Lazarette Modifications, Part 6: Gluing-Up the Cleats

The starboard water tank cleat, soon after being glued to the hull with epoxy and cloth
Having dry-fit all of the components into the lazarette, and having ground and cleaned the hull, it was now time to begin gluing up the cleats that would support the various shelves. This glue-up required a good deal of epoxy, and it required a good deal of patience. The lazarette of the Ericson 25, like that of many other boats, is the most curvaceous of all the spaces within the vessel. Accordingly, anything that you add to this space must take account of these curves. Likewise, anything that you attempt to glue to the hull in this space must be glued with attention and care. Gravity is the enemy in the lazarette, and to defeat him you must be ever mindful of his presence.

Let's begin with the cleats that would support the fender shelf on the starboard side. Below we see a picture of this area of the lazarette at the conclusion of the glue-up. Seems simple enough, right? Maybe we should back up and take a look at all the steps required to get to this point.
First, I needed to cut up some 10 ounce fiberglass cloth that I would drape over the blocks when I glued them to the hull.
I'll spare you of all the pictures I took of the cuts I made to get the cloth to look like it does in the picture below. I'll only say this: the cloth appears to be square in shape, but it is anything but this when the block of Douglas fir is removed.
After I cut the initial layer, I cut a second layer, a couple of inches larger than the first.
Much easier was the task of cutting the 3 inch, 6 ounce tape for the cleat that would be mounted on the bulkhead.
I also cut a piece of 6 inch, 6 ounce tape. This I would place over the 3 inch piece.
Then I made ready the cleat by putting the stainless steel wood screws into the holes that I had pre-drilled at an earlier date.
Ideally, I would have put the screws on the other side of the bulkhead, but this was impossible on account of the ice box. In this picture, I am dry-fitting the cleat one last time, just to be sure that it fits properly into this space. Once I added epoxy, there would be no turning back.
One final step I took before mixing up the epoxy was to wipe the hull and the bulkhead with toluene. This would remove any wax residue that might be lurking about. It would also remove any residual dust from my earlier cleaning of the lazarette after all the grinding.
Colloidal silica would be a close ally in the battle against gravity in the gluing up of these cleats. Yes, this is a five gallon bucket of this stuff. If you want to save a lot of money, order it from RAKA Epoxy. It comes in simple plastic bags. This is fine with me. The only problem is that they aren't so simple to use at the work site. To make things easier, I used a five gallon bucket. Into this I would dip my quart-sized container you see to the left. Of course I did not use 5 gallons worth of colloidal silica on this job. I did, though, use a lot of it, usually a quart or two each day.
It was at this time that I opened up another epoxy kit that I had received in the mail from RAKA. I used the 127 Low Viscosity Resin and the 350 Non-Blush Hardener. I like the 127 resin on account of its versatility. I can use it in its pure form to epoxy-coat wood, and then I can thicken it up with colloidal silica for laminating and gluing. The 350 hardener is $12 more than the regular hardener, but to me it's worth it. Who wants to clean up the amine blush - that residual waxy stuff that can remain on the surface of the cured epoxy? I've only experienced blushing on one occasion with the 350 hardener, and that was when I was working on my new centerboard. A storm came up and blew a lot of misty rain onto my porch where the centerboard was sitting on sawhorses. About half an hour earlier I had laid down some neat epoxy to fill in the weave of some 10 ounce cloth that I had applied to the board. The misty rain covered the entire exposed surface of the board, and there was nothing I could do to keep it away. The next day there was blushing everywhere on the board. I cleaned it off, and then went on about my business. Nevertheless, it was still a time-wasting pain in the neck, and I was glad that I never had to worry about this sort of thing in the normal, everyday use of this product.
After I mixed up the first pot of epoxy, I wet down the bulkhead and the back of the cleat. I then thickened the epoxy with colloidal silica, applied it to the back of the cleat, and then screwed the cleat to the bulkhead. I cleaned up the excess epoxy with the flat end of the stirring stick. I then flipped the stirring stick over and used the rounded end of the stick to create a fillet on the underside of the cleat. This fillet would provide additional strength, and it would provide a more welcoming transition between the cleat and the bulkhead for the cloth that I would soon apply.
