More Sanding, and then Sanding Again…

Now that I’ve caught everyone up via video for the most part, I feel like I can write a bit without having to type a novel.  I still need to make the video showing all of the various projects going on in my garage, which contains about 30-40% of all of the work I am doing with this project.  However, my current focus remains at the boat itself.

This past week I didn’t get much boat work done during the week, too much work-work to do which kept me from the yard.  I still always manage to get something done each day, however, regardless of how little and insignificant it may seem.  The only way this project will ever get done is if I chip at it little by little, no matter what.  On days where I can’t get any physical labor accomplished I will at minimum do some research for projects, order some parts or supplies online, or maybe even work on the blog.

There is ALWAYS something to buy, and most things are very specific and can’t be found just anywhere.  I am constantly needing to buy stuff like sandpaper, sealants, epoxy supplies, fasteners, etc.  Fasteners are always a big bitch.  No matter how many I think I have, the next project requires something slightly different.  Have the right screw size?  Guess what…you need it in bronze for this one!  Have a ton of 1/4-20 x 1″ bolts?  Guess what…you need 1.25″!  My inventory of fasteners is getting pretty diverse in size, use and material.  Unfortunately, most fasteners and even many of the supplies can’t be found at Home Depot or some other local sture…gotta go some place online.  Getting that kind of shopping done is a constant thing, and I consider it “boat work.”  I really wish I had kept better records of my spending and the man-hours spent on this, just to give people some real data on how ridiculous this whole thing is.  I might be able to do the spending analysis by looking at bank statements and credit card transactions, we shall see.

As you have seen in the videos, I have spent the past few weeks sanding down the fairing compound on the bottom.  I finally finished sanding off the big first pass of fairing compound.  A job that took a long, long time holding a sander above my head and at all sorts of angles for hours on end.  It was a dreadful job, worse than taking the bottom off.  At least it was a good shoulder workout.  After I finished the first sanding I had to go back and patch up a ton of spots that didn’t get enough fairing compound, or just needed some extra goop to get flush.  

I applied those patches last week, and as of this past weekend I finally got those sanded down.  Of course, there were quite a few more spots that needed more goop, so yesterday I applied those and will sand it down sometime this week.  Hopefully only one or two more applications in select spots will be needed before the bottom is faired, and I can get the boat lifted to access the keel and under the stands.

Aside from the bottom I am still working on applying the Cetol to the caprail.  I haven’t been able to do any more to it since I made the last video.  I want to apply one more coat of Cetol and then I will do 2 coats of Cetol Gloss.  I figured while I am doing all of that, it would be a good time to put on some maintenance coats on the hatches that I did last year, and finally get some oil/sealer on the handrails.  All of that is a work in progress, and hopefully I can finish it by the end of the weekend.

But things happen that always derail plans.  I had planned to have all of that done two weekends ago, but between rain and other plans…things had to be postponed.  Thus the story of the project, always changing plans and pushing things out.  I didn’t go DIY to get this job done fast or cheap, I did it to learn HOW to do it, and to do it right.

Oh and last Saturday we had a lot of rain, keeping me from doing any of the current work at the boat.  I decided to attempt to get the engine running again since I haven’t started it since last August when I ran it for the first time.  I had some notes for things that needed fixing from the first start: replace a gasket on the heat exchanger that was leaking, replace the hour-meter on the instrument panel, replace a few wire connections that I messed up.  I got all of that accomplished in a few hours, and when it was all ready to go I gave the engine a crank.  Amazingly, it started up without a cough!  I let it run for about a half hour, putting the transmission through its paces shifting from forward, neutral and reverse; and through a range of RPM’s by adjusting the throttle.  I plan on cranking it up more often now just to keep up with it and not let it rot away under its tarp.

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April boat work: Bottom fairing, deck installations & Cetol

Posted in Bottom Job, Deck, Restoration, Woodwork | 2 Comments

Work-in-Progress tour of s/v Windsong – Part 4: Cabin/Interior (part 2/2)

Sorry this one is so long, but it finally finishes the boat tour:

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Work-in-Progress tour of s/v Windsong – Part 3: Cabin/Interior

Continuing with the tour of Windsong, here is the first of two videos showing whats going on inside the boat….

