Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Battleship Grey

The Maunie project is now progressing quickly. On Wednesday, Rick came back to glue the main decking down and he sent us these photos - we think it looks fabulous:

Meanwhile the Baltic Wharf Repairs team has set-to with orbital sanders to smooth back the paintwork on the hull and fill in any major war wounds from our sailing trip. She was then moved into the spray bay and was given a first coat of primer so she's currently sporting a battleship grey look.

The first coat of primer exposes any minor imperfections and blemishes so, when we visited this morning, the team was busy with fine-grade filler to make them disappear when the next coat of paint is applied.

A couple of minor cracks in the gelcoat needed more intensive surgery with epoxy 

The stern, with redundant bolt holes for the bathing ladder (which we won't refit since it keeps snagging the mooring lines on our river mooring) filled and faired
By the end of this week she should have her white glossy topcoat applied and the following week she'll be masked up for her blue stripes; we know she'll look better than new. The Baltic team has just completed a really major insurance job on another yacht which broke free from its mooring in a gale and hit rocks - they had to rebuild a huge, gaping hole in the starboard quarter but, as the late Eric Morecambe would say, you can't see the join! The paint job is superb.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Applying the sticky stuff

There has been more hands-and-knees stuff over the past few days, cleaning the vestiges of old black sealant from the sides of the pilothouse and the bulwarks where the old teak met the fibreglass. The new deck is slightly thinner than the old teak and it'll meet the fibreglass with a clean 'wood' edge rather than a hide-the-evidence fill of black caulking (which would inevitably degrade over time) so it was vital to get it clean and polished.

It was an extremely tedious task, starting with a scraper blade, adding solvent to soften the sealant, before moving on to progressively finer grades of wet-and-dry abrasive paper (400, then 800 then 1200 grit), applied by hand and wet. Finally rubbing compound was used to remove the final scratches and return the shine to the fibreglass. Oh, and a few bits of damage had to be repaired with gelcoat (mixed with pigment to match the off-white colour). Two solid days was how long that paragraph took to do. Aaargh!

Anyway the good news is that Richard the deck specialist returned yesterday to complete the trimming process and then began to weld and glue the deck into place. He makes it look easy but it clearly isn't!

The two halves of the deck had to be joined at the central king plank on the foredeck. Gym weights hold one side in place and strips of polymer 'welding rod' are cut to size.

The polymer ready for welding

The hot-air welding tool - the polymer rod is fed down the nozzle which melts both it and the edges and base of the deck groove into a homogeneous weld. A sharp chisel cuts the black flush with the deck and then an abrasive scourer brightens the darkened 'teak' and restores the grain effect.

Applying the glue - which also delivers a further waterproof barrier to the fibreglass deck. The new deck is rolled back to allow half to be glued at a time then a high-tech rolling pin is applied with lots of manual pressure to remove any bubbles or high-spots. 
With all this care to make the deck fully watertight, we are determined to avoid drilling holes into it wherever possible. One of the biggest causes of deck leaks on yachts is where the stanchion bases are drilled through - the stanchions hold the safety guard wires around the deck and can be subjected to some big forces on their three, 6mm bolts. If the stanchions get pulled on (by someone hauling themselves up from a dinghy, for example) or stressed by hitting a dock wall, the sealant gets damaged and leaks begin and, of course, being at the low side of the sloping deck, they get subjected to a lot of seawater and rainwater.

So we thought about an alternative option to make brackets to bolt the stanchions to the bulwarks (the little upstand of fibreglass hull above the deck). Graham spent many happy hours measuring and making plywood templates.

Naturally the angle and height of the bulwark changes as you move aft, so four different designs were required to make the 7 stanchions on each side fit

One of the finished bases being checked for fit
This is certainly not a cheap solution and the drilling of holes for the fixing bolts is quite a challenge of geometry but it saves 28 holes in the deck each side. With other fittings re-positioned or removed (we've even shortened the yankee sheet car track to suit the extremes of adjustment that we use), we've removed a total of 96 holes from the deck - that's got to be good. There is no way we're going through the pain of finding wet balsa in the deck core ever again!

At last, we are able to leave Maunie for a couple of weeks. This morning she was moved into the Baltic Wharf Repairs workshop - her white hull will be lightly sanded down, the scars of her collision with a mooring buoy in Suva Harbour will be filled and she'll get a new gleaming coat of specialist Awlgrip paint (several actually). Then, after about 3 weeks (we hope), we'll move her back into 'our' shed to refit all the deck fittings and we'll apply four new coats of Coppercoat antifouling. So there's lots to do still but it's all positive now, adding things back rather than stripping things down.  

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Good progress - the poorly deck is better than new

David Sharp, owner of Baltic Wharf Repairs, came to our rescue to perform a superb repair to Maunie's deck. He first epoxied in a new foam core to replace the balsa, together with two marine ply pads (correctly positioned, this time!).

