Companionway Hatch, Original

Oystercatcher, upon my first visit to her, Aug 2009
The original E25 companionway hatches manufactured by Ericson Yachts in Southern California in the 1970s were beautiful, arched structures constructed almost entirely of teak. On account of Ericson's use of this most weather-resistant of woods, these companionway hatches were capable of enduring many years of sunshine, rain, and freezing temperatures. Indeed some E25 owners have boats that still possess their original hatches. This is especially true if these hatches have been well-cared for over the years with regular applications of oil or varnish. It is too often the case, however, that neglect has rendered these works of art little more than rotten and leaky reminders of their former glory. Bare teak, because of its natural oils, can withstand much abuse from the elements, but eventually, like all woods, it will surrender the fight.
Oystercatcher - my first close-up view of her, Aug 2009
I made three separate trips from Charleston, SC to the Pamlico Sound region of North Carolina in the process of purchasing Oystercatcher in 2009. The first visit, in August 2009, was more of a shopping trip. I was looking at several different boats, and the Ericson 25 wasn't even on my list. By the end of the day, though, she'd won my heart. I'll discuss that in another posting. I made the second visit to the Pamlico Sound region in September 2009. This was for the survey of Oystercatcher. The third, and final visit was in October 2009. That was when I laid down the money and sailed her away.
Oystercatcher, Aug 2009
My first impression of Oystercatcher, when viewed from afar, was that she was an attractive sailboat. The owner had been expecting my visit, so he had just washed her down and tidied her up.

Upon closer inspection, however, there were definitely some blemishes on this old gal. The most salient of these blemishes was the companionway hatch. The same could be said for the washboards beneath the hatch. In the picture below, the lower three washboards appear to have some varnish on them. They are, in fact, darker in color simply because they are still wet from their quick rinse down prior to my arrival.
The hatch itself was also still wet in some places. This explains its mottled appearance in the picture below. The area on the port side of the hatch that was the dampest area of them all, for a reason - there was a small hollow or concave spot in this part of the hatch due to a structural failure.

When I looked even closer at the hatch, I could see that the joints were not sealed and that the owner had tried, at some point, to fill the aft joint with yellow, spray-foam - you know, the sort of stuff they sell in an aerosol can at hardware stores for sealing cracks in windows and doors in residential construction projects. I mentioned this to the owner and said that the hatch appeared to be taking on water. He said something to the effect that it needed some varnish. Really? It needed much more than that.
When I returned in September for the survey of the boat, not surprisingly I found her in much better condition. Let me pause, though, to correct myself. She wasn't actually in better condition, she only appeared to be that way. This time, as I approached her down the dock, I saw that she was now rigged with her jib, with its attractive UV cover in blue. Likewise, the mainsail was now neatly stowed in its blue cover.
As I drew closer to Oystercatcher, I immediately noticed that her formerly dingy, gray companionway hatch was now coated in varnish. From a distance the companionway did indeed look snazzy, especially with that blue mainsail cover overhead. I commented on the appearance of the hatch, and the owner said that he had applied two coats of varnish. He said that if I bought the boat, then it was up to me to lay the rest of the coats. He'd gotten the project started for me. That's what he said.
Let's take a closer look at this snazzy companionway hatch, though, shall we? Check out the aluminum angle pieces that have been nailed along the rails and on all four corners. They're not there for decoration. They're there to hold the whole thing together. Beneath this aluminum is a bunch of rotten teak and mush. I'd find this out later.
Despite her make-over gone bad, I decided that Oystercatcher just had to be mine. One month later, in October 2009, a buddy of mine and I returned to the Pamlico Sound area and we sailed her to Oriental, NC for haulout. In the picture below you see us waiting our turn with the travel-lift, which is just out of sight to port. Shortly afterwards, when removing the mainsail and boom, I placed my rubber-booted foot upon the companionway hatch. Shouldn't have presented a problem, right? Wrong. I heard a crack and then a crunch. If there had been any doubts about the condition of this hatch, they were, at this point, put to rest. At least Oystercatcher appeared to be a jaunty little cruiser when we pulled into that haul-out slip. That's about all those two coats of varnish had been good for.

