Lazarette Modifications, Part 1: Analysis

The attractive, yet impractical access door to the lazarette on the Ericson 25
Of all the spaces on the Ericson 25, none cries out for modification, quite so loudly, as the lazarette, that is, the space immediately beneath the cockpit. On many a small cruising boat, the lazarette is synonymous with the engine room, and in that engine room one is likely to find not only an engine, but also a fuel tank and a battery bank. There were a handful of Ericson 25s that were fitted with inboard engines. Most, however, were not. Accordingly, this space beneath the cockpit serves as a storage space, and the proper name for such a space on a sailing vessel is a lazarette. For whatever reason, when Ericson designed the interior trim for the boat, they allowed aesthetics to trump practical considerations in terms of their sizing of the access door to the lazarette.
Admittedly, the solid mahogany door and the solid mahogany door trim complement the mahogany used throughout the boat, and the door, from a visual standpoint, is sized just right for the space in which it is located. Nevertheless, the door is far too small for the average-sized person to gain any significant access to the space behind it. A human head will fit through the door, but human shoulders will not. The picture below, taken from the forward end of the main salon, should give you some idea of just how small that little door is.
Before we look inside this space, let's consider several of the diagrams that were produced by Ericson during the days when this boat was still in production. The first thing you should notice, in the diagram immediately below, is that the lazarette (pictured in yellow between the brown rudder and the purple companionway area) is similar in length to the V-berth (in green). Whereas the V-berth is a little over six feet in length, the lazarette is about five.
As we said above, this space at the aft end of the boat was designed by Ericson to be large enough to house not only an inboard engine, but also a battery bank and a fuel tank. The diagram below illustrates how the engine and all of its components fit into this space.

Here's another view of this space, as seen from overhead.

In the detailed overhead view below, notice how the diagram indicates that the fuel tank should be installed inside the lazarette, on the port side. The trapezoidal shape of the fuel tank is indicative of the shape of the hull in this area of the boat. The X-shaped dotted lines above the fuel tank represent the space occupied by the cockpit locker, just above the fuel tank.

Below we see a detailed view of the starboard side of the lazarette. Here there is a battery box, located just beneath the cockpit locker.

So, yes, the lazarette was designed by Ericson to house, if necessary, not only an engine, but also a fuel tank and a battery box. Why, therefore, they designed the access door to this space to be so small in size remains a mystery to me, and I know from conversations that I have had with other owners that they remain as puzzled as I am.
At any rate, let's now look inside this space to see what I saw when I was still in the process of purchasing my Ericson 25. Immediately upon opening that little door I was confronted with a battery . . . and a rat's nest of wiring I might add. Though it's difficult to tell from this photograph, this fiberglass battery box (that was glassed to the hull) obstructed access to other areas of the lazarette. So . . . not only was the door tiny, but the battery box, or battery tray I should say, was itself an impediment to full and easy access to this space. It's my guess that for all Ericson 25s that were not fitted with an inboard engine this was the normal spot for the battery box to be located.
When I looked to the right, I saw a relatively large, yet inaccessible space that was used for nothing more than a bilge pump hose. This would be where the fuel tank would have been located on those boats that had been fitted with the inboard engine.
When I looked to the left, I saw much the same thing, except that there was a different hose running though this space - the hose for the fresh-water infill. There were also some cables leading upward from a black PVC conduit to cockpit instrument dials, the backs of which were located in the galley. On those boats that were fitted with an inboard engine, this area to the left would have been fitted with a battery box, presumably one that was supported in some way by a shelf that was glassed to the hull.
Another thing that continues to be an enigma to me was the decision made by someone at Ericson to put the freshwater inlet inside of the boat, rather that outside. Do you see the plastic V-shaped bowl in the top left of the photograph below? That's where you are supposed to fill the water tank. Why would anyone want to bring a running hose inside the main salon? Even if you sought the help of someone else with this task, you would still spill water and make a mess of out this job, despite exercising great care.
When I looked directly back, over the battery, I saw the fresh water tank It appeared as if the area on top of the tank and the area aft of it could be used for storage, but once again this space was rendered inaccessible on account of the tiny door and the battery box which sat right in front of it.
Having discussed the lazarette itself, let's now focus on those components of the lazarette that led me to accomplish some major modifications to this space.

