Oystercatcher, Haulout Projects, Winter 2015-16

Oystercatcher, shortly before her haulout, Dec 2015
The winter had come to Charleston, South Carolina. I had enjoyed Oystercatcher for six months, but now it was time to haul her out. This was not necessary due to the cooler temperatures, but because there were several projects that I needed to complete before I could use her for cruising purposes the following summer. There were two major projects - the raising of the lines and the wiring of the mast - and there were various smaller projects, the most important of which was the filling of the tapered screw-head holes for the bronze through-hulls with thickened epoxy. Like all other projects that I had completed on this boat, these would take longer than I had expected, and by the time all was said and done, three-and-a-half months would pass.
Around Thanksgiving I had removed the air conditioner box from the companionway. I no longer needed it due to the more comfortable temperatures that had arrived in the Lowcountry. I should say that I found the new washboards to be an annoyance. Contrary to what most people would think, it was much easier to come and go with the air conditioner box in place. Aside from this, it served as a convenient cockpit table.
At any rate, shortly before Christmas my friend and I moved the boat to a local boat ramp. It was 3:30 in the afternoon, and we had timed our hauling out of the boat for high tide.
Just as when we had launched the boat on July 1, 2015 and when we had briefly hauled her and relaunched her on August 15 for the purpose of changing the motor oil and lower unit oil (after breaking in the motor), we made use of the extendable tongue on this Road King trailer. As you see in the picture below, the hooking up of this extendable tongue required the use of the trailer jack and numerous wooden blocks.
I was glad that I had paid extra for this optional extendable tongue at the time of my purchase of the Road King trailer. I would not have been able to launch and retrieve this Ericson 25 at this ramp without it.
A week or two prior to haulout I had modified the keel skid of this trailer by adding a half-inch thick piece of black Starboard. This was HDPE, the same material out of which they make kitchen cutting boards. The only difference was that it is UV stabilized. I had added this Starboard for the purpose of making it easier to retrieve the boat from the water by means of the winch. I had discovered during that August 15 haulout that the black bunk carpet created too much friction. At that time my friend and I were not able to winch the boat all the way up against the bow stops. We had no choice but to stop a few inches shy of them. This did not present that much of a problem at that time, because we did not trailer the boat beyond the parking lot. We simply changed the oil right there and then relaunched the boat. At this December haulnout, we needed to be able to winch the boat up into its proper position - snug against the bow stops.
We timed this haulout for high tide, because I have a neighbor who lost his truck at this very same ramp when he launched his powerboat at low tide during the Christmas holidays. There was more slime on the ramp at this time of year than in the warmer weather months. My neighbor's tires could not get traction, and before he knew it, water was coming in through the doors. My friend and I always block the vehicle's tires when on the ramp. Notice that the water is almost touching the rear wheel. This is how far down I always have to back the vehicle to get the trailer low enough in the water to receive the boat.
Once we got the boat out of the water, the real work began - unstepping the mast and prepping the boat for the ride home. After six months, we were a little rusty, and by the time we finished, it was almost dark. In our slow-moving, end-of-the-day, chilly-weather state of mind we made a big mistake before lowering the mast - we forgot to remove the large stainless steel pin from the mast hinge. How was it, we wondered, that we were unable to lower the mast, even though we had removed the backstay and the two lower shrouds? "Something must be binding something somewhere - yeah, that's it . . let's just give it a push . . . that'll get it going." That was our thinking. So . . . that's what we did. We gave the mast a push. That's when we heard a pop at the base of the mast, and that's when we realized that we had not removed the pin. The pop meant that something metallic had broken. What this something was, we could not tell at this time. We only knew that it could not be good. More on this later.
The next morning I took a close look at the fouling that had occurred along the waterline of the boat. The tides and currents and the many wakes from tugs, barges, and ocean-going container ships had not been kind to the hull of Oystercatcher.
The aft end of the hull was especially fouled. There were barnacles on the boot stripes, and there was slime all over the gelcoat.
