The Best Laid Plans…

I’ve been sidelined with a cold for the last few days so it seems like a good time for a progress update here. As always, I’m posting more regular updates to the WoodenBoat Forum thread but keeping track here at less frequent intervals as well. Since my last post on the plan for the Spring haulout the work has progressed, but not in the direction I had intended.

My immediate goal had been to build out the forecabin (cabin sole, ceiling, bulkheads) prior to hauling out. To that end I have been cleaning up the inside of the frames, filling some areas damaged by galvanic interaction with the old iron fastenings and similar issues. But after removing one of the old cabin sole beams that I had planned to replace I found significant rot in one of the engine support crossmembers (they aren’t really true floors as it turns out).


After this discovery I removed the rotten wood, which led to the further revelation that the crossmembers are not fastened to anything, or at least not to very much. When I started to cut away the rotten area the entire end of the beam came away cleanly…


…indicating that these beams are not fastened to the planking at all. And I can see that it’s not fastened to the keel either. Petrel has no true floors forward of the engine so the frames-and-garboard-to-keel joint is weaker than I’d like. Given the need to repair this beam anyway, I’ve decided to go ahead and add floors as well. I don’t think I will be able to do all that and also tackle the planks and frames that I was planning on doing this time. So instead my plan is now:

  1. Wood bottom (strip the paint)
  2. Plug through hulls
  3. Install backing blocks for two old plugs in the garboard
  4. Recaulk garboards and a couple of leaky seams
  5. Replace the forward engine support beam
  6. Install floors on every other frame forward of the engine
  7. Fasten all engine support beams to planks and keel
  8. Paint bottom, top sides and rails
  9. Replace zincs as needed
  10. Pull/inspect hull fasteners
  11. Out of water survey

I have some work to do in advance of the haulout as well, starting with removal of all the concrete ballast in the way of the new floors – an arduous process to say the least!


All this structural work in the forecabin has pushed the cabin buildout project out until later this year at the earliest. So while I’m waiting for the weather to improve for the haulout I”m working on a few other projects, including:

1. Building a new outside steering station. I’m going to install the new helm on the starboard side of the pilothouse to the right of the door. I found a used Wagner helm pump in Victoria B.C. and it should be here in the next few days. And I just bought a new bronze steering wheel from Hamilton Marine:


2. Finishing the railing project:


3. And I need to do something about the leaks in the aft deck, in particular around the scuppers where water running down the inside of the hull is promoting rot:



My plan there is to lay down a sheet of plywood bedded in epoxy and coated with CPES. That’s not a permanent repair but it will keep the water out until I can rebuild the entire aft deck, which is needed in any case.

All that, and the rest of the prep for the work to be done during the haulout as well. I’d better get busy!

Spring Haulout Plans

The forecabin work is progressing. I’m working on filling the iron damage in the frames in preparation for paint now. Details on the WoodenBoat Forum thread. Still plenty to do there but it’s not too soon to start thinking about the next haulout. The next out-of-the-water project is to replace the rotten planks and frames on the port side. So on Friday I met with John Thomas, a local shipwright, to discuss the project. He gave me some good suggestions (may not need to dig out all of the concrete ballast, for example) and told me he thought they would need a week or so to get it done. He also has someone who would wood the bottom, which is also on my list. So once I get to a good stopping point, and finances permitting as always, my plan is to:

  1. Conduct a detailed survey of the hull in the aft cabin/hold area to determine the boundary of the rot and determine what needs to be replaced in this round.
  2. Chip out the ballast far enough to get a good surface for sistering/replacing the bad frames.
  3. Haul out at a location TBD (probably Salmon Bay or Canal). I like South Park but it’s a long way to go and not very convenient.
  4. Remove the covering boards, and bad planks
  5. Have the Thomas Boatworks crew install the new planks and frames, wood the bottom and remove/patch a few unused through-hulls.
  6. Paint the topsides, including the rubrails and caps, and do some detail work on the sheer stripe.
  7. Paint the bottom
  8. Launch

I think I need to allow for at least two weeks of solid work for these projects. I’m hoping I can do it in March but that may be optimistic…

More Interior Planning

Between the inaugural cold of the cold/flu season, the Thanksgiving holiday and an unreasonable number of rainy days even for Seattle in the Fall, I haven’t managed to get much done on Petrel over the last few weeks. But in the meantime I’ve spent some time working on the forecabin layout. After trying a few variations I’ve tentatively settled on this design:


V-berth forward with a table to form a dinette when raised or a filler for the berth when dropped. Storage locker and head to port, galley to starboard. There should be room for a stool at the aft end of the table as well to seat a third person. And a small pipe berth over the locker to port for our son Dash, who won’t need a full-sized bunk for a few more years yet.

