BOAT BUILDING IS EASY- ISNíT IT?|
Rebuilding a Wooden Catamaran
By Mark Dawson
So you donít think regular maintenance is a good thing.. Read On!
I was the only 4 metre cat sailor in my sailing club in Townsville, Australia and heartily sick and tired of being blitzed by every other larger cat so I bought this cheap (very) 18 foot ply catamaran which had been sitting in a backyard for several years. It had a lustrous paint job, pure white sails...You know the story. The owner told me after I paid over the dollars I would have to re-skin it. I thought he meant the decks only but when they came off the boat was the worse for wear. I found it had a 21 year history with at least six separate paint schemes, one on top of the other. The bulkheads were rotten as were parts of the hull/deck join. Fibreglass edge tape under the perfect paint job peeled off like a banana skin and I put my finger through one hull pushing in a paint bubble. One hull had a massive repair, litres of car bodyfiller filling a one inch wide gap between old and new ply. Half inch thick bodyfiller went almost all one side and galvanised roofing nails held the joint in place. At that stage I was tempted to conduct a viking funeral and torch the boat as I hadnít touched near woodworking tools for over 20 years.
I asked my fellow cat sailors how do I fix it?. Easy they said. Simple they said. I never got the same answer from anyone I spoke to. Then I discovered I had a new job 750 miles away. The severely flexing hulls went into a removalists truck with everything else. We drove south in torrid weather while the boat trailer was loaded with 50 guinea pigs, cages and assorted goods. but thatís another story.
Finally at my new home, repairs resumed in ernest and I discovered how many tools I needed. All I had were some blunt chisels, hand saw, drill, sanding discs and my imagination. With the drill running red hot in my hands I went through dozens of discs before I saw the light and bought a grinder and eye protection. I had the hulls back to bare wood after two 16 hour days. Then I saw the gouge marks in the hulls. What the hell Iíll bog it up like my predecessors.
I bought resin, tape and chopped strand mat. When the new bulkheads I glassed in moved freely I smelled a rat and contacted a professional builder. Oh he said, You need epoxy resin he said. Pity I wasnít told that first.. He did the bulkheads. On the way back home the trailer started swaying like a dervish over a bridge, passed me as I braked and t-boned an oncoming car.. One hull snapped its ropes, speared forward and dented his bonnet, tearing off about half an inch of the bow and snapping a stringer. My insurance company first told me I wasnít covered as the trailer was not connected to the car at the time of the accident. They eventually agreed that part of the trailer, the wiring, was still connected to my car. Happily they paid the victimís $2,000 bill while I coughed up a hefty excess and $100 for trailer repairs including a new hitch. We drove 750 miles with no inkling of trouble but a 5 minute trip cost plenty, although the boat damage was cosmetic. A wood fungis/rot treatment went on, the decks were rough cut with a ripsaw, glued and stapled. Then plenty of epoxy resin and microballoons to fill in the defects. There were heaps. My neighbour lentt me his spray gear and I began (as per strict instructions) the first careful layers of undercoat, first and second topcoats. My neighbour arrived, took one look, said ĎIíll do ití and produced a perfect job. 28 hours later, when we turned one hull over the paint smeared in our hands. 24 hours after that the second hull also smeared. I rang the paint company. Oh they said!, we sprayed the paint on too thick. ĎBulldustí my neighbour, a professional builder said, the paint was bad. Since then she is about to go back in the water after new centreboards went in as I got sick and tired of bailing . Despite 21 years of use the cat goes well. The power is amazing, the tiller is fingertip control and the acceleration is breathtaking. It still is the cheapest sailing I have ever done.
What? Youíd never consider a wooden boat?.. Wait 'til I tell you other sailors woes with new glass boats that split, cracked, broke, bent or were otherwise disfigured because they NEVER recieved adequate maintenance.
dawson309 (AT) aol (DOT) com
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