Cap Rail & Name Board Replacement Project
It took a long time to get to this project, and the more I hesitated the worse the problem became. The primary problem was leaks. As you know, in the summer of 2004, I did the forward cap rail rebedding project, and that fixed the leaks that were coming from under the forward cap rail. DREAM AWAY had sustained damage to the forward cap rail in Hurricane Wilma, and I had not gotten a chance to repair the damage properly. I had issues with "extra" holes that had been drilled through the hull to deck joint, which I found doing the forward cap rail rebedding project, I had a feeling I might have those same issues as being the cause of the leaks around the aft cap rail. I still had some leaks in the forward cabin when making a passage, so I still had problems there I needed to rectify. The cause of these leaks turned out to be the name boards on the bow of the boat, both starboard and aft. That is why the name boards are included in this project.
I also wanted to replace the cap rails for easier boat maintenance. The cap rails were all teak wood, and needed a lot of maintenance, especially in the tropics. I did not look forward to spending all of my cruising time maintaining the teak wood on DREAM AWAY. In 2004, we decided that we would let the teak go natural, meaning I was going to let the wood go to its natural weathered color, silver-grey. This was a good plan, but first, the leaks had to be addressed, and this is what I did.
I broke out the project into three separate phases, and those phases are listed in the order in which they were performed. The aft cap rail and taffrail were done in 2009, in Kemah, Texas. The forward cap rail and name boards were done in 2010, in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala.
PHASE ONE: This was the hardest of the three phases to accomplish because once the cap rail and taff rail were removed, there was nothing to support the stanchions for the aft life rail. How to do that was a question to which it took a long time to find the answer. The key is patience. I looked around at other boats to see what novel solutions other boat builders had devised. Also, the solution had to be something I could afford and that I could accomplish by myself.
I had been using some fiberglass plate called EXTREN on several other projects. The company from whom I purchased this fiberglass plate, I M Pena, also had a section of drops. It was from this section that I had purchased several pieces for other projects. I decided to build stanchion bases out of the EXTERN fiberglass plate.
Now that I had decided on the solution to my problem, I had to work on the implementation. First on the list was getting the original cap rail and taffrail off of DREAM AWAY. Then the hull to deck joint had to be cleaned up and covered with its own layer of FRP (Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic). I had to build the stanchion bases and then attach them to the hull to deck joint. I also had to use pieces of the EXTERN fiberglass plate to put under the fittings that had to be put back on the hull to deck joint. Many years ago, when I moved the Genoa track aft on the deck, next to the cockpit, I had come to realize that I hardly ever moved the fairleads for the Genoa track, so the track did not need to be six feet long. I decided that, with the removal of the cap rail, I would shorten and move the Genoa track out to the hull to deck joint. Once all of that was completed, and all of the parts put back together, a major fairing and cleanup would be needed. And finally the new cap rail and sheer stripe would have to be painted. Hopefully, by the end of the project the new cap rail and stanchion bases would look as if DREAM AWAY had been designed that way.
Initially, I spent a couple of months trying to find someone who would want the cap rail and taffrail off of DREAM AWAY. I wanted to do this for two reasons and both of them selfish. I was hoping I could get a bit of money for all of the teak wood, and that I could get the purchaser to help me take it off. I could not find anyone, so I knew I would be doing it myself.
I was familiar with how the cap rail was put down because of my experience with removing the forward cap rail during the forward cap rail rebedding project. The hull to deck joint is a piece of fiberglass approximately 1 1/2" thick. The cap rail is glued to the joint. Then, approximately every six inches, there are bronze bolts drilled and tapped into the joint, holding down the cap rail. These bolts are flat head, slotted bronze. After the bolts were installed through the cap rail they were all capped with teak wood plugs. I also know from experience there were going to be holes drilled and tapped that had no bolts in them, and these were the source of some of my leaks. Again, experience came into play, and I knew the adhesive used 20 years ago to help hold down the cap rail had dried out, and was not doing its job, which also added to the leak problems.
The initial problem was removing the taffrail so that I could get to the bolts holding the cap rail to the hull to deck joint. I was sure the taffrail was held down to the cap rail by threaded rod that went from the taffrail, through the spindles, through the cap rail, and then screwed into the hull to deck joint. I decided to put the Sawzall to work. I was fortunate, for me, to have our friends Nicola and Noel visiting from England, at just the right time. I was able to get Noel to help with the project. I put a metal cutting blade into the Sawzall, and cut off the spindles just above the cap rail. We did this all the way around the stern, from just forward of the cockpit on the starboard side to the same point on the port side. Once all of the spindles were cut off, it was very easy to remove the taffrail from DREAM AWAY.
