Tabbing in the bulkheads was more time consuming than I had planned for. To begin with I had to grind away more old mastic and smooth the underside of the fiberglass overhead down to prepare it for tabbing. But I also need to tab the lower portion of the bulkhead along the hull because much of the tabbing was lose. Because these areas had been painted all that paint had to come off if the tabbing was to adhere properly. The hull in the area I needed to tab was heavily "textured." I did not want to grind it down so I decided to remove the paint with a chemical stripper. After some research, I decided to use West Marine Safety Strip which is a brush on paint remover to clean the paint off the inside of the hull next to the bulkhead. This product was reviewed by Practical Sailor in April 2008. I looked the article over to determine the best way to use it and I also called the tech rep at Dumond Chemicals that makes Safety Strip. The product worked only OK. I believe it would have worked better had I not been using it on the rough textured interior side of the fiberglass hull vice on the outside over a smooth surface like gelcoat. Getting a tool into the depressions in the fiberglass cloth to remove the softened paint proved problematic. I have since purchased a tool made by Norton called a "Rapid Strip" recommend by West Systems Epoxy. This device is essentially a specially designed wire brush that attached to the end of a drill. I have not used it yet but will report how it works when I do. Regardless, once cleaned, the tabbing of the lower portion of the bulkhead was pretty straight forward. In the photo of the tabbing of the bulkhead in the head, before I could effect the tabbing, I had to cut and then trim away the formica that was contact cemented to the bulkhead so the epoxy could bond with the wood underneath. Expoxy will not bond to the formica. Once the wood was exposed, I made large fillets followed by four layers of 17oz biaxial cloth--2, 4, 6 X 2, inches respectively. Way over kill but I don't want to have to worry about it.
Aft Head Bulkhead
Forward Head Bulkhead
Nav Station Bulkhead Before Tabbing
The tops of the bulkheads were more challenging. After I cut the headliner out there were gaps above the bulkheads because they fit into flanges/slots molded into the headliner and then through bolted from one side to the other. The gaps were too big to simply "span" with tabbing. To fill the gaps I cut "shims" to the dimensions of the gaps then cut kerfs in them to make them flexible to bend with overhead above the bulkhead. You can see this in the photo to the left. I used painter plastic tapped to the bulkhead to catch any epoxy runs from the wetting out. Then I liberally coated the shims with 406 thickened epoxy, and mushed thickened epoxy into all the kerfs, and positioned them in place. I filleted the edges and added four layers of 17oz biaxial cloth. In the bottom photo you can see the completed tabbing. My tabbing got neater as I gained experience.
In the pictures you'll notice some of the epoxy is brown and some clear. The clear is 206 slow hardener. The brown is old 205 fast hardener. Apparently 205 that has been opened and not used for awhile (not sure how long awhile is) changes color but the experts at West Systems told me it does not affect its strength. Not as pretty to look at but it will all be buried under trim eventually. In the top photo you can clearly see the shim in place under the final tabbing where I used fresh 206 slow hardener.
Tabbing in the quarterberth bulkhead was difficult. There were lots of small tight spots with changes in direction horizontally and vertically. This area was completly open to the cockpit locker along the top edge when the headliner served as the bonding point for the bulkhead.
This was my first serious tabbing effort and though some came out nicer than others I was generally pleased with the results. I am quite confident the bulkheads are as strong if not stronger than they were from the factory where they were simply bolted through recesses in the headliner. Each bulkhead is now tabbed on both sides to the underside of the deck with four layers of 17oz biaxial cloth. At some point, I intend to though-bolt the tabs to the bulkhead as well. Additionally, I tabbed the underside of the bridge-deck to the transverse bulkhead below it. Originally the fiberglass headliner that ran below the bridge-deck rested on the top of the bulkhead but was not fastened to it or the bridge-deck. Now it is much stronger.
Q Berth Tabbing
Tabbing in the bulkhead under the bridge deck.
