Sunday, October 30, 2005

Well, I suppose we're making progress. Today Barb and I tackled the topsides that were gray with grime. Simple Green and three hours of scrubbing took the cabin exterior back to white. The gel coat is dulled and has some spiderwebbing, but it's solid and with sanding and painting it should come back to life nicely. I couldn't resist taking a couple of photos that readers can compare with the before images.

We were worried about water intrusion. The chaulking is old and since the boat is not sitting quite level, the washwater pooled along the gunwhales, up to three inches deep in spots, but other than water dripping in under the edges of the hatches (they are not sealed), the interior stayed dry. We are hoping to just rechaulk the teak deck and not have to pull it up. The portlights (portholes) and all hardware will have to be removed, cleaned and then rechaulked, but that's not such a bad job and will happen after the interior is done and the topsides are repainted.

Barb gave me a hand finishing off the workbench and I tested my XM radio and found I got pretty good reception in the barn so now I can have music and keep up with news as I work. (Maybe I need a cot in the loft too, so I can take a quick power nap when I get tired!)

I took a photo of the bundles of teak wood trim that we pulled out of the boat. Amazingly, about 80% of it is in good condition and will be put to good use. Our next task is painting the interior of cabinets, pulling the old head (marine toilet) and installing the new electrical wiring. If we can get the electrical done by Christmas we'll be well on our way.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Time is flying by as we cram as much into each Saturday as possible. It would be too easy to just abandon every other project and commitment and just spend every available moment on the boat. I'd be happy with a cot in the barn so I could spend every Saturday night there, working both days full time, but Barb has more sense and limits us to five to eight hours per weekend, on a "not to interfere" basis with our social life. She knows it would be easy to get burned out on the project and it's a marathon, not a sprint.

We've tried several methods of scrubbing the oil-stained teak just above the cabin sole (i.e. interior deck for landlubbers): auto shop "kitty litter" absorbent, citrus degreaser, acetone and water with TSP, but none seem to budge the stain. It looks like our best bet is to just cover it with a thin teak "baseboard" about four inches high to encapsulate it, and on the interior of the storage compartments we can seal it with a half-dosen coats of Kilz stain blocker. It's not a problem since the interior of the compartments will be painted white anyway and then the hull interior will be lined with 1/4-inch closed-cell foam for insulation.

Over the weekend of October 15th (Tom's birthday) we played host to two of our children and their families: Michael and his wife, Marianne and daughter Elizabeth; and Rebecca and her husband, Chris and son Thomas. We still made the trip to the boat-barn since everyone wanted to see it. Everyone seemed favorably impressed with the size and general condition of the boat. Like an old house that needs restoration, they could visualize the finished product, and if they thought we were nuts at least they were kind enough not to say it out loud! Michael helped me cut and fit replacement bilge covering boards. At one point we had seven adults in the cabin chatting and it didn't even seem crowded.

We've sorted through all the teak strips and plywood scraps that we pulled out of the hull in bundles and have found to our delight that it's all the trim (uncut) straight from the Westsail factory over 30 years ago! Nearly all of it is in good condition, with the exception of some raw teak boards and cabin sole decking that was totally soaked in oily water - easily replaceable (but not cheap)! We brought home the drawers and cupboard doors and sanded and oiled them - Wow, what a difference - the rich teak finish really popped out and they smell great now too.

Further sorting and searching for the rudder pintles has turned up virtually all the running rigging fittings, such as jam cleats, blocks, winches, etc. On the other hand, the bronze pintles are missing. We suspect that they were too eroded by galvanic action and were just discarded when the rudder was removed. If we can photograph and measure some originals we can easily have them reproduced. We're lucky to have found another Westsail 32 kit in a backyard about 20 miles away and we plan to visit the owners on Saturday, October 29th, to check it out.

On Saturday, October 22nd, I changed out shoplights in the barn, built a decent workbench with storage shelves, sorted more trim, and pitched more junk, while Barb sanded for hours in the boat. Men, you know it's a good project when your wife wants to go to the hardware store to buy power tools! Barb insisted on looking at power sanders and picked out a compact Makita finishing sander for the interior woodwork. With the orbital sander, they both will get a heavy workout on this project.

