Saturday, January 31, 2015

I Don't Think it is a Train

I see a light at the end of the tunnel.  Ok, actually I don't see much light...through the two new windows that are installed but still have their protective paper covering on the outside.  After spending the better part of two weeks with plastic covering window openings, I now have, both salon side window openings again.

Most of the install went just like the last one, with a few changes.  I did the window blackout first thing this morning, applying two coats with about 30 minutes of drying time in between coats.  I started the install process after lunch.

I thought about doing two adjacent beads of sealant, but after cutting the tip of the sealant tube about 1/2" below all the usual places you would cut it and improving my technique, I was able to apply a huge bead of the stuff.  The bead was probably 3/4" wide and at least 1/2" tall.  I would have liked to have taken a picture of it, but didn't want to delay the installation of the window.  After all this work, I definitely want to give it every chance to seal well.

This time when I placed the window, sealant squeezed out around the edges of all but a couple small spots.  I was easily able to add a little more sealant to those areas using a small putty knife.  I don't think I mentioned this last time, but I bent the end of a small  putty knife so it had a 1/8" long 90 degree bend and that allowed me to push the sealant down into the groove.  Without removing the protective paper I can't be 100% sure, but I think it is sealed well.

So, now I need to wait for the stuff to cure before I can remove the clamping screws and apply the final beads of sealant and put this project behind me.  I guess that means I can finally post about something else for a few days.  Now where's the maid to clean up all the project mess?

Friday, January 30, 2015

You'll Never Guess What I Did Today

Yep, more window fun.  While waiting for the sealant to cure on the starboard side salon window, I removed the port side window today.  I'll spare you the details...if you are interested, it went just like the last one.  There is now plastic over the window opening awaiting the new glass on that side.

I did want to talk about a couple quick things today though.  First, I forgot to give a shout out to my friend and dock-mate Bill.  He has been helping me when I needed a hand with both the window and anchor locker projects.  Single handing this boat I think is easier than single-handed repair of a boat and I really appreciate his help.  Thanks Bill...I definitely owe you one.

Second, if you have noticed, I've been trying to do daily posts over the last week or so.  In the past I've tried to hold off telling the story of a given project until it was complete, but that often left me with several days between posts.  So my question to you, dear reader, is do you like this approach?  Do you prefer hearing something daily or do you prefer a post that summarizes a more complete story?  If you have an opinion, please leave a comment letting me know what you like.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

I Almost Have A New Window

Yep, another window post. This is taking a lot longer than I thought it would.  I know others that have said they have rebed windows in just a day or two.  I don't know if new windows make much of a difference, but I'm guessing it is because I'm going slow.  Guess I really want to get this right because I certainly don't want to do it over.

After breakfast this morning, I go to check out my blackout paint work from yesterday.  What I found was that the paint was a little thin in spots. Guess I'm not the best at painting with thinned sealant.  So, I thin a little more of the Dow 795 sealant and apply another coat in hope that it will dry quickly so I can install the window in the afternoon.  After it skins over a bit, I removed the tape that was protecting the mounting edges of the window.

While the window dries, I start preparing the opening.  I removed the plastic that had been protecting the opening during the recent cold and wet weather and applied masking tape and paper around the opening.  Then I vacuumed up the last bits of the old sealant that had somehow been hiding in the opening since I originally cleaned it.  Following that, I clean the mounting surfaces with some denatured alcohol.

The next step was to apply the foam tape that acts as a spacer and creates a dam for the sealant.  When I was reading about this process, most seemed to indicate that the old foam could be left in place and reused.  Unfortunately, it seems they assembled the windows on my boat differently than others as they had applied the foam to the window and not the opening.  When I tried to remove the foam from the window, it pulled apart.  Apparently I finally found one glue on the boat that held well...the backing tape for that foam.

Window masked and foam strips installed.

I had purchased 3 - 10 foot rolls of 3/8" by 1/2" closed cell foam insulation tape at the local big-box hardware store to replace the original foam.  I applied one ring of the foam around the inside window opening and that took one of the rolls.  I then applied another ring to act as the sealant dam that was roughly between 5/8" and 3/4" from the outside edge of the window (I measured the distance from the inside edge of the blackout to the edge of the window to determine spacing).  In the forward corner there is a large space between the inner and outer rings of foam so I added some additional foam strips, similar to what was originally there.  Unfortunately the tape on this foam wasn't as good as the original and I had to use some contact cement to re-glue a couple of the corners down.  In the end it took about 25 foot of the tape for the one window opening.

I spent as much time as I could to allow the blackout to dry, but it was time to dry fit the window.  I needed to check window spacing in the opening and drill small holes that will be used to clamp the window in place while the sealant cures.  I had purchased a small 3/8" thick pine trim board and cut it into a few blocks to use as spacers and wrapped them in plastic (actually cellophane tape) so hopefully the sealant won't stick.  Using the blocks, I set the window in place and adjust the window position and blocks to get a uniform gap around the windows.  Marking the position of the block on the masking tape around the opening and on the protective paper on the window was done to aid in reassembly.  I noticed that the window will be a little recessed and I like the effect.  If I had wanted the window to be flush with the mounting surface, I would need foam that is thicker than 3/8".

Since the new acrylic is flat and the opening has a slight curve, it will need to be clamped in place.  To do this, I used some large fender washers and 1.5" drywall screws.  I held the window in place at the center and probed for points where I would need to clamp to get the window to conform to the curve. I pushed on the window in with one finger  and when I located a good spot, I drilled a pilot hole for the screw.  After marking the location of the hole on the masking tape, a fender washer and screw were used to gently clamp down the window.  I repeated this process until I was happy with the fit and look of the window.  Then I disassembled it all in preparation for applying the sealant.

I have to admit I wasn't looking forward to applying all this sealant with a manual caulk gun, but I don't really have another option here at the marina.  At least I did buy a good quality caulk gun for the job.  Since it was not a particularly warm day but the sun was shining, I had put one case of the sealant in my dark car to warm it up in hope it would help it flow better and maybe prevent my hand from cramping up.

After retrieving the somewhat warmer case of caulk from the car, I take a tube and cut the tip to allow for the largest bead possible.  Going around the outside of the outer band of foam, I apply a large bead of the 795 sealant making sure it stands above the height of the foam.  It took two tubes to run the bead around the foam.  I place the spacer blocks back in the marked locations and then line up the window with the blocks and press it into the sealant.  Using the marks I made for the screw locations, I install the clamping screws until the window pressed against the foam but was not compressing best I could tell.