Next came removing the cap rail. The cap rail is the "U" shaped piece of wood that fits over the hull to deck joint. Noel and I went down the cap rail, and at every plug, we drilled it out, and cleaned the glue out of the slot in the flat head bolt. We then attempted to unscrew the bolt. Over all, this worked with about half the bolts. The other half of the bolts just broke off, or disintegrated. When we finished with all of the bolts, we started at one end of the cap rail with a nail removal pry bar, and removed the cap rail from DREAM AWAY.
With the hull to deck joint fully exposed, we went to work with chisels and rasps, and cleaned all of the old adhesive and debris off of the hull to deck joint. We attempted to withdrawal the broken bolts left in the hull to deck joint. The bolts that we could not back out, we used a hammer and punch to drive the bolts about 3/4" into the hull to deck joint. We then used a countersink bit to round out the hole where the bolt was. I mixed up a batch of putty using polyester resin and Cabosil. I make the consistency like thick pancake batter, so it will flow, but slowly. We then went all the way around the exposed hull to deck joint, and filled all of the holes and imperfections. When the putty had set up, we then sanded off hull to deck joint in preparation for the installation of the fiberglass stanchion support blocks.
I did find bolt holes in the hull to deck joint that had no bolts in them, and I also found other problems. When the holes and other issues were sealed up, all my leaks in the after part of DREAM AWAY disappeared! The leaks disappearing made all of the work worth the effort.
I used polyester resin to join the 5 pieces of 3/4" fiberglass plate together to build each stanchion support base. These bases, or blocks, were about three inches wide, and eight inches long. I had to build 14 blocks for the stern so as to accommodate the 14 life rail stanchions. Once the blocks were built, I drilled a 1" hole down through the middle of each fiberglass stanchion support block so that I could insert the stanchion into it. In addition to the block supporting the stanchion, I put a 1/4" piece of stainless steel flat bar on top of the fiberglass block. I also drilled a 1" hole in the stainless steel flat bar to accommodate the stanchion.
For extra strength, I drilled two 3/8" holes through the 1/4" thick piece of stainless steel flat bar, and the fiberglass block. Before fiberglassing the block to the hull to deck joint, I drilled and tapped two holes in the hull to deck joint, for the two pieces of stainless steel threaded rod.
Following are the actual installation steps for producing and installing the fiberglass stanchion support blocks. First, I dry fitted all 14 of the fiberglass stanchion support blocks. This means, I cut the threaded rod to the proper sizes, verifying the threaded rod could be screwed into the holes that were drilled and tapped into the hull to deck joint. Then I made sure that all of the fiberglass stanchion support blocks fit with the threaded rod through the fiberglass stanchion support blocks and into the holes in the hull to deck joint.
When the dry fit was completed, and all of the parts are marked as to their proper location, it was time to get serious. I masked off the entire work area, to prevent spills and runs, then I applied two layers of wetted-out fiberglass mat onto the hull to deck joint, and then aligned the fiberglass stanchion support blocks on top of the wetted-out mat. I inserted the two pieces of stainless steel threaded rod through the fiberglass stanchion support blocks, and screwed them into the threaded holes in the hull to deck joint. Next I put on the 1/4" stainless steel plate. Then I add a stainless steel washer, a lock washer, and cap nut to the threaded rod, and tighten on the nuts until the resin started to squeeze out around the base of the fiberglass stanchion support blocks. I did this same operation on each of the 14 stanchions. I also put down two layers of wetted-out fiberglass mat on the hull to deck joint between each of the fiberglass stanchion support blocks. Well, that was easy!
Next came the really fun part of the project. The applied fiberglass mat had to be smoothed out with finishing putty. This meant a lot of sanding, then reapplying the finishing putty, and repeating the process again and again. During this part of the project, I hired a friend, Bill, to help me with the finishing process. This process was very time consuming, but we finally got to the point where we were ready to paint the newly installed fiberglass stanchion support blocks, the hull to deck joint, and the sheer stripe. To make it look like a finished product, I decided to also paint the forward shear stripe. So now it was time to sand and do any repairs necessary on the forward shear stripe.
We finally reached the point where we were ready to mask off all of the parts. We masked off the shear stripe from the bow to the stern. I decided to go with the Pettit Easypoxy single-part epoxy paint. Bill helped with this because I applied the paint with the roll and tip method in which you roll on the paint, and then follow up with a brush to smooth out the paint. It usually looks very good using the 36" rule (Rule: If it looks good from 36’ away, it’s a go). As with any paint application method, when using the roll and tip method, timing is critical. The painting should be done in the shade. If the surface is in the sun, the paint rolled on will dry too quickly for the brush to smooth it out. We ended up putting on three coats of the Pettit Easypoxy paint. After the paint had dried throughly, I applied a clear polymeric plastic resin coating named Nyalic. So far it has proven to be a great product. DREAM AWAY looked very good!
