting “microballoons” or some other such artificial sand in the paint and rolling it on, etc, because all of those decks that I have seen look very amateur, very DIY, and didn’t seem all that non-skid either.

All of those methods are still a hundred times better than our deck was before I touched it, and all perfectly adequate solutions.  But I had about a year to plan this project to perfection, and since the sheer magnitude of this job is overwhelming, I needed to feel like I would be really excited and proud of the end result, or else my motivation would waver.

I ended up choosing a product called Kiwi-Grip, because of the ease of application, the ease of recoating when necessary, and the look of the finished surface (as viewed up-close on various web pages where I found references).  It costs $100/gallon and you have to use a lot of it to get a really nice texture.  I ended up using 2.25 gallons to do the entire boat.

I elected to brush on a two-part polyurethane paint for all the non-non-skid (i.e. “skid”) areas.  Usually this means the trim around the edges of hatches, the outside edge under the caprail, etc.  Two-part polyurethane is synonymous with “linear polyurethane”, which I can abbreviate as LP, and that’s a hell of a lot easier to type from now on.

LP is harder to apply nicely than single-part polyurethane.  The surface of it gels quickly, so you have to start painting and keep moving and you can’t go back and fix “mistakes”.  For the professionals, “mistakes” refers to brush strokes that remain visible in the paint after it cures, instead of disappearing into a mirror-finish gloss that looks like it was sprayed on.  For me, “mistakes” refers to long drips and runs and uneven gobs of paint, etc, in spots where I accidentally caught the brush on an edge, or couldn’t see the white-on-white paint dripping down, etc, and so my mistakes are very obvious.  The good thing is that the mistakes don’t matter for the functionality.  LP is a hell of a lot more durable and long-lasting than single-part polyurethane, so I get to claim victory for choosing the LP even if it does end up looking like shit.

I chose Interlux Perfection for my two-part polyurethane, because we can get a deal on it, it’s made for amateurs like me, and it is popular (i.e. reliable).  In retrospect, I may have chosen a cheaper alternative.  Even with our deal, the stuff is way overpriced.

So the order of things is as follows:
pick a section of the deck, then . . .
1) sand deck with 80grit
2) prepare spots that need fairing by digging out loose shards of gelcoat
3) vacuum up dust
4) wipe down spots that need fairing with acetone
5) mix up a batch of Quikfair and apply to all prepared digs, holes, scratches, etc
6) sand down quikfaired areas with 80 grit
7) if inadequately faired with only one round, repeat steps 3-6
8) vacuum all dust
9) mask off
10) wipe down/clean the deck with the thinner (in this case Interlux 2333N)
11) paint coat 1 of two-part epoxy primer (I used Interlux Primekote)
12) lightly sand with 120grit
13) vacuum all dust
14) wipe down with 2333N
15) paint coat 2 of two-part epoxy primer
16) lightly sand with 120 grit
17) vacuum all dust
18) re-mask off for only LP areas
19) wipe down with 2333N
20) paint coat 1 of LP (I used Interlux Perfection)
21) lightly sand with 320 grit
22) vacuum all dust
23) wipe down with 2333N
24) paint coat 2 of LP
25) re-mask for only non-skid areas
26) wipe down with acetone
27) paint kiwi-grip (one coat only (hopefully!))
27) pull up tape and admire
28) repeat steps 1-27 for other sections of the deck

One thing I’ve learned from this whole affair is that all of the two-part stuff is way more of a pain in the ass than all of the one-part stuff.  To start with, you can just open a can of the one-part stuff, mix it up, and start going.  And then close up the can at the end of the day.  With the two-part products, you need to open both cans, use little mixing cups or spoons or something to very accurately measure out perfect amounts of each, then use up the whole mixture usually within an hour or so (there’s always a time limit on the two-part stuff), and whatever extra you have is wasted, but usually you’ll end up being about a quarter cup short, but you sure as hell don’t want to mix up another cup full of the stuff because it costs almost as much as gold.  Not to mention all of the two-part products are about 10 times more toxic and deadly than the one-part products–this includes the two-part epoxy bilge paint from sherwin-williams that gave me a headache for a day (I was stupid it was my fault, no respirator that time), the two-part epoxy bottom paint primer we used before painting the hull, the two-part epoxy primer paint (Primekote) I use on the deck, the two-part polyurethane Interlux Perfection, and even the regular old West System two-part epoxy (redundant since all epoxy is two-part).  Contrast this with the kiwi-grip, which is an acrylic water-based paint: I open the can, slap it on the deck with a brush, roll it out with the roller they provide, then put the lid back on and rinse everything out quickly and easily with water.

True, the LP will last a long time.  But on the other hand, wherever the non-skid starts to wear off, I can just grab the can and goop some more on in a matter of minutes (if I’m not too lazy to just ignore it for years that is).  Both approaches have their appeal.  After throwing away hundreds of small paper cups and whatnot in the course of mixing up these two-part poisons, I have to admit the Kiwi-Grip’s ease of application was pretty refreshing (though I’ll be singing a different tune if it only lasts a few months before it starts to fall off).

