Lazarette Modifications, Part 3: Construction of Components

The fender storage shelf, with holes drilled to reduce weight and promote ventilation
Having analyzed the lazarette for its necessary modifications, and having created or installed three new access hatches for this space, it was now time for me to focus on the storage shelves that I planned to install for the purpose of making the lazarette fully functional. You'll recall, from the first two parts of this four-part article, that I had earlier created these shelves based on cardboard mock-ups that I had spent many hours cutting, measuring, and re-cutting. You'll also recall that it would have been impossible for me to get a full understanding of the size and placement of the three new hatches without having created the plywood shelves in advance. Now that I had established and installed the three new hatches, it was time to fine tune the shelves by beveling their edges, drilling ventilation holes, and epoxy-coating them to protect them from the elements.

On the subject of mock-ups, I would like to begin this portion of this article with a digression on a mock-up that failed. From everything you have read up to this point, you might be inclined to believe that this shelf system was one that was not overly-difficult to devise.
The truth of the matter, though, is that I experimented with various mock-ups before I settled on the one depicted above. An example of one of these you see below. For some reason I had thought that vertical dividers running fore to aft would be a good way to store hoses, cords, lines, and other equipment. Not only did I devote a lot of time to making cardboard mock-ups, but I also created plywood mock-ups for each side of the lazarette. These actually helped me realize the futility of this endeavor. There was really no way to install this plywood in a vertical manner, because there was no bulkhead at the stern on which I could install a cleat. Moreover, there were issues involving drainage. How could I glass this plywood to the hull and still have adequate drainage along the line where the plywood met the hull? Before moving on, I should note that I took this picture after I had already settled on the shelf system. I simply put this old plywood mock-up in the lazarette for illustrative purposes.
One final note on failed mock-ups before we move on . . . even after I had settled on the shelf system, I still ended up abandoning some of what I had originally planned to do. Notice, for example, the small shelf on the bottom right. For some reason, I thought it would be good to have a shelf for small items. I thought this was such a good idea that I actually cut a little plywood shelf for the other side as well. Creating the cardboard mock-ups for these shelves and then the real things took a good bit of time. Ultimately, I abandoned my plans to install these shelves. What led me to do this, aside from the fact that they were impractical? Well, after I had increased the size of the companionway hatch, and after I had installed the cockpit hatch, I realized that I could shove small trash bags and small dirty clothes bags into these spaces. These were two things, all along, that I had wanted to keep in the lazarette, and now I saw how I could do it.
Now back to the subject of this posting: the fine-tuning of the shelves that I had already created in imitation of the plywood mock-ups. As I've said before, I made these shelves out of 1/2 inch exterior grade southern yellow pine. I chose 1/2 inch plywood, because I considered 3/8 inch too flimsy, especially for some of these shelves that would be supporting battery banks. I chose exterior grade plywood as opposed to marine grade plywood, because these shelves were not structural elements of the boat. In other words, the occasional voids in this exterior grade plywood would not damn the boat, as they might if I were to construct a hull out of this material.

