Sunday, November 22, 2015

Rain, Cold, and Wind

Looking back, if I had one thing I would change about this project, it would be shelter from the elements.  The weather has dogged me the entire project.  I guess, coming from a state where it is sunny and not terribly hot most of the year, I just didn't think about how much of an impact it would be. I did try to find an indoor work space when I was looking for a place to build this top, but the only two I knew of were well south of my insurance restriction for location during the dreaded "H" season.

Building a makeshift shelter (or as I often joke about it, a refugee camp) has helped.  It kept the sun off of it during the summer and now it can help hold heat in a bit.  Unfortunately, tarps tied to a canopy aren't the best when it comes to rain.  They work for a little while, but stretching them over boat stands takes its toll and they start to leak.  I've replaced or reinforced a couple, but even then the drainage of water off of the tarps can be an issue.  The other problem with the shelter is the wind.  Using a propane forced air (torpedo) heater, I can get the "tent" pretty warm, but if the wind is really blowing, the heater is much less effective in the drafty shelter.

"Enclosed" work space canopy with 10 tarps

I'd consider getting a somewhat more substantial shelter (one of those pop-up car ports or similar), but at this point we are so close to completion that it doesn't make sense to plunk down the money on one.  A tent or carport large enough to fit the top, provide room to walk all the way around it, and room for a work table is a bit pricey.  If I had bought one at the beginning it probably would have been worth it (or, who knows, maybe it would have other problems of its own like heat build-up during the summer).  So, I make do with my canopy and the 10 tarps that are tied to the frame.

Panorama inside my workspace.  

Despite all of this, we have been making some progress on the top.  Discounting the hour or two it takes to setup and close down the tent each day, we have about six to 7 hours of working time.  On good days, I can raise the temperature inside the tent 20 degrees or more over the ambient temperature and that is good enough to get resin and gelcoat to cure. We were able to apply a weave fill coat of polyester resin to the top.  Yesterday we put gelcoat on the window opening and another coat along the top side of the handrails.  That took a bit longer than planned (seems that everything does) and we were running the heater until 7 PM so it would cure.

Today was cold with the high of 51 at 5 AM and falling ever since.  With help of the heater, I was still able to do a little wet sanding of the gelcoat (in this case the top didn't need it but I did). This evening the low is supposed to be around freezing and tomorrow is supposed to be windy, so I don't know that I'll be getting an early start in the morning.  Maybe after a couple hot cups of coffee...maybe.

P.S. The cat seems to like the tent, she often hangs out under the top while we are working...whenever it is cold or raining.  And this morning I found her sneaking out from underneath it when I arrived.


  1. Hi Mike,
    Great to see this project is "nearing an end". You appear to have 5-6 more days of ok weather with temps in high 50's to low 60's during the day and little chance of rain. But boy are those nights looking cold. What are you finding for fiberglas resin or gelcoat curing times at the 60-65 degree temps? Do you need to sand gelcoat top while in tent in VA or can you wait for a warmer clime and do it when mounted on boat?
    Messier but warmer. I'm and other readers are wishing you a trip south soon.
    Doug in VT

    1. Hi Doug. Thanks, I know I'm wishing I were already south...the trip down is going to suck this year.

      For the gelcoat and resin we've applied, we would pre-heat the tent to around 70F, then turn it off (that whole flammable liquid and open flame issue) and apply the resin after catalyzing it at the higher end of the MEKP range (up to 3%). Once applied, we would fire the heater back up and bring temps up to at least 70~75 if not able to do more (as measured at the far end of the tent from the heater at the height of the top). Cure near the heater would go faster of course, but the far end would usually be good in 45 minutes or less. We would let the heater run a bit longer just to be safe of course.

      The one catch I found was that the recommendation on minimum temperature may have as much to do with viscosity of the uncured resin as it does with the ability to cure. We would "warm" the bottle of gelcoat (either in warm water or sitting in our warmer cars) but as the jug or pan cooled, it became thicker and more difficult to apply in a even and somewhat smooth coat. It cured fine, but I have more sanding to do in those spots and I hope the thinner areas are coated well enough.

      As for sanding. In order to make the rails smooth and have a clean transition edge to the texture, I need to complete the finish on the smooth part before we can tape it off and apply the textured coats. So, not really possible to put it off until later. Does that make sense?

      If the weather cooperates and we don't screw up when sanding, we will hopefully have it finished pretty soon. Then to get it on the boat and get the welder to make the struts for us (spoke with him today about that).

      Meanwhile, we are scrambling to find some warmer clothes for the trip south. It will definitely be colder than either of us would like.

  2. Hi Mike and family,

    your dodger is looking great and will prove worth all the time and effort :-). We are currently in Quebec until early January so your temps are looking balmy . The boat is on the hard in Green Cove Springs. Once we get back to her we will do the minimal needed and probably head to the Bahamas. Hope to see you out there!
    Liz and Chris

    1. Hey Guys,

      Was just thinking about you the other day...when I was thinking I would rather be in Brunswick for Thanksgiving. Quebec to the Bahamas...that will be quite a change for you in January. We should be down that way as well, just need a few more nice weather days to get this monster project done.

      Take care and hope to see you warmer climates.