Friday, January 29, 2016

Completing our 2010 restoration project

 In our last post we described the beginning of our 2010 restoration project at Port Townsend.  We finished most of the demolition and began to install new floor timbers.  In this post we'll take you through to completion.  In all we replace 13 floor timbers, 26 frames, and several planks.
Under the portable canvas shelter at Frejya Boat Works, Port Townsend
One of our concerns when we started the project was the condition of the stem.  As we noted in our last post, we saw lots of staining and rust in the forepeak and were worried that the stem might be compromised.  Once we cleaned off 80 years worth of grime, we were delighted to find that the stem is solid teak and was still very sound; the wood looked nearly new.  Stephens Brothers Boat Builders were noted for their craftsmanship and use of premium materials, and Compadre's stem is a prime example.  After some serious scraping and clean up, Arren replaced the old stem bolts with new silicon bronze bolts, and we were good to go!

New silicon bronze bolts in Compadre's teak stem -- Good for another 85 years!
As we cleaned up the stem we noticed an odd hole, about a half inch in diameter, extending completely through the stem.  No one had a good explanation, but Arren thought it might have been caused by galvanic corrosion between two closely spaced fasteners of different composition (say bronze and steel).  In any event it was no cause for alarm, so he enlarged it a little with a hole saw and glued in a wood plug.  You can see half the plug on the extreme right edge of the image above.
Mysterious hole completely through stem.

Opening up the mystery hole.
Even the most serious project at Port Townsend has it's light moments!  
After cleaning and refastening the stem, the next task was to begin installing new frames in the bow.  The first few frames have little curvature, so there was no need to steam them.  Arren just hammered  the new frames into place next to the old ones.
Arren installing first of 26 replacement frames.

Four new frames adjacent to old ones -- Time to start shaping and fairing.
Careful with that thing!
Ahh... Much better!
Making sure frames are fair.
I mentioned in an earlier post how impressed I was with the craftsmanship of Arren Day and his small team at Frejya Boat Works, and the obvious pride they take in their work.  That sense of pride is demonstrated in the details of the new first floor timber.  

First floor timber -- Beautifully done.
This small, roughly triangular piece resides way up in the bow, immediately behind the stem.  One can see it from a distance through the lower cabinet door in the forward head, but you certainly can't look at it up close with the planks in place. It would have been easy to just rough out this piece, cut an opening for the keel bolt, and secure it in place.  Instead, the opening for the keel bolt is pleasantly shaped with a nice chamfer around the edge.  I like to think Compadre's original builders at the Stephens yard would be pleased.
Second floor in place -- Again very nicely done.
Larger floors farther aft.  We're ready for planks.
Even though I have watched the planking process several times, it remains "big magic" to me.  I simply don't understand how a flat piece of wood can be cut to exactly the right shape to fit in a weird-shaped, curving space.  And these guys even manage to make it look easy!
Garboard pattern, starboard side.
Measure twice, cut once.
New garboard in place, port side.  Magic!
As the structural work neared completion it was time for me to prepare the topsides for new white paint.  I also decided to strip off some of the paint on the transom to see what was underneath.  Was it teak?  Yes! And off came the rest of the paint.  After lots of paint remover and sanding, we had a handsome and clean teak transom. 
Compadre's teak transom emerges after perhaps 25 years under paint.
Under the white were patches of ugly green.  Why do people do this?  Apparently maintaining the varnished teak transom was just too much.   In any event, pictures from the 1980s show Compadre with a painted transom, so the practice began some time ago.  But no more!

With 12 coats of varnish on the transom, new white topsides, and new bottom paint, we were again ready for the salt water.  Off came the canvas shelter, and the shipwrights and owner took a moment to admire their work (I did the painting).  Then off we went on the lift.   After 12 weeks on the hard (February 11 to May 7),  Compadre was looking good and was stronger than ever.
Shipwrights Matt and Arren on launch day.  A job well done.

Off we go again!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Our 2010 restoration project and some thoughts on wooden boat repair

Early Spring of 2010 found us back at Freyja Boat Works in Port Townsend for what turned out to be extensive repairs to the forward section of the boat.  When we purchased Compadre, two critical areas in the forward part of the boat were virtually inaccessible, which of course is not a good situation.  A 110-volt water heater completely blocked access to the forepeak; we could only peer in from a distance of four or five feet through the cabinet door in the forward head.  From there we could see lots of rust and staining on the stem and bilge, and a couple areas where the wood look questionable. 
Forepeak with stains on stem, floor timber, and bilge.
To make matters worse, the bilge immediately aft, beneath the forward head, was inaccessible because it was covered by a copper-clad shower pan.  Thus there was no way to know the condition of the forward eight-feet of the hull without some serious exploration.  Was it safe?  What about in heavy weather?  So out came the old water heater and the old shower pan.  No way to save either of them, but no great loss in any case.

Once we got into the stem area and the forward bilge, we found just enough rot and discoloration to make us uneasy.  The frame ends were soft (they'd been sistered in the past and the sisters were showing their age), and the floor timbers (probably original) were soft in spots. 
Closeup of the stem and bilge.  Ugly... and is this safe? Notice the rotted frame to left of pen, with newer sister next door.  The sister is bolted to the floor, but connection is not sound.  A rather crude repair.
 After consulting with our shipwright Arren Day, we decided that peace of mind would be worth a lot more than the cost of replacing some floors and frames, so we gave him the go-ahead to pull a couple planks and take a closer look.

