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"Murre" - Cockpit Rebuild

This is a shot of the cockpit as she looked before Joanna’s Christmas present of power tools. Pretty sweet, actually, but what you can’t see is that underneath the floor boards, the cockpit floor has separated along all four sides, and so likes to leak onto the fuel tank and engine. Additionally, there’s a soft spot the size of a vegetable platter near the starboard drain. Really, the cockpit floor is being held up by the tank on which it rests and that’s it.


When starting, I thought to replace the floor only, but that soon gave way to … well, you can see here I’ve already removed the starboard side wall. It had a good chunk of dark wood where it met the rot in the floor. Note here that the aft bulkhead floats. What you can’t see is that the cockpit board on your right feeds down to the hull, but it’s only ½ inch and is rotten. Man, any idiot knows not to open Pandora’s box, but then give him a hammer and a saw and …


… Well, one thing led to another, and suddenly there weren’t no cockpit no more. Just a nice big hole with irregular dimensions, some plumbing, and lots of sawdust. Why, with all this space, I could add a king size bed, Jacuzzi, a tennis court and even have room left over for Yoga on Sundays. Who needs a cockpit? It leaks, after all. Note here the tank is out too. The three black athwart ships braces hold it out of the bilge and the two fore and aft nudge it in place.


Looking forward, this is the fore end of the cockpit and the high stress area directly below the mizzen. The white vertical frame to starboard and its twin on the port side were added soon after Jo and I bought the boat; at the same time two horizontal frames (one above and one below my yellow cereal bowl) were added. No worries here, now.


Being new at this, I used the old, rotten but still shapely cockpit pieces as patterns to make more patterns out of ¼ inch Luan ply. It seemed kinda silly since the old pieces were good as patterns, but it turned out to be a good idea. It surprised me how much fitting and shaving it took to fit the ¼ inch ply, and thus much less fiddling (though certainly not none) was needed to fit the permanent ¾ inch ply. The ¼ Luan was only $9 a sheet where as the ¾ Marine Okume was $120 a sheet. No mistakes on the Okume, please. I’m trying to get away with just one.


Georgeous stuff is this ¾ Okume. Arizona dessert pink, aromatic, pliable. You can boil it all day long and the glue won’t come undone. Certified by Lloyds of London w/a purple stamp on every piece. I half expected to hear “God Save the Queen” when I began the cut.


Looking forward, the Okume is coming into place. Just fitting. Nothing permanent yet.


Same view, but aft. Notice the aft wall of the cockpit I’ve turned into a bulkhead that seats into the hull. The ¾ piece in back extends all the way up to the athwart ships frame just below the wheel. The stained piece on the front is ½ Okume being used simply to bring the facing piece level w/the white 1/2 wall.


Here you can see the 1 x 1 ¾ frame that backs the cockpit walls. Forward it’s sistered to a too small frame that use to extend all the way from the aft cabin bulkhead to the wheel bulkhead, but, sadly didn’t survive the demolition. This loss will be remedied partly by fastening the cockpit wall directly to the vertical frames.


The framing is of Santa Maria, similar to Mahogany, shaped by me from a rough cut 1 ¾” by 2 foot by 20 foot board. Beautiful stuff to work with. The tree was probably hauled by elephant out of some lush forest. Notice my helper, the bathroom sink.


Looking at the starboard aft section, you can see that the 1 x 1 ¾ fore and aft frame backing the starboard cockpit wall will join a 1 ¾ x 1 ¾ stud directly into the hull. These are just standing in place, not fitted. I promise my joinery is better than the gaps here indicate. The little piece of wood behind the bulkhead is a spacer that will be used to fill the lower gap between the two layers of plywood.


That’s where we are so far. All the wood is home awaiting the glassing stage. Next steps are to paint the entire inside of the hull in white Bilgecoat and extract the heat exchanger for an overhaul.God love me, I still ain’t found a fuel tank.RR

Observations:

1. One benefit of photographing one’s work is that it serves as a reminder that work is progressing, all feelings to the contrary.

2. I’ve discovered a rule: to the novice, the number of tasks needed to complete a project, even on small jobs like this one, is not fixed. Rather, and against all intuition, it grows in proportion to the number of tasks already completed. A similar rule is this: any task you plan to do today will require several preparatory steps you should have done last week but didn’t because you didn’t know they were needed until you attempted today’s task. These two combined can leave you slobbering in your soup.

