Cascading Errors - Steering Cable From Hell

The problem with learning how to do things as you go, is that you will fail...a lot.  The extra problem with doing this on a boat, is that failure can potentially cost a lot of money and jeopardize your safety.  Attempting to simply purchase and install a new steering cable has been a great example of why this whole boat-rebuild thing requires patience unlike I ever thought I had.  

I am currently trying to finish up the engine room and get everything in place so that the engine can be put back on the boat.  It has been awaiting return patiently in my garage for too long now.  This process involves installing everything that would be extra difficult, impractical or impossible to install once the engine is in.   One of the remaining items is to install a new steering cable, which routes above the engine in the engine room.  

One should expect this to be a rather simple task, but expectations about boat projects are more often than not shattered quickly.  My first mistake, as I have encountered many times, was an impatient dismantling of the original cable.  I cut the thing in a couple of spots not thinking of re-measurements in the future.   The second mistake was purchasing the replacement chain & cable far in advance of installation.  I tend to do this when I have some extra money to put towards boat parts, I will look ahead and get things that will need to be eventually installed.  I had not foreseen it taking this long to get to the steering cable installation, so I bought it about two years too soon.  

A couple of months ago I was finally ready to install the cable and went to the boat exited to get it on.  After routing it through the pedestal and sheaves, I soon realized that the cable length on one side was just a few inches too short to make a full connection.  This was a result of a poor measurement on the original cable, and not rounding up to the next biggest size.  

So I try to return it to Edson, but they tell me that since I bought it (1.5+ years ago) they revised the way they make the cables and chains and can no longer accept returns of the old one.  DAMN!  So I figure no problem, I could sell the thing on Ebay and get some of my money back.  So far that hasn't worked out, it has been listed for a few months well below what I paid for it and still hasn't gone.  Shameless plug, if you need one here it is:

Edson Marine - Steering Chain & Wire Kit 2S2B7

So I purchase a new, longer cable/chain kit.  I got a size thicker too, something I got wrong on the first buy.  This time, for whatever reason I gave myself on that day, I ordered one WAY over-sized in length.  I got a longer chain (why? I don't know....the old, shorter one worked fine), and the cable length many feet longer (even though I only needed a few inches).  I may have had a few extra beers telling me to go over-cautious because I still don't know what I was thinking.  

I go back to the boat once I receive the new kit and proceed to install it.  Everything is going fine, and I have finished the installation attempting to get the tension on the cable right.  I realize that I needed to undo the clamps on one side to get more tension before tightening the bolt.  I remove the clamps and to my surprise the cable beneath one of them was split!  How this happened was simple over-torquing the bolts on the clamp.   The clamp bit into the cable and did damage as I kept torquing it.  These are the type of clamps I am talking about:


Here is the damage:


Of course a split like that is unacceptable on a steering cable, so it had to be replaced.  Luckily I was able to find an adequate length and size of new cable at our local second hand marine store Sailors Exchange, they even had two lengths so I bought the other as a spare.  I learned a little bit about hand crimp terminals and made a replacement for the split cable.  

This past weekend I go to the boat ready to finish this job once and for all.  As I am routing the cable through the pedestal, through the sheaves and back to the steering column, I started to notice a smell of burning plastic while feeding more cable through.  I look down and notice smoke coming up through the pedestal, and a small flame on the cable just below it!  I yank up the cable and proceed to burn the heck out of my hand in the process.  It quickly dawned on me that the house battery bank is directly below the pedestal, and the cable must have laid across the posts of a battery and started pumping current through, heating it up.  I had just oiled the cable so it lit on fire easy.  

I quickly grabbed a glove and pulled the whole cable/chain out of the pedestal and off the battery.  Panicking as I still see flame down below, I opened up the engine room and blew out the small candle burning off the battery.  I got out of there immediately because of the fumes, and stood by with the fire extinguisher in case anything more happened to the battery (as in blow up).  After a few moments of calming down and having the fumes fanned out, I inspected the battery and realized the cable must have been laying on the case.  The battery shell itself was melting away and I could see inside the thing.  


