The cruising life is fully upon us as we begin doing boat repairs in exotic locations such as Olympia and Jarrell Cove on Harstine Island here in the south Puget Sound area. When we last left you, we were taking a break from the boat yard, then heading to Jarrell Cove to rest and recuperate while we assessed the water damage to the bulkhead.
It’s really different dealing with this type of boat repair now that we are cruising full time. Gone are the days where we had two days a week for Mike to give his attention to the boat. In those days we packed as much action as possible into a day and then fell into exhausted, ibuprofen-laden sleep. We are learning a new rhythm now; a kinder and gentler rhythm on the whole. Instead of two days back to back of nonstop work, we only do one at a time. Then we complain about it. But seriously, yeah. There’s a lot less frantic activity so far.
After enjoying an extra day on the dock with our friends Stephanie and David Gardiner aboard S.V. Cambria, we finally took our leave and made way to Jarrell Cove, home of friends Rose and Gary Benz. Jarrell Cove is quiet and completely protected from most weather. Aside from friends, it also offers a state park with brand new docks that have electricity. We needed electricity for the next phase of project ‘Mizzen Mast Leak’.
During a terrific visit with Rose and Gary, during which Rose served us her famous hamburgers with all the fixings (Thanks, Rose!! Yum!) our discussion turned to the aft cabin. Gary is a master wood worker and they also have a friend, Larry, who has many years of experience repairing and building boats. We made an appointment for Gary and Larry to come down and view the damage the following morning. Sometimes it’s nice to have extra pairs of eyes on a project before you start, just to make sure everyone agrees on the important things.
The next morning saw much interesting and informative discussion around the wood damage. There was head shaking, frowning, sighing, and many an expression of commiseration. But no matter how much we discussed the problem, no decisions could be made about how to do the repair until we actually got out the tools and removed the rotted wood. I was anxious to start cutting because I was worried about my beautiful painted fiberglass wall in the aft head. It backs onto that dratted bulkhead and I was worried it would have to be destroyed.
Rose had found some heavy plastic for us (Again, our thanks.) and I hung a dust curtain in the aft cabin to protect our bedding. We rigged the shop vac up on deck so the exhaust was outside the boat and donned our masks. It was time to commence to cutting!
Mike and I take a ‘surgical’ approach to work that involves cutting nasty things like rotted wood and fiberglass. One of us works as the surgeon, wielding the cutting tool. The other works as the assistant holding the vacuum nozzle close to the action. We might be forgiven for being a little anal about keeping the floor swept of debris and vacuuming the area several times an hour. It makes clean up easier, and our beds stayed clean.
We got very lucky in many ways both during this phase and in terms of what we found. We had expert advice, we had electricity for the shop vac, there was only one other boat on the dock, and the noise from our shop vac did not disturb him. (Thank you so much fellow sailor!) We never want to be ‘those’ people who make all kinds of noise in a quiet place. So we really are grateful to the other sailor who didn’t even bat an eye at our shop vac and only expressed his hope we could get all the rot removed.
With all the compromised wood cut away, we discovered another lucky thing: the 1 1/2” thick bulkhead was actually two 3/4” sheets of marine plywood glued to one another. The word ‘glued’ as it’s used here means that glue was applied to one of the pieces of wood. It has nothing to do with how much contact was made between said pieces. Therefore, by applying constant pressure with prybars of various sizes, were able to remove the outer sheet without damaging the inner sheet, then cut away the rot up in the corner and along the side of the inner sheet of wood. This is good news because now we will scarf in new pieces of marine ply, sealed with epoxy, to the inner piece of wood.
We’ll be able to cut the new piece to fill the gap left by the builders between the top of the wood and the cabin top of the boat, making that fit snug and tight. Then we will replace the entire outer sheet and epoxy/fiberglass it to the first, making a strong bond. Replacing this entire sheet means the new bulkhead will be a smooth surface with no obvious signs of repair. The new bulkhead will be much stronger than the old one. And it’s going to look good, too!
In the photo below, the top half of the wood that backs onto the engine room has been removed. This section, which is not structural, had more rot than the bulkhead. We got lucky, once more, in that the piece of marine plywood we removed from the bulkhead is big enough to cut a new piece for this opening. That saves a bunch of money.
You can also see the gap between the top of the bulkhead and the cabin top. Guess the builder decided this was ok. It’s not. See those scratches on the wood? That was supposed to help the glued panels stick together. See how clean the wood is? That’s because those scratches didn’t do a blessed thing. There was basically a void in the middle between the two pieces of plywood.
All edges on the new wood and old will be sealed with penetrating epoxy. I have already applied penetrating epoxy to some areas that showed water staining but no rot.
At the end of the day, we feel lucky that the final bulkhead will be the same depth as the original, which means we won’t have to do extra finish work on the sole of the cabin and on the massive corner piece of teak that would otherwise have to be trimmed. In a nutshell, it makes the repair that much simpler. In addition, it means that my lovely fiberglass wall in the aft head can be left alone!
We have until July 10 to finish this repair and so far we are very pleased with our progress. We are also pleased to be able to address each task of the project without feeling rushed and pressured, and still be able to enjoy being on the boat in exotic locals. This weekend is the Festival of Sail in Tacoma and we want some time out among the REALLY big boats. We’ll go anchor in Gig Harbor for a bit to address the next phase of this repair.
(P.S. – I’m experimenting with software that allows me to write blog posts while offline, then publish them when I get a connection. Some things, like the photos, are a work in progress.)