The next projects are to finish the cover over the aft deck, install the ceiling and replace the cabin sole in the forecabin. The full story of the tent so far can be found here, but the short version is that the first attempt didn’t really keep the water off. The second was better, but the aft end of it collapsed in the wind. At this point Petrel is half covered.


My plan is to rebuild the rest of the tent tomorrow, assuming that the weather allows…

Planning the Interior Work (continued)

Following up on my last post. After thinking through the project further I realized that I will probably want to install the ceiling planks in shorter lengths rather than running the full length from the stem to the aft end of the cabin. So I won’t need to install the planks and then cut them, I just need to plan for butt joints where appropriate. Ideally I’d like the joints to land behind the interior bulkheads for the v-berth (port and starboard) and the head (to port). That way the bulkheads will capture the ends of the ceiling planks and the ceiling will be removable without removing the bulkheads. So before I install the ceiling I will need to mark out the position of the bulkheads, and perhaps to template them so I can confirm the exact placement.

Planning the Interior Work

The cabin exterior refinish project is on hold, or at least slowed to a crawl due to weather as Seattle has transitioned definitively into Fall with a several days of wind and rain. So far I’ve struck out on finding a covered slip where I can continue that work but I did manage to get a cover built over the cabin last weekend using a combination of wood framing and PVC pipe.



After living with it for a few days I already want to make some changes though. The tarp really needs to extend all the way down past the bulwarks, I want to raise the ridge pole to clear the exhaust stack and I need to run the tent all the way aft.

For the next iteration I think I will dispense with vertical supports around the edge and just run PVC bows from the ridge pole to the deck. That approach will reduce the amount of room around the house but it will be much simpler to build and I think stronger as well.

I’m still planning to make some progress on the cabin refinish project this winter. I’d at least like to get the cabin sides filled and faired and prepped for paint. I want to sort out the portholes, which may entail some work to fill and re-drill the fastener holes, along with new plywood backing pads. And I need to refinish the pilothouse windows. But my main goal is to get the forecabin interior built out.


For the forecabin project some planning is needed so everything will go in the right order. The first step will be to make and install the ceiling. For anyone not familiar with boat terminology, “ceiling” on a boat refers to a layer of planks or panels that cover the frames and hull on the inside. Without getting into the various forms of ceiling (there are many, and as many opinions on what is best), the plan for Petrel is to build the ceiling using thin planks of fir or cedar, edge set and fastened with bronze round-head screws to every other frame. That’s a pretty traditional approach but, as with everything else on an old wood boat, there are some challenges.

First, the frames to which the ceiling will be fastened have deteriorated to some extent and will need to be filled and faired both so that the ceiling planks will sit evenly and the fasteners will hold. Based on suggestions on the WoodenBoat Forum, the solution is to inject thickened epoxy into the damaged areas. So that’s the first project. Actually, the first project is to remove all of the old nails and miscellaneous fasteners from the frames in preparation for the epoxy.

Once the frames are repaired, I’m planning to treat the inside of the hull with a wood preservative made from Ethlyene Glycol, Boric Acid and Borax. Pretty scary-looking stuff but then so is dry rot so with any luck the preservative will keep the fungus at bay.

After the preservative I can start in on actual woodworking to make and install the ceiling planks. Here there are a couple of options. I can spile the planks so that they taper to follow the curve of the hull, with all planks extending the full length, or I can make them all the same width over the full length of the plank, in which case the bottom plank(s) will need to be cut to fit against the bilge stringers or cabin sole and will probably be shorter. At this point I’m inclined toward the latter approach but I’ve never done it before so I’ll have to see how it works when I actually start in on it.

Finally, there is one last problem to solve with the ceiling. I will need to remove it later to access the hull for repairs that I know will be needed at some point. So any cabinetry or bulkheads installed after the ceiling goes in will have to be removable. That won’t be too difficult for most of the interior but the head enclosure really needs to be permanent. It would be difficult to make it easily removable. So the forward head bulkhead would prevent the removal of the ceiling where it meets the hull. My solution here is to install the full ceiling but then remove it and cut it just where it goes under the bulkhead. That way it will be possible to remove each piece by sliding it out from behind the bulkhead.

