Galley, Sink Cabinet, Part 2: Construction of Cleats, Panels, and Main Shelf

The aft panel, dry-fitted into place
Having cut the new access hole for the sink cabinet, it was now time for me to construct not only the panels that would enclose the forward and aft ends of the hole, but also the cleats that would support the main shelf. Without these components, this hole would remain simply that - a hole. The panels would protect the space from unwanted and potentially hazardous dust. The large panel would provide an anchor point for one of the cleats, and the large shelf would provide the foundation for the partitions that would later house the plates, bowls, and cups in this space. Constructing and epoxy-coating these panels, these cleats, and this main shelf was time consuming. As with so many other projects on a boat, it was necessary to deal with curves and with angles that were not square. These oddities more than anything else created the delays. How I approached these issues is the subject of this second of twelve postings on the modifications I made to the galley sink cabinet on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.
Let's begin with the aft panel. This panel was necessary for two reasons. First, without it, there would have been no way to anchor the aft cleat for the main shelf. Take a look at the picture below. Do you see that large, golden-brown chunk of material inside of that cabinet space? That's the insulating foam that surrounds the ice box. That foam is partially covered with fiberglass mat. I suppose that the Ericson yard applied some mat in this area to protect the delicate foam. I emphasize here that this foam was only partially covered with mat. The areas not covered had been brushed with resin, apparently in an effort to seal the foam. I could have applied several layers of cloth to this entire space in order to build up enough material into which I could anchor a cleat, but I didn't really want to go this route. This leads to my second point. I thought it was necessary to seal off this entire ice-box area with plywood due to the potentially hazardous nature of the insulating foam itself. Whenever I touched the back side of the icebox or the underside with my hand, fine particles of dust and foam would float free. I did not like the idea of any of this stuff floating around in a cabinet full of plates, bowls, and cups.
Having decided that this aft panel was necessary, I first fashioned a cardboard mock-up, and then I cut the real thing out of B-C exterior grade plywood, 1/2 inch in thickness. I considered using 3/8 inch plywood, but since this piece would serve essentially as an additional bulkhead, I thought it smart to use 1/2 inch. I'll tell you right now that this aft panel was the most difficult of all the components to fashion. It required many trips in and out of the boat, just to create the cardboard mock-up. Each time, I would need to cut a little more here, a little more there. Even after I had created the plywood panel, I still needed to make lots of little cuts to get it just right. Each one of these cuts required another trip up and down the ladder to the cut table outside of the boat.
Another problem associated with this panel concerned the curvature of the hull. This made it difficult to dry-fit the panel. Dry-fitting was necessary not only for cutting the panel itself to just the right size, but also for figuring out the dimensions of the other components, for example, the main shelf. The curvature of the hull made the panel want to slip out of place and slide downward. This made it tough to use both of my hands to measure and dry-fit other components.
Below we see two of those components - the large shelf and a plywood mock-up of the small shelf.
Here we see the large shelf wedged into place. It is putting pressure on the aft panel and is thus holding it secure. Yes, I had made a cardboard mock-up before I made the real shelf. Was the mock-up square? No. Was the plywood? Of course not. Did this require lots of trips up and down that damn ladder on the side of the boat? Sure did. Was it good for me? I suppose. Did I still hate it? Yes.
At this point in the project I was working under the assumption that the small shelf near the hull would be a good place for storing olive oil and other such containers. Later, after I had constructed the large mahogany spice racks (see my article on this subject), I decided that the olive oil should go in one of these racks and that this small shelf should be used for the storage of plastic food containers - you know, the kind used for storing left overs in the refrigerator or cooler. There was no other place to store these types of containers on this boat, so this would have to be their home.
As I said above, this small shelf was, at this stage, simply a mock-up. I could have no firm idea of the best location for the real one until these other components were installed and the partitions that would house the plates, bowls, and cups were installed.
Here's a view of the space as seen through the old door. This gives you a good idea of just how deep and inaccessible this space was without the new door.
In this image you can see, for the first time, the forward panel (pictured here on the left). This panel was necessary for two reasons. First, I needed it as an anchor to support the cleat for the small shelf. Secondly, I needed it to block dust and other foreign matter that might otherwise drift into this space from the area behind the settee.
Here's a shot of the space beneath the main shelf. I also would later modify this area for storage purposes. The cardboard is there as a wedge of sorts to keep the aft panel in place during the dry-fit.
One thing that I had to take into account during the project was the new through-hull and hardware that I would be installing in this space. I could not move forward with this project until I had installed the new backing plate, flange, and through-hull in this area. For more on this see my multi-part article, "Through Hull Replacement."
Now that I had constructed and dry-fitted the major components, it was time to sand and epoxy-coat them. Below is the aft panel. Those straight edges might look square, but they are not. Not a one of those angles is a right angle.
I used wood-filler to patch a few divots in the wood. Ideally, I would have used an epoxy-based fairing compound, but I didn't have the extra time that this would have required. This water-based wood-filler dries quickly. I've laid epoxy over it many times in the past and I've never had any problems with it.
Below we see the forward cleat for the main shelf.
Earlier, I had used the table saw to cut a large rabbet along its length. This rabbet was necessary on account of a small ridge or lip inside of the cabinet.
One other thing that I needed to do before moving on to the epoxy-coating process was to put the router on the exterior panel.
The round-over bit gave the edges of the panel the same finishing touches that the edges of the original mahogany panels possessed.
For the epoxy-coating, I pulled out my bottles of RAKA. I have long used the 127 Low Viscosity Resin and the 350 Non-Blush Hardener with good results. I prefer spending the extra twelve dollars for the non-blush version of the hardener. To me it's worth it not having to wash off the amine blush from the surface of the work piece every time I return to it.
First coat. That plywood soaked it up like a sponge.
Several hours later . . . second coat. Much better.
Next day, flip side, first coat.
Several hours later . . . second coat.
Two days later . . . I sanded the piece to achieve a smooth, consistent, and gloss-free surface.
I followed the same steps on the same days with the other pieces. It would be easy for me simply to show the end product. I'm including all the pictures here, because I want to remind myself (and anyone else who might read this), just how much labor was involved. During the lengthy refitting of this boat, I would often feel as if I had done little toward achieving my goal of getting the boat back into the water. Whenever I felt this way, I would use these pictures (and the many others that I took) as a way of convincing myself that I had indeed come a long way from where I started.