I expected more sealant to squeeze out of the joint than actually happened, so I got a bit suspicious.  I carefully peeled back a little of the protective paper from the outside of the window and my suspicion was confirmed.  While there was a pretty decent seal, there were some bubbles and voids so I ended up pumping more sealant into the joint and worked it under the window with a putty knife. This took almost another full tube of sealant, but everything appears to be full of sealant now.  Next time I think I'll run two thick beads of sealant around the window to avoid this messy step.

Window installed and clamped with the curing sealant.

So, now I need to wait several days (I'm thinking 4 or 5) to allow the sealant to cure enough to hold the window in place without the clamps.  Once the clamps are removed, I can apply more sealant and created the finished edge bead of the window.  In the meantime, I have another window to work on as well as finishing up the anchor roller mount repair.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Oh, I've Been Working on the Windows...

...all the live-long day.  As I mentioned in my last post, my replacement acrylic windows arrived yesterday.  Also mentioned was the fact that the quality of the cutting done by Lee and Cates Glass was sub-par.  They apparently used a jig saw to cut the shape and the jig saw operator apparently wasn't the best at following the lines. The shop then took a belt sander to the edges to clean up the saw marks.  The sander used apparently had about a 40 or 60 grit paper on it, and the result of the sanding was a very rough finish with a random depth chamfer on the edges.  A really poor edge finish that would be OK if there was a trim piece to cover it, but not at all suitable for a Leopard (the windows are only held in by a bead of sealant).

What passes as a finished edge at Lee and Cates Glass

So, the first thing I had to do today was to clean up the mess left by the glass company.  If the windows had been cut a bit oversize, I could have used a router to trim down the edges and get a good result...but that wasn't the case.  So, I decided I would try sanding the edges to straighten them out.  After some sanding with 120 grit, I realized how un-straight the cuts were and decided I would do my best to give it the illusion of straight.  When I got the worst of the waviness out, I hand sanded the remaining chamfer to even it up.  I then switched to a 320 grit paper to try and clean up and slightly round the chamfer.  Four hours later the end result on the two windows, while not perfect, I think looked significantly better.  By rounding it is a little harder to see the lack of straightness in the edge.

After a lot of sanding, it looks a little better.

The next step is to black-out the edges of the window.  You see, the shape of the window is different than the window opening and in order to not see the mounting and fuselage underneath the window, these areas are coated with a black paint. In order to do that, I needed to transfer the shape of the internal window opening to the protective covering of the new glass so I could cut and remove it.  I created a pattern using construction paper by shining a light through the old window and tracing the outline. I then cut the pattern out, leaving tabs that went to the windows edge at several locations to aid in placement on the new window.

Lining up the pattern using tape reinforced positioning tabs.

Once the pattern was cut out, I laid it out on the new window and traced the outline with a marker. Using a sharp knife I then carefully cut the protective paper along the line and removed it.

Removing the protective paper for the blackout area.

In order to get the paint to stick, I hand sanded the exposed acrylic.  I re-taped about 3/4 of an inch of the edge of the window that I didn't want covered in blackout to help guarantee the sealant will hold the window this time.

Sanded with edges taped, ready for the blackout

Of course the black paint they originally used when installing the window I believe to be the main source of the seal failure (the whole reason I am doing this) so I tried a different option.  On the Leopard Catamaran owners group on Yahoo, someone said they had thinned down some Dow 795 sealant with mineral spirits and then used it to black out the window.  Since 795 is the currently recommended sealant and the one I will be using, and since it is supposed to stick well to itself, I decided to give this a try.  Using a partial tube of 795 that was graciously given to me by a fellow Leopard owner and blog reader, I created the thinner 795 and applied it to the window.

Blackout thinned 795 applied

As you may be able to tell from the shadows in the last picture, the day was ending as the blackout started to dry.  So, it took all day, but the edges of both windows are now better and the starboard window (if the sealant "paint" cures) should be ready to install tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ups and Downs

I've been writing a lot recently about the projects I've been working on because...well...that is what I've been up to task-wise.  But a number of things have been going on behind the scenes as well.  All of this has combined to feel like I've been on a roller coaster these days.

The day after ordering the acrylic replacement windows, I get a call from the fraud monitoring service for my credit card.  They wanted to check with me on a couple of charges and, indeed, we found two charges for over $1400 that I did not make.  They blocked my card and had to issue me a new one.  Of course, I'm not at the "billing address" for the card, so it was fun to convince them to send me a card at the marina.  And since the charge for the acrylic hadn't cleared yet, I called them to give them a heads up and hopefully prevent any further delay in getting my windows back in.

Cards were having a bad week with me.  About 5:15 pm one evening, just after the marina office closed, I found that the pass card that allows me access to the marina facilities stopped working. While at a marina, I tend to use their facilities because it is a bit less of a hassle than going for a pump out of the small holding tanks on a regular basis.  I was able to borrow cards from fellow residents, but still a hassle until I could get the card replaced the next day.

I finally emptied one of my propane tanks on the boat.  Naturally, it happened in the middle of cooking breakfast.  This is not a big deal since the boat has two 10# tanks and, with a few minutes with a wrench in the propane locker, the gas was flowing again.  There are two reasons this is actually noteworthy though.  I filled these propane tanks back when I was in Hammock Beach and it has taken me this long to use one up.  That is a longer span than I expected.  This is also of note because this tank was found to have a problem with one of the safety features of the valve and I've been waiting for it to empty so I could have the valve replaced.  So, with the tank empty, I was able to find a company to replace the valve and refill the tank for about $30...not bad at all given these aluminum tanks are pricey to replace.

Right next door to the propane place, there was a metal fabricator/machine shop.  I was happy to find this because of my anchor roller project.  You see, the anchor roller was mounted to the  fiberglass with only 1.25 inch washers as backing and I think the lack of a proper backing plate may have contributed to the failure of the mounting structure.  So, with a rough sketch of a template in hand, I had the place make me a big stainless steel backing plate.  It was $45, but well worth it if it prevents future problems with the anchor roller mounting structure.

And this leads me to one of the worst things that has happened in the past week.  While re-drilling and test fitting the anchor roller and new backing plate, I found a couple drips of epoxy that were preventing the backing plate from seating properly against the fiberglass.  I grabbed my Dremel tool and made quick work of getting rid of the drip.  What happened next was surprising and depressing.  I can only guess that it was the combination of the epoxy dust on my hands and the fact that I've lost some weight, but my wedding ring slipped right off of my finger. And it didn't land on the deck nor the trampoline, but fell right through the gap between them and into the murky water under the boat. To say I felt bad would be an understatement. Fortunately some friends I met through the blog know of someone who might be able to retrieve it if they can get a hold of him.  Given the silty muck I don't know what my chances are, but I hold out some small hope that it might be retrieved.

