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Project Log:  Saturday, November 14, 2009
Home Page > The Project > Project Logs > 11/14/09

A disgusting day.

Even though last weekend I was not too disappointed not to have the materials on hand that I needed to grind beneath the cockpit, the reality was that I really wanted to get it done, and I'd no intention of putting it off any longer.  So, armed with a new supply of 4-1/2" flap discs and an improved--if interim--supplied air mask (more on that later), I attacked the areas beneath the cockpit and in the cockpit lockers.  I began with a cutoff wheel and removed several tabbed-in wooden blocks that were placed hither and thither on the hull, probably once acting as supports for the now-defunct gasoline tank that had been mounted there.  I also cut off a few remaining hardware fasteners that I'd not done during my earlier hardware removal efforts.

The goal for today:  remove paint, remove black smoke/fire residue, and remove clearly bad fire-or heat-damaged laminate.  The previous owner had done some grinding on the port side years ago, so I decided to begin on the untouched starboard side.  Over a couple hours, I cleaned up the area and was pleased to discover that most of the laminate here was sound--as I'd suspected from the relatively unscathed paint in the locker, but one never knows.  Towards the aft end, I discovered some air-ridden laminate where the resin had been overheated during the fire, but generally this side was in better shape than the port side--at least on the inside.

I ground the overhead (aka the underside of the quarterdeck) and the inside faces of the cockpit well, all of which were badly charred and contained some woven roving and mat that was completely unbound by resin.  I removed what I could by hand, and with the grinder, eventually revealing relatively sound laminate beneath--though not entirely so.  Still, I thought I'd gotten to a point where the work was salvageable.

The damage in the starboard locker was far worse towards the aft end, where clearly there had been flames and heat from the inside, as well as the obvious flames that had ruined the outside of the hull here after the flames came out the fuel tank vent and wrapped around the counter.


The underside of the cockpit sole was totally ruined, completely unsurprisingly as I'd noted long ago how weak the cockpit sole was when trod upon, not to mention the charred appearance of the underside.  I ripped off some large, dried/burned-out sections of the bottom skin, revealing charred balsa core.  At this time, I made the decision that I'd have to cut out the cockpit sole and replace it rather than try to effect repairs in situ.


With the starboard locker fully sanded and looking better, I began work on the port side.  Since most of the hull had been previously ground already (under previous ownership), and because the sides of the cockpit and the overhead (underside of the cockpit seats and quarterdeck) were the most badly burned areas on the boat, I decided to start with that.

Almost immediately, I realized that it was going to be difficult at best and fruitless at worst to hope to save the port side of the cockpit:  the fire damage was significant, the overall structure was badly weakened, and it was next to impossible to even clean up the burned, charred, dried-out mess.  Grinding the soft material had some effect on removing the worst, but in many areas the entire bottom skin had been ruined, exposing charred core on the cockpit seat and quarterdeck, just like that on the cockpit sole. 

I started to consider simply cutting out much or all of the cockpit area and quarterdecks and starting fresh, rather than attempting to live with/repair what existed.  I put the grinder aside for a while and contemplated the idea.  Earlier, during the years when I'd  thought on and off about the project, I'd come up with the idea of possibly removing the cockpit anyway, not only for ease of repair to the damage but to also improve access to the areas beneath, where I knew I'd be spending a lot of time working on the major structural repairs required.  But I'd more or less rejected the idea, at least for the access consideration alone.  There was certainly enough work to do without making more without good reason.

This changed things, though.  I'd already determined that the cockpit sole had to go, and I'd similarly known that the port quarterdeck was in tough shape and would require recoring and new work, possibly from beneath.  Now, it was clear that the port cockpit seat, and particularly the gutters and flanges around the locker opening, was quite possibly unsalvageable.

I spent quite a few minutes just sort of standing there, looking over the situation and thinking of the ramifications of the decision one way or the other.  Sawing out the entire cockpit was not a decision I took lightly, though I was tempted to grab the saw and go for it.  Instead, though, I decided it was lunchtime, and took a break.

After the break, I made the decision to wait till tomorrow before making the final decision on the cockpit, though I was leaning strongly towards cutting it out and starting fresh, both because I didn't think I'd get a satisfactory repair otherwise, and also to improve access for the new fiberglass work I'd be doing on the hull beneath.  Meantime, I sanded the other areas of the locker.  The laminate on this side was badly resin-starved as a result of the heat and flames, with significant air pockets throughout most of the locker.  In some places, the previous owner had already removed large areas of delaminated fiberglass, leaving only the skin coat of mat on the outside of the hull.  The general state of the laminate on this side was a real mess.


After wrapping up the grinding on the port side, I cleaned up the horrific mess.  There was gross rat hair-colored and -textured shards of fiberglass all over the place, plus some large burned sheets of fiberglass roving, bits of wood, and of course large quantities of grinding dust.  The interior of the boat was covered; the deck was covered; the shop was covered.  Using a large box fan to pull the dust out of the boat while working certainly make a difference inside the boat, but really makes a mess elsewhere.

Perhaps I wasted some of my time grinding and cleaning up portions of the cockpit well and underside of the deck, given my likely decision to trash the entire cockpit, but I'd not have been able to make the decision intelligently without the day's efforts, so I didn't consider it a waste.

No final decisions on the cockpit's fate...I thought I'd sleep on it and revisit in the morning.  If I decided to remove it, I'd be sentencing myself to a fairly significant re-construction project, so I wanted to be sure it was the right decision.




Total Time Today:  5.25 hours

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