The pictures in the galley are in chronological order of how the boat was painted.  I did not sand the whole boat, then mask the whole boat, etc.  I did it in pieces.  First I did the rims and lids of the propane locker and lazarette with the primer and LP, then I did the foredeck with primer, then masked for the LP, then remasked for the non-skid on the foredeck.  Then I ran out of kiwi-grip on the foredeck and ordered more.

I learned, from doing the foredeck to completion first as a proof-of-concept, that you don’t want to put kiwi-grip down over the LP (I had inexactly masked before painting the LP, assuming that the edge of the LP didn’t matter once I put kiwi-grip over it).  I knew better but forgot.  Two reasons not to let the kiwi-grip end up over top of any LP: 1) it won’t stick well to the LP 2) the LP will show through the kiwi-grip much more, being glossy bright white and whatnot.  So after that I masked perfectly for the LP, then masked perfectly right next to it for the kiwi-grip.

After the foredeck, I did the port side deck and cockpit, more or less together.  I did it in pieces because it was just too overwhelming to try to do each stage over the entire boat all at once (actually, I did it in pieces because Karen convinced me to, and then I saw the wisdom of her reasoning).

Refinished wood on deck (scrape, sand, varnish)

. . . including dorade boxes, the hatch surrounds, cockpit coaming, and the caprail.  Jonny did this job.  I wish I had more pictures of the finished result, somehow forgot about that one.

Jonny did 4 coats on each surface.  First coat was thinned 50% to penetrate, second coat was thinned 25%, all coats after that were un-thinned.  Varnish used was the Epifanes high-gloss.

Fabricated new arch for radar, solar, wind generator

The old radar arch on the stern was a lot of metal tubing accomplishing very little–a mount for the radar and two dinky solar panels.  We were going to need something more to mount our wind generator and larger solar panels anyway, so I got it in my head to build my own thing for the stern.  I envisioned two vertical poles, the wind generator on one and the radar on another, with a rectangular frame in between for the solar panels.

First I was going to use aluminum, but I balked after my first attempt to weld aluminum ended with a weak joint in which I had no faith.  Then I was going to use cheap-ass galvanized pipe that you can get in any home depot.  But you have to be careful welding galvanized stuff–it’s poisonous when you burn it off–and it is only marginally corrosion resistant for a piece of metal that will be permanently mounted less than two feet from the salt water.  Then jonny convinced me to use stainless steel.  Initially I balked at that, because I knew that it would be ridiculously tedious to polish it up, and it needs to be polished up in order to be corrosion resistant.  But jonny convinced me by promising that he would do the polishing, and confidently proclaimed that it wouldn’t be that hard or take that long.

Many months later, it is complete and polished and mounted.  For the past month the two poles have sat on the deck of the boat, waiting for me to finish the polishing job that jonny only half completed.  Can’t say that I was really surprised; half-assed is jonny’s m.o. for all things boat related, and overconfident proclamations come out of his mouth only slightly more often than I have been convinced to believe them–which is a failing that I am trying to rid myself of once and for all.

Polishing the stainless was, as I predicted, a complete bitch.  We discovered via trial and error that the most efficient way to go from a flat matte grey finish to a mirror polish is to start with 220 grit sticky-backed sandpaper disks on the 7″ disc sanding pad on our milwaukee variable speed grinder (turned almost all the way down).  After sanding off all the matte grey, we used the stiffest buffing wheel we could find (the one with the most circles of stitching holding it together) combined with the coarsest rubbing compound–the type intended for “cutting or polishing of stainless steel”.  It takes absolutely FOREVER to get it to a decent polish.  In retrospect, I wish we had shopped around to hire the job out to some place.  Jonny did the majority of the work on them, then we mounted them temporarily to get measurements.  “Temporarily” turned into three weeks, and by that time there was already a patina of rust all over the areas of the pole that were not completely shiny.  It’s crevice corrosion, the bane of stainless steel; it happens wherever there is a scratch or a pit in the metal.  Keep it mirror shiny and it won’t develop a spot, but the rust will find the little scratches and make a home.

I used 2″ nominal 304 stainless steel pipe, schedule 10 for the vertical uprights, obtained for a reasonable price (which I have blocked out of my memory because reasonable for stainless is still way too goddamned expensive) from Alco in San Leandro I think.  Pipe and tubing are measured differently.  2″ tubing has an outside diameter of exactly 2″.  2″ nominal pipe, schedule 10 (refers to a thickness of .109″), has an outside diameter of 2.375″ and an I.D. of 2.157″.  I used 1.25″ dia. nom. pipe for the support legs and the crossbar, and the top pipe inserts on which the radar and wind generator are mounted are 1.5″ nom. pipe.  All schedule 10, since that’s the thinnest I could get and isn’t as thin as I wish it would have been.  I made myself a little chart to keep track of all the diameters, because no one could ever identify their pipe for me so I had to carry around a set of calipers and measure them for myself:


I decided on a vertical post on each side, each supported by two struts.  I didn’t want the struts to rise above the height of the pulpit–a style consideration, I just didn’t want all that metal blocking the view or experience aft of the boat.  That, and I knew it wasn’t necessary for strength (especially considering how crazy strong the pipes are that we’re using).

