Traveler

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A handy trick for drilling out old bolts is to use a Handy Dremel Tool to create a nice concave spot. It keeps the drill bit in line.

Well, here's what the traveler looked like!
All the hardware was shot -- the car was a few balls short of a bearing, and none of the blocks turned. In 2001 I took it apart and made it work for a season, but it was a lost cause!

The corrosion and peeling powder coat finish was unsightly, so it was on my list anyway. For the first summer with the boat, I just headed up a bit to take ease the load when I needed
to make an adjustment.

The mounting bolts were seriously corroded. After rebuilding the rig I'm pretty good at dealing with that! Unfortunately, even an impact wrench wouldn't budge them -- I just stripped the heads. So I had to
drill the heads off..

It took a wrecking bar
to pry the track off.
That's pretty ugly!

It was interesting to note that the bolts over the companionway hood were tapped into the aluminum beam, but the rest were through bolted. The beam only clears the hood by about 1/8".

I hadn't noticed that, and it's going to be a problem if the new track lines up
with the same holes! I'd planned on through bolting all of them.

Here's another interesting thing. There's another, older set of bolts tapped into the beam! I would have sworn that the FICO hardware was original, since it's on so many C&C's -- and it LOOKS 22 years old. Yet the other bolts are corroded in, and just cut off flush with the beam. Some of them had been partially drilled out, and others just left flush. Perhaps someone had taken the original track and flipped it end for end for some reason, and remounted it. Why would anyone go to the trouble of ripping it all apart and then put it back together with the same old hardware? It doesn't make sense, and I'll probably never figure it out.

To mark the spots for the new holes, I clamped the track down and drilled marker spots. By using a smaller bit and wrapping the sides of the bit with
tape you can avoid damaging
the anodized finish
inside the new track.
(Avoiding corrosion!)

Some of the new holes are far enough away from old holes so that I'd feel comfortable just tapping the bolt
into the beam,
but others overlap slightly,
and that wrecks the whole idea...
I don't want to worry about an unintentional jibe!

Then you can just punch it out!
Yeah right.

One of them punched out easy, but the rest were seriously welded in with corrosion and the bolt just snapped off at the bottom of the hole. That left a little steel ring in the beam, which I took out by punching at it from the side.
If the hole is a little off center it actually helps, since that side of the ring is weaker and will fold in on itself.

By the way, wear ear protection!

Meanwhile, I need to deal with the bases. Looking at them, I don't see any corrosion around the bolts, but there is a little bit of surface corrosion. Most importantly,
I can't get at the underside!
It's directly over the floor-to-ceiling bulkhead that separates the main cabin from the aft cabin. I don't know how they're attached, but there's no core there and it doesn't leak. If I try to take them off I'll probably snap the bolts and create a new project that will be really nasty.
Since the existing powder coat is not corroded
(except in a couple of spots)
I'm going to clean it up and paint them in place.

Bear in mind that it's December in the SF Bay area, and it's about to start raining
non-stop until May, so this needs to get done now or it might just sit until May. Dry and Warm weekends in the winter are few and
far between around here.

So I sanded them down with Aluminum Oxide paper and my Handy Dremel tool. I didn't try to remove the existing finish unless it came off under a Dremel Tool with sanding wheel...

Then I built a little dam around the bases with tape, to keep the acid off the Gelcoat. After a wash with the Phosphoric acid above, I treated with the Alodine stuff (right) which is really a Chromic Acid solution. It's red, and stains exposed aluminum red, so I was really careful as I don't know if it stains gelcoat red as well.
It didn't... but I kept a hose running
just in case.

In the past, for an aluminum primer I've used
Z-Spar zinc chromate spray.
Since I'm doing this on the boat and in the marina I didn't want to be using bright yellow spray paint. ( Think: Justifiable homicide...)
It dries so quickly it'd probably be dust before it landed anywhere,
but I really don't want to discover
that I was wrong. I need my neighbors.
So I used the Petit brush-on primer instead.