I feel obligated to pause here for some general comments about wooden boat repair, so as not to alarm anyone with the pictures that follow.  One of the wonderful things about wooden boats is that virtually everything is replaceable, given sufficient resources.  This is very different from fiberglass boats, where the entire hull usually is molded as one piece, and structural repairs can be difficult and sometimes impossible.  The following pictures are dramatic and may seem alarming to anyone unfamiliar with wooden boats.  He's cutting big chunks out of the hull!  Looks like a disaster!  However, as I noted with our earlier work in the stern, removing a few planks and replacing frames is the stock-in-trade of any good shipwright.  While things might look horrendous, the process really is pretty routine.  So relax and enjoy the show.

Matt opening up the garboard plank to have a look.
 The first step was to remove the garboard plank (the one closest to the keel).  It turned out to be more work to pull off the planks than we expected, which of course meant that the structure was still actually pretty sound.  But there was enough rot inside to justify continuing with the demolition, so off came a couple more planks to give access to the stem, frames, and floor timbers.

Opening a bit more.  The Port Orford cedar planks were pristine, but no way to save them.

Two planks gone and we finally have a good view inside.

  It was almost heartbreaking to watch 80-year old Port Orford cedar planks, still in pristine condition, being ripped to bits to get access to the inside.  Unfortunately there is no practical way to remove the planks without destroying them, so we had to accept that some of Compadre's original materials would be lost in order make her safe for the future.  Alas, one of life's trade offs.
Both sides open.  And a growing pile of debris.
Finally they had enough of the hull open to begin pulling out old floors and frames (often they just left the existing frames in place and, after removing any rotted wood, installed new sisters next to the old ones. The resulting new structure, with double frames in many places, arguably is stronger than the original.) 

An old floor timber headed to the scrap heap.
Of course you can't just pull out all the old stuff at once, otherwise the hull would collapse.  So Arren and his crew worked one or two stations at a time, removing the old floors and fashioning new ones as they moved along. Work started near the bow, beneath the forward head, and progressed forward toward the stem.
Thin wood strips form a pattern for first new floor,
 Shortly we had a couple new floors in place and the work settled into a routine which spanned several weeks.  After the bow was finished work moved aft toward the wheelhouse until we reached a logical stopping place (and the money ran out!)  In all we replaced 13 floor timbers and frame-pairs, starting at the stem and extending back to the front of the wheelhouse.
Two new oak floors in place.

In our next post we'll have more pictures of the reconstruction and show you the finished product.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 3, 2016

October 2007: Repairs begin -- Adventures in "Delignification"

As I mentioned earlier, Compadre is scheduled to return to the yard soon for our planned engine swap.  Target time is now the first week in February.  As that time draws closer, I thought it might be useful to review the work done in earlier trips to Port Townsend in 2007, 2010, and 2013.  I'll start with the earliest work in this post, then devote separate posts to the later two projects.

During our pre-purchase survey in mid 2007 it was noted that the wooden blocks supporting the rudder posts were badly deteriorated and required replacement.  The cause was something called delignification, caused by too much zinc.  For those of you non-boaters, sacrificial zinc anodes typically are attached to the propeller shafts and rudders to prevent corrosion from damaging these expensive components.  Corrosion instead attacks the zincs, which are periodically replaced.  With fiberglass boats, owners don't have to worry about putting on too much zinc, and not much thought goes into selecting the size of zincs and how many to use.  In wooden boats, however, the situation is quite different:  Use too little zinc and the bronze props or rudders corrode; use too much and the wood near these metal parts is attacked by sodium hydroxide (lye), and the hard parts of the wood basically dissolve, leaving a spongy mess.

So after suffering from too much zinc for who knows how long, in October of 2007 Compadre made the trip to the yard in Port Townsend to have the rudder blocking replaced.  No big deal; just a few days on the hard, a little marine carpentry, then we'd be back in the water and good to go.  Well, as with most wooden
boat projects, we didn't know the full extent of the problem until we started removing parts.

Plank sections removed, where rudders used to be.

Inside looking aft with rudders and planks removed.
We quickly learned that not only were the rudder blocks shot, the planks beneath them were also mushy, as were the floor timbers and frames adjacent to them.  In a matter of a few minutes our short trip to the yard turned into an extended stay.  After some consultation with Brian Wentzel, our shipwright at Freyja Boat Works, we decided it made sense to do whatever work was needed in the lazarette area while we had things taken apart.  Thus the project grew to include replacing four floor timbers, sistering three pairs of frames, and replacing the bad plank sections above each rudder.
Old floor timbers damaged by rot and delignification.
Once the old wood was removed, Brian went to work fashioning the replacement floors and frames -- the floors from purple heart (a hard, dense, rot-resistant wood) and the frames from steam-bent white oak.  Soon the work inside was finished, and all that remained was to replace the plank sections, plane them fair, and prepare for new bottom paint.
Four new floor timbers.
Brian planing the replacement plank.
Next we replaced the rudders, put a new coat of white paint on the topsides, and had the bottom painted.
Rudders back in place and new bottom paint.
Looking good and ready to go.

Before relaunching, Brian and I discussed Compadre's general condition and made a list of things that would need attention in the future.  This was my first experience with a wooden boat project, and I was very pleased with the outcome.  Brian and his partners at Freyja were very professional and the workmanship was first rate.  Needless to say when it came time for future work, we knew where to turn.

Having done all this work, the last thing we wanted to do was put on too much zinc again.  We consulted with two marine electricians to learn as much as we could about electrolysis and zinc protection.  Where that took us will be the subject of a later post.  Suffice it to say that we have learned a lot, and the solution involved more than just bolting on new zincs from time to time.  Stay tuned.

Sadly, Freyja Boat Works is no more, the three partners having gone their separate ways over the years, with Brian moving on to producing fine wooden furniture.  Fortunately Arren Day, one of the Freyja partners, has recently joined the Port Townsend Shipwrights Coop, and Compadre continues under his expert care.  He will be heading up the engine replacement project next month.

In our next post Arren does major repairs in the forward section during our trip to the yard in 2010.