I also tabbed the underside of the bridge-deck to the transverse bulkhead below it with four layers of 17oz biaxial. I trimmed back the laminate covering the plywood about 4" so the cloth would be epoxied to the wood and not to the laminate. Originally the fiberglass headliner that ran below the bridge-deck rested on the top of the bulkhead but was not fastened to it or the bridge-deck. Now it is much stronger.
This afternoon I worked on the partial bulkhead in the forward cabin. There used to be two of them but I removed the one on the port side last year. The port side one did not seem to provide any real strengthening that I could see. It was a foot forward of the full bulkhead that separates the head from the forward cabin. That bulkhead purpose was was to make a very small and, in my opinion, useless hanging locker. I needed to remove it to convert the forward cabin from a V-berth to a portside mounted double berth. The one on the starboard side used to served as the forward side of a bureau. With the design for the double berth angling across the forward cabin from left to right, this partial bulkhead was in the way. By moving the inboard edge of the bulkhead over, the double berth can be a full 48" wide and there will be room for a seat between the berth and this bulkhead and cabinets that will be installed on the starboard side of the hull in the forward cabin. At it's longest point the double berth will be about 7' long.
To cut down the bulkhead I used a long straight-edge clamped in place at the top and held in place at the bottom by a single screw. I used a circle saw to make the cut from the top to about 4" from the bottom as that was as far as the saw could cut. I finished the cut off with a saws-all. I then ground the remaining lip of the glass tabbing down with a 4 1/2" high speed grinder. I was loath to use the grinder on fiberglass because it makes a world class mess. But there was no other way to clean the edge up. However, I lessened the mess by having the hose on my shop vac, with the wide mouth attachment on it, pushed right up to the grinder and basically sucking the dust right in as the grinding was taking place. The mess was very small and quite reasonable. It was a pretty simple event compared to my vivid recollections of the "dark days" last year grinding down much of the interior, soaked to the bone with sweat, grinding away hour after hour in a paper suit and full face respirator. There were a few times back then I thought maybe I had lost my mind.
I will install another bureau/cabinet in the same location as the original and there will still be about the same amount of storage space. How is that you ask? Because the drawers that were installed in this space were only about 10" deep and there was a ton of room behind them.
A couple of weeks ago ago I noticed a little rot on the bottom of the main bulkhead. To say I was not happy is an understatement. I was surprised that I only now discovered it. It was down low where the bottom of the bulkhead was tabbed to the hull . . . and buried under the fiberglass tabbing. This is another one of those sloppy installations from the factory that cause unnecessary problems later. The plywood bulkhead reached deep into the bilge area and was tabbed all the way across from the side of the hull to the mast step. There was no limber hole!! And, to make matters worse, this was the head compartment area. I don't even want to get started on what a bad idea it is to take a shower in an open compartment that has only Formica faced bulkheads for protection but that's what people do. The grey water also drained into the bilge . . . another bad idea. What to do? Well I probed the area and mused on it for a few days. The rot was limited to the bottom six inches--all below the cabin sole level. So, after some thought and consultation with someone I trust I cut off the bottom eight inches and made a nice smooth flush edge with a router. Then, I took my power planer and cut the one exposed forward face back 3/16" deep and 3" wide.
