Basic Terms

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Cabin Fever

Being isolated  in a limited space over a  long period of time can often lead to feelings of claustrophobia, restlessness, irritability, and yes, even Madness! This condition is commonly known as "Cabin Fever".  

Jack Nicholson notably depicts this affliction in the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film, "The Shining".   In the film, Nicholson portrays Jack Torrance an unemployed teacher/writer who takes a job as a caretaker at an isolated hotel which is closed for the winter. Torrance pursues this position specifically  for the seclusion in hopes that it could cure his writer's block. -go figure-   
Over the course of his stay, the isolation  starts to take its toll and Jack transforms from an aspiring writer to an ax wielding maniac!

I'll stop here for those of you who haven't seen the film but if you do decide to watch it... leave a light on. 

O.K., so why are we talking about Cabin Fever anyway?  What could this possibly have to do with the Curious Sailor fixing his boat?  Stick with me and I'll explain...  

Having repaired  most of the major damage on the outside of the sailboat it was time for me to start working in the cabin.  The way I see it,  the cabin makes up for half of the fun of sailing. It's a safe place to escape from the elements or comfy place to simply sit back and relax or take a nap. A home away from home if you will. 

Since this is my "learn to sail" boat and not a live-aboard I do not anticipate a whole lot of cabin time when out on the water but I would still like to have a nice cabin to retreat to when out for the day or a weekend. With that said, I figured Cabin Fever would never be an issue for me but I couldn't have been more mistaken! 

Without ever having left the front yard I got  the fever! Just like they describe it too... Feelings of claustrophobia, restlessness, irritability, and yes, even Madness! 
Well O.K., the madness may be a slight exaggeration  but I was definitely going nuts! 

I quickly realized that the damage on the inside was just as extensive as it was on the outside. In fact, quite a bit more and I would have to spend a significant amount of time in a cramped space just to make her seaworthy again. 

In the movie Jack Torrance voluntarily isolated himself in the Overlook Hotel which in my opinion, was actually kind of spacious.

After moving in to the hotel  it only took several weeks for the fever to completely consume Jack's mind and I couldn't help but wonder how long it would have taken if he moved in to my sailboat cabin instead.  Granted, Jack's isolation space was riddled with evil spirits and he was also cooped up with a weird little kid who had an imaginary friend living in his mouth- but still... I mean come on... Look at the difference between his space and mine!  

Somehow when I  looked inside this cabin for the first time, I thought to myself, "Ahh, that's not so bad. I could fix this in no time..." 
Some of my closest friends have suggested that I had the "Madness" long before I got the Cabin Fever, but that's still up for debate. 

Now, before I could even think about where I was going to start with respect to rebuilding this cabin, I found that I was going to have to do some groundskeeping first. Yes, that's not a typo, I said groundskeeping...

I had to rake the leaves....


And harvest the mushrooms...


That really is a mushroom growing out of the stringer. This is just an example of how neglected this poor boat really was. Since the previous owner had allowed the boat to fill with rainwater, the saturated wood turned into a peat like substance fertile enough to grow mushrooms... 
Talk about madness!

O.K., once I cleared the grounds it was time to commence with a controlled demolition.


Even though I was suffering from Cabin Fever I opted NOT to use Jack's repair techniques.

Instead I went with this:

Which in turn gave me this:


Now for those of you who saw the movie, you may remember that really long spooky hallway where the kid would ride his big wheel.

Well I had two of these hallways to contend with one on the starboard, and one on the port side. 


Spooky right?  I really did not want to go down these hallways and not just because they're very dark and scary.  The clearance is only about 10 to 12 inches so it's an extremely tight area to work in- especially with tools and materials. Also, don't forget that this work is taking place in sunny South Florida during the summer months so it's blistering hot! What choice did I have though? I made a commitment to restore this little boat even if it meant that I would have to risk a serious bout of Cabin Fever. She was depending on me to bring her back to life and to rid her of all her ghosts.

So, for those of you who were wondering where I was going with my Cabin Fever analogy perhaps you have a better understanding now. Claustrophobia was immediate, since I could not even stand up in this little cabin. Feelings of isolation quickly followed because no matter how hard I tried I could not convince anyone to give me a helping hand in this dark scary place. Restlessness, set in fairly quickly as the demolition and clean up process were painstakingly slow and tedious. The intensifying heat fueled the irritability.


The Madness...  speaks for itself...


Friday, July 22, 2016

All is Lost... or so I thought...

In the movie "All is Lost", Robert Redford portrays an aging sailor who is navigating solo across the Indian Ocean.  A series of unanticipated events unfold during his journey, which force him to make decisions that will either ensure his survival or result in his demise.

