Refit Log 1

It is said that dogs have masters and cats have staff. Boats are a lot like cats. But if you put a lot of care and resources into a boat, she could save your life some day. Cats not so much.

Between 1997 and 2013, I spent many hours ripping out the old bulkhead tabbing, grinding the hull and bulkheads inside the cabinets and storage bins, and applying 3 layers of X-mat and epoxy in the form of new tabbing. This is completed from the forepeak back to the galley. There is a little of this remaining to do aft of the galley.

 New mast step going in 1999. Steel coated with coal tar epoxy, G-10 mast base socket.
 New Monitor steering vane 2002.
Galley cabinets removed, ready for bulkhead repair and building an ice box, 2011.

In March of 2014, I stopped sailing the boat so that I could tackle the more major refit projects.The following, in chronological order, are the first set of refit journal entries from March 2014 through February 2015. The second set of entries is on the next tab.


Friday, March 21, 2014

First Journal Entry


It's the first day of Spring, appropriate for the first journal entry of Kuewa's rebirth, of sorts. The two big cabin windows are out of the boat and headed for the dumpster. I say headed for because I'd rather not take the plunge and eliminate them completely until I'm sure the plan will come together.

Windows before removal.
The plan is to fiberglass in the openings entirely and then cut out new pukas and install 4 new robust Newfound Metals stainless steel opening ports. These are the gold standard in ports these days and I thought they might be overkill for Kuewa. But as is often the case, when I see how much labor and cost for other materials go into this type of project, and after researching available alternatives, I end up going with the gold standard. The difference in cost shrinks to insignificant when the waves are pounding aboard.

1" rabbet to overlap fiberglass layers.
The most important engineering question for this project is how to make a strong joint between the old fiberglass cabin side and the new lay-up. The cabin side is just 3/8" of fiberglass and 1/8" of (not so) decorative plywood on the interior. I routered out a 1" wide rabbet around the opening, about deep enough for 5 layers of X-mat. There should be 9 layers or so of X-mat filling in the rest of the opening. I use epoxy resin.

For additional strength, I may also add small carbon fiber dowels, or "pins", around the joint, epoxied in place.

Repairing delaminated interior wood with fiberglass.
Advice I received from four good sailing/engineer friends varied from "a butt joint of fiberglass to fiberglass with no overlap or pins will be plenty strong enough" to "the pins will be stronger than the 1 inch overlap" to "I don't think the pins are a good idea at all" to "a scarf joint is the strongest and is the correct way to go, and don't use pins."

For various reasons I won't go into now, I'm going with the rabbet joint, 9 layers up to rabbet level, then 5 more layers up to gelcoat level, maybe pins, maybe not. We'll see how things turn out.

Also today I received via UPS an outboard motor that left Helena, Montana on Wednesday. I found it on eBay. It's a 1985 Evinrude 15 hp 2-stroke. Only 4-stroke outboards are sold new in California and old 2-strokes are very hard to find. I want 2-stroke only because of the higher power-to-weight ratio, since I'll be hoisting it on and off the dinghy alone a lot of the time. Even in Montana, these motors are very pricy for their age. Outboards this old seem to be available only in fresh-water areas, although perhaps a good newer one could be found in Hawaii or Chuuk. This one looks in good shape, except the shaft seals appear to be leaking oil. I could see this in the photos posted on eBay (the seller was honest enough to show this), and I seem to have gotten a $150-$200 discount because of it. I was out-bid on eBay four times before this one.

Next task: laying glass.

P.S.  The other tabs above give complete information on Kuewa's history, hull and sail plans and specs, and incomplete information about the crew, etc. This info will be expanded in the future.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


By January 1 this year, Marin County had received only 24% of its average rainfall for that date in the current rainy season. This dry pattern prompted me to start the cabin window project that was scheduled for the summer. A few days after removing the windows, the rain started and it's been off and on ever since, with dry periods too short to do the back-to-back layup required to glass in the openings. California residents should appreciate that Kuewa and I have now gotten us to 52% of normal rainfall accumulation for this date.