The barnacles came off without much of a fuss.
It was more time-consuming to remove the slime. The soft bristle brush was somewhat helpful, but more helpful was the cotton rag. It took several of them to wipe the hull clean.
When I had finished the job, the hull didn't look half bad. Nevertheless, I went forward with my plans to raise the lines. I had made a careful study of other boats at my marina, and I had talked to various owners. Raising the lines to prevent fouling of the hull was the norm. I was encouraged in this regard by my re-reading of Tim Lackey's website on his refitting of Glissando, his Pearson 28 Triton. Tim raised his lines several times over several seasons. He also altered his lines by giving more bottom paint to the aft end of the hull than the bow. He said this was not uncommon among other Pearson Triton owners who had refitted their boats for cruising. The aft end, naturally, is going to bear more weight with the engine, the battery banks, etc.
This job required me to remove the rudder.
There was one issue that made my raising of the lines unavoidable - the blisters that I discovered in the gelcoat on the port side of the hull, amidships. These were not big blisters, they were the small ones - lots of little pock marks. The incessant splashing of water against the hull on this side of the boat had caused a lot of slime to develop in a relatively short period of time. The water in this slime had crept through the gelcoat and caused the hull to take on an orange-peel appearance in this area. I sanded these pock marks with my orbital sander.
I decided that it would be smart to epoxy-coat the hull as a protective measure against future blistering. I knew from my earlier work on the hull that one of the two previous owners of the boat had applied a gray-colored, epoxy-based barrier coat. This would extend that work.
I would apply six total coats of epoxy to the hull, sanding each layer as I went, one day after the next. It was to my fortune that the Carolina Lowcountry experienced unusually warm and humid weather for a week to ten days over the Christmas holidays. The temperature never dipped below 50 degrees, even at night. If it had, this epoxy work would not have been possible. I did not have to worry about the humidity and the blushing normally associated with it. I was using RAKA 350 hardener, which is formulated to resist blushing.
Here's the way it looked after six coats. Why six coats? The folks at RAKA said this number was sufficient. As they say on their website, they actually answer the phone. Whenever I tried to do this with MAS, I always got an answering machine.
After I had completed my epoxy-coating of the hull, the weather turned cold, so this was a good time for me to trailer the boat to a nearby Yamaha dealer for a service appointment for my Yamaha 9.9 High Thrust outboard. I paid for this service only because the motor was still under warranty and because an annual appointment is required to maintain the warranty. In the interim, I began my mast wiring project. I'll not discuss this now, but will instead stick to the subject at hand.
By the end of January I was beginning to focus once again on the hull of the boat. The weather wasn't warm enough for me to apply any paint, but I could at least prep the hull for paint by sanding the epoxy.
After I had completed the sanding, I began to rethink the lines that I had earlier pulled with the blue painter's tape. It was impossible to pull a good line by taking measurements from the existing bottom paint line, especially because I was trying to alter the line to favor the aft end of the boat. A boatyard owner friend of mine stopped by after work, at my request, and informed me that my blue tape lines were all messed up. When I asked him how to do it correctly, he said you can't do it by measuring it, you just have to "look at it and feel it." I probably used up an entire roll of blue tape trying to "look at it and feel it," but no matter how confidently I pulled that tape it always looked warped in one way or another.
I really admired that friend of mine, and learned many things from him in the past, but this technique just didn't work for me. Exasperated, I went back and read Tim Lackey's account of how he did it on Glissando. He said he pulled a surveyor's line between two points on either end of the boat. He constructed scaffolding of sorts. I used two ladders. This technique worked for me. Eyeballing the line, I made tiny reference marks along the hull. You can see in the picture below how the blue tape line that I had earlier pulled on the hull is warped compared to the clean and straight surveyor's line.
Using the reference marks as a guide, I pulled a new line with the blue tape. This one was nice and clean.
After I had applied the bottom paint, this line looked even more clean.

