September 30, 2007 · Print This Article
In July of 2004 my friend Rich pointed out a boat at the Berkeley Marina that was going to be auctioned off at a lien sale. I had never really sailed, but the more I thought about the possibilities of applying my acquired skills to a project of this scale, the more I wanted it. The thought of all I would learn and the new experiences it would bring filled me with excitement. When I thought about it practically, it made no sense. I went to the auction just to see how much it would sell for. When it came down to the wire my heart took over and was the proud owner of the aptly named del Corazon.
The project started the next day. There was so much trash in this little boat it filled up a small dumpster. Layer of sleeping bag on top of moldy sleeping bag on top of a vcr, microwave, 2 computers, 3 hot plates, one TV, two monitors and assorted rotting cloths.
Part of the rules of the lien sale is that the boat needs to leave the Berkeley Marina. It was my intention to stay and to do what I would have to in order to convince the Harbormaster that I was a well meaning, conscientious guy that was good to his word as well as capable. The sort of guy that would be good to have berthing in Berkeley.
We towed the boat over to the Marine Center. There it got new bottom paint. A number of leaky through hole fittings were replaced. Some minor blister repair and work to the prop and shaft, replacing the cutlass bearing. The motor had its head removed and years of crud and carbon build up removed. All the engines systems got the once over with new parts including new water pump, head bolts, cooling system flushed, distributor parts, carburetor rebuild, charging system rewired and new battery. Top sides were painted with awlgrip paint. The list goes on.
August 2004 the Cheoy Lee Offshore 31 was put back in the water after having the bottom and topsides refreshed as well as giving the motor a good work over.
Having been in the water not even a month the masts were un-stepped and brought to the shop. The idea was to repair the glue joints that where showing signs of failure. So far some of the hardware has come off.
Back at the boat the winter rains started early. The rain was relentless all winter long. It seemed that if there was a penetration through the deck it leaked. Most of the winter was spent doing damage control and deep cleaning.
As the rains started letting up a bit, I started removing deck hardware. As soon as a piece of hardware came off I covered the hole with a piece of Bitathane a sticky rubber used to weatherproof houses. It worked well to keep the water out and slowly the boat started to dry out.
The most difficult hardware to remove was by far the chain plates. The bolts were totally corroded, in tight confined space, with limited access. In the end the procedure for removing the plate was to cut the nut and/or bolt head off with a right angle grinder, then use the pneumatic hammer to drive the rusted bolt out. The rear ones had such bad access that the deck needed to be cut to get them out.
They were corroded to the point that when hit with a hammer the metal shattered like glass. It was a good affirmation that the monumental job of replacing them really needed to be done. I’d hate to be sailing and have one of them break.
With all the hardware stripped from the deck, the job of repairing the spongy decks could start. What happened when the hardware leaked, was that the water seeped into the core of the laminated deck causing the fiberglass on the top and underside of the deck to separate from the teak core. Walking on the decks produced a crunching sound. The foredeck was so springy I feared the weight of two people would cave it in. Luckily the core was made of teak strips so all my exploratory drilling revealed no rot.
The fix was to drill holes into the core of the deck and inject Epoxy. Then cover the deck with a coat of glass and then fairing filler for a smooth sandable surface.
The Epoxy fix really did the trick. The decks are strong and water tight.
It was really great to have my 45th birthday celebrated on the boat with some of my finest friends.
Today we had the first of the seasons rain storms and I can rest assured that it will stay dry inside the Del Corazon this winter. The decks are protected with two coats of Epoxy barrier paint and the next free day or two I will start on the Anti skid treatment.
It is always great to just spent time on the boat relaxing. The alcohol burning stove that was recently installed adds a lot of creature comfort. Now I can cook and make tea.
The surfaces of the deck posed some consideration. Originally the decks were covered in thin teak strips to draw the appeal of the traditional yachts person, after all, in 1967 fiberglass was a relatively new technology. The classic styled teak decks give this boat a romantic look. Unfortunately the application of the miserly thin strips of teak screwed into the deck core just about scuttled the del Corazon.
Although every time I see one of these boats with teak decks my heart swoons, I decided not to finish the decks in teak. Almost every practical reason pointed to leaving them painted.
I thought I might try to evoke the legacy of an old wooden boat threw thoughtful design of the non-skid pattern and deck coloring. I learned that you could use thickened epoxy to build up a texture on the faired surface. I started experimenting and I found it was relatively easy to make a variety of textures. I could even make wood grain, and considered it at one point for the del Corazon.
I took advantage of some of the last sunny days in 2005 to apply the non skid surface to the decks. I went for a simple texture with classic lines. Before I could get a finish coat of paint on the decks the record rains of 05/06 drove me below.