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Work-in-Progress tour of s/v Windsong – Part 2: Deck

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Work-in-Progress Video Tour of s/v Windsong – Part 1: Bottom & Hull

Hello!  Long time no post….not the first time I’ve said that.  The last post was in August when I finished the engine, and since then I have been working on the boat consistently.  Unfortunately for this blog, I have just not felt like writing along the way.  I’ve said it many times before, it is difficult and annoying to catalog each of what feels like hundreds of projects as the go, because for the most part there are dozens going on at any given moment.  So I will update you guys here and there, and of course when I finally finish something I will make a nice write up about it (see the last posts about engine and windows).

To catch everyone up with whats been going on, I decided to make a few videos giving a tour of the boat, my work-spaces and the storage areas.  I will try to make them interesting and if I enjoy doing them (and you enjoy watching them), I will keep making them.

The first video here is a tour of the bottom and the hull, recapping what I’ve done and what I still have to do project-wise.  It is a bit longer than I wanted it to be, hopefully I can be a bit more concise in the next few videos.   -Erick

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The Engine Comes to Life!

For those following, the last update on the engine was a long time ago when I had begun to reassemble the thing.  Here are all of the previous posts concerning the rebuild:

Part 1: On to the Engine!
Part 2: Some Engine Work Photos
Part 3: The Rusty Bolt Nightmare
Part 4: Ready to Reassemble
Part 5: Painting the Engine
Part 6: Reassembling the Engine

I mentioned in the last post that I only had a few items remaining, but unfortunately those items took me many months to complete.  I sort of left the engine at that state and ignored it for a while as the job of sealing up the boat became a bigger priority.

The hold backs came in the form of the transmission, alternator, starter and wiring.  The transmission was sitting by the engine for the whole rebuild, I figured it just needed a paint job and that was it.  But while it was sitting I noticed that it began to leak oil out of the shaft seal, so of course that needed to be fixed.  Turns out that the nut holding the coupler on was a very special type of nut that needed a very expensive type of wrench to get off.  I did the math and it would cost less for me to take the transmission in to get a full service as well as the seal replaced than to buy the actual tool.  So I took it in to a local shop and got it fixed up, sealed up and working well.  It got a paint job and was ready to be installed.

The tranny fresh from the shop, ready to be painted.  Note the weird nut holding the coupler on.

The tranny fresh from the shop, ready to be painted. Note the weird nut holding the coupler on.

I installed the starter motor and alternator.  As far as I knew, both of these pieces worked fine before I took the engine apart.  It would always start up very quickly so I had confidence in the starter, but I didn’t know for sure if the alternator was going at full strength.  I assembled the engine and connected the wiring harness, just to see if the starter motor would crank over.  I turned the key and nothing happened.  Welp…time to trouble shoot this mess.

In order to give my self some piece of mind, I took the starter and alternator into a shop to get checked out.  Turns out the starter needed a new solenoid, and the alternator was putting out only about half of its rated amps.  I wanted to upgrade the alternator to a higher output unit anyways, so I purchased a new 80 amp (55 amp was the original) alternator.  The starter was in decent shape after the solenoid replacement, but the shop had a smaller and more efficient starter in stock that I could buy at a decent price.  I bought it and will have the original one as a back up.

Old and new: Starters & Alternators.

Old and new: Starters & Alternators.

Then came the issue with the engine wiring itself.  The original wiring was poor quality, un-tinned wire without heat shrink terminals.  The connections were loose or corroded, and in the end I decided it all needed replacing.  Instead of shelling out big bucks for the official Yanmar wiring harness,  I rebuild the wiring myself using high quality materials.  In addition, I had to re-wire the instrument panel as it was a complete mess of corroded terminals, and I needed to add new male-female connections to replace the wiring harness.

What have I gotten myself into..

What have I gotten myself into..

The great part about having to re-wire the engine and instrument panel, as well as the alternator was that I got to learn all about marine DC electricity and how to efficiently put together safe and relivable connections.  All of which I will need to do plenty of when re-wiring the boat.  It forced me to break out the batteries to see how they are, to start to figure out how I will be wiring up my charging system, and overall mapping of the electrical system.  The engine and instrument panel wiring will probably be one of the most complicated electrical nightmares on the boat, so getting it out of the way early leaves me full of confidence to tackle the rest of the electrical system.

