Tuesday, May 16, 2023

V-Berth Refit

One of the last major cabins to refit on Wildthing was the v-berth at the front of the boat. The v-berth on the Pan Oceanic 46 has a nice queen size bed to port along with a cabinet and a set of drawers. On the starboard side there was a locker and some drawers. The v-berth is probably the largest cabin after the main salon. It required a lot of work to cover the huge headliner, bulkheads, floor and hull.  

V-Berth Maple Tambour

The 40 year old teak plywood and veneer that was used to build the cabinetry in the v-berth had literally disintegrated. The two port lights had both leaked and added to the damage. 

We ended up tearing out most of the starboard side and building a new cabinet with shelves and a hanging locker. This was discussed in a previous post.

The old teak veneer was stripped off down to the bulkheads to allow us to attach the new maple tambour. It came off easily, in sheets, with a little scraping. 

We continued the use of maple tambour in the v-berth, like we had in the rest of the boat. Each piece of tambour was first cut to fit each area of the bulkheads. 

It was then removed and varnished for final assembly. We glued the panels to the bulkheads using a Roberts 2001 floor adhesive. We had to get creative in a few spots to hold the panels in place while the glue dried.

All the tambour pieces were cut and rough fitted last season. This year we did alot of sanding and varnishing to get the panels ready for final installation.

Brad fired up the sprayer and let the Epifanes varnish fly. Three coats of clear and one coat of matte finish were applied with copious amounts of glorious, glorious sanding in between coats.

Adding the sheets of tambour quickly changed the look of the old rustic v-berth into a classic designed yacht interior.

Port side bulkhead glued and braced

Cabinet face frame and outlets installed

Port side bulkhead and cabinet
Each piece in the v-berth went together like a puzzle. Once the face frame was secured, the other pieces of tambour could then be glued onto the bulkhead. We tried not to use any fasteners with the panels. They were glued and braced to hold them in place until they dried for about 24 hours. 

We found that if we glued more than one panel we would sometimes get buckling of the panels due to expansion. 

 A solid surface countertop was glued on top of the cabinet with silicone before the tambour went on. The cabinet door will be installed once it is varnished to complete the port side.

Starboard side cabinetry
Tambour was glued onto the starboard side cabinet, aft bulkhead and the small cabinet on top. Solid maple face frames for both the hanging locker and cabinet above will be varnished to complete the starboard side cabinetry. 

Starboard side cabinets

Cabinet face frame test fit

Tambour installed on the side of the berth with light switch

Top cabinet face frame, teak trim and solid surface on top of cabinet

Forward bulkhead in the v-berth & anchor locker

Tambour glued onto the forward bulkhead

Anchor locker door installed with  latches

Hinge detail of the anchor locker door
New Headliner

All the old vinyl headliner was removed and new slats were screwed into the ceiling to allow us to attach the new headliner.

This headliner is the same Sintra plastic product we used in the rest of the boat. The panels were kept small to allow easy installation and access if needed. 

We had a groove cut in the panels with a CNC machine to give it a wainscoting look. We took special care to make sure the grooves in the headliner, lined up forward to aft on the ceiling. The panels were initially rough cut for size then removed for sanding, priming and painting.

V-berth headliner panels looking aft

We added insulation between all the slats on the ceiling. We used an aviation product called Armaflex, which has an adhesive backing. It provides excellent insulation with sound dampening properties. The Armaflex is the black foam material between the slats.

V-berth headliner

Each panel was then sanded and primed, sanded again and given a final coat of white Interlux Bright Sides gloss paint.

We added 4 new LED lights and a fan to give the space a bright and well ventilated feel. 

Port side headliner

The new headliner is shown with the teak strips covering the seams of the panels. Each piece was rough cut then taken down for sanding and multiple coats of varnish. The teak strips edges were routed with a round over bit and were mitered where they met. 

The teak strips were cut to 2 1/4 wide by 3/8 inch thick. The teak was given two coats of Epifanes gloss varnish to fill the grain. A final coat of matte Epifanes varnish was sprayed on to give it a deep rich look. The teak strips were screwed into the headliner frames using 3/4 inch stainless steel screws. All screws were countersunk.