If you haven't seen the movie yet, I don't want to spoil it for you - but I will say that this is a story where the sailor's success or failure is dependent upon his critical thinking skills and ability to make the correct decisions when facing unfamiliar circumstances.

I found myself in a similar position with this next repair and almost convinced myself that- All was Lost...

If you refer back to my blog-post titled  "Negotiation Time" , you may remember that I discovered several findings during my pre-purchase inspection. I classified these findings across three categories, "Minor Issue" , " Major Issue", or "Structural Damage". 

Well, In addition to the issues that I was able to categorize,  I also noticed another issue that seemed pretty weird but I wasn't quite sure as to which of the three categories it fell into. 

There were two  significant dents on the lower port and starboard sections of the hull located where the boat rested on the trailer bunks.  I was confused as to what caused the dents and apparently so was the previous owner. He told me they were there when he acquired the boat and he wasn't sure how they got there or what to do about them either. 

Between the two of us we couldn't decide whether it was simply a cosmetic issue or something more serious. Nevertheless, I didn't let it sway my decision to buy the boat because I figured  I would just repair the dents  when I was  repairing everything else. 
Especially, since everything else needed to be repaired...

It's difficult to see in the following photos but look at  the upward curve of the water line stripe.

While any damage below the waterline is never a good thing, I didn't see any cracks or separation in the paint or gelcoat so I thought the dents might simply be more of an eyesore rather than a structural or major issue. The hull actually felt solid in these areas when I pushed on it  so I figured I could possibly just bang them out from the inside  or fill them in from the outside.

The problem was no longer a critical concern in my mind and I simply downgraded it to a "minor issue". 

I was more concerned with some stress cracking that  I found  on the hull adjacent to the port side dent. 

While, this issue looked more serious, the repair process was actually  pretty clear in my mind. I was going to grind the damaged area out, reinforce it with new fiberglass and resin, fair it back and paint. There really wasn't any type of distortion to deal with and the damage was visible so I just simply needed to carry out a typical fiberglass repair. 

As for the mysterious dents, a few people recommended that I simply leave the dented areas alone since they were very low on the hull and would probably not be visible in the water.  Worst case would be a slight loss of performance with respect to speed and\or handling. 

Though, this sounded like the easiest approach to the problem it also sounded like an easy way out which is sometimes the source of regret. Even though I no longer considered these dents to be a major issue I just didn't feel right about doing nothing and leaving them as-is. 

I decided to take some time to think it through, since I always try to look at a situation from every angle prior to making a decision. After approximately 5 minutes I decided to fix them, even though I probably didn't have to. 

After doing a little research it turns out the dents were not caused by impact but instead they were a direct result of what's referred to as "Oil Canning."  

Oil canning occurs when a boat is incorrectly supported or stored on a trailer for very long periods of time. The fiberglass weakens over time and the hull can actually dent inward.  This is particularly true in this case because if you remember, I also noted that I had found evidence that the boat was filled with water at one point in time. This resulted in delaminated fiberglass and rotted stringers (internal structural supports). Sure enough the dents were located in the same location where the stringers had rotted away.

I read that If the problem is noticed early enough, the boat can be removed from the trailer and the dents might pop back out on their own. I had hoped they would pop out when I put the boat on blocks but that  didn't happen... 

I devised a repair strategy and broke it down in to three possible options:

Option 1:  
Bang the dents out as you would if you were working on a car with a dented fender or hood.

Option 2:
Fill the dents with fiberglass body filler and fair them back to the original contour. 

Option 3:
Cut the dents out and rebuild with new fiberglass. This option was to be a last resort because these dents were fairly large and I was not comfortable cutting out large sections of the hull. 

So there we go... Solving this problem was now as easy as 1-2-3 and I was excited about getting busy with option 1.

Option 1


A 4 1/2 lb rubber mallet, or better known as a dead-blow. I was sure this would  allow me to pound the dents from the inside-out, just as you would on a car fender or hood.  

After several failed attempts, I realized I was doing nothing more than making a lot of noise because  there was absolutely no movement. I also concluded that I would not recommend this option to anyone else working on a dented hull.

Rubber tends to bounce off of fiberglass and if you're not careful you could literally knock yourself out cold! 

I know what you're thinking...  No! I did not knock myself out. I missed by an inch but still, don't try this at home. 

Having no choice but to go with option 2, 
I was going to fill the dents with body filler and fiberglass over them. 

Before I could apply the  filler though,  I had to sand away some of the paint and gelcoat in order to get a better bonding surface. While I was sanding I noticed some discoloration in the center of the dent. I sanded a bit more and it exposed the original fiberglass which was devoid of any resin. It was dry, brittle, and  flaky.

