I had two options regarding storage of the propane bottle: on deck or in a custom built locker. I did not want the bottles hanging off the back of the boat making us look like a cross between the Clampetts and the Griswalds. So, that meant I would need a dedicated locker. Per ABYC standards, the locker has to be used for propane bottle storage only. It must be air tight and must have a vent, no smaller than 1/2" that vents the locker above the static waterline. After thinking through every conceivable option, the best choice seemed to be to construct a locker just forward of the lazerette hatch, under the helmsman's seat, which is part of the overall lazerette locker. I measured the space under the seat. I researched propane bottles and decided to go with three 10lb composite bottles which I bought from the RV Supply Warehouse. The dimensions became important because the bottom of the locker had to be above the static waterline . . . 20 lb bottles were just too tall. But, the 10 pounders are 9 1/2" wide and 17" tall. This would allow me to keep the bottom of the locker well above the static waterline. And because the locker would be on the centerline I believe the stern wake will not cover the vent.
This would not be a simple project though. It would require cutting a hatch in the cockpit seat, fabricating and installing water gutters, and building a locker for the bottles that would be airtight, separated from the rest of the lazerette and vented overboard. I took many measurement. I drew up several sketches. I discussed this with my sailing friends to get their thoughts.
I knew I wanted a professional factory looking locker. I was researching ways to build such a locker when I ran across Dave Krall's website featuring his Westsail 42 Elysium. He has a page on his site that shows how to make a factory looking fiberglass cockpit hatch by the use of a custom built "plug." I called him on the phone and he very kindly walked me though the pictures. Now I had a plan.
Once I decided on the spot it was only a matter of building a mock-up, measuring carefully--many times--then getting the appropriate cutting tools lined up and "go to town."
The bottom photo shows how the plug right side up. The cut out in the center has no real purpose but made it easier to build.
The gutter will be two inches deep in the back and slope to 2 ½ “ in the front. The rear gutter will be 7/8” wide to provide more room for the lip on the back side of the hatch to clear the inside edge of the gutter and gasketed lip. The sides are ¾” wide and the front wood molding is ½” wide. There is no gutter in the front. The thickness of the wood in the front serves to allow a recess front verticle lip of the hatch lid will have room close flush with the vertical face of the cockpit well. All this is clear as mud, right? I regret that my skills to write a more articulate narrative are so limited. I think it will be more clear with photos when I actually install the assembly.
I sanded all the wood starting with 120 grit all the way to 600 grit. When I am ready I will wax the plug many times to ensure the glass won’t stick to the wood—failure here would cause a real bad problem.
Once I was ready to begin laying the wetted out fabric to the plug, I waxed it first with three layers of Minn-Wax to the epoxy would release from the wooden plug. I wanted the fiberglass coaming to have a smooth surface so I started with two layers of 8 oz finishing cloth. Then I added 3-4 layers of 17 oz biaxial. After it started kicking and was still green I trimmed the excess with a razor knife. The top picture shows the wetted out cloth on the plug.
The next morning I used a hammer and chisel to lift the edges and then I was able to pop the coaming off the plug. The bottom picture shows the coaming removed from the plug. It is sitting upright with the front of the coaming facing toward the camera . . . just the way it will sit in the locker. The gutters slope down about 1/2" from front to rear. They don't have to slope any more than that since the gutters are running fore-and-aft vice athwart ship--in other words, the gutters won't have to drain water from the low side of a healing boat. Keeping the gutters shallow allow some room for the shoulder of the propane bottle to fit under the gutters and allow the three bottles to fit in a compartment that is wider underneath the gutters then the hatch on top.
After Thanksgiving, I will further trim the coaming to have a ¾" lip on the inside of the gutters (the gasket will be attached to this lip). Then epoxy the hatch coaming to the underside of the hatch opening. Then I will build the lips to the sides and back of the hatch, that was formed from the seat I cut out of the cockpit to form the opening for the locker. After that I will build the propane locker glassing it to the coaming and rear vertical face of the cockpit well.
Next I coated the top edge of gutter assembly with 406 thickened epoxy and clamped it into place. I made sure I had enough thickened epoxy on the flange to squeeze out all the way around. Then I cleaned up the squeezed out excess with a sharpened stir stick.
Though not shown in these photos, after the clamps were removed I tabbed the assembly in with multiple layers of 17oz biaxial tape and filled in the void, where I removed the balsa core from the exposed deck edge, with thickened epoxy. After it cured I sanded the epoxy down to created a smooth transition between the original deck and the gutter assembly. Much more fairing will be required in this area to get nice finish.