The contrast between the white headliner and the dark teak made for a nice contrast. This headliner took the most work of all the projects on the entire boat. Thousands of man hours were spent cutting, fitting, painting, sanding, routing and installing. 

If we had to do it again we would go with something prefinished and easier to install. This headliner is truly unique and a work of art.

 New Flooring

The floor in the v-berth is tiny and odd shaped because it comes up next to the hull on the starboard side. One floor hatch is located in the center of the floor. The floor was not quite high enough, so some plywood subfloor was added. The flooring was the same vinyl material used in the rest of the boat. The lines of the flooring were continued throughout the boat. The flooring was also used on the toe kick up the from side of the cabinet to improve durability.

Flooring and a latch were added, edges trimmed out in teak

New hatch with flooring trimmed in teak

The hatch in the floor was trimmed with teak strips cut to 7/8 inch high by 1/4 inch wide. Flooring, trim and latch were added to the hatch to complete the floor.

Brad has become a master at spraying paint and varnish over the many years working on Wildthing. 

Learning new skills is important if you want to refit a large yacht like this. After a lot of trial and error, he has the formula down for mixing paints and varnishes. He uses a small HPLV spray gun to apply the finishes.

Here he is applying one of the many coats of varnish to the maple tambour panels. 

Many man hours of cutting, sanding and varnishing went into each panel. The results have been worth all the effort. 
The old teak was very dark and made the cabins feel claustrophobic. The new lighter maple tambour was added to give the space an airy and open feel. 

We had purposely removed all the teak on the outside of the boat to reduce the maintenance but added a lot of wood on the inside to give it a rich look. We tried to recreate the look of the Dutch built boats. They are examples of some of the best joinery and craftmanship. We did not quite reach that level of work but we came close. 

One AC outlet was wired into the port side cabinet. The AC outlet has a two USB charging ports.

 A dual DC USB outlet was wired below the AC outlet to provide charging of mobile devices when the inverter AC power is not on. 

The DC USB outlets were purchased on Amazon. These have an on and off switch and an LED indication of the voltage of the DC house batteries. 

The LED lights in the cabins are controlled at the main DC switch panel. Dimmer switches were added in each cabin to control the lights. I thought of using some WiFi controlled switches in the cabins but kept it simple to decrease setup and maintenance.

Hull Side Covering

Port Side
The sides of the hull in the v-berth were stripped down to bare fiberglass. We glassed on strips of plywood to the hull to have something for the panels to attach to. 

The same ArmaFlex insulation was used to insulate the hull. We used sheets of 1/4 plywood to cover the side hulls. The panels were covered with epoxy resin and painted to seal them from moisture and give a nice white background. Teak slats were added every 6 inches to break up the white side hull. 

Starboard side finished

Port Side finished and trimmed into the headliner

New Cabinet and Hanging Locker

The whole right side of the v-berth was rebuilt using 1/2 inch marine plywood to create two bulkheads. Templates were made of the bulkhead and then transferred to plywood. One section will be shelves and the other a hanging locker. The bulkheads were epoxied to the hull.

3/4 inch poplar was used to build the framework of the shelves and hanging locker.

We insulated the hull in the back of the lockers with the same Armaflex insulation.

New face frames and doors were built for the shelves and hanging locker on the starboard side and the cabinet on the port side.

Solid maple was milled down with a power planer and table saw to 3/4 inch thick stock.
We created a step to get into the berth. We made a hinged door to allow access to storage below. 
Another storage locker was created ahead of the cabinet shelves and hanging locker. 

This triangular hatch opens up to allow access to storage below.  We covered the triangular hatch with the same flooring material and hinged it on the outboard side.
Solid Surface Countertops

Pieces of solid surface or Corian like material was used to cover the top of the shelve and hanging locker unit. The material is 1/4 inch thick and is easily cut with a table or skill saw. 

The material has a shiny surface on one side and matte surface on the other. We chose the matte surface which is easy to clean and any scratches can be easily sanded out.

The pieces were glued down with silicone adhesive.

Solid surface counter top was cut for port side cabinet and glued down with silicone.