To top off the horrible mistake, the brand new cable I just made was also damaged to the point of needing replacement.  Enough heat to melt and damage some cable threads.

So here I am, with another cable to replace and one of my four house batteries ruined.  Luckily I got the extra cable at Sailors Exchange and know how to do the fittings, so that shouldn't be a problem.  But batteries are not cheap, and the potential safety disaster I encountered shook me up a bit.  I have somehow done this entire project with minimal injury and only a few close calls.  But this was definitely one of the worst and dangerous moments.  

A few days of cooling off and reflection have done me well.  Mistakes like these take a lot of time and is a set back financially, but there are so many lessons learned I can look beyond the inconvenience.   Maintaining that attitude has been crucial for this entire project.  

EDIT:  I started inspecting the two cables fully to see if parts of them could be salvaged.  Somehow about 6 other spots on the cables were burnt/melted as well!  Luckily, the prior mistake of getting way too long cables has paid off, and I was able to find two 8' sections that should be long enough for the full cable length.  More confused than ever on how the cables could get so ruined!

Video Update! Final Bottom Job Work

Today I have a special post with a new video of the final bottom job work!  It is a bit of a long video where I go into a lot of technical stuff about fiberglass, epoxy and how to fill small holes in the hull bottom.  I finish up the fairing of the bottom job/blisters, and finally put on some epoxy barrier coat. As you will notice in the video, I mention a new website: One More Wave.  If you go to the site, you will see that it goes straight to The Quest for Wind and Waves site.  I will be slowly migrating everything over to the new website over time, and will be doing a bit of re-working how I approach this thing.  More details to come, but if you start seeing the name of this site changing don't be surprised.

For now, enjoy the video!

Catching Up – Interior - Part 1

Much of the forward progress this past year has taken place inside the boat.  Since the last update videos I have cleaned out the interior, and painted the entire cabin and locker spaces.  I have done work on countertops, and have even installed some wood trim just to give myself some inspiration to see how it will be.  Some of the woodwork installation was also functional and necessary before splash, such as the companionway stairs and compression posts.  I have also nearly completed the primary electrical systems both DC/battery power and AC/shore power.  That has been a fun project and will probably involve a few blog posts. One of the biggest milestones for the interior was getting the companionway stairs rebuilt and back in place.  For a few years I have been climbing into the boat without any stairs, a risky thing and a long drop.  The companionway stairs are a great example of how one simple project turns into many, mostly due to the order of operations things must get done.

In order to have the stairs in place, I needed to remake and install the stairwell walls, of which the originals had rotten badly.  Before I did that, I needed to install the floor base in the galley/companionway area (old one also rotted).  Before that, I needed to finish all the work on the fuel tank I intended to do.  The fuel tank itself was a major ordeal, taking a few months to get it right.  So just to get the stairs back in, I had many semi-big projects to deal with before I even could get to the final result.

The fuel tank was an interesting and prolonged project in itself.  I knew I needed to clean the interior of the tank because even after getting the fuel polished during the sail around the state, I continued to clog fuel filters each time the boat went offshore and shook up whatever was on the bottom of the tank.   My goal was to open it up by creating access holes, and clean the thing as best as I could.  In order to do that I needed to cut a big hole in the fiberglass floor to access the top of the tank

Fiberglass & wood floor cut away to reveal the top of the tank.  Access holes ready to be cut.


The tank was also quite full of old diesel, of which I had a friend with a fuel tank in his trunk pump all of the fuel out.  I got rid of a problem, he got many gallons of free diesel.  After that I researched the design of this fuel tank and understood that a large baffle went down the middle of the tank, meaning I needed two access holes to be able to clean the whole thing.  I cut two big square holes, and found an absolute mess within the tank.  A good 1/4 inch of black gunk on nearly every surface.  I spent a lot of time cleaning it out with a pressure washer and by hand, and with many baffles all around the tank this was more complicated than it sounds.  Pumping out the water and gunk that settled on the bottom with each cleaning was not easy, but I eventually got it mostly spotless and dry.

