Sole Wars
Episode V: The Grinder Strikes Back

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Back to Home ... s/v Stella Blue home ... Cockpit Page ... Projects

To make a six inch disk of fiberglass,
I cut a rough disk, drilled a hole in the center and spun it around on my bench belt sander.

With one of the sole panels in place,
I could reinstall the rudder thrust bearing, and then reinstall the steering system.

I wanted to put a ring around the thrust bearing,
both to hold an additional gasket of caulk,
and to help prevent breaking my toes
on the stub for the emergency tiller.

The ring is just screwed into the sole.
The core around the bearing is solid FRP,
so if any water leaks down around the screw
it won't rot anything.

I roughed up the area with my Handy Dremel Tool, then caulked the heck out of it.

I sanded the bottom surface of the panel with 36 grit, because it comes with a very smooth surface that also has some residue from the mold release that was used in manufacturing.

Then I used a six inch spreader to put a thick putty of epoxy and colloidal silica over the sole.

The nice thing about doing this panel first, is that if I mess up it'll be mainly hidden. Most of the edges for this panel are under the helm seat, and I'm going to put a propane locker on top of it.

So it's a good one to try first.

Note that I used
the belt sander to grind the front of the ring down to match
the angle of the bearing.

This should keep water away from the bearing and prevent any leaks.

It'll also help to prevent stubbed toes.

the whole thing will be covered with non-skid.

Episode VI: Return of the Cockpit

Then I worked around the sides, removing excess epoxy
and making sure the edges
were pushed down
and touching the old sole.

Finally, I stacked all eight of my sandbags on top, to make sure it was pushed down into place.

I can't wait to see what it's going to look like when the epoxy cures and the sandbags come off.
However, it's Sunday afternoon,
so I'm going to have to wait a week.


I set the sander table to 45 degrees,
and put a nice bevel on the edge.

It was a simple matter then to use a four inch hole saw to cut the center out.

Back to Episode IV: A New Core.

Underneath the helm seat, and directly over the aft end of the steering quadrant, I'm installing this Bomar Deck Port.

I want to have access to the steering system for inspection and maintenance, and this port will make my life a lot easier.

I hated the thought of putting a big hole in the sole, but the benefits really outweigh the risk. A propane locker will sit directly on top of this port, and will press down on the
O Ring seal. As long as it stays clean, it should never leak.

Since everything's out from the companionway back, the boat's really high in the stern. So I added drains at the very front of the cockpit. That's been on my list for a while anyway.

With the drains in place,
I could wash the whole sole clean.

This really looks kinda interesting.

Maybe I'll just leave it like this.

It'll be a conversation piece.

I could take school children on boat rides and discuss plate tectonics
and continental drift.


The new pedestal is going to sit
up on a special block,
so that it will be very difficult
for water to ever get near
the holes in the sole.

The block is 12" by 12".

I measured very carefully,
matching it up with the original mounting holes in the *bottom* layer of the cockpit sole and drilling up from underneath. Then I measured and measured some more, so that it would be square and straight.

The next weekend it was drizzling and about 60F.

The awning kept the cockpit dry,
so I moved ahead
with the tape.

All the seams are taped
with Knytex tape, and
then the sole is built up
in layers. This creates
a slight dome shape,
like a football field.
In the center,
it's three layers deep,
which is about 1/8" thick.

Now it'll need to be
ground and sanded down
a bit, so there's a smooth base
for the new surface.

Knytex is really strong.
On the top, there are two layers of
unidirectional fiber strands,
placed perpendicular.

The bottom layer is mat, which helps it to conform to whatever is underneath. This mat has no binders, so it's
good for epoxy.

The whole thing is sewn together, which makes it really easy to work with.

Using the grinder and my Handy Dremel Tool,
I sanded down to the original sole top.

This left a little ridge along the sides.

The new pedestal base
sits nicely down into
that square area.

The base itself ended up
getting it's own page,
as the construction
turned into a project.

Here's the details on that.

The top layer of the new sole will be these 1/8" thick panels of vinylester prefab FRP from McMaster-Carr.

I used the old teak grates for a pattern, putting them back in the boat and marking the distance from the edges for the new sole surface.