PHASE TWO: The forward cap rail replacement project was a natural follow on to the aft cap rail replacement. The teak wood was a maintenance issue, and I knew I still had leaks in or under the forward cap rail. The leaks made the forward cabin very wet during a passage. I knew some of the leaks on the port side were due to not properly repairing damage sustained during Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
The good news concerning the forward cap rail replacement was that it was not as difficult as the aft cap rail replacement, and I already had the plan and parts for the forward life rail stanchion supports and the other fittings that required extra support. The bad news was when I did the forward cap rail rebedding project back in 2004, I used 3M 5200 to put the cap rail back on the hull to deck joint. This posed a big question for me. How could I put the forward cap rail down on the hull to deck joint with 3M 5200 and I still have such bad leak issues. As mentioned at the very beginning, the forward cabin leaks were the name boards, not the cap rail.
The forward cap rail replacement project happened in the fall of 2010 while we were at Monkey Bay Marina in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala. My friend, Alan, came down from Clear Lake Shores, Texas, to help with the project. As usual he was a great help and good to have around as company. Of course I had to have someone with whom to share my rum! (The Admiral is not much of a drinker)
The plan for removing the forward cap rail was to cut it off! In the PHASE ONE section I had mentioned the cap rail is a "U" shaped piece of wood that fits over the hull to deck joint. I will use a Sabre Saw to cut the legs off of the "U", and then the Sawzall to cut the remaining piece of wood off of the hull to deck joint.
The plan for the cap rail removal was a good one, and it worked very well. Having the two of us to do the cutting really worked well. While one of us was cutting, the other was taking the tension off of the wood, so the cutting went very smooth. With the wood removed, and hull to deck joint fully exposed, we went to work with chisels and rasps, and cleaned all of the old adhesive and debris off of the hull to deck joint.
When the hull to deck joint was all cleaned up, we filled all of the holes and imperfections in it. Most of the filling required some filler putty. But, for the really bad spots, I used my old stand by, DYNA-GLASS polyester filler with short strand fiberglass already in it. When all this was done, we sanded everything down smooth, and made it ready for applying the fiberglass mat.
The preparation for the application of the fiberglass mat and resin was the same as it had been for the aft cap rail. We had to mask off the area with masking tape "dams". These "dams" prevented the resin from running down the sides of the hull, and creating even larger messes to clean up. Alan and I were only doing one side of the boat at a time, so this helped make the application of the resin and fiberglass less stressful. The decision to only do one side of the boat was made for us because of the slip at which we were tied. It was a "T" head dock, so we could only access one side at a time. Another benefit was that I could be on the outside of the hull in the dinghy working, while Alan was on deck. We did not get into each other’s way.
We then cut to size two layers of fiberglass mat to cover the hull to deck joint. We also prepared and laid out the fiberglass plate I was using as extra support for the deck fittings and life rail stancion supports. Next we dry fitted the fiberglass mat, the deck fittings and life rail stancion supports, and marked the hull to deck joint with their exact location. Once you start applying resin with the hardener mixed in, you do not want to find out something is not going to fit. Dry fitting all of your material, can be equated to the "measure twice, cut once" rule!
Then came the matter of mixing the resin, laying on the mat, and then wetting the mat out with the resin. As we came to a place where a deck fitting or a life rail stancion support needed to be applied, we did that. We mixed the batches of resin in small amounts because I did not want it going off to soon. Working in the heat, one is tempted to mix large batches so you are not in the heat for as long. However, even as you start, you may end up with a block of hard resin in your pot. Once the chemical reaction starts, nothing stops it!
When we had completed the layup process for the starboard side, we cleaned up the area and ourselves, and enjoyed a couple of cold adult beverages!. It is nice to have a sail boat with an ice maker.
Next day, we were back working on the cap rail. This process was the same as for the aft cap rail. We sanded down the mat so that it was smooth. As we found problems with the surface we applied a finishing putty to fill in imperfections. Then of course it all had to be sanded down again. We also had to put the finishing putty between the hull to deck joint and the life rail stancion supports to round out all of the corners. Of course this involved more sanding to get it all smoothed out and looking professional.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, we got the cap rail, with all of the added fittings, sanded smoothly enough to start the painting process. The cap rail and sheer stripe to be painted had to be masked off to keep paint from running all over. By this time Alan had left the Rio, so I was on my own. I continued to use the Pettit Easypoxy single-part epoxy paint. I still used the roll and tip method to paint the cap rail and sheer stripe, but without help, I had to be very careful and patient in applying the paint. The exposed side of DREAM AWAY on which I was working was the east side, so I had to do the painting in the afternoon. In the morning it was too wet with dew to paint. By the time the dew dried, the cap rail and sheer stripe were in the direct sunlight, so I had to wait until the afternoon to do the the painting. The first coat of paint really looked good. I continued with the second coat, and the finished product made DREAM AWAY look like she just came from the factory.