Once the tank was clean, I made clear  lids for the access holes with Buna-N (fuel safe) rubber gaskets.  The lids are secured by many #10 machine screws that I drilled/tapped holes for.  This was not an easy task as I had never drilled/tapped before, but it all worked out with a lot of learning and effort.




IMG_2343Once the fuel tank was finished, I was able to make and install the floorboard that would cover it.  The old floors were 3/4" plywood with teak & holly veneer.  Those are expensive, and obviously prone to rot if not taken care of.  I have been doing a lot of research for other options for floors, and have narrowed it down to using a fake wood vinyl (expensive) or cheap interlocking rubber floor tiles.  Regardless, the galley floor area needed a hard cover for the fuel tank, and for the companionway stairwell walls to be mounted on.  So I used the old floor as a template and cut out some new plywood (always sealed with epoxy, primed and painted for rot protection) and installed it with a board that can be removed to reveal the tank access.


With the floor board installed, I then proceeded to make and install the companionway stairwell walls:



With those finally in, I could then have my stairs back in place.  However, much like everything else the stairs needed a lot of work themselves.  I stripped them down from their old stain, repaired many broken spots with epoxy, varnished, etc.   I did a poor job documenting the full rebuild of the stairs, but I do have a few pics after they got sanded down and repaired:






After the stairs were fully rebuilt, they were finally back on the boat and I could get into/out of it without serious risk of injury!  I also wanted to make some modifications to how the stairs are used to access the engine room.  The old way was a piano hinge at the top of the stairs that would raise and expose the engine room.  However, this didn't make much sense to me as it completely blocked all access to the hatch without removing the stairs all-together.  After seeing a few other Downeasters that made this modification, I went with heavy-duty side hinges to allow quick engine room access, and retain hatch access.  Recently I have been doing a lot of work in the engine room (some pictured) and this easier access has been fantastic.

You will see in the pictures that I have also installed some sound-proofing in the engine room.  I went with the soundproofing materials from, which had very good reviews and the product was less expensive than the typical stuff from most other vendors.

In these pictures you will also see that I have given the cheap, dense foam floor tiles a try here in the galley.  I found a wood-pattern version that I really like, however it is not as cheap as the solid colors.  It was easy to cut and install, though I did a poor job of matching the floor shape, and I intend to make it correct whenever I finalize the floor decision.  This was more of an experiment, and so far I am in favor of it.  However, the floor seems to be developing some sort of bubbles at the top as it has been exposed to the brutal Florida summer heat.  I'll have to see what I can do about that.

Stairs as they were when I first got Windsong

The hinge at the top of the stairs did not sit right with me









IMG_3595 IMG_3596


Catching Up - Part 4 - The Deck (continued)

3 years ago I completed the full deck restoration and paint job, and it was one of the most laborious and intense projects I've done on the boat.  I spent a lot of time making sure my prep-work was adequate and that the paint job would rival a professional's work.  I succeeded at that, and had a beautiful boat deck ready to get filled up with all of the things that needed to be installed such as windows, cleats, padeyes, hatches, etc.    You can read all about the paint process in the posts here: Problems began to show up with the paint job not too long after I had finished.  I first noticed I had an issue when I was applying the Kiwi Grip non-skid paint to the foredeck.  To apply the non-skid, I taped off the freshly painted white areas with my trusty 3M blue tape.  As I finished a certain section of non-skid on the foredeck, I peeled off the blue tape and to my horror all 4 coats of white Interlux Perfection peeled off with it!  The first coat paint obviously did not grip to the primer too well in that spot, as the primer did not peel at all, only the paint.  I painted over the area again, but the knowledge that the first coat did not grip the primer in that area lurked in my mind.  I knew that there would probably be other areas with the same issue.  These other areas slowly started to make themselves known over the years as the paint would bubble up with air and/or moisture trapped under the paint.  This only occurred in the foredeck area, the rest of the boat seemed to have a good grip with the paint on the primer.

My theory is that this area did not completely dry from the morning dew when I applied the first paint coat.  I know the primer was sanded adequately, but trying to get the paint on in the morning comes with the trouble of dealing with the humid Florida air, and the dew that comes with it.  You can't paint over a wet surface and expect things to go well, even if it is just trace moisture.  I know I toweled off the entire deck before painting, but that might not have fully gotten all of the leftover moisture.

That was just the first stroke of issues with the paint.  I mentioned in previous posts and videos that the paint, while supposedly good to last 10 years on a boat, is really only good for about 3 years in a dirty, dusty boat yard.  I didn't help things though, immediately after painting the deck I had a while before the windows and hatches were ready to be installed.  I kept the rain water out of the boat by strapping tarps across the deck.  The tarps would trap dirt and rub on the fresh paint, creating black stains that were very tough to clean off.  The only trick I found was to use an abrasive pad, and it worked great!  Stupid idea though, the abrasive pad just scuffed up the paint job and created tiny little scratches that trapped dirt and ruined the paint's shine and protection.

3 years of installing things on deck with various goops, glues and epoxies spilling all over caused some permanent mess to the paint.  The constant rain of dust from the gravel yard would grind into the paint.  Plus about once every few weeks a new boat is parked next to mine and gets a full sanding of bottom paint.  The paint dust settles on my boat deck, then it will rain...and the paint will stain my (scratched) paint job.

Lastly, hairline cracks have developed in areas that never had issues even when I first got the boat.  Some old timers in the boat yard theorize that since the boat has been on land for so long, when you walk along the deck the boat has no way of absorbing the weight on deck like it would if it were floating.  The deck flexes without any water to be a shock absorber, and this causes small cracks to develop along the edges of the deck curves.

So after all of this, and as I near the hopeful moment that I can put the boat back in the water, I find myself with a less than stellar deck paint job.  Not only were the white areas needing a refresher (and some repairs), but the non-skid became stained and discolored from various spills and installations.  It weighed on my mind enough to where I couldn't proceed by saying it was "good enough".  I wanted to get the deck looking as good as the rest of the boat before splashing.  I committed to giving the deck a repaint.

Repainting the deck is no small task.  I first had to repair all of the cracks and various dings that have occurred over the past few years.  Lots of grinding with the dremel tool, filling holes with epoxy and sanding/fairing down.  After all of that the deck was so discolored that one refresher coat wouldn't work, at least 2 would be needed.

I also decided at this point that I would abandon using the 2-part poly paint.  While it is a beautiful paint and tough as nails, I now understand that even the best paint will get scratched and dinged.  The 2-part paint is a major pain in the ass to repair or touch up, and with the amount of touching up and repairs I found myself needing...this paint was less than ideal.  You have to mix the stuff and it is nearly impossible to blend into existing paint because it dries so hard.  After much research I decided to repaint with a 1-part paint that I could then use to touch-up and repair areas as they happened.  I ended up going with Epifanes Monourethane as some tests have shown it to be the most scratch resistant of the one part marine paints.  I like Interlux Brightside, but doing my own experiments comparing it to Epifanes proved the latter to be a stronger paint.

The only two issues I found with the Epifanes is that it takes a much longer time to fully dry than other one parts, and that the Epifanes version of "Matterhorn White" (what I used with the Perfection), is much more of a blueish white than the original paint.  No big deal, but it didn't blend in as well as I had hoped.

The other big problem with painting now was that the deck was nearly complete with hardware installation.  This meant that paint prep included a full day of taping things off, a pain of a job that thankfully Jenny helped a lot with.

Lastly, any good marine paint requires a certain type of weather to perform correctly.  The 2-part paints are particularly fussy as I experienced having to do an extra coat of the initial paint job after realizing the stuff does not cure to a shine if there is much moisture in the air.  Living in Florida, that is something very difficult to avoid.  If the boat were in a tent or enclosed somehow, this wouldn't be an issue.  But the boat is outside and exposed, so I have to deal with what is given to me.

The right weather for good marine paint job is not too cold (above 60 degrees) and not too hot (below 80), low humidity (below 80%), light to no wind, and no direct sunlight.  So I had to wait for the right weather window, during a time (weekends) that I was around and able to paint.  Unfortunately that perfect combo pretty much never happens in my area.  It could be the right temperature and humidity, but with low humidity here comes higher winds and sunlight.  The humidity is the real issue to get the paint shiny so that was my main concern, even if it meant directly sunlight and some wind.  After waiting from February through May, I eventually found two weekends to do two coats, the only issue being wind which blew bugs into my fresh paint.  At that point I didn't care though, it still looked better than the old paint job.

After the long wait the deck looks like new once again, and am nearly complete with redoing the non-skid as well.  I have even done some touch-up painting and am pleased with having the one part paint to make that easier.  Here are some pictures of the prep work and post-paint job.

You can see here the repaired cracks in the edge.

tape tape tape tape

Prep work, tape all of the things!

You can see here some of the non-skid areas still needing new paint, other areas already done

All freshly painted.  Most of the non skid also painted

Elsewhere on the deck, I have installed nearly all hardware.  Another set back for me was the bowsprit.  I had installed this sometime last year (or maybe the year before that).  Since then I had noticed the bowsprit was developing a surface crack on the surface that was never there before.  This game me some concern, not wanting to have to replace the thing in the future.  I know the wood was solid all the way though, thankfully as many other boat owners have to replace their rotten bowsprit.  In effort to avoid further worry, I decided to coat the bowsprit with some protective sealant, primer and paint.  Here is is after it got painted with the rest of the boat.  You can really see in this picture how the new paint has a bit of a blue tint.




Lastly, while I have been very satisfied with the Cetol products I've used on the deck teak, the Cetol clearly does NOT work on non-teak wood.  It has lasted brilliantly where applied to teak, but has begun to deteriorate on non-teak wood.  You can see below the tiller cover and the lids to the butterfly hatch are some other wood and the Cetol is peeling off already.  The body of the butterfly hatch is teak, so it still looks good.  I need to figure out what to do with these pieces, and I most likely will just paint them.

IMG_3541 IMG_3551


I have also nearly completed all hardware installation on deck.  One of the outstanding issues that I have mentioned before was losing one of my bronze hawse pipes.  There are four alltogether, each with a faceplate.  One of them was lost a long time ago when taking things apart.  Unfortunately this is a custom piece for these boats, so finding a replacement was a treasure hunt I did not succeed in.

However, I was able to find a shop in Jacksonville that did custom bronze casting.  I had them recreate the matching piece (I had the port side piece, lost the stbd) as best as they could.  It didn't come out perfect, but it was definitely good enough.

This is the port side, aft hawse that I used as the copy for casting.

Here is the piece that I had casted.  You can see some repairs were needed in the tube since it was such a thin mold.  It didn't match the hole perfectly, but I filled the gaps with 4200.

Those are some of the highlights and current issues with the deck.  There is plenty more to talk about, but I will spare the details further than I have already divulged.  The next posts I will move inside and get everyone caught up with some of the more exciting work going on in there.

Catching Up – Part 3 – The Deck

Ahh the deck.  Source of much agony.  I opened up this series of posts explaining that this past year has been a whole lot of 1 step forward, 2 step back kinda work. The deck is where all of this really happened. When I last updated this blog a little over a year ago, the deck was considered to be pretty much "done" with the exception of a few minor things here and there.  Those were the good old days, before the rains happened... The first thing that happened sometime around last summer was the revelation of a few pesky leaks into the cabin.  Just as I thought the entire deck was water-tight, and I had a completely dry boat...a summer of consistent rain revealed that the deck was anything but.  Imagine my heartbreak when after spending 4 years trying to get job #1 done: "Seal all deck leaks", only to realize that new leaks have appeared and were very difficult to track down.