I took thickened epoxy that I still had in my pot, and I created another fillet - this one between the corner of the icebox and the bulkhead. Despite the fact that I had tabbed the bulkhead to the hull, there was still some play in the upper parts of the bulkhead. I planned to remedy that by permanently joining the bulkhead to the icebox at this corner.
Next, it was time to apply the cloth tape. This was a much easier job than the glue-up.
The bulkhead-icebox joint also got two layers of 6 ounce tape.
I then turned my attention to the first wedge-shaped cleat. I followed the same procedures that I had followed with the bulkhead cleat: I wet down the hull and cleat with neat epoxy; I thickened the epoxy with colloidal silica; I glued the cleat into place; and then I mixed up another pot of epoxy, laid down the cloth, and wet it out with a brush. Although the procedures were the same, the time it took to complete them was more protracted. The cleat had an irritating propensity to creep downward, away from its mark. I considered duct-taping it to the hull, but there was no good place either on the block or on the hull where I could apply the tape. I really had no choice but to sit there and hold the cleat in place until the epoxy had fully kicked. Fortunately, the RAKA resin and hardener that I was using has a fairly short open time, so it wasn't as if I had to sit there for an hour. I did, though, sit for some 20 or 30 minutes. The radio kept me company. When I thought it was safe to move, I exited the lazarette as quickly as possible, mixed up another pot of epoxy, and laid down the two pieces of cloth on top of the block. This helped to keep the block in place, and before long it was no longer necessary for me to keep eyeballing it for signs of subtle movement. This baby was here to stay.
My final act for this part of the glue-up was to mix up another pot of epoxy with colloidal silica and apply it to the cloth for the purpose of filling-in the weave. I used all of the excess epoxy to fill in the weave of the tape that I had earlier applied to the bulkhead-icebox joint.
I also applied the thickened epoxy to the cloth on the bulkhead cleat.
Then it was time to move on to the second of the two wedge-shaped cleats. This glue-up went a little faster for me. As I said at the start, gravity was the enemy in the lazarette. By this point, I had started to figure out a way to get an upper hand. "If the block can't resist the force of gravity until the epoxy starts to kick, why don't I provide the block with some assistance by making that epoxy kick a little faster?" That was how I was thinking, so this time around, after I had thickened-up the epoxy, instead of applying it right away to the hull, I let it sit in the pot in my hand. Tick tock, tick tock. There it sat, and there it started to heat up. The warmer it got, the faster it started to kick. I knew I couldn't wait too long. If I did, it could get so hot that it would catch on fire. When the time seemed right, I scooped out clumps of epoxy and spread them over the mark. I grabbed the block, pressed it into place, and guess what? It clung to the hull almost immediately. This technique, which I later learned is called "sweating the pot," or "heating the pot," I used on all of the subsequent glue-ups on the hull of the lazarette. Sometimes it worked better than other times. It was all about timing - getting a feel for how close you could push it to the limit.
One thing that I had to be cautious about when gluing up this second block was the fact that the cleat for the water tank would be nearby. Note the black line beneath the cleat that marks the location of the water tank cleat. I made sure to keep all the thickened epoxy away from that line.
The next morning, after the epoxy on all of these cleats had cured, I took a few pictures.
I was especially curious to know if the shelf fit properly on all the cleats. It did, and I was pleased.
The pleasure of the moment soon faded when I forced myself to don my protective gear for some more work with the grinder. Actually, it wasn't so much the grinder that I used for this job, but the quarter-sheet sander and the Rockwell oscillating tool with the sander attachment.
Why, you might ask, was it necessary for me to sand the epoxy that I had recently laid down? Well, first of all, I knew I would be doing some additional epoxy work, and if I didn't sand the cured epoxy, then the new epoxy would not form a good bond. Secondly, I planned to paint the lazarette at the conclusion of this project. Therefore, all of this glossy epoxy had to be roughed-up to provide the paint with sufficient tooth.
As always, this took longer than I had expected.

