Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Installing the Hatch

I feel like we are closing in on a successful launch, yet the boat looks like a disaster.  Launch certainly appears very far away.  After a year of hard work, deconstruction projects still dominate the schedule, and reconstruction projects are few and far between.  Plans change daily as more problems are discovered, and new solutions imagined (and re-imagined).  On top of it all, weather has been our daily dictating master, and a cruel one at that.

The cockpit hatch AJ built is finally installed, along with new cockpit drains.  The old metal drains were undersized (opinion), poorly installed (apparently opinion), and leaking into the core (fact), with solid rust for lock nuts (exaggeration).   After hours of grinding and cold chiseling the rusty nut-look-a-likes into pieces, the old drains finally came out, leaving monstrous three inch holes.

Days of scouring parts bins and the internet, revealed no real drains of sufficient size and material.  However, we did find out that most modern boats have fiberglass drain tubes built right into the cockpit floor, so we decided to update our plastic classic.  Sarah built new fiberglass drains using a premanufactured 2" fiberglass exhaust coupler tube, and wrapped it in fiberglass cloth and epoxy to increase its diameter to fill the holes.  AJ cleaned it up and cut it in half on a lathe and Voila, two cockpit drain tubes.(who is writing this post?)

 Some spare stainless tubing held them up in place while half a pint of thickened epoxy cured.

The old cockpit drains were 1 1/4", the new ones are a full 2", and to match the new upsized drains, the matching thru-hulls are also going to be replaced.  With the exception of the mushroom head thru-hull on the right of the picture, all the thru-hulls in the boat are flush.  Even the rudder junction, lower gudgeon, depth transducer, and cutlass bearing housing were beautifully fared into the boat with epoxy.  Some previous owner cared quite a bit about underwater streamlining.  I hope I have the skill to install the new larger thru hulls with the same attention to detail.

Before the hatch could be installed, there was one more fiberglass repair to make.  An accidental grinder gash (damnit AJ!).

I ground and feathered the edges around the gash before Sarah epoxied three strips of biaxial fiberglass cloth backed with matt over the mistake, starting with a large strip with subsequently smaller strips on top.  This prevents the possibility of internal delamination, and also fills the feathered edges most effectively.  Sarah also did it because I'm shit at epoxy work.

Post cure, and sanding.

Cured epoxy popped right out of the plastic mixing cup.

AJ prepped the underside of the cockpit floor for the hatch installation.  He had to remove a couple inches of core while losing a few pints of water and gaining a nasty fiberglass itch.  Words can not describe the evil... lying on your back, suspending your body over a 5 foot deep bilge, working overhead in an engine compartment of a fiberglass boat in the middle of Florida summer.  I will need to spear many a spiny lobster and/or grouper to make up for these days.

The hatch lip was installed with 5200 and 1/4" through bolts.  We originally planned to epoxy it into the cockpit. But our local composites expert/friend said that while epoxy is plenty strong, it is also quite brittle, and the constant weight stresses and flexing of the cockpit floor would likely cause it to crack.  5200 is flexible, thus a more effective solution, even if it is blatantly fugly to have exposed screw heads and a caulk seam.
Dry fit:

 If you haven't heard of 3M's 5200, then you are missing out on an insane product capable of bonding anything to anything with the kind of permanence that the British monarchy aspires to.  Standard 5200 is sticky to the touch for the first 36-48 hours, and takes 7 days to fully cure, though they do make a one day version that is slightly less enduring.  Messy sticky stuff.  Sarah is still finding spots on her skin a week later.  It wears off skin eventually...  I hope...  we may end up with some involuntary tattoo removal.

Now all that's left is adding a latch to the hatch and screwing in the bronze strainer drain plates.


  1. Another fantastic post. I love the detail you give explaining each picture and look forward to following your progress as you move closer to your goals. I gotta say, I've been following your blog from the first post, and you now rate up with Windtraveler my top two favorite cruising blogs.

    I have to wonder, you must be spending a fortune on fiberglass and epoxy. I'm trying to learn how to mold fiberglass but it seems that it's very expensive and it seems like you go through a ton of it.

  2. It is coming along though. You two have taken on so much, and accomplished so much. I am very proud of you both :-)

  3. Wow you guys. Your doing such an excellent job... it's frightening!... and enlightening. Makes me wanna pluck ol' Zoot out (which I first launched 2 weeks ago), tear her apart and bring her up to spec like you're doing.
    Cheers to y'all

  4. Thanks so much ctroeger!
    I've heard that prices on epoxy can vary wildly depending on your location, but here in Florida, it is cheap as dirt. raka.com (which is actually just a few miles away from us) sells epoxy for about $50 dollars a gallon, and a running yard (36"x48") of the biaxial glass with matt backing we use is about $15. Also, since the hatch was built from scratch, there was no need to use epoxy. I used polyester resin ($18 a gallon!), which is mixed at 1-3% ratio with MEK-P (the catalyst) rather than 2:1 ratio like epoxy, so the total cost of the hatch and lip (plus two failed attempts) was less than $70.

    We've got a gallon and a half of epoxy on the boat right now that cost me $60. The key to cheap fiberglass work is NEVER use anything from West Marine. Fiberglass wholesalers who sell to boat manufacturers price dry fiberglass cloth products by the pound, and it costs cents-on-the dollar compared to the prepacked folded sheets from home depot/lowes/walmart/westmarine, which incidentally are very low quality. Our total cost so far for all our fiberglass work so far is still just under $100 including building the hatch. Florida is the place to be for glass!
    Your comment is inspiring me to write an "everything I've learned about fiberglass" post... interested?

  5. yes, I think that would be a great idea!

  6. Don't forget to take along a gallon or so when you start sailing - you NEVER stop needing eposy to fix things that break/wear out/need changing!

  7. About now oyu likely need to stop and think about why you are doing all of this, I will try to post th epictures of our trip (1994-2007, Vero Beach, FL to Phucket Thailand).


  8. Great work on the hatch. That is on our list of projects this year for our Luders 36.
    I love the idea of building your own drain parts!


  9. I am reading your blog as we have an agreement to purchase a '74 Cheoy Lee Luders 36 (a yawl). Our survey is next week and although what I have seen in your blog scares the shit out of me, it also gives me great insights into what to look for and some confidence that I could eventually deal with most of what would need to be addressed.


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