The first leak showed up came from somewhere under the deck caprail in the galley.  Water would pool up in the stove/oven area, and it just seemed to get worse and worse as the summer went on.  This is after I had completely refinished, installed and coated the teak caprails, they should be water-tight in theory.  I couldn't understand at all why it would leak.  What did weigh on my mind was that when I installed the caprails, I had some help from friends and family.  Neither they nor I had experience doing this job, but I at least had agonized over the procedure during the weeks leading up to it.  I blame myself for not instructing them properly, but the issue came to be that where about 3 bottles of sealant should have been used in the areas they worked on, only one was.  Meaning that not enough goo was under those rails, and that was on my mind the entire time of searching for leaks.

I could identify where the water was coming in under the caprail in the galley, but it did not correspond to a direct hole above it from the deck.  The water was coming in the boat at one point and showing up at another.  I can't imagine how awful tracing a leak would be with a complete boat, I had the luck of having a fully stripped out interior with no cabinets or other things to get in the way.

After many attempts of finding the leak, I gave up and decided to pull off the section of caprail on that area and re-bed it.  I did just that, but lo-and-behold the leak remained!  Furious and very down emotionally due to this set-back, I reassessed what was going on and researched different techniques to find leaks.  The technique that eventually worked was to connect my shop-vac hose to the "out" hole in the vac, blowing air instead of sucking.  I then duck-taped the hose up under the caprail area where I could see the water coming out of.  With the air blowing, I then went on deck and began to spray the caprail with soapy water, the theory being that if the air makes its way though the leak, bubbles will show up on deck.

After much spraying I eventually  found the leak source, about 2-feet aft of where the water was actually entering the boat.  The culprit was a small crack in the fiberglass on the side of the boat, not even under the caprail!  This explained how no matter how much water I hosed over the area, I couldn't get the leak to leak.  I wasn't even close!

I was somewhat relieved to find that it was not under the caprail despite it being rebedded.  But then I realized that this crack was one of many I found while inspecting the rest of the boat just under the caprail!  They were hairline cracks that were nearly impossible to see without focusing on them.


Unfortuantely for me, this revelation of cracks led me to have to completely remove the caprail that I had recently finished.  I was able to leave on the caprail around the back of the boat, but the two lines going along the sides had to come off.  Furthermore, the fresh polysulfide sealant under the rails gripped tenaciously, and I had a few pieces of rail get damaged during the removal.  The upside of this task would be that I could properly bed the rails with as much sealant as I could put under them, eliminating the worry of them not having enough.

Once removed, I stripped them all back down to bare wood and made a few modifications to better seal-up when I put in the chainplates.

Rails all fixed, ready to be installed....again


With the caprails off of the boat, I then repaired the hull-deck joint where these cracks were forming.  I did this by applying a layer of fiberglass along the entire edge, sealing up any spot where the crack may develop.  After the glass was on and cured, I sanded it down and prepped the areas to reinstall the teak caprails.

Caprial off, hull-deck joint glassed in.

You can sorta see in that picture that the sanding of the glass required eating up a bit of the green stripe, hence why I had to repaint it as described in the last post.

Once the glass was finished, I reinstalled the caprail along with my brand-new chainplates.  The chainplates were custom made from 316 stainless, and polished to a mirror finish.  After installation, the caprails received a few coats of Cetol to get back into the shape they were before all of this leak mess.


Of course after all of that work, and meticulously preparing the rail and chainplate installation, one of the chainplates has developed a leak recently.  My shop-vac trick worked once again and I have traced the leak source, so a repair will happen soon.

More deck projects, and more setbacks in the next post...