Today the acrylic for my replacement windows came in.  Excited to finally be closer to getting rid of the plastic covering the big hole in my boat, I ran the old window over so they could cut the new ones. Unfortunately, the promise that they could cut the windows just like the old ones wasn't realized.  The shape is correct, but apparently the shop used a jig saw to cut the shape and then rough sanded the edges.  This wouldn't be so bad, but they sanded an uneven chamfer into the edge and this would look pretty bad with the windows only mounted in sealant.  I debated rejecting the parts, but I really just want to get my windows back in and get out of Brunswick, so I decided to take them and clean up the edges myself.  I guess Lee and Cates Glass has never heard of a router and so I will have a couple days of additional work to clean them up for mounting.

This past week kind of reminds me of this scene from the movie Parenthood...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fluorescent to LED Conversion Redux

Well, the bad weather has returned to Brunswick and most of the southeast I think. So I decided to convert one of my more standard fluorescent fixtures to LED as a nice indoor project. I took a few more pictures this time so I could write up some instructions for anyone interested in trying this. I also decided to do an upgrade, I made the fixture switchable between white and blue light. While the blue could be useful for preserving the eye's night adaptation, since I can't convert most of the cabin lights this way, I don't know how useful it will actually be. But a fun thing to play with on a cold, rainy day none-the-less.

In the process below, I chose to reuse the wire in the fixtures and solider the connections.  If you are not comfortable with soldering, there are clip on connectors that can be used with the strips and you could use crimp on connectors to connect the power leads.

But first a few notes about LED light strips

Before I get started on the conversion, I should talk a little bit about the LED strips.  The LED chips appear to come in two basic sizes, 3528 and 5050.  The numbers refer to the dimensions of the LED chip and the 5050 chips are supposed to be between 2 and 3 times brighter than the 3528 ones since there are actually 3 LEDs on the 5050 chip.  In order to compare various strips, you will need to know what type of chip is used as well as how many chips there are in a given length of strip.  A 10 inch strip containing 15 3528 LED chips will be about as bright as a 10 inch strip containing 6 5050 LED chips.  A 10 inch strip containing 15 5050 LEDs will be much brighter, and it will also consume more power than the 15 chip 3528 strip.

Also note that you can generally only cut the strip every 3rd LED otherwise some of the chips will fail to light.  So, if the chips are spread further apart on the strip, it limits the size of functional strips you can create.  In my project, I am using strips of 3528 chips that are spaced about every 11/16 of an inch. This allows me to cut a strip almost 10" long with 15 LEDs.  This is a useful size for fitting on the reflector of a fluorescent fixture.  I've found that three of these strips is approximately equivalent in light output to an 8 watt fluorescent bulb.

One last thing to note about LED's, there are usually two different flavors of white. Bright white, daylight white or cool white LED chips produce a very white light similar to commercial fluorescent bulbs and the color often feels cold or sterile to people.  Soft white or warm white chips produce a light a bit closer to the light produced by an incandescent bulb and tends to feel more warm and comfortable to many people.  These colors will vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer.  As I noted in my previous conversion, I chose a warm white LED strip and found it to be a little too yellow.  This time I will be using a combination of two warm white strips and one bright white strip per fluorescent bulb replaced.  I find this configuration to produce a light that feels brighter than the warm white alone and yet still feels warm and not sterile.

The lights I used in this project are the Lampux 12V Flexible LED Strip Lights, 300 Units 3528 LEDs, Non-waterproof, 16.4Ft 5M Spool from Lighting Ever. I have one spool of warm white, one spool of daylight white, and one spool of blue.  At $7.99 U.S. per spool you can get enough LED strips to replace 9 fluorescent tubes with extra lights left over for under $20 including shipping (prices from 1/2015, not including the blue option),

Converting a Fluorescent Fixture to LED

At the highest level, this project consists of disconnecting the fluorescent light ballast and connecting the LED strips directly to the switched power and ground wires of the original fixture. This process assumes you have a 12 volt system.

What You Will Need 

  • 12 volt LED strip lights.
  • A soldering iron and rosin core electronics solder (if soldering)
  • 20 gauge wire (if soldering - can use wire scavenged from the fixture to keep costs down)
  • LED strip light pigtail connectors (if NOT soldering), 1 per fixture, 2 per fixture for dual color option.
  • Red crimp butt connectors (2 per fixture if NOT soldering, one per fixture for dual color option only)
  • LED strip light interconnects (if NOT soldering), 2 per fixture for single tube, 5 for double tube, and one more for the dual color option.
  • SPDT switch or on-off-on replacement switch (for dual color option only)
  • Crimp on connectors for switch (if not soldering, for dual color option only)
  • 12 volt LED single color strip lights (for dual color option only)
  • A couple zip ties or electrical tape to bundle and keep wires attached to fixture.

The Process

First you will want to remove the fixture so you can work on it.  Turn off power to the fixture's circuit (not just the switch on the fixture).  Remove the fixture and disconnect from the ships power wires (if there are no connectors, you should consider adding insulated crimp on connectors to make future work easier).

Existing wiring of the fixture

Remove the lens and any cover that may exist over the ballast to expose the fixture wiring. Trace the path of the positive wire from the back of the fixture to the power switch and then from the power switch to the ballast.  Cut the wire at the ballast.  This is the positive switched power wire.  Trace the negative (ground) wire from the back of the fixture to the ballast and cut that wire at the ballast.  If that wire is completely disconnected, you can set it aside so you don't lose it.  Do not throw it away.

Cut the wire between the switch and ballast

If you want, you can remove the ballast and the bulb sockets (so long as they are not integrated into the fixture) as it may give you additional space to mount the LED strips and run wiring.

Cut wires with the ballast removed

Dual Color Only: If you want to do the dual color option, you should replace the switch with the on-off-on switch or locate a position and mount the SPDT switch.  Attach the switched power wire to the center terminal of the switch and attach two pieces of wire to the other two terminals on the switch. These two wires will be the switched power for the array of white and array of colored LEDs.  Crimp two wires to the negative wire as you will need one for each LED array.

Wiring for the dual color option

Now you will want to figure out how to position the LED strips in the fixture.  Cut a strip so it will fit on the fixtures reflector behind where the bulb once was.  Be careful to ONLY cut the strip at the marked locations.  If you are using connectors, attach a pigtail to one end of the first strip and an interconnect on the other.  If the strip came with a pre-attached connector, strip the wire so you can connect it.  Cut two more LED strips and determine how to position them.  I used two strips of the warm white and one strip of the daylight white per bulb, placing the bright white strip between the two warm white strips.

