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Project Log:  Friday, January 14, 2011

The new inspection ports arrived, so I was finally ready to remove the last bits of hardware from the caprails, and then the caprails themselves.

I was pleased with the inspection ports, which were handsome and seemed of good quality.

As expected, the inspection ports required a 4-1/2" hole for installation, but I'd wanted to confirm this before committing to the large holes in the bulwarks and cockpit.  Fortunately, I already had the appropriately-sized hole saw on hand.

I began at the bow, directly beneath the chocks located on the caprails.  After various measurements and mockups, I determined the appropriate position for the inspection ports, and drilled the holes.


Imagine my surprise (and amazingly cheerful acceptance) when I reached into these holes and discovered that the chocks were not throughbolted as I'd expected, but simply secured with machine screws driven into permanent backing plates.  I was sure I'd observed nuts on these fasteners when I'd peered up into the bulwark cavity from beneath.  So it turned out I'd not needed the large holes and access ports at the bow after all. 

I know I checked, and I sure thought I saw nuts.  Clearly I was wrong, but worse mistakes have been made.  Perhaps I'd install nuts on the chock fasteners when I reinstalled them, just because I now could.

In any event, the holes were there, and I moved on to remove the chocks and caprails.  Using an impact driver, I easily removed the three machine screws securing the starboard chock, and then removed the starboard caprail in short order.  I'd already removed the caprail screws during the last removal session.

Two of the three fasteners on the port chock resisted initial removal efforts with the impact gun.  However, I was able to turn the screws with the extra leverage afforded by a 1/2" ratchet handle with #3 Phillips bit installed; once I'd started the screws, it was easy to remove them the rest of the way with the impact gun.

Weirdly, both forward sections of caprail also featured those strips of fiberglass tape imbedded in the heavy beads of black sealant.  I'd no idea what that was supposed to accomplish, other than to make removing the sealant that much more annoying, but there it was.


I'd not known what to expect in terms of fastener sizing, difficulty in removal of the hardware and rails, etc., so I had a million tools on hand, which I now moved aft to the cockpit so I could repeat this process there.

Outboard of the cockpit, there were two things to remove:  the large aft mooring bitts, and a tightly-clustered pair of rigging attachment U-bolts on each side of the boat.  I wanted to position my inspection ports so that I could reach both the cleats and U-bolts from the single hole; the mooring bitt and U-bolts were separated by nearly 24".  I double-checked with a camera, taking a picture up into the void, to ensure that there were actually nuts on the hardware I was removing.  (There were.)

After measuring, marking, and confirmation, I determined where the hole needed to go.  I'd locate it halfway between the bitt and U-bolts, and down far enough from the top of the cockpit coaming to ensure that I was just a bit below the level of the inside of the caprail/hull-deck joint.  I marked and drilled the holes on each side as needed.



Fortunately, I could remove most of the nuts without difficulty, and I easily removed the starboard mooring bitt.  The port mooring bitt caused some difficulty; one of the fasteners spun off its head, which was fine, but a second (of four) jammed with the nut partway off, and I couldn't get the leverage I needed; plus, the bitts were secured with round-head slotted screws, which in my experience are the most difficult to work with.

Eventually, I had to use a grinder to remove the head from this final fastener, allowing me to remove the bitt.  Access was tight, and the nut hadn't loosened much, so I couldn't pull the fastener up at all to cut cleanly through.  I ended up slightly scuffing the cover plate beneath the bitt, but I thought I could polish that out.

As before, I found the U-bolts to be recalcitrant.  Again, these were installed through permanent aluminum backing plates, and dissimilar metal corrosion--always a significant issue with aluminum and stainless steel together--had locked the studs in place.  Various prying efforts eventually resulted in my being able to successfully remove one of the two U-bolts on each side, but I had to cut the second ones off with my grinder.

Finally, with all the hardware out of the way, I de-bunged and removed all the remaining caprail screws, and carefully removed the last two sections on each side of the cockpit, completing this onerous task.



I was tired of the caprails and associated work, so I set the wood aside on the bench to deal with another time.  For now, I wanted to do something different, and the next task on my list was to build and permanently install the new cabin sole substrate.  Not only did I need this in place so that I could begin other new construction in the main cabin, but I also desperately wanted a large, flat surface in place so I could set up a small cart or work table and start organizing the tools that I'd been keeping on board, and which I was sick of tripping over, not finding, misplacing, knocking around, and being piled in unkempt heaps inside the engine foundations (the only remotely reasonable place I'd found).

Earlier in the week, I'd picked up several sheets of marine plywood for the cabin sole and other immediate structural tasks.  For the cabin sole, I specified 18mm Meranti for the substrate; I hadn't decided what the final surface would be, but that didn't matter now.  My new cabin sole would be permanent, and would span the boat from hull to hull, rather than the loose, removable  sections that had comprised the original cabin sole between the original cabinetry.  I'd cut hatches as needed to provide access to the bilge for inspection and whatever; I saw no need for the entire sole to be removable, and thought that loose pieces would be annoyingly creaky underfoot.  The new sole substrate would also make cabinetry construction easy.

To begin, I cut one piece of the plywood to the length required for the main cabin, 74-5/8".  Then, I lugged the sheet up into the cabin and laid it in place with the outboard corners touching the hull, and scribed the edge to match the curvature of the hull.  I chose to do it this way rather than use any form of template because I saw no need for the additional steps since the cabin was more than wide enough for the full sheet to fit, making such scribing easy.  It would take more than one sheet's width to cover the entire space.

Back on the bench, I cut the sheet to the scribe marks, with the blade set at an angle to approximate the deadrise of the hull against which it would fit; I fine-tuned the bevel with a belt sander afterwards, since the saw would only cut to 45°.

The now-scribed sheet fit well in the boat.  I left things there for the day while I worked out in my head how the bilge access hatches would work, and whether I should cut the width of the first sheet down before fitting the second piece; my initial thought was to use the full width of the first sheet and conserve material with the second, as I'd end up with a large, usable piece leftover, but I needed to consider how the hatches would work, where they'd be located, and how the longitudinal seam between the sheets would affect things going forward.


Late in the day, I drove to a nearby (well, everything's relative) town to meet someone from the tank fabrication company, who was going through the area and had offered to meet me at a mutually convenient location to drop off the three new fuel tanks (thanks Katrin!).  I'd requested the tank construction be delayed and spread out in this way when I ordered them back in December.  The water tanks would be constructed soon.

The three new tanks looked good.  The port and starboard wing tanks appeared to be built according to my drawings and specifications, but unfortunately I noticed that the inspection ports had been improperly located on the large aft fuel tank; I'd specified them towards the forward end of the tank top, where they'd be accessible once the tank was installed and also where they'd be over the deepest part of the tank and near the fuel pickup and sending unit, but they'd been installed at the aft end.  I'd look into this in more detail in the near future to determine how the error should be dealt with.



Total Time Today:  6.75 hours

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