Wednesday, August 26, 2015

To Hull with It

One of the jobs this summer was to seal the hull below the waterline. As I have mentioned before on these pages, Adagio (ex DESIREE) was on the hard for about 15 years. There were areas such as the rudder and keel that you could see straight through to the other side.
Looking through the Rudder

Hacksaw blade through Stem
Now, any wooden boat out of water for a long time will dry out. And there are infinitely worse cases than I have here. In fact, I have been repeatedly amazed that she is still extremely fair given her time out of the water. However, I want the seams to be as good as they can be because when she hits the water, I expect her to drink in the water like a desert bloom.

Cracked, Brittle and Old Compound
Earlier inspections concluded that she was not in need of refastening or recaulking, but it was clear that the old seam compound had become hard,
brittle and loose. My concern was that, as she swelled, this old, rock-hard compound would prevent the natural swelling of the cedar planks. So, we endeavored to take out as much of the old compound as we could and replace it with new, malleable seam compound. Not a hard job, but laborious, to be sure.

Once and awhile, men such as myself are blessed. On this particular occasion, however, the blessing came - as it often does - in the form of my wife, who, actually enjoys sitting under the boat and reefing out all this old compound.  Now to be clear, she also enjoys peeling sunburnt skin off of others, so maybe this isn't so surprising, but imagine . . . a wife who enjoyed such a task. Whatever conclusions you draw from this are your own business, but to cynics such as myself it may go a long way in explaining whatever she saw in me.
Tiger Sloop

So, out with the old and in with the new. We reefed out the old compound and primed the seams with red lead primer.

After that, I added in new compound. The plan was to use Interlux's brown seam compound made specifically for below the waterline for the seams between the cedar planking. I chose it based on online reviews and my own good fortune with Interlux's palette of paints. For the oak keel I decided to use "Wet Patch," a roofing tar.

Initially, the seam compound went on OK, but it seemed hard to work with to get into the seams effectively. I solved this by using a mixture of the Interlux seam compound and the Wet Patch. Not only did the Wet Patch make the seam compound much easier to work with, but it extended the life of a can of otherwise expensive seam compound (and Wet Patch is the much less expensive product!)

When I was trying to decide on the best way to do this, I asked around to respected boatbuilders here. I also researched the online forums for wooden boat construction. What I found was that ten people will give you twelve different answers. And then it hit me. People of all abilities have been building wooden boats for centuries. There is no, one "right way" (although there are some materials that are universally panned. e.g "Life Caulk" below the waterline).  The point is, you can't go too wrong. If you don't like it, change it next year. The key is to get something in there that will allow the wood to expand as it swells while filling in all the small gaps so that the cotton caulking won't work too hard.

messy seams
The traditional way to get the compound in the seams is with a putty knife, cleaning the excess up right away with an Acetone soaked rag.  If you omit this second step, you will be re-sanding these
Red Lead primer
seams to remove the hardened excess and that's just more work than you need. I point this out only because I forgot that step even though I knew better. Not to worry, though. It will be smoothed out and painted over and underwater, so no one sees it or will know about it (except the four people who read this blog).

Red Lead primer over all and she's ready for a coat of bottom paint next Spring.

Boats are never "done," and I will be working on this one for a long time. But it is with great satisfaction that I write that the "to do" list is now shorter than the "done" list and I have every expectation of having her in the water next summer.