Monday, January 28, 2013


I wouldn't say I've got a predisposition toward big projects, but it does seem I'm a bit above average at this stage as compared to the rest of the offshore cohort. That blasted engine business a few months ago is what started it all. Now it's the cockpit decking. The latter is not nearly so bad, though, for a number of reasons. I've had the masts off for ten days now and I am well on my way to finishing. Here's the scoop:

After nearly ten-thousand miles of offshore sailing, the mizzen mast, which sits on the cockpit deck just aft of the cabin-house, compressed the decking substantially. The cockpit well- the rectangular area that makes up the lowest part of the cockpit- had begun to separate from the decking. The deck was angling in toward the mizzen. It is a problem that is rampant on Mariners, as the deck in the cockpit was not supported well enough in the original design. On Ardea, the problem got worse and worse with time. In Tonga, I began to notice that the lower shrouds on the mizzen had lost a great deal of their tension, indicating that the mast was moving, albeit very slowly, toward the point of crashing through the deck and into the engine.

Note the sagging. Also the separation to port.

It worried me a great deal for many miles. I was careful with my sail area and tried to keep the pressure off as much as I could. I knew the problem needed to be addressed, but I wasn't quite sure how bad it would be and how I would go about repairing it until I started ripping out the cockpit decking underneath the mizzen.

Easily breaking through to my galley cubby.

I pulled out teak and rotten plywood and support beams until I ended up with this:

The aft beam, about an inch and a quarter wide,
was all that supported the king plank.

Then came time to build it back up again. I used a couple of borrowed car jacks to bring the cockpit well back up to the original level and put in new runners to support it. I then ran a few new beams to support the deck on port, which had been failing due to rotten wood as well.

All of that was very easy. I used two-part epoxy with silica filler to glue in each new piece before screwing it all together. It was only a matter of replacing what had been there before with new, stronger wood.

Then I had to come up with a way to support the deck under the mizzen. The old design had nothing to support the aft portion of the deck except a single athwartships beam; nothing extended to the hull and there was no bulkhead in place for that purpose. So, I ran a couple of good strong hardwood beams down to the thick epoxied engine mounts. I bolted them to the engine mounts and screwed them into the new forward panel of the cockpit well. That ended up being the most challenging part simply because it was so difficult to drill the holes for lack of space; I borrowed a right-angle drill from Len the schooner captain and then ended up buying several 3/8ths inch bits which I cut to various sizes with my angle grinder. That way, starting with the shortest bit, I could drill in some; I took the bit out and put the next one in the partial-hole, fit the drill chuck around it, tightened, and kept at it. Eventually, I had my bolt-holes. Pain in the neck, but so it goes.

Starboard vertical support bolts into engine mount
runners with two 3/8s in stainless bolts.
Then I ran a beam athwartships on top of the new supports after slotting them at the top to carry it. The latter provided new support for the king board- the large piece of wood that sits directly beneath the mizzen step. Incidentally, the piece I got for the king board is a gorgeous bit of timber called purple heart. Shame to cover it up, but I'm glad to know it's down there.

Got my little galley shelf re-built.

That pretty purple heart. 

From there it was simply a matter of laying new plywood decking. I opted not to put teak back in; it costs about $75 per square foot and, though it looks good when it's new, it just ends up being problematic. It's tendency to leak is what led to all of the aforementioned rot in the first place.

More deck removed to port. Plywood added to create
overlap with new decking (for waterproofing).

Instead, I will lay a layer of fiberglass, paint with liquid polyurethane deck paint and put the mast-step back on. It looks a little funny since much of the cockpit deck is still teak, but eventually that will be removed as it inevitably fails. For now, Ardea's cockpit will be two-tone, though the mast and propane housing hide much of that. In the end, cosmetics comes second to functionality.

Tomorrow, a bit of fiberglass and some sanding,
and we'll call it a done deal.
What seemed an overwhelming project for a few quick seconds was in the end pretty straight-forward. I was lucky to meet a few nice people that lent me some tools and some off-cuts of hardwood, so it was actually quite a cheap project as well. In the end, not a whole lot was needed. The timbers, a sheet of plywood, a hand saw, a sander (I used a manual block and an electric sander), an angle grinder (for making flush those pesky brass screws that are in those beams to stay), epoxy, silica filler (glue powder in Kiwi), some fiberglass cloth, and a lot of fasteners. It took about ten days of not-that-hard-working work, though I accomplished a number of side projects in the mean time (fixed the lazarette cover with some of the harvested teak, fixed the settee table, fixed one of the interior hatch covers, got all the rust stains off the deck, cleaned, cleaned, cleaned). It's been productive.


After. Oxalic Acid. It's the stuff.

I've got a week left over. Time to dive into the next project. It never ends, but it's great to be knocking things off the list at a good clip. It won't be long before I can cast off these blasted dock lines and find I'm floating again in tranquility at Great Barrier Island or somewhere- wherever- else.


  1. Looks great, Connor! I especially like how you notched in the purple heart. Dad

  2. Wow! This looks great! I am so impressed!