Having applied three coats of Pettit SR-40 bottom paint, it was now time for me to pull another line - this one for the new boot stripe. This was a bit easier, since I had already established a new bottom paint reference line. Nevertheless, it took some thought and patience. It was here where my friend's advice to "look at it and feel it" was more helpful. If you look closely around a boatyard or marina, you'll notice that many boot stripes on many boats flare upwards at the bow. In other words, the boot stripe is higher there than it is admidships. Likewise, the height of the boot stripe often increases in height as it curves around the quarter, near the stern.
Since I would be painting a new boot stripe rather than simple repainting an existing one, I decided to use a primer. In lieu of using the Interlux proprietary thinner for this Interlux primer, I used kerosene and naphtha, the two primary ingredients in the proprietary thinner. Much more affordable.
I thought the primer lines looked great.
As far as the paint was concerned, I used black Interlux Brightside one-part polyurethane, just like I had when I painted over the original red boot stripes back in June 2015.
You'll notice from this perspective that the boot stripe at the quarter is quite thick. This was necessary to create the illusion of a line of a consistent height when viewed from a normal perspective.

I thought the paint job looked pretty good, but I thought the gelcoat of the hull had lost some of its former luster. Therefore, I thought it would be a good idea to give the hull a light compounding with some Presta brand Ultra Cutting Creme.
After I had completed this rather laborious task, I finished the job by applying two coats of Collinite Fleetwax. Never mind the Turtlewax can in the background. I've never used the Turtlewax. I only bought the can for the applicating sponge.
Here are a couple of "after" shots.

While I was at it, I went ahead and cleaned the deck of the boat. The Davis brand FSR (Fiberglass Stain Remover) did a fantastic job transforming the deck from a dingy to a crisp white hue.
Aftewards, I applied two coats of Fleetwax.
Here are a couple of "after" shots of this work.

Now let's focus on that second major task that I had planned for this winter haulout period - the wiring of the mast. When I got the boat back to the house around Christmas, one of the first things I did was to remove the mast from the deck of the boat. This is always a two-to-three person job. On this occasion the Admiral and my son helped me.
The sawhorses in the backyard welcomed their old friend. There was little time for rest, however. Off came the halyards; then off came the standing rigging.The mast then sat idle over Christmas while the weather was warm and the hull of the boat demanded her owner's attention.
In early January when the colder weather had returned, I gave all my attention to the mast. I had hoped to carry out this rewiring of the mast prior to my launching of the boat in July 2015, but I had run out of time. Now the time had come for me at last to carry this out. I began by installing a mast wiring conduit. I used Schedule 20 PVC, which is thin and thus lighter than the more common Schedule 40 type. I installed two different sections of this pipe. One above the spreaders and one below. The break between the two sections would allow me to snake the wires from the spreader lights into the lower conduit and thus down the mast and into the boat.

Prior to my installation of the two conduits, I drilled a hole in the upper conduit. This hole corresponded to the existing hole in the mast for the steaming light. Without this hole I obviously would not be able to snake the wires from the steaming light down the conduit to the bottom of the mast.
For much of this conduit project, I followed the advice of Don Casey, This Old Boat, 2nd Edition. Casey suggested placing rivets every 18 inches. I found that I needed them every 9 inches. Otherwise, the rivet gun would not grab the conduit. It would push it away.
One thing that I had to figure out for myself was the aforementioned drilling of the hole in the conduit for the steaming light wires. It was necessary for me to offset the conduit hole by several inches. Otherwise, the stainless steel snake (an old piece of rigging) that I used did not have enough room to make the turn. In other words, when the existing hole in the mast and the conduit hole were perfectly lined up, the resulting right angle was too sharp for the snake.
Speaking of holes, I had to drill two new ones in the mast for the spreader-light wires.
When everything was ready to go, I started snaking the wires. Here's a shot of the snake in the steaming light hole.
