Monday, March 30, 2015

Bottom and rudder resteration

The last blog ended with the grounding on Dauphin Island after the Wooden Boat Festival in Madisonville, LA, and waiting for word from the insurance company.  They send an adjuster and agreed to pay for whatever it takes to make the hull water tight again, and rebuilding the rudder, which became my 2013/2014 winter project.   Tom from Diversified Marine Services in Mobile, one of the few "wood boat guys"  left, along with Turner Marine took on the project.  All the bottom paint, just applied six months before, was again ground off the hull. The bilge was filled with water so we could see the areas it was leaking out, assuming that if water will come out it it would probably come in the same place. The rudder was taken off  and the broken hinge removed.  This may sound routine, but in fact the rack and pinion steer mechanism had to be taken apart, and the prop shaft removed from the engine to allow the rudder post to slide out of the boat. I learned that the entire rudder was made of solid teak, and looked to have never been removed from the boat since it was launched.

I had the new hinge fabricated from stainless rather than bronze, because it was not just the hinge but the complete rudder post and topmost hinge was one piece.  Stainless was stronger and less expensive, and since it was to be painted and under the water, I felt secure in sacrificing this small amount of authenticity for the integrity of the boat.

     While the hinge was being fabricated Tom removed all the old cotton caulking from between the planks, from the keel to the waterline.  Except for a few places where the cotton had rotted from water exposure, he was amazed how preserved it was, and estimated that it had been at least 30 years since it had been replaced.   After letting the groves dry out he started the process of replacing the cotton batting.  He first painted the inside of the groves with thinned bottom paint, then using the special tools that look like wide chisels without an edge he would lay in a bead of cotton batting and tap it deep into the space between the planks.  I didn't count the number of planks or the total length of batting pressed into the seams, but I know the planks were only 4-5" wide and started at the top if the keel board to the waterline in a nice wineglass shape for a total of about five vertical feet and thirty-one foot waterline.

Minor grounding impetus for Bottom Over-haul

Last fall while returning home from the Madisonville, Louisianan Wooden Boat Festival, where we  awarded First Place for Sailboats, I had made arrangements to put Destiny on display at the water front on Dauphin Island.  While following the channel from the ICW to Aloe Bay, on the North side of the Island just west of the bridge,  we had a soft grounding.  I was watching the depth meter closely, thought the channel was supposed dredged to 6 feet, and Destiny draws five feet.  The transducer is located a couple feet below the water line on the starboard side of the hull, and was reading a consistent 6'-6'-7'-5.5'- 6' - 0'.  We were just left of center of the channel, but we were stuck.  I tried in vane to back off with the engine in reverse, so we flagged down a passing power boat who was gracious enough to let us throw him a line.  He first tried to back us off but his 90hp outboard Just churned up the water as the lines tightened to laser beams.  Then they came around to our bow and tried to pivot us off.  After several attempts this method was starting to make progress and soon we were floating again in the deeper part of the channel, and motored on down to the bulk head and secured the boat for the night.
     The following morning, I came to the boat and saw the water was up to the bottoms of the floor boards.  The switch to the electric bilge pump took this opportunity to have a mind of its own and decided to go on strike.  After some official language and playing with wires it came to live and shortly dispensed with the invading water.  Since Destiny had before always had a dry bilge, except after a rain, I figured we must have jarred something loose the day before.  We sailed her back up to Turner Marine on Mobile Bay with no issues but kept an eye on the bilge.  I called my insurance carrier to alert them that there may be a problem and watched the bilge.  The problem seemed to get worse rather than better and the experts at the boat yard said we'd better pull her out of the water and take a look.
    I did get a surprise.  Out of the water I saw that the brass rudder hinge was broker and the top of the rudder was cracked and bend over to one side.  Actually the hull itself looked pretty good, no sprung planks, no gaping holes, but I could see water seeping out of several of the lower seams right above the keel.

   I called the insurance company back and they agreed to sen'd an adjuster.