First coat, back side of the exterior panel.
Second coat, back side, exterior panel.
Sanding the front side of the exterior panel, two days after I had applied two coats of epoxy. I've said it before, but I'm going to say it again . . . sanding cured epoxy is like sanding concrete. Even though I was using 50 grit paper on this random orbital sander, I made little headway.
It took a lot of time to get the surface of the panel to look like this.
Wood filler on the main shelf.
Two coats of epoxy on the top side.
Next day . . . flipped it over.
Two coats of epoxy on the bottom side.
The well sanded surface. Note that by this point I had pulled out the quarter-sheet sander. This was more effective than the random orbital sander.
The cleats with two coats of epoxy on one side. I should mention the two different types of wood that I used. The cleat on the right is clear-and-better southern yellow pine. I purchased this at Southern Lumber, the same yard here in Charleston, South Carolina where I often purchased mahogany for the refitting of this boat. This grade of southern yellow pine is dense and resin-filled. It is often used for trim on the interior of houses in this part of the country. This, in fact, was why I had purchased this material in the first place. In other words, this was a left-over piece of material from a home-improvement project. The cleat on the left is obviously much different. This is more than likely loblolly pine - the type of pine that is often sold as "southern yellow pine" at big box stores like Lowes and Home Depot. Typically, it is white in color because it's mostly pulpwood from young, fast-growing trees. This is fine for many purposes, but obviously not for finish work. Ideally, I would have used southern yellow pine for this piece too, because it is more sturdy and rot-resistant, but I did not have a piece of this thickness. I could have used Douglas fir, but it is not readily available in this part of the United States. My thinking was that this piece would be well above the bilge and that with a full coating of epoxy and a full coating of the two-part paint that I would later apply, this type of pine would work just fine here.
Next day . . . two coats of epoxy on the flip side.
The forward panel with two coats of epoxy.
The forward panel, fully sanded.
This ends this posting on how I constructed and epoxy-coated the cleats, panels, and the main shelf for the modified sink cabinet in Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25. In the next part of this twelve-part article I will go on a digression of sorts to describe how I constructed a new mahogany door in a style similar to that of the original mahogany doors on this boat.

Galley, Sink Cabinet, Part 1: Analysis, and Cutting of New Hole

The new hole for the cabinet beneath the sink
The galley on the Ericson 25, like the galleys on many pocket cruisers, is a split-style, with one side devoted to a stove and the other to a sink. The split-style galley has its advantages on boats in the 25 foot range. For one thing, it allows for more space in the main salon. On the Ericson 25, for example, it allows for two, full-length settees/berths. The split style galley also has its disadvantages. One of the most obvious is the lack of counter space. This lack of counter space translates into a lack of cabinet space, or at least very little of it. As is often the case, however, with many production sailboats, regardless of their size, there is additional storage space to be found, if you go looking for it, and if you make some modifications to open up this previously inaccessible space. On my boat, there was quite a bit of space underneath the galley sink. The only problem was that the small cabinet door, which came with the boat, provided limited access to the space, at best. In this multi-part article, I describe how I opened-up and modified this space on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25, to provide storage for plates, bowls, cups, and other such items. This was one of the most useful modifications I made to this boat, but it was also one of the most time-consuming.