On the masthead I installed an anchor light. This light was manufactured by Bebi Electronics in Fiji, and it was known as the Bebi Owl.
I made some custom aluminum plates for mounting the spreader lights to the spreaders.These were LED tractor lights manufactured by Oznium, a Colorado-based company. These waterproof aluminum tractor lights were not only lighter than other "marine" spreader lights on the market, but they were also much cheaper.
These spreader lights would serve me well when cruising on Oystercatcher the following summer. On several occasions I burned them throughout the night to ensure that other boats were aware of my vessel.
Here's a shot of the steaming light/foredeck light. It's an Aqua Signal brand product that I thoroughly modified for my own purposes. I removed the energy-hogging incandescent lights and replaced them with my own waterproof LEDs. For the steaming light (pictured top) I installed a Bebi Electronics brand light specifically designed for this purpose. Notice the gray butyl tape on the top and bottom of the light that I used to secure it in place. For the foredeck light (pictured bottom), I installed an Oznium brand LED spotlight.
I used two rivets to secure the steaming light/foredeck light into place with the two plastic tabs designed for this purpose.
At the top of the mast I installed a new VHF antenna. The coax cable was also new. After I soldered the coax connector to the coax cable I melted a piece of heat shrink tubing over the joint so as to protect it from the water. Note also how I insulated the antenna from the mast by means of a piece of Starboard. This was something I had learned from Maine Sail, that electrical wizard from Maine, whose presence on internet sailing forums is ubiquitous. See the link to his own Compass Marine webpage on the homepage of this Oystercatcher blog.
At the base of the mast I had earlier drilled a hole for the routing of the wire outside of the mast. My plan was to route it through a plastic through-hull that I had earlier installed in the cabin top of the boat adjacent to the mast. I had learned of this technique from Tim Lackey, whose work on Glissando I've previously mentioned. If I remember correctly, Tim discusses this technique more thoroughly on an online forum (perhaps one for Pearson owners) than he does on his own website.
This piece of stern rail hardware (made to house 1 inch stainless steel tubing) was just barely large enough for all the wires and the new coax cable.
Before I reinstalled all the rigging, I gave the mast two coats of Collinite Fleetwax.
I did the same to the boom.
A few days later it rained. There were beads of water all up and down the mast.
With my reinstallation of the rigging, my work on the mast was complete.
Well . . . almost. Remember what I said about that mistake that my friend and I had made when unstepping the mast at the boat ramp on that cold afternoon in December? Our pushing on the mast had caused the aluminum mast step and the stainless steel hinge to bend slightly out of shape. It had also caused two of the stainless steel screws to be sheared. These screws held the aluminum mast step to the base of the mast. It was the shearing of these screws that had caused the popping sound that we heard at the base of the mast when pushing on it. Fortunately, our folly did not result in the cracking of the aluminum mast base.
Here's what the stainless steel hinge piece and the aluminum mast step looked like after I had already corrected the bend of the hinge in a large bench vice and reassembled the pieces. You can see that there are still some distortions in the aluminum mast base. I did not attempt to correct these distortions for fear of cracking the aluminum. I decided that the best thing to do was to let the weight of the mast itself gradually correct them over time.
Another important project that I undertook while the boat was out of the water was the resealing of the countersunk screw head holes for the three new bronze through-hulls that I had earlier installed. At the time of installation there was a lot of excess Sikaflex adhesive/sealant that had oozed out from the screw holes. I allowed this Sikaflex to cure. Then I sanded the excess until it was fair with the hull. Finally, I covered it with bottom paint. These rubbery plugs worked well enough. For one of the screws, however, they did not. This screw was one of the three for the large, waste-discharge through-hull in the head. Every once in a while I would notice a drop of water underneath the threads of this screw on the inside of the boat. Understandably this really bothered me, so I decided to dig out all of the cured Sikaflex from all of the tapered screw head holes on all three of the through-hulls and replace it with thickened epoxy. I figured that if I ever needed to pull the through-hulls I could remove the epoxy with my Dremel.
