Monday, October 5, 2020


Persistence pays off in the end, if you don't give up too early.  This is one of those cases...

Remember this post?  In it I talked about using aluminum tape to seal the top of the mast boot to the mast proper...

When it was new

Backspacing at least 10 years, we have been dealing with intermittent leaks at the mast partners.  Each thing that we have done has improved the situation... but the leaks, tho diminishing in quantity and in frequency, have persisted.  Replacing the mast boot, resealing the deck ring, and finally replacing the deck ring altogether with a composite material that won't absorb moisture and consequently change shape and break the seal have all helped.  But even after all this, there was still the occasional drip coming down the mast in heavy rain and wind. (OK, maybe I am a little anal retentive here...)

Looking up from inside revealed that the water was not coming in at deck level - hooray!  That leak is stopped!  Instead it was coming from higher up.  The only place where it could be originating was at the seal between the top of the mast boot and the mast.  However, a brief inspection (because it was raining) did not disclose any flaw there.

But.  The water simply had to be coming in there.  So I pulled the hose clamp off to get a closer look at things.  Lo and behold, the aluminum tape was just plain gone under the hose clamp!  Galvanic corrosion between the stainless in the hose clamp and the aluminum tape ate the tape, and created an opening for rain to find its way in. 

There are two lessons here.  First, galvanic corrosion is evil.  And just as importantly, frequently corrosion is hidden.  Both very much worth remembering.

The fix was easy:  remove the offending hose clamp (it really was overkill anyway - the aluminum tape is more than sufficient to hold the boot up), and apply a fresh layer of aluminum tape.


Improved Deck Ring

Eolian's deck ring was not molded into the deck because the Downeast 45 was sold with three different rigs: sloop, ketch (Eolian), and schooner.  Because each of these rigs required a different mainmast location, it was impractical to make three different deck molds.  Instead, the deck ring was fabricated from two pieces of teak and bolted to the deck in the appropriate position for each rig.  

But there has been a persistent deck leak originating between the deck ring and the deck proper.  Various attempts to seal the deck ring without removing it had been problematic, working for a while and then the leaks returned.  Eventually, I pulled the ring up and resealed it with butyl rubber. And then there was the little problem at the joint between the two pieces of wood where apparently a piece broke off of the cross-grain at the end, leaving a gap which was filled with a glob of caulk.  In the reseal, I at least used a small piece of teak for the bulk of the required filler. 

But even this was not a complete success.  I speculate that the wood would grow and shrink with moisture, working the seal.  The answer was obvious:  replace the wood with something which was impervious to moisture.  I used Trex composite decking, obtained as a scrap from a neighbor's deck replacement project.  I carefully traced the outline of the wood pieces onto a piece of paper, including the holes for the mounting bolts, took this paper home and relayed the outlines of the two pieces onto the Trex and bandsawed them out.

I made the outside edges a little rounder than the teak versions because the hose clamp that holds the mast boot to the ring did not apply sufficient pressure to  the straight sides of the original ring, allowing wind to blow rain up under the boot - thus the foam tape applied to the outer surface. 
(The mast wedges bear on the deck edge, not the deck ring)

In the final installation (also bedded in butyl rubber), I also applied foam tape to the edge, just in case my "rounding out" the straight edges was not quite sufficient to make a tight seal.

This should last forever.


Thursday, September 3, 2020


I count 61 boats...

With the Canadian border closed due to the virus, all the boaters that would normally have made a trip up into the Gulf Islands are prevented from doing so.  Consequently the San Juan Islands are absolutely packed this summer.  In the photo above, taken while we were at anchor in Blind Bay, I counted 61 boats.  In a normal year, on a holiday weekend, we would expect 20 to perhaps 30 boats here.

This takes all the fun out of being at anchor - with every boat that you see coming into the bay you ask yourself, "OK, so where is he going to anchor...  right in front of us I presume."  And you will be right.  Then there is the tremendous amount of high-speed dinghy traffic buzzing around.  And the loud music.

We have elected to avoid this, staying at the dock for the latter part of the summer.

(Yes, we are in that picture...  Can you find Eolian?)


Monday, June 22, 2020

Do You Have a Buffing Wheel?

Do you have brass items on your boat?

If you do, then you will be familiar with the slow, inevitable change that comes over brass when it i exposed to moisture and sea air... it turns dark and dingy. In fact this is a form of corrosion.  And woe unto you if a drop of salt water should come in contact with the brass - the surface layer will de-zincify, leaving behind just straight copper.

So what is the solution?  Well I don't have a solution that will protect the brass indefinitely - clear spray paint works for a while.  But how do you get it shiny before you apply the clear spray paint?

One method is to use Brasso - it works and does a wonderful job (if you use the old formulation).  But it is a *LOT* of work, making it practical for only a few small items.

The solution for large items, or for a large number of items is a buffing wheel.

So, what is that?  It is a disk made up of multiple layers of cloth sewn together until the disk is 1/2" - 3/4" thick.  You mount it on your grinder (after removing one of the grinding wheels, of course).

When you buy the buffing wheel, also get a stick of Rouge - this is a wax-based polishing compound  that will give you a jewelry finish.  If your corrosion is severe, then get a second disk and a stick of Tripoli (never use a single disk with multiple compounds).  You would use the Tripoli to clean up things and then the rouge for final polish.

Fire up the grinder, touch the Rouge to the edge of the spinning disk briefly, and apply the brass.  You'll be able to tell when more Rouge is needed - polishing will slow down or cease.  This process generates heat and brass is an excellent conductor of heat - gloves are recommended. And while we are talking about safety, dangling clothing, long hair, etc must be kept well away from the spinning wheel. Since the spinning wheel will shed threads during the polishing, safety glasses must be worn.  Finally, be careful - the wheel will try to grab the fitting out of your hands and fling it at the wall with great speed. When polishing near an edge, arrange things so that the surface of the spinning wheel is moving off of the edge instead of onto it.

Light fixtures from Eolian.  The shade in the foreground has not yet been polished.
(The chances are that the brass fixture you are about to polish was originally coated with clear spray paint.  You can polish this off with the buffing wheel, but it is much faster to remove it first with a little paint stripper.)

Before spraying with the clear, wipe off the fittings with paint thinner to remove the residual wax from the polishing compound.

Well, it turns out that I have talked about this before - I am beginning to repeat myself...
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