3. It is impossible to follow the manufacturer’s usage instructions. All instructions on the back of any can or tube of goo seem to be saying: “Never use this product after purchase.”

So, here we go…


Sanded and “cleaned up” the cavern in preparation for installation of water bed, pool table, and wet bar. Sanding the stringers revealed good, yellow wood underneath except where stained w/diesel. Amazing how filthy area had become over the years. The insulation that coats the inside of the hull on the starboard side especially has become punctured over the years and filled w/grime.


But two coats of “quick-dry” bilge enamel make it look markedly better. Given the cold, it took a week to dry. At the top of the photo, the two dark rectangles to the left and right of the white (rudder) post are where the bulkhead will seat into the hull. There the insulation has been removed and the hull left bare.


Took all four pieces of the cockpit well home and glassed them in the evenings last week. As you can see, I have a humble epoxy station—a table that drops into our car’s stall and fits as long as the car is moved back. What’s nice is that if the car’s been driven at all, it’ll keep your butt warm as you work. However, if you value your life, you will be careful to avoid getting epoxy goop on Joanna’s car. Note Murre’s sails and booms hanging from the rafters.


Each piece gets 2 layers of 1.5 oz mat. In addition, the fore and aft walls get one layer of 1/2 oz roving on the inboard side. The clamps on the bulkhead piece are to help bond the ply to the ply, not the glass to the ply. Honest. Many screws (not visible) are also involved.


Back at the boat, trimming the excess glass from the edges.


Here, the bulkhead and bulkhead frames are in place; both are screwed and glued and now entirely permanent. As the darkness of the photo indicates, this took well into yesterday evening. With all the screwing up, pilot hole diameter became a major frustration. Though big enough according to two separate sources, the holes would not admit the screws anything like easily. Yes, I double bored them, and yes, I used the hardwood pilot hole measurement, and yes, I used Akempucky (screw putty), and yes, I still stripped one for every one finally placed and broke a few to boot, and yes, I have the blisters to prove it.


The goop at the bottom of the bulkhead is 5200. The bulkhead comes to rest about 1/4” above the hull and will be bound to the hull later by layers of 12 oz fiberglass tape. The 5200 will act as a gasket and will get a good sanding before the tape is applied. A shot from the inside of the starboard vertical frame as it looks in place. Glue and four #14 x 3” wood screws (from the back) anchor it


The back of the bulkhead reaches all the way up to the athwartships frame.


Bulkhead from the back and where it seats into the hull. The white column on left and climbing diagonally is the rudder post. Small holes in the glass are from the #8 screws that punched through. They’ve been filed off, and the holes will be filled in later, I promise.

That’s the week.

RR


Rain Rain Rain. Now I can’t remember when it didn’t rain on a weekend. We’ve had 57 inches so far (130% of average for the year—and it’s only April) at San Rafael Yacht Harbor, which is behind Mt. Tam and particularly wet. It’s a tin roofed shed Murre is under, deliciously loud when the rain comes down hard, and it’s often hard—a sheeting rain that cuts up the water in the marina, turns it white under a lead sky. A Mallard pair, a Goldeneye and a Horned Grebe, typical onlookers, just sit there like nothing’s happening at all. The drowned cat floating by seems not to notice much either.


I’ve added a single rib to the back of each cockpit side to aid with stiffness. The rib is a 1” x 2” piece of pine that’s tapered on each end and then covered with several layers of 6” tape.


Here the cockpit sides are in place. At the bottom of the photo you can just make out the 1” x 1 ½” frame that runs along the inside top of the cockpit wall. From the top of the photo, you can see that the side is fastened to the frame every six inches with #12 1 ¼” wood screws. The ends are fastened to the vertical supports with #14 2 ¼” wood screws.


Here the outside of the cockpit sole frame is coming into shape. Santa Maria is used, cut to 1 ½” x 1 ¾”. Joints are a simple end lap. For reference sake, Santa Maria seems to have much the same weight and hardness of Honduras Mahogany. Murre’s old cockpit framing was 1” x 1” pine.


Frames being fitted. Additional cross frames will be cut, but I’m waiting for new tank’s placement to help define where they’ll go.


The cockpit sole is of ¾” marine ply (Doug Fir in this case). Notice it had to be cut in half. Given the small overlap of the teak deck forward and the teak frame through which the wheel passes (not to mention the wheel shaft itself), the sole simply wouldn’t slide in as one piece. Believe me, I tried. The placement of the cut corresponds to the middle of the three under tank athwartships supports (see previous photos), and so should rest right on the middle of the tank. This cut will be double framed from underneath.