Remove the tape off of the adhesive backing and apply it to the reflector on the fixture, making sure you leave enough room for the connections.  If using connectors instead of solider, you may want to connect up the strips before sticking them down to the frame.

Connect the positive terminal or wire of the first strip to the switched power wire (or one of the two switched wires if doing the dual color option).  Connect the negative terminal or wire on the same side of the same strip to the negative fixture wire (or one of the two wires if doing the dual color option).  At the other end of the first strip, connect the positive to the positive of the next strip and the negative to the negative of the next strip. Pay particular attention to make sure you connect positive to positive and negative to negative. Continue this process to connect the third strip to the second.  If your fixture has two bulbs, cut three more LED strips, apply them to the fixture and continue connecting one strip to the next until all the strips are connected in a single circuit.

LED strips wired up for the dual color option

If you are making these connections to a metal fixture and using the solider option, you may want to use a little electrical tape to insulate the connecting wires from the fixture.

When making the wiring connections, you may find it helpful to use zip ties or electrical tape to secure the wires.  make sure that pulling on the wires from the back of the fixture does not pull directly on the connections.  If it does, attach the wire to other wires or some location on the fixture to provide stress relief for the wiring.

Dual Color Only: In order to find the space to mount two of the alternate color LED strips, I found it necessary to re-install the ballast cover. I placed one of the white strips on each side of the cover and put the colored strips on the top of the cover. Cut two strips of the alternate color LED strips and apply them to the fixture.  Connect the other switched power wire to the positive side of the first LED strip and connect the other ground wire to the negative side of the same end of the same strip.  Connect the second alternate color strip to the first just as you did with the white strips.

The best picture I could take of the two different "whites"

That's it.  You now have an LED fixture (perhaps one with dual colors).  Reconnect the fixture to power and re-install.  Turn the circuit power back on and test the light.  If you did the dual color option and used the on-off-on switch, one side should turn on the white and the other should turn on the alternate color.  If you used the second switch option, the power switch will turn the fixture on and the second switch will select either white or the alternate color.

Well, I hope this all makes sense.  It is not a very difficult project and has the potential for cutting your lighting power requirements in half.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Recycling Worn Out Sails

One of our goals moving aboard a boat is to live a little more in harmony with our environment and I have been making progress in that regard.  Everyday things like taking reusable bags when I shop for groceries, paying more attention to the packaging used (something very difficult in our "seal everything in plastic" society), and being mindful of the amount of water and power I use have been in my repertoire for a while and are certainly more of a necessity on a boat.  Other things like my recent project converting existing fluorescent fixtures to LED both reduce power consumption and reuse the fixture thus rescuing it from becoming another bit of detritus in a landfill.

One item I have been wrestling with, both mentally and physically, since I bought the boat was what to do with the original sails that came with the boat.  When I bought the boat, there were two sail bags containing the boats original sails stuffed way up in the starboard forward storage space.  Back when I was in Hammock Beach, I dragged both sails out of the storage locker, wrestled them through the boat, and up to a grassy area at the marina to inspect them.  What I found were sails that were in pretty bad shape.  There were numerous patches and even the patches had ripped out again. Some of the material was sun damaged too.  I decided they were not worth keeping.  Not knowing what to do wth them, I put the smaller genoa back into the storage area, but the 95+ lb. mainsail never made it any further than the cockpit.

Part of the old mainsail with a ripped patch

And there it sat, leaning up against the cockpit door, for over 6 months.  I tried asking around to see if there was something I could do with these old sails.  Since all the damage was around the edges, I thought maybe someone could trim them down and make smaller sails.  When I asked a few different sail shops, they were not at all interested in having them...even as a donation.  One said they occasionally take old sails and ship them to places like Haiti where the locals will rework and use them.  I heard from other boaters that they have traded old sails to fishermen in 3rd world locations for a regular supply of fresh local seafood from their daily catches.  But here in the good ol U.S. of
A., there didn't seem to be many options other than relegating all that fabric to the dumpster. That didn't sit well with me.

After tripping over the mainsail in the cockpit one too many times in recent days, I tried once again to search for a more responsible way to get rid of the sails.  This time I apparently typed in the right search terms into Google. In the list of results, I found a company called Sea Bags.

They take old sails and recycle them by converting the material into several varieties of bags, totes, and other products. I contacted them by email and sent them a couple pictures of my old sails (since I wasn't sure if they were too ratty to be used). I received a reply that they would indeed be interested in them. In talking with them I found out that they can use most of any sail.  In fact, to quote one of their staff:
In most cases, almost 100% of the sail will be used to make Sea Bags products. Realizing early on that there was quite a bit of sail material left over after making tote bags, Sea Bags began using the excess material to make hang-tags and smaller items, such as credit card holders, wristlets, small pouches etc.
Finally, I was nearing the end of my near constant tripping over these old sails.

I took the old sails, bundled them up, wrapped them in a couple layers of heavy (4 mil I think) plastic for shipping.  The folks at Sea Bags cover the shipping cost to retrieve your sail from within the U.S., all you need to do is log into their system, print out the shipping label, and get them to a location where UPS can pick them up.  The folks at the marina office helped me print out the labels (I don't have a printer on board...yet) and I left the sails there for the UPS pick up.  I've been told that if you are located near the Sea Bags facility, they may just come pick them up themselves.

In exchange for donating sails, they typically provide for a tax deductible donation through their sailing charity or they will trade you a bag per sail (depending on size and condition). Since I don't need the tax write off and could always use another reusable bag for packing and provisioning the boat, I went with the trade program. In exchange for the two sails, we requested one of their duffle bags and a zippered tote.

A week or two after sending off the sails, my sail bags arrived. I have to say I'm impressed. These are most definitely not the cheap bags you find at the discount stores. Each of their bags are hand crafted in their facility in Portland Maine and the craftsmanship shows.

I'd love to give you all sorts of sewing definitions...but I'm not a seamstress so forgive the lack of appropriate terms.  The tote is made from two layers of sail material with a spliced three braid line for a handle.  The duffel has the same two layer construction for the main part of the bag with single layers at the ends. The handles aren't just attached, but wrap around the entire bag in between the material layers to provide support and prevent detachment.  The stitching uses similar thread to what is used in sail construction so I have no doubt it will last a long time. The zipper flaps on both are a single layer of sail material and the zipper is a better quality than what is on may new sail cover. The internal seams are covered in a fabric band to help prevent snagging and unraveling and protect the stitching. In this day and age, it is nice to see what appears to me to be a very quality product.  Add in the fact that they are doing this from recycled material, and this company is a winner in my book.