Next, I turned my attention to the port side of the lazarette.
Just as I had done on the starboard side, I began by wiping the hull, the bulkhead, and the cleats with toluene.
Again, I cut 10 ounce cloth for the cleats.

I labeled the cloth M (Mid) and F (Forward), just as I had labeled the cleats themselves. Each cleat was custom cut to the curvature of the hull in the space where it would be located. Originally, I had planned to install an A (Aft) cleat, but I had determined that it would be unnecessary.
I partially installed all the stainless steel screws in the bulkhead to make the glue-up of the bulkhead cleat less problematic.
Time for some more colloidal silica.
Throughout this glue-up stage of the project in the lazarette I would stand in the companionway (with the ladder removed), and I would do my mixing of the epoxy on top of the plywood on the sole of the cockpit. After I had mixed everything up, I would move the resin and other materials to a small piece of plywood on top of the cockpit locker. Then I would tilt up the plywood - the plywood in the picture below - to allow natural light to enter the lazarette through the hatch hole that I had earlier cut in this place.
The glue-up of the bulkhead cleat went smoothly.
Note the three small nuts and bolts that are covered by the 6 inch fiberglass tape. These bolts I had installed at an earlier date (as part of a different project) for the purpose of supporting one of the cleats in the galley cabinet.
For almost all of the applications of epoxy during this lazarette project, I used these small, half-pint containers. I liked these, because the were graduated in 1 ounce increments. I normally added 2 ounces of resin and 1 once of hardener to create 3 total ounces of epoxy. This amount was just right for gluing up each piece and creating fillets. It was also just right for wetting out the cloth.
When it came to gluing up the wedge-shaped blocks, I did them one at at time, just as I had on the starboard side. Below we see we see that I have wet the hull in preparation for the glue-up. This picture I took through the hatch in the cockpit locker.
There it is - glued-up and filleted.
The battle against the force of gravity was getting easier.
The next day I returned to check out my work.
The shelf fit just right.

Although it might appear that the shelf is not in contact with the wedge-shaped cleats, it is. Notice the small streak of light between the back of the shelf and the hull. This space between the shelf and the hull was intentional.

Again I returned to the unpleasant task of sanding and grinding. Below we see the full range of power tools that I used. First, there is the grinder with a 36 grit disc. This I used for removing the sharp, irregular pieces of fiberglass that protruded here and there from the edges of the wedge-shaped blocks. Next, there is the quarter-sheet sander with 40 grit paper. I used this tool more than any other. It was good for the flat surfaces. Then there was the Rockwell oscillating tool. The triangular shaped sanding attachment with the 50 grit paper allowed me to get into tight spaces and corners. Finally, there was the Dremel with a drum sanding wheel attachment. Dremel sells 80 grit drums, but I prefer the 50 grit drums sold under the Gator Grit label. These were helpful for sanding the curved surfaces in and around the fillets.
By the time I finished sanding, it looked like these cleats had always been there.

