Monday, September 28, 2015
Wild Birds deck project, deck details, and plywood boat rants
Since late May I have been working on Wild Birds deck. She is a 34 year old Trintella 44' ketch built in Holland and designed by Van de Stadt. Tim and Gayle Evans emailed me a year ago asking if I would replace their worn out teak decking in the cockpit and fore cabin deck with new glued on teak. They also wanted all the rest of their flush teak decking removed and fiberglassed over with an Awlgriped finish over the entire deck. This I could do while they went home back to England for the summer.
Sure! So I sailed from the Bahamas single handed to St Martin where Rachel and our dog Bequia met up with me. (They don't like sailing to weather for days at a time.) Tim and Galyle arrived a few days later having sailed across the Atlantic to meet up with us for a winters adventuring in the Caribbean Sea before they were to leave me with Wild Bird to make her like new. You can see in this blog we have been having fun.
Here's an update with how this project is moving along with some thoughts and observations to go along with it.
First off I will point out that I grew up on a wooden ketch that had caulked teak decks, hatches and teak every where. Teak as a wood is a wonderful natural timber.
But I personally would never own a boat with teak decks. They are super hot to stand on in the tropics.
They collect dirt like crazy. They take daily maintence to keep alive by cleaning them all the time. If they are laid in the tradional manner with caulking to keep out the water they have to stay wet to keep the water out from below. If screwed down then you will have to deal with Thousands of fastening at the very least. All a potential leak. And they are not really that great as a non skid surface unless barefoot.
Now take a modern boat built in plywood with its decks glassed over. No leaks. Now take a molded one piece fiberglass deck. A thing of the utmost in low maintence perfection and then screw at least 2,800 holes into this watertight perfection to add a teak deck to. Total madness.
Read along and see what this madness can and will produce after 34 years of wear and tear.
The original teak was about 1/2" thick when new and screwed down with pan head # 10 1-1/14" screws using at least three different types of caulking. The deck was worn down to 3/16" in many areas with screw heads showing all over the place. The black caulking was degraded so far as to leaving black stains on your feet and pants if you sat on the deck.
Years before the previous owners had sailed to Turkey and had the decks seams recaulked in places and refastened in many other places with in some areas doubling the screws in the deck. Madness.
While in the yard in turkey the past owners had all the head liners taken down and all the deck fastenings epoxied over to stop the many leaks in the deck.
As I removed all the headliners, deck hardware and the teak decking I was to learn of Wild Birds past builders the good, the bad, and the down right ugly.
I thought the whole deck would look like this. Not so.
So I replaced the rotten plywood and glassed one half at a time.
What a mess being hidden under and behind the boats liners. Anyone buying a used or new boat should look behind that boats deck liners to get a look at the sins lurking there.
After the cabin deck was glassed over with fiberglass cloth and epoxy I glued down this sheet of closed cell core on top to fair out the 1/2" dip and to then fiberglass over again to gain strength by having a double skin cored deck. The teak when glued on top onto a flat straight surface would then make it very stiff.
Otherwise you can use peel ply cloth or you will have to sand the resin to get a good secondary bond. I do not trust wiping off the hardened epoxy with alcohol , acetone or vinegar.
I know they used a router to cut the seams when the boat was originally built as all these grooves went under all the deck hardware and these had never been removed.
Lots of production boats decks have all their deck hardware attached before the deck is attached to the hull. You can see this on this boat by all the deck bolts that have landed on top of bulkheads and in areas that for me to unbolt I had to cut away parts of the interior. This I have found on many name brand boats that claim to be the utmost in Yacht designs. Just plain BS. Before redoing a teak deck on a yacht I make a deck list to make sure I can get to every piece of hardware. On many boats it's impossible to get to lots of deck hardware without cutting out parts of the interior.
This method works well for me in strong winds as the cloth is always under control. If it should start to rain then cut the cloth off and the resin part will cure getting wet. Then come back and start again when dry.
I will post pictures next month of the finished project and will show my time sheet and what it cost to do. 384 hours logged so far.
Now onto some detail ideas on deck hardware and some ranting from me of how bad some boats are in the deck and interior design.
Let the ranting start....
I feel that plywood boats like the Hogfish Maximus have been misaligned for too long. The thinking today is if your boat is built out of plywood you are a cheap skinflint that is willing to live in a continually rotting box. I get so many questions about how I keep the HFM from rotting and falling apart.
I want all of you that read my rants to just look around you. One of the most successful design brands out there today is the J- Boat franchise. Great boats all. They perform, they cost lots.
They are made out of balsa cored wood, with the thinnest plywood interiors. Basically they are fiberglassed wood incapsulated boats. If you do not fix a leak through the deck or hull of one of these speedsters she will start to rot. Try fixing a rotten balsa core deck or hull. I have had my fair share of doing this. It's a miserable job that you need to get paid well to do. I HATE BALSA CORED BOATS ! The worst things ever.
But my next job is to fix a big hole in the side of a Mumm 36 that is balsa cored so.... Work to pay for this winters sailing.
Most all top end Swedish , Danish, Finnish , German, English, American built boats today are built around a balsa cored deck and a totally plywood interior. There is no difference from what they have to deal with than a simple plywood built boat that is well looked after. All the builders will tell you they use the balsa core because of its compressive strength. Yes it has that, but they use it because it is the cheapest thing to buy plain and simple. J-Boats should be using Closed cell core but that would be interfering with their bottom line.
On a fiberglass built production design everything has to be hidden because they don't have the time to build a proper interior. It would just cost way to much. So when you are buying a Halberg Rassey or some such plywood incased sloop with all its vynel headliners you are in reality buying the cheapest thing in the boat building market. Only one off boats can be built with everything thought out to be seen and delt with at all times. Or worse! You buy a sailboat that has a full Fiberglass headliner. Now you can't track a leak or fix it because it's hidden till you get out the saw.
HFM has 5 through hulls or holes going through her hull. The average amount of underwater through bolts and through hulls I counted the other day in the boat yard from Niads, Oysters, and their type was 28-32. Try and keep track of all that when you're in a gale and you're taking on to much water.
Most boats have an automatic bilge pump so don't really know how much their boats are really leaking.
On the HFM we have no bilge pump as we only leak through the prop shaft when motoring.
My Guess on Wild Bird she had at least 3,800 holes in her. Now 2,800 less.
These are few of the things I have done to make maintaining my plywood boat very easy.
Properly glassed over plywood boats if maintained will last forever. They are very easy to maintain if you are using them. They will not last if left half sunk in a lagoon.
Most all of the production boats that I sail in company with take way more maintence dollars than HFM. Why , well we don't have as many systems and our boat is very easy to keep clean and running in top condition.
When thinking of your next boat keep it simple so you can be out here sailing most of the time instead of fixing something that was built into the boat years before and now is broken and you will now have to do open boat surgery to repair.
Rants over for now.