Next, I used some doorskin to build a template of the part of the bulkhead I cut out which then I transferred to a piece of 1/2" ply. Then, after thinking about it some more I used the ply as a template to transfer the shape to a piece of 1/2" G10. Because the bulkhead head is separated from the floor beam about 1/2" I decided it would be stronger if I tied to two together. So, I cut a piece of 1/2" Iroko which is very rot resistant (nearly as much as teak) and trimmed it till to fit exactly between the floor beam and the G10 causing the forward face of the G10 to be perfectly flush with the forward edge of the planed surface of the bulkhead. I cut a piece of closed cell foam as a wedge between the bottom edge of the G10 and the hull to protect the hull and aid in creating a nice radius for the biaxial to bend across. When I was satisfied everything fit correctly, I heated the bottom edge of the remaining bulkhead up with UV lamps. When the wood was very warm, I brushed on neat epoxy and shut the lights to let the wood cool and create a capillary effect to pull the epoxy into the edge grain and deep into the plywood. Then, I epoxied the Iroko to the floor beam and the G10 to the Iroko and the bottom edge of the bulkhead. I used epoxy thickened with 406 and piled it on so it squished out when I clamped everything together. Then I let it kick. Once it was just tacky I laid on three layers of 17.7 biaxial to create a nice flush surface on the bulkhead. This will make it easier to cover with the Mahogany staving. I tabbed both sides of the G10 to the hull. It is very strong and will never rot. I was pleased with how it came out. The picture to the left shows the wedge, the G10, and the flush fit of the epoxy layers.
I decided it was time to remove the bright white laminate from the bulkheads. I never liked the laminate even though many folks view it as very practical. It made the inside of the boat look like a Clorox bottle and is counterproductive to what I am trying to achieve. I removed all the galley furniture that had the same white laminate a long time ago. But today's effort was to remove the laminate from bulkheads that form the head, the port bulkhead that separates the galley from the saloon, and the face of the bridge deck support bulkhead. Some have suggested I could leave the laminate on the face of the bridge-deck support and the galley bulkhead since they will be covered up with furniture. But, better I think it is better just to eliminate all of it from the boat.
To remove it I used a heat gun and a "multi-tool" metal putty knife/scraper. It took about four hours. It wasn't unpleasant . . . but then again I am just happy to not be grinding. The boat looks better already. It's always nice to see the changes taking place on the Far Reach. Tomorrow I'll have to figure out how to remove the contact cement residue which has proven to be pretty stubborn.
What a long day. I started out wondering how I was going to remove the contact cement residue left behind on the bulkheads after I removed the laminate. I called CP Adhesives and asked them for a recommendation and they suggested MEK. I tested it yesterday and it was OK but not great. I removed the blade from my scraper and sharpened it. I taped some newspaper along the bottom of the bulkheads. Then I put on my respirator, dumped some MEK in a small metal tray, and applied it to a small part of one of the bulkheads with a 2" wide chip brush. CP Adhesives recommended I let it sit on the wood for a while to work. What I found out is it works best when you apply it and immediately scrape it off. I was making good progress when I ran out of MEK. I remembered I have two gallons of Interlux 202 solvent wash. I called the Interlux tech line and they said it is similar to MEK (has a lot of the same stuff in it as MEK) but more powerful. I decided to try it on a small test area. Bingo. The contact cement came off in big ribbons of rubber. Overall, I spent maybe three hours in a respirator. By the time I was finished I had a big vulcanized rubber ball.
Once I had removed as much contact cement as possible, I sanded the bulkheads with 80 grit and a RO sander. They look pretty good (see pictures below). There is some tear out where the laminated pulled some of he veneer away but I am not concerned. The bulkheads will be eventually be refaced with v-groove African Mahogany. I have been using my vacuum attachment lately so the sanding did not make much of a mess. Afterwards, however, I noticed the boat is pretty grimy inside from all the grinding that has taken place since last winter. Even though I have swept up and vacuumed as I worked, the boat has not had a good inside scrubbing and wash down. So, in the next couple of days, I'll probably take a bucket of soapy water and some brushes, sponges, and rags to the inside of the hull. But, not until I am pretty confident the majority of sanding to anything fiberglass is completed. I finished off the day by wiping down the teak bulkheads with water and a very soft brush to get the grime out of the grain of the wood. Tomorrow I will sand them.
I was pretty tired at the end of the day but my son has been wanting to go out for a night sail. So, this evening we pushed the Sweet Pea on her dolly down to the neighborhood ramp and left in the fading light of the setting sun and a rare rising harvest moon. We beat down the White Oak on the flood tide bathed in the beautiful light of a silver moonbeam. Thirty some tacks later we reached the turn-around point at the Highway 24 bridge and gybed around for the run home. The moon was up, the stars were out, and the breeze was a perfect 10 knots. It was a relaxing way to close out a long day.