I've printed nearly all the hull and system-related pages of the Westsail factory construction manual and along with Don Casey's books ("This Old Boat" and other wonderful titles, such as "Hull Refinishing", "Boat Electrical Systems, and Boat Plumbing", etc.), we're now armed and dangerous. Stay tuned for more adventures in boat revival!

As a footnote, I want to express my thanks to Troy Boyer, his father, Rex, and the young neighbor, Garret, who were so helpful in getting the barn ready - without them we'd still be waiting for the boat to ship! Thanks, guys!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Saturday seemed to generate more questions than we had answers for: did we have an all-lead ballast? are the bilges still collecting oil? is the woodwork sound? can we get the oil residue out of the woodwork?

After a few cups of coffee on Sunday, we decided to go back to the barn and find the answers! We pulled out all the deckboards that covered the bilges and went to work cleaning with Simple Green, a citrus degreaser, a fresh water hose and a submersible pump. The mess was extensive, since in years past the hatches were left open to rain and snow and the boat had three inches of oily bilge water in the cabin - the woodwork was stained by it and the bilges were smelling of diesel fuel oil. We scrubbed with degreasers, opened all the compartments, and pumped out the bilges until the water was clear.

The woodwork of the original owner is sound, although it still shows staining on the bottom 3 inches (can a "baseboard" cover it?), and the counter tops in the galley and chart table are poorly done (can we get them off and use them for templates for new ones?), but the cabinet doors, drawer faces and cupboard doors are nice teak (although unfinished) and look like they will take a nice tung oil coating and give us a rich look.

We're hoping that the basic teak plywood will take a nice paint coat in white, and we'll add the trim pieces for corners, bullnoses, and edging in oiled teak. As long as we can get the diesel fuel oil smell out of the cabin we'll be OK. We pulled out the deckboards over the bilges to use as patterns for new ones. The large bilge opening in the main salon houses two fresh water tanks (the boat had one and we'll buy another for a total of 80 gallons of fresh water). We also were pleased to learn that we have 7,000 lbs of all-lead ballast (as opposed to part lead and part steel punchings) which is not prone to corrosion and is encapsulated in fiberglass resin.

The forward V-berths, which can sleep three, are soundly built, if not trimmed out, and with insulated sides and the overhead finished in white bead-board, it will be a bright place to bunk. We plan to replace the solid forward hatch over the V-berths with an opening skylight.

The galley and navigation station are well-built but not trimmed out and need new tops, bookcases, storage cabinets, and better electrical controls. The drawers are well-built, but we need to do a lot of finish work to make both positions useable.

We have hopes and will be able to determine our best course of action in the next couple of weeks while the cabin dries out and I build the barn workbench, get the boat parts organized and inventory the odds and ends.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Well, we spent all day Saturday at the barn clearing out the boat. Troy Boyer and Chuck Woods, two of my coworkers at Crown, helped Barb and I clear most of the cabin. We removed an unbelieveable amount of stuff: old wire, 50 lbs of unused teak trim, junk, old clothes, dried foods, engine and electrical parts, plumbing fittings, cans of wood oil, tools, junk, old charts, nuts and bolts, junk, screws, more teak, plywood scraps, cushions, standing rigging (the wire rigging to support the mast), junk, rope, circuit breakers, rags, spices, parts of the running rigging, two stoves (one propane and one electric that looks more like an RV item), an old toilet, more junk, the galley sink (it was on the forward bunk), pumps, blowers (3), and still more junk. We dumped seven garbage cans of junk.

It took three of us and some judiciously placed rope to get the 44 foot mast off the top of the deckhouse and into the barn loft, but we made it. Jack and Margaret Williams came around noon, as did our daughter, Rebecca, with her husband Chris and baby son Thomas. With the cabin cleared, we removed the boomkins from the stern so we could get the barn door closed (it was chilly and windy), vacuumed the interior, mopped out the bilges (they had about an inch of standing oily, dirty, smelly water), and rigged a tarp over the boat to keep the bird and bat dirt off of it.

With the interior cleared we could see what we had. Fred had never finished off the interior - no trim, no finish on the woodwork, no wiring other than to makeshift fluorescent fixtures, no finish or insulation on the inside of the fiberglass hull, some rough-cut plywood, no finished interior deck or gratings, and no latches on the doors, cupboards, or cabinets. In addition, it's obvious that at one time there was 4 inches of standing rainwater in the cabin, so the plywood is stained. We can also see where the chaulking at through-deck fittings failed and water stained the interior woodwork.