Centerboard, Extraction and Analysis, Part I

Oystercatcher, during her survey, Sept 2009
One task that almost all owners of the Ericson 25 face, at some point in their possession of the boat,  is centerboard repair. The original boards, as constructed by Ericson, had, as their foundation, a length of 1/4 inch carbon steel. This steel (along with lead plates on either side of it) was encased in a dense, pour-foam shell, which itself was wrapped in cloth and mat that had been soaked with polyester resin. This construction technique produced a rigid foil-shaped board which was able to withstand decades of use (and abuse). At some point, however, these sturdy boards do begin to fail (due to water intrusion) and whether or not you can maintain the original board is often a matter of how quickly you can identify and repair the problem area. The trouble, though, with identifying a problem area in the board is that the board is inaccessible for inspection - that is, unless you pay a boatyard to haul the boat out of the water (or off of your trailer). If you plan to keep your boat in the water, as many Ericson 25 owners do, it would be a good idea to make centerboard inspection and repair a part of your regular haul-out and bottom-painting regimen. If you plan to keep your boat on a trailer, and if you have no maintenance record from the previous owner, it wouldn't be a bad idea to pay a boatyard to lift your boat off its trailer, so that you can inspect the board. Some boatyards will perform this service for a lesser fee.
Oystercatcher, during her survey, Sept 2009
When I was in the process of purchasing Oystercatcher in 2009, I knew that she had a centerboard problem. The current owner as well as the original owner had kept the boat in salt water her entire life. The current owner stated that he had had the boat hauled-out on a regular basis for bottom painting. He said, though, that in the two years since the last bottom job, he had not been able to lower his board. This, for him, was not that big of a deal, because he was elderly and seldom sailed the boat like he did when he bought her from the original owner some thirty years earlier. In order to get an independent opinion on the condition of the hull and the existence of the centerboard, I hired a diver to conduct an inspection at the time of the survey in Sept 2009. He confirmed that the hull was well cared for and blister free and that the centerboard was indeed in its trunk, but when he tried to inspect the centerboard itself, he could not free it from the trunk. This problem with the centerboard and various other problems resulted in me obtaining a significantly lower purchase price. Nevertheless, I knew that I was purchasing a project, or I should say a series of projects, and when I sailed away from the former owner's remote dock for a transit to Oriental, NC for haulout, I knew that I would soon come face to face with problem number one - the centerboard.

What I didn't realize when I sailed away from that dock was that I would actually come face to face with the centerboard problem during the transit itself, since the centerboard is an essential component of the boat when sailing into the wind.
Oystercatcher, the day after her purchase, Oct 2009.
The former owner was kind enough to allow my friend and me to spend the night at his dock before we began the transit to Oriental, NC the next day. Note the make-shift awning above that we threw up to keep out the rain.
Oystercatcher, during her transit on the Pamlico Sound, Oct 2009
 After we made it to Oriental, we were fortunate to find dockage for the night. We arrived not long before dark. I took the picture below the following morning. Note the PFDs used as fenders. The former owner had decided to keep his fenders when we left his dock the day before. I decided not to press the issue, since he'd let us spend the night at his dock, and since he'd let use his shore-head facilities the next morning. Some things aren't worth arguing over.
Oystercatcher, the morning after her transit.
Later in the morning we had the boat hauled out in preparation for placing her on her new trailer.
Oystercatcher being hauled out, the day after her transit, Oct 2009

Soon after haulout, I asked the boatyard owner to extract the board. This proved to be a difficult task. The first stage in the extraction process was the removing of the centerboard pin. After removing the two screws (which secure the pin to the hull), the boatyard owner hammered one end of the pin with a screwdriver. You can see it in the picture to the left of the trunk. He then went to the other side and clamped a pair of vice grips to the partially protruding pin. It took a lot of wrestling on his part. You can see it in his face. The sawhorse was there to break the fall in the event that the centerboard fell free.
He finally got the pin out, but this did nothing in terms of freeing the board from the trunk. At this point, he called in an assistant with a big crowbar. The assistant stuck the hooked end of the crowbar up into the trunk and got a good grip on the top side of the board. He worked at it for quite a while before it started to budge. First an inch or two, and then . . .
At last it broke free and dropped to the gravel with a thud. The owner removed the stainless steel pendent, and at that point the board was truly free from the boat.
The owner then had the assistant carry the board to a nearby table, so he could attend to other business with the travel lift. My friend and I inspected the board, and the reason why the board had been stuck in the trunk became immediately obvious to us - it had been painted shut, sort of like window in a house. Recall that the former owner had reported to me that ever since the last time he had gotten the bottom painted he had not been able to deploy the board. If you look at the picture below, you'll see a black streak running the length of the board. That is mud and other debris that was trapped on either side of the board in the centerboard trunk. Beneath the black streak you'll notice a rough streak or patch of red. That is gooped-up bottom paint. Based on this evidence, we concluded that the boatyard (not this one in Oriental), where the former owner had had his boat hauled and painted, had hastily winched up the centerboard into the trunk before the bottom paint within the trunk and on the board itself had fully dried. With the board painted shut within the trunk, it was only a matter of time before mud and other gunk accumulated in the area above this paint-bonded area.
It was also obvious that the boatyard workers where the former owner had gotten the bottom of the boat painted had also, in their haste, not bothered to remove the board from the boat. In the picture below you can see that the topmost part of the board (the part that remains within the trunk when the board is deployed) was not painted.
We also discovered that the board was damaged on its forward bottom edge. Actually, we knew this before the board ever dropped out of the boat. When the boatyard assistant was trying to extract the board with the crowbar, he (and the boatyard owner) thought that the board was stuck on account of this crack in the board. In other words, they thought that the rusty steel within the board had caused it to swell and thus wedge itself into the centerboard trunk. Maybe they'd seen this sort of thing before. One thing is for certain, in the time that has passed from that haulout, I've heard of many an Ericson 25 owner having a centerboard stuck in its trunk for this very reason. The cause for this common point of damage on an E25 centerboard is clear - this is the first point of contact when entering shallow water with the board fully deployed. If you look closely at the edge of the board to the left of the crack, you'll see an exposed section of pour-foam. This section is exposed because it's missing its bottom paint. It's missing its bottom paint for a reason, and that reason seemed to me at the time, and even more so now, that the former owner ran the boat aground (with the centerboard stuck within the trunk) sometime in the two years between the last haul-out and the time I bought the boat. Other evidence I have discovered since that time has reinforced this view. More on this later.
This ends the first part of my two-part article on the extraction of the centerboard from Oystercatcher at the time of my purchase of her in October 2009.