I sanded the degraded material which quickly transformed into a hole. Not a good sign.  

I continued sanding until  I exposed good fiberglass but there was still a horizontal crack extending from the center of the hole. 

I followed the crack with the sander hoping it would simply blend out but no such luck. It seemed as though this crack travelled forever... 

This is what we were dealing with:

The situation gets worse because the other side of the boat was the same way. Concealed cracks in the dented area and the same result after sanding as well.

So, what started out as two superficial dents actually ended up as two gashes on either side of the hull- below the waterline.  

I was sort of baffled at this point because the  affected areas seemed so solid when I was banging on them with the mallet. 

This was hidden damage though, sandwiched between a few good layers of fiberglass. This really started  to worry me!
What other hidden damage was there on this boat and how would I find it? 

The defects were concealed beneath the paint and gelcoat and most likely would not have been discovered until an actual failure occurred. Furthermore,  a failure would have most likely occurred at the worst possible time, when the boat was subjected to general and peak stresses. In other words, when on the water!  We previously discussed some of the forces  that affect a sailboat when it's on the water and those forces are much greater than me and my 4 1/2 lb mallet!

While, I understood all of this damage was due to the boat being neglected for so many years, I really started having second thoughts as to whether or not she was worth salvaging. I was quickly discovering that the  damage on this boat was extensive and possibly beyond economical repair... 

I put my tools away for the day and realized that once again I had to think this through... This time I thought about it for over two months... 

Just like in the movie the atmosphere grew loud with the sound of contemplative silence... I went over the situation again and again in my head.

My excitement had diminished and my confidence was shaken... I could not stop thinking about how I had downgraded this issue to "minor" and further, considered leaving it "as-is".   Even if it was only a 5 minute consideration, if I decided in the opposite direction I would not have found the defects that could have potentially resulted in tragedy... All was lost... Or so I thought.

The problem with parking your car next to a project that you're about to abandon is that you have to  walk past that project daily and look at it before you get in your car.

I walked past this little boat every day and couldn't believe that I was about to give up on her. I had put a lot of time, effort, and money into this project and I wasn't completely convinced that this is how it should end.  Even if she did have two gaping holes below the waterline...  

I'm not sure if I was overcome with optimism, determination, or just plain stupidity but I just didn't feel right about giving up on this little shipwreck. Even if she did try to conceal defects from me....

That's when it hit me!  The boat didn't conceal any defects from me. In fact,  the defects were right in front of my face the whole time in the form of "Two significant Dents". The damage was as obvious  as my lack of experience with this particular situation.  

This is what happened to Redford in the movie! Although his character was that of a seasoned sailor with an abundance of knowledge and competence he was presented  with specific situations for which he had little or no experience... Thus, forcing him to make decisions that the movie viewer either agreed with or disagreed with. I was one of the viewers yelling at the TV saying , " No, Redford, don't do that... It will never work!"

I didn't have any viewers yelling at me so I was left to make my own mistakes. Now, I'm not saying making a mistake is a bad thing. It's actually an opportunity that allows us to build knowledge and skill. The key takeaway however,  is to always check, double check or even triple check -if need be- any repair you do for the first time. Especially, if it's a repair that could  affect your safety and the safety of others. 

O.k., so this project started out for me as a learning experience and that is exactly what it has been my friends... An education like no other! 
The project itself will require a lot more work, material, and money than originally anticipated but underestimating the task was a mistake on my part. Is that a good enough reason to abandon the project though?
No Way! 

The learning experience is invaluable and I'm happy to continue sharing it with all of you... 





Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Independence Day Friends!

Apologies for not posting in a while but life sometimes has a funny way of getting in the way of dreams... 

Many thanks to my friend Josef however,  who has given me a much needed poke with his most recent comment, "So, that's it? " 

No Josef, that is absolutely not it...  That said, you may be asking yourself where has the Curious Sailor been?

Well, I'm happy to report that the boat is still up on blocks so I know I did that correctly- and you don't have to imagine me as a pancake under her hull anymore (C'mon I know some of you pondered this  in my absence... ) 

Seriously though, aside from a busy work schedule and some other life changes I did in fact, almost scrap the entire project. That's why I have not posted for some time...

While working on the boat I discovered many hidden defects that seriously compromised the structural integrity of the vessel and I simply wasn't sure if  I had the knowledge, skill, or even funds to bring her back to life...  

Luckily, I'm  blessed  -or cursed-  with persistence, perseverance, and determination so I'm happy to tell you I have not given up!  I just haven't written about it in awhile... 

I truly believe that persistence, perseverance, and determination are equally or even more important than knowledge, skill, and funds. The latter can always be acquired while the former must be inherent! This has been my message from the start and my motivation for the project. 

