sailing homepage : trip reports : summer refit : solar & poliglow
Previous: rails & exhaust

Sep 1-4: Solar panel install, winch rebuild saga, vinyl name and poliglow application

It was a long four day weekend. Sara left Thursday afternoon for Colorado for a week with her family, leaving me behind to do glorious wonderful boat work. Ahh, joy!

Before Sara left we picked up two additional anchors: a 35lb high-tensile danforth and a 45lb CQR-knockoff. Both are awesome hooks, and the price was right. We got them from a boat part re-seller who we've met before at swap meets. He's always running over and asking how much the part you're looking at costs - he'll try to buy it out from under you if he thinks he can resell it for more later. Crazy dude, but he gave us a deal this time, so all is forgiven!

Our anchor collection


Chain locker

We also had loaded up the cushions Sara and her friends Francesca and Briana had put together the previous night. The three of them had cut the foam into the complicated three-dimensional shapes, wrapped them with padding, and stuffed everything into the Sunbrella covers. Sara's mom did an fantastic job sewing them, they look like they were professionally manufactured.

After dropping Sara and Laci, our cat, off at the airport, I made it to West Marine Sausalito before they closed to pickup our anchor chain and rode. We ordered two identical sets: 100' of 3/8" BBB chain with a splice to 300' of 5/8" 3-strand nylon.

I guess I didn't fully appreciate how much chain and rope we ordered. It filled a cart. The cart bowed and almost broke. I think it was almost 500lbs! We wrestled it into the back of my truck, I spent a few hundred more on assorted stuff, and was outta there before nightfall. I will break my addiction yet!

I got everything out of the truck, into the boat, and mostly stowed away before it got dark. I grabbed a quick bite and spent a solid two hours reorganizing the tools and parts inside the cabin. I can't wait until the boat is less of a construction zone, it's already feeling like home.

I slept soundly in the V-berth. It's comfortable up there! Friday arrived and I did some web-work while waiting for the morning fog and marine layer to burn off. Funny, we usually get to the boat at 9-10AM and it's sunny and I kick myself for not leaving earlier. On the day I sleep over and am ready to go early, it's foggy until 10:30!

I started with what I naively thought was going to be a two- or three-hour job: servicing the winches. We have four winches in the cockpit: two Barient 28+ two-speed self-tailing winches for our jib/genoa sheets, and two Lewmar 30 single-speed self-tailing winches for spinnaker sheets.

There are two winches on the cabintop, for mainsheet and reefing line adjustments, a Barient 21 two-speed and a Barient 21 two-speed self-tailing. There are also two Barient 21 two-speed winches on the mast for halyard operation.

Of course Barient has long since gone out of business, but parts and pawls and springs and diagrams are floating around 'out there', and I managed to get some delivered before the weekend. I was set. Ready to do war on the winches.

Where's my beer?!


Getting the cap off the beer

I tried to disassemble the big Barient 28+ 2SP ST winches first. I started with a beer case to contain any springy parts that came shooting out, but it was overkill. The tops came off the winches easily enough, but the bodies were frozen in the bases. I hit them with penetrating oil, a rubber mallet, a steel hammer, a propane torch, and finally had to chisel the salt out!

Removing this was hard


That's all salt!

The previous boat owner had advertised that the winches had been professionally cleaned, but the two inch thick cake of salt under the bodies betrayed the fact that these winches had probably never ever been taken apart. I shit you not, I had to vacuum out two inches of salt. I think his habit of pouring boiling water over the frozen winches wasn't helping much either.

Needs servicing for sure


Can't get the gears out though

It took me all day - working around other small jobs - to get the two winches off the bases. After that I discovered the gears are held in a press-fit clamshell. I couldn't get that apart at all; I tried hammers, chisels, penetrating oil, heat, etc. No luck.

I had to wait until after the weekend to bring it to the mechanical engineer at work and offer it up as a puzzle. He figured it out, but belittled me enough that I'm not going to tell YOU how to do it!

Jay doing the lifelines


Jay and Jesse working on rigging

While I was futzing with the winches, Jesse and his apprentice Jay showed up. These guys are from West Marine Alameda, and Jesse is a pro. He's also very easy to work with and schedule. They started installing the lifelines, replaced the jib wire/rope halyard, and rewired one of the spinnaker/whisker poles.

I cleaned up the boat and left early: I had to swing by Fred Fritz Electronics for some parts for the navigation equipment installation! Fred is awesome, he runs a small shop in Petaluma, and knows absolutely EVERYTHING about installing radars, GPS', chartplotters, etc. He's done it all. He knows it all. His experience is invaluable.

I also visited Mike and Sam, had some dinner, and swung by work to pick up the two Kyocera KC-120 solar panels that had arrived! Awesome-o. Each is a 130W panel, and together they should be good for ~130A per day. Sweet!

Saturday started early, but after shopping for aluminium angle-iron and mounting hardware, and unloading all my goodies, I wasn't working until 10AM. Of course it was sunny, and had been sunny since early morning.