All of that took a bit of time working on and off while focusing on other projects as well.  This weekend I finally had all of the pieces together, and decided to see if I could crank the engine up…….

Other view from the phone camera I was trying to (unsuccessfully) hold…

and with that…the engine project is complete!!  I just need to put her back in the boat when the engine room is all ready, align the engine to the shaft, and hook it up.

To put this all in perspective, I had ZERO mechanical skills going into this entire project.  Now I just finished a major engine rebuild successfully.  There is no excuse for you to not learn the skills you desire, with the internet at your fingertips you can find all the information in the world…or at least get pointed to a book with the info.

Very very happy right now :)

Posted in Electrical, Engine, Engine, Restoration | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Making and Installing the Large Cabin Windows

AT LAST…the big windows are FINALLY in!  This is a huge step for me, as this particular project was much more involved than I ever expected it to be, and was a crucial step to sealing up the boat.  Windows, ports, portlights, deadlights…they have many names; but for now I will just refer to these as windows.

Long time readers of the blog will know that I’ve pondered the question long ago what I will be doing with the large cabin windows.  The original ones were very thin acrylic with cheap plastic frames and barely sealed in.  They leaked, they cracked, they were overall unsuited for offshore work as I’ve read a few accounts of DE38 windows breaking easily under the pressure of waves.  These windows needed an upgrade for safety as much as appearance.  I pondered the choices for replacing the windows long ago here:

Since then I have pondered further, and after much research I finally settled on the materials and the method for installing.  In the end I decided to make my own windows out of tinted cast acrylic, installed using a fastener-less method with Dow Corning 795.  I won’t re-write what has already been written on the subject, so I will just link you to the most important pieces I found that summarizes the research:

1. Maine Sail (link), renown guru of all things sailboats summarizes the choices between lexan and acrylic (plexiglass), the various sealants and methods of installing including the recommendation for not using fasteners.  here:

2.  This is an article that many people reference for installing fastener-less windows, aka “Sexy Windows” (click here for original Cruisers Forum discussion).  The author originally uses heavy duty 2-sided tape for the installation, but in his notes at the bottom he mentions the current trend of not using the tape, just the sealant:

3.  This is a great article someone pointed me to that details the method of installing the windows using temporary screws to affix them while the sealant dries.  I followed these instructions with a few minor variations.  I detail some of my installation variations in the picture captions below.

Using those three links as the basis (and much more forum and article research), I went ahead with creating my windows.  Unfortunately, this project was a great example of how order of operations creates big problems.  For example, before any windows could be installed, I needed to settle how I will be rebuilding the cabin liner because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to trace out the window openings.  That process itself was a huge project because I had no idea how I planned on doing the cabin liner, so I had to make a lot of final decisions in the process.  I will write that process up once I am further down the line on it, but will preview it below in the pictures.

At last these windows are sealed up, and a lot of progress can now be made inside the boat.  The boat interior was practically outside and exposed to the weather since those windows are so huge.  Now I can finally keep the interior clean for projects that require it, and am no longer at the mercy of the weather to work inside the boat.

As with my last few posts, below are a bunch of pictures with the story in the captions.

Original windows. Cheap plastic frames, very thin acrylic, leaked badly.

Removal of original windows. Had to chip away at the frames with a chisel.

Window removed. Old headliner staples and mess left in the core.

The core was exposed behind the old windows. I removed about a half inch of the core and filled up with thickened epoxy to seal the edges.

This is a window opening template made from some hard board. This was made by just pressing the 2′ x 4′ board up against the window and tracing from the outside.

To make the templates for the windows themselves, I used the window opening template, and sketched 1-3/4″ outside of the opening line to create the window over-lap.

Here is the window opening template, and the window template. This shows how the window would sit over the opening.

Tracing the window template onto the acrylic.

Tracing the window template onto the acrylic.

Cutting the acrylic, making sure I am well outside of the template line to avoid any chips or dips into the line.

Rough cut finished

You can see here the rough cut, and how I kept outside to avoid screwing up the lines.