When I started this blog I promised to share my trials and tribulations, successes and failures for which I have experienced both.  Thank you again Josef for reminding me...

I may have hit some rough seas however,  I know the calm is just ahead... 
As the saying goes, " Smooth seas make not a good Sailor..." 

Our journey continues friends... Stay tuned for more posts...

The Curious Sailor


Monday, March 7, 2016

Cracking The Case


There is something to be said about the allure of a good Mystery-Crime drama. It doesn't matter if it's  fact or fiction, this genre has captured our attention for ages and will continue to do so for many years to come. Whether it's  Sherlock Holmes, Mickey Spillane, or even CSI, it seems as though we just can't get enough of this stuff!  Why? 

I don't think we are entertained by the fact that crime dramas depict a dire situation which usually involves an unassuming or helpless victim... No it's not that...

It's the mystery which surrounds the crime that draws us in. We are problem solvers by nature and simply can't resist the challenge of solving a mystery! 

Just like our next repair. The damage shown in the following photo was somewhat of a mystery to me...

So what makes this so mysterious? It's a big crack and it needs to be fixed. No mystery there...  The real mystery however, is how did the crack occur? It didn't just happen while sitting on the trailer, nor was it a direct result of the pick-axe which caused the cannon ball damage that we repaired earlier. 

I needed to know how and why the crack happened in order to apply the appropriate repair. 
My intention was to not only to fix the crack but keep it from happening again. Some of you may be thinking,why bother? Just fix it and move on to the next repair. Well, that's ok too but It's important to remember that with any type of Restoration or Repair project, there's usually two ways of doing something- 'The right way'  or 'The wrong way'. There's a good example of this later on in the story. 

On that note, how would I figure out what actually happened? I was not there when the crack occurred so I really couldn't be sure what caused it. 

I decided to treat this situation like a crime scene investigation.  I mean, why not, right?
Boat Restoration is so much more fun when pretending to be a crime scene investigator (CSI). 
I figured this would also give me the opportunity to treat my nosy neighbors as criminal suspects!
Now, I know they are not guilty of anything other than being nosy but I thought that if I treated them as suspects they would probably go away faster.  ... Feeling guilty...  ....For no good reason... 
See what I mean? Fun! 

Ok, like any good investigator -before we can crack the case- we need to go back over our original notes.

A few months ago I posted this diagram on our reference page  to help us understand the different parts and locations of a sailboat.

This is a pretty busy diagram and it presents quite a bit of information so we are going to simplify things in order to get a better assessment of the crime scene. 


The crack is located on the left side of the boat which is referred to as the "Port" side. The right side of the boat is referred to as the "Starboard "side.

Now, even though the little guy in the boat looks really guilty, he didn't cause the crack so I eliminated him as a suspect. If you look closely however,  you will notice that he is pointing to the Mainsail... 


I took the Mainsail downtown for questioning and -as expected- he immediately pleaded innocent and anxiously provided an alibi. The Mainsail claimed to be on the starboard side of the boat when the crime took place and since the crack was on the port side there was no way he could have committed this crime. I thought about this for a moment and although, it kind of made sense I still wasn't buying it...  After a few more hours of grueling interrogation the Mainsail finally gave up a few of his cohorts.

Boom, Mast, Jib, and Forestay! I knew these guys... They were always in some sort of trouble and I knew just where to find them.

We picked them up at a seedy little joint called "Gales" down on Waterfront . It was a local bar where all of the usual suspects liked to hangout. 

Back at the station I questioned the suspects individually. 

Boom was not the brightest guy in the world but he was a shifty character. His answers seemed to shift in whichever direction the wind was blowing.

Mast wasn't the best witness either and he just sort of stood there. However, He did complain quite a bit about being tied to to the top of the squad car on the way to the station.  Boom didn't seem to mind. 

Jib was somewhat cooperative and corroborated Mainsail's alibi. Apparently, they were both on the starboard side when the crime took place. 

Forestay! Now this guy, he had something to hide. He was recognized as the leader of the bunch and I had a gut feeling that he had more to do with this than what he was letting on. He was taut in posture throughout the entire interrogation and no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't get him to snap.

Having hit a dead end, I released the suspects and told them not to leave town.

I decided to go back to the crime scene photos to see if there was something I missed.

The major crack is depicted by the red arrow. Most of the cracks that I have found so far have been horizontal. This one however, is vertical which tells me that there may have been an upward force applying stress to  this area of the boat.  The  yellow arrow shows signs of the deck separating from the hull which indicates that I may be on the right track with my theory. I would have to remove the black rub-strip though, in order to take a closer look.

