Installing new acrylic fixed ports

I finally tackled the leaking fixed ports this weekend. Removing the old leaking windows took much more effort than I had anticipated, but other than that, the entire project went well, and I managed not to stain the deck with too much black Dow Corning sealant.

Step 1: Remove old fixed ports.

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The screws came out easy, but the sealant did not want to let go. As you can see, I didn’t manage to get either window off in one piece. Note that the factory method for mounting these windows required painting the edges and the center black, so that you couldn’t see the sealant through the window. However, that means you’re now bonding to the paint instead of the acrylic, so we decided not to do the painting. We also decided not to use screws.

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The center sections were completely coated in sealant. While this made the old windows ridiculously hard to get off, it did nothing to actually keep them from leaking.

Step 2: Scrape and clean the mounting surface.

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Step 3: Apply 3M mounting tape

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Step 4: Level the new plexiglass window and pop it on the mounting tape.

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Step 5: Mask around the freshly mounted fixed port.

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Step 6: Goop it up with Dow Corning 795.

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Step 7: Smooth the sealant into all the cracks, wipe up the excess, and then pull the tape and peel the paper off the plexiglass.

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Step 8: Admire your new fixed ports that no longer leak when it rains.

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Removing the radar tower

After literally YEARS of deliberation, we finally decided to remove the radar tower from the cockpit of Gimme Shelter. The aged JRC Radar 1000 still worked but was hard to read, and the tower support poles caused a major complication when it came to designing a new bimini.

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The entire process was relatively painless. I had to clip the plugs off the ends of the cables to slide them down through the helm, but once they were clear, I was able to just unbolt and lift out the pole.

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Then I had to mix up some thickened epoxy to fill the holes.

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I was extra careful to mask around the holes after I got in trouble for dripping epoxy on the gel coat while replacing the winches.

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The only tricky part was bending my arm down through a hole and back up into the transom to tape up the bottom of the big hole, but even that worked out.

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Next weekend I’ll have to add just a little more epoxy to the big hole to build it up even with the rest of the stern. Then we can sand everything smooth and gel coat back over the repairs.

When the budget allows we may eventually add a Garmin radar, but if we do we’ll use a self-leveling backstay mount that won’t take up a bunch of space. In the meantime, the cockpit is now clear for our new bimini project!

Catching up on projects

It rained all weekend here, but just because we couldn’t be out on the boat didn’t mean we couldn’t catch up on some long-running projects we’d been putting off.

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About a year ago a friend snagged us a free sail for some unknown boat off craigslist because we had seen bags made from sail material at the boat show, and Mary was going to try to make us one. She got it started, but you know how it goes, things get busy, you forget what you were doing, etc. After some weekend work, prototype bag #1 is finally coming together. Hopefully it won’t be another year until it’s finished, but don’t hold your breath waiting on a line of hand-made Gimme Shelter boat bags to be available any time soon.

But Mary isn’t the only one with long-running projects. I started laminating together oak and poplar for a new table many months ago. Then about halfway through the job, I got distracted.

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I’m catching up. Just one more plank to glue on before I start planing it down. Then there’s the sanding. Then there’s the routing. Then there’s the staining and varnish — yeah, it may be another month or two before I finish this one.

Meanwhile the garden is growing like crazy. We have so many greens we can hardly eat them all, the cauliflower is ready to eat, and we will have squash very soon.

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Mary is doing her best to come up with new ideas for all this garden food. She also just purchased The Boat Galley Cookbook, so hopefully we’ll learn some new recipes for when we’re afloat.

And then there’s the new projects we’re starting together even though we haven’t actually finished these old projects.

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After our trip to Laguna Harbor we decided we wanted to know wind speed and direction, so I’ve got to get our NMEA2000 backbone installed and mount the new Garmin GWS 10 wind instrument at the top of the mast.

When I look at the list of projects, sometimes I wonder when we ever have time to go sailing.

Primary winch replacement on an Oday 34

Gimme Shelter arrived with the original winches from 1982, shiny stainless Barlow 25s. They glimmered with the reflection of the ocean as the waves rolled by.