Afterwards, I applied two coats of bottom paint to the cured epoxy. This epoxy method worked. After I launched the boat I never saw another drop of water again.
Now let's take a brief look at some of the smaller projects that I tackled while the boat was out of the water. Various persons had commented on the unattractive nature of the 2 x 4 pine lashing boards that I had installed on the foredeck of the boat. Therefore, I endeavored to improve the appearance of the boat by replacing the pine boards with ones of mahogany. This required a trip to Southern Lumber for some rough sawn sapele mahogany.
At the same time, I removed the original mahogany door frames and doors for the hanging locker and the galley sink cabinet. After 40 years, these pieces deserved a little more varnish, not because they were in bad shape, but because the varnish would protect them from the inevitable scuffs that would come from constant use of the boat while cruising.
I also removed some of the trim pieces that I had earlier installed around the portlights in the main salon and on the overhead of the V-berth. These pieces I had never stained and varnished.
In the past I had used Pettit brand Brown Mahogany stain. In early 2016 it appeared that this product was no longer available. Therefore I switched to Interlux. In the can it appeared a bit more red than the Pettit, but once I rubbed it into the wood, it was almost indistinguishable.
Here's a shot of the lashing boards. You can see how the stain makes a big difference in terms of the accenting of the natural beauty of the mahogany.
I also did some canvas work during this time. The mainsail cover needed mending. The 24 inches of rain and the winds that Charleston had received from the offshore passing of Hurricane Joaquin in October 2015 had caused holes to be worn in the cover in the area where the mast winch and other pieces of hardware sat.
I also made a canvas cover for the forward hatch. Throughout the summer and fall of 2015 I had protected the interior of the boat from the sun by tacking up a piece of a white bed sheet in the hatch hole. This raggedy sheet was effective, but not very attractive, and besides, it prevented me from opening and closing the hatch with ease.
I made the hatch cover out of Sunbrella brand acrylic canvas. The color was Toast, the same color as the canvas on the genoa cover and the mainsail cover. Note the through-hull adjacent to the mast base. This is where I would route the mast wires after I stepped the mast and relaunched the boat.
Another canvas-work project that I undertook was for the companionway washboard above the air conditioner box. UV rays would sometimes fill the galley and main salon of the boat at the dock, especially if her sunshade was not up.
This cover made a big difference.
Speaking of the sun and of temperatures, I added a thermometer to the main salon. This was a German-made instrument with a wooden base and a thin, brass plate. At around $15 on Amazon, it was more affordable and better looking than the nautically-styled plastic tube thermometers sold by Weems and Plath.
I installed this thermometer on the mast compression post, adjacent to the small bookcase. I placed it low on the post so that anyone passing through the area would have an unobstructed handhold on the post.
I also installed a barometer in the main salon. This was a Fischer brand barometer, made in Germany. Like the thermometer, this was something I had found on Amazon. It was more affordable and better in quality than the comparable Weems and Plath barometers that I examined first hand in the local West Marine.
One thermometer was not enough. I also put one in the head. This one had a painted aluminum backing plate.
In the V-berth I installed another thermometer with a plastic backing plate. This one, together with the aluminum one, cost me about $10 total at the local hardware store. Why three different thermometers? Because the temperature varies in these three spaces, despite their close proximity. I check these instruments on a regular basis, especially when cruising.
On the inside of the door to the head I hung a brass hook. This hook would get just as much use as the three brass hooks that I had earlier installed on the outside of the door.
On the port side of the boat, I installed a Johnson Marine Hardware brand midships cleat. Some nine months earlier I had installed one of these on the starboard side of the boat. It was often very helpful in docking.
It was March 20, 2016, the first day of spring, and the live oak trees were sending forth their new leaves and shedding their old ones. It was impossible to keep these leaves off the deck. As soon as I would blow them away, the wind would blow new ones down from the trees.