After removing the black rub strip I also had to remove the screws that attach the aluminum track and deck to the hull of the boat. This is a two person job because the nuts that secure the screws are located inside the boat. 


With the track removed and a quick hit of the sander you can start to see the severity of the situation. This is not just a surface crack, It's all the way through. What a heinous crime! 

Let's take a closer look at the separation towards the front of the boat.

It's apparent that the forward portion of the deck's attachment holes were literally ripped past the screws at one point in time. The person who discovered this issue simply cut the damaged area out and put the track back in place. This is a prime example of what we were discussing earlier- repairing something the right way or repairing something the wrong way. Whoever performed this repair most likely thought that there were more than enough attachment screws securing the deck to the hull so the damaged holes wouldn't need to be repaired.  

While building a timeline for this crime, I hypothesized that the crack actually occurred after this half-hearted repair was implemented. The upward force that affects this area was not offset by any resistance because the attachment screws were gone. 

I was going to revisit the little guy in the boat! Though, he may not have committed the actual crime he was now considered an accessory. 

At this point in the investigation I have all of the crime scene photos pinned to the wall, some new clues as to why the crack occurred, an accessory, and a new theory regarding the timeline of events. I still didn't have my main suspect though!

Frustration was starting to build but I knew what I had to do next. I poured myself a stiff drink, lit a cigarette and leaned back in my chair. Now, we have all read or watched enough crime dramas to know exactly what happens next. 

There it was... A knock at the the door! 

It was Gale, the owner of that seedy little joint down on Waterfront.  She blew in without warning  as she so often did and tossed a yellow envelope on my desk. 

"Here, now stop coming around my place, you're bad for business!" she blustered. 

"Nice to see you too Gale" I calmly replied.

Gale hated when I was calm. She and I had a thing way back when but it was a stormy relationship that landed me on the rocks. She was gone as fast as she arrived. 

I took a sip of my drink, a long drag off my cigarette, and opened the envelope. It was a grainy picture from the surveillance camera located outside of Gale's bar.


Forestay! I knew it, my original hunch was correct! Let's take a closer look at his rap sheet.

The Forestay is a 3/16" stranded cable that has a breaking strength of over 3700 lbs. It needs to be strong because it keeps the Mast from falling backwards and it's also the attaching point for the Jib. The Forestay connects at the top of the mast and is secured to a chain plate on the bow. This is where the upward force on the bow comes from because the Forestay is in tension (pulling in two different directions). 


So, remember how I mentioned that during the interrogation Forestay was taut and wouldn't snap? Well, of course not- there were no screws in the attaching holes which allowed Forestay to pull up on the deck with little resistance. 

But wait a second? He couldn't have done this on his own, he had to have help! 

Mainsail and Jib said they were on the starboard side when the crack happened so the wind force would have had to be coming from the port side. 

That means the force of the wind would have been pushing the sails to starboard causing increased tension on the Forestay.  Since the starboard side had all of its attaching screws, the greater force would have been concentrated on the port side. 

It must have been a really strong wind though to create enough tension to crack the deck.... 
Possibly a ......   Gale?!?!   Oh no... They were all in on it.

I dispatched a paddy wagon to haul in the whole bunch in. While I was waiting I decided to clean up the crime scene. 

I used a cargo strap to draw the bow down as close to the hull as possible. Then I filled the crack and and all remaining attaching holes with structural epoxy. Once the epoxy cured I started reinforcing the deck with new layers of fiberglass and epoxy resin.

The nose of the bow was completely separated and had to be restored.

I decided to reinforce the starboard side as well, just to keep things fair.

First reshape and primer coat! Things are looking up...

On the inside of the boat, I added backer boards which were not there originally. 
This would provide additional support.

This Case Is Cracked! 

Obviously, I had a lot of fun writing this post but there is a serious note to all of this. While, we may never be able to pinpoint the specific events, components, or environmental conditions that resulted 
in such severe damage,  it's important to remember that all three elements play a significant role in the integrity of a vessel and the safety of its passengers. Making the effort up front to learn -or even refresh your current knowledge- when implementing any kind of repair, will always pay off in the long run.

As for the perpetrators, the little guy in the boat ended up getting away never to be heard from again. The judge gave the rest of the gang lifetime probation and appointed me as the Officer in Charge... 

Monday, February 15, 2016



In case you haven't heard, on February 11, 2016-  the National Foundation of Science announced that -for the first time in history- they have successfully detected Gravitational Waves in space. After 100 years of doubt, this incredible discovery finally proves that Albert Einstein's "Theory of Relativity" was correct all along!
This is a major breakthrough that will open  many doors to new discoveries and answer some of the questions that have gone unanswered for thousands of years. That being said, I dedicate this post to Albert Einstein. 