Ericson 25, Trailering Crutches

Mast crutches are useful pieces of equipment for any trailerable sailboat, especially for one the size of the Ericson 25. Placed at the bow and the stern, the mast crutches serve two functions during trailering: they hinder movement of the mast, and, because they support the mast both forward and aft, they hinder the flexing of the mast at its midpoint atop the cabin. With all of this support, an added benefit is that they reduce the likelihood of damage to the cabin top (and the mast itself) while traveling down the road. Without mast crutches, one must use the bow pulpit as a crutch so to speak. This is, of course, good neither for the pulpit nor for the deck through which the pulpit is bolted.

The bow crutch dimensions are as follows:

Note that the two front legs are welded and formed from a single curved pipe (aluminum?). This causes them to display a strong ‘spring’ effect when squeezed towards each other. They fit between the two deck cleats which are only about 19.5″ apart — and as these legs are 20.5″ apart (18.5″ + 1″ + 1″) on the outside, they’re therefore squeezed tightly against the deck cleats when deployed.

These legs originally each had an outward pointing ‘spike’ welded onto them:
This ‘spike’ lodged itself between the two pillars of the deck cleat, thereby preventing lateral movement after the crutch was squeezed between the two cleats. Over time these spikes all broke off (rough roads, jarring). I intend to drill a hole through the leg and to use a stainless steel bolt with a wing nut to achieve the same purpose.
The front leg is attached to the stem head fitting on the deck with a clevis pin (or a Ball-Lok quick-release pin):
The dimensions of the roller assembly are:

The inside of this assembly should probably be lined with some marine grade bunk carpeting.

Nowadays one would probably use a roller assembly purchased from a boat trailer supplier and adjust these dimensions accordingly. For the sake of completeness, here are the dimensions of the original assembly:
The transom crutch attaches to the removed rudder’s gudgeons:
The small slope on the cradle head compensates for the transom’s slope (click to enlarge):

It may be a good idea to lengthen the pintles by an 1″ or so, allowing one to drill a small hole through the diameter near the bottom to accept a hairpin cotter pin — thereby effectively changing the pintle into a clevis pin (or just use a large clevis pin to make the pintle). This will prevent a badly secured cradle from hopping out over a severe road bump.

Ericson 25, Mast, Stepping & Unstepping

These instructions apply to those who have the standard mast-raising equipment:
  • A tabernacle/hinged mast.
  • Crutches (bow, transom)
  • Boom guys (port, starboard)
  • Tangs on aft end of boom (port, starboard)
  • Link plates above turnbuckles on spreader shrouds (port, starboard)
  • Winch on mast (port)
What follows is mostly a transcription of the original booklet issued in 1973. The photographs have to be retaken as they are too grainy and indistinct: unless, of course, one of us still has the original booklet.

1. If you plan to sail after dark, be sure to connect the mast light to the electrical system before raising the mast.

2. Before securing the mast to the crutches, install carpet or other soft pads to protect the mast during trailering.

3. If, instead of removing them entirely, you bind stays and shrouds to the mast for transit, be sure they are tightly secured to prevent their chafing and marring the mast.

4. In making the electrical hook-up from trailer to towing vehicle, check to see that stop lights and turn signals are properly connected and functioning.

5. Do not shorten the boom guys. They may appear slack when installed before lowering the mast, but this slack is intentional. It will prevent their being overstressed when lowering the mast. If they are too tight, they may break and cause the mast to fall.

