Laying out bulkheads and such…the other way

Lately there has been a few places on the net, and on this site as well about laying out using a ticking stick. This is a tried and true method and requires very little in tools, or materials, but is slow and has room for mistakes. I was watching a clever young shipwright fit up some very awkward bulkheads a few years ago, and although I have been a journyman fabricator for nearly 30 years I had never seen it done his way before. After, it seemed so simple and obvious.

His tools consisted of (1) a bundle of strips of “door skin” which is that cheap¬†“mahogany” plywood that is about 1/8 to 5/32 inch thick, often sold as “cabin grade” ripped into 1 inch wide strips.¬† (2) a hot melt glue gun and glue sticks, (3) a pair of tin snips or sharp utility knife, and (4) a staple gun and roll of masking tape for vertical and overhead work.

The technique is to place a strip of the plywood , trimmed to length along the longest straight side and tape or lightly staple it in place. Then, place another trimmed strip along the next side and hot melt glue the corner together lapping one over the other at the corner. Proceed around the perimeter the same way, overlaping and hot melt gluing each corner or change in direction. When you come to a curve or any fit up that is not straight, which will be most of the things you encounter on a boat, simply place straight pieces touching only at their ends, (chords, remember middle school geometry? ) and using many shorter pieces trimmed to a point, glue them radially onto the chord as close together as necessary to follow the curved perimeter. If you are working on the flat such as a new sole or a cockpit grating there is no need to tape or staple the pieces down while you work, although if you are clumbsy like me, taping might be a good idea to prevent you from knocking the whole works out of kilter when you jump because you burned yourself yet again on the glue gun. (dang, those things get hot, and that glue just sticks to you till you blister than tears the blister off when you try to pull the glue blob off.) Maybe a thin pair of gloves would be in order.

When you have gone all the way around the perimeter it is a good idea to put a few diagonal braces across the corners and if it is large, maybe an X brace to keep everything from going out of square when you move it around. If there is a taper to the hull or adjoining pieces, and there probably will be, take into account that pieces of 1/8 ” material lapped one on the other will be 1/4″ or more above the actual point of contact and if the taper is 30 degrees that will amount to over 5/32″ too large or too small. It works best, when plotting curves to have your radial pieces under your chords, in contact with the point on the hull etc. that you are trying to fit to. If you have an existing piece and you are trying to duplicate it without removing it it is easy to tape or staple the strips flat to the face, but if you have nothing and you are trying to make a pece to fit in the hole it is sometimes easier to prop a piece of carboard or thin scrap plywood to act as a guide for your template or maybe even as part of it, gluing your strips to the pannel as you go.

When everything is cool,(this is important, as the glue remains quite plastic till cool) peel away any tape, or remove any staples and carefully remove the completed template. At this point you are going to find out if in fact the piece you are hoping to make can in fact pass through the openings in the hull you have available. This is one part of this technique that no other method can tell you. If the template doesn’t come out, you can be assured that the new piece will not go in. Any way, once you have it free, simply place it the correct way out on your plywood or whatever, orienting the grain to best effect and, holding it down with a few small clamps or wieghts, trace it carefully and cut the new piece out.

You can even use this method in a 3 dimensional way to make wierd and unusual tanks and such to fit all those odd unused spaces, knowing that if you can get the template out, means you can get the new piece in, and for that space under a lazarette or Vee-birth where there are no square corners I’m unaware of a method which would work better.

Give it a shot, it is a very satisfying thing to drop a cabin sole into place and have it fit PERFECTLY the first time.


Easypoxy topside paint job

About two years ago, I painted Wu-Wei’s tired old topside using this “great” product called EasyPoxy.

I am no dummy- countless hours of research and prep work went into this project. Painting over gelcoat is no easy feat- I had to wash the boat a few times with hull cleaner, wipe with acetone, and sand everything lightly. I taped and primed. Then I painted. While the end result was not perfect (I learned a lot a few months later when painting the hull in the dreaded AwlGrip), the end reult was much better than the before. The topsides were shiny and easy to clean. Now, to my dismay, the topside is a hot, oxidized, chalky mess that holds dirt. WTF? Weeks of my life were wasted, and EasyPoxy is not cheap.