After all this sanding, I once again had a lot of dust to clean up. Normally, I would brush as much of it as possible down into the bilge. Then I would vacuum the bilge with a Shop Vac. The area in the foreground in the picture below is wet on account of my sweat. As I said in an earlier segment of this article, the heat index was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
With the lazarette cleaned-up, I could now carry out another dry-fit of the components.
This dry-fit was necessary so that I could determine where exactly I needed to glue the cleats for the water tank. Of course I had marked this area before with the black Sharpie marker, but it's always smart to double-check. This had to be just right. Too close, and the water tank would not fit between the cleats. Too far, and the water tank would not be secure.
I also wanted to double check the position of the water tank cleats relative to the two shelves that I would be installing port and starboard. I wanted to make sure that the shelves would not hinder the removal of the water tank at some later date.
It was very close, but it looked like I would indeed be able to remove the tank years down the road, if I really wanted to. Note that in this picture I'm using the old tank as my reference. The new tank had the same dimensions. I normally kept the new tank inside the house during the project, since I didn't want it to come into contact with all the dust that I was stirring up inside the boat.
I also wanted to double check to ensure that I could remove the tank through the companionway hatch after the battery box shelf (in the foreground) was glassed in.

Yes, this would not be a problem.
This would have been impossible, of course, if I had not widened the companionway hatch.
I also, at this time, rechecked the fit of the fenders in the area on the starboard side of the lazarette.
Good to go.
Satisfied with the way things were looking, I proceeded to cut the cloth for the water tank cleats.
Along the top of the cleat I placed red reference dots so that I would lay down the cloth properly on the epoxy-soaked wood at the critical moment
I used 10 ounce cloth for the initial layer for both cleats.
I used 6 ounce cloth for the second layer. I would have liked to have used 10 ounce cloth for the second layer, but I was a little concerned about the thickness. The water tank had to fit between the cleats, and I didn't want to ruin the whole set-up by making the cloth and epoxy on the cleats too thick.
When everything was ready, I wiped down the appropriate areas of the hull with toluene.
With the cloth and the cleat standing by, I mixed up 3 ounces of epoxy, wet the appropriate area with a brush, and then thickened the epoxy with colloidal silica.
This glue-up did not go well at first. The problem was that I did not mix up enough epoxy. Three ounces just wasn't enough. The cleat would not grab the hull, despite the fact that the epoxy had started to kick. I was in a real dilemma at this point. Should I continue to hold the cleat, hoping that it will eventually stick, or should I pull it off the hull, mix up another pot of epoxy, and add it to the existing stuff that was spread all over the appropriate area? I eventually opted for the latter, hoping that the existing epoxy would not be too far gone by the time I returned. Fortunately, it was not. The extra 3 ounces did the trick, and it allowed me to spread a generous fillet on each side of the cleat.
I then applied the two layers of cloth and wet them out thoroughly. This helped to seal the deal.
Things went much more smoothly with the second cleat. I mixed up 6 ounces from the start and then sweated the pot until it was nice and warm. The cleat stuck to the hull almost instantaneously. This time I was also prepared with a couple of sticks to help hold the cleat in place, just in case it started to slip while I was mixing up the next pot of epoxy for the wetting out of the cloth.
It turned out that the sticks were unnecessary. The cleat never moved.
The next morning I came outside to check on the cleats. I thought they looked pretty good.
I was especially pleased to see that the water tank fit just right.
At this point, it was time for another dry-fit.
Specifically, I wanted to see how everything looked when I added some of the equipment to this space.
I was somewhat troubled by the fact that hoses, cords, or any other such items I might place in the aftmost area of the lazarette could easily slide along the port and starboard sides, especially when the boat was heeling. Therefore, after fooling around with a cardboard prototype, and then a southern yellow pine prototype, I finally cut a cleat of Douglas fir that I thought would serve a good purpose.
As always, the most challenging part about making this cleat was figuring out how to make it conform to the curvature of the hull. Here we see the final version. I used a Makita jig saw to make this cut.
Then I used a router with a round-over bit to soften-up the sides. This would make it easier to lay the cloth on this cleat. It would also make the cleat less menacing.
While I was at it, I went ahead and made a second cleat for this side of the lazarette. I figured that this would allow me to stow lines and other such things between the cleats. I also thought it would serve to protect the reserve battery bank that would be sitting on the adjacent shelf. In other words, it would keep stuff from sliding along the hull and hitting the battery bank or settling in the space between the battery bank and the hull.