We see below the shelves that would be located atop the water tank and directly aft of it. The curvature of the hull and the location of the port and starboard shelves dictated that the shelves below be installed as two separate, yet interrelated units, insofar as they would be situated on the same plane.
Despite the fact that the forward shelf would be located over the water tank, I still thought it wise to drill holes, not so much for ventilation, but for reducing the weight. I must confess I also liked the symmetry of the holes on each of these pieces, especially when placed together. This emphasized the fact that these two pieces worked together and that they were meant to be there.
At this time I also glued-up the mounting blocks that I had created to support the port and starboard shelves. For these blocks I used Douglas fir, on account of its rot-resistant characteristics. Ideally, I would have used a 4 x 4 to create these blocks. Given, however, that Douglas fir is not easy to find in Charleston, South Carolina, I had to combine two pieces of a 2 x 4 to achieve the desired size.
It took a good bit of work to create these mounting blocks. I started by making mock-ups out of southern yellow pine, which is readily available around here. It's difficult to tell from the pictures, but the face of each block is curved to match the curvature of the hull. The tough part about creating the mock-ups was getting the curvature right. If the curvature was slightly off, it would not conform to the shape of the hull. At the same time, I had to be mindful of the top of the block. It had to remain perfectly level, because the shelf itself had to be level. So, yes, taking both of these factors into consideration, it was not easy to create these blocks. An additional challenge was that I had to figure all of this out while working within the cramped space of the lazarette, and I had to make many trips in and out of the boat, back and forth to the saw. The biggest pain, however, was the slope of the work surface. The mock-up blocks would readily slide down the steep surface of the hull and into the bilge, whenever I slightly disturbed the dry-fitted shelf while adjusting for level and making pencil marks here and there. I'm not belaboring the point. I'm simply emphasizing the labor involved in creating the final product.
Next, I focused on the starboard shelf - the one that would support the large docking fenders. For some reason, when I cut this shelf, I turned the plywood upside down. In other words, I cut it to where the C-grade face of the plywood was facing up, and the B-grade face was facing down. This is why the knots are visible in this picture. I guess I could blame my error on the heat and humidity. It was summertime, and the heat index was up over one hundred degrees. But I'm not going to cast off the blame on something else. It was just a goof-up on my part, and at this point I was fine with just living with it.
I drilled the holes at consistent intervals.
These holes were the same size, and they were at the same intervals as the the holes I had drilled in the two shelves in the center. Again this would convey the appearance that they were meant to be there - that they were a cohesive and functional whole, not some haphazard, half-assed afterthought.
Having completed the holes in the starboard shelf, I returned to the boat to focus on the forward-most part of the lazarette - the area in which the house battery bank would be located. You'll recall from Part I of this article that there had been a factory-installed battery box in this area, right behind the mahogany access door. You'll also remember that I had removed this box with a Dremel that I had fitted with a pointed, fiberglass-cutting bit. At that time, I did not bother to remove the old pieces of cloth that were still stuck to the hull. This, now, I needed to do, since I could not figure out how to make the blocks that would support the battery bank shelf without these things out of the way. Disregard the new pieces of wood you see in the picture below. I'm talking here about the old, yellowish cloth in the foreground.
An angle grinder with a 36 grit sanding disc took care of that old cloth in nothing flat.
For some reason, I did not take any pictures of the many steps I had to take to create these unusually-shaped blocks. These things were more of a challenge to create than the smaller blocks that I had made for the port and starboard shelves. The reason? The curvature here is more pronounced and varied. The closer you get to those old, gray water-tank blocks, the steeper it becomes. In the picture below, you see that I have glued-up two pieces of a fir 2 x4 to create each block. The flat faces of these blocks, which are pressed against the plywood table, are the tops of the blocks - the level parts that would support the battery shelf.
The side of the block that you see below is the side that has been cut to conform to the curvature of the hull. Notice how the two pieces of wood don't exactly match up. I had to stagger them in this fashion to account for the variation in the curvature of the hull. I have some better pictures farther along, so for right now, I'll just leave it at this.
Next, I needed to figure out how I would orient the battery box. When turned port-to-starboard, it hindered access to the port and starboard sides of the lazarette. It did, though, when viewed from above (in the cockpit), allow for a little more room for the storage of trash or dirty laundry between the battery box and the water tank.
When oriented fore-to-aft, it allowed much easier access to the port and starboard sides. I liked this arrangement better, because it was less cramped, and I figured I could store trash and laundry just as easily from the top or from the bottom. I should note that my choice of this orientation was fortunate. Several months later, when I was reading a posting by the noted marine electrician, Maine Sail, I learned that  flooded lead batteries should be oriented port-to-starboard, as it promotes the well being of the electrolyte relative to the lead plates when a sailboat is heeling. When this box is oriented fore-to-aft, the batteries within are oriented port-to-starboard. If you're unfamiliar with Maine Sail, it would be worth your while to check out his web page: Compass Marine. I must point out, though, that much of Maine Sail's wisdom is to be found on the many different sailing forums, and I believe that it was one one of these forums that I found him talking about the orientation of these batteries.
Having settled on the way the box should be oriented, I then had to decide exactly where I would locate the box on the shelf.
I didn't have a lot of space to work with, so everything had to be just right.
The lines on the right and left correspond to the mounting blocks that would sit beneath the shelf. I had to take these into consideration in terms of the ventilation holes that I planned to create for the shelf.

I also had to take into consideration the method by which I would secure the box to the shelf. On the forward end I decided I would use hex bolts with lock nuts.
The hex head would be on the underside of the shelf.
Since the aft end of the box would sit atop the mounting blocks, I would have no choice but to use lag bolts when the time came to mount the box.
Having completed these tasks, I turned my attention to the shelf that would hold the reserve battery bank. This shelf had to be strong, and I needed to figure out some way to support its front edge.
The mock-up that I created did a pretty good job of supporting this dumb bell.
Just as I had done with the other battery bank shelf, I drilled ventilation holes in as many places as possible.
Then I glued (with thickened epoxy) and screwed the shelf support piece underneath the front edge of the shelf.
The next thing I needed to do was to bevel the outboard edge of the shelf - the one that would be against the hull.
The bevel would keep the blunt edge of the shelf off of the hull, and it would allow me to lay down a fillet of epoxy prior to the application of the fiberglass cloth.
I beveled both the top and the bottom sides of the outboard edge. The beveling of the bottom side was necessary to account for the curvature of the hull.
I then went back and did the same thing to the large battery bank shelf.
Having cut and drilled the necessary components, it was now time to epoxy-coat them. As far as the battery box shelves were concerned, I thought it would be smart for me to include some cloth, both for strength and for abrasion resistance.