While this rain has been collecting, I've completed the taxes, built an outboard motor stand, and have been cleaning and servicing the motor. I squeezed some lube into all the zerk fittings I could find and replaced the gear oil in the lower unit before yesterday's rain drove me inside. Reportedly, it's been at least 5 years since the motor has run and I'm looking forward to seeing if it will start.

The latter half of the coming week looks drier so hopefully the marathon epoxying will begin. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Window Fiberglassing Completed

Today I laid up the last layers of fiberglass in the windows. It took a total of five templates (2 paper and 3 wood, each had a purpose), 28 layers of X-mat, 14 on each side totaling 112 square feet of fiberglass, 3 gallons of resin and hardener, only 5 paintbrushes and a couple of yogurt cups. The layup actually went quite smoothly. The starboard side is MAS epoxy and the port side is WEST. The only reason is that I had some MAS left and when I went to buy more, West Marine had stopped selling MAS, and the Port Supply discount made WEST epoxy so much cheaper. I had switched from WEST to MAS about 15 years ago when Ralph at KKMI Richmond boatyard explained that MAS wets out the cloth better when you use a thick cloth like X-mat. He's right about that - you can see a color difference with the MAS wetting the cloth better and air bubbles are easier to eliminate. But after grinding and sanding both now over the last two days, I don't think the MAS is any stronger. They seem identical. I see no dry fibers or anything after grinding on the WEST side.

Three wood templates, two paper ones to make two of the wood ones.
Backing form on the inside - packing tape used as mold release (not shown).

9 layers of X-mat built up to the level of the rabbet.

5 more layers of X-mat over the whole thing to surface level.

First grinding and sanding. Uneven original finish caused the
sander to remove some gelcoat at the bottom.

The secret weapon for fairing:  Bondo.  It sticks well to epoxy.
Note the map of South America. I sanded it off, but since I have
this handy photo to use for navigation, I won't have to buy
expensive charts if I go around the Horn.

The small brown spot that you can see in the middle part of the new glass is cat barf. After cutting the X-mat using the templates, I stored the pristine sheets under my office desk to ensure that they would not be soiled or molested in any way. Naturally, one of the cats needed to barf on something and ran in there to do it. Needless to say, the bond at that point is probably less than optimal.

Finished and ready for paint.

Next up: more sanding and fairing, then paint. Oh yes, and the outboard runs great!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Comments About Cabin Window Interior

I have receive a couple of comments about how I will handle the interior of the window repair, with the ugly fiberglass bordering on the slightly less ugly wood. Thank you for your questions.

I guess the photos make the wood look better than it really is. I decided years ago that the plywood laminate on the inside of the cabin sides was too far gone to save. There are many areas beneath the removed big windows and smaller opening ports where water seepage has caused the wood to delaminated, including the big area I repaired with fiberglass that shows in one of the photos in the March 21st journal.

The vision for the interior is to be mostly bright white with varnished teak trim here and there. So the plan is to fair the joint between the fiberglass and wood, sand off the finish on the old plywood, soak it with epoxy to seal it, fair with filler, and paint it gloss white. This deals easily with the fiberglass/wood issue.

I am a very long way from realizing the interior look. At this point, it's an awful mess throughout. First I need to replace the other 8 opening ports with ones that thru-bolt rather than screw into the fiberglass with 1/2 inch screws. I need to restore the integrity of the main beam across the underside of the deck at the mast and attach the main bulkhead to it with more structure than it currently has. I think I want to install another deck beam under the mainsheet traveler just forward of the companionway for additional strength. I need to install the new stainless exterior handrails and any other deck hardware and restore the foam insulation in the cabin overhead. Then there's the galley and other cabinet work, including a redesigned dinette area with an additional seat/tool storage bin. Etc.When I get to the finish work, the big refit will be coming down the home stretch. When I write stuff like this, the departure date seems almost certain to be in 2016 rather than 2015. I hope not, but...

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Excitement of Removing Duct Tape Residue

During the rains, the windows were sealed from the outside with plastic sheet and duct tape. It held well through wind-driven rain, no leaks. On the inside, during the layup, duct tape held the backing forms. Since I am too cheap to buy the expensive tape that supposedly doesn't leave residue, there was a lot of it.