If you are looking for a unique gift for a sailing enthusiast, or a quality bag for yourself, you should check them out.  And if you happen to be tripping over some old sails, consider donating them to Sea Bags.

Sponsor Disclosure: In the interest of full disclosure, the company mentioned in this article has graciously provided free or discounted products or services to help support our effort to sail away from the rat race. The opinions expressed in this blog are still our own and not indicative of the opinions or positions of the company. We do encourage you to check out the products or services provided by this, or any, company that supports the cruising community.
In the case of Sea Bags, the products provided were in trade for my used sails and anyone wishing to trade can get a similar deal.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Day 2 of Fix The Anchor Roller Mount

With the replacement acrylic for my salon windows on order and another rare nice day to work outside, it was time to turn my attention back to the anchor locker fiberglass repair. Two days ago I had applied the first seven layers of fiberglass before daylight ran out.

I started by cleaning and sanding the now cured epoxy fiberglass. First a little soap and water to clean off any amine blush that may have occurred during the curing process. Then using 100 grit sandpaper I lightly sanded the patched area, followed by a once-over with a Scotchbrite pad.

Look Ma, I'm doing fiberglass

At this point, I noticed a couple small bubbles in the laminate, undoubtedly a mistake from my last piece that was applied in the dark. I got out my Dremel tool (a must have for a boat owner) and ground out the two bubbles. Another rinse and a wipe with acetone, and I was ready to continue the layup.

I cut a couple small, nickel size or so, pieces of cloth to patch the ground out bubbles and another small piece to reinforce one of the other thinner areas of the layup. I then cut a larger piece to continue working on the overall thickness of the tapered area, making sure it would overlap the prior work by an inch or so.  Since one of the goals of the repair is to thicken the rim around the locker opening, I also cut a few long strips to apply in that area.

I mix up some resin and apply the patches and other pieces just as I did before, using the roller to help remove bubbles and work the cloth layers together and the spreader to smooth everything out and remove excess resin.  I repeat this process with more cloth and resin, allowing a little cure time in between every couple of layers to help keep the heat down.  I didn't let it cure quite as much as before since I was only doing a couple layers at a time, but the overall effect was the same in reducing the amount of heat generated at any one time.

I slowly build up the lip until it is about twice as thick as it was before along the back side of the opening and about 1/8 to 1/4 inch more on the side closest to the anchor roller mount.  One more large piece of cloth to finish off the entire bottom mounting surface and my quart size kit of epoxy was now almost gone.  I was able to squeeze out enough epoxy for one more piece of cloth to wrap the rim of the opening one last time and have just enough epoxy left over to fill the one crack I had yet to address.

The main layup is complete

The last crack was a delamination along the lip that runs paralell to the anchor roller mounting point. It was very reminiscent of the arch delamination issue I had during my trip down to Georgia. Fortunately one difference was that this crack is horizontal and is sealed on the bottom.  It also had a bit wider gap. So, instead of filling it with a thickened epoxy as I did with the arch, I tried a different approach.

Fixing the delamination crack

I cut a small piece of biaxial cloth that would fit in the big part of the gap and was about twice the height.  I yet again mixed up some epoxy, but this time used a syringe to inject a little of it into the bottom of the crack. Placing the small piece of cloth on a scrap of plastic, I wet out the bottom two thirds.  I slid the wet cloth into the wide part of the crack and then used the syringe to inject more epoxy around it.  Using the syringe, I worked the cloth into the crack until it was full of epoxy and cloth.  I then used the syringe to fill in the thinner cracks and finished up with a C-clamp to squeeze things together.  While the fiber strands are most likely not oriented ideally, they are running roughly along the crack and I think, or at least hope, this will provide a bit more strength than just the epoxy alone.

Some of the supplies needed to repair flberglass

So, finally, I am done with the fiberglass application portion of this repair.  With the cooler temperatures this time of year, I'm going to let it cure for a couple days before continuing. Then I will need to cut it to the final shape and re-drill the mounting holes.  I'll also need to paint or apply gelcoat to finish the repair so it will be ready to remount the anchor roller.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Where's The Plexiglass

I got up Monday morning, made myself some breakfast, and sat down at the computer and made a list of people I could call to find the replacement acrylic for my salon windows.  In Brunswick there are not a lot of boat-specific services, but flat plastic windows should be available from ordinary window shops and I was able to find a few of them in town.  So, around 9 AM I started calling the companies on my list.

What I was looking for was a 3/8 inch dark gray tinted acrylic from a company that could cut out the irregular shape of the window.  What I found was that no one in the area stocked material this thick. I did eventually find a couple companies that thought they could at least order it. One insisted I bring the window to their shop because they wanted to see what the material actually was and the other one wanted to see the window as well.  So, I loaded my 6' 3" long window into my little car and went for a drive.

One of the windows that needs to be replaced

I stopped at the first store, wrestled the window back out of the car, and took it in for them to have a look. The people at the store seemed to think that the window was actually Lexan (polycarbonate) and not Plexiglass (acrylic).  I told them I was pretty sure it was, or at least it was supposed to be, acrylic based on my research. They then told me that they probably couldn't cut a window of that size and shape out of acrylic without it breaking but they could do it in polycarbonate and they insisted my window has to be polycarbonate.  I started thinking that maybe they are operating under the old saying "if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts looking like a nail".  They gave me a price for ordering a sheet of polycarbonate and having it cut...which was around $600.  Ouch.

I loaded my window back up and took it to the other shop I had found that said they could order either polycarbonate or acrylic. They took a look at the window and seemed a bit unsure of what material it is.  They thought it might be polycarbonate but weren't quite sure.  They gave me prices for both.  Using acrylic with a medium gray tint, the cost would be about $470.  They weren't sure if they could find the darker gray tinted acrylic.  The polycarbonate option was only available in a light to medium gray tint and would cost $620.

With all the confusion over which material these plastic windows are, I went back to the boat to do a bit more research. I found several references to "Plexiglass" in the owners forum...but I know that some people probably use that term for any type of plastic window.  I then found a few sites, like this one and this one, that compare acrylic to polycarbonate.  What I found is that polycarbonate is more "unbreakable" because it is a softer material that will absorb impacts by flexing.  I also fond that polycarbonate expands and shrinks more with temperature changes and is less UV resistant.  These properties are not something I want as a boat window.  Flexing and expansion will cause sealing know...the whole reason I'm having to do this.  And since sailboats are often stored outdoors, UV is a definite issue.  Add in the price difference between acrylic and polycarbonate, and the decision is easy.  Plexiglass (acrylic) it is.