A good place to begin is the battery box. The battery bank is the heart of any DC electrical system on a boat, and without an adequately-sized battery bank your options, in terms of cruising, are limited. If you plan to use the boat for nothing more than day-sailing, then a diminutive battery bank, such as the one pictured below, will suffice. I knew I wanted to use this boat for extended periods of time, so this battery, and the box in which it sat, had to go.

I will not, in this article, go into the details of my choices for my electrical system, but I will say that I knew I wanted to use two Trojan brand, 6 volt,  T-105 batteries for my battery bank.
I knew well the dimensions of these batteries, on account of the thorough information provided on the Trojan Battery Company website.
There was no way that two of these batteries would fit inside of the existing battery box. I knew at this point that I would have to remove this box and build my own for this space.
I also knew that the water tank that sat behind the battery box was nasty and was in need of some serious cleaning. You can't tell it from this picture, but that tank had plenty of gunk in it. Given that the battery box was glassed into place and that this box was impeding access to the tank, the only way to extract the tank for cleaning was to extract the box in front of it.
For some reason, I did not take any pictures during my work on the extraction of the battery box and the water tank from the lazarette. I can, though, say that I used a Dremel with a pointed, fiberglass-cutting bit to grind my way through the tabbing that held the box to the hull. I used the relatively petite Dremel as opposed to the rambunctious grinder because I didn't want to do any damage to the hull.

While the removal of the battery box took some patience and some time, the removal of the water tank was a good bit easier. The tank had been installed exactly as described in the excerpt below from the Ericson shop manual. It was simply a matter of removing the screws from the board and popping the tank up from its snug position between the four retaining blocks that had been glassed to the hull.
It was also easy to remove the water tank from the lazarette itself, but not until I had removed the mahogany door assembly that was screwed to the fiberglass bulkhead. If I remember correctly, I had to turn the face of the tank (the part facing you the viewer above) downward toward the bilge, in order to pull the tank effortlessly out of this space. I know of at least one Ericson 25 owner who approached this task with the assumption that the tank had been placed in the lazarette early in the production process and was thus not capable of being removed from it without drastic measures. He therefore cut the tank into pieces with some sort of saw in order to extract the pieces of it from this space. I assure you that this is unnecessary, and I must add that though it might sound funny that this owner went to these lengths, I know that I myself did other similar crazy things in other places on other projects during my lengthy refitting of my own boat.
After I had removed the tank from the boat and placed it on the ground, I could inspect it more thoroughly. What I found was that the tank was even nastier than I had thought it had been.
The close-up shot below should help me get my point across. There was a gunk-line on the face of the tank and stains along the edges.
When I looked inside, I saw all the gunk caked to the interior walls of the tank.
In an effort to rid the tank of this gunk, I filled it with a water-and-bleach solution. This didn't help matters very much, so I kept upping the concentration of the bleach, trying to make some headway against this highly-resistant gunk. Nothing worked, so eventually I poured pure bleach into the tank and let it sit for a couple of weeks undisturbed. When I went back and checked on it, I was pleased to find that the area where the bleach had sat was pure white. Pleased with this progress, I went and showed the Admiral the results. She took one look at the tank and said she'd never drink anything that came out of that nasty tank, no matter how much I bleached it Admittedly, the tank, at least on the exterior, would be forever stained by the gasoline vapors that had resided in the lazarette for such a long time, so I decided that this tank was beyond hope, and I began looking for a replacement. For more on what I'm talking about here, see my earlier article on the old plumbing for this boat.
While I spent my evenings looking around on the Internet for a suitable replacement tank, I spent the daylight hours after work and on the weekends figuring out a way to make the lazarette more functional. Recall that I had earlier removed the mahogany door-frame assembly to gain easier access to this space. Here you see the cut-out in the fiberglass bulkhead where the door-frame assembly had been located. The small hole to the right is where an accessory DC electrical panel used to be housed.
The first thing you should notice, of course, when we look beyond the cut-out in the fiberglass bulkhead is that I have added various shelves to the space. I should note that all of these shelves, at this point, were not glassed-in. They were simply dry-fitted. In the foreground, where the old battery box used to be, there is a large storage shelf. Behind this is the old water tank that I have re-inserted simply for the sake of doing the dry-fit of the shelves. Atop this tank there is a storage shelf divided into two separate segments for the purpose of accommodating the port and starboard shelves and also the curvature of the hull at the stern. It took a great deal of time to figure out how to cut these shelves to size. I made many cardboard mock-ups before I was satisfied enough to make the final cuts. For these final cuts. I used 1/2 inch exterior grade plywood, which is what you see right here.
Before going any further, let's take a look at what I'm talking about when I refer to the curvature of the hull at the aft end of the boat. You'll notice in the picture below (that I took during the haulout, soon after purchasing the boat), that the Ericson 25 has a traditionally-styled, wine-glass hull with regard to the stern. This is beautiful, but it does mean that you must deal in some way with the curves inside of the lazarette when it comes to making this space functional.
You'll recall that in the original drawings for those Ericson 25s that were fitted with inboard engines, the plans called for the fuel tank to be situated against the hull on the port side of the boat. I myself, before I had ever seen those drawings, had thought that this space would best be utilized by the installation of a storage shelf or shelves. Accordingly, I cut two shelves for this area of the lazarette. My primary purpose for the creation of the top shelf was to establish a space for the reserve battery bank. If you look closely, you can see a black battery box sitting atop the shelf.
The shelf on the starboard side of the lazarette I intended to use exclusively for storage.
Now you might be wondering why I have not yet talked about having an area in this lazarette devoted exclusively to a house battery bank. I said that the shelf in the foreground in this picture and the shelves int the background were devoted to storage.
I said that the shelf on the port side of the lazarette was devoted to a reserve battery bank.
And I said that the shelf on the starboard side was devoted to storage.
Where, therefore, did I plan to put the house bank? In other words, where did I plan to put the two Trojan T-105 batteries?