On the outside, two weeks of sun reduced the residue to a powdery substance that came off easily with a scraper, followed by Goof-Off, then Acetone, then a little more sanding to ensure there was nothing left to cause the paint not to bond.

The inside was a different story. Protection from the sun left the residue so thick and gummy that a scraper was hopeless. The chemical 3M recommends for cleaning it off just made it giggle. I sat there thinking about it for a bit. Then it occurred to me: Fire!

I lit the small butane torch and quickly discovered that duct tape residue is quite flammable. The torch made it bubble and fizzle and smoke a lot, which converted it to a consistency that made scraping easy. The problem arrived when I didn't keep the scraper, which had built up a big ball of the stuff, far enough away from the flame. It went kerfluie! This in itself was not so bad, but the cabin overhead currently consists of naked polyethylene foam, which also wanted to participate. It took some lung power to get things back under control. I felt like Captain Jack Sparrow, blowing trying to put out the fire with each rotation after the restless natives had lashed him to the rotisserie spit. At least mine was above me and I could run.

All's well that ends well. The surfaces are clean and smooth, and after a little more bondo and a lot more sanding, the inside will be ready to accept paint as well.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


If you read Kuewa's history, you may have seen that her hull and deck were laid up in 1973. There's a good chance Islander Yachts had just completed laying up the first two-thirds of the cabin /deck laminate in October 1973 when the Arabs stopped selling oil to the US, quadrupling polyester resin prices. I think Islander must have stopped work for a while, and when they started up again, they didn't do a good enough job cleaning all the dust off the partial layup, and probably started using less resin. The result is that the inner one-third of the laminate is not bonded well to the rest of it in a lot of places, and not at all in others. I've seen this all along the starboard side at every opening so far.

I'm now working on the smaller ports forward of the big fiberglassing job. There is some more delaminated wood from water intrusion, just like further aft, along with the delaminated fiberglass. The fix for the fiberglass is to mix some thickened epoxy filler and try to stuff it into the space as best I can, then clamp. So far it's working pretty well. The new ports are clamps themselves so this will help hold things together. The short screws that held the old ports actually pried the laminate apart.

Delaminated everything.

 Drawing a paper template. The port opening was red from tape on the outside due to rain. Waterproof stucco tape leaves less reside if you can get the tape off within 24 hours or so.

The fix for the 1/8" thick delaminated wood is the same as before: chop it out and lay glass in it's place.
Five layers of X-mat.

I got the quote today from New Found Metals for the 12 opening ports, the equivalent of 5 months or so of cruising. But without them I couldn't go at all.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Laminators Anonymous

Hello, my name is Tony, and it's been 22 days since my last post. The reason for the silence is that the work is plodding. The cabin trunk exterior is ready for paint and the interior should be painted also, before installing the new ports. The idea was to remove the 8 old opening ports and prep the inside for paint. The reality is:  this is daunting. The pictures show it.

The last post showed this port with clamps gluing the delaminated glass back together. This is the repair of the damaged wood.

Forward of that, the gap in the delaminated glass was so big that I stuffed saturated glass cloth into the space. Clamping would have made the laminate too thin so stuffing and build-up was the strategy here. This is on the starboard side in the forepeak.

Here's the same port with the opening edge faired, the bad wood removed, and the bulkhead sanded, ready for glassing. Note how close the opening is to the bulkhead. There may not be enough room for the new port, so the opening needs to be moved forward some.
Same port finished, with tab to bulkhead. I got lazy cutting the cloth to fit the opening and just slapped it over. Of course, it gets cut out for the new port.
This is the exterior of the same port, built up with 14 layers of glass over the aft end so the cut-out for the new port can be further forward.

This looks remarkably similar, but is in the main cabin on the other side. There was a lot of damage in the wood above the port, presumably from a leaky cabin top hand rail mounting bolt. All these leaks were so small that I never saw any water collect anywhere but they did a lot of damage over time.