The Ericson 25 that I purchased in 2009 had never been used for anything more than day-sailing and perhaps an occasional overnighter. Accordingly, there had been no need for the first two owners to modify the galley in any significant way.
On the port side there was a pressurized alcohol stove. Beneath it were three drawers and one cabinet. I address the modifications I made to this cabinet in my article, "Galley, Stove Cabinet."
On the starboard side, there was sink and an icebox.
The former owner had added a few things here and there, some of which were useful, some not. Among the useful there was a paper towel rack, and a small box for utensils. As for the useless, there was a minuscule spice rack and a soap dish. How's a wet bar of soap supposed to stay put in a flat dish on a sailboat this is heeling over?
The icebox, that was integral to the boat, was spacious. Knowing that the insulation for iceboxes on most production sailboats is minimal, I would later turn this space into a pantry of sorts for the storage of dry goods.
The lid for the icebox was a slab of wood that had been made to look like a cutting board. This was not original to the boat. The former owner had sloppily cut this out of a larger cutting board and installed a stainless steel pull ring in an effort to give it a nautical look. It wasn't big enough to serve as a useful cutting board, and it wasn't thick enough or sealed enough to serve as a proper lid for the ice box. I should note that the coaxial cable that I am here pulling out of the way was poorly located. Sure, this was the most direct route to the VHF radio, which was mounted above this area, but why not route the cable so that it doesn't hang across the galley sink?
Beneath this area there was a beautiful, solid mahogany door, which appeared as if it would open up to an ample storage space. Unfortunately, it did not. Instead it opened up to a space that was almost entirely unusable. It did provide excellent access to the valve, which you see pictured below. This valve regulated the drain for the galley sink. The hose, as you can tell, was also easy to access. It did, however, serve as a barricade of sorts, since it prevented access to the ample space behind it.
After I had purchased the boat and gotten her back home, I decided that I wanted to open up that difficult-to-access space. The only way that I knew how to do this was to take drastic measures by cutting a new hole on the side of the original cabinet. Believe me, this was not a project that I approached without much forethought. Anytime you take a saw to fiberglass, there's no going back.
I decided that the best way to make the new hole look like it had always been there was to construct a panel that would both define the space and trim the edges of the hole. This panel would in someway mimic the mahogany plywood panel that was on the inboard side of the cabinet. I considered using mahogany plywood for this new panel, but I eventually abandoned this idea on account of the cost. There are some marine plywoods available here in Charleston, South Carolina, but not mahogany. It was just too expensive to ship a piece from Boulter Plyood in Massachusetts. Instead, I used A-B exterior grade plywood that I would later paint white. In order to coordinate the appearance of this panel with the rest of the boat, I would trim the panel with solid mahogany and I would construct a solid mahogany door that I would join to the panel with stainless steel hardware. I would also make a faux panel for the forward side of the cabinet on the other side of the boat. Yes, it would be a faux panel, but it would, like this one, serve a real purpose - that of supporting the counter extensions. For more on this, see my article, "Galley, Counter Extensions."
After I had drilled a pilot hole, I pulled out my Roto-Zip (pictured below), and got to work. This proved to be a worthless tool for this task, despite what some might say on some sailing forums. Only the most careless craftsman could think this is a good tool for the job, even with a fiberglass cutting bit. The Roto-Zip is primarily a tool for cutting holes in sheet rock, i.e., drywall material. It's a real timesaver, in that it prevents you from having to use a razor knife to cut out the holes for electrical boxes. Those holes don't have to be perfect, because they are eventually covered by decorative switch plates. For holes of this nature in fiberglass - especially fiberglass with gelcoat on it - the cut needs to be as perfect as possible.
At this point, I abandoned the Roto-Zip and picked up my Makita jig saw. Taking my time with it, I cut a neat line, using the panel, at least initially, as a jig.
Then I removed the panel and made the final cuts, making sure that the hole itself was larger than the hole in the panel. This way the panel would serve as a trim piece and thus hide the thin edge of the fiberglass.
I should note that as soon as I was finished with the cut, and as soon as I was able to gaze into this space, I knew that I had made the right decision. This was valuable storage space that was now fully accessible. I had worried somewhat that by cutting this hole I would weaken the cabinet. I can assure you that the cabinet is rock solid despite this hole. Many times during the refitting of this boat, when the companionway latter was often removed, I would climb into boat by putting my full weight on the corner of this cabinet. Never did the cabinet flex or move.

I should also note that I took great care to cut this hole as large as possible, without cutting it too large. For example, it terms of the lower part of the hole, I reinstalled the settee cushion in order to take account of its height. I did the same with the back-rest cushion.
All in all, this was a good start for a good project that would serve good purposes for a long time to come on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.