Once the ceiling is installed I will need to replace the existing cabin sole. My plan there is to take up the existing cedar planks, which are in poor condition, and replace them with varnished fir planks.

Once the cabin sole is done I can build out the rest of the cabin, including the v-berth forward, head enclosure aft to port, alcove for the diesel stove to starboard and the galley sink, aft to starboard. These components will need to be somewhat removable as well so further planning and design work will be needed there when the time comes.



Trunk Cabin Fastening Update

Finally finished the cabin fastening project last week. After some debate on the best way to proceed I ended up wedging the cabin sides back in place where they had started to come loose

and then bolted it down with carriage bolts…

refastened the cabin staves where the original nails were failing…

before caulking the joint with cotton, as per the original construction.

As part of that project I’ve also removed the portholes, both to get access for installation of bolts below them and also so that I can replace the original backing pads, which were delaminating.

That work completes the majority of the structural repairs on the trunk cabin. Now I’m looking for a covered slip to put Petrel in so that I can finish painting.

Here Comes the Rain Again

Lots of work but little obvious progress on Petrel over the last few weeks. What started as an effort to refinish the pilothouse window frames has expanded to include wooding and refinishing the pilothouse and trunk cabin, which in turn has led to a project to refasten the trunk cabin sides. I am not, as it turns out, doing a very good job of limiting the scope of each task! As always each decision to do “just a little bit more” made perfect sense in the moment and it’s only after the dust settles that I can look around and say “what did I do now!?”

To recap: I wanted to strip and refinish the varnished pilothouse window frames. A reasonable enough beginning. And then, once I was engaged in stripping that area, it just made sense to go a bit further and strip the paint around the window frames as well, since it badly needed to be done. But the trunk cabin sides were in even worse shape, and with the end of summer on the horizon I thought that I would just continue and wood the entire structure so I could paint it all at the same time.

That plan went fine for the first few days, and the cabin is now almost completely wooded.



But in stripping the trunk cabin I found several structural problems that immediately became the top priority. The fastenings holding the cabin to the deck are failing, allowing the cabin sides to bulge out in a couple of spots and there were other problems besides. The whole situation is laid out in detail on the WoodenBoat Forum Petrel restoration thread.

All of that repair work really needed to be done before proceeding with refinish work since any new paint would inevitably be damaged by pulling the cabin back into place and refastening. So here we are. Deep in the thick of fasteners and various schemes to force everything back into the right shape. And this morning I awoke to the sound of the first full-on downpour we have had since June at least.



Petrel in the rain

Summer in Seattle is officially over, and with it my window for painting outside. Sure, there will still be nice days and it may be still possible to get the finish work done before winter but that’s a secondary goal at this point. Right now I’m just trying to finish the structural work. And starting to think about tarps and tents.

Paint Stripping Again

I’m now posting semi-regular progress reports to the WoodenBoat Forum but will keep this blog updated periodically as well. The pilothouse window refinish effort has turned into project to strip and paint the entire exterior of the pilothouse and trunk cabin. Despite my goal of breaking it up into smaller jobs, the cabin paint, like the hull, is just too far gone to leave alone. So far I’ve finished stripping the pilothouse sides and am starting on the trunk cabin.



I’ve also removed the anchor winch, both to inspect the deck underneath and for better access to the forward face of the trunk cabin.



More paint stripping coming up next… And for some incentive, here is the paint scheme I’m working towards (the boat it’s on isn’t bad either).


A bit less varnish on Petrel of course, but otherwise similar. Green hull, off white sheer stripe and cabins, tan decks, spar buff mast.

Taking a Break

I’ve been making slow progress on the pilothouse and also on the aft deck railing project (more detail posted on the Woodenboat Forum thread) but I took a break this morning from all the scraping and metalwork to get Petrel out of the slip. Friend Reggie S. came over from Vashon to visit and we took Petrel on a tour of Lake Union and Portage Bay.

In the Fremont CutIMG_3851 Heading into Lake UnionIMG_3854 Reggie at the helmIMG_3857

It was nice to be reminded that the reason for working on boats, as fun as that may be, is to actually get out on the water sometimes. But… on getting back to the marina the sticky shift lever showed up again, making the task of docking something short of effortless. It’s very difficult to maneuver when you are busy yanking on the levers and trying to keep from running into things! Fixing the shift actuation has just made it to the top of the project list.