Basic Terms

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!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


With the boat sitting up on blocks it's now time to discuss removing and repairing the keel. As I explained in the last post, this would be quite the task because of it's location on the underside of the boat and the fact that it is very heavy and difficult to manipulate. Wait a second... do I detect a bit of confusion right now? Have you read this far and asked yourself, "Why did he title this post Carina?"  

Are you answering your own question with-"Hmm... I bet the Curious Sailor is at it again. He's hitting the bottle  instead of fixing his sailboat..." ?

If this is your thought process, you are incorrect my friend. Well, partially incorrect. I am sipping on some Pinot Grigio as I write this  -so you got me there-  but don't replace the word "Curious" with "Drunken" just yet... 

In the post titled -The language of Sailing- you may remember that I wrote the following:

"In my mind, words are very much like sailors. They travel from one language to the next and anchor for awhile before they move on to a new language."  

Well, the word "Carina" just so happens to be one of those words.

Most of us associate Carina with the female name. It has tons of variations across a myriad of languages but for me -having been born to Italian parents- I always understood the translation as a derivative of 'Cara' meaning dear or beloved. You remember the Adam's family right? Gomez was always calling Morticia  'Cara Mia'. Essentially, Carina is a term of endearment that is used to say something or someone is cute or a little cutie. OK, so we're not here for an Italian lesson and you're still wondering where this is going. 

Believe it or not 'Carina' is the Latin word for Keel !  It is also the origin of the word "Careen" which means to put a ship or boat on her side for maintenance. The Pirates would do this in secluded coves across the Caribbean because there were no dry docks available. They would careen their ships at low tide to clean and repair the hull and keel.  

Being enlightened with this bit of knowledge, I realized that it served absolutely no purpose in the task I had ahead of me. Specifically, removing and repairing a 475 lb. piece of cast iron. It is a fun fact though,  so in a useless sort of way I guess it serves some purpose. Especially, if anyone with the name  Carina happens across this blog... I'm curious to know if they realize they were named after a boat part.

It is a spectacular boat part though! The most important one in fact!  

The keel of a ship is often referred to as the spine and provides the structural integrity needed to endure the forceful movement and pounding of ocean waves. It is the lowest beam that runs down the center, from bow to stern to which all of the hull's ribs are connected. 

On a sailboat however,  there is yet another keel. It is a lateral appendage that extends downward from the bottom of the hull and is normally shaped like a 'fish-fin' or an 'airplane wing'.  Much like the name Carina, there are many variations of keels. The main two are normally referred to as being fixed or swing.  A fixed keel is constructed as part of the hull and does not move. A swing keel however, can move up and down by way of a mechanical crank and cable system. This is normally found on smaller inshore or lake boats and it comes in handy when navigating shallow water. 

Now, me being the kind of guy who is always looking for ways to streamline a process (take a shortcut), my initial thought was -if the boat was already constructed with the first keel, why do I need a second. Maybe I could just disconnect this hunk of rusty metal and toss it.  Nope.... tossing the keel is probably not the best idea and I'll tell you why.  

That hunk of rusty metal is actually going to keep the sailboat in the upright position when the wind is attempting to push the boat over on its side. (See figure 1)

Additionally, the shape of that hunk of rusty metal (after I fix it of course) is going to convert the sideways forces of  wind and water into forward momentum which will ultimately get me from point A to Point B. (See figure 2)


Figure 1- A is the center of buoyancy and G is the center of gravity. So the weight of the keel will always be pulling straight down (gravity right?) when the boat is tilting to one side or the other. This will help right the boat.


Figure 2- If you would like to learn more on how this works research Bernoulli's principle. 


So you see my friends, I have learned that the keel is a very important part of a sailboat! If properly maintained, It will ensure the  safe and efficient operation of your vessel for years to come.  Keep in mind that the key take-away here is "properly maintained"...

In other words, don't let this happen to you...


As you can see in the photo above, the keel is heavily corroded  and pitted- a direct result from years of neglect.  The previous owner allowed the protective coating to wear away, ultimately subjecting the bare metal to the elements. An annual coat of paint would have prevented this but maybe they didn't paint it because they didn't know how to put the boat up on blocks. No problem, I know how to block a boat now so it's time to roll my sleeves up and bring this keel back to life !