I went back to the second store I visited, Lee and Cates Glass, to see about getting the acrylic ordered. I asked them if they could get the darker gray glass.  The helpful folks at the store did some calling around and were finally able to locate the darker glass.  Unfortunately it was a long way away and shipping was going to be an issue.  If I really had to have the darker gray glass, it was going to cost over $680 to get the needed piece and it would take even longer to get it.  Ouch!  Having better places to spend the extra $210 and not wanting to go without a window for a couple weeks, I decided to go with the medium gray.  Guess I'll see if I regret this decision in a few years.

So, the glass is ordered, but it won't be here until the end of the week or early next week.  This means I'll have a big hole in my boat for a little while.  Hopefully the weather doesn't get too bad in between now and then...but knowing my luck with weather...well...  At least today was a beautiful day, wish I hadn't spent all of it just trying to find replacement window acrylic, but that seems to be the way it goes.  It is interesting that I had an easier time finding parts for my out-of-production airplane than I seem to have with my boat.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Structural Fiberglass Repair

With the window replacement on hold awaiting new glass and another nice weather day in store, I decided to turn my attention to my fiberglass repair. This all started when I was showing a fellow Leopard 38 owner my cool new Mantus anchor and noticed that the anchor roller and bail were loose. Looking closely, the roller itself wasn't loose but the fiberglass it was mounted to had cracked and was flexing quite a bit.

So, after removing the anchor roller, the first step in repairing the area was to determine how bad the crack was. From the surface, it appeared the crack was pretty large, but I couldn't tell for sure. So, instead of cutting out the area I thought might be cracked, I decided I would just try grinding it down. I'm glad I did this approach, as I found part of the area I thought was cracked was actually in good shape and there was just a small surface crack and a roughly corresponding stress crack in the gel coat on the other side. Since I wasn't worried about the stress crack in the gel coat, I just ground down the area that actually needed to be repaired, tapering the area out about 9 inches (where possible) to give the 12:1 taper recommended for this type of fiberglass repair. I did leave a thin layer of the existing fiberglass and gel coat for a couple smaller cracks in order to help preserve the existing shape of the area.

Learning from my practice on the anchor locker tray, I came up with another idea for creating the mold around the missing chunk of the curve. I used a piece of one of my flexible cutting boards (a thin polyethylene sheet) for the mold surface and backed it up with a block of the green foam used for flower arrangements that I cut it into an L shape. I taped the poly sheet as tight as I could over the cutout area and then taped the foam over it to provide support.

Just as I did in my practice, I brush applied a thick layer of gelcoat to the inside of the mold and let it cure until it was reasonably solid. Before the gelcoat set, it kept running down the vertical part of the mold, so I periodically brushed it back up until it started thickening up.

While the gelcoat was setting up, I cut 4 pieces of fiberglass, starting with the one just slightly larger than the mold area and increasing the radius by about 1/2 inch on each subsequent piece. For the bottom two layers, I used the biaxial cloth with the chopped strand mat backing and the other two were standard 17 oz. biaxial cloth. I then mixed up a little of the epoxy resin (the metered pumps for the resin I'm finding to be quite handy) and applied a little bit to the repair area. I applied each layer of cloth, wetting it out with the chip brush until I had all four layers in place.

Apparently epoxy (and polyester) resin can get quite hot while curing, so they recommend you don't do more than four layers at a time. Excess heat can cause cracking and, in extreme cases I've heard it may even catch fire. Once the four layers were in place, I went back and cut 3 more pieces of fiberglass continuing my 1/2 inch or so size increase with each successive piece, adjusting as needed to keep the resulting surface relatively flat. After the first four layers had cured to the point that it wasn't sticky but I could leave an imprint with my fingernail (most of the heat has been generated but it isn't completely cured), I mixed up more resin and applied the next three layers. I used a small plastic squeegee/spreader and fiberglass laminating  roller to smooth out and compress the layers together to create a good structure. 

By this time it was getting dark (ok, in truth it was already dark and the last layer I had to use a flashlight to lay it up), so I left just a tiny bit more resin on the top. I did this because, once you get past the "fingernail" stage, you need to let everything cure and then clean and sand (or Scotchbrite) the surface before you can continue the layup. Since I have more layers to apply I didn't want sanding to cut into the glass fibers and compromise the structure. If you do this, you want to be careful not to leave the area too "resin rich" as that is as bad as cutting into the glass fibers.

Guess I'll be finishing up this job after I find my replacement salon windows. Nothing like having a couple big projects going at one time on the boat.  Wheeeee.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Rebedding The Salon Windows...or Not

The weather finally improved on Saturday and was supposed to be nice for several days, so it was time to get one of my bigger projects started.  Leopard catamarans have a near 100% failure rate on the sealing of the salon side windows on most of their boats, and mine was no exception.  With all the supplies I think I needed finally gathered, it was time to start.

I started by trying to wipe the dew off of the boat in an effort to help it dry faster.  I needed to do this in order to put down the construction paper and masking that was recommended before starting the project.  I had been told that removing the old sealant was a messy task and masking off a large area would keep me from spending hours cleaning black goo out of the nonskid on the deck.

While waiting for the deck to dry, I went inside and removed the shades from the window. The morning sun was apparently in just the right spot to light up every crazing crack and scratch in the window.  I hadn't realized it was as bad as it was.  This got me thinking about the whole "should I replace the glass as long as I was re-bedding the window" again.  I had originally decided that the glass wasn't in that bad of shape and since I wasn't finding any information on replacement options I would just rebed it...but now I'm second guessing that decision.

After the deck was finally dry enough, I put on enough masking to clean up a crime scene...or so I thought.  I covered the entire side of the boat in the vicinity of the window with construction paper. I put up thin plastic masking on the inside of the boat around the window to help prevent any possible mess from migrating inside the boat.  It took a lot longer than I thought it would, between waiting to dry and masking everything it was now 11 am and I'm finally ready to pull the window.

Since the window was already popping out in places, I decided I would just try to pull it off by hand.  I stuck a couple suction cups I had bought from Harbor Freight to the window and gave it a pull.  The front lower edge and side came right off, as did the back edge.  I used a knife (also picked up from Harbor Freight for the window replacement) to cut the four foot of sealant that was still attempting to hold onto the window, and out it came.

