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.




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