Well, first of all, I planed to put them inside of a Noco brand, heavy-duty battery box, designed especially for 6 volt batteries. This baby wasn't cheap, but my options for battery boxes for these types of batteries was very llimited. They were so limited that I initially planned to build my own battery box, and I even went so far as to cut the pieces for it before abandoning the idea and breaking down and breaking out my wallet for this nice box. The Admiral told me is was worth saving myself the time. That sealed the deal.
My plan was to put this box inside the starboard cockpit locker. Based on the dimensions that I had studied on the company's website, I wasn't sure that it would even fit in that space until I received the Noco box in the mail and tried it out for myself. I was pleased to know that it would indeed fit.
I was a little disheartened, though, that the specially-designed lid would not fit.
Despite my disappointment, I was determined to press forward and make this cockpit locker the devoted space for the house bank. Battery boxes, as per present-day regulations, must have a lid. My plan was to fashion a custom lid out of plywood. This would fit in this space.

Why was I so determined to use the starboard cockpit locker for the house bank? The motivating factor for me was storage space. Sure, having the house bank inside the cockpit locker meant that I had to sacrifice half of the locker for this bulky box. Having the house bank inside the lazarette, however, meant that I would have to sacrifice the entire lazarette, because there was absolutely no way that I could access any of the other storage areas inside that space, especially if I had that bulky box in front of that tiny mahogany door.
Nevertheless, I worried about having all that weight of the house bank up there in the cockpit, and for some time I kept toying with the idea of putting the house bank on that shelf in front of that little door. The picture below shows you just how limiting that box would be. With the mahogany door-frame assembly in place, it was next to impossible to reach anything in that lazarette. Believe me, I tried it.
Why did I want access to this space so badly? Well, I planed to use this boat for cruising, and the space that the lazarette provided was just too valuable to let go. On the tall ships on which I had sailed, the lazarettes were used for fenders, docklines, trash, and miscellaneous items. Where would all of these items go on the Ericson 25? There was no other place that they could go except the lazarette. Moreover, where would a bag of dirty clothes go? Would you want to keep it in the main salon, where you ate, slept, and socialized? Definitely not the head. The V-berth? Out of the question, if you planned on using it for sleeping, which I did. These were the sorts of questions I was asking myself, and the more I thought about it, the more I was moved to take drastic measures to get what I needed.
The drastic measures that I took to convert this awkward and impractical space into a fully functioning lazarette are the subject of the second part of this eight-part article on the modifications I made to the lazarette of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