Scene of the crime, with the sealant "bead" partially removed

With the window out, the problem with the seal became obvious.  Black paint was put on the back side of the window to black out the mounting surfaces.  Unfortunately, the blackout paint, failed to adhere to the plastic window.  The result is the sealant was holding onto the paint and the boat, but the paint wasn't holding on to the window.  No wonder they have such a high failure rate with this.

While removing the window was easy, removing the giant bead of sealant was more of a chore.  It came up easily where the paint was applied to the opening, but wherever there was bare gel coat, it was very persistent in hanging on.  I would pull on the giant bead trying to slide the razor knife between it and the gel coat to cut it loose.  In some places, small chips of gel coat pulled off the boat with the sealant.  And if you pulled the bead of sealant apart, you found a gooey center like the sealant in the middle never cured.  When the wind would kick up, it liked to take little bits of the sealant and blow it all over the I guess I should have masked off the whole boat.  It was a messy process and took the rest of the day to clean the opening up to the point I could install the window.

Of course, in the middle of cleaning up this mess I decide I really should replace the window.  With all the pain of taking this thing out, I certainly don't want to do it again anytime soon (well, other than the other salon window that needs this same treatment).  Now that I had the window out I know it is 3/8 inch Plexiglass (acrylic) and best I can tell it was originally just a flat piece that was slightly curved during install to fit the boat (information I had tried to find before I started all of this, but was unsuccessful).  I asked my wife to try and help me locate someone that had tinted 3/8 inch acrylic and could cut the window, but it being Saturday, there wasn't an available option to be found in Brunswick or the surrounding area.

So, it looks like I'll have plastic covering a big hole in my boat until at least Monday, when I hopefully can find someone to cut me a replacement window.  Keeping my fingers crossed that the weather forecasts are accurate and it is supposed to be nice and dry for the next several days.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Converting Fluorescent Lights To LED

Yep, still cold, still rainy. Hopefully that will change soon. Figuring that I needed some indoor projects to keep me busy, one of the projects I've been researching is the continuation of upgrading my lights to LED.

I have already converted most of my incandescent lights to LED as they are the biggest energy saving bang for the buck (in the 75~90% range).  Now I'm taking a look at the fluorescent lights.  In the case of fluorescent lights, the power savings isn't as dramatic, but even 30% (or more) is nothing to sneeze at when your power comes from a limited battery bank.

In the case of my incandescent light fixtures, I was able to find LED bulbs as a drop in replacement (or even build my own from a broken household LED bulb).  Fluorescent replacements aren't quite as easy. Unlike incandescent fixtures that are a simple and direct connection to power, fluorescent ones have a transformer (called a ballast) that controls the power supplied to the bulb and is incompatible with LEDs.

There are some special bulbs that plug into the existing socket and have a wire to bypass the ballast, but they are a bit pricey. Another option is to replace the fixture.  There are a few fixtures out there with a similar footprint, but they aren't cheap and I didn't really like the options that I found.

While wasting time watching it rain researching this issue, I came across another option. With the advent of LED lighting, someone came up with the idea of putting LED's on a flexible adhesive backed tape.  This is often used for accent and under-cabinet lighting, but a few people have figured out you can use it to replace bulbs.  So, a few days ago, I found some of these flexible LED strip lights at a good price and decided to give it a try.

I ordered a strip of the "warm white" lights and they arrived today. Since the weather is still dictating inside projects and the ballast in the light in my berth has been giving me problems (it only turns on when it feels like it), I decided to upgrade it with the LEDs.  I wanted to document the process of the upgrade, but this one fixture was a bit more complicated than all the others on the boat.  Instead of wires running from the switch to the ballast, this unit had the switch and connectors soldered directly to the ballast. So in order to reuse the switch, I had to remove it from the circuit board, attach new wires, and new connectors.  Not that complicated of a task, but not a process I wanted to document as I figure it would only confuse the otherwise straight-forward process (people comfortable with electrical connections and soldering should easily be able to figure out how to do this).

Once I had the switch free and the connectors attached, the remaining install is reasonably straight-forward. I cut three strips of the lights to approximately the length of the tube I was replacing (cutting only at the approved marks on the tape) and adhered them to the fixture. I then soldered the connections on the strips together with small jumper wires I scavenged from the fixture (there are connectors made that can be used in lieu of soldering, but I already had the wire and solider and didn't see the need to buy the connectors) and soldered the switched power wire and ground to the connected strips.  I think it took me an hour or two for everything.

The result isn't bad.  The "warm white" colored lights turned out to be a bit more yellow in color than I would like (the picture below makes them look more white than they actually are).  Three strips of the lights put out just a little less light than the fluorescent tube did based on my observation (or maybe it is just the color difference that is tricking my eye, I'm not really sure). My guess is either 4 strips, or using the larger 5050 LEDs instead of the 3528 ones would put out as much or more the cost of more power use.  In the end, for about $2 worth of the LED strip and a little solider and wire I had on hand, I have a LED light that consumes around 3.75 watts instead of the 8 watt fluorescent. And best of all, I didn't have to put the old fixture into the landfill.

Next time I may try using the "daylight white" strips or a combination of those and the warm white ones.  I'll also document the process better in case you want to try updating some of your old fluorescent lights.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Practice Makes...Well Practice.

Weather, weather, on a boat is ALWAYS about the weather.  It doesn't matter if you have been sitting at a dock for a month with no immediate intention of leaving, your life still seems to be dictated by the weather.  In my case, there are two projects that need to be done before I leave the dock and they both depend on the weather.  I need a stretch of warm, dry days in order to pull the salon windows, clean up the mess created by the sealant that was originally used and failed, and rebed them in a different sealant.  I also need a stretch of warmer days to allow for proper curing of epoxy fiberglass (and not being rained on while laying it up would help).  So, in line with my usual luck, the weather the past week or so has been cold, rainy, or both.

Given my frustration with my lack of progress the past week, today I figured out something I could do.  Even though it has been rainy all day, I decided I should practice the basic method I intend to use for the fiberglass repair.  In the anchor locker there is a fiberglass tray that is not in the best shape  and had a hole in it, so I decided I would practice by repairing this hole.  I went out in the rain and unbolted the tray and brought it back to the cockpit so I could attempt the repair.

The process I intend to use on the anchor locker repair is to attempt to build a mold around the damaged area (the missing piece) and then start with the gel coat and complete the layup as you would do in a molded part.  This basic process is outlined in this video:

Since the goal of this repair is to practice what I will need to do for the anchor locker, I'm using biaxial cloth and epoxy even though it is overkill for this mostly cosmetic part. I started by grinding down the glass on the back side to create the taper for the repair.