As I took this picture, I was thinking "Man, I hope I don't screw this up."

There's nothing that can't be fixed, but some things are harder than others.

The fiberglass has enough flex to bend down on the sides, and should follow the underlying bands of Knytex Tape so that this part of the sole will have a slight dome shape, with the highest part in the center, running from the pedestal back to the stern.

But I have to put a bunch of epoxy putty underneath it, to fill in the gaps in the irregular surface underneath.

November 2005 --

I probably ticked off my neighbors with this one.
Nobody said anything, but it was rude.

I really should have brought an air compressor and wet sanded it with 36 grit to grind the sole flush, because this raised some serious dust.
This picture was taken after vacuuming it clean twice, and only shows the dust
from the belt sander.

Sorry, folks.

The idea is to make it nice and flush, and also
to grind down on the edge seams so that I can epoxy fiberglass over them without raising the edges any higher. For the seams in the center parts, I actually *want* the tape to raise it higher, because I want my sole to end up slightly domed to help water run off to the drains.

I may have made the putty too thick.

There are 22 pumps of West System epoxy under this panel, and I expected more to goosh out.

In fact, I had to stand on it to make it goosh out the sides. So I jumped up and down on it, and stood on one foot -- starting at the center and working to the edges. That pushed the excess out.
By the time I got to the edges they were bowed down and touching the edges of the old cockpit sole.

I didn't get any on my shoes. A miracle.


I was careful to make sure than no epoxy was gooped up against the new pedestal base.

The back edges can be fudged and fixed, but this will be really noticeable if it gets messed up.

After spending hours fussing and measuring, I made a medium putty of epoxy and colloidal silica and set the base in place.

Then I tweaked it around, trying to make it match up with my "best case" measurements, laying a beam across it and checking the height at the original sole edges, and triangulating the holes against a point on the transom. I sure hope I got it right. I'm sure the it's level side to side, but the fore-aft level was really hard to figure.

I used a ceramic/fiberglass blade
on my sabre saw to cut the hole.
It worked great, although the blades
are really expensive.

When recoring the sole, I had left a ring of plywood around the area, and didn't fill the void with epoxy.

After drilling the holes for the mounting screws, I lined the area with masking tape and packed the void
with West System epoxy,
thickened up with colloidal silica.

It took all day, as there was a lot of space. I didn't want it to kick off and cook. The temperature was about 60 degrees, which helped to keep it under control. It took four layers, with a two hour wait
between layers.

I covered the mounting screws with Mineral Oil, then set them into place while the epoxy was soft.

The epoxy will cure around the screw,
creating a really strong mount.

I left that big gaping hole
in the sole for a while, while reassembling the steering.

Then the edges were scuffed up with a 36 grit wheel on my grinder, and masked off
really well.

The masking is critical, because I'm going to mount the port
with LifeSeal

Bomar's literature says the port is made of "reinforced resin." That begs the question of exactly what *type* of resin, so I'm going to assume it's a polycarbonate and will avoid polysulfide and polyurethane caulk.

LifeSeal is a silicone based caulk that's safe for plastics, but it can't be painted.
Thus the extreme masking tape job.

I used an entire small tube of it, and tightened the screws down just enough to make it start to goosh. That leaves a nice thick gasket of caulk.
Once it's cured, I'll go back and recaulk the screws, and crank it down tight to compress the seal.

May 2006 --

May? Yes, May.

I was waiting to put the last section in place until after I drop the new engine in. I was counting on the yard to modify the stringers, and after six weeks
they haven't started yet.
It's driving me nuts. This boat was supposed to be sailing again by June.

With nothing else to do, I put the last section of sole surface down, and used the grinder to level the seams down.

Cleaning up around the edges was easier than I expected. A sharp chisel and a light tap with a hammer just cracked the extra epoxy off, and it came up with the masking tape. Whew.

The final step is to finish the additional cockpit drains,
and apply the
new non skid surface.

I'm going to cover it with UltraTuff Marine non skid polyurethane.

I have a feeling I'm going to go sailing before I put the
non skid surface on, though.

I'm tired of projects.