Each piece receives two layers of 18oz roving top and bottom so that overall thickness should approach 1”.


Murre’s beginning to feel like a boat again. All for now…

RR


Ratty’s remark to Mole—“There is nothing—absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats”—suggests that all boating activities, regardless of type, ooze with charm and sparkle with magic endlessly. And while I agree that deep satisfaction can be had from fastening up a well shaped joint (doubly so when it is one’s own) and that there is magic in the setting of epoxy (sometimes a little too much magic), these charms are limited, especially when they go on and on. Simply put, working on a sail boat is not the same as sailing it.

Yes, I know the boat yard is full of guys who own boats and do nothing but work on them, and that these guys are quite, it appears, content.

As for me, I’m going a bit crazy down here in the yard. I know this because Catalina’s are starting to look attractive. I was caught lusting for one just last week. And last Saturday after successfully pushing a giant wood screw for the sail track the wrong way through my newly varnished toe rail, I said to Joanna, “How about a house boat on Lake Shasta? You could sit on an inner tube and I would tow you around, and then we could buy a jet ski.” Only a good slap in the face brought me back.

We started this "winter project" in January, and suddenly it is June. It’s been nothing but sun for over a month now, but none for me. I’m still in the shed.

Even so, we are approaching an end, which in this case…


… begins with the arrival of the twice made and much anticipated fuel tank. Yes, the world is round, people are nice, and fabricators do fabricate … eventually. This tank is entirely the same as Murre’s original, save that an access hatch has been added where the fill was, and the fill has been moved back a few inches. “Same” in this case means powder coated, 12 gage mild steel. Weight … considerable.


After covering the floor pieces in two layers of cloth, the next step is to cut holes for the two forward cockpit drains, the access hatch, and the fuel tank’s 2” brass fill pipe. Cutting into what one has labored to make perfect can be nerve wracking, but as it turned out, the work was straight forward. With the cockpit floor out, draw lines up the cockpit walls that indicate cut locations; then with the floors in, move those lines to the cockpit floor. The other operation which required the cooperation of a few brain cells was figuring how to shape the “divots” for the forward drains with the tools at hand. In the end, they were easily roughed in by taking little bites with the grinder and then sanded smooth.


The outside, the "box", of the cockpit floor frames is glued and bolted. The glue is West System epoxy mixed with colloidal silica to give it viscosity which then aids with gap filling. The bolts are SS #14 machine screws with a washer on the head side and a washer and lock washer on the thread side. I’ve opted for machine screws here rather than wood screws simply for piece of mind. The cockpit floor gets the most consistent abuse of any piece of deck and may carry the weight of several humans at once along with god knows how much water. I just don’t want to worry the frame popping. The white goop you see on the nuts is 3M 5200, used here as screw calk.


Before final placement, the athwartships frames receive a few coats of penetrating epoxy, as do the frames already in place. We won’t be passing this way again.


It’s about 56” from the back to the front of the cockpit well and I’ve filled that space with five frame locations (not counting the front and back of the box). The double frame just in back of the fuel fill is where the two floor pieces come together. The glue is the same as above and I’ve used #8 wood screws to hold the joints down as I have plenty of them but don’t have enough clamps. Notice that between each frame (and between each bolt set that holds the outside of the box together), is the hole for the cockpit floor bolts.


Like the frames, the floor is fastened with #14 machine screws, and the same washer regime is followed. But the floor is not glued in place, this in case it needs to be removed at some future date. Unlike the frames which, once the bolts are removed, might pop with a good, downward whack of the hammer, the floor would not come out without major damage if glued. So, the top of the frames are covered with 3M 101 (good seal, minor adhesive strength)…


… and then once the floor is screwed down, the gap and top of the seam is laid with 3M 5200. If future removal is required, the 5200 seam can be cut out with a knife, the fasteners removed, and the floor heaved out by five swarthy men with very strong backs. At least that’s the theory.


Each corner gets two layers of 6 inch fiberglass tape and a generous application of West System 410 fairing compound. I always get a hankering for Dairy Queen Chocolate flavored ice cream when I work with 410. The corner radius shapes nicely with a tongue depressor, and the whole thing fairs out to velvet with 120 grit sand paper.