Today I took the seat top that was left over from cutting the hole for the locker and began the work to convert it into a locker lid. That means it needs to have "lips" all around. When I initially cut the hatch lid out, I cut down the cockpit seat face 2" to create a lip on the front but there was nothing I could do about the sides and rear of the seat/lid. They have to be fabricated. I could just leave them flat without lips and rely on a gasket to keep the water out. However, I think I can do better than thant and I want to try to create a factory look. First I cut the about 1/2" off on each side and also 1/2" in the back to create room for the new 1/4" thick lips and room for the hatch to clear the sides of the rain gutters when it is closed. Anticipating this project, a few months ago I ordered the bronze factory hinges from Spartan( $45.00 each!) so all the hardware in the cockpit will match.
Next I ground a beveled edge back on the hatch lid for a 12:1 bevel. Then I built a jig out of some 2X4 scraps. I built it to fit the hatch so I can lay the biaxial cloth over the top bevel and down along the jig--which will be sanded very smooth to 600 grit and heavily waxed. I cut out the end grain balsa where the hinges will go and filled the void with thickened epoxy. Tomorrow I will wet out the cloth and build the sides.
I needed to build only three sides to the hatch since the front of the hatch incorporates 2" of the vertical face of the aft cockpit. The biaxial tape, however, dose need to just wrap around the beveled edges of the front lip. You can see this in the bottom picture. Next I measured and cut single lengths of biaxial tape. West Systems recommends the longest/widest be laid down first but I chose not to do it that way to allow the longest/widest tape to go on last to aid in getting the best fairing job possible. Also, there is no need to achieve maximum structural strength for this project. The emphasis is create the hatch lips to help keep water out of the locker and execute my best effort to achieve a quality aesthetic result.
I made three lengths starting with 54 1/2" long then working up to the last layer at 55 3/4." This would allow each length to slightly overlap the previous layer length wise. I cut the shortest one down to make it 2 1/2" wide, the next 3" wide and the last and longest length I left at 4" wide--this would allow overlaps as well, width-wise. Then I wet out the beveled edge with slightly thickened epoxy. I left it alone to start to kick and tack up. With the surface slightly tacky, the wetted out tape has something to stick too otherwise it just slides off the beveled edge.
I wet out each layer of tape, in turn, and applied them over the beveled edge with the shortest and narrowest first layer just going over the edge of the beveled surface. I cut "pleats" for the corners after the tape was wetted out and on the seat--one has to remember to clean the scissors immediately with acetone when the job is complete. That way they are in the right place and make the best fit. Once I placed the last layer on I used a 5/8" roller to work the three layers of tape and squeeze out any air. This also helped work the tape down over the edges and corners of the hatch to resist pulling up.
Next I will begin fairing in the minor depression between the inside edge of the tape and the line that forms the start of the gel coat.
Eventually, when the final fairing is complete on the rain-gutter I will cut the hatch lips down to match the angle and depth of the rain cutter. The lips will be longer towards the front of the hatch and less in the rear.
Next, I washed the hatch and the new cured epoxy with water and a scotch-brite pad to remove any amine blush. Then I wiped down the inside of the hatch with Interlux 202 to ensure no release wax from the wood plug remained on the epoxy.
Then I mixed up some epoxy and thickened it with 406 and made fillets all the way around on the inside of the lips to both fill any minor voids and to soften the 90 degree edge to prepare the edge for a layer of biaxial tape. I left the fillet for a couple of hours to kick and get to the point where it was firm but not fully cured.
Last, I laid a single layer of 17oz biax that I trimmed to 3" wide to cover the fillet and add some addition strength to the lip from the inside of the hatch.
Then I mixed up some epoxy and thickened it with 407 and started the process of fairing hatch lid. The first to be faired is the minor beveled "trough" that remained from the process of grinding the edge to accept the three layers of biaxial that formed the lips on three sides of the hatch.
The shut off valve is brass T-valve used to turn the gas on and off in a fireplace. I will use this in place of an electric solinoid. What is nice about it is the body bolts through the propane box and the lever is inside this part of the valve. The one I have looks just like the photo to the right. The valve is threaded under the escutcheon. That part will be mounted horizontally through the vertical face of the locker under the port side seat. The gas line will run from the regulatro to the this valve. Then continue on through the locker wall (sealed to keep gas in the locker and out of the boat should there be a leak) and on to the stove. The short gas key depicted in the picture will be replaced with a bronze rod (about 6' long) that will run from the valve just under the lip of the port seat locker and exit through the bulkhead that separates the galley from the lockers. It will be capped with a bronze lever. Standing at the galley stove you will reach your hand out to the left and the lever will be right there. Turn it on to let gas flow to the stove. When you are finished cooking you turn off the valve. The flame goes out. Then you turn off the stove. You know the valve works. There is no electric solenoid to fail. This is the same kind of system that Lynn Pardy uses on Talisen--except their bottles on deck and my bottles are in a propane locker--which they don't recommend. We will incorporate a gas sniffer in the bilge as an added safety measure.