Here you can see that I started lowering the aft end of the keel.  My plan was to get an automotive floor jack under the forward end of the keel to secure it in place. Once secure, I would jump into the boat and disconnect the bolt that held it place, then jump out of the boat and lower the jack so that the keel would come to rest in a cradle that I constructed from some wood I had laying around. 


Before I started this task, I did in fact do quite a bit more research than the etymology of the word keel. The funny thing about this particular task is that every 'You Tube' video or picture blog (at least the only ones I could find anyway) only showed the  -before and after-  shots of the actual removal  process. In other words,  I would click on a 'How to Remove a Keel' video and it would show how they raised the boat, lowered one end of the keel, and then the next video shot was the keel sitting on the ground.
I kept asking myself, where's the, "how you remove the keel" part? That's what I really needed to see! 

I now know why the cameras were put away during the actual disconnection steps. This is actually a very dangerous operation and it requires your full attention without the distraction of taking a selfie to show your friends that you are laying on your back under 1600 lbs of boat and iron! 

My "Jump in the boat-Jump out of the boat" plan never came to fruition. I was able to get as far as jumping into the boat -to remove the nut from the bolt- but that's as far as I got. 

I would like to say that the bolt was simply rusted in place but it was not that simple. After many failed attempts of applying lubricant, penetrant, a 4lb hammer coupled with a variety of punches and a few choice words...  I realized that this bolt wasn't going to budge!

                           Yes I used that big aluminum bar too! 

If you're not familiar with the term dissimilar metal corrosion, try to think of the Chinese Zodiac. You know what I'm talking about... those cool place mats you find at the Chinese restaurant that list the compatibility of all the Zodiac animals. Well, let's assume for a moment that you are the Sheep. The little chart tells you that you are compatible with the Rabbit but never the Dragon. That's what happens with dissimilar metal corrosion. In this case the keel (iron) is the Sheep and the bolt (stainless steel) is the Dragon.

Dissimilar metal corrosion occurs when the properties of two different types of metal come into contact and chemically react with each other, resulting in rapid corrosion. The corrosion, if not treated, can become so severe that the two metal objects practically fuse together.  This is kind of what I was dealing with here.

I was not very happy about moving on to Plan B but I really didn't have much of a choice. The bolt would have to be cut out from the underside which meant I had to lay under the boat to gain access to the bolt with a reciprocating saw-which creates a tremendous amount of vibration. Not to mention that stainless steel is a very hard metal and extremely difficult to cut. I was about to find out how good  my new boat blocking skills really were....



Obviously I am writing about this so I survived the ordeal. I will say however, even though  cutting the bolt only took ten minutes  it felt like it took a week.  The center section of this bolt didn't come out of the keel until two days later. I had to use a heavy duty drill to remove it. 

Once the bolt was free I was able to slowly lower the jack and gently drop the keel into the cradle. I was then able to wheel the cradle out from under the boat and use my neighbors engine hoist  to lift and set the keel across two blocks.


                           Notice in the lower left of the photo- the shank of the bolt was still stuck
                        in the keel.


I had to drill half way through with a carbide drill bit, and then use a punch to finally remove it once and for all.


So that's that! Now we can get busy and fix the keel. The best way to do this would be to have all of the corrosion sandblasted off before applying the protective coatings that are needed to keep the keel from corroding again. I did not have access to a sandblaster and was not about to load the keel in the back seat of my car and take it to a shop, so I took a different approach.

Remember how we discussed the dissimilar metal effect? The Dragon  was bad for the Sheep but the Rabbit was good...  Well, I was going to fight fire with fire. Rather than sandblasting the corrosion I decided to treat it with phosphoric acid.  

                                           This stuff is the Rabbit to the Sheep....


Phosphoric acid is a mineral acid that is used in a variety of applications. One such application just so happens to be rust conversion. Yet, another chemical reaction just as we noted in dissimilar metals  but now it would be a chemical reaction in my favor. The acid doesn't actually remove the rust it essentially converts it. Phosphoric acid turns iron oxide (rust) into iron phosphate (iron) so you then have a stable surface to apply a protective coating.  This is old school stuff but it works! Anyone remember naval jelly?  Same thing....