Albert Einstein has always been one of my heroes... Not because I'm an aspiring physicist or anything like that, I just always thought he was a really cool guy. In fact, I've learned that he and I actually have a few things in common.  For starters, he's got that crazy hair thing going on and my hair looks just like that when I wake up in the morning.
Also, did you know that sailing was one of his passions? Seriously, he was absolutely crazy about sailing and actually stuck with it for over 50 years. You would think that someone with that much time invested would be one hell of a sailor but apparently he was not very good at all! 
Although, he was revered as the worlds greatest mathematician and physicist he never really did get the hang of sailing. However, that never kept him from pursuing his passion and he sailed every chance he could.
Einstein enjoyed his  sailing excursions, even when he hit a rock or ran aground-which he so often did.  They say he never sailed too far from land which leads me to believe that his groundings were most likely visible from shore.  This thought always made me laugh a little as I could imagine one spectator on shore  sarcastically saying to another,  "Hey look, he's stuck again!"    "...Genius..."

Nevertheless, Einstein didn't care about what anyone else said or thought. He just wanted to enjoy the sense of freedom and excitement that came with sailing a boat! 

Obviously, he understood the physics of sailing better than anyone watching from shore or any of us for that matter. Perhaps, he wasn't such a bad sailor at all... Maybe he was just testing Newton's First Law: An object in motion (Einstein on his sailboat) will stay in motion-unless acted upon by an unbalanced force (the rock that brought Einstein and his sailboat to an abrupt stop).

So, to honor of our friend Albert, let's talk a little bit about physics. Honestly, I don't know anything about physics but then  again I didn't know anything about fixing a sailboat until I started this project so let's have some fun...

Physics- Just the mere mention of the word is enough to send most of us running in the opposite direction. If asked to define physics some might say it's a complex process riddled with scores of mathematical symbols, letters, and numbers-scribbled with white chalk across a mile-long blackboard... By an old guy! 

If you haven't studied physics, that could be a fairly accurate description based on what we've been exposed to through books, and movies.  I for one have never taken a physics class and that's kind of how I always thought about it...

The term physics  originates with the ancient Greeks and it is simply translated as, "knowledge of nature".  Now that doesn't sound so complex... does it?  

Physics is the natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through space and time, along with related concepts such as energy and force.

So what does this have to do with sailing? Absolutely everything! The majority of the physical science that goes into a sailboat is applied at the time of design. The design engineers have to account for all of the forces that will impact the boat in its operating environment and then choose the proper geometries and  materials to withstand those forces. To do this they utilize many of the formulas and calculations that were written on those mile-long blackboards... by the old guy.

Luckily, we don't have to delve that far into physics but keep this in mind, whether we are repairing or sailing our boat, it is important to have a basic understanding of some of the critical concepts that will ultimately affect safety and performance. 

Let's explore...

The definition of physics starts with "the study of matter". Well, our sailboat is matter right?  -Easy enough- 

Then we have, "'s motion through space and time..."
O.K., let's stop here for a second....

Have you ever heard of the Six Degrees of Freedom?  It's basically a way to describe the freedom of movement that a three dimensional object can achieve in space. For example, let's use our  hand to represent a three dimensional object that we can move in space. 

Hold your hand out in front of you with your palm facing the ground. Now, move it up and down- that's one degree of freedom.  Next, move it left to right- that's  two degrees of freedom. Finally, move your hand back and forth and you have achieved a third degree of freedom.  Pretty simple right?  

3 Degrees of freedom known as Translation: Each arrow represents one degree of freedom- Green (forward-back) is 1 degree, Red (right-left) is 2 degrees, and Blue (up-down) is 3 degrees.

Wait, we said six degrees so what are the other three? If you are not familiar with this concept you are either still moving your hand and trying to figure out what other directions are possible -or- you are now using your hand to scratch your head.  Stay with me...

The first three degrees pictured above are known as Translation.  When referencing our sailboat, the up-down movement would be called Heave. The forward-back movement is known as Surge, and the left-right movement is Sway.

The next three degrees of freedom pictured below are known as Rotation. If you still have your hand out, rotate it so your thumb is pointed at the ceiling. This is known as Roll. Now, angle your hand so that the tips of your fingers point to the floor- this would be considered Pitch. Finally, move your wrist so your hand goes side to side and you have accomplished the sixth degree of freedom known as Yaw

3 Degrees of freedom known as Rotation: Each arrow represents one degree of freedom- Green (Roll) is 1 degree, Red (Pitch) is 2 degrees, and Blue (Yaw) is 3 degrees.