Cabinet Face Frames and Doors

Now that we had cabinets we wanted to dress them up by adding some solid maple face frames and doors similar to the other shaker style cabinets in the boat.

We dusted off the table saw, power planer, Kreg Jeg, router and the random orbital sander and got to work.
Brad had purchased some nice hardwood maple boards but they had to be milled down to the 3/4 thickness. A couple passes through the power planer made quick work of that. 

We ripped the boards to 2 1/4 inch widths for the stiles and rails. We used the Kreg Jeg to create pocket holes on the back of the face frame and connected them together with glue and screws.

We set the table saw blade and cut a 1/4 inch deep by 3/16 inch wide recessed groove in all the pieces to allow the center panels to slip in. 

We used 3/16 inch maple plywood for the inset panels in the cabinet doors. We created these doors similar to the shaker style doors in the rest of the boat. We made sure everything was square and glued them.

The stiles and rails of the doors were connected with biscuits at the joints and glued with the center panels in place.
The face frame and doors were rough fit and glued.  Hinges were hand chiseled into the doors and frames to allow the proper reveal.

Holes were drilled into the cabinet doors to allow the finger pulls and latch mechanism to be attached.
This is the face frame for the little cabinet on top of the hanging locker. Instead of building a door for this we just made a cut out to allow access the cabinet and keep items from rolling out. A similar face frame cut out was used in the aft head cabinets.

This is the rough fit of the face frame on the starboard cabinet and shelves. On a boat nothing seems to be square, plumb or level. Every piece has to be custom fit. Once this face frame is installed the last of the tambour can be attached to the lower cabinet.

The rough fit of the face frame and door. 

Assembled face frame and door

V-berth starboard side locker

V-berth forward bulkhead, anchor locker, side panels and headliner

Anchor locker latch

Starboard side top cabinet face frame and tambour

Port side cabinet and aft bulkhead

V-berth starboard side cabinet doors

V-berth aft bulkhead tambour, fan, dorade covers 

This season was very productive. Summer is fast approaching and I am heading back to South Dakota for the summer. Work on Wildthing will pause during the brutal summer in Florida. 

We were able to install the two electric Lewmar primary winches and two manual secondary winches. We then moved onto the v-berth and nearly completed this cabin after two years of work. Side hulls coverings, headliner bulkheads, flooring and cabinetry were completed. The pilothouse was painted and the headliner was completed. More pictures on the pilothouse reveal will follow later.  Some repairs were made to the outside hull and caprail damage that occurred during hurricane Ian. 