Actually, we're just as happy that he didn't finish it off, as we have plans to redo a few portions and put up a bead-board plywood (with cuts to simulate tongue and groove boards), insulate the inner hull, and paint the inside white with oiled teak trim. We can easily take kraft-paper patterns off of the existing plywood cabinetry and finish right over it.

The engine looks like a total mess, and since all the information we've received from other Westsail owners indicates that the two-cylinder Volvo diesel was inadequate for all but dead-calm situations, we plan to replace it with a Yanmar three-cylinder.

The only Westsail-unique parts that appear to be missing are the rudder pintles (the hinge pins), and they may yet show up in the many boxes and jars of odds and ends.

With the interior emptied and the bilges mopped out, we've opened every hatch, porthole and interior drawer, door and cupboard to let the interior dry out for a month or so while I build a workbench, do some drawings of interior layouts, and inventory all the myriad items that are boat-related. It seems pretty obvious that the hull is wet inside, so we need to drill some drain holes near the keel and allow it to drain and dry out until next summer before doing any exterior work.

Meanwhile, we can redo the interior: lighting runs, fixtures, new plumbing for the head (toilet for you landlubbers), braker panels, new engine, new fuel tanks, new water tanks, new through-hull seacocks, new cushions, etc. The list is pretty long, but we think that by late next summer it will be looking pretty good inside, if not fully furnished.

Visitors are always welcome (just call ahead to be sure we'll be at the barn), but wear grubbies because you never know what we'll ask you to help with. If you have any good advice, we'd love to hear it, but if you have criticism or stupid ideas keep them to yourself - we're our own worst critics and we have plenty of dumb ideas of our own!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Well, the big move on October 4th went off without a hitch, and our Westsail 32 is now safely moored, portside to, in Troy Boyer's barn in Warren IN. Barb and I drove up to Bay City on the night before so as to get an early morning start at the boat. I didn't want either the crane or the transporter to be waiting on me to get things ready for the move. In the early morning hours we cleared the boat interior of any glass jars (there were a lot of them, for nuts, screws, etc.) that might be broken in the move and to set up the X-frame cradles fore and aft to take the weight of the mast. I chose to offset it to the portside of the forward hatch and the aft companionway hatch.

I couldn't resist a moment of dreaming of sea-spray! I just hope the ghosts of the Titanic aren't watching me! I would have moved out onto the bowsprit platform, but it's about twelve feet to the ground and I don't like heights, plus without a more thorough inspection, I didn't trust a wooden platform that's been in the weather for ten years - even if it is teak.

Torreson Marine did a nice job of building the custom cradle and all we had to do was put 12 x 12 inch carpet samples on the stabilizer posts, as well as to any potential points of contact between the mast cradles, mast and deckhouse. We finished our work just in time for the arrival of the 50-ton crane from McNally & Nimmergood. Scott, the crane operator was very efficient and reassuring, but I was still pretty nervous about the lift.

With the slings and spreader bar around the hull we had to position the slings to align with the internal bulkheads to prevent overstressing the hull. It would have been easier if we had two separate spreader bars, each with it's own sling, but we made it work. The moment when it came off the keel blocks and stands was an anxious time for all of us. The popping and groaning of the slings about gave me a heart attack!

Up she went! Slowly, but surely she lifted off the keel blocks and stands until was able to turn her into the position to be lowered onto the new cradle. It's surprising how easy it is to turn 20,000 lbs! This is a good view of the bowsprit platform with it's stainless steel tubular core. Most of the wood is heavily weathered, but teak does not rot and we think about 90% of it can be restored.

With the boat lined up on the cradle, she was lowered until the keel settled onto the cradle's keel board, then the bracing stands were raised until snug. Not as bad as we thought it would be. The boat now sits just slightly turned to port by about 5%, which will enable us to work on the portions of the hull that were blanketed by the stand pads.

As we were setting the boat onto the cradle, the transporter, from NauticMarine Transporters, arrived on time. With the clock ticking and the bill running up, I was really appreciative of the timeliness. To ensure clearance into the barn, we set the boat down slightly trimmed down by the bow.