His ace fibreglass man, Andy, then came in to grind down the edges of the existing deck to a nice gentle taper and then applied six layers of bi-axial fibreglass cloth, each epoxied into place.

Edges of the deck ground out to allow the new fibreglass to provide a strong lap-joint to the old

New glassed top section

Epoxy filler to provide a perfectly level surface
Having watched this process being done, Graham thinks it's something he could probably do himself but he's very pleased that he got Dave and Andy to do it!

Meanwhile, though, Graham was engaged in his own epoxy story - fairing the surface of the rest of the deck to fill the holes left by the plank pins and other deck fittings and also levelling the divots left during the chiselling process. 

Once the epoxy had hardened overnight, the final stage was to sand and vacuum the decks. A time-consuming process! However, so far we reckon we've saved about £9,000 in yard labour costs by doing all this preparation work ourselves.

So, the good news is that the hard and dusty work is almost over. Some detail sanding and polishing remains to be done to remove the last residue of sealant where the old deck met the cabin sides (a full, fun day on Sunday should see this completed) but the new deck has arrived and the fitting process has begun!

Rick, the deck specialist, unwraps the parcel

Starting the fine-tuning of the fit - a small plane is used to trim the edges. There won't be a line of black caulking at the outer edges so the fit needs to be exact and the fibreglass needs to be clean and polished before the deck is glued into place
We'll post some photos when it's finished.

We left the boatyard on Friday evening, both of us feeling pretty shattered after a full-on week. However, we managed to keep our sense of humour through the tougher moments and Di's skills have been applied to lots of the jobs that Graham finds just too detailed and fiddly.

Surgically removing the lettering from the stern ready for the repaint

Monday, 15 July 2019

What we really hoped we wouldn't find

With Graham's new favourite toy, the Draper Expert SDS chisel drill, helping us get the last of the teak off the deck, the next process was to use a multi-tool blade and then an orbital sander to clean any remaining wood off the fibreglass. Slow and tiring work for us both but out $60NZ Chinese vacuum cleaner has worked wonders to keep away any harmful dust.

Di working wonders with the multi-tool
Our back-of-mind worry with this project was always that the fibreglass deck below the teak planking might be damaged. The challenge is that it's actually a sandwich: two layers of fibreglass (each about 6mm thick) encase a middle of end-grain balsa wood (the grain pointing upwards). The advantages of this construction are that the balsa gives good compression strength, it delivers excellent thermal insulation and, of course, it is very lightweight. The disadvantage is that if water gets into the sandwich, the balsa quickly rots and turns to mush. Knowing this, we always fixed any deck leaks as soon as we found them by renewing the caulking. Oh, what fun in the sun!

In the Aussie sunshine 3 years ago

Our biggest concern is that when the teak was laid, back in 1997, it was held in place with pins drilled into the fibreglass at roughly 6" intervals until the glue had set. The pins were then removed and the system left several hundred 4mm holes in the fibreglass, relying on the caulking to keep them covered. A fairly poor system but perhaps better than the alternative of using permanent wood-screws.

Finding the holes during re-caulking - we made sure we injected sealant into each one
So we hoped that our diligent maintenance would have paid off and now, with the teak gone, we used a counter-sink bit on the drill on every hole so that we could fill them all with a permanent cap of epoxy.

This process had a further use - by applying considerable pressure in the drill to countersink the hard fibreglass, we could confirm that the sandwich deck was in good order. The tell-tale sign of a damaged balsa core is that the top layer flexes under pressure. All good, we thought, congratulating ourselves on our effective deck maintenance. Until, that is, we reached the port side deck above our cabin. Did that area flex a bit just then? No, surely not! But yes, it definitely did. Bugger!

We drilled a couple of 25mm test holes and, rather than finding dry white balsa, we found black mush and a very unpleasant smell of rot. Bugger. Nothing for it but to cut open a section of the top fibreglass..

The sight and smell made us feel very sick. Nothing for it but to cut a bigger section in the hope of finding balsa that didn't ooze foul liquid when pressed. Alas, the next section was even worse:

The four holes are for the main shroud chain plate - a high-stress part of the hull, so it was definitely a worry to find this here. Nothing for it but to cut more deck open.

And now we had a real worry. The builders had sensibly used a pad of high-strength marine plywood, rather than balsa, around the chain plate but had obviously got their measurements badly wrong! The plywood was about 15cm too far forward, so two of the bolts went through strong ply and two went through soft balsa - all to a stainless steel bracket bolted to the hull. As a result, we are guessing, there'd be some differential compression and movement of the deck, enough to allow a slow but significant leak to invade the core.

In all we cut away about a 1.2m of deck until we found sound, dry balsa core and we also chiselled away two pads of wet plywood. It wasn't our happiest moment but it had to be done.