Heavy scaling and flaking had to be removed  prior to using the phosphoric acid but that was just a good old fashion scrub with a wire brush and a few passes with the grinder. Afterwards I simply painted the stuff on, let it etch overnight, washed it off in the morning, and all of that nasty corrosion was converted.


Here we are after a little reshaping and the first coat of metal primer. You can still see the heavy pitting but the pits will eventually be filled over several applications of epoxy resin and filler. Doing this will allow me to re-contour after each application in order to maintain the proper shape.


It was raining pretty hard the day I did this epoxy application so I had to work indoors. Of course I had to figure out a way to protect the garage floor and needless to say I was successful. I suppose I was also feeling a bit creative hence, the smiley face.  The pitting was still evident so I had to continue to fill and fair.....


Now we're making some progress! High spots are marked in light  gray, low spots in black.
I should probably figure out a way to protect the rocks like I did the garage floor... ;)

                                                        And there's my little Carina!



Saturday, January 9, 2016

Time to Pick it Up!

So now that I've acquired a sailboat, learned to step the mast, admired it up close, admired from it from afar, I guess it's time to fix it... Ughh. 

I haven't really formulated a step by step repair process mainly, because I really had no idea where to start. 

Since the boat was in such a severe state of disrepair I figured I would approach the overall job by prioritizing each task from hardest to easiest. Hopefully, this strategy would keep me from getting discouraged along the way. I could celebrate major accomplishments early in the process and remain motivated right down to the minute that I get to launch her. 

The funny thing about taking on a major project is that our initial excitement can sometimes lead us to under estimate the level of effort and time that is actually required to complete the job. It's somewhat of a phenomena to me.  When I first got the boat I somehow convinced myself -and those who asked me- that I would be sailing in a few weeks. By nature I'm optimistic but in this case I can honestly say that I would have to attribute this overly optimistic -perhaps naive- thought to a moment of temporary insanity.  

O.K. first step, the boat has to be removed  from the trailer and this scares me a little. No, if we're going to maintain honesty here, this task actually scared me a lot!  Stepping the mast scared me a little. 

The boat needs to be high enough to allow me to lower and remove the keel without interference from the trailer or ground for that matter.   Now, keep in mind that removing the keel in itself is yet another harrowing process. Simply because it's a 400 lb hunk of cast iron and not easily supported by an automotive jack. The keel however, wasn't really my concern right now. I just needed to figure out how to lift a 1200 Lb boat so I could at least start thinking about how to remove the keel.

I've seen boats up on jacks and blocks before but never really gave much thought as to how they got there.  Obviously boat yards and marinas have heavy duty cranes, lifts, and straps.  Lifting  a boat with this equipment is most likely a seamless process at a boat yard but I'm in my front yard and I don't have access to any of this stuff.

So how was heavy lifting done before modern day equipment was invented? 
In the old days the ancients used crude wooden pulleys, cranks, ropes, manpower, and beasts of burden (horses, oxen, etc...). They applied common sense techniques to move, lift, and place objects of weight wherever they wanted to. I started thinking about the Pyramids. Would aliens visit and help me lift this 1200 lb boat?   No. 

What about the Coliseum... Could I recruit a battalion of Roman soldiers that were not out conquering at the moment  to get this job done for me?   No.  

Should I hire a crane company to come out and charge me twice as much as what I paid for the boat? No!

I had to find a better way.

Still thinking about the ancients- I convinced myself that I could move mountains too! I figured I could be the man-power and I already have a beast of burden (Daisy, my lab-pit mix) so all I really needed were the ropes and pulleys. 

Well, it turns out Daisy wanted no part of this. She's never really serious about work anyway and always wants to turn everything into a game so I was short one beast of burden.  I still had the one man-power though and I found some ropes and pulleys. Maybe I could still make this work.

If anyone reading this ever finds themselves in the position to where they need to lift a boat, please don't follow a word I just said (unless you have a beast of burden that's serious about getting the job done).  

Believe it or not, lifting mass of great proportions is actually very simple if done correctly and safely. No ropes, pulleys, or beasts are required. In fact, very little man-power is needed other than positioning some cinder blocks and turning the crank of the trailer jack. 