16 Dec 10 Today I went to work on the bulkheads that separate the saloon from the nav/galley area. I recut the heavily rounded edges to a tighter radius on the outside as well as the inside corners. I did this for several reasons. First, I need to extend the starboard side bulkhead out about 4 1/2" since the settee will need to be extended out toward to the centerline. I cut back the portside (galley side) bulkhead about 3 1/2" to try to maintain a similar size passageway width between the two bulkheads. Second, I also lowered the starboard side bulkhead about 2" so that it is the same height as the portside bulkhead. Last, by tightening down the radius I don't have to move the side of the cabinet outboard as far as I would if I kept the same gentle curve . . . essentially tightening the radius gave me more room to work with when it is time to install the cabinetry. Of course, gentle curves are supposed to be easier on your body if you are thrown against it. I am not sure either would be very comfortable if you were really thrown on to a hardwood corner. Nonetheless, I think it looks much better. I always thought the two different heights were distracting. The starboard side (nav side) bulkhead was taller to accommodate an upward sloping chart table. The chart table was set up so that you could sit on the head of the quarter berth and face forward to use the chart table which sloped up, forward, away from you. Call me silly but why would you want to sit on the head of the quarterberth . . . what if the off--watch was trying to sleep? I never thought that made much sense. And if you tried to use it standing it was awkward because it was sloping to your left and there was no toe-kick so you were bent over trying to use. No good. So, the new chart table will be a standing only table, with a toe-kick, and as such will be level. Therefore, the two bulkheads can be level with each other. Clear as mud right?
You can see the starboard side radius is not very round. That's because that was all I could cut given that I did not mess with the inboard edge. It was easy to get the radius cut on the portside since I cut 3 1/2" off the end of the bulkhead. I'll cut a little piece for that when I scarf on the extension. Staving will cover all of it anyway.
Bulkheads before recutting.
Bulkheads after recutting.
19 Dec 10 We have had some dreary weather. Rainy, windy, and cold. After spending a couple of days working on the shop, setting up the dust collection system, and trying to get my motivation back I dove back in to the boat around noon today. I could just start back in on installing the staving but I decided I wanted to get everything done that I could before I started so I would not have to stop once I got going. So, today I retrimmed the bulkheads for an even tighter radius (more on that later) and then built and installed the extension to the starboard side partial bulkhead that separates the saloon from the nav area. The drawing below depicts the need for the extension--to extend the bulkhead to support the starboard settee that is 4 1/4" closer to the centerline. This makes for a wider settee and provides room for a pilot berth.
After measuring for the extension I milled a piece of bald cypress. Once I cut it to the dimensions I wanted I used my biscuit cutter to cut slots to ensure the extension would remain in the correct position for the epoxy work. I could have just epoxied the extension on with the biscuits but it is in a vulnerable place. It will support the aft end other starboard settee and will probably get leaned on and generally knocked about. So, I decided I would epoxy tape both sides for added strength. Since the whole thing will be covered with mahogany staving, the biaxial will have to be flush so the staving will lie smoothly across the width of the bulkhead. A single layer of wetted out 17.7oz biaxial is approximately 1/16" thick. Thus, after cutting the slots and testing for fit, I used the power planer to cut 1/16" deep recesses, just over two inches wide on each side of the bulkhead and the extension to allow a single layer of 4 1/4" wide biaxial to lie flush. The length of the planer causes some limitations with cutting recesses when you don't have unrestricted access to both ends of the wood. I had to start at the top of the installed bulkhead otherwise I would not get an even depth. Using a small fence to maintain the correct width of the cut, I ran the planer down the length as far as I could before the planer bottomed out on the cabin sole. I then planed the extension stopping the same distance from the end so I would have matching recesses on the lower ends. After checking again for fit I pre cut the biaxial.