I will return in November to hopefully finish up the v-berth. Stay tuned for more posts. Work is slow but we are coming to the end of the project. It is so exciting and gratifying to see 20 years of work come to completion. 

~~~Sail On~~~/)


Thursday, May 11, 2023

The Back Story of Wildthing - South Dakota Sailors

South Dakota Sailors

The back story of Wildthing is a tale that must be told.  It is a story of an older brother who had a dream of sailing the world and a younger brother who had some skills to help make that happen. This story began 45 years ago when they bought their first sailboat together.  Brad was a young college student who borrowed money from his younger brother, Mark to finance a sailboat purchase. That first boat had a hole in the bottom, so it was love at first sight. They began to hone their boat repair skills early on with this wreck. Who knew sailing and messing about in boats would become an inseparable passion for these two brothers over the next 45 years. 

Cheers to you Lloyd
We were introduced to boating by our father, Lloyd. He bought an old, wrecked, wooden 1952 Century inboard back in about 1970. Are you seeing a pattern here? The boat was badly damaged with a busted plank in the hull, bent rudder, propeller and shaft. The engine was in pieces but complete. As a family we spent the next two years restoring the boat and rebuilding the engine. Our father taught us many skills which would become valuable in our own boat restoration projects. We seemed to have inherited the same sickness of buying old boats and trying to make them new again.   

My brother and I first learned how to sail on the glacial lakes in South Dakota. A family friend took us sailing on a Johnson C scow one afternoon on Lake Poinsett in northeast South Dakota. We all jumped onboard and he regaled us with all the nautical boating terms. He put the boat up on edge and we screamed down the lake, I was instantly hooked.  Later that night we saw his son head out sailing with a few friends and some girls. They sailed off into the sunset playing guitar, singing and having a few beers. Brad turned to me at that point and said, we have to get a sailboat! 

South Dakota sailing

I know you're thinking, where do we sail in South Dakota? Our state is blessed with many small lakes in the eastern part of the state. We also have four hydro electric dams on the Missouri River which traverse the state and create 200 mile long reservoirs perfect for boating. We started out sailing 20ft scows and progressed to 25ft production fiberglass boats on which we spent the weekends exploring the river. We never imagined we would both end up in Florida one day working on this boat so many years later.

As most sailors do, we started reading Sail Magazine and Cruising World and listened to Jimmy Buffett music back in the 1980s. We dreamed of sailing the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean, sipping island drinks and walking the sandy beaches. We began chartering sailboats in St Martin and the British Virgin Island on big catamarans back in the early 1990s before catamarans had really become popular.  We bareboat chartered maybe fifteen times over the past 30 years all over the Caribbean from the Bahamas to Grenada. 

Family sailing charter in St Martin
We went to Antigua Race week one year, we sailed St Vincent, St Lucia and the Grenadines a couple of times and even did a boat delivery to the Bahamas. The British Virgin Island was one of our favorite spots where we charted a dozen times over the years. 

All of these trips further fueled a desire to continue to sail and explore the many islands of the Caribbean. Brad purchased a Privilege 39 catamaran in 1994 which he put on charter in the British Virgin Islands. We sailed that for 6 years throughout the Bahamas and the Caribbean. 

The Boat Purchase

Zepha in the yard
Brad had been on the hunt for a capable offshore bluewater cruising sailboat after he sold the charter boat. This was before multi hulls were considered bluewater capable. He looked at Tayana, Bollman, Whitby, Corbin, Valiant, Hans Christian, Hylas and other heavy displacement boats. He was hooked and constantly scanned the sailboat brokerage websites for the perfect dream boat. He called me up one day and asked me if I wanted to go the Florida and check out a boat that he had been looking at. I said of course, so we flew down the Tampa and drove to Bradenton where the boat was located at Palmetto Point. 

This was our first look and Zepha. She was a 1980 Pan Oceanic 46 pilothouse sailboat which had just returned from the Caribbean. At first look she was pretty much original and all the systems were functioning but tired and outdated. My brother had the boat surveyed and he made an offer. After a little haggling he became the new owner.  Little did we know the huge project that he had just taken on and how involved I would become. I was slowly getting drawn into this refit.

We had both owned and worked on smaller boat but we had no idea what it was going to take to bring this old girl back to her former glory.

The First Refit 2003-2006

Brad removing old chain plates
We moved the boat from Bradenton to a do-it-yourself yard in nearby downtown St Petersburg just a few miles away. There were not many do-it-your self yards left so we were lucky to find one in the area. Here the boat would sit for three years on the hard while we did some major work to get her back in top shape. 

As we dug into it the list of projects grew and grew. We pulled up the leaking teak deck, replaced chain plates, installed a new engine, exhaust, shaft, propeller and thrust bearing, new topside and bottom paint, new hardtop, new windows, fuel tanks, standing and running rigging. The whole electrical system was removed and rewired with a new inverter. The list just kept growing the further we got into it. 