Next I will cut the marine grade plywood I will use for the propane locker (1/2" for the bottom and 1/4" for the sides) and start glassing it up. I will do all this in the shop. I won't be able to install it in the boat though till the temperature comes up.
The next picture depicts the three 10lb cylinders that the locker is designed to hold. They are 17 ½” tall and 9 ½” in diameter. I would like to have had 20lb cylinders but the taller cylinders meant the bottom of the locker would be closer to the static water line than I wanted plus the locker would have probably “bottomed-out” on the inside of the hull below the locker. As it is, the locker bottom is about 4” below the bottom of the cockpit floor and 3 ½” from the hull at the corners as evidenced by the 2x4 blocks holding the locker in place. With a single drain/vent on the centerline, and the locker bottom about 16” above the “scum waterline” I don’t think there will be much likelihood the locker will flood with sea-water but I will have to sail the boat to be sure.
The bottom picture shows the mock-up locker in place. I used some cheap ¼” ply for the back and sides and ½” ply for the bottom. That is what I will use to build the real locker out of. Doing it this way allows me to make sure everything fits the way I want before I cut and glass together the much more expensive marine grade plywood I will use for the real locker. I used ¾”x ¾” cleats and dry wall screws to hold everything together. I had to carry the mock-up up and down the ladder from the boat to the woodshop and back to the boat at least a half dozen times to get the tight fit I was looking for. The locker fits snug around the outside of the gutters, under the bottom of the deck that you can see in the top photo. It will be glassed in all around the top, sides, and bottom on both the inside and outside. It will be strong and air-tight. The real locker will not use cleats or screws. I will build it using the stitch-and-glue method. This method is essentially a technique using epoxy fillets and glass tape to fasten the parts together. I will cover the inside and outside of the entire locker with 10oz cloth and epoxy.
After I was satisfied with the locker fit, I took it out of the boat and back into the wood shop. I disassembled it and used the parts as templates for the marine grade plywood which I will use to make the real locker. Next I will start building the locker.
The first pictures shows the tools required for stitch-and-glue.
The second picture show the wire ties run through the holes and twisted tight. A key point is to create an exposed corner. The corner will be filled with a "reverse" epoxy fillet rounded over to allow the tabbing to bend around the corner--you want to avoid 90 degree turns. You need to use this technique because the 1/4" plywood corner is too thin to really round over and the outside fillet adds strength to the joint.
The third pictures shows the same corner from the inside.
The fourth picture shows the fillet in the bottom joint made with 406 thickened epoxy. You can see the tabs I used above this to lightly bond the sides so I could later remove the wire and then fillet and tab the vertical joints. This is not the standard technique. I read about this in The Boatbuilder's Apprentice by Greg Rossel. All the other sources I have read tells you to leave the wire in and fillet over the wire. Then when the epoxy fillet has kicked, but before it is hard, you snip the wires on the outside and pull them out with pliers. If you can't get them out, you cut them short, grind down any protrusions and tab over them. Well the technique I read about in The Boatbuilder's Apprentice sounded better so that is what I did. I used 8oz finishing tape trimmed down so I could fillet over it. But I don't like the way it came out. I think it looks messy and it is not real smooth. I will reserve my final opinion after I try to fillet and tab over it tomorrow. The last picture shows the completed tabbing around the bottom joint. I applied a 4" wide tab of 17oz biaxial then covered it with a 2" wide tab. Eventually, I will cover the sides, back, and bottom (inside and out) with 12oz cloth that will overlap the wider 4" tab and run up to the edge of the 2" wide tab completely covering all the plywood. That will best insure there are no gaps for water to find its way into between the cloth and the tabbing. I think it will make the locker very strong--which it needs to be.
The bottom picture shows the locker after I applied two layers of biaxial tape in the same manner I used on the inside of the locker--a 6" wide strip down first, followed by a 4" wide strip. I added an extra piece of biaxial around each corner to provide extra strength and ensure the corners are air-tight.
Next I will start covering the locker with 12oz cloth to make it strong and water and air tight.
