Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Keep Sanding until you see Daylight

Time for an update on the Grunt work on the Challenger refit. Over several hot summer weeks, I have applied the Methyl Chloride poison varnish stripper, the belt sander, orbital sander, palm sander, steel wool, and hand sanding, to remove lots of aged grey weathered wood, and reveal: lovely tight red mahogany wood grain.

Clear The Decks:

First, I wanted to address the fibreglass surfaces: deck and cabintop. Alligator skin cracks and crazing everywhere, and a general rundown look. Struggling with dozens of old screws, hidden interior attachments, and frozen, caulked thru-bolts, I gradually removed handrails, cleats, lifeline stanchions, anchor holder, and vents. This revealed several leaks, with telltale soft spots, especially along the handrails on the cabin roof. After ruthless grinding, sanding and removal of several layers of crappy old fiberglass cloth, those areas were epoxied, re-glassed with 4 layers cloth, and sanded some more.

After an acetone scrub, Eva joined me to add two coats of Awl Grip 545 High Build Primer (the most expensive paint I ever heard of, let alone bought until now) on the deck and cabin top. The cracks and crazing are gone! Looks fantastic. No top coat or non skid additive yet, cause we still have to make a mess on the wooden cabin sides. On to the exterior wood.

Sand Like You Mean it Now, Boy.

I started by scraping old varnish on the cabin exterior wood. It was either almost gone, or nasty hard stuff. Then I went shopping for a carbide scraper, more chemicals, and more sandpaper. Scraping led to removing the window trim, which led to removing all 4 big windows (not before I put a couple wicked scratches in the plexiglass), which were seated with hated 5200 perma-caulk, then massive, repeated, escalating sweaty sanding. Finally, I started reaching good wood. This encouraged me, and I came back the next day and did it again. Once I realized rich red tight grain mahagony was still in there, I wanted to see it everywhere.

Finally, I rubbed on several layers of teak oil on the cockpit coming and cabin exterior walls, getting a lovely dark red color and rich wood grain. If only it could stay like that forever. But I need to epoxy it, varnish it and move on. Winter is coming, and there is so much still to do:

Next time: Finding a Rigging and Refit Consultant, and Offshore Dreaming.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Boat Needs Me, and I need the Boat

I will attempt to document here the process of repairing and reviving a classic boat, a 38.5 foot, twin masted Alden Challenger. It is a beautiful yawl that has spent over 18 years out of the water, on the hard, high and dry. There is a long list of repairs needed. It is coming back.

This lovely boat came to me from lifelong family friends Jack and Cecil Boyd of Severna Park , Maryland. They were sailing and laughter mates with my folks before I could walk. My verbal contract is to make my best effort to get it afloat, seaworthy and sail it back to their dock on the Severn River, Maryland, for cocktails and a pleasant sail. My plan, my wild -eyed goal, is to work full time this fall and winter to restore it to cruising condition by next June, then sail down the Hudson past the Statue of Liberty and down to the Cheasapeak Bay for extended training and sea trials next summer (including the Boyds). If all goes well, and any money remains, the following winter will be spent on working on offshore and shorthanded sailing upgrades and in two summers we will sail far. Farther than ever I expected to sail. We will see. Paso a paso.

SO far, I have moved the boat to my yard, set it up on jackstands, and built the frame of a enormous temporary fabric shelter around it (The Instant Shelter, from Jacksonville, Florida). After two days of pipefitting in the blazing sun, in my opinion, the word "Instant" should be removed from the title "Instant Shelter". I lost 10 pounds of sweat.

Now begins the process of picking repair priorities, looking for low-hanging fruit, buying supplies, and building a community of supporting voices (and maybe sanders and varnishers).