So, to put the six degrees of freedom into perspective, remember that a boat is a rigid structure and by nature a rigid structure can only move so far in any direction before it ultimately breaks. If we think about an elevator, we know that it is also a rigid structure and it carries passengers just like a boat. However, when it comes to movement, an elevator essentially only has one degree of freedom -up-down-. 
A sailboat on the other hand, is subjected to all six degrees of freedom and this is what makes designing, repairing, or even sailing a boat so tricky. 

Now, let's put all six degrees of freedom together and add a boat:

Now let's add water:


There we go! We now have a fundamental understanding of the different ways our boat - a three dimensional object- can move through space and time. This is important because it ties into  the third portion  of our definition of physics which states, "...along with related concepts of energy and force."

Let's go back to how the ancient Greeks defined physics, "knowledge of nature." 
These guys couldn't have said it any better! 

Water and wind are undoubtedly two elements of nature . Having knowledge of this nature tells us that they both store energy. The release of energy results in a relative amount of force which we (depending on the level of force) can harness to get from point A to point B. Hence, this is the reason why sailboats need to be designed with all six degrees of freedom. The forces of nature are applied from every direction and if the boat does not have a particular degree of freedom to move with those forces she will ultimately break and sink. In other words, you will need to know how to swim. 

Ironically, Einstein did not know how to swim but he never carried a life jacket on board.  This tells me that he knew more about sailing than what he led others to believe. Over his 50 years of sailing, he only had to be rescued from the water once but hey... we all make mistakes! 

So this is my tribute to Albert Einstein. The man who dedicated his entire life trying to unravel the mysteries of the universe so he could explain all of the things we could not understand. 

Of all the quotes attributed to this humble genius, the following is my favorite:

" I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious..." 

Albert Einstein
German Theoretical-Physicist

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Working On The "Hole-Thing"

Ever since I was a kid I always wanted to be a Pirate. I know... the Pirates were -and still are-  really bad people but deep down, we all kind of wanted to be one when we were kids. Not the bad kind but the type that has been spuriously idealized in adventure books and movies. The swashbuckling, treasure hunting, rum drinking, adventurer that sails the seven seas in search of new provenance and fortune. That kind of Pirate! 

I don't mind sharing the fact that in my mind I'm still a kid and I would still like to be a Pirate!  Don't laugh... In October 2015, USA Today reported that Google along with the National Retailers Association conducted a survey  to identify the top ten  adult Halloween costumes. "Pirate" ranked at number four! This tells me that I'm not alone in my thinking and it's very possible that some of you still want to be a Pirate too!          
  -looking around for guilty expressions- 

Rest assured, I'm not running up and down the block sporting a silk sash and a fake eyepatch (all the time). However, now that I have my own sailboat I find myself feeling like a Pirate even more so than ever before.  What I mean by this is that there are quite a few similarities between being a Pirate and being a Sailboat Owner. 

OK, let me give you a few examples:

1. The Pirates had mighty sailing ships and now I have a mighty sailing ship too! Well, sort of...She's  small but she will be mighty when I fix her up...
2. The first ship that Blackbeard commanded was stolen. I purchased my entire sailboat for $375 so that was kind of a steal.
3. Rum!   Let's skip this one...
4. Cannonball Damage!

In my last post we talked about the Pirates careening their ships to clean or repair the hull and keel. More often than not if they careened the ship for the sake of repair it was most likely due to cannonball damage. Ironically, I just so happened to buy a boat with three cannonball sized holes in the hull -relatively speaking of course-

Most people would never consider buying a boat with a hole in it -let alone three- but I saw potential in this damaged hull, just as the Pirates did when they attacked a merchant ship. 

The attack usually resulted in an extensive amount  of damage caused by cannon fire, grenades, musket balls, etc... If the Pirates were victorious in battle, they did not always leave the merchant ship adrift to sink into the abyss. Once the crew of the merchant ship was subdued, the Pirates quickly doused the flames and towed the  damaged hull to a secluded cove. Here they would careen the ship and execute the necessary repairs in order to make her a mighty sailing ship once again. Only this time, she would sail as a  Pirate Ship!

As you can see in the photo above, my little mighty sailing ship has seen her share of battle. The previous owner reported that some of his enemies (the bad Pirates) utilized a pick-axe to vandalize the boat in the middle of the night. Apparently, their intention was that this boat would never sail again but they didn't know about me (the good Pirate).
Though, the previous owner may have surrendered and abandoned ship I was determined to bring her back to life. 


If you're shaking your head right now and saying to yourself,  "He's doing it wrong..." then you are very much like many of my neighbors. They often stroll up and down the block -without the silk sash or fake eye patch- (go figure) and make sarcastic comments on my repair techniques. Especially this one!  