You might be able to tell that this hole is along a curve.  Of course, the video doesn't provide any good hints for creating a mold around a curve and I have been wrestling with that part of this process in my mind for a little while.  Since I'm not really worried if this comes out that great, I figured I would try just taping some poly plastic to the back to seal and hopefully follow the contour.  It isn't the greatest mold, but hopefully it will work.  I then mixed up some gel coat and applied a thick layer to the plastic backing the hole.

While the gel coat was setting up, I cut the fiberglass to use for the patch.  I went with three layers of the biaxial cloth.  The layer closest to the gel coat was a special cloth that also has a chopped strand mat on one side to help avoid fabric print through.  Once the gel coat started setting up, I mixed up the epoxy, applied a thin coat to the repair area, placed the fiberglass cloth over the repair area and wetted it with a disposable chip brush.  I then applied the next patch and again wetted it with a little resin on the chip brush.  Repeated one more time with the final patch and the fiberglassing was complete.

The look of the biaxial cloth is different than the finish on this part, but it should match the other repair area well.  I will still need to put some gel coat over the top of this after everything cures and I clean and scuff it up a bit, but I think the glassing itself went well.  I did notice that the curing of the gel coat seemed to cause the plastic backing to wrinkle, so I will definitely need to find a better option for creating a conforming mold when I do this repair on the compound curves of the anchor locker.  Guess I will find out how well it all turned out tomorrow, after I let it cure overnight.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


Baby, it's c-c-c-c-cold outside. Last night Brunswick, GA. was under both a hard freeze and high wind warning. Depending on which weather site you believe it was either 24 or 25 degrees farenheit as the low. And I'm pretty sure the winds were in the 15 gusting to 30 knot range. Not a good combination as that puts the wind chill somewhere in the teens for the evening. When I got up this morning, the temperature was reported as 26 with the Weather Underground "feels like" temperature of 18.  It sounds like the next couple days are going to be a bit chilly before things improve.

Weather Underground graph showing
the dip into the 20's this morning.
I know I shouldn't be complaining given that back in Colorado they had sub zero temperatures from this same cold front a few days ago, but homes there are built to handle it. Boats, at least catamarans designed for cruising in the Caribbean, are not. And my wardrobe, that consists of more swim trunks than long sleeve shirts, isn't helping either. Fortunately I am at a dock and plugged into shore power, so I left the reverse cycle AC running in heat mode overnight. Originally I didn't think I wanted air conditioning on a boat, but right now I'm glad they can provide some heat.

Maybe it was a bit overkill, but I also put a small 130 watt radiant heater in the unheated locker on the bridge deck where my water tanks and related plumbing are located. I also ran the engines for a bit to help add a bit of heat to the engine room (where some additional plumbing is located). I figure a little extra precaution is better than climbing into the recesses of the boat to replace plastic fittings that could break if they froze. Not sure I want to see this month's electric bill though.

This puts a hold on some of my boat fixing projects as well.  Neither fiberglass nor sealants like to cure in temperatures this cold (and I can't blame them).  Continuing the work waxing the boat is definitely not in the cards for today.  And in the case of the salon window re-bed, I don't think I really want a big hole in the side of the boat when it is this cold.

So, while I wait for better weather, guess I'll write a blog post, clean up the boat since stuff is scattered everywhere from the projects I have been working on, do a little more project related research, some reading, and some cooking.  Making a big pot of chili sounds good on a cold day and the cooking will add heat to the boat...a a nice bonus.

Now, where'd I put that fireplace....

Monday, January 5, 2015

Lots of Learnin'

Since the beginning of the year most of the "work" I've been doing on the boat falls under the category of learning.  I've got a number of projects that I would like to accomplish and all of it is stuff I really know nothing about, so I've been spending a lot of time Googling these various projects.

The first project is one I started in December.  I would really like to replace the fabric bimini top on the boat with a hard top.  There are a number of advantages to having a hard top.  First, I won't need to deal with replacing the fabric on a semi-regular basis as the sun takes its toll on fabric and sewing of the top. More importantly, it provides a wide and stable platform for working with the main sail boom, something I consider to be a safety enhancement.  It will also be a nice platform for mounting solar panels.  And there is no point in creating a new set of dodgers for my current top if I intend to replace it.  So, I've been talking with a guy in town about options for creating a simple hard top and looking at other designs for ideas on getting one made for a reasonable cost.

RV, Marine Kit With 630 Watts of DC Power

Speaking of solar, that is also on the list of upgrades I would like to make soon.  Currently, the only ways I have to keep the batteries charged on the boat are to run the engines, run the diesel generator, or plug it into shore power.  Since I would like to spend more time out of marinas and on anchor (and not have to burn lots of diesel), I need a greener way to keep the batteries topped off and solar power seems like the best option.  Having a catamaran, and particularly one with a hard top bimini, provides a lot of space to install solar.  Recently Kyocera came out with some solar panels that produce up to 325 watts of power at 40 volts DC and they are reasonably priced.  With the right maximum power point tracking (MPPT) controller, two of these panels could produce somewhere in the neighborhood of 240 Amp Hours of juice a day.  So, I've been looking at solar packages similar to this one to add to the boat.  I also performed a power inventory to see how much power I think I will need in a day.  Of course, a lot of this is still guess work as I don't have really good numbers for how we will be using power.  Things like the refrigerator (one of the big power hogs) is easy, but other lifestyle uses are still somewhat unknown.

I also need rebed both of the large salon side windows on the boat.  It seems that Leopard didn't have a good process or didn't use the best materials when they were originally installed. The result is a failure rate on the seals on the windows on most of their older boats is near 100%.  The windows have no mechanical fasteners and are only held in by sealant.  So, I've spent a lot of time looking through all the questions and pictures on the Leopard owners group on Yahoo.  It sounds like a bit of a tedious and messy process, but I think I have a handle on it.  Guess I'll find out soon as the sealant needed should arrive later today.  Then I just need a couple warm dry days to do the work.

One other task has popped up that I wasn't planning on.  When I was showing a fellow Leopard 3800 owner at the marina my new Mantus anchor, we noticed that the fiberglass structure that the anchor roller is mounted to has started to crack.  The roller and bail now move some when they shouldn't move at all.  Since this area takes a lot of load while anchoring, it will need to be repaired.  So, with my very limited knowledge about fiberglass repair, I've been researching that as well.  Looking at the other Leopard, his boat has a significantly thicker fiberglass structure than mine, so I guess someone might have figured out an issue with the boat in between when mine was built and when his was.  In any case, looks like I'll be doing some pretty serious fiberglass layup work in the near future.

So, filling my head with boat fixing knowledge, hopefully I can execute some of it well.