Another deck-related project that I undertook at this time concerned the centerboard block. The original cheek block, which I had not through-bolted when I rebedded it, had ripped itself free from the deck at the end of the summer of 2015. I cut a piece of aluminum the same size as the cheek block and bedded it with butyl tape to the deck. This sealed the screw holes and made everything nice and neat. Above this plate, I lashed a Harken brand block to the mahogany handrail with seine twine. This new set-up would work well, better than the original.
In the cockpit I installed two Seateak brand boxes side-by-side. These boxes were designed to hold VHF handheld radios. I would use one for the radio and one for iPhones. In my six months of sailing the boat in Charleston Harbor I had gotten tired of these devices tumbling all over the cockpit whenever the boat was heeling.
I did not neglect the battery banks during this haulout period. I tested the specific gravity of the batteries and compared my findings to the data provided by the Trojan Battery Company. This helped me in some regard to determine the state of health of the batteries. According to my calculations, they were still robust.
The specific gravity test does not tell you what the amp hour capacity is of your battery banks. This I learned from reading Maine Sail's articles on his Compass Marine website. Accordingly, in keeping with his suggestions, I reprogrammed my Victron brand battery monitor so as to lower the amp hour capacity number for my house bank. This would help to prevent me from taking the battery bank down too low and thus damaging it or ruining it.
As far as other electrical matters were concerned, I also retested my Honda generator set-up that I planned to use when cruising. I had tested this set-up at the dock back in the summer of 2015. Now I wanted to reassure myself that everything was alright. The generator did not have a problem charging the battery bank (with an Iota 45 charger) and powering the air conditioner at the same time. More importantly, the digital carbon monoxide detectors inside the boat never moved off of zero while I was doing this.
At this time I also worked on storage solutions for the Honda generator. I knew that I didn't want to stow it in the cockpit while underway. Thinking through the matter I ultimately decided to stow it in the main salon, and I decided that I would secure it with a Yeti brand tie-down kit.
I through-bolted the stainless steel loops to the settee berth extension. Through these I ran one of the Yeti straps. Later I would through-bolt the berth extension itself to the cockpit locker to make sure that the berth extension did not budge. Later, when cruising, I would also place a towel between the generator and the berth extension. This would help to keep it nice and snug
From Defender I ordered (among other things) three different coils of 5/32 inch x 50 ft polyester line. I used some of this line to replace the nylon flag halyard lines that I had installed in the summer of 2015. The sun had quickly damaged the nylon on these thin lines and rendered them unusable.
I cleaned off the slime from the four fenders, and I replaced the three-strand nylon line on one of them due to the chafing damage that it had suffered.
In the six months that Oystercatcher had been in the water her swim ladder had become fouled in various ways. Due to a fuel line that was not as tight as it should have been on the external fuel tank, fuel had dripped off of the tank and onto the white Starboard of the swim ladder. This had stained the starboard. Saltwater had caused some of the stainless steel to become slightly rusted. Bar Keeper's Friend, with its oxalic acid, did a good job at removing the fuel stain from the Starboard. Never Dull did a good job at cleaning up the stainless steel.

Inspired, I used the Never Dull to clean up the rest of the stainless steel around the boat.

By the time April came around, I had wrapped up all the necessary projects, and I was ready to put the boat back in the water.
The stepping of the mast and the launch on April 3, 2016 went flawlessly.
The next day, I returned to the boat to take care of some unfinished business, namely the mast wiring.
I had not wanted to install the terminals on the ends of the wires until I had seen how far the wires would extend into the boat through the through-hull.
The LED spreader lights were super bright. I would not be able to test the Bebi Owl anchor light until dark, because a sensor within the light prevented it from turning on during periods of daylight.
These projects had taken longer than I had expected, but Oystercatcher looked fabulous, and now she was ready for cruising.

This ends this posting on the projects I undertook on Oystercatcher during her winter haulout period from late December to early April 2016.