Brad and I were both working full time at our careers. I was a electrical engineer who designed power system protection for high voltage transmission lines, substations and generators. Brad had a very successful property and casualty insurance company. We could only get away a few weeks a year to work on the boat, so the first few years the progress was slow. Working on the boat remotely meant we had to fly down each trip from South Dakota, rent a place to stay, rent a vehicle and purchase all the tools and supplies locally.  We were determined to do much of the work ourselves but ended up having the rigging and paint job done by others. 

Faired and sanded, ready for paint
Life in the yard was tough. There were many hot, sweaty and dirty days working on the boat. We managed to get the teak decks removed the first summer. We made the mistake of going down in August and nearly killed ourselves in the Florida heat and humidity. Future work trips were scheduled in the Florida winter time with milder temperatures.

Those first few years went by fast with some progress. We did manage to get the boat painted, a new engine, fuel system, prop shaft, fuel tanks, new chain plates and standing rigging, thru hulls, new hardtop and exhaust replaced. Replacing the pilothouse windows was another big milestone in getting the boat dried up. The 10 aluminum pilothouse windows were custom made by a company in Pompano Florida. All the other portlights and hatches were re-bedded. I removed much of the old wiring and began to rewire the mast, lights and engine controls. 

The boatyard was filled with many people who had the same dream we did. Some had been there for years and some never made it out of the yard. 

Deno in the boat yard
One character I vividly remember was Deno. He has since passed away but back then he quickly became our buddy and mentor in the yard. He was a real character, full of excitement and fascination with boats. He was rebuilding a ferro cement sailboat that was rolled in a hurricane. He had been in the yard several years and worked at a pace slower than us.  A big day for Deno was bolting on a cleat. He would show up with a cooler of Budweiser long neck bottles and start drinking at 10 am. He would have a few beers to get warmed up and then regale us with stories about his boat and all the lost souls in the boat yard. He had been there many years so he had the scoop on everyone.

Deno's motto was "Forward Progress". Each weekend he would get another few bolts and cleats on the deck. As long as your doing something, you're making forward progress he would say.  He helped us tremendously with his sage boatyard wisdom. He helped us source parts on Ebay and find riggers and painters for our projects. We left the yard three years later and his boat was still there.

We came down year after year working on projects to get the boat back in the water. Brad's wife Carla would come down and worked on the boat with us too. Our younger brother Todd came down once. We made him sand bottom paint all week so he never came back. He was smarter than us. We would work all day then hit places like Dockside Daves or the Wharf in St Pete for grouper sandwiches, onion rings and beers every night. These were local joints where the crusty fisherman hung out. We must have fit in because they started calling us by our first names. 

New Westerbeke engine going in
By this time my wife was beginning to wonder if there was a boat. She knew I was coming down to Florida every winter but she thought we were just sitting at the beach everyday taking it easy. She actually snuck down one year just to see if we were actually working on a boat. She finally got to see the boat and thought we were crazy. 

We made good progress over the next few years and the boat was soon ready to splash. The boat was renamed Wildthing and splashed back in the water on April 17th, 2006.  We installed the new motor that same day and later motored over to the new home for Wildthing at the Pasadena Marina.

Keeping a boat in a marina is no small undertaking. Back then it cost $900 a month and more if you wanted to live on it. Brad soon started looking for a home on the gulf coast of Florida. If he was going to spend that much it might as well be for a house with a canal in back to keep the boat. He and Carla drove the whole coast one year from Tampa to Marco Island. They fell in love with Cape Coral and it's 450 miles of canals and purchased a home there.

Those years of working on the boat forged a tighter bond between my brother and I. I looked forward to the yearly trips to work on the boat and spend time with my brother. 

Moving the Boat

Brad and Carla purchased a home in Cape Coral with gulf access in 2008. The next job was to sail the boat from St Petersburg to Cape Coral. It was about a 120 mile trip and it would be the first time we actually sailed the boat since the refit. We made sure we had all the necessary safety gear. The sails were in good shape and the engine was running great. The interior was not completed yet but we bought a few groceries, water, a porta potty and a cooler and we set out about 10:00 am in the morning. We figured we would sail overnight and arrive the next morning. Florida has shallow water everywhere, we were told if we run aground just get out and walk to shore. 

We started out motoring that morning with little wind. The weather looked good and the wind filled in later on that afternoon as we sailed down the coast. This was high adventure for two South Dakota boys.

As night approached the wind picked up out of the east and we reefed the main sail to slow us down a bit. Once we got south of Sarasota it got darker with fewer lights on shore. I remember calling our Dad to let him know what we were doing and that we were all right. We had cell service most of the way. We navigated with a hand held Garmin GPS that I had back then and it was enough to get us there.  