Initially, I thought it would be good to install two cleats on the starboard side. I eventually decided that only the one closest to the fenders, in other words, the forward cleat, was necessary. The aft cleat was in too tight a space, and I was concerned that it would impede my running of the water tank infill hose through this area.
Having cut the final versions of these retention cleats, I needed to do some more grinding on the hull in preparation for the glue-up; but before I could do any of this, I needed to cut and fit a piece of plywood that I would be adding to the transom for the purpose of reinforcing the area where the four-stroke outboard motor would be mounted. I was concerned that access to the transom might be impeded after the glue-up, so I thought it would be a good idea to fit this piece of wood at this time. I had earlier ground and sanded this area as much as possible, and I had earlier created a cardboard prototype. Now my task was to create the actual plywood piece. Despite the fact that I had a prototype in hand, it probably took about an hour of my time to fit the actual piece. It was an awkward area, not only because of the many curves, but also because of the tight space in which it was located. Many a trip I made in and out of the lazarette and up and down the ladder on the side of the boat making the many fine cuts that were required.
The next morning, I put the sander and the grinder to good use. First, I sanded the water tank cleats.
Then I put the grinder to the area where the two cleats would be located on the port side.
Then I hit the area where the one cleat would rest on the starboard side.
I also did a little more sanding and grinding in the area around the transom, since I considered my earlier work in this area to be insufficient.
Prior to the glue-up of the cleats on the port and starboard sides, I wiped down the hull, as always, with toluene.
It cleaned up these areas quite nicely.

Next, I cut the cloth. I used a single, 6 ounce layer. I considered using 10 ounce cloth as I had done for the other cleats. Since, however, these cleats would not be bearing loads, but would instead only be non-structural partitions of sorts, I thought that this 6 ounce cloth would be enough.
As I had done with some of the other pieces of cloth for other cleats, I labeled each one of these so I wouldn't make any dumb mistakes once I was in the lazarette with a pot of epoxy in my hand.
You might have noticed that I did not epoxy-coat any of these retention cleats in advance. In other words, I did not, like I did with the other cleats, give each one of them two coats of epoxy followed by a thorough sanding after the epoxy had cured. I was in a time crunch, so for these, I simply applied one coat of epoxy just moments before the glue-up. My decision to short-cut my earlier technique was, however, primarily driven by my knowledge that these cleats were not as crucial as the others.
I glued each of the three cleats individually, using 3 ounces of epoxy for each one of them. This allowed just enough to coat each piece, to coat the hull, the glue the cleat to the hull, and to create the fillet around the perimeter of the cleat afterwards. As I had done for the previous cleats, I sweated the pot each time. This allowed me to stick the cleat in place and soon afterwards mix up another little pot for the purpose of wetting out the cloth.
It didn't look so bad after all was said and done. Note the board at the bottom of the bilge. This was where I would set my pot of epoxy whenever I needed two hands on the job.
The next day I decided that it was time for another dry-fit. This time I needed to use the new water tank to make sure that everything was lining up just the way it was supposed to line up.
I was still a little bit concerned about the location of the port and starboard shelves and my ability to remove the water tank if necessary.
One thing I had not considered was this - that the shelf on the port side would prevent me from removing the shelf that would sit atop the water tank. The problem was that the port side shelf would cover a small portion of the water tank shelf. To remedy this situation I simply removed that small portion of the water tank shelf with one swipe of the saw. In the picture below you can see the small piece that was left behind, between the water tank cleat and the port side shelf. I would later bond this small piece of wood to the water tank cleat with epoxy. After all, this was what the port side shelf needed beneath it to keep it level.
I also, at this time, did a little additional work on the shelf for the starboard side. I had never included a horizontal brace of any sort as I had for the port side shelf. One reason I had neglected to include a brace was because this shelf would be supporting fenders, not a heavy battery. Another reason was because I wasn't quite sure how I would be able to make a brace fit in this space, given my uncertainty about the final locations for the shelf cleat and the water tank cleat - the cleats that might obstruct a brace of this sort.