I used RAKA 127 Resin and 350 Non-Blush Hardener.
I can't tell you how many of these items I went through during the lengthy refitting of my Ericson 25. I eventually quit buying the 25 pack of the blue Nitrile gloves, opting for the the cartons with a hundred in each. This was a economical alternative, and it was a sure sign that I was hooked on epoxy work, sort of like when somebody just goes ahead and buys a carton of cigarettes rather than fooling around with a single pack.
I applied the first coat to the top side of each piece and then waited a few hours.
The top side of each piece then got a second coat of epoxy.
The next day, I turned the pieces over and did the same thing to the other side.

I should point out that I also decided to add a layer of cloth to the bottom side of the battery shelves.
After I had waited a day or two for the epoxy to fully cure, my next task was to re-drill the ventilation holes (that had been covered by cloth) and to sand each piece. 
First, I hit the large battery shelf.
Then I tackled the reserve battery shelf. Note the fillet that I had applied behind the support piece in order to strengthen it.
This was hot work. I did it in the middle of the summer, and of course I wore the necessary safety gear - long sleeve shirt and pants, respirator, face shield, ear protection, and gloves.
Below we see the large, aft-most storage shelf - the one that would cover the bilge at the stern of the boat.
I took a breather at this point, pleased with my progress.
Then it was on to the fender storage shelf . . .
and the storage shelf that would sit atop the water tank.

Finally, I had to deal with the mounting blocks.
Below we see the mounting blocks for the fender storage shelf and the reserve battery shelf. I had to sand these prior to epoxy-coating them, since there were pieces of dried epoxy on them from the glue-up.
I had to do the same thing to the large mounting blocks for the large battery box shelf. In this picture you can get a sense of the angles that I cut in the two pieces of wood to make this single mounting block. Notice that the end facing you is larger than the opposite end. This is not due to perspective. I cut it this way to account for the curvature of the hull. Also notice that the top piece does not exactly conform to the bottom piece on the end that is facing you. This too was intentional. You can click on this picture to make it larger, if that helps.

Even though these mounting blocks would be glued to the hull and covered with epoxy and cloth, I thought it would be a good idea to fully epoxy coat them in advance.
These blocks, being little in size and strange in shape, were some tough little suckers to sand.

I wasn't pleased with the large gaps in the large mounting blocks - you know, the gaps that existed on account of the differences in size between the two pieces that I had glued together to make each block. Therefore, I thickened up some epoxy with some wood flour, and I filled in the gaps as much as I was able.
It wasn't very pretty, but it didn't matter. This would save me a lot of epoxy work when the time came to glue this block to the hull.
I then epoxy-coated the blocks.
After sanding them down, they looked much better, and the curvature was more graceful and well-pronounced.

While I was at it, I went ahead and epoxy-coated and sanded the frame for the mahogany door assembly - you know, the door that is aft of the companionway ladder, the door that provides access to the lazarette.
My plan was to paint this frame white. I thought it would fit in well with the existing look of the boat.
One final thing that I needed to do was to create two new cleats to support the sides of the new water tank. You'll recall that the new water tank was the same size as the old one. Why, then, you might ask, would I want to create two new cleats instead of just using the old ones? Well, it all had to do with the the shelf system that I had already created. In order to support the shelf on top of the water tank and the shelf directly aft of it, I needed to have longer cleats. Specifically, I needed them to be just as long as the sides of the water tank. Therefore, these old ones had to go.
I was shocked to discover how easy it was to remove the old cleats.
By putting some pressure on the side of the starboard cleat, I was able to break the corner of the tabbing free. I inserted the pen underneath the tabbing for the sake of indicating for this picture exactly where it broke free.
With a little more lateral force from my hand, I quickly broke the rest of the tabbing free. You can see that at the Ericson yard they had installed this cleat on top of the painted surface of the hull. The polyester resin thus did not have a good bonding surface. 
It appeared, though, that they had at least coated the wood to give it some protection against the elements. It looked to me like it might have been Douglas fir.
The tabbing on the outboard side of the cleat was a little better. I had to use a screwdriver on it.
But it wasn't very difficult at all to pry it off. The same held true for the cleat on the port side.
My next task was to create a mock-up cleat out of a cheap 2 x 4. Just like all the other cleats, this one had to account for the curvature of the hull.
It took many trips back and forth to the saw to get this mock-up just right.
Once I had created the mock-up, though, it was fairly easy to make the real things. I used Douglas fir, just like I had for the other cleats.
I was pleased with their appearance, but my work was not yet finished.
First, I hit them with the round-over bit on the router. The rounded top side would make it easier for the cloth to lap over the wood when the time came to glue them to the hull. Satisfied with their shape, I gave them two coats of epoxy on both sides.
Then, I sanded the cured epoxy, so that the cloth would more easily bond to the wood.
Well-sanded, these cleats were now ready for installation.
This ends the third part of my eight-part article on the modifications I made to the lazarette of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.