It got to be about 10:00 pm and Brad and I both decided we were too excited to go to sleep. I tried laying down for a while but the boat was rolling back and forth so I stayed up. We both sat in the cockpit all night trying to keep warm as the wind picked up to 20 knots. We reefed the main sail and took in some of the headsail and were still moving along at 7 knots. We sailed through the night and welcomed the rising sun as we approached Venice. We had planned to sail in under the Sanibel bridge but there was some construction going on so that channel was closed. We ducked in at Redfish pass and made our way down the intercoastal waterway and up the canals to Brad's home in Cape Coral. It was a good shakedown cruise for the boat. 

The Second Refit 2008 -Present

Old teak veneer in the main salon
Now that the boat was in Cape Coral we focused on the second refit. The boat had proven her self on the sail down so it was time to start work on the interior to make her more functional and livable. 

Have I told you my brother Brad is great at demolition. He started to tear into the interior and did not stop until most of it was ripped out. Many boats built in Taiwan were know as leaky teakys. All the portlights had leaked over the years along with the cap rail. Most of the teak veneer interior was water damaged and literally falling apart after 30 years. We started with the aft cabin and moved forward removing the rotten wood. The pilothouse, galley, salon and forward cabin were all stripped back to the hull. We would spend the next 15 years building it back to better than new. 

New maple salon port side
This blog has been a way to chronicle the progress and challenges we have had along the way. Some things we did on the first refit needed redoing on the second refit. Sometimes our first efforts failed and we needed to regroup. Our motto became, "We do it right, because we do it twice". 

Brad and I have always worked well together and each of us brought some strengths to the refit. It was nice to bounce ideas off each other and focus on areas we excelled at. He had a vision to recreate a Dutch built interior for Wildthing.  During this project, Brad was the project manager and became the master painter, varnisher and fiberglass specialist. Being an engineer, I excelled at electrical design, parts fabrication and finish work on the boat. Some say I am a little anal about my work, but in this case, it paid off with a high quality product. 

The original interior of the boat was made of dark teak veneers which made the boat feel very closed off down below. Maple tambour was chosen to cover all the bulkheads which really brightened up the interior. The Sintra, PVC ceiling material was chosen to be maintenance free and easily cleaned. The panels were grooved with a C&C machine and then primed and painted a bright white. The panels were kept small to allow for easy installation and removal if need be to access deck hardware. The panels were trimmed with teak strips all varnished to the same high quality.

Many thousands of man hours were spent cutting all the tambour, ceiling panels and trim pieces. All of the maple and teak were given up to four coats of varnish with hours of sanding between each coats. 

Brad learned to spray varnish and paint like a professional as shown by the beautiful interior. We would have finished the boat years earlier if we had chosen an easier design for the headliner. In the end it turned out to be one of the coolest features of the boat. It is truly a one of a kind design. 

Main salon
The long period of the refit allowed us to take advantage of newer technology as it developed over the years. Developments have happened with new lithium battery technology, chart plotters, digital charts, NMEA 2000, AIS, induction cooktops, electric winches, wireless networking, LED lighting and inverter technology.  We implemented some of these as they have come along keeping the boat up to date. 

We often get asked questions like, how long have you been working on that boat, do you ever sail it, when is it going to be done?  My answer is that it may never really get completed because we continue to redo things as new technologies come about and things where out. We do sail it from time to time and do plan to have at least one last great adventure. It would be fun to go back to the Bahamas although a 6ft draft is going to be challenging. 

V-berth looking aft
This project has always been more that just a boat refit. It has been about dreams, learning new skills, researching, procuring, designing, building, successes and failures, heart ache and celebrations.  More importantly the project brought two brothers closer than they have ever been and solidified a lifelong love for boating and each other. 

We have put in 20 years refitting this old boat. We are not finished yet but expect to be nearly complete next winter. I think we are both going to be sad when the project finally does come to an end. I know the boat may be sold someday but the time we have shared working on this old boat has been one of the most rewarding things I have done during my life. When you build stuff there is no greater sense of accomplishment than looking at your work at the end of the day and saying, I did that with my own two hands and it turned out pretty cool! 

Celebrating progress on the boat

New nonskid on deck

Aft Cabin

Main Salon


Galley Aft

Galley forward

Galley Port side

Pilothouse headliner

V-berth forward

V-berth looking aft port

V-berth looking aft starboard

V-berth looking aft

V-berth headliner, fan and dorade covers

Wildthing in all her glory!