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Project Log:  Saturday, January 14, 2012

As determined earlier, I needed to raise the existing engine foundations by about 3" to accommodate the new engine.  This job would have been minor a year ago, when the boat was still mostly a shell, but although the job itself was still relatively minor, preparations for the work would be a bit more involved.

The problem, or complication, was that I needed to prepare the existing surfaces for bonding new material.  Long ago, during my bulk surface prep stage, I'd sanded the gelcoated original engine beds, but only to scuff them.  At that time, I'd had no idea that I'd have to modify them.  Back then, I did some basic measurements as a reality check, and determined that the existing beds were the correct width/distance apart, and also that there'd be headroom for the engine, but it wasn't till some time later that I actually built a specific  engine template that highlighted the required modification.

The modification was simple.  I planned to laminate three 1" thick pieces of solid prefabricated fiberglass on top of the existing foundations, then tab the additional height into the existing structure.  Beginning with two pieces of material, 12" wide by 36" long, I prepared the raw pieces by sanding the factory surface off each side, then prepared three blanks for each side of the engine room, each just under 4" in width to match the existing width.


Up in the boat, I performed a reality check by putting the new pieces in place and testing the engine template with the alignment string.  The three inch height was correct; the final height would actually end up a bit more, once I installed fiberglass over the top, but there was plenty of adjustment room in the flexible mounts, as intended, and the lower the engine ended up on the studs, the better when all was said and done.  Remember that I'd "built in" this adjustment room by choosing a mid-point in the mounts' adjustment for templating purposes.  I made some marks on the tops of the new foundations to show where the mounts might be located, leaving ample room fore and aft for the final position; these marks would play a role in one of the installation steps.


The bottommost piece of fiberglass needed to be cut a bit shorter to avoid interference with the hull's curvature at the aft end.  The 36" length of my extensions was several inches longer than the existing beds, and earlier I'd decided to run the full length for added stability.  The engine would still be mounted ahead of the aft extension, but it didn't hurt to keep the extra length and spread the engine loads/vibrations over more of the hull structure.    After a measurement, I cut 3" off the bottom piece on each side, which improved the fit. 



Next came the part I'd actually been dreading:  preparing the area.  It wasn't the grinding I dreaded; though I would stop short of suggesting I like grinding, I actually don't mind it that much in the scheme of things.  But in this case, as I intimated earlier, the relatively simple chore of grinding the gelcoat off the existing foundations (to provide a better bonding surface for the new material) was complicated by the need to protect other parts of the boat from the dust. 

To begin, I removed the small section of sound insulation from the forward bulkhead.  The new foundation work would be in close proximity to this, and I didn't want to damage it.

Feeling rather like Dexter, I sheathed the engine room in plastic, concentrating on the sides and companionway to prevent the spread of dust into the tankage spaces and relatively finished interior.  Never my favorite task, the day took a truly negative turn when I was finishing up the final plastic over the companionway.  Working from on deck outside of the pilothouse (with the pilothouse sole removed for the work, I couldn't reach this high from inside the engine room), I taped up the companionway, then set a fan up on the dash to help draw the dust up and out of the engine room while I was working.  Somehow, the fan lost its balance and fell, taking down much of the plastic I'd just secured.  This displeased me, but I managed to re-do the work and move on.


Preparations complete, I ground the old foundations to remove gelcoat, particularly on the top surface, but also the sides, where I'd be laying tabbing later.

After cleaning up, I made final preparations for laminating the new fiberglass in place.  To hold the layers securely while the epoxy adhesive cured, I drilled and tapped each layer (in succession) for two machine screws, which would be enough to hold each layer in its adhesive bed.  The screws would remain in place when all was said and done, but served no structural purpose.  I avoided putting the screws in the sections I'd marked off earlier, so that I'd not have the unpleasant discovery of a stainless steel screw right where I wanted to drill holes for the final engine mounts.

Preparing and installing the screws was a surprisingly laborious process, but eventually, first the starboard than the port side was done.  I disassembled the pieces, milled a 1/2" radius roundover on the edges of the top piece (to allow fiberglass to lay over the edge), and cleaned all the bonding surfaces with acetone.


Finally, I laminated the new pieces in place, securing each layer with adhesive and the machine screws before continuing with the next.  The final installation was relatively quick and easy.  I left the laminations to cure before continuing; later, I'd prepare new tabbing to tie the new material in with the old.


Since the interior of the boat was off-limits because of the plastic sheathing everywhere, I decided to work some more on the helm mockup.  I had some additional ideas that I wanted to play around with.  At issue was my hope to reduce the bulk of the first layout, without diminishing user-friendliness and utility. 

Using a template of the horizontal pilothouse dashboard that I'd made earlier, I mocked up the applicable corner of the pilothouse down on the bench--including the dashboard, companionway opening (or at least the port edge of it), and the vertical bulkhead, with the console mockup secured in its appropriate position behind.  Because I was planning some changes to the mockup, but wanted to reserve my original version as well, I removed some of the pieces of the original version and replaced them with new pieces that I could modify to my heart's content.


With lots of hard thinking and occasional reference to some photos I'd collected, I made some basic layout marks on the console/dash template, which, along with the basic construction, consumed the remainder of the afternoon.  I'd continue the work--and description of my intentions--next time


Total Time Today:  6 hours

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