I worked all day on building mounting brackets for the solar panels. I used 1/8" thick aluminium angle-iron, 1.5" to a side, as mounting rails. I bolted these to the panel's aluminium frame, and cut holes to hang the panels from the 1" rails on the side of the boat. The frame is connected to the rails by nifty 1" rail clamps. It was awesome to see the plan come together.

Solar panels and brackets


Briana cleaning the hull

Briana, Sara's elusive friend, came by to get a little emotional buy-in for her two-week trip with us down the Baja peninsula. She worked her ass off! It was a real shock to me given the slack-ass attitude of our regular helpers. Hahah. Just kidding, grow a sense of humour, geez.

Briana organized the interior, did a little remote-operator phone shopping for me at Home Depot ("How big is the bolt? No, I need 1/4"-20 stainless with nylock nuts! Look harder, they have to have them!"), and finally cleaned the entire boat with Poliprep.

I found this stuff online and it is just amazing. The Poliprep is good, it removes oxidization and really cleans up the hull, but the Poliglow part is true magic. More on that later.

Anyway, we worked hard until the sun went down, went to Home Depot and bought a bunch of tools I should have been using all along, ate, and came back and watched a short little movie called "Moby Dick". It's not short. It's an epic adventure. The box lies when it says it's less than three hours. We didn't finish it.

Sunday, day 3, dawned and of course it was foggy and wet. No problem: we finished watching that stupid movie. The clip with the white whale's back surfacing and then submerging must have been shown about a thousand times. No kidding.

I went back to work putting the final touches on the solar panel mounts while helping Briana apply the vinyl boat lettering. We really took our time making sure everything was lined up properly and the letters were sticking.

Briana applying stickers


Briana showing off our work

Sam showed up with lunch (a six-pack) and a snack (two pounds of curry chicken salad). I guess his tapeworms are thriving. He and Briana finished applying the lettering while I worked more on the panel mounts.

Will and Briana prepare...


...remove the cover...
(600x450:77Kb) some touchup...


...and it looks beautiful

Removing the cover from the lettering was a delicate procedure. We really took our time to make sure it was done right. The name looks just amazing. We went with an online company Cap'n John's Boat Lettering, and the results were spectacular.

The two next attacked the back of the boat, called the transom in nautical terms, removing the last vestiges of the old boat name "Sea Dragon". Sam got right into it, removing so much old crappy paint I thought he had gone through the gelcoat. Sorry for yelling, Sam-o.

Solar panel mounted on the rails


Looks awesome, functional too!

Somewhere in here I finally finished the panel mounts and installed them on the stainless steel rails we previously put on the stern. I can't tell you how wonderful it feels to have everything come together like this: the panels look like they're made for the boat, they're the perfect height, and the rails are the perfect size and shape. It looks like it was designed to be that way.

Next the dynamic duo (Sam and Briana) tackled the Poliglow application. This stuff is so cool. It's a polymer-based laminate. Unlike a wax it doesn't contain an abrasive, it doesn't need to be 'buffed on' or polished, and it'll last a year or more.

Construction zone


Uh, do you know how to read?

They did five coats on both sides. I got in the way, 'helped' a little, moved the boat when they needed to do the other side, fed them with gourmet burgers, took pictures, and finally did some real work: putting the boat's hailing port, "San Francisco Bay, California" on the transom.

Holy crap it's awesome


Sam working hard

We finished just as the sun went down, grabbed another movie, "Into the Blue" with Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset, and sucked down some beers while relaxing in the cabin. This is the life. I hope sailing is like this.

Sam split and I did some web work while Briana went straight to sleep. It's physically exhausting work!

Monday, day 4, arrived with little fog. I quietly did more web work while trying to pretend I was still asleep. Briana got up and was noisily cleaning and organizing stuff when I finally admitted defeat and got up too.

Briana has some great ideas about how to arrange the cabin - lots of locking plastic tubs, nets for fruit and veggies, and other cool storage ideas. She bought tons of stuff and returned half of it on the way home. Between her and Sara we're set.

She poliglowed the transom while I made several silly trips to the hardware store for different parts. The boat now looks like new. The hulls shine, the name is gorgeous, the wood glows - it really looks divine. If only we had sails...

Briana working the transom


Up the mast!

Briana left and I went up the mast, with Wyn's help, to install a block for flying flags off the spreaders. I did a few other jobs, including cleaning the plastic hatches with another miracle material called Plexus, before Mike and Sam arrived about 4PM.

Mike playing with his anchor


Custom C&C machined Delron

Mike installed the anchor channel and custom-machined Delron backing plate, while Sam and I demonstrated how easily two electrical engineers could mess up the most simple job. We tried to screw the dinghy wheel mounting plate onto the back of the dinghy. It took more than two hours, a trip to the hardware store to get more parts, and we eventually gave up, leaving the dinghy transom full of holes. How do you 'undo' a drill hole?

That's it folks. That's our weekend. Thanks to Briana, Sam, and Mike.

Previous: rails & exhaust