Sunday, August 24, 2014

Behold! A Spud!

While I have been sanding (pretty much non-stop) Mark has been hard at work refurbishing our turtle shell. This is the fiberglass piece that bolts to the deck protecting the companionway. It not only needed to be repainted, with new non skid applied but since we have decided to mount our instruments over the companionway for easy viewing, of course the project grew in scope. Now it needed to be set up to keep all that wiring that makes the instruments go BING! tidy and away from water. So Mark began the turtle shell refurbishment in earnest.

Mark carefully built custom nav pod mounts out of fiberglass and epoxy. This went just about perfectly. Anytime a small project goes "just about perfectly" we hold our breaths. The refit gods giveth and they taketh away. it's all about balance apparently.

As he started to install the conduit for the wiring, it became apparent that a standard  PVC elbow would not work. The turning radius was too tight and the wires needed to be neatly contained in a tapering conduit. This is not something you can just buy off the shelf and be done. Oh no, that would be too easy. As I sat nearby sanding ( that seems to be all I do these days), Mark informed me he needed to run to the market for a potato.What? A potato. Well, yeah of course.

Once the required tuber was acquired, Mark got busy whittling. Kitty asked if he was cooking. Nope, just  doing some boat work, nothing to see here.

After carefully checking the turn radius and matching the diameter to the PVC conduit, it was time to tightly wind plastic wrap around the potato.  To me, this seemed like a lot of effort on a potato that would not result in fries but I fully admit my opinion might have been influenced by the fact that it was getting close to dinner time. And I was hungry.

Once he had everything to size and tightly wrapped, Mark got busy with strips of fiberglass cloth and epoxy. After a night of curing, we had a custom elbow which would allow the nav pod wiring to be gently coaxed into position, kept watertight and tidy. Success. Now all that was left to do was to core out the potato and prepare it for installation.

Sadly, there were still no fries.

So while I find the whole potato as a refit tool amusing, I have to admit that it worked pretty darn well. Kind of weird, but it works. I wonder if the chandleries will start carrying produce.

With the conduit sized, built and ready for installation, Mark was ready to begin the painting of the turtle shell. Having dealt with an Awlgrip painted hull, we were determined to find a better paint. Paint that does not require a very expensive specialty soap which does nothing to improve the boat because hey, at some point a previous owner had the boat compounded and waxed and you can not compound Awlgrip. So after much thinking and research we decided to go with Awlcraft 2000 which has the enormous benefit of being buffable but- like everything comes with a tradeoff. Namely that it MUST be sprayed. No relatively easy to DIY rolling and tipping. No Awlcraft must be sprayed and spraying is a skill requiring a bit of technical finesse.

Mark carefully followed the manufacturers recs for mixing ratios. He installed a total of 3 inline filters to prevent any moisture from causing runs and orange peel and other painting atrocities. Mark wet down the painting area to prevent any dust from marring the finish. he suited up and put on his respirator and slowly, carefully and methodically began to paint.

The primer coat was looking pretty good. Buoyed by his initial success, Mark continued on the next coat. It looked horrible. Fish eyes all over the paint which means despite his best efforts, our ridiculously hot and humid climate was sneaking water in past the filters and completely jacking up the paint.

As Mark was sanding away the evidence of his painting debacle, he piped up "what we need is a heat exchanger". I made the mistake of asking why and then he went on to what I am sure would have been an enlightening lecture on thermodynamics had I been armed with a notebook and pen. Something about gasses and vapor and temperature fluctuations and "what's the upshot?" I asked. The upshot was we would be building our own heat exchanger. So $70, a few trips to Kemah Hardware and a couple of hours later we were now in possession of a heat exchanger to cool the air which should help reduce the moisture coming through and jacking up our paint job.

 Once again, Mark suited up and primed the turtle shell. Once again, he waited patiently for it to set up before he painted once again, this time with his custom heat exchanger. After careful application of two coats, he stepped back to admire his work. There was about a 95% improvement in the amount of fish eyes. Unfortunately, Mark is OCD enough for this to be unacceptable. After living so many years with the ARE, I got it and decided that yes indeed, we were still not quite there. Yay for more sanding.

A bit dejected, we packed up to have dinner at a get together with other sailors. One of the sailors is an experienced body shop owner. As Mark was relating his painting woes, this wise in the ways of painting let us in on a secret, "Oh, you just need an airless paint gun. You can rent them". While we are so grateful to have this bit of information, we can't help but chuckle. Of course this was a problem with an easy solution. Of COURSE Captain Perfecto had over thought it and over engineered it. This is just how this entire refitting process has been. *sigh*

I am still trying to remember all of the thermodynamic theory. My brain hurts.

The Universe wants to be sure that Mark and I are a unit, experiencing the same tribulations and trials. This means that my first round of varnishing it absolutely HORRID looking and will require a redo which means, more sanding. Ugh. Fortunately, Kitty loves to make videos and I have convinced her she is hosting a DIY refit show which means I can get her to sand for me by telling her we need another take for "her show". I might be a varnishing failure but I am a work load sharing GENIUS. Tom Sawyer has nothing on me...

P.S. Mark thinks that he can achieve that final 5% improvement in the paint job by adding ice to the heat exchanger water to further cool it, there fore making any airless gun rental or purchase unnecessary,. Help me. Someone, help me...


  1. Very interesting post.
    Nice creative way to use a potato to make a fiberglass form like that.

    I've been looking at air compressors and thought of getting the one you have in the picture but still looking around. I was looking at (someday) using Awlgrip 2000 as part of refinishing my mast. I haven't used a sprayer before but hoped any issues in painting could be sanded away. Since you're then talking about airless sprayer, I think I'd have to start my compressor research all over again.. Oh well, the "joys" of boat repair. ;-)

    1. If we can save one person from over engineering what should be a simple task and from purchasing equipment that is unnecessary then we have done something of merit!

  2. How do you possibly keep up with this man? You must just stand back and observe his process because surely you could not get caught up in it. I would be completely lost. But creative uses of potatoes aside, good for you for remembering a word like 'thermodynamics'. Looking forward to a photo of the complete turtle shell. And good work getting Kitty's cooperation.

  3. I'm a little confused as to why the warm air is a problem. Wouldn't cooling that warm air cause any water vapor to condense inside of the copper tubing? Am sure you folks have it covered.

    1. Oh no. Now you've done it.You've given Mark a reason to bust out all of that thermodynamic info.We are out of the country just now but I will have Mark do a proper write up to your questions ASAP. :)

    2. LOL...well, it's a fine heat exchanger and I very much sympathize with water in the compressed air. I spray our interior brightwork. More than one time water drops screwed the top coat...even after draining the tank and having several inline filters. Good luck.

  4. What will become of C. Perfecto while out cruising the world without access to workshops?

  5. If he's like me, he'll build a workshop aboard, although I daresay his will look nicer.