Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Working on my boat; the "famous" Catalina smile (6/3/2015)

We pulled our boat this week and were tremendously pleased that my repair of the Catalina Smile on my boat had not returned.  I had fixed it 5 years ago and this was the first time we had pulled the boat out after the repair.

Hauled out after four and a half years in the water 

But let me start at the beginning.  Approximately 5 years ago (May), I motored my little boat over to the York River Yacht Haven to be hauled out.  After some title issues, I was able to take possession of my sailboat a few months earlier, and a friend an I motored her from a slip in the Lynnhaven river over to the slip I had rented in the Poquoson River (it took us 8 hours or so).  So that faithful day in May I motored her over with my daughter and father-in-law on board.  Honestly, not knowing what I had except knowing that she was an abandoned boat that had sunk at least once, I was reluctant to raise the sail and try sailing her.  We stopped in Yorktown to have lunch with the wives.  It was a good trip and even more fun to have lunch on board with five persons eating sandwiches in the cockpit under the watchful eyes of a lot of onlookers.

I was not present when the marina hauled the boat, but when I asked them they told me the keel wobbled a bit.  On further inspection there was a crack in the keel approximately a quarter of the way down.  I learned from the Catalina 25, 250 & Capri International Association that this was the "famous" Catalina Smile.  It seems that the bottom of the boat has a wooden stub and the keel (in my case cast iron) was bolted and glued on to the stub.  I quickly learned that if the keel falls off the boat would immediately fall over, and would likely capsize.  Below is a photograph of what I found that day.

The smile from both sides

From the association members I also learned that this was not fatal and that it could be fixed.  Being on a budget and fairly handy I decided to do this myself.  I bought a repair kit form Catalina Direct and spent a lot of time on the Association's website researching what everyone had done.  In the mean time I cleaned the hull and got it ready for painting.  I very quickly learned I needed better tools than I had and that's where Sears and Harbor Freight came in.  I eventually bought a heavy duty 7" angle grinder and a big industrial drill.  I had to buy cutting oil, to drill into the cast iron keel.  Talking with friends etc I first needed to do some preparatory work: I needed to make sure that the wood stub that the keel was attached to was dry and not rotted.  So I set out to drill five holes in the wood stub at the location I would put the new keel bolts.  The first holes I drilled were slightly undersized and I stopped when I hit metal.  For the next two weeks I treated the holes by alternately flooding them with acetone or alcohol in the hope to drive out any water that was in the stub, or at least near the areas where the new keel bolts were going in.

In the mean time I took the angle grinder and started to cut out the white glue/rubber type substance that sits between the keel and the wood stub.  From everything I read, this is most likely 3M's 5200, a marine glue which is absolutely amazing.  I cut the glue out for the entire length of the smile and tried to go as deep as I could with my 7" disks.

This is what the smile looked like after grinding it out

Back inside in the bilge, I flooded the holes with penetrating epoxy after the two weeks treatment with acetone and alcohol and let it dry for a week.  I made sure that the penetrating epoxy coated the entire bilge, hopefully penetrating the entire stub.  Back to the drill, I subsequently re-drilled the holes but now to the right size and I again flooded the holes with penetrating epoxy.  In writing this, I wonder why I did it this way, but I wanted to make sure that the area was water tight.  I also covered the entire bilge with a layer of glass, in order to get as much strength, stability and water tightness as I could get.  I then re-drilled the holes and I was finally ready for the next step, drilling cast iron and tapping thread in the holes, and this is where I hit a wall.

Drilling in a confined space like the bilge, laying on your stomach was a pain.  Various posts on the Association website talk about drill presses or having professional drillers come in for this part of the job.  My drill bits dulled almost instantly and it took me an entire day to get a half inch deep; and then to think I needed five holes at least 6 inches deep.  Back on line I learned that is was best to drill a pilot hole, so I looked around and ordered  new set of drills, including a number of thinner drill bits to make pilot holes.  Being able to drill one hole per weekend, it took my five weeks to get all the holes done.  In the mean time we had a huge storm that flooded my bilge, and you can understand I was pretty darn happy that I had flooded the holes with penetration epoxy.

Once the holes were drilled it was time to tap the holes, cut the threaded rods to length and screw the rods into the cast iron keel.  With the rods in place it was time to loosely screw on the nuts and then finally do some work outside.  I filled the cleaned out crack with the 5200 compound  and subsequently I went inside to tighten the nuts with a torque wrench.  Again the Association website was of great help because they gave me the correct measures on how much torque I needed to apply.  Finally after the 5200 had dried it was time to re-glass the crack, paint the entire hull with three layers of a barrier coat and three coats the ablating bottom paint.

The keel bolts are in

She was finally hauled out four and a half years after she was put in.  I had barnacles, sponges and algae growing on the hull, but no smile; all looks well!  One word of caution, Catalina Direct tells us that these bolts are less strong as the original bolts which had a J-shape and were pored into the cast iron keel.  Thank goodness my keel bolts did not look too bad, but I wanted additional assurance of safety in particular since I had a smile.

The latest picture of the keel.
She had been in the water for 5 years now and yes she should have come out for cleaning years ago.
But I'm a happy camper/sailor! 

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