Di's hair-dryer used to ensure that we got everything dry

Back to clean, dry balsa
On reflection, after a long day and a glass or two of wine, we feel good that we found the problem and, like dentists drilling cavities, we'd cut out all the rot. The next challenge of course, is to repair the decks. Modern closed cell foam will be used to replace the balsa, high-tech epoxy will seal it and layers of fibreglass will be laid to make the new top of the sandwich. Not by us, this is beyond our comfort zone, so David, the hugely capable proprietor of Baltic Wharf Repairs will step in to do the fix over then next few days. More £££'s of course so we are talking to our insurers to see if this might be covered under the 'Latent Defects' clause.

Talking of hugely competent people, we managed to get help with the removal of our anchor windlass which, despite the treatment of penetrating oil and a large hammer, refused to come apart. Steve, who runs New Wave Marine (engine specialists) here, is hugely overworked but Graham managed to get him to accept the challenge and the two of them worked through lots of options and eventually used a 10-tonne hydraulic hub-puller to persuade the gearbox to part company with the shaft to which it has been attached for 21 years. Steve went beyond the call of duty on this, climbing into Maunie's cramped anchor locker but, after about an hour, the gearbox was finally off and we could remove the shaft from the deck to allow the last few shards of teak to be chiselled away. Phew!

Sunday, 14 July 2019

That's not a drill.THIS is a drill!

The £60 brand-I've-never-heard-of drill that stopped working after less than an hour was replaced by Toolstation without question but we decided to upgrade for an extra £30 for a 'Draper Expert'. Clearly the original have been called 'Complete Amateur' as the new machine was fantastic:

So, the good news is that Maunie's teak decks are now history. The bad news is that we have discovered something unpleasant. More to follow in the next few days once we know the extent of the problem...…..

Sunday, 7 July 2019

What have we started?!

On Monday afternoon we took the flood tide up the Dart to Totnes for out lift out which all went to plan:

The mast lift and the move into our work shed would have to wait until first thing the following morning but the yard guys were great and even worked though their tea break so that we could also lift off the pushpit and solar panel arch. By 11.00 Maunie was in her shed:

With the mast and rigging removed we could get on with the job of pulling the chain plates, substantial chunks of stainless steel which anchor the shrouds (wires supporting the mast) to the deck. More tricky access to the bolts below deck but we succeeded. 

Di is very pleased to wrestle the main shroud chain plate from the deck

Graham had to climb into the chain locker to unbolt the pulpit and forward deck cleats

By Wednesday morning we'd removed all the deck fittings except the anchor windlass (more on that shortly) and Richard, the expert who will fit the replacement deck, arrived with a big roll of plastic to make an accurate template.

So, with that all done (and it took until mid-evening), Thursday morning was the moment of truth. Just how strongly would the old teak deck be fixed to the fibreglass below it? Graham had studied several YouTube videos of other people doing the same job and it would seem that either the planks would come off in nice, easy long strips or they'd be glued down really hard. See if you can guess what Maunie's planks were like.....

Our teak had been glued very firmly into place and had to be chipped off in small pieces with a hammer and chisel. Oh, joy!

We used a small circular saw to cut across the planks before applying the chisel

A very slow and messy job
The epoxy glue was so strong that it either split the teak or pulled up some of the fibreglass gel coat. Sanding and filling will be required before the new deck is laid.
After a day and a half we had removed all the deck on the forward cabin roof and some of the starboard deck (about 40% of the total) but our wrists were complaining bitterly about all the mallet action. We left Maunie on Friday evening absolutely shattered and fairly dispirited. Clearly we had to find a better way of doing this.

After consulting the Google, we thought that an SBS+ hammer drill, which allows you to fit a chisel and apply it without the rotational component of a normal hammer drill, might be a solution. Graham went to his new favourite shop, Toolstation, and bought a cheap drill and a couple of chisel bits then drove back to Maunie today to test the theory:

The good news is that it worked. It certainly wasn't like peeling rolls of butter but the chisel did lift the planks much more quickly and with far less pressure on aching wrists.

The bad news is that, after a well-earned lunch break and optimistic expectations of removing all the remaining teak by the end of the day, the new drill developed a fault and stopped working altogether. Clearly we should have bought a brand we'd heard of! Words were said and some hand-chiselling followed but Graham abandoned ship at 4.30pm and will have to take the drill back to the shop tomorrow ....

However, at least we know that the project is doable and we've now stripped about 75% of the teak. The remainder will be a bit trickier in terms of access, though, along the narrow side decks.

The one major remaining worry is how to remove the windlass (at the bottom of the last photo) as, despite removing the circlips and seal and applying liberal quantities of penetrating oil, it just doesn't want to shift. We'll no doubt find a solution somehow...

We have a few days at home now so will update on progress with this project next weekend.