For this instance however, what they did not realize is that I had applied a first layer of repair epoxy over the holes and it started to rain. The recessed  paper plates worked perfectly to cover the initial repair. They did not come into contact with the uncured epoxy and the Saran Wrap kept everything dry.   

Good idea huh?  Instead of verbally responding to the sarcasm of my opinionated neighbors, I just sort of looked at them like this.

Repairing a hole in a boat is not quite the same as repairing a hole in a fence or wall. There are different kinds of stress loads that boats are subjected to and this should be taken  into consideration when initiating any repair to the hull or structure. 

As it stands now, the three cannonball holes in my boat are voids- there is simply nothing where something used to be.  I wanted to replace these voids with a material strong enough to withstand the stress loads that would one day affect this area of the boat.

If you research the standard repair for a through-hole on a boat you will most likely see a fiberglass lay-up on both sides of the hole. For smaller holes -above the water line- you could sometimes use a structural epoxy without any fiberglass. Though, that sounds simple enough my situation is a little bit different.

I wasn't just dealing with one hole I had three holes to contend with. My main concern was that the holes were in relatively close proximity to each other. Two of which, were lined up almost vertically. Therefore, I decided to put a little extra thought into this particular repair.

I mentioned earlier that boats are subjected to different types of stress loading. This is especially true in a sailboat since you have additional stresses transferred via the rigging, sails, keel, etc... We will eventually discuss all types of stress loads in future posts (when we get deeper into the fiberglass and stringer repairs) but today I want to highlight one stress load in particular, Compressive Stress.

To understand  the term compressive stress, think about squeezing a balloon with two hands. Each hand represents an opposing force that compresses against the balloon until it ultimately pops!  This is the kind of stress that could be induced when the bow of the boat is pounding against waves.  The following illustration provides better detail:

In my mind, the bow (front of the boat -check our reference page if you don't remember the location of the bow-) is the part of the boat that will be subjected to significant wave pounding (in seas of course). It is the first section of the boat to travel up a wave and then slam down on the water when the wave breaks. This tells us that the holes and\or the section between the two vertically aligned holes, could encounter compressive stress. 

So, how do you compensate for this type of stress? Well, with strength of course! This is why Popeye eats his spinach. My objective for this area of the boat was to choose a structural epoxy that had a very high compressive strength rating.  Of course, I planned on  using fiberglass also but the initial application of structural epoxy -prior to the fiberglass application- would replace the void of the holes and I would have a solid surface to apply the fiberglass cloth.

I researched the product data sheets of several different repair epoxies and came across some interesting information.

If you've never heard of Marine Tex, let me introduce you to the Popeye of structural epoxies (at least when we are talking about compressive strength). 

I love this stuff! It handles well, cures quickly and can be sanded easily. It's great for issues below the water line and suitable for use on fiberglass, wood, and metal, though It's most compatible with fiberglass in my opinion. 

Marine-Tex comes in two colors, gray and white. The gray boasts a compressive strength rating of 13,000 PSI (910 Kg/Cm2).  That means a 1" x 1" square of this stuff can withstand  13000 lbs of force. Not bad huh!  

For some reason the physical properties between the gray and white vary when it comes to strength rating and I'm not sure why. The white has a compressive load strength rating at -8700 PSI (610 Kg/Cm2) so keep this in mind if you are choosing between the two. The white Marine-Tex would most likely be better suited for top side repairs.

My mind was made up, I was going to use the Marine-Tex in addition to fiberglass. Though, some would consider this overkill, I figured that filling the voids with Marine-Tex would  give me something strong to build on from the inside and out, minimizing the potential for air traps between the inner and outer layers of fiberglass. Ultimately, I felt that this would turn out to be a more robust repair.
We did say mighty sailing ship, right?

First application: You can see by the way I beveled the holes I was able to restore some thickness.

Sanding: After each application cured, I would sand  the patches until they were flush to the contour of the hull.

The fiberglass resin that I chose for this project Is West System Epoxy Resin. 

There are several different types of resins that can used with fiberglass- the main three are epoxy, polyester, and vinylester.  Of the three, epoxy resin is probably the strongest. It also works better than any of the other types of resin when you have to adhere to existing (older) fiberglass and it forms a virtually leak proof barrier. It has a compressive strength of  11,400 PSI (801.5 Kg/Cm2) which is 1600 lbs less than Marine-Tex but ultimately, it will provide the overall strength for this repair.

This is what it looked like from the inside with a layer of fiberglass cloth epoxied over the hole -now filled- with Marine-Tex.

This is the end result. Primed and ready for paint. 

The 'Hole-Thing' is fixed!