Our driver, Tom backed the hydraulic trailer until the side rails surrounded the boat cradle, then fired up the hydraulics to let the trailer squat. In the down position we attached two 3 x 3 inch telescoping steel tubes, one fore and one aft, spanning the underside of the cradle. The only thing holding the whole 20,000 lbs of boat and cradle is four steel pins about the thickness of your little finger! Amazing technology.

With the delicate alignment complete, the trailer was raised into the road position, and the boat and cradle were both strapped down. The final step was to lift the mast, which I estimated at somewhere about 300 lbs, from the saw horses onto the 2x4 cradles on deck.

With a small sling, the crane lifted the 44-foot mast off the decrepit sawhorses and over to the boat where I lashed it down for the trip.

The most anxious moment came when the transporter had to cross the edge of a culvert to get onto the road. The operator used the hydraulics to raise the side on which the road wheels had to traverse the ditch - pretty slick! After he cleared the obstacle, he lowered and releveled the trailer, put on his "oversize load" flags, and we were off to Indiana.

FINALLY, on the road! We followed the transporter all the way home - 300 miles to Warren - all without taking our eyes off the boat! We held our breath going through road construction, where the lane was redirected onto the berm - so close to the underpass abutment that we'll swear the hull cleared by no more than inches!

Five hours after leaving one farmyard, we arrived at another - but this was the end of the road and the new home for our baby. Unable to negotiate the driveway, the transporter had to cut across the front yard, then drive all the way around to the back of the barn to get lined up on the old tractor bay.

After a couple of tries, Tom the operator got the truck into the barn and then used the hydraulics to drop the rig as low as possible. Fortunately, Troy has a lot of land in back of the barn and he was able to jockey into position. With an 11' wide boat and a 14' wide bay, the driver didn't have a lot of extra room to play with. Piece of cake!

Is it going to fit?? We measured the boat and the barn at least eight times!

In she goes, one foot at a time.

Going, going, almost gone.

As you can see from the front catwalk, the boat totally fills the tractor bay with just enough room at the sides to work on the hull. We can use the catwalks above each end of the tractor bay to get onto the boat, as well as a means of rigging tackle to lift objects (can you say "new diesel engine"?) into the boat. It's amazing how having the bulk of the boat in the barn makes you feel more comfortable walking on the catwalks!
From the hayloft/workshop you can see that it's just an easy step onto the deck!

Safe and sound in her new home, the Westsail looks snug but timeworn. We can hardly wait until the weekend to get her emptied out and everything inventoried, but we were so dog-tired that we just went home and crashed. Saturday will come soon enough!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

I always expected to build an airplane, and when I was on the verge of sending off a deposit check for an RV-8 kit, my wife, Barbara, finally put her foot down and declared that she would never fly in it. I was more than a little taken aback, since we had talked about this for years and I already had the engine in the garage, but it was obvious that she had some deep-seated fears of flying in small aircraft. We had to arrive at a compromise, since I knew that I had to have a long-term project to replace work once I retired.

Barb and I had always enjoyed sailing, having owned a small 19-foot daysailer when we were stationed in Bermuda with the Navy, and I've had the opportunity to crew on a Luders 44 yawl, not to mention sea duty in the Navy aboard a guided missile cruiser (USS Harry E. Yarnell, CG17). A cruising sailboat seemed to be the natural compromise!

Little did Barb know that I would not waste time finding the right boat project. I had always admired the Westsail 32, a sturdy double-ended cutter based on the designs of Colin Archer in 1898. His North Sea life boats and pilot boat designs are graceful and seaworthy craft that have survived the worst the sea can throw at them. I have seen them in the middle of the Atlantic, and in ports as widespread as Taormina, Sicily, to San Diego, CA, and had always admired the lines.

As luck would have it, a Westsail 32 popped up on eBay and with Barb's apprehensive approval I decided to bid on it, based solely on two photos and a phone conversation with the seller. The boat was sitting in a farmyard 280 miles away, 75 miles north of Flint, MI, where it had been languishing for over ten years, slowly weathering and collecting dust.