Next, I mixed up some slightly thickened epoxy and spread it on the end-grain of the plywood and on the edge of the cypress. I liberally brushed the epoxy in the slots and installed the biscuits. Then I pushed it into place. After that I mixed up neat epoxy and wet out the wood and also the biaxial for both sides of the extension. The temperature was pretty cool so I wet the cloth out in the wood shop where it was warmer. I then rolled the biaxial into place working out the bubbles.
Next, I I mixed up some more epoxy thickened with 407 medium density filler and spread it over the biaxial to fill the weave and the slight gaps around the edge of the biaxial tape.
Last, I set up some heat lamps and cranked up the electric oil heater in the boat to keep the temperature in the high 50s or low 60s.
It was time to install the forward bulkhead. First, I used a string taped to the inside stem of the boat and measured back a set distance and made a mark on the hull with a magic marker. Then I swung it across to make a similar mark on the other side. This would be my guide to help me align the bulkhead perpendicular to the centerline. I used a vertical brace hot glued in place as a guide to find "plumb." Then, I hot glued some small wood blocks to the hull to give me something to place the pattern against as I built it. Next, I cut some 1/4" ply strips and hot glued them together following the general trace of the hull and deck using the blocks I previously hot glued in place to made sure the pattern frame was plumb perpendicular to the centerline (see pictures below). Then, I used tin snips to cut 1 1/2" wide door skin strips into small pointed strips and hot glued them onto the 1/4" ply frame work working my way around the frame.
Next, I traced the pattern onto a sheet of inexpensive 1/4" ply and cut out the template with a jig saw. I used a block plane to smooth up the edges. Then I cut a small hole in it so I would have some way to maneuver it as I checked the fit in the bow area. If I cut too big a hole the template would be too flimsy. The actual bulkhead will have a big section cut out so I can crawl inside the compartment to apply epoxy tape on the inside (Oh joy, I can hardly wait for that fun). I checked the fit and trimmed a few times as necessary till I was satisfied.
Last, I placed the template on a section of 3/4 BS 1088 ply I have been saving for this purpose and traced the outline. But, the light was fading and the kids were in need of some company so I called it a day. Tomorrow I may work on it a little but Sunday is usually family day. Will see if I can squeeze in a little boat time.
Before I started on the bobstay fitting this morning I wet out the edge of the forward bulkhead with a couple of coats of epoxy to protect it from any moisture it might come into to contact with. I then worked on the other projects while it was curing.
Once I was ready I started off by marking off a line 2 3/4" from the edge around the bulkhead with a speed square and a pencil. Next I ran another line around at 1 3/4" from the edge. Now I have two pencile marks that go all the way around the bulkhead. I then ran the power hand planer around the bulkhead using the 2 3/4" line as I guide. I set planer to cut 1/16" deep. Then, leaving the depth set at 1/16" I ran it around again guiding on the 1 3/4" line. I basically had a stepped rabit cut in the bulkhead. This would allow the first layer of 4" wide tape (1 3/4" on the wood and then span the beveled foam then 1 3/4" on the hull). The 6" wide tape would go on top of the 4" wide (2 3/4" on the wood bulkhead and then span the foam, then 2 3/4" on the hull) and the whole thing would end up being flush with the surface of the bulkhead. Normally, I would not care but I need to install the mahogany V groove staving later and I need a flat and fair surface for the staving to fit against. I cut foam for the bulkhead yesterday so it was quick to contact cement it in place along the edge of the bulkhead. Once done I took it up to the boat and test fit it. then I vacuumed (I sanded it the other day) and gave it a thorough acetone wash down. Once the air cleared I reinstalled the bulkhead and used my hot glue gun and a scrap piece of wood to hold the top edge in place. I made up a brace with clamps to hold the bottom end in place. I rechecked to make sure everything was square and plumb. I then wetted out the bulkhead with unthickened epoxy and the hull with slightly thickened epoxy. I wet out the precut cloth tape and laid down the 4" wide tape first, followed by the 6" wide placed in their respective rabbit cuts. I worked out the bubbles and went over the whole thing with a finned roller. I could not do the top edge because the wood block that was holding the top in position would be in the way. I'll do the top edge tomorrow. Later, after I have cut out the opening, I'll crawl inside and apply multiple layer around the inside. This bulkhead is not normally structural in a Cape Dory 36 but the sampson post will be bolted to it so it is structural now and thus has to be really strong. Also, I usually follow West System protocol and lay the widest tape down first except to get the flush fit I needed to lay the narrower one down first this time. I am pleased with how it went. It will be great to start installing the mahogany staving which I should be able to do soon.