Before I could turn DREAM AWAY around and start on the port side forward cap rail, I had a few other things to do. I had to put all of the chocks back on the cap rail so we could run dock lines to their cleats. Then there was all of the netting that had to be put back in place and tied down. Finally, the Genoa track had to be put back on the cap rail. To put on the chocks and Genoa track, I had to drill holes in the cap rail/hull to deck joint. Then tap the holes so they could accept the bolts for the hardware. In the case of the chocks, I decided to put a piece of King Starboard under each chock as a sacrificial piece so that the dock lines would not wear on the newly painted fiberglass cap rail. When all of these tasks were completed, I turned the boat around, so I could do the port side forward cap rail.
I am not going to go through the complete process of replacing the port side forward cap rail. It was not that much different than the starboard side. Just go back to the beginning of the PHASE TWO section and substitute port for starboard!
PHASE THREE: First, please let me menton the proper sequence of the projects. We did do the starboard side forward cap rail first, but, before turning the boat around and doing the port side forward cap rail, I did the name boards. The "T" head slip at which we were docked at the time allowed access to the port and starboard sides of the bow. When DREAM AWAY was turned around to do the port side forward cap rail, there was not access to both sides of the bow. That is why I did the name boards in-between the starboard and port forward cap rail projects.
Having completed the port side forward cap rail project, and seeing how well it was sealed, I was convinced that my leak problems were with the name boards rather than the cap rail. Previous experience with the aft and forward cap rails made me believe there were probably bolt holes drilled in the hull, with no bolts in them, plus the resorcinol glue that was used was probably not doing any real sealing.
While we were in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, at the end of 2009, and I had my friend Jim to help, I decided to run a bead of LifeSeal Polyurethane/Silicone sealant around both name boards. I was hoping this would solve the problem of the fore cabin leaks, or at least narrow down the cause. On the trip from Isla Mujeres to the Rio Dulce, the leaks did not seem to be as bad, so I thought I was on the right track. When I fanally started working on the forward cap rail, I could see the bead of LifeSeal Polyurethane/Silicone sealant was coming loose from around the name boards. Since I was not sure when this started, I did not really know if the application of the LifeSeal Polyurethane/Silicone sealant had really helped the leak problem.
I decided to take off one of the name boards and see if I could find the exact problem. I started with the starboard name board. First I drilled out the teak bungs so I could get to the heads of the bolts. Very few of the bolts came out. The heads broke off almost all of the bolts. When all of the bolts were removed or the heads were broken off, the name board came off very easily. As I suspected the resorcinol glue had given up the ghost, and was not holding at all. The huge surprise was what was under the name board! I had expected the name board to be sitting on top of the nice smooth gel coated hull. Not so, and very hard to describe!
This is the initial view under the name board. The black stuff is the old hardened resorcinol glue. After the resorcinol glue had been cleaned up, the surface under was unbelievable! It looked like the boat mold was non-existent under the name board. As I said, it was a very big surprise and hard to describe.
I decided to leave the name boards off of the boat and paint the name on the finished part of the hull where the name boards used to be located. That was the decision, next came the implementation. All of the bolts that had the heads broken off had to be backed out. When that was finished, I had to clean out all of the old resorcinol glue. That effort took the most time because there were no smooth surfaces. And sure enough, I found two bolt holes on the starboard side, and one on the port side, none of which had ever even had a bolt in it. As with the cap rail, this had not been a problem until the resorcinol glue dried out and water had worked its way into the holes. The problem with the name boards was that the leaks did not show themselves until we were under way in a heavy sea. Then the waves would force water behind the name boards and into the empty holes, and probably around the threads of the bolts that were in place.
Once the area behind the name boards was all cleaned out, I countersunk all of the bolt holes and filled them with DYNA-GLASS polyester filler. I used the same polyester filler to fill in all of the area under where the name board used to be attached to the hull. When I got the area all built up to the approximate level of the hull, I sanded down everything as smoothly as possible. Next, it was time for the finishing putty. This was applied then sanded down, and another coat of finishing putty was applied. When everything was as smooth as I could get it, it was time to put on the gel coat. I put the gel coat on with a brush, and it looked pretty good. I sanded down the gel coat with 220 grit sandpaper, and then put on another application of gel coat. I did this process three times, and the area looked great. We had the name DREAM AWAY painted on by a local friend named Fidencio. It was not exactly what we had first envisioned, but has grown on us, and now we love it.
It has been over two years since the name boards were removed, and we have not had any leaks in the fore cabini since then. So, the effort was well worthwhile. If I do something like this again on the hull, I would mix a white tint with the filler and finishing putty. If I had done this on the initial projectsit would have made the gelcoat application much eaiser.