Centerboard, Pin, Old and New

The new centerboard pin juxtaposed with the old
With the exception of the handful of fixed keel versions of the Ericson 25, the centerboard is a vital component of this boat, and the stainless steel pin that holds it securely to the boat is perhaps even more vital. When I had Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25, hauled-out, shortly after purchase, the first thing that I asked the boatyard owner and his workers to do was to remove the centerboard from the boat. If you've read my two-part article, "Centerboard Extraction and Analysis," you'll know why I had to remove it. At any rate, before the removal could take place, the centerboard pin needed to come out. This was not an easy task, as you can tell by the exertion that is evident in the boatyard owner's face.
As the diagrams from the original yard manual makes clear, the pin consisted of a piece of stainless steel rod, 1/2 inch in diameter. This is the way the boat would appear if you were lying on the ground looking up at it while it was in the slings.
The original yard manual also makes clear that the centerboard pin was held in place by two #10 screws that were 1/2 inch in length. When the boatyard owner began the pin-removal process, he found a sealant of some sort that had been placed in the small cavities where the centerboard pin terminated near the edges of the hull. He dug this out and then removed the screws. The screws, were 1/2 inch in length, as they were supposed to be. From what I could tell they were this 1/2 inch length, becaused if they had been much longer they would have penetrated too deeply into the hull. The hull in this specific area might be thicker, but I know that the hull in general is 1/2 thick below the waterline.

After I had gotten the boat back home to Charleston I thoroughly inspected the centerboard pin and discovered that it had quite a bit of corrosion on it. Its condition mirrored the condition of the centerboard itself, which was suffering from having spent almost all of its 35 years immersed in salt water. Later, when I eventually decided to construct a new centerboard, I decided to make a new centerboard pin as well.
After I had made the new pin, I photographed it side by side with the old pin, so as to emphasize the extent of the corrosion.
The following pictures give you some idea of the some of the corrosion in some areas of the pin. Salt water will, of course, corrode even 316 stainless steel, if it is in an anaerobic environment. I would say that the snug pin hole in which this steel sat within the hull was anaerobic. This same sort of corrosion, of course, can and does occur on the 316 stainless steel chainplates in that area where they pass through the deck.

In order to make a new pin to replace the old, corroded one, I had to rely entirely on the good graces of one of my metal-working buddies. This was the same fellow who had helped me demolish my old centerboard and construct the new carbon steel spine for my new centerboard. He's usually happy to do this sort of work in exchange for beer, and I'm happy that he's willing to do it. When I called him up to explain my problem, he said to come on over, since he didn't figure this little project would take much time at all.

He started by grabbing a piece of 316 stainless rod and making a few measurements based on the old pin.
Then he took the rod to the band saw and cut off an 8 inch piece. The original measured 7-3/4 inches, but he wanted to make the new one a little longer so he had plenty of material to work with, especially when it came to cutting the angles on either end of the rod.

Next, he placed the old and the new side by side, so that he could mark the angle for each end.
Back at the bandsaw, he started cutting the angles in the hand-worked fashion depicted below.

After he finished the first side, he turned it around and cut the other side while holding the free end with a pair of vice-grips.

Having completed the angled cuts, he said he needed to clean up the metal in the areas around the cuts, so he took the steel rod over to the sawhorse and grabbed his pneumatic carbide burr.
This carbide burr really did a good job of eating away the rough edges of the steel and smoothing up the entire surface.

The next task was to drill the holes. Again, the old pin served as a reference.

Comparing the old with the new, you can see that the old pin has a much larger hole on the underside of the pin. This was because the Ericson yard had drilled out this area so that the #10 screw could be counter-sunk and thus be made to sit with its head flush against the surface of the steel.
To replicate this counter-sink, my buddy put the pin in his drill press and simply worked it with one of his large drill bits.

While it might seem, based upon the number of pictures that I took, that the fabrication of the new centerboard pin took a considerable amount of time. It did not. In fact, it only took about one hour.
Back at home, I compared the old with the new, and I was glad that I had taken the time to call my metal-working buddy and ask him for this favor. This was right about the time that I was almost finished making my new centerboard for my boat, and having a new pin for a new board made me feel that much better about all the labor that I had put into the centerboard project.