For better or for worse, I won the auction on September 4th, (at a bargain price) and the next step was to inspect it and make plans to have it moved closer to us for a total make-over. A co-worker of mine has an unused barn with a 44 foot by 14 foot tractor bay that makes a good boathouse, and the hayloft (after it was cleared of old hay) is at nearly the deck-level of the boat, offering ample space for workbench, storage, sail loft and engine shop. As it turned out, he was more than willing to loan the barn in return for a crew berth.

I made the trip to Michigan the weekend of September 10th and shanghaied my cousin's husband, Jeff, into making the trek to Rhodes, MI, to check it out. I have to say that it was an odd sight to see the boat sitting 100 yards off the back-country road, more than 50 miles from the nearest big water. I was filled with excitement and apprehension as we approached the boat, but it was in as good a condition as I could have hoped for.

The exterior was weathered, but the teak decks and cap rail were good enough to be refinished, the hull was undamaged (it looked as though the owner had repaired some osmotic blisters of the underwater fiberglass), and everything seemed to be on-site. The sad part was that it looked as though he had completed only enough of the interior to be habitable, and a total make-over would be in order.

Over the years the cabin became a repository for everything and anything boat-related, and it looked as though a giant had shaken the boat, scattering everthing helter-skelter.

From the hull number (WSSK02961074) I learned that the boat was one of the 400-odd hulls that was sold as a kit (as opposed to the 700 others that were factory finished) to Fred Nelson, of Dearborn, Michigan. Laid up in October of 1974, the boat was Fred's pre-retirement project and he ultimately sailed it out of the Great Lakes, through the Erie Canal, down the Hudson River, and down the East Coast. Sadly, Wilmington, NC, was as far as he got. The details from his daughter, who was the executor of the estate, were sketchy. The family lived on the boat for over nine years, up and down the East Coast, but the charts of the South Seas that I found in the cabin were never used (interestingly, most date from WWII). In 1991 Fred decided to move back to Michigan, closer to his wife's hometown, and he paid to have the boat transported overland and put "on the hard" in a clearing at the front of his property.

To my dismay, the boat was sitting on keel blocks and stands, not a proper cradle that would make transporting easy. I would have to have a mobile crane lift the boat onto a new cradle before I could have a hydraulic transporter pick up the cradle and boat and haul it to the barn in Warren, IN. Sounds pretty easy and straightforward, right? Not when "Murphy" is alive and well!

Before we could have the boat moved we had to (1) clear the barn of 80+ years of dirt and hay, demolish two 14x10x8 foot grain cribs over each end of the tractor bay (they were 12 feet in the air, made of native oak, but thankfully empty), (2) run electrical wiring for shoplights over the boat bay and workbench areas, (3) run outlets to both the bench and bay area, and (4) locate about a dozen oak blocks to set the boat cradle on. Then I had to (5) find and schedule a marine transporter, (6) a crane service, and (7) have a the cradle built to order.

You would think that oak blocks would be easy to find, but guess again! Normal lumber yards don't carry anything larger than 4x4 in oak, and I needed 6x6 to give clearance for the lifting bars of the hydraulic trailer. All of the wood I found was pressure treated fir or pine. I had to find a sawmill that would be willing to cut a 12 foot piece of 6x6, then I had to sweet talk them into cutting it into 12 inch lengths for me.

The cradle was another problem. With the onset of winter, all the boatyards in the Great Lakes region were busy hauling boats and all the cradles were in use, so I had to have one custom built. After several emails and calls I found a boatyard in Muskegon, MI, (Torreson's Marine) that would not only build the cradle, but would actually do it for about 60% of what the other cradle builders would do it. NauticMarine Transporters, whom I had contracted to make the move, had experience with Torreson's and they luckily had a Westsail 32 cradle in their yard that they could copy. All it takes is money and some hard work!

Finally, after a lot of sweat at the barn and numerous phone calls, everything seemed to be falling into place. Torreson's finished the cradle in record time (six days) and the transporter would be available on Tuesday, October 4th. As luck would have it, the crane from Dobson's in Bay City was obligated for the entire week of October 3rd, so I had to scramble to find an alternative. McNally's in Saginaw, MI, a bit further (naturally, since cranes charge by the hour, portal to portal) but with more capacity and experience lifting boats, was available.

Everything is in place for October 4th, and God willing we will have the boat safely ensconced in it's new temporary home by Tuesday night!