The picture below will give you a better idea of what I'm talking about. Notice that the horizontal brace runs between the wedge-shaped block cleat and the water tank cleat. There is only about one inch of space between the two. Notice as well that I have notched the brace in this area. This notch allows space for the corner of the water tank shelf. In other words, it allows me to remove the shelf if necessary for the purpose of removing the water tank. If you haven't surmised it by this point, I will go ahead and say it - the shelves on the port and starboard sides would be permanently installed with epoxy and cloth. Only the center shelves over the water tank would be removable. This was why I had to make these adjustments to the port and starboard shelves.
It turned out that I had to install the brace directly beneath the first row of ventilation holes. After I had screwed and glued the brace into place, I filled up the holes with thickened epoxy. I couldn't have any water from the fenders settling down inside of those holes, so they had to disappear.
Then it was time for some more work with the sandpaper. I had to scuff up those retention cleats, just like I had the other cleats.

With that out of the way, I could now focus on the glue-up of the plywood reinforcement piece on the transom. I was still unsatisfied with my sanding and grinding in that area, so I decided to try a new technique. Before I did anything else, I wiped the area with toluene.
Then I attached a wire wheel to my Makita drill.
I had never been able to get sand or grind the transom itself very well, since this space was not accommodating for large power tools, and even smaller ones like the Rockwell oscillating tool. The Dremel was not tough enough for the job. The angle of attack, however, of this wire brush, was just right.
Here you can see how big a difference it made. For some reason, the transom itself was not covered in gray paint. This was raw fiberglass. I was removing years worth of accumulated grime that had clung to the waxy surface of the glass. It was because of this wax that I had applied the toluene in advance.
After I had cleaned up the area with a Shop Vac, I again wiped the transom and the surrounding areas of the hull with toluene.
Then I cut cloth. For this job, I pulled out the heavy weapon - the 12 ounce biaxial cloth. This stuff is about as thick as a baby blanket. My plan was to lap one piece onto the hull and another piece onto the overhead area of the lazarette. The two pieces would thus overlap the plywood to form a 24 ounce thick piece of cloth. I should mention that I cut no corners with this piece of wood, like I did with the retention cleats. This piece of wood got two full coats of epoxy on both sides in advance. It also got about four coats of epoxy on the end grain. This piece had to be tough, and it had to last forever.

In advance of wetting out the cloth I took this picture to give you an idea of my technique for the first of the two layers. The second layer would mirror the first. It would start on the vertical surface, and it would turn upward onto the fiberglass at the top of the lazarette.
More colloidal silica was necessary for this job.
I mixed-up 6 ounces of epoxy for the glue-up.
I used a stick to pin the piece of plywood into place while I mixed up more epoxy to form the fillets.
I started by applying 3 ounces of epoxy. This, though, was not enough to create the fillets. There was more space around the perimeter of the piece than I had anticipated.
So . . . I mixed up another 3 ounces of epoxy.
Now it was looking better, and I could begin to focus on the lay-up of the cloth.
I thoroughly saturated both layers of the biax, and then sat back and observed the area.
The overlap of the two pieces on the face of the wood was not as thorough as I had expected, so I cut another piece of biax that would overlap the two pieces.
This extra piece did just what I wanted it to do.
I finished the job by mixing up one more pot of epoxy and spreading a layer of thickened epoxy over everything to fill in the weave.
Having glued-up the cleats for the reserve battery bank shelf and the fender shelf on the port and starboard sides, having glued-up the water tank cleats and the retention cleats, and having glued-up the transom reinforcement piece, I could, at this point, say that this portion of the project was complete. Now I needed to do some pre-painting of the shelves in preparation for their installation. This pre-painting that I would accomplish is the subject of part seven of this eight-part article on the modifications that I made to the lazarette of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

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