Using my orbital sander with an 80 grit sheet, I shaped the windows down to the template lines to create nice and neat shapes. I felt much more comfortable shaping the windows this way than trying to keep a good line using the jig saw. Plus, the jig saw will chip occasionally due to my lack of technique, being careful to remain outside the lines and shape afterwards helped with that.

Clean lines after sanding.

Finished window cut out

Clean window edge after sanding. I eventually used a block to sand the edges down even cleaner with 150 grit.

Before windows can be installed, I needed to dry-fit my headliner replacement. I am using tongue and groove bead-board to replace the liner with hard panels that can be removed as needed. Here is a dry fit before cutting out windows.

Paneling in place with windows cut out. Would have been very hard to trace out those windows if they were in place!

Window all masked off ready to be installed. Notice the set screws that will be used to hold the window in place while the 795 cures.

I used a cut of small hose as the 1/4″ spacers. As mentioned in the articles I posted above, windows this big need a gap and large sealant bed as they will expand/contract with heat. If the gap is too thin, it will shear off the window or cabin.

While I ended up using Dow Corning 795 as my sealant, I had originally purchased a bunch of Sikaflex 295 UV and primer to use for the windows. After more research, the Dow 795 was the dominant recommended product, plus it was about 1/3 of the cost of the Sika 295. I returned all of my Sika for a big refund, but I had already opened the $75 can of primer to use on the hatches. The articles above recommend that you paint the acrylic on the edges that will overlap so to create a uniform, black coating. The biggest weakness I found in this fastener-less method was that the bond is only as good as the paint on the hull or the acrylic. To overcome this, I used the Sika primer on the acrylic because it etches on chemically and creates a very permanent bond better than any paint. I let the primer dry completely, then gave it a very good sanding to ensure good adhesion with the Dow 795. I think this stuff will be much, much stronger than any paint I could use.

Dry fit of windows.

Masked outside of window

As previously mentioned, the weakest part of this installation method is that the bond is only as good as the paint on the hull. In order to get around this weakness, I sanded off all paint so the bond is directly to the gel-coat.

Massive bead of Dow 795 all around the window

Window screwed in, with finish bead around outside of the edges. After screwing in, I had to do some touch-up filling of sealant where it didn’t squirt out the sides. I also added a thick bead outside the edges to shape into a rounded off edge. The edges were difficult and they didn’t come out perfect, but definitely good enough for my first try at this.

After a day’s cure, I removed the screws and filled up the holes with sealant.

Screws out, holes filled, making ready to be removed.

Finished! I was ecstatic seeing them for the first time. More beautiful than I had imagined they would be. You can barely see the screw holes.

Port side finished windows

Super dark on the outside, plenty of good view from the inside. Window here on the right, no window on the left.

Clean bead of sealant on the inside.

View from the ground

Finally, no more tarp on half of the boat!



Posted in Restoration, Windows, Windows | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Rebuilding the Butterfly Hatch

Downeaster’s come with a neat little butterfly hatch over the main cabin.  The “doors” or flaps or whatever they are called have some glass in them to give the cabin some light.  Unfortunately, my hatch leaked pretty badly as the sealant in the glass had faded away over time.  Like everything else on Windsong, that means a rebuild is in order!  This was no way near as painful of a rebuild as the companionway hatch.  The most difficult part of this was separating the glass from the wood, as it was all held together by sealant/adhesive and I had to be very careful taking it apart to preserve the wood.  The pictures and captions below can tell the story.


The hatch before taking apart. Weathered wood, crappy glass that leaks, the usual..


Another view pre-disassembly


Completely disassembled, cleaned and sanded. Notice how the flaps come apart into a few different pieces of wood. There are grooves that the glass rests in on the pieces, filled up with sealant to adhere it all together and seal up.


The wood got the Cetol treatment, same as the other hatches – 3 coats of Cetol Natural Teak, 2 coats of Cetol gloss using a 3M scrub pad to “sand” it down between coats.. It seems that in this picture, I was getting the Sierra Nevada treatment.


All put back together. I used Sikaflex 295UV for the sealant, testing it and it’s primer out before I use it on the large cabin windows. I replaced the glass with tinted acrylic.


Hardware installed, weather stripping as well


Interior view.

