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Project Log:  Friday, March 21, 2014

Though not my dream finish, I decided to simply paint the raw fiberglass overhead in the head.  While the surface was naturally somewhat rough, as unfinished fiberglass tends to be, it was essentially flat and consistent, and with several coats of paint would end up looking OK.  I didn't know what else to do in this tiny space, and wasn't about to go down any complicated roads at this stage of the game.  Some other time, perhaps, but I had a feeling the paint would end up being completely adequate for what was needed in this space.

To prepare, I masked off as needed.  I'd already sanded the fiberglass long ago during the initial stages of the refit, so other than cleaning it was as ready as it was going to be.  The nature of the exposed glass here (and in other areas of the overhead/cabin trunk, though those were all now covered) was a sort of furry texture, as sanding tended to always pull out dry-ish strands of chopped mat (which were part of the laminate structure).  More sanding only exacerbated this, so I decided to more or less petrify the surface with the first coat of primer, rather than concern myself with otherwise stabilizing the material.  I figured that when the primer dried, I'd be able to sand more smoothly for the final primer and paint coats.

Preparations complete, I applied a coat of primer to the overhead, cabin trunk, and the small area of exposed hull near the toilet platform.


To complete the overhead in the pilothouse, I ordered a tinted 1/2" thick acrylic panel for the large hatch opening.  I'd long ago decided to forego the opening nature of this hatch (as per original), as I saw no need for the opening myself, and numerous pitfalls to the idea.  The fixed panel would provide light and upwards vision.  I had the panel cut to size and edge-polished, with radiused corners.  I selected dark bronze tint for the panel since I preferred that shade to dark gray, and felt the panel needed to be quite dark to limit UV problems and basic annoyance in the space below.

I test-fit the panel to ensure that the measurements were as I'd specified.  I'd begun by masking off the trim inside the opening, as at first I had anticipated installing the panel shortly, but realized that I'd not yet received the critical primer required for the bonding system, so I had to change my plans pending its arrival.  But the panel fit well and looked good.  I have to do something with the old holes left from the original sliding tracks, filling of which apparently slipped my attention during final painting preparations, by which time I'd already decided to eliminate the slides.



The large size of this panel, and the natural potential expansion and contraction of the material, required a flexible bonding system, with no fasteners, so I selected a polyurethane adhesive sealant designed for bonding polycarbonate and acrylic windows (Sikaflex 295UV).  The natural movement of the plastic would tend to cause cracks or leaks at any fastener locations, leading to the requirement for a fastener-free installation system. 

To ensure a high-strength bond, the manufacturer specified a proprietary primer product (apparently made from ground-up unicorns, which would perhaps justify its cost).  While I had ordered this, I'd not yet received it, as I discovered.  So I'd  continue this installation project another time.

Meanwhile, continuing to try out ideas and basic positioning--a test bed, not to represent an exact final appearance given the severe limitations of my chosen template medium--I made a few changes to my plastic ladder mockup.  If you can't see past the raw nature of this, with all its flaws and obvious mockup-ness, then please avert your eyes.  It'll be over soon.

Seen here is another idea where the vertical rails could potentially curve into a horizontal member and mate with the stern pulpit.


Really what I hoped to achieve at the top end, both for support of the ladder itself and for ease of use, was an arched rail that continued from the vertical ladder stiles and, in a smooth curve, conjoined with the rail-mounted bases at the top, but of course I couldn't exactly do that in plastic.   But soon I'd need to find and meet with a fabricator who could help me with the strength and design limitations of stainless steel tubing, the actual material for the job.

Another templating project that I'd had awaiting my attention was for a mast tabernacle.  I'd always dreamed of being self-sufficient in terms of mast stepping and unstepping, by far my least favorite aspect to annual boat commissioning.  With hydraulic self-launching trailers, I could launch the boat (theoretically) anywhere, but the requirement to get masts stepped has always required a crane, usually at a boatyard.  This is always an unfulfilling (and around here, expensive) process.  While the practical aspects of self-masting in this way were something I'd not yet tried on my own, the stubby spar and overall setup on this boat seemed to cry out for a tabernacle.

Some time ago, I communicated with another Fisher 30 owner who had a tabernacle set up on his boat, and he was kind enough to send me numerous pictures and measurements of the tabernacle.  (He was also instrumental in sending me key boom measurements that I needed to replace my missing booms.)  From these helpful photos and key measurements, I spent the afternoon building a plywood template of a proposed tabernacle, more or less identical to the original inspiration, but with a few small changes designed to suit the needs of my boat.   For example, I extended the aft plate down closer to the deck (still leaving an opening for drainage) since I hoped to install my rigid boom vang bracket there, on the tabernacle, and couldn't determine any other reason why the original plate ended where it did.


I built the template from leftover 1/4" plywood, simulating the actual thickness of the aluminum or SS tabernacle, and built it as accurately as I could according to the overall measurements of the actual tabernacle I was copying, since once I got the version I liked I wanted the template to be something the fabricator could directly refer to for measurements.


The pivot pin location on the original was 2" below the top of the 36" tall structure, so for now I replicated that location.  This approximated the height of the pilothouse, over which the mast would rest when lowered.  I wanted to do something a little more elegant at the top of the tabernacle, rather than the boxy original shape, and I marked out a few potential shapes on one side of the template, none of which were really working for me, so, as it was late in the day, I left those decisions for another time. 


Like my inspiration, I made the base plate a little larger than the base plate of the original mast step, but kept the bolt hole locations, since they worked and would line up with the holes already in the deck, which I'd left open for this purpose.  While the protrusion was odd-looking without a mast in place, once the spar was installed it would tend to become invisible.


Total Time Today:  4.5 hours

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