I pulled the beam down to the boat and checked, and there definitely isn't enough room to fit nylock nuts under the beam.

That made me stop and evaluate options...

I could replace the whole beam.
Having a new one welded up from stock would cost way too much -- my custom mast step cost $1K, so this would be similar.

I did find an aluminum I-beam that matched the dimensions, but I'd have to cut off one of the sides to turn it into a U-beam.

All in all, it would be easier, cheaper and simpler to
deal with the existing challenge...

So after a good 10 hours of sanding it's just about ready for a finish -- I still need to drill and tap holes for the dodger track, but the new one hasn't arrived yet.

I started with Aluminum Oxide sanding disks on a grinding wheel, and worked down to a finishing sander. All the existing and new holes are cleaned off with the Handy Dremel Tool, using Aluminum Oxide grinding bits of various shapes. The final touch was hand sanding to get the edges nice and smooth.

 

I'm going to have the beam hardcoat anodized, and when they do that they *say* that they acid-etch it. I'm paranoid about the little pits and dings that you can't see in the picture, so I gave it a really good wash
with Phosphoric Acid (right).
(As it turned out, it was a wasted effort, as corrosion remained.)

This also removed the lime scale around the drain in my bathtub.
Ha! That'll show those people who say that
all I do is work on my boat!
I do housekeeping tips, too.

Just for the record...

Zinc Chromate primer over aluminum should be thin and translucent... not thick and opaque. This was difficult when brushing it on, as it dries so quick that I couldn't work it down before it set. We're talking about single digit minutes of working time. Spraying is much easier.... Bottom line is that this isn't a great job, in my opinion. The stuff never really gets hard, and will always leave a soft layer in the finish that should be as thin as possible. Maybe I should have covered the boat and made a hood with plastic and sprayed. I didn't have the time, though... it's going to rain.
(Note, I only needed to cover the bare metal, not the powder coat, but I don't think I hurt anything.)

But... as I cleaned it up I discovered that there were other spots under the previous powder coat finish which were starting to corrode, but which hadn't started to ripple the finish yet. I probably should have pulled the whole thing off the boat and cleaned it down to bare metal, but I just can't afford to let this turn into a 4-month project where I rip apart the deck and make everything just exactly perfect. So I sanded the Zinc Chromate down a bit, and started the paint. Given that the metal is probably corroding under the old powder coat finish, it'll probably eventually lift up, and I'm sure that
in 5 years it'll need refinishing.
However, 5 years will give me time to come up with a plan...
And I really don't think it's going to break.

It needs about 6 coats of paint, but with winter here the odds have having that many nice days is pretty slim. It has a few coats now, but will need to be smoothed and given a few finish coats when the weather clears.

 

To raise the beam up 1/2" and give me room for
washers and nylock nuts, I cut these shims (right) out of fiberglass sheets from McMaster-Carr.
They're to be painted black to match everything else.

Speaking of the beam... I had a big learning experience. I took it in to have it anodized,
and discovered that there was STILL corrosion in many of the pits and scratches.
All that sanding, grinding and acid washing didn't get it all. We tested it with an Ohmmeter to verify connectivity, and when the probe was down in some of the pits
the existing corrosion acted as an insulator.

So I took it off to Gilbert Spray Coat in San Jose, who sandblasted it
perfectly clean in 10 minutes for $20. That was a learning experience,
and it'll be the last time I try to clean up metal parts by hand!

Then I took it to Applied Anodizing in San Jose and had it Hardcoat Anodized --
2 Mil to Military Spec for corrosion resistance.
While I was at it, I had the new dodger track (for the rope hem at
the bottom of the dodger) sandblasted and anodized as well (right.)