After working on the chain locker staving I made a template for the vertical face of the double berth and used it to lay out the pieces so I could precut it to fit. (Click here for more info installing staving and click here for info on the forward cabin.) But, after I had laid out about 2/3 of the staving I realized I had not decided how the forward cabin cabinetry would tie into the double berth. So, I stopped work and spent a good part of yesterday measuring, thinking, and drawing diagrams of what I wanted the cabinetry to look like. It became apparent that the inboard edge of the starboard side partial bulkhead, that juts out towards the double berth, would be a problem. I cut this bulkhead back last year to allow more room for the double berth but left about 7" still sticking out. At the time I had thought I would build a lower cabinet topped by a horizontal shelf with more cabinets above the shelf set a little further back. But, yesterday, as I thought about the design it seemed like it would not be practical. The shelf would serve as a catch-all for junk that would interfere with the opening of the cabinet door behind it. So, I decide to cut off another 3 1/2" and scarf some cypress on top (using a biscuit cutter and epoxy) to give it a single vertical edge.
Once that was complete I rigged some straight edges with clamps to "frame in" where the bulkhead would go. Then, I built a template out of doorskin strips and a hot glue gun. Per my normal procedure, I placed the template over some 1/2" BS 1088 ply and cut out the bulkhead. I checked the angle of the hull with a bevel gauge and cut a 15 degree bevel along the backside of the bulkhead. I test fit it to make sure it would be plumb and square. Then I removed 3/8" along the back edge to allow for the closed cell foam wedge that would be placed between the outside edge of the bulkhead and the hull of the Far Reach. I power-planed a 1/16" deep cut 2" wide along both sides of the outside portion of the bulkhead so the tape would lay flush with the surface of the ply. Then, I applied a couple of coats of unthickend epoxy to the outside edge grain of the ply. While it was kicking I sanded and performed an acetone wash-down of the inside of the hull where the tabbing would be placed. I precut the 1708 biaxial and set up the table and plastic sheeting for wetting out the biaxial.
When I was ready, it was simple matter to clamp the bulkhead in place. I previously cut a 15" long cleat from Douglass Fir with a 36 degree angle to secure the bottom inside vertical edge of the bulkhead to the double berth. The cleat provided additional help to hold the bulkhead in place. I wet out the surface of the ply, the hull, and the tape. Applying the tape was quick and easy and the job was complete.
Refastening the Portside Main Bulkhead I thought this was also a good time to add some additionally strengthening to the main bulkheads. Though they are otherwise in good shape, the tabbing had separated in a few places on two of the forward bulkheads. So, today I levered the gap open and squirted in as much quickset 5200 as I could get in there. Then I through-bolted the four main bulkheads every six inches with 1/4" pan-head bolts using fender washers on both sides and nylon locking nuts. Though the tabbing seldom separates from the glass hull, it is not uncommon for it to eventually separate from wood, especially oily grained teak. Unlike epoxy, polyester resin is not a very good adhesive. On the Far Reach, the tabbing separated from the wood in just a couple of places but I through-bolted along the length for good measure. All the bolts and nuts will be hidden by the trim. I will probably through-bolt all the structural bulkheads but I ran out of fender washers so I went as far as I could for now.
Port side bulkhead with 5200 and through-bolted for added measure.