IMG_1296 IMG_1299 IMG_1307 IMG_1306

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Rebuilding the Companionway Hatch

Rebuilding the companionway hatch was one of those projects that sounded simple enough, but ended up being a very involved thing taking many months longer than anticipated.  Just like with most of the boat, it is only when you take something apart that you realize the full extent of the damage and work to be done.

Sometime when the boat was still put together, I was inside during a rain shower noticing all of the water coming in from various leaks.  One that came as a surprise was a steady leak coming through the sliding companionway hatch.  I noted it and made sure to investigate it when the time came to focus on that hatch.

The time came and went, and before painting the deck I removed the hatch in its entirety to access the full deck, with the idea that I would do whatever I needed to do to seal up the hatch and make it leak free.  When I began to remove the slats that make up the top of the hatch, the horrors beneath were revealed and instead of applying some sealant and calling it a day, I realized I had to rebuild the entire thing.

The pictures and captions below will tell the story:

Companionway hatch and doors, pre-removal

Companionway hatch and doors, pre-removal. You can see the wood was in a pretty weathered state.

Companionway hatch and doors, pre-removal. You can see the wood was in a pretty weathered state.

Companionway hatch and doors, pre-removal. You can see the wood was in a pretty weathered state.

Hatch frame after removing the sliding part.

Hatch back at home ready to be taken apart

After removing the bungs on the slats and pulling off the frame underneath, the damage was beginning to be revealed. The frame had a lot of rot and a huge crack down the middle of each side, and you can see a big hunk of wood that broke off from the end. All of this was restorable, with good old epoxy.

However, the real gremlin was revealed when I removed the slats. Underneath the slats and between the formica bottom was what appeared to be a piece of plywood that had completely rotten away. The leak I saw had done some major damage to the plywood supporting the hatch.

When I first saw this I didn’t even know what i was looking at. Was there some sort of veneer under the slats? It didn’t even make sense. I eventually put it together that it was plywood that had just rotten away.

Frame under the ply and slats. Lots of cracks and rot, but I committed to restoring the frame so I didn’t have to start from scratch.

Under it all was a formica panel that was the inside face to the hatch.

The hatch doors were in decent shape. They needed some mild restoration in areas where wood was damaged, but mostly just needed a cleaning, sanding and finish job. I also wanted to replace the glass with tinted acrylic and seal it up tight.

The inside of the doors had the same stain as the rest of the interior wood.

The glass frame was held on by some sealant, and was easy enough to remove with a scraper and hammer.

Glass pulled out, sealant was cleaned off and the whole thing was sanded down.

I don’t have any pictures between this and the last picture. But there the doors are all clean, sanded, restored, acrylic installed and sealed up.

Hatch frame getting the epoxy treatment.

More hatch and frame components getting the epoxy treatment.

Hatch slats getting a final coat of epoxy before reassembly. The pink is epoxy compound that I used to fill damaged and rotted areas.

I had a panicky moment when I tried to do a dry-fit before fully reassembling the hatch. One slat was missing, and I went on an easter egg hunt that took a few weeks to finish. I eventually found the slat behind all sorts of crap in my garage. You can see in this picture the difference between the cleaned and sanded slats and an untreated one.

Everything taped up and ready for reassembly. Each slat was bedded and sealed up with Life Calk polysulfide sealant. It was an extremely messy job, but it is sealed tight. What I don’t show and didn’t have a picture of was the new plywood piece that goes between the fame and the slats. I used my normal fir plywood with a few coats of epoxy to seal up and and avoid the fate of the prior ply. Instead of using a formica under-belly, I just painted the ply white on the bottom.

Once again I did a poor job with the pictures of reassembly and the bedding of the sealant. But here is the hatch getting bunged up.

All put back together and sanded down.

Restored frame getting installed and bunged.

Bungs! Installed with varnish, not glue or epoxy.

Final fit and the rear panel getting installed. Before installing I used a dry lubricant for the tracks.

3 coats of Cetol Natural Teak, 2 coats of Cetol Gloss to finish. Looks beautiful if you ask me.

You can see some of the repair work here. Glossy gloss too

Pretty shine

The whole thing all done up and in working order.


Posted in Hatches, Restoration | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments