Sit still??? Us?? Hah, no way! Whether it was in our sticks ‘n bricks, in our land yacht or on our water yacht, we’re (more Rob than me) always working on something. It appeared once the boat was launched, this summer would not be any different.
Over the past few years, we have had numerous conversations about modifications that needed to happen to not only make our 1985 vintage boat more comfortable for us but to also improve her curb appeal if and when the time came to sell her. Selling would be on the table either to upsize/downsize to a different boat, or if for some reason we had to give up boating altogether. What started out as a basic simple project quickly quickly spawned other projects required to complete the “simple” project! Guess it was going to be a very busy summer! Below is a summary, more specific details about each of these projects will be posted at a later date when everything is completed.
So first there was…
The Purchase and Installation of a New Propane Stove (Project #1)
Over the years we have owned the boat, as chief cook and bottle washer, I have struggled with the lack of an oven and our very old and very temperamental three burner electric cooktop which sometimes would work and sometimes wouldn’t. Grilling (with a propane grill on the rail) is not allowed at our slip so that wasn’t an option while in port, making meal prep a challenge. A few years back we had replaced the very small under the cabinet toaster oven with a larger countertop Breville Toaster Oven (BOV800XL) so that in conjunction with our NuWave Portable Induction Burner made cooking meals somewhat easier. At least enough so we didn’t starve (fat chance of that ever happening), but still required 120 volt AC shore power electricity to operate.
Having all electric appliances was great when staying at a dock with access to shore power but when on a mooring, starting up our temperamental, on its last legs generator was required. So this year to resolve all of those issues, we made the decision to order a propane Furrion 2-in-1 Range Oven (FSRE21SASS) from etrailer.com. Woo hoo! I was excited!
The range was delivered by freight within a week at our coach in Sun Valley. Before the driver left, Rob inspected the box, opened the top to make sure there was no damage. Everything looked good! Down at the yacht club wheeling the huge 80 pound box down the ramp, then lifting it up and over the railing was a challenge. Once it was on board, as we unpacked it, we both exclaimed “oh, no” (along with a few expletives) at the same time.
Underneath the styrofoam, the top corner of the range was totally bashed in. Darn, it clearly was dropped and the damage was covered up. But why was the box including the styrofoam inside in such good shape? Why do we have such bad luck with appliances? Do they not like us? Those of you who have followed us for awhile may remember the saga of a new refrigerator that we bought at a local distributor on Cape Cod back in 2015 and the hassle that we went through with that purchase, return and re-installation.
Anyway, long story short, the company that we bought it from (etrailer.com, highly recommended) was very gracious, immediately issued a refund, ordered us a new one and arranged for the freight company to come back to pick up the damaged one. Fortunately about 10 days later, the second one arrived, which we determined was unscathed after completely removing it from the box and doing a very thorough inspection before signing for it.
Now you might think that installing a new range would be easy peasy, wouldn’t you? Ha! Of course it wasn’t! As mentioned above, more details will be posted later. But as you’ll see from the subsequent projects, this one project spawned several others.
While waiting for the new (hopefully perfect) range to be redelivered, Rob began working on…
A New Countertop For The Stove (Project #2)
Wouldn’t it be great if you replaced an appliance and the new one fit into the existing space perfectly? Sometimes that happens, sometimes not. Definitely not in this case. To fit the smaller front to back dimensions of the new stove, Rob had to make major modifications to the existing cabinet including the installation of a new countertop, installing new moldings, etc.
Of course there was no way we were going to find the same 1985 formica pattern so we settled on a neutral color we found stocked in store by Lowes. Eventually we want to replace all of the countertop on the boat anyway so we’re not concerned with the pattern differences.
In addition to prepping for the new range, Rob decided to…
Restore the Cabinet Around the Refrigerator (Project #3)
When we first bought the boat, one of the first things we did was to remove the old clunky tube type TV that had been installed over the refrigerator, re-purposing that space for a microwave oven. A new flat screen TV was installed on a swivel bracket that hangs from the wall on the opposite end of the living area, providing better visibility.
Behind the microwave we installed the radar, depth sounder and other new navigation electronic modules. Whoever installed the old TV demolished parts of the original factory cabinetry to get it to fit leaving a cosmetic mess. Rob attempted some patch up modifications to the space but was never really happy with it.
With all the other changes happening, now was the perfect time to restore that area. But that entailed completely stripping the existing padded vinyl wall covering and restoring all the underlying woodwork. Fitting new panels to the jagged and uneven opening and recreating the radiused edge was time consuming without the tools Rob used to have in his shop at our house.
This step also required relocating wall outlets, a fuse panel and a couple of monitoring panels. Since the padded vinyl was 1985 vintage, the biggest challenge we encountered with this project was tracking down a matching vinyl. Luckily we found some, not an exact match but close enough. After rebuilding the missing cabinet woodwork and creating a radius edge to match the original, the cabinet would be ready for vinyl. But the first step was to glue foam on the areas where the vinyl was going to be installed.
In between all of the above, he started to….
Design/Build a New Cockpit Table (Project #4)
Except for a counter bar with two stools in the cabin below, there was no table on the boat when we bought it. As a prototype interim solution (interim?? HA, more like long term), Rob quickly cut a piece of cheap MDF which he covered with vinyl shelf liner that hangs on the stainless cockpit rail – this allows for the table to slide fore and aft. A single plastic removable leg (a piece of 1/2″ diameter PVC sprinkler riser pipe) supported the other end.
Although this worked fine for just the two of us, whenever we had company, the table just wasn’t wide or long enough and while amazingly sturdy for what it was, it needed to be improved. As Rob kept telling me it was a “prototype” and we had to live with it for a while to work out the design. Obviously when he finally said he was going to build the final version, I was beyond thrilled! How many years had I been waiting? I’ll give you a hint – it was a least five years!
The best feature is that he added a notch to go around the hard top stanchions so it can be slid closer to the seats or pushed away. The legs are now a pair of stainless 1″ rails attached to a wood “ski” so it can easily be pushed and pulled across the rug in the cockpit. Totally awesome! And extremely sturdy (and heavy)!
Things were moving along smoothly until all of these interior projects were interrupted for….
Prepping The Topside For Painting (Project #5)
The topside exterior of the boat wasn’t in very good condition despite our valiant attempts over the years to restore it. The gel coat had been severely neglected long before we owned the boat and had oxidized to the point where it was nearly gone in many areas with raw fiberglass showing thru. In 2014, Rob spent hours restoring the faded, oxidized gelcoat to a glossy shine using an acrylic coating which he documented in detail in this post. That worked OK but couldn’t hide the bare spots where the gel coat had worn thru and only lasted about a year. Compounding and polishing didn’t work either because any attempt at compounding just cut right thru what was left of the gel coat and made matters worse.
Rather than spending the time and effort stripping the deck and reapplying the acrylic like we tried before – which would do nothing to correct the spots of missing gelcoat – we decided to bite the bullet and spend the money to have the topside painted. We hired Zack who is an annual visitor from St. Vincent in the Grenadines and is well known in East Greenwich. He spends every summer at the yacht club working on boats, performing various jobs including refinishing bright work, washing boats and painting. For big jobs like ours that require painting with Awl Grip he brings in an expert (Jomarly, who lives year round in Newport) to work with the two part urethane paint (Awlgrip). The quote he gave us was about one fifth of what a boat yard would charge.
We were told they would be ready to start the end of July, giving us about three weeks to do our part of the prep. Since we couldn’t live on board once they started painting, it meant lugging all the paraphernalia we had just brought on board a few weeks earlier back to the coach until the painting was finished.
In addition to our taking on some of the prep work, another reason for the lower cost was that we would be purchasing all of the materials and supplies. Our part of the prep work involved removing all the teak strips (which needed replacing anyway), filling in chips, cracks and holes from years of neglect and unneeded old hardware, removing all decals and the underlying adhesive, removing the Chris Craft logos on each side, and removing the enclosure and snaps. Since Rob was so busy on all the other projects, I decided to tackle removing the decals and the adhesive. OMG, what a job! After trying numerous products, De-Solv-It ContractorsSolvent seemed to work the best but it was still difficult, very time consuming and exhausting. After all the work, one thing became clear to us – no new decals would be gracing any boat we owned ever again!
On July 22nd, the transformation began. Zack and Jomarly spent several days sanding the old surface to prep it, then masking off the hardware. Next came two coats of high build epoxy primer and more sanding between coats. After that, they would apply the first finish coat, followed by more sanding, then the final finish coat. Boat yards who have the option to paint in an enclosed area usually spray on the paint. However, since our boat was still in the water and not enclosed, instead the guys would use a “roll and tip” technique where one would roll on the Awl Grip, then another would follow using the tip of a brush to release any air bubbles and smooth it out. This process is tricky and requires experience which is one reason Rob elected not to attempt it himself. The paint is epoxy so you are working within time and temperature (weather) constraints and if the consistency is not adjusted just so, the results will be inferior, not to mention there is only one of Rob and the process best needs two people. When the smooth areas were completed and given a few days to harden, they had to remove the masking along the non-skid, remask, apply more paint, then sprinkle it with sand (fine grit) to recreate the non-skid areas.
Each afternoon we would visit the boat to see the progress they were making. What a labor intensive job! With each step from the sanding to the priming to the actual painting, our excitement built. Wow, what a difference!
Repaint our vinyl pontoon style boat seats (Project #6)
It started a few years back – little black dots on the vinyl benches and seat backs of our pontoon style seats in the cockpit. Thinking it was mildew, we tried bleach followed by a series of other products to remove it. Nothing worked. This year it was much worse. Once again we tried a myriad of products and once again to no avail.
We had the option to order new seats but the place where we originally bought them no longer made the same size. Another choice was to take them to a marine upholsterer to have them recovered but we figured that would probably be more expensive than new seats. Not satisfied with either option, my research loving husband discovered a line of products from SEM Products, which has developed a product line to refinish vinyl, leather and short nap carpet (like automotive seats and door panels).
When we took our hiatus from the boat during the deck painting, we took the vinyl seat cushions back to the coach with us where Rob followed SEM’s three step process using SEM Soap (a mild abrasive cleaner), SEM Prep (to prepare the surface by slightly softening it) and SEM Color Coat (the actual “paint”). SEM offers a multitude of colors – the one we used was Light Parchment which was a perfect match to the original color. The entire three step process probably took half a day.
Wow! Awesome results – our 15 year old seats now look brand new! And they have been holding up beautifully all summer.
Fixing a Leak in the Exhaust System (Project #7)
While Rob was investigating where and how to run the wiring and piping for the propane stove, he noticed that the port side exhaust system had a problem. The exhaust system on each side of the boat is about 15 feet of 4″ inside diameter fiberglass tubing running thru the bilges and connected by rubber couplings at the outlet fitting on the transom. The outlet fitting is partially submerged. The rubber coupling between the fiberglass tubing and the outlet fitting had a large split in its top half.
That is probably the reason why our CO2 detector in the aft cabin would alarm when the boat was in motion. It also explains why we would get unexplained water in the bilge after running the boat, the split was letting exhaust water splash into the boat. Should that coupling split on its lower half it would sink the boat! It was difficult to tell how long this had been an issue. Probably decades. It wasn’t noticed when we had the boat surveyed prior to purchasing it in 2004, most likely because the location of the problem requires a contortionist to even get near it. Rob found it because it was an enclosed dark area and he could see daylight coming thru the split.
Anyway, while Rob initially thought he wouldn’t be able to fix this because it was near impossible to get to, he eventually came up with a plan to face the challenge. A new reinforced hand laid silicon “hump hose” was purchased to replace the old rubber coupling. It was a major challenge due to the location and lack of access, but although it was uncomfortable and difficult (I should have recorded his moans and groans after he was done), amazingly it was a success!
Compared to all the other projects, this next one was probably the easiest one….
Repainting the Dinghy Floor Boards (Project #8)
Last year, Rob had made some repairs to the floorboards of our dingy but had never repainted them. Before we started using it, he brought the boards back to the coach where he repainted all of them.
And this one was really time consuming….
Building a Propane Locker (Project #9)
Deciding where to install a propane locker while complying with all the ABYC (American Boat and Yacht Council) Rules and Regulations was a bit of a challenge. Our aft cabin head had a fairly large unused space behind the mirror, probably originally intended to be used for an AC unit. To use as a propane locker, this area would have to be completely sealed off from the boat interior. Rob’s first thought was to install two 5lb propane tanks, build a locker around it, then cut out a hatch in the rear part of vertical cabin trunk to get the tanks in and out. As time went on he was more and more reluctant to cut that large 14″ x 14″ hatch in perfectly good fiberglass. In addition it would be a technical violation of the ABYC specs which require the tank access to be in the top of the locker, but in this case the hatch would be opening overboard so could not spill any collected propane into the boat interior. Finally, he came up with an alternative of using a pair of 6 lb aluminum tanks (which are thin and tall) installing a round 7″ access port in the aft portside floor of the cockpit next to the end of the pontoon bench.
Due to the tall tanks, this plan also required removing part of the floor of the AC cabinet and extending it a few inches downward into the closet below. That worked out perfectly with plenty of room for the regulator, electric valve, drain, gauges and other items. The extension into the closet did not impact the usable space there in any way.
Install New “Teak” and other accessories (Project #10)
In keeping with our new look, we had ordered new dock lines and stainless steel rub strakes to guard against damage to the paint from the dock lines. So those were installed shortly after the painting was complete.
And rather than trying to restore our worn out teak fiddles and steps, we ordered what we needed from PlasTeak, which makes their products from recycled plastic. Samples they sent looked a lot like teak and the best part is that no ongoing maintenance is required!
This project was about 15 years in the making. Shortly after we purchased the boat in 2004, we found some deck core rot on the port side dashboard. Due to prior owner negligence in filling penetrations in the deck from removed electronics, water had entered the balsa wood core and over time rotted it out leaving only the fiberglass skin on the top and bottom creating a “soft” spot. As it was on the dash and no one walks there it wasn’t a serious problem, but nevertheless needed to be corrected. In 2005 Rob started the project by drilling a series of 1″ holes in the inside bottom of the affected area for ventilation and waiting a long period of time for it to dry out. I guess 15 years was enough time!
When Rob rebuilt the area over the fridge, the holes in the deck bottom were sealed up and later on, from the top, small 1/4″ holes were drilled and the area filled with a penetrating epoxy. We used TotalBoat Penetrating Epoxy from Jamestown Distributors. When buying our topside paint supplies from them we asked about this product and they just happened to have a half gallon size in the store that was slightly damaged and gave it to us! Believe it or not it took another half gallon to finish the job!
But finally it was time to sit back – two of us made a toast to all of our hard work and one of us took a cat nap!!
In between all of these projects, there were the usual mundane tasks – laundry, running errands and our usual annual medical appointments. Not to mention in between it all we managed to sell off a bunch of assorted gear from our storage unit on eBay. Oh and in the middle of all that the rear roof AC unit on our motorhome died and had to be replaced! But somehow everything got done. And fortunately the summer wasn’t totally over yet so we did find some time to escape from our slip and have some fun. More about that in the next post!