6. Before backing the boat and trailer down the ramp into the water, loosen and lower the adjustable pads on the rear end of the trailer which support the hull. This will enable the boat to float free in six to eight inches of water less than if the pads are not removed.
    1. Disconnect all lines holding the mast in the crutches:
    2. Grasp the mast firmly, lift it from the stern crutch, and roll the mast forward on the bow crutch roller, lifting the mast light over the roller:
    3. When the base of the mast reaches the mast step, force the mast down into the step, and insert the pin through the mast and step:
    Caution: Do not relax your hold on the mast until the pin is secured through the step – to do so would allow the mast to fall on the vehicle in front of the boat.
    4. Connect all shrouds to the mast and spreaders.

    5. Connect the upper shrouds to their deck chainplates. Do not attach lower shrouds at point.

    6. Tape the toggles of the headstay turnbuckle and the upper shroud turnbuckles in a vertical position. This will prevent the toggles from binding as the mast is raised:
    7. Attach the boom guys, one port and one starboard, to the tangs on the aft end of the boom…
    8. Attach the link plates on the upper shrouds:
    9. Attach the backstay to the aft end of the boom, snapping on the boom topping lift shackle:
    10. Reeve the mainsheet through all the blocks on the boom and the traveler, knotting the sheet to the block on the traveler:
    11. Raise the boom vertically, aft end up, and slide the gooseneck into the cove of the mast.:
    12. Secure the gooseneck to a fixed position by tying the line to a halyard cleat:
    13. You are now ready to begin raising the mast.
      1. Lead the free end of the mainsheet directly from the forward block on the boom to the jib halyard winch on the mast:
      Take three turns around the winch drum with the sheet.

      2. Crank up the mainsheet, turning the winch by handle with one hand, taking up the sheet with the other. This cranking action will raise the mast to an upright position:
      3. When the mast is upright or the headstay is taut, cleat the mainsheet securely. This will keep the mast up while both hands are free.

      4. Attach one side of the split backstay to one of the chainplates on the transom, port or starboard as you choose:
      5. Disconnect the boom from the backstay topping lift temporarily.

      6. Attach the other leg of the split backstay to the other transom chainplate.

      7. Reattach the boom to the topping lift.

      Caution: The weight of the boom attached to the backstay is sufficient to keep the mast in a vertical position. Do not release the boom from the backstay until you have at least one leg of the split backstay attached to a transom chainplate – if you do the mast may fall forward.

      8. Remove the boom guys and stow below.

      9. Attach the lower shrouds to their deck chainplates:
      10. Adjust all turnbuckles to give stays and shrouds the desired tautness:
      11. Remove bow and stern crutches.

      12. Attach rudder:
      13. Wind force and direction permitting, bend on main and lib sails before launching.

      14. You are now ready to launch your Ericson 25.

      1. Attach side rollers to the trailer.

      2. Back the trailer down the ramp into the water.

      3. Float the Ericson 25 over the trailer between the side rollers as far as it will go.

      4. Connect the winch hook to the bow eye.

      5. Crank the winch to move the boat up into the proper position on the trailer.

      Caution: Be sure the centerboard is raised before you float the boat over the trailer. The rudder may remain in position until the trailer and boat are hauled out of the water.

      1. Install the forward and aft crutches.

      2. Disconnect the lower shrouds at the deck chainplates. Loosen the turnbuckles on the upper shrouds, but leave them connected.

      3. Disconnect one leg of the split backstay from one of the two transom chainplates:
      4. Fasten the backstay boom topping lift to the aft end of the boom:
      5. Install the boom guys.

      6. Disconnect the other leg of the split backstay from its chainplate.

      7. Lead the free and of the mainsheet directly from the forward block on the boom to the jib halyard winch, taking two turns around the drum.

      8. Holding the sheet leading from the winch firmly in one hand, step forward of the mast, grasp the headstay with the other hand, and pull the headstay toward the mast. This will cause the mast to move forward to a point where gravity will lower the mast to its crutch, while you control its descent by paying out the mainsheet around the halyard winch:
      9. Guide the mast forward into the forward crutch:
      10. Slide the gooseneck from the mast cove, and lower the boom to a horizontal position in the cockpit.

      11. Remove the mainsheet from the boom blocks and the traveler. Disconnect the backstay and boom guys from the boom.

      12. Disconnect the upper shrouds and headstay from their chainplates. At this point you may gather and secure them to the mast, or remove them from the mast entirely, coiling them and stowing them below.

      13. Applying a downward force on the mast base, remove the pin from the mast step.

      Caution: When the pin is removed, take care to hold the mast firmly to prevent its falling on the vehicle forward of the boat.

      14. Slide the mast aft on the bow crutch roller until it rests securely in the aft crutch. The mast will have to be physically lifted slightly at one point to permit the mast light to clear the bow roller.

      15. Secure the mast by tying it to the deck fittings. Do not tie it to the crutches themselves.

      16. Remove the rudder and stow it. Stow the boom.

      Copyright 1973 Ericson Yachts. Printed in U.S.A.