Stripping Peeling Paint from the cabin

Construction of Engine Room Roof/Cockpit floor

Rot-Proofing the Cabintop: Fabricating Epoxy Fillets

Sliding Hatch - Cracked flanges


Stripping Peeling Paint from the cabin

October 21:

I spent part of Saturday and Sunday stripping paint from inside the starboard quarter berth of my boat. For some reason, somebody had painted the underside of the deck and cockpit with what appeared to be latex paint, and it was peeling off and constantly making a mess. Whoever did the job neglected to properly prep (dewax, clean and sand) the surface beforehand. Indeed, I found what appeared to be grime and smoke underneath the loose paint (from the A4 before it was rebuilt?) .

I tried one of those stripping wheels that you put in your drill, the non-metalic kind. It hardly touched the paint and was tedious. I gave up on that.

I had a quart of Jabsco Paint Stripper, which cautions you not to use it on Fiberglass or gelcoat... but I must confess I have used it successfully in the past on bottom paint without damaging the boat -- I was just very carefull to remove it fully after 15 minutes or less, and to rinse very thoroughly with a lot of water from the hose.

But I figured it would be harder to rinse thoroughly with a hose and water inside the boat, so Jabsco paint stripper might not be the right thing to use.

So I went into the Chandlery and read the instructions on the $25 quart of Interlux "InterStrip" -- supposedly made for use on fiberglass boats. It said it wouldn't damage the gelcoat, but it cautioned me to do a test area, and to NOT leave it on overnight. Hmmm.. what to do??? -- use the $7 can of Jabsco or the $25 can of InterStrip??

I decided to be a sport and spring for the InterStrip.

To prepare, I covered the bottom and the sides of the quarter berth with 3 mil plastic drop cloths. I carefully covered the opening into the engine room, the linkage to the engine, and the wiring on the back of the engine control gauage panels. It took 10 or 15 mintues to do,but I figured it would save me alot of work cleaning up. I especially didn't want to create any new problems by getting stripper on the linkage or the wiring for the engine panel.

The I got to work on the overhead panel. InterStrip was a good choice... it wasn't half as caustic as Jabsco. I covered myself up with a tyvec suit, elbow high nitrile gloves a full face repirator mask, and worked very carefully. But I still got some of it on my skin, right through the tyvek suit.However, It was far less awful than it would have been with the Jabsco stuff. And it didn't smell half as horrible. It smelled really bad... but not really horrible

InterStrip got the job done. All of the paint came off with a single application, and about 15-20 minutes of waiting.

After I was done, I washed the stripped surface with a REALLY strong (about 4:1) mixture of 3M Boat Soap to cut through the grime that I found underneath the paint. The gelcoat appeared to have been painted on rather than sprayed; it was was in pretty good condition, and most of it had that speckled black pattern to it. The furthest recess of quarter berth had no gelcoat on the underside of the panels. Ugly.

Here's some ttricks and tips I learned... scraping stripped paint off the underside of a quarterberth panel is a good way to get yourself covered wth caustic gook. Bronze "wool" works well, but it's expensive and doesn't last long. Nylon "steel wool" scrub pads worked great, lasted a long time, can be easily rinsed, hold the goopy mess without dripping, and are cheap. A small brass brush is good for getting the paint out of irregular surfaces and corners. A damp rag with some 3M boat soap, pulled over the edge of a flexible taping knife will clean grime out of narrow spaces between panels.


Construction of engine room roof and cockpit floor

Another thing I learned -- there is a 1/2"-1" space between the bottom of the cockpit sole and the top of the engine room on my boat... it is neither solid nor filled with thickened resin nor plywood. If you look at just the right angle, you can look between the two panels. It's really quite amazing that there are no cracks in the gelcoat of the cockpit floor.... the fiberglass must be thick as hell there or else the cockpit floor has it's own coring and does not depend upon the top of the engine room panel for support.


Rot-Proofing the Cabintop: Fabricating Fillets for new hardware installation

I drilled about 60 or 70 3/4" diameter holes in the cabin top recently and made solid fillets of thickened epoxy, then re-drilled them for 1/4" machine screws or #12 wood screws. The new holes are for the the side teak trim for the sliding hatch, teak supports for raised plates which will hold the cabintop winches and triple rope clutches, 6 cam cleats, and deck organizers to turn the lines aft along the outboard edges of the cabintop.. With solid epoxy fillets for each and every fastener going through the deck, rot will never get a chance to start in the deck.