Jonny and I spent a whole morning fucking around with cardboard tubes and protractors trying to determine the exact angle that the struts needed to make (in both the horizontal and vertical planes around the vertical poles).  We used the average of all our measurements, and then I used the diameters of the two pipes and the angle between them to print out a “coping” diagram to use for cutting off the pipes, from this sweet website.  You print out the curve on a piece of paper, cut it out, wrap it around the pipe, then use a sharpie to draw the line on the pipe.  Then take the cutoff blade (or 5 of them) and a grinder, and painstakingly cut the pipe to match that curve.  Afterwards, the strut will rest against the vertical pipe just right.  Remarkably, it actually worked, and really well at that.

Then I welded the struts to the vertical poles at the tech shop.  Essentially I learned to TIG weld just for this project, so I don’t have very much experience.  And it shows.  The weld job I did is acceptably strong, I hope, but it isn’t pretty and it is far from admirable to those who know welds.  In a nutshell, I went over it too many times, trying to make it look nice, and in the process heated the metal too much, causing the weld to be weaker and more prone to corrosion than it otherwise would be.  I’m not too hard on myself for it, because it’s still pretty good considering how little experience I have.

I’m glad I was so anal about measuring the angles accurately, because the poles just barely fit in place.  In truth, on one side we needed to fabricate a shim to go between the strut and the hull because I didn’t get it quite right.  It was a tall order to get it even as close as we did, so I’m just thankful that it works.

I fabricated the brackets to mount it to the hull out of a scrap piece of stainless box iron: I cut the box in half and then in half again to get L-brackets.  Again, polishing these up was ridiculously tedious.

I cut backing plates for the brackets out of a scrap piece of thick-ass stainless–1/4″ thick I think.  Two of the plates sat on a curved piece of the hull, and I was concerned that when we cranked down on it it could break the fiberglass, so Jonny puttied up the backside (the surface that the plates would sit on) with thickened epoxy and then smooshed the plates down onto it (with a piece of waxed paper between) to form a nice base for the plates to sit on.

So I welded the supports to the vertical pole, but I decided that I wanted to use fittings to mount the rest of the supports in place–I wanted them to be adjustable and removable if necessary.  I went with “speedrail” fittings for the pipe, then had TAP plastics fabricated some starboard bushings to mate our leftover 1″ stainless tube into the pipe fittings (I couldn’t find any commercially available adaptors, anywhere).  Our old bimini frame (1″ stainless tube) had been hanging off the bow for months; I cut almost all the pieces I needed for the solar panel frame out of the old bimini apparatus.

At the top of each of the vertical poles I made a 1.25″ nom diameter pipe insert, that bolts inside.  I welded the radar mount to this insert (instead of directly to the top of the vertical pole) so that it can be removed with two bolts.  The wind generator got mounted to the insert on top of the other pole (the KISS wind generator is designed to be mounted onto either 1.5″nom pipe or 2″ tubing).

The resulting framework is the strongest of any I’ve seen.  It is probably also the heaviest, but my intuition tells me that our mounting points on the hull are going to be strong enough to handle it all (I really hope we don’t have problems with it!).

Installed portlight on forward surface cabin top

This is an unconventional one!  No one does this!  It’s a terrible place for a portlight!

But it’s also a fantastic place for a portlight.  Conventional wisdom says that it’s a bad location because waves washing over the bow will pummel the window, either breaking it or causing it to leak at the least.  But we are so confident in our portlight design (1/2″ thick acrylic 6″ x 16″ hole, through-bolted with 12 bolts and thoroughly sealed with silicon) that we went ahead and did it.

Not only does it let in a significant amount of light, but it lets us see up onto the foredeck to check out what’s going on.  I’m convinced that it’s bombproof and I’m glad for our choice.

Be sure to check out the post about our original post about added portlights, where I detail the whole process.

Replaced stereo & speakers

The old speakers were blown out (two in cockpit, two in cabin) and the old stereo had no auxiliary input for the ipod/computer.  After tolerating a noisy tape-adaptor system for four months we elected to spring for new stuff. We bought a bottom dollar “marine” stereo (only marine thing about it was a piece of plastic across the top of it, sealing off a couple screw holes), two 6.5″ speakers for the cockpit, and two mounted box-like speakers for the cabin. We ran fresh Ancor tinned marine-grade speaker wire for all of them. I did it by the book in splicing, soldering, and heat shrinking the dozen wires out the back of the stereo, and mounted a little beautiful 1/8″ headphone jack in the bulkhead for the ipod hookup.

Mounting the speakers in the cockpit proved far more of a job than I anticipated. I had hoped that the new speakers would just screw into the old mounting holes, but of course that wasn’t the case. So we had to cut out a new ring of plywood. While we were at it we went ahead and replaced the sealing beckson port that houses the speaker.
inside view cockpit speakeroutside view cockpit speaker coveroutside view cockpit speakercabin speaker