Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Propane In The Ass

When we removed our propane locker to get to the deck underneath, Frank noticed that there was a cut in the copper line that was plugged with plumber’s epoxy. Scary….very scary, as I had been cooking with our stove for quite some time now. Propane is heavier than air and likes to slowly accumulate in the bilge, when a pump turns on, that is all that is needed to turn your boat into the world’s largest firecracker. So, we went ahead and replaced the copper line (which is no longer used in boats at all) with flexible rubber hose. It seems like the copper line was installed before most of the interior of the boat was built out, leaving little room for the new rubber hose, which is 4 times the O.D. of the existing one, thus turning a minor project into a real pain in the ass. It snakes along under trim where the deck meets the cabin top and we had to get creative with re-routing the new hose. Because of this, the job ended up taking 3 days instead of 3 hours like it should’ve. To put our nerves at ease, when we replaced the solenoid and regulator, we also went ahead and installed a Xintex Fireboy S-1A propane sniffer in the bilge. This will alert us if there is any potential leak.

Frank also rebuilt the rotted out propane locker using our the same teak that was used on our cabin-top panels.  How he built it was he used a table saw to cut rabbits in the corner pieces and the bottom and top trim as well as a compound miter saw to cut the slats precisely to size.  Our old box was made primarily of plywood and thin teak veneer.  The plywood apparently rotted out years ago and someone had used the “drill and fill” technique to prolong its life, but as you can see from the photos, it did not work.  Our new box is now  solid teak and only the plywood used is the floor of the locker.  We also reused the top as that hadn’t suffered the same fate.  We did re-caulk the seams as the Cetol has a tendency to turn caulking in complete mush. 

This is the ineffective drill and fill.
Corner pieces, old and new
Side pieces, old and new
Going together
Bungs in!
New regulator and solenoid

No propane refit would be complete without…..A BRAND NEW STOVE!  The nail that sealed the coffin on our old stove was when we went to remove it to access the propane line, one of the burners fell apart.  We knew that this day was coming as the burner was not functioning the way that it should and was leaving little flakes of rust every time we cleaned it.  Why didn’t we just replace the burner, you ask?  Well, since the GSI stove was close to 30 years old, and this is an apparently common weak point, a lot of people tend to be looking for the same parts, which are no longer in production.  The only way to find this would be finding a used GSI stove with the same burners and taking it from that.

Although this was an extremely pricey purchase, this is our home, and we plan on doing a lot of cooking.  We opted for a 3-burner Dickenson Mediteranean Stove with oven and broiler.  We narrowed our choice down between this or a Force 10, which was slightly cheaper, but the highest output burner on the Force 10 was 7000 btu versus the 11000 btu burner on the Dickenson.  Our decision was heavily swayed by the idea of having to boil a big pot of water for lobster and not being able to get it to a full boil or having it take forever in the sweltering tropic heat.  Now that’s what I call dreaming!  Better to plan ahead than be sorry.  This was by far my favorite upgrade to date.  I know this is going to sound stereotypical, but Frank’s love is the engine, and mine is the stove. 

Decked Out

A while ago, we decided to start on the side deck-remodeling project.  In one of my previous posts, I had talked about how our decks had a serious case of osmotic blistering and how it delaminated the top layer from the decks.  After much research, Frank decided that the smartest thing to do would be to strip the delaminated layer, re-fiberglass it, fair it, prime it, mark out where we wanted our non-skid, paint the wetted areas with Awlgrip, and nonskid our panels with Kiwi grip.

The first thing that needed to be done involved removing the top layer of delaminated chop strand.  Frank used a 7” angle grinder  with a 30 grit disc and ground it down until it was good fiberglass.  From there, we measured and cut out the 32oz fiberglass cloth so that that it could be laid in a solid sheet from forward to aft on each side of the boat.  He then used West System epoxy to wet out the fiberglass. This was not an easy task as he went solo on the mission (I was at work).  After it had cured, Frank made risers for all of our deck hardware to help elevate them from the deck slightly in hopes to keep as much water off the joints as possible.  He cut ¼” thick donuts out of fiberglass board using a hole saw and epoxied them to the deck.  Afterwards, we scrubbed it off with dish soap and water to get rid of the anime blush.  Anime blush is a side effect of epoxy curing that is often waxy, and will gum up your sandpaper and also prevent adhesion between layers.   We then sanded it, and in order to make the decks smooth, we used Interlux 404 two-part epoxy fairing compound. This product has a thick marshmallow-ey texture and is easy to trowel.  The entire deck was covered with this and from there sanded down with a random orbit sander.  We then refilled the low spots with more fairing compound, and again more sanding.  We did this about 4 or more times until it was as smooth as we wanted.  In some of the more intricate areas, we hand-sanded and to be honest, once you get into it, it’s a lot like sculpting. 

To seal in the fairing compound, we had to prime it with Interlux two part Epoxy Primekote. This was the most annoying portion of this project as it had was heavily reliant on the right weather. With this product, the substrate temperatures had to be between 50º and 85º and the ambient temperature no more than 95º with a 10 to 12 hour cure time within these temperatures. Not only that, but the humidity had to be below 80%. In Florida, having perfect conditions like this is like seeing a shooting star, it happens, but rarely. If it’s not too hot out, it’s humid, if it’s neither, it’s raining, if not, then dew forms early, and so on. Another one of those boat things, I guess. In order to try and beat the system, we opted to prime the boat in sections so that we would have enough daytime conditions for the stuff to properly cure. Waiting sometimes for a week or two for the day without a chance of rain, just to get a section done. When we finally did get the right conditions, we had to shade off the areas of the deck so that the sun wouldn’t heat up the substrate too much. We learned this the hard way when we tried to prime the bow without shading it and the product kicked almost instantly, leaving heavy messy brush strokes everywhere. From then on, we made sure to tarp of the areas before priming and also measure the temperature of the substrate before applying any primer. This is going to sound ridiculous, but what also helped it from getting too hot was holding a beach umbrella over the area, as Frank rolled. I felt a little silly, but it really helped! Once we got the technique right, we primed the first coat, let it cure, and again, sanded with 80 grit paper. A lot of this was done by hand as the orbit sander was too strong and took off too much primer. We then put another coat of primer, waited for that to cure, sanded AGAIN, and marked out where our non-skid patterns would be. Frank, once again, ingeniously created a device that would allow us to trace out an even 1” edge all along the non skid. What he did was cut a semi-circle, measured the radius 1” from the edge, and poked a hole so that that you could insert a mechanical pencil and run it along the curved edges and get an even measurement all around. We measured and marked out where each panel would be and taped out all the edges to be painted. The taping took about 6 hours made quicker by the fact that Frank cut a roll of tape in half and precut the radius so that it was just a matter of peeling and sticking the tape anytime we had a round edge around a corner. We did this the day before we planned on painting as we knew that we needed to start early to beat the dew.


The next day, we went to paint and noticed that dew had ruined some of the tape, and it was in the process of removing this soiled tape that our day got even better.  Apparently, the second layer of primer didn’t adhere to the first, and it started coming up with the tape!  That really, really sucked and we have decided to postpone the painting until the spring as winter temperatures set in and acceptable days for painting become fewer and further between.  We are moving on to other projects and will hopefully finish the rest when the right weather comes.