I also cleaned out the existing holes from old hardware, and filled them with thickened epoxy. I found almost no rot... just a little bit, extending about 1/2" to one side of a one hole under the old teak sliders for the hatch. I gouged it out until I got to clean solid wood, then filled it with plain epoxy resin so it would penetrate into the wood well. (It appears that the factory had mis-drilled a hole, drilled another one right beside it, and hadn't sealed the extra hole properly. Amazingly, there was no rot anywhere else under the teak sliders or the PO's old hardware.)

Cabintop Layup

After I drilled the holes I could see the layup of the cabin top pretty clearly. The cabin top is typically about 1-1/4" inch thick in total. It consists of a top layer that's about 3/8" thick, a middle layer of about 3/8"-1/2" thick plywood, and a bottom layer of about 1/4" thick cabin liner. I didn't drill all the 3/4" holes thru the cabin liner, just 1/4" holes, so I couldn't see the bottom half of the hole as well as the top. The top 3/8" layer above the plywood was translucent. looking the edge, and looked like fiberglass, but perhaps ot was 1/8" of fiberglass cloth and (maybe) fiberglass mat or (maybe) just resin with a lot of glassfiber a total of about 3/8" thick, -- but it's not just thickened resin, which wouldn't be translucent like that.

In any case, I was impressed with the obviously thick laminating schedule they followed for laying up the cabin top! It's solid as a brick outhouse!

(However, I am not favorably impressed nor happy with the layup schedule of the cockpit kick panels.... They flex easily and there are many spider cracks in the gelcoat. It's not structurally important or dangerous, but it drives me crazy to see them. The cockpit lockers and kick panels are gonna get some additonal glass cloth to beef them up before I repaint the boat!)

Epoxy fillets for teak shatch rail

Building solid epoxy fillets in the cabin top in preparation for mounting new teak hatch rails.

Epoxy fillets in cabin top

Close up on two epoxy fillet-ed holes. The one on the left has beens drilled for a new screw, the one on the right hasn't yet been drilled through.

Epoxy fillets in cabintp

Preparation for installing the 6-sheeve deck organizer for running lines aft -- three solid epoxy fillets. I haven't drilled the holes for the 1/4" machine screws through them yet

Sliding Hatch - Cracked flanges, New design for teak slider rails

The flanges on the hatch are cracked at the front, on both sides, with a small piece missing on one side. The fiberglass on the bottom side of the outermost horizontal flange was worn too, so much so that the forward edge of the hatch sagged down to the cabintop and scaped against the cabin top, marring the cabintop deck and making it very difficult to slide.

It's not all due to incidental cracks.... The OEM teak slider rails are actually worn thin in someplaces on our boat. The fiberglas istelf is worn paper thin at the outmost edges in some places. It's so worn that there are several small voids exposed, and the rough edges of the voids have worn the teak even further.

We removed the teak rails during some other work I was doing, so removed the hatch for some temporary patching. I temporarily patched the cracks in the flange with epoxy thickened with glass micro-fibres to try to discourage
further cracking, put some epoxy on the bottom of the flange to replace the worn off glass, and filled in the voids that were exposed -- I don't expect it to be really sturdy, but merely hope it buys me some time until I get the boat home and have two days to grind out all the cracked fiberglass and lay in new, strong glass. I just hope we can remember not to jump up and down on it between now and then!!! I don't weigh enough to stress it, but Dave does :^)

The original design of the teak slider rails contributed to the cracking. The OEM teak sliders supported only the outermost 1/2" or so of the flange, and did not extend far enough towards the center to provide support under the vertical side wall of the hatch. This causes all the weight of someone stepping onto the hatch to be carried solely by the flange, with an unsupported 1/4" between the vertical side wall and the bearing surface of the flange.

As part of the overall rehab of the boat, we made new teak sliders that provide support to the flange all the way from the outer edge to underneath the vertical wall. I made the bottom surface 1/16" of an inch higher than the original OEM ones.

After installing the new teak slider rails so the hatch is supported better and doing a quick and dirty patch on the cracks, the hatch sits a full 3/8" above the cabintop. It no longer rubs on the cabintop. It's easy to open and close and moves really smoothly. The new teak rails now extend and support the hatch so any weight is born by the vertical wall and not the flange. I think we've eliminated the main cause of the cracking.

Design for new teak hatch slider rails. Note the new ones provide double the support underneath the flange. The original design contributed to cracking the flange, a ubiquitous problem on C27s.

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