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Unfortunately their shininess couldn’t make up for a few shortcomings.

  • Mary does not have much upper-body strength, so trimming in the 140 Genoa in anything more than the lightest wind proved impossible for her. I knew we needed bigger winches.
  • Barlow has been out of business for decades, and as I learned with my last boat, you’re always better off going with something that is still being made (or at least with a company still in business).
  • I was going to have to remove the Barlow winches anyway, whether I replaced them or not because Oday did not use any kind of backing plate when they were mounted, and the fiberglass under the starboard winch was cracking and needed to repaired.
  • The set screws that held the Barlows together were frozen, and I was most likely going to have to drill them out to get them off.

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I did quite a bit of research regarding how I could possibly get the winches off undamaged, but after two weekends of waiting on penetrating oil and trying different things, I ended up breaking the head off one set screw. At that point I just decided to dremel grooves into the bottom of the bolts on the other winch, so that I could hold each mounting screw still with a flathead screwdriver from below while I used an end wrench to unscrew the nuts.

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I ended up with one winch that I couldn’t put back together and one winch that I couldn’t take apart — at least until I finally drill out the center set screws in both and re-thread the holes.

During my struggle with the Barlows I ran across these gorgeous Lewmar 44 self-tailing winches at the local Boater’s Resale Shop, and on an impulse decided to upgrade. I mean, combined they were less than the price of one new Lewmar 44, how could I pass that up?

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I’ll admit I should have done more research before pulling the trigger on the bargain. The six allen screws in the top mean these are “spring jaw” Lewmar 44STs, which are also no longer made and no longer have parts available. I kicked myself for replacing one obsolete part with another obsolete part. However, I kept reminding myself that good winches can last 40 or 50 years, so surely they still had plenty of life in them before I’d end up hunting for some discontinued gear or pawl.

I thought they would work just like all other Lewmar winches and come apart after I removed the allen screws in the top. I was wrong. I took out the screws and nothing budged. I was delayed again as I searched for a way to disassemble Lewmar 44ST Spring Jaw Winches without them ending up in the same condition as the Barlows.

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Thankfully, the kind people at Lewmar were extremely responsive and in less than 24 hours of sending my inquiry, they sent me back a PDF of the original Lewmar 44ST Spring Jaw Self Tailing winch instructions, which I am sharing here for anyone else wondering how in the world to take these apart: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B-eqti4pjMLTRGw5cE9FMHFoOU1OczFKcURaX3dIdGdfeFFn&authuser=0

The key is to use a rubber mallet to tap the tailing arm in a counter clockwise direction until the entire top of the winch knocks loose. Then remove the six allen screws. Then the interior ring just screws off. It’s very easy once you know how to do it.

While I was fighting with the winches I was also mixing up thickened epoxy and filling in the old winch holes as well as injecting epoxy into the cracks.

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By the way, the Barlow winches actually had six holes, but Oday only bothered to put in five screws. I’m at a loss when it comes to the decisions boat builders make.

I also made new backing boards out of 1″ oak planks. In the past I’ve used star board, but I already had the oak left over from another project, so I went with that. I also bought all new stainless hardware to make sure I had six bolts for each side that were long enough to fit through the backing boards.

I drilled the six new holes two bit sizes larger than required, then filled those holes with thickened epoxy. I then re-drilled through the epoxy with the correct bit size, so that if my bedding of 5200 under the winches ever leaked, I wouldn’t end up with any water penetration at the holes.

Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo with the six holes drilled, filled and re-drilled because at that point of the project I was either covered in epoxy or just trying to get it finished.

The port backing plate, which is located in the lazarette, went on with no issues, but I had to cut the starboard backing plate in half to make it fit through the small access hole in the ceiling of the aft berth.

I won’t go into the details of how we installed the new winches with Mary working the screwdriver from the cockpit while I held up the backing plates and worked a ratchet in a contorted position from the bowels of the ship, but eventually the winches were mounted, and our marriage has survived.

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We now have the largest self-tailing winches compatible with our line size. After using them sailing to Port Bolivar last weekend Mary’s review was, “This is a lot easier.”

Worth every penny — even if they are discontinued.