The electrical system was a big messy rat’s nest that was too scary to power up. All the switches were green. Fuse panels were inaccessible and gilded with tinfoil. All the shit was cut out. What wasn’t cut out got sorted out and is now attached to a new distribution/fuse panel. The del Corazon now comes alight with flip of a switch. In the cabin all lights in three compartments are working. On deck the side marker and stern lights are revived and custom LED array back up the incandescent. Also instruments and compass have a healthy glow.
Back in the hut I spent evenings making full-scale mechanical drawings of the parts I would need to sail, the most pressing being the chain plates. After making careful measurements of the old ones and making any modification to beef things up I had some drawings I was happy with. I made the drawings in a pro application called Vector Works on my mac. Vector Works produces a file that automated metal cutting machines can read. The drawing one makes guides the cutter with incredible accuracy. After a short search on the www I found some folks in Minnesota that gave me a reasonable quote including the 316 stainless stock, to hydro cut my parts. In two weeks I received my chain plates as per drawings. The custom cut parts cost less than generic chain plates from the marine store.
I have also been using the time provided by the rain to do some of the carpentry needed to get the del Corazon Bristol. Not only have I made teak pads for the deck hardware but I also made a new engine cover.
With my chain plates all polished and in hand and still not a long enough of a stint of sunshine to paint the decks I decided to install them.
There are a lot of great people on my dock. My neighbor Aaron is always willing to give me a hand. He helped me apply the very tricky AwlGrip paint that now protects my decks. Flora has been with me through every step of the project. She unlike Aaron is not good with wet paint.
So finally the rains stopped and the decks are painted. It feels like I’ve made it over the hump and that it is down hill from here. The deck hardware is going back on. It is a little hard to drill so many holes through my nice watertight decks but it has to happen. I’ve been taking great care to make sure that every thing that goes on is well bedded in polysulfide, a rubberized caulk. All holes that are drilled are coated with epoxy so if the hardware does leak the water won’t find its way into the core of the decks again.
June and July of 2006 was the time to finally get to those masts and booms taking up valuable workspace in the shop. It was a hard to decide whether to paint or varnish the masts. Painting would be a lot less time and money. Relatively easy to apply and maintain. Stripping and varnishing would be very beautiful and allow you a “better look” at what was going on with the wood. If you develop cracks or get water intrusion you can see the problems through the clear finish thus providing early warning for potential safety issues. It also reveals all the true nature of the material and workmanship. Romance is heart felt.
It took almost a week of stripping to get all the paint off. Once the paint was off it became clear what and where the structural issues were. The masts are a hollow box with blocks in side to make it solid at key structural places like the step, spreaders and head. Two opposing boards of the thirty foot long masts have a rabbit that the other two boards of the box are glued into. Some of these joints overtime due to stress or neglect have failed and need to be re-glued. Carefully these rabbit joints need to be opened cleaned and re-glued, for scores of feet.
As well as joint failure I discovered some rot at the bottom of the mizzen. After poking and scratching for bit the bottom of the mast was hollow up to a good four inches. I was sure the rot went higher. After extensive research including talking to one of the bay areas premier boat builders, I decided to replace the bottom two feet of the mast. First all the rot was removed. This is what determined how much of the mast needed to be replaced. Luckily the mast was still solid here. From there I made a fourteen to one scarf joint to maximize the gluing surface. Sitka Spruce was then scarfed into place and faired to the taper of the mast.
Once all the repairs were made all the spars including two masts, two booms, four spreaders and a spinnaker pole got over fourteen coats of varnish. This was quite a time consuming task. Once the varnish was cured all the hardware went back on and the rig was prepared for transport.
The good folks at Berkeley Marine Center helped me step the masts using a crane on their comporter. We floated the Del Corazon in and lowered the masts into place.
The triadic, a cable attaching the top of the main mast to the top of the mizzen required going up in the bosun’s chair to secure the connection.
At last, two years and two months after being purchased at lien sale, the Del Corazon is back in shape to sail.
But not before a few tweeks to the rig. Sid spotted me when I had to go up the mizzen to adjust the triatic.
Finally the day came for the first sail. The boat was turned into the wind so we could hoist the sails in the slip. Everything checked out. Aaron, Sid, Flora and I started the motor and slowly powered out of the slip and turned broad to the wind. Our sail filled and we were off to the cheers of my mates still on the dock.
The Del Corazon is stable and easy to sail. We have had a lot of fun learning to sail her and exploring the bay. Despite the fact that there is still a lot of work to do she is really looking good and often gets compliments from other boaters on the bay.
The boat does great in stiff winds with the main down and just the jib and mizzen as in this video with Aaron at the helm.