EasypoxyThis, my friends, is total crap. The front of the boat looks like someone was dancing on fish remnants in black shoes. It will not hose off. The next step, for the time being, will be to get a scrub brush and some car soap. It’s a funny thing on sailboats- usually, the hull looks like crap and the topsides look fine. Our hull is shiny and clean. Anyhoo, I have learned a valuable lesson from all of this- boaters lie! People claimed EasyPoxy lasted them forever. Maybe they got some special formula, or have their boats under a tarp. I now refer to this paint as, “EasyPOX.” There is a solution, of course. This is to remove all the old paint and go with the rest of the $300+ of AwlGrip left over in my garage. Ha ha ha, should only take me MONTHS to do! (Yeah, screw this crap.) I’ll put this on my “eventually I need to get around to doing this someday” list and live with it for now. At least I wasn’t stupid enough to use house paint! (This was also a recommendation by a boat owner. I looked at him like he was smoking crack.)

US30 Wu-Wei


The whole irony is she looks nothing like that picture now! The hull looks completely different, and the topside… errrr….

EasyPOX sucks.


Installing solar panels on a US 30

Solar panels

Since our marina has been rebuilding the docks over the last few months, there has been no shore power. This gave me the “justification” for this project. Here’s what it took…

2 20 Watt 1.2 AMP solar panels w/controller $240 each
2 Sunsei solar grips $50 each
Marine grade wire $30
Though deck $13
Connectors, shrink wrap etc. $20
115 AMP hour house battery upgrade $60
Solar powered vent fan $150
Dremel cutting bits $20
Total $875ish

Not dropping anything expensive overboard while doing the install, priceless.

Solar fan

The hardest part was finding light weight solar panels and a way to mount them out of the way.

Automatic bilge pump review

We purchased one of these new type of “computerized” 500gph bilge pumps today (West Marine $50) and installed it. With hose and back flow prenveters etc the total was about $100. I was skeptical about not having a float, but it works great. We also run a Attwood automatic for the high water pump that works well, but I was

impressed with this unit because it was small enough to fit between the keel bolts and sucks the water down to about 1/2 inch. I tested it a couple of times by filling the bilge

with a hose. This install was to replace our faulty diaphragm pump and it works well. This, the shallow water pump runs off the dual house batteries (on 2 solar panels) and the high water is wired into battery two, the start battery for redundancy.


Pump update, so far so good (2 years later) . This little pump has worked day in and day out pumping out the dehumidifier’s offering that trickle via drain hose into the bilge.

Onboard refrigeration that works!

I installed our new Engel fridge/freezer today and tested it out. The advertisement says that it pulls .6 amps on average. That was the main selling point because I guestimate our solar panels put out just under 2 amps after being broken in. With all the normal stuff running stereo/VHF/Depth Sounder/Chart plotter we usually use just over 1 amp. I had it running on A/C and switched it over to D/C battery power and closely monitored the amp meter (the cabin temp was 91 degrees). It was pulling about 2 amps for the initial cool down to about 34 degrees. This sounds about right, because it shouldn’t have to run continually after that. I’ll update with a longer term test later. BTW it cost about $600 and $20 for wiring stuff. Our house battery consists of two 115 amp/hr batteries in parallel.

Cap’n Chris – We have an Engel. I think it is 45 quart- the medium-sized one- same one Bob Bitchin has. It kicks ass! Relatively inexpensive, and not an energy hog on the two house batteries. Two 20W solar panels keep the batteries topped off at sea. The best part- it runs on shore power and automatically switches to 12V when shore power is turned off. We had been toying with the fridge option for a while, and when you have a small boat, space is valuable. So, since the quarter berth isn’t used for much, other than storage, we measured and bought the max size that would fit. She freezes really well, which is nice for a long voyage where you need to make ice.

-UPDATE 2022

Still works!

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