Sunday, May 1, 2016

Boatyard Labor - A Bargain at Twice the Price

While attending the birthday celebration of a friend recently, another friend commented negatively on my lack of posts on this blog. I won't reveal his name as that would be indiscreet (Larry Ogden), but he's right.  However, just because there have been no posts, does not mean there has been no activity.

So, for the three of you (and Larry) that follow the travails of the good ship Adagio, here's the latest.


Cheerless as an Empty Hearth
Adagio's toe rails are each about 40' long and the cockpit trim is about 25'. Both the rails and the cockpit trim are one piece of laminated teak and bent to fit.

The rails and cockpit trim are all teak and, originally, they were finished bright. However, 15 years of exposure made them look about as cheerless as an empty hearth.

So, it was time to remove them, strip them down, recondition them and reinstall them. Simple (one would think). And "one" would be right. It is a fairly straightforward process.

However, what struck this "one," was how much time the whole process took and it gave me a very clear understanding of why boatyard bills can make the national debt look like a dawdle. For the uninitiated (Larry), the process is:
  • Drill out the bungs  (150 + bungs here) 
  • Back out the fasteners  (1:1 ratio of fasteners to bungs)
  • Remove the rail to a workbench or work area - (in this case lower the 40 foot piece to the ground and thread around the jackstands and out from under the tent)
  • Remove any old varnish with a heat gun
  • Sand with an orbital sander 
  • Hand sand to remove sander marks and assure you got all the old weathered and varnish off any non-flat surface. 
  • In this case, thread the 40 foot piece around the jackstands and back up underneath the tent. 
  • Dry fit it to the rail to make sure
  • Lay a bead of caulking along the rail.
  • Fit the trim
  • Fasten it to the rail
  • Insert bungs
  • Cut bungs even with rail (a sharp chisel's preferred, but some people just sand 'em down)
  • Lightly sand rail to assure that bungs are level with the rail and the teak color is as uniform as you can get it. 
  • Remove all sawdust with a vacuum.
  • Tape all area you do not want varnish or paint on.
  • Remove any remaining sawdust with a tack rag. 
  • Add finish of your choice (paint or varnish).

Old wood.  Bare wood

Port side Toerail looking aft
What is interesting about this process is how long it takes. Just the process of taking this trim off and getting back to bare wood was probably 15 hours (they are long pieces, after all, and were in poor condition aesthetically).

Once you're back to bare wood and you have fitted the trim back on, you still need to caulk it in place, fasten it, and bung it and do all the other prep work to get it ready to paint or varnish.

Moreover, even giving it a covering will add a couple of days to the job. Any paint - and certainly varnish  - should be given some time to set up before you prep and paint a second (or third) coat. The trim on Adagio is being finished bright - but not with varnish. To keep consistent with the other deck trim I am using Cetol Natural Teak. I have had good luck with this product - it holds up well and is easy to maintain. After 3 coats, I top it with a gloss coat (optional) and it is as close to varnish as never mind.

Port side all bunged up!
However, the real point is, this project has given me a profound understanding of why boatyard bills are what they are. Had I given this to the yard to do, I might have been indignant by an exorbitant bill for what is, conceptually, an uncomplicated job. Strip It. Sand It. Paint It. How hard is that? A chimpanzee can probably do it.

However,  all told, this chimp is probably into about 30 hours on this trim.

So, when next you get your boatyard bill and see "Reconditioning Brightwork  15 hours @ $75 / hour," just shut up and pay it. It is a bargain at twice the price. 

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