The fiberglass and welding work was supposed to take 10 days, maximum. And before then I’d drawn sketches, figured out pricing, engaged the right guys, and paid half upfront – so they could buy the material. Staying in the marina was about $25/day and my hostel was about $15/day for a private room. Add to that the cost of eating out and the inevitable increase in consumption of alcohol that comes with wandering around CTG – and you can see how this would get expensive. It did get expensive, but it was nice to walk “home” through the plaza and see familiar faces and drink cheap beer and eat good hamburgers. Living on a boat while it is in project-mode sucks. It really, really sucks.
So when, as I suspected, the boat work ran over schedule – I decided to begin my next project without the other previous projects being completed yet. The next project was to clean the engine rooms, clean, sand, and scrape the engines, and then paint the engines and engine rooms. Not too difficult, but hot, filthy, and tedious. I enlisted the help of a local guy named Fernando, at the recommendation of a very good (and relatively new) friend in CTG – let’s call him Kyle. Kyle has some epic stories, and get’s most excited telling the ones where they ran contraband from the Bahamas to Florida, or his treasure hunting stories, or the stories about the long list of bands he did lighting and sound for. The list, printed on some very old and very yellow paper – contains all of the greats of the 70’s, 80’s and a couple from the 90’s. All of the greats, really. Kyle is an interesting, and very helpful, human being.
So Fernando and I were in the engine rooms. The process of making the engine rooms habitable wasn’t easy, but it was straightforward. We were repairing 15 years of abuse and trying to prevent any additional corrosion.
Here was the process:
- Clean the engine rooms in their entirety. Removing all water, all oil, all diesel, all dirt and grime.
- Scrape and peel the cheap soundproofing off of the bulkhead on the engine rooms, which was falling apart and causing a mess in the engine rooms.
- Clean the engine rooms again.
- Degrease the engines. (Simple Green, mineral spirits and gasoline)
- Scrape the peeling paint off of the engines.
- Pick and scrape and sand as much rust off of the engines as we could.
- Clean the engine rooms again.
- Apply another coat of Simple Green.
- Apply a coat of Ospho – a phosphoric acid compound that converts rust.
- Sand, pick, and scrape again.
- Clean the engine rooms again.
- Apply another coat of Ospho.
- Apply High-Heat Rustoleum to the engines in three coats, about twenty minutes apart.
Mind you, this was done on two engines. There were five days spent covered in grime and sweat, in cramped quarters, in tortuous heat, and without much of a break. There were plenty of harsh chemicals, and even some acid. It wasn’t fun. In fact, the only time I’ve sweated nearly as much was the time I spent in Iraq – walking around the desert with 100 pounds of gear and body armor. Regardless of how much water I drank, I simply couldn’t stay hydrated. In short – it sucked.
It took two of us five full days to clean, prep and paint the engines. In fact, it took so long that I ended up taking the boat back to Club Nautico without the engines being painted – but they were fully prepped.
So I was back in the anchorage in Club Nautico with most of the heavy-lifting done. What was supposed to take 10 days (giving a 3 day margin for error) took 15 days. And even then we weren’t finished.
The reason I was moored at said ratty marina (which was perfectly safe and reasonably priced): I was having my bimini fiberglassed, some deck-rot repaired, and having some welding done to add seating to the deck area. We took the bimini off in Club Nautico, so they could make a mold.
Previously on NOMAD the bimini was cloth. Cloth biminis are OK, but they have more than a couple of downsides. They chafe, they wear out, they get holes, they don’t retain their waterproofness, etc. And Sunbrella, the stuff we use to cover biminis is very expensive material. So when my cloth bimini started to go, I did some math and thought about how much I hate replacing things – and decided to splurge a bit and have it fiberglassed – which is a near-permanent solution when done correctly. The beauty of this is that I had complete say over what was done. So I was able to install a hatch so that I stand and put my head through the bimini to navigate if I needed to. I was also able to have the bimini constructed with a lip on it – so now I have a rainwater catch-system up 24/7. That’s a very, very important improvement. I could go into the details, but I’ll just show pictures and tell you that there were a million tiny things that we hadn’t quite thought of that came up along the way – despite having some pretty experienced and sharp people on the job.
The deck rot wasn’t too serious, but did need to be repaired quickly. Deck rot is what happens when water gets in between the sandwich of fiberglass (it’s two pieces of fiberglass with a balsa core), from which the boat is constructed. In my case, the culprit was an improperly installed snap that a previous owner had installed on the deck. The snap allowed water to penetrate the fiberglass sandwich, and that caused the balsa core to rot. That made the deck soft and spongy, which is a problem. The longer you leave it, the worse the problem. I noticed it in San Blas but opted to leave it to CTG – where I could have a pro tackle the job. It’s another straightforward but tedious process. This was in a part of my deck that got a lot of traffic, so it needed to be done correctly and needed to look good.
Here’s what we did:
- Guessed how extensive the area of rot was by what was soft underfoot.
- Figured out how to cut the deck out (top or bottom) to make it look good and hide any lines that would be a result of cutting through the deck.
- Cut the top part of the deck out.
- Scraped the rotted core out.
- Used epoxy to completely fill the void.
- Replaced the cut-out and finished it so that it looked good. Really good.
Finally, the other thing that was being tackled was some additional seating on the back side of NOMAD. I wanted another seating area for parties and for when we sailed. The truth is that if you’re sailing, everyone wants to hang out outside. I’m running around trimming sails and tightening lines and checking fishing poles – and whoever else is onboard is typically relaxing on the back deck. That’s fine, but that puts them directly in my path when I’m moving from one side of the boat to the other. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when you’re in a hurry (for instance: tacking) – it’s a massive pain in the ass and adds a little friction to what should be a fun and enjoyable day sailing. I chose to remedy this by removing the rear lifelines, and welding a structure that extended out over my davit system with a bench-seat. Anyone sitting/laying/relaxing there is completely out of the way. And now I can fit more than 28 people onboard for a party 🙂
There were a myriad of concerns in this process, but the end-goal was straightforward: tie all of the stainless structure at the rear of the boat together to add strength as well as seating. We didn’t get it right the first time, but we got close. Here’s a picture of the new structure, the seat itself was made from Starboard and attached to the stainless tubing with (wait for it…) zipties. I could have attached it with stainless fittings, but the truth about stainless is that it rusts in the marine environment. So I opted to go with plastic zipties and replace them every couple of years. Cheap, easy, and they don’t rust. The mistake we made is that we opted to use a piece of stainless tubing in place of the old lifelines, but this created a footrest for the bench that was uncomfortably high. So, after all was said and done, I had to take NOMAD back to the ratty marina and have the stainless cut off, moved down, and re-welded. Not the way I would have preferred to do things, but you don’t always get it right the first time.
That’s a small taste of the work going on on NOMAD right now. Just a taste. In the next few posts I’ll outline the projects completed and the projects left to be completed. The goal, right now, is to have NOMAD ready to cross the Pacific when she leaves port in Cartagena. No doubt, things will go wrong between CTG and my next port in The Pacific. No doubt. But I’ll be much more and better prepared and there will be fewer things falling apart around me. The value of doing less boat work, of having less moments of panic when things break, and of being confident in one’s yacht, cant’ be overstated.
The voyage across the Pacific isn’t one to be taken lightly and, if I can slow the monetary hemorrhaging that is boat ownership, it will take a couple of years.