I called West System today and talked to the tech department. I asked about the warning in the West System manual to not use the 410 fairing compound under dark colors, e.g. the light gray paint I plan to use on the deck non-skid. I was informed West Systems is going to revise that warning in the next printing of the manual. Apparently they have run some tests and not had any problem with the 410 and dark colors that tend to heat up the deck. The tech rep told me that the light gray paint I will use in the non-skid area will not be an issue. This was good news because as easy as the 407 is to sand the 410 is much easier. It also hangs on vertical surfaces much better than 407.
To build the support I first made cardboard templates then transferred them to some 3/16" luan ply. I trimmed these a little more to improve the fit and once satisfied I transferred the pattern to some 1/2" marine grade Douglass Fir. I fit these to the exact spot and leveled the top and also trimmed them to accommodate 3/8" closed-cell bevel cut foam and placed it between the ply and the hull. I don't think it is necessary to do this if the supports were just holding up a shelf but because it is all tied together and supporting the aft deck I followed the recommended procedure for installing a bulkhead. I decided to offset them slightly to one side since the propane box extends to the port side about 4" more then to the starboard to provide room for the gas shut off valve, etc. This will place the supports an equal distance from each outside edge of the box. Once I measured everything and test fit the whole thing I rigged up a 2x4 across the aft cockpit and clamped some vertical pieces of wood that I could use to hold the supports in place with squeeze clamps. Next, I mixed up some slightly thickened epoxy and wet out the area on the hull and back of the cockpit where the biaxial tape would be laid. Then, I wet out a 6" wide and 4" wide layers of 17.7 oz biaxial tape for each side of the support, both the horizontal and vertical edges. Once I had smoothed out the air bubbles I covered the epoxy tape with some release fabric. I used release fabric because I do not want to use water to remove the amine blush and get the wood wet. The release fabric will allow me to glass right over the epoxy once it is cured. I finished off tonight by placing a shop light in the lazerette and covered up the hatch openings. It will stay plenty warm in there for the epoxy to cure properly.
Tomorrow I'll remove the release fabric and test fit the propane locker. If all goes well I may glass it in and be done with it. That would be nice.
The locker was designed to look like it belongs there. It will completely conceal the tanks. It will hold three 10 lb composite bottles. It is built on the center line. The only draw back is that it takes up a good chunk of the lazerette. I'll also have to allocate some space for the quadrant of the Cape Horn windvane. That will leave some space mostly for fenders and other light bulky things of that nature. I suppose the loss of space also works to our advantage as there won't be enough room in there to throw in all the stuff we don't need and weigh that boat down in the worst possible spot . . . the stern.
In a couple of days I will glass the locker in all around the edges with multiple layers of epoxy and biaxial as well as glass tape the supports to the bottom of the locker. I hope I never have to cut this sucker out.
Next, I filleted the inside corners of the locker then tabbed them with a single layer 17.7oz biaxial tape across (except two layers at the bottom forward inside corner). It went smoothly and without issue. It just took more time than I thought it would. The tapping on the inside of the locker is not really necessary. That sucker is bonded very well from yesterdays tabbing. Nonetheless, I added a layer to ensure it is sealed air tight. After the tabbing I added some epoxy, thickened with cabosil to peanut butter consistency, filleting over the tabbing in all the corners to made sure they are air tight. I have only one photo of the inside of the locker below . . . the rest are pictures of the outside of the locker taken from inside of the lazerette. I am very pleased with this glass work. It will not been seen and eventually it will all be painted. The only thing left to glass in is the under side of the forward edge of the locker to the awtharship bulkhead and the supports to the bottom of the locker. I'll take care of them tomorrow.
It took a little twisting and contorting to get down in the lazerette and get my arms under the box to apply the tape. I glued some foam wedges in first to allow the tape to gently bend across the 90 degree angles. I wetted out the surfaces with slightly thickened epoxy. It was tricky getting the wetted out tape under the box and applied evenly. I only put one layer across the bottom edge to the bulkhead (there are two on the inside bottom edge of the box). I applied two layers of 17.7oz biaxial on each side of the supports. It seems to be rock solid. I am pleased with it overall. The box will need to have foam blocks glassed in later to eliminate excess space--though there isn't much. Tomorrow I'll go back to the locker briefly and scrub off any amine blush and knock down the roughness with some light sanding. Eventually this will get painted.
After completing the glass work on the locker I moved into the wood shop and starting ripping the African Mahogany that I will use for the vertical staving. It has a beautiful color. Tomorrow I will finish ripping the mahogany and then start setting up the table saw to cut the half laps. I'll need to make a few more feather boards to make sure the wood is properly supported against the surface of the table saw as well as the fence. After the half laps I'll cut the "V" groove on the router table. It's good to be moving along and making progress.