Another task that turned out to be easy was the shaping of the gap between the floor and the fuel fill top, which is raised about three inches above the floor to help keep standing water out of the fuel tank. I’ve cut plywood rings that are the size of the fill to fit the space between the fill top and the floor and then shaped in a cone of West 407 fairing compound. Paint it on like peanut butter, and don’t worry about being messy—it’ll sand down Michelangelo-smooth with ease.


Two primer coats and two of single part polyurethane paint, rolled and tipped.


Both the tank access hatch and the instrument panel window are Lexan. In the case of the tank access hatch, this lets a little light into the engine room. Both are fastened with #8 SS screws and sealed with 3M 101. At 1/2" thick, the access hatch piece is the thicker of the two; the instrument panel is 3/8" thick. Overlap on the access hatch is 2".


And that’s it. Sadly, like a lot of boat improvement jobs, nothing looks to have changed to the casual observer. When I pulled into my old slip after months away, a woman on a neighboring boat said, “I thought you were off sailing the world.” “Why yes”, I said, “Let me tell you about it..."


SUMMARY of Materials

WOOD

*Two sheets ¾” marine ply for the cockpit sides and the floor. If you are more careful in planning than I, you may get away with one sheet. After cutting the sides, I was left with a roughly one foot by eight foot piece of ply, but couldn’t make the floor of it. The second sheet was used for the floor alone. Lots left over.

*One small piece of ½” ply, for fairing the new aft bulk head to the old.

*One 2” x 8” x 12’ piece of Santa Maria for the framing. Again, planning better may serve you. I bought a second, but ended up using only a little of it.

FASTENERS

#14 x 3” wood screws. These fasten the aft bulkhead to the vertical supports. You need 10, so buy 15.

#14 x 2 ¼ wood screws. These fasten the cockpit sides to their vertical supports. Buy a box of 100. You only need about 30, but this is a favorite fastener size on the Mariner. You’ll find other places to use them. In fact, I’ll admit I now buy all fasteners by the box. They're actually cheaper that way, and one always finds uses for them.

#12 x 1 1/2 wood screws. These fasten the cockpit sides to their single horizontal backing frame.

#14 x 2 ½” machine screws attach the "box" of the floor frame to the four cockpit sides. Also nuts and three washers per screw (one a lock washer).

#14 x 3 1/2” machine screws attach the cockpit floor to the frames. I couldn’t find 3 1/2”, so used 4”.

#8 x 1 ½” wood screws hold the Lexan pieces in place.

Brass brads, 1½ ”. Nice to have around. They can help hold the end of a long piece you’re trying to fit.

ADHESIVES AND SEALANTS

*West System epoxy. I used this for all bonding and sheathing. Plan on about 2 gallons of resin and equivalent hardner. For fairing I used 407 Low Density (red wine color) for areas that needed to be smooth and a little strong and 410 Micro Light (chocolate ice cream color) for every thing else. Both look good enough to eat when mixed, but do resist. For bonding wood joints, I added 406 Colloidal Silica to the mix.

*Smith’s Clear Penetrating Epoxy. This is for all wood that might otherwise be left bare, for example the end grain of ply and frames that will never see the light of day and don’t need paint. I used very little on this job but usually buy it by the gallon as it gets used everywhere.

*3M 5200. One 10.3 oz tube

*3M 101. One tube 10.3 oz tube

FIBERGLASS

(I used scrap left over from deck rebuild, so these are estimates.)

*6" Tape, about 6 yards, for the corners and the sides support

*1.5 oz mat, about 4 yards, to sheath the backs of the cockpit sides and the back of the bulkhead

*.5 oz roving, about 4 yards, to sheath the interior surfaces (later faired and painted) of the cockpit

*18 oz roving, about 5 yards, to sheath both sides of the floor

Time Commitment

It’s a 3 jean job.

That is, if each weekend you wear the same dirty, old jeans until a) they are so stiff with glue and paint that you can no longer squat down without grabbing the dock and pulling hard, or b) they smell so bad that the yard dog, Ozzie, runs from you screaming each time you approach, then you'll be done when you've worn out three pair this way.

Actually, it took me 6 months of mostly weekends, but in that time I also replaced the fuel tank (twice, essentially), replaced the heat exchanger, cleaned and sprayed the back side of the engine, stripped the toe rail to bare wood and re-varnished , struggled for way too long replacing the jib sail track, and stripped and repainted the main mast.

And I'm slow.

So, it’ll be much faster for you.

I wish you the best,

RR