You might wonder why it's Yellow... It's because I'm using the Anodized finish as a primer,
and am going to put a few solid layers of polyurethane on top of it. I figure that when it gets chipped,
the paint will chip off and hopefully leave the anodizing intact, instead of having the dings scratch the anodizing.
I don't want this to become unsightly again. So I lightly sprayed it with Zinc Chromate as a sealing primer that will also cover the little raw spots where the anodizing connections were made.
Yes, I know, this is a bit much... but I really want it to last.
I only put two coats of Polyurethane on it. Given the anodized finish underneath, that should be fine!

I scaled the hardware up quite a bit, but only to Shaefer's recommended size
for the boat. I think the old traveller was undersized. The new car makes the old one look downright puny!

I went with Schaefer because it was the only car that I was sure would fit inside the U-Beam and still be strong enough. Travellers get a lot of abuse, and
I want it to last!
This is the next-to-biggest they make.

Between the traveler beam and deck I had a big 1.5" piece of teak with slots for the running rig. Of course, I've completely changed the deck layout so the slots are in all the wrong spots... rather than remake it I filled the old slots with layers of epoxy thickened with colloidal silica and fiberglass chop. Then I cut new holes for the new lines and sanded it down well. As a primer coat I soaked it in Smith's Penetrating epoxy. The wood was very dry and it soaked up about 8 ounces of epoxy!

There's no debate about varnish vs. paint here! On top of the epoxy primer I put two coats of Interlux Brightside primer, then about 5 coats of black, 5 coats of Largo Blue (because I had it around) and 5 coats of Ocean Blue, to match the other blue painted items on deck. There might be more coats than that... It was just sitting around for months so I kept sanding it and
painting it! I figure the lines running through it will wear through the paint, so it will be good to have a really thick layer on there. When I see black I'll know it's getting thin.

So everything is bolted together, with Lifecaulk between the parts to seal them and keep water from penetrating the finish and starting corrosion, it's time to clean off the extra caulk.

Now, where's that roll of paper towels?

I *have* to win a prize someday for
the goofiest bonehead mistakes! (right)

The 1/2" fiberglass pads to raise the beam worked out well.

 

One thing that Harken does -- which Shaefer doesn't -- is put hard rubber "bumpers" on the ends of the car in case the traveler accidentally
slams across.

Schaefer makes these hard rubber "track ends", though, so I took them and sawed them in half, leaving a 3/4" thick slice that slides over the track. I put that between the car and block.

The little track to hold the front edge of the dodger screwed on nicely. I had drilled and tapped the holes *before* having the beam anodized, and then bedded the screw holes with black LifeCaulk.

Under the beam, I laid two strips of 1/2" closed cell neoprene tape from McMaster-Carr, (only the first is shown in the pic.) This seals the bottom of the beam so that water washing across the companionway hood won't keep going into the cockpit. I had considered using Santoprene, a new UV/Weather resistant polymer, but this is tucked so far back under the beam that it's invisible and well protected.

Here you can see from the front how the neoprene seals between the beam and the wood thing. You can also see how the track is bolted on -- I used fender washers since some of the holes overlap with older holes. The track and bolts are bedded in LifeCaulk.

Here's the view from inside.
The neoprene compressed nicely,
and seals the top very well.
I bedded the wood piece in LifeCaulk as well. Water will still shoot in through the holes, of course, but water running across the deck won't come underneath, so maybe the area can stay just a little drier.

The full view from front. I was a little concerned that the Ocean Blue color would look goofy, but I like it.

When I replace the dodger with something made of
Blue Sunbrella, it will look really nice.

There's a new large fiddle block, and a standup adapter on the traveler car to prevent the block from falling over onto the beam and chipping it.

Other than splicing the control lines back on, that's the end of it!
(There are 1" holes with Stainless Grommets in the dodger to handle the lines.)
I can't wait to try it out!

Update 2003 --
Well, This is absolutely wonderful. But, if I had to do it again I'd work another round of purchase in there somehow. This boat has a high aspect main, but when you're close hauled in 20+ knots it's pretty tough to haul the traveller back up if you let it slip a bit too far to leeward. But, I can live with it!