We noticed a discoloration on the back wall of the cabin of our boat. And yes, I know that in silly sailorspeak they call them bulkheads to confuse non-sailors and make themselves appear masters of an arcane art. I just don't see any sense rolling that way. Walls is a perfectly good word. Anyway, when we started looking at the discoloration we found some severely rotted wood. Apparently, some time in the dark past, something corrosive spilled there and has been eating through the wood for years. Repairing this became the project of the moment. We decided to cut out the bad wood, replace it & do a bit of fiberglass magic to clean it all up, then put new veneer over everything. It was easy to write that last sentence. Doing it, though has become quite a job.
We were almost immediately hit with the snowball effect. The water supply and drain hoses for the sink in the bathroom had been exposed to whatever ate up the wood. They were sticky and gummy. So, our first task was to replace those lines. This only required about three trips to various hardware stores and five hours of boat yoga. I found the "You need an extra elbow to do it" and the "Upside down blind reach behind your head for the rusted hose clamp" positions quite challenging. Sweat - check! We now have the new hoses run and attached to the supply source and drain output, but haven't secured them to the boat yet as they run near some electrical wiring that I'll be replacing as part of the soon. I want to be able to easily move the hoses around as I wrestle with what surely will be recalcitrant DC wiring.
There we were, a week into our big project and we had done nothing but a snowball sub-project. I broke out the reciprocating saw and went to town on the boat cabinetry. I cut out a pretty good sized chunk of rotten wood. Once we cleaned up the mess, we took a sheet of plywood and trimmed it to fit in the hole I cut out of the cabinet. Then came the fun part. Cue the epoxy and fiberglass.
I've filled a few small holes with thickened epoxy before, but had never really worked with fiberglass. Fortunately, the yacht club (that still hasn't a slip for us) advertised a three evening fiberglass repair class. I signed up and went. They had a bunch of these little sailboats that kids race and learn to sail in that had been beaten up pretty well and the class would consist of fixing them up while showing us the basics of fiberglass. While I suspect a lot of the work was a fence whitewashing, I did see enough in those three classes to feel comfortable attaching the patched wood to the floor of the boat and to the remaining cabinets.
I mixed small batches of epoxy in pudding snack pack cups. First, you have to dispose of the pudding somehow, then clean the cup, and viola - a reusable container for mixing small batches of epoxy. They were great for the job. Plus, well...pudding! We epoxied the wood to the floor and to the points where it connected back to the existing cabinetry. Then I put strips of fiberglass on to lock it in place. Fortunately, this was all going to be covered up so I didn't have to make it beautiful.
Since we couldn't really match the patch to the original wood, we had to cover all of the exposed wood with new veneer. We ordered a couple of sheets of red oak veneer because it was affordable. Teak would have matched things better, but man, that stuff is more expensive than this boat is worth. I figured we could stain the oak a close color and we'd be fine. We pulled doors and drawers off the wall and set about making templates for each piece of the veneer that we'd be applying. It took us a while before we figured out a decent process. First, straighten the curly out of the paper so we weren't wrestling with it the whole time.
Then measure and cut a rough cut that was enough bigger than we needed to work with, but not so big that it got in the way. Then, fit and trim, fit and trim, until we felt we had an exact template of what we needed to cut. Then we took the 4' x 8' sheet of veneer and did the rough cut, fit and trim dance all over again. Remember this is in a room smaller than your average walk in closet. Ivy and I had to dance around each other and squeeze and bend constantly.
We cut all the wood we needed and brought it home to stain. Then we went back and stuck it on.
We looked at the new wood on the cabinets and realized we had missed the stain color badly. It was far too light and did not look good. I feared that re-staining the wood was going to turn into a big mess.The veneer was firmly attached to the cabinetry and staining it was not going to be any fun, but we had to do it. A run to the hardware store for a darker stain was in order. I had a bright idea and got a gel stain as it is much easier to apply to vertical surfaces. We went on a staining frenzy and to our relief, it looked sooo much better.
It was enough better that we are expanding the job to cover some of the off white laminate at the base of our couches (settees in silly sailorspeak - sheesh). While cutting some veneer for that part, we put a nice shiny new blade on the razor knife and were just going to town cutting away when I pulled the tip of that new blade across the pad of my little finger. Blood - check! All we need now were some tears. Ivy and I patched up the finger and finished cutting the wood. When we got home a couple of hours later, the finger was still bleeding. I decided that just maybe I cut it deeper than I realized and it might just take a couple of stitches.
The copay at the urgent care center was $100. There's those tears. It counts as real project now. Fortunately, the cut wasn't quite deep enough for stitches, and I got a tetanus booster and a professional bandaging out of it. If I can manage not to slice anything else up, we should be done with this job within a week or so. Next up - replace the rat's nest of DC wiring on the boat. That will require multiple trips up the mast, advanced boat yoga positions deep in the upside down (aka inside the lazarette and under the cockpit). We'll see if we can't pull all that off without shorting things out and burning the boat to the water...hmm now that I think about it, burning it to the waterline might be easier than taking care of it.