This is the fun one, in the head. The cabin top had old fashioned dorade vent boxes that were leaking when I bought the boat. Right after, I replaced the dorades with solar powered vent fans. I've checked when lots of water was coming aboard and when shooting them with a hose and have never seen a drop come through these solar vents. They are surprisingly waterproof. But the damage was already done. Note the scenery out the port has changed from marina to bucolic.
The water had run unseen above the headliner to the bulkhead and the wood around the port. The bulkhead was not sealed/secured properly so water got in on top of it. Lots of delamination and some rot. Here I'm in the process of removing the delamination and old tabbing. The square opening in the lower part of the picture used to house a propane heater for the forepeak. It will be filled with plywood. Right now it's a handy escape hatch to the forepeak, in case you really had to get out of there fast.
First 6 layers of glass going on the bulkhead to build back up to original strength and thickness. This bulkhead repair needs to be done now so the cabin trunk repair ties into the bulkhead tabbing structurally and visually after the paint goes on. Note the bucolic girl is now upside down. At least I hope it's her and not the boat. (The purpose of the cardboard is to block the sunlight. Since I'm inside the dark head compartment, without it I can't see the work area at all.)

So paint prep turned into other fun stuff. Five-and-a-half port openings done (not counting the big window layup) 2 1/2 more to go. Every day we make a little progress and the boat gets stronger. Laying, grinding, bondoing, sanding.... But right now I better be off to that Laminators Anonymous meeting.

Monday, June 23, 2014

On and On We Go

After not working on Kuewa for five days due to a bad back, I'm at it again. Well, I was until today. It's amazing how things pile up sometimes. Susan and I did a 3-stop errand run yesterday so I thought today would be lighter. I ended up going to 14 different places! And I forgot one errand. It's a long story, but it's all for ongoing little projects, only one of which is tangentially related to Kuewa (boxing up the old ports to ship to Camarillo where a guy is restoring an old boat too.) How did we ever live the rest of life when we were both working?

What I had been doing at the boat was the usual:  Chisel out bad wood...sand underlying fiberglass...mark and cut template...mark and cut 5 new fiberglass sheets...clean old fiberglass with acetone...lay fiberglass...grind and sand...apply Bondo...sand and fair. On to the next. I laid the last ten layers of fiberglass on the last two port openings on Friday. Very happy to have that part done.

I'll need to tab three more small bulkheads before the final finish is applied to the interior of the cabin sides. Stronger (almost) every day.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

More Pukas, More Rain

Work has been pretty similar to the last two posts. A lot of tabbing in short bulkheads and filling and sanding the interior cabin sides.

 Then the other day I attached the small port template from Newfound Metals and cut out all 8 small port openings. There was a day of filling with epoxy the voids exposed by the cutting, and fairing that after curing.

On Saturday Mike Cheong, Mary Ellen Braly, and Susan came down and kibitzed from the adjoining dock while I positioned templates for the large port cut-outs. There was surprisingly little difference of opinion on the locations. I'm kicking myself for missing the opportunity to get pictures of that.

Yesterday I burned through 7 jigsaw blades and cut out the openings. It took almost all day. Fourteen layers of X-mat and epoxy make a formidable obstruction for cutting tools. I tried a mini circle saw with a metal-cutting blade, but that created too much heat and smoke for my comfort level. Memories of the duct tape residue removal adventure. In the end, the big jig saw and patience won out.
Not as attractive as the well-proportioned 4-foot long glass windows were, but definitely saltier.

As I was writing these words at 06:30, some large raidrops spattered on the roof, and then a loud, long rumble of thunder. More thunder than we've heard in a year and a half. I looked at the radar and there was a large green blob headed for San Rafael from the south. I boogied down there with windshield wipers going - actually enough rain to wash the car - and applied tape to the port openings. Of course, this precipitation is due to my cutting more holes in the boat. Nice to know Kuewa and I are continuing to end the drought.

Next up is painting the interior and exterior cabin sides.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Shop-Vac Obituary

In loving memory...

I was coming down the home stretch on my 5th sanding of the interior cabin side after the 6th coat of 3-part epoxy primer. This time using 220-grit disks. The last hour or so, the venerable old Shop-Vac, purchased shortly after Kuewa in 1996, had been shrieking these loud, awful failed-bearing sounds. The last 5 minutes was added the distinct smell of burning plastic and wiring (here we go again). Then a loud clatter-crunch, then silence. A wisp of blue smoke. I quickly moved it to the dock, and then, after a bit of cooling and a hug, to the dumpster.

What a revered old workhorse, faithful, assertive, and gritty. The replacement is much more civilized but likely not as valiant or enduring. We'll see how long IT will hold up to epoxy dust.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Stuck in a Loop

Except for the Port Joslin Rendezvous, the Santa Cruz 27 rigging and sailing, a house guest, working on a kitchen cabinet project, a little tennis here and there, and spending weekend time with Susan, I've been working on the interior cabin side every day. Some days 7 hours, some days 3. So far 6 coats of 3-part primer and 4 1/2 coats of single-part Interlux Brightside finish, with sanding between coats. But I don't seem to be getting anywhere. It IS getting very smooth but you can still see through to the bondo in spots. I must be just about sanding off each coat after I apply it. If I don't, though, the finish is pretty rough. Still, this is not resource-efficient.

Yesterday I determined to stop this craziness and apply the final gloss coat of Brightside and call it good enough. Such high hopes. It started out perfectly but within ten minutes the new roller, which said "designed for all paints", started shedding fibers into the finish. I kept going thinking it would clear up but it just got worse. The only thing was to give up and return the rollers to West Marine. I got some different ones from KKMI boatyard. The workers there have to use what's in the store so those must work. Right? Now I have to sand that coat back off and start again.

The good news is that I'm getting a lot of practice with rolling and tipping and learning the good techniques and finding the lowest cost, high quality tipping brushes (and hopefully now the right rollers). One of the limitations that stretches out the project is that, if the temperature in the cabin gets a little too warm, blending the tipped sections gets difficult or impossible. I get highly visible vertical seams. The other realization I'm coming to is that 3-part paint is really the only thing that's tough enough for boat finishes, even on the inside.

Yesterday after the roller fiber fiasco, I finished the sanding on the exterior cabin trunk in anticipation that I will someday complete the interior (I'm just talking about the cabin side here) and start painting the outside. At this rate, I'll be lucky to get the new ports installed before the Christmas rains.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Brush Streaks

Kuewa's exterior cabin side got its 8th coat of paint today. Four epoxy primer coats and now 4 Awlgrip polyester urethane finish coats. Mike Cheong helped apply finish coat #3 on Saturday using his professional tipping technique following my rolling efforts.

Yes, really - professional. When Mike got fed up with the defense electronics engineering contracting world several years ago, he took a break and worked on boats in Sausalito for a living. That makes him a professional. One of the tasks was applying the varnish to wooden hulls on classic boats. The boat owners were very finicky and the owner of the business was so particular that the workers were not allowed to know the formula for the varnish/solvent they used. The manager would bring the blend out of a back room and hand it to the workers.

The plan worked. Mike cleared his head, and the fortunate defense electronics engineering world now has Mike back. Although Mike's painting skills are exemplary, the security of our country benefits greatly from Mike's intelligence. (Discussions with Mike about work are always brief - he is never able to tell us anything about what he's working on). I'm just happy Kuewa benefits as well!

Mike's Saturday tipping looked really nice, but he wouldn't let me call it quits after that coat. He was dissatisfied with a couple of areas with a slight sag.

This is how it looks after I applied finish coat #4 today. It passes the 4-foot test, but probably not the 3-foot. Meaning you see lots of brush streaks at 3 feet. I'll sand this again tomorrow and Thursday (about 9 hours with the sanders) and Mike and I will apply the final coat Saturday. I bought Mike (well, I guess Kuewa) a $35 paint brush for that final tipping.

We will probably not eliminate brush streaks altogether. If it's possible, I certainly don't have the skills. Mike probably would given enough time at it (this paint behaves differently than his varnish). Kuewa is a sailing boat, not a boat show boat, so with 9 layers of UV protection, I'm happy with the look we've got here. Besides, pretty soon the birds crap all over it anyway.


Saturday, September 20, 2014


I don't know why I so much dread the sanding. It only takes a minute.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Refit Video - Episode 1


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Refit Video - Episode 2

If the box below doesn't have the video, you can link to it directly at YouTube here:

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Refit Video - Episode 3

If the box above doesn't have the video, you can link to it directly at YouTube here:

The second set of entries from March 2015 is on the next tab.

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