I found this cool little procedure on Aurora Marine's website and decided to add it for reference and illustrative purposes. I could not follow this process exactly as shown because it's only geared toward raising the boat just high enough to clean and/or paint the bottom. They recommend leaving the trailer in place for safety but I had to move it completely out of the way. So, while I had to endure a few more steps than what's depicted below it still captures the essence of how I blocked a boat for the first time. 

Here's how it works.... 

This procedure is proven safe for boats up to 40 ft. providing that you follow the instructions and make sure that the ground is firm and level, that your trailer and equipment is sound and the blocks and wooden planks and shims are in good conditions. You may have to modify this procedure slightly or adjust your boat on the trailer depending on the style of your boat, for example pontoon, catamaran or monohull. This procedure is NOT recommended for sailboats with a fixed keel. 

1. Hydraulic Bottle Jack of a capacity that meets or exceeds the weight of your boat.
2. 9 to 12 cinder blocks or wooden blocks 8" x 8" x 16"
3. 2” x 8” planks cut to 16” length pieces. You will need a minimum 3 pieces, but more may be required. 
4. Wooden shims as required

CAUTION: This is a safe procedure when done correctly and with care. If you do not feel confident in your abilities or equipment to handle heavy weights, do not lift your boat in this way, get professional help.
These illustrations are not to scale.

1. Hydraulic Bottle Jack of a capacity that meets or exceeds the weight of your boat.
2. 9 to 12 cinder blocks or wooden blocks 8" x 8" x 16"
3. 2” x 8” planks cut to 16” length pieces. You will need a minimum 3 pieces, but more may be required. 
4. Wooden shims as required
CAUTION: This is a safe procedure when done correctly and with care. If you do not feel confident in your abilities or equipment to handle heavy weights, do not lift your boat in this way, get professional help.
These illustrations are not to scale.

1. Place the boat and trailer on a firm, level surface[Diag.1]

2. Lower the tongue of the trailer to the ground to elevate the transom [Diag.2]. You may need a friend to help keep the tongue down.

3. Block the transom using cinder or wooden blocks [Diag.3]. Make sure that there is a 2”x8”x16" wooden plank between the boat and the blocks to prevent damage to the boat. If the blocks and wood to not fit between the ground and the boat, you may have to use additional pieces of 2”x8”x16" wooden plank to compensate for the difference. If the bottom of your boat is angled, use scrap lumber shims as required between the blocks and the hull.

4. Place a hydraulic bottle jack under the tongue of the trailer and raise the front of the trailer [Diag.4]. When the jack extends as high as possible, you may have to place blocks and wooden plates under the keel (at the forward bulkhead location), to support the boat. Then lower the jack and use wooden plates under the jack to give you additional height. Continue jacking up the trailer. This procedure may have to be repeated several time to gain the necessary height.

5. Continue raising the front of the trailer until the boat is level or slightly bow high. Place blocks with a 2”x8”x16" wooden plank on top, under the keel at the forward bulkhead to support the boat [Diag.5]. Start lowering the jack until the weight of the boat is supported on the three columns of blocks and plates. Make sure that the boat is well supported on each column and is stable.

6. Lower the bottle jack. Extend the trailer jack to support the tongue and remove the bottle jack [Diag.6]. The boat should be well supported and stable on all three columns and the bunks of the trailer should be about 6 to 8 inches lower than the bottom of the boat. 

7. Do not remove the trailer. It will act as a safety device to catch the boat in the event that it slips off the blocks or if one of the blocks breaks or the ground becomes infirm and the blocks sink.

8. Do not proceed to work on the boat until it is well supported and stable.

9. To reseat the boat on the trailer, reverse the above procedure.


Voila! It's as simple as that. The boat was off the trailer...

Once the boat was in the air I had to walk the trailer out little by little until each  of the cross members of the trailer reached the blocks that were supporting the bow of the boat. At that point, I would set three additional blocks behind the cross member to support the boat. Remove the three blocks that were  in front of the cross member and walk the trailer out until the next member reached the forward blocks again. This was the most tedious part of this process and I ended up using 12  blocks. 

You will also notice from the picture below that I did not use three blocks to support the bow of the boat. The additional blocks came  in handy as steps that I now use to get in and out of the boat.

I used a jack stand instead so I would have extra blocks if needed

The stern supported by three blocks on the port and starboard side.

4x4 pieces of wood between the concrete block and the boat to protect the hull.

My Beast of Burden- Daisy....