Finishing the Interior Renovation (Part 1)

Projects & Maintenance

Having completed the install of the new headliner, mahogany cabin sides and under-deck paneling a few months ago, it was time to finish the interior renovation with the final trim moulding to bring it all together. While taking a break from the interior, I had a chance to look at what had been done and ruminate upon the possibilities of final completed job. If time and money were of no concern, I could easily make this thing look like a gothic church, but those two constraints will help keep the design aspects tastefully unfussy. There were some minor challenges, but I was excited to get started.

Here's an overhead stringer where it abuts the cabin-sides. We need to make that look pretty.

Here’s an overhead stringer where it abuts the cabin-sides. We need to make that look pretty.

My first task was to create some yolk/fiddle pieces to be placed at the ends of the overhead stringers. These would not only cover the gaps between the cabin-sides and the stringers but add some character to otherwise plain lateral transitions. A quick cardboard template was made and transferred to some 1/2″ ply and cut out with the bandsaw. I smoothed the curves with a belt sander and confirmed a good fit over the stringers.


1/2″ ply template cut and sanded.

With the 1/2″ ply template, I grabbed the 3/4″ teak piece leftover from the original drop-down table leg and used some double-sided tape to secure the template to the underside of the teak. Then, with a 1/2″ flush cutting bit in the router I carefully trimmed out each of the final pieces. The router made quick work of it! I had just enough teak from the table leg to get the 8 pieces required. Although will no longer be a table leg, it will remain as part of the boat in a new form. There’s gotta be some good Mojo in that, right?

Too easy!

Too easy! 7 more to go…

After cutting all 8 of the stringer yolks I switched out the flush-cut bit for a 3/8″ round-over bit and carved off the outside facing edge of each piece. The final step was to kiss them with a belt sander to remove the old varnish. The blonde teak grain smiled back at me as if to say, “Nicely done, Sport!”

Voila! I'm getting pretty damn good at this woodworking stuff.

Voila! I’m getting pretty damn good at this woodworking stuff.

Back at the boat I test fitted a few pieces with great anticipation. They were nice and tight! I’ll need to customize each piece a bit depending on the dimensions and angles of each stringer end as planned, but the radii of the inside edges that will hug the stringers are perfect! Maybe watching all those episodes of This Old House as a kid is paying off?



After confirming each of the pieces fit well, and sanding a few spots here and there I began to round of the tops to better match up with the oak battens. I also trimmed the teak stringer faces to allow clearance for the new yolk fiddle pieces.

Final test fit - Rounded off tops and trimmed the teak stringer faces.

Final test fit – Rounded off tops and trimmed the teak stringer faces.

Moving right along, I coated the new fiddle pieces with some Epifanes varnish and installed them. For the time being, I decided not to affix them with screws or glue until the trim moulding is in place. As they are now, the stringer planks press tightly against them to secure them to the cabin sides – they don’t budge. Also, if i need to make adjustments when the time comes to install the moulding, I’m not married to the current placement.

All the pieces are fitting together nicely - Gestalt!

All the pieces are fitting together nicely – Gestalt!

In addition to the fiddle pieces for the overhead stringers, I fashioned some fiddles for the area where the cabin top drops. Not only will they add some boaty panache, but they will also cover a few boo-boos – much like the fiddles for the overhead stringers achieved. I penciled a nice Bézier curve and used the ban saw at the work to make it happen.

Fiddles for the drop in the cabin top made from 3/4

Fiddles for the drop in the cabin top made from 3/4″ red oak board scrap.

Nearly there, once I determined the proper angles I cut the tops of fiddles so they would fit snuggly in place. Then, using the router I rounded off the the edges and used the belt sander to shave some material off the backs to dial in the correct bias. With everything looking good, it was just a matter of drilling, affixing screws and applying some bungs. I’ll hold off on applying varnish until all the moulding is up.




Belaying Pins & Pinrails

Projects & Maintenance

When our DE 32 was first available for purchase back in 1978, several optional upgrades were made available by Down East Yachts. Depending on the buyers preferences…and budget, choices of custom interior layouts, pedestal steering, roller furling, lighting grounding, and just about everything under the sun could be had for a price. One of these original upgrade options were shroud mounted pinrails made to order. Although not terribly necessary for our little boat they do serve a function in keeping the mast tidy by securing all the running rigging while not in use and keeping loose halyards from banging against the mast on breezy nights. But really, they give a boat a bit of that old fashioned tall ship elegance rarely seen anymore.

Functional and Fashionable!

Functional and Fashionable!

With my standard preliminary research I formulated some plans. The pinrails themselves would be a cinch; just two 2 x 3 lengths possibly milled down and rounded off a bit. The main concern was in the belaying pins. I don’t have a lathe, or the patience to whittle such smoothly curved things…and I wasn’t about to bleed out $80/each for fancy bronze castings. As per usual, I had to get creative.

As dumb luck would have it, I came across an ebay listing for “American Made Replacement Handle – Wood File – 5 7/8″ Long” at a ridiculously low price. The dimensions were perfect and with a few modifications I could turn them into strong, good looking belaying pins – on the cheap! I ordered a bakers dozen.

A few cuts on the chop saw...some dowels...and We'll have belaying pins!

A few cuts on the chop saw…some dowels…and We’ll have belaying pins!

The handles came predrilled with a 9/16″ diameter holes down the center and nearly 4″ deep. It was nearly impossible finding 9/16″ hardwood dowel and SS round bar was a bit to pricey for the budget I allowed myself, not to mention somewhat overkill. Additionally, they came with a lathed groove with iron wire wrapped within as some attempt at ornamentation. As curious as I was to see how long that iron wire would last in the sea breeze, I opted to remove it from each handle to begin the project.



Next I lopped off an inch or so off the bases, which gave each handle a more ergonomic length and did away with the recessed grooves all together. That step alone made them look more like belaying pins and less like file handles. Next, I had to widen the holes to accept 3/4″ hardwood dowels. The decision to do so resulted from two factors. First, it was impossible to find 9/16″ hardwood dowels and second, 3/4″ dowels would be much more robust for the duty of belaying lines or halyards with load.

How do we turn this 9/16" hole into a 5/8" hole.

How do we turn this 9/16″ hole into a a larger 3/4″ hole and keep 10 fingers?

Now I needed a way to make a hole ever so much bigger, without complicating it entirely. I considered several options, all of which either required a new tool purchase or a safety risk. With no access to a drill press of any kind I gathered the next best way to bore out the 3/4″ holes was a router equipped with a straight 3/4″ bit. Of course, clamping a round object is inherently problematic, much less plunging into it relatively straight. After a few inspirational beers, I decided I would have to make a jig for the job.


The jig I fashioned was simple and effective. A few pieces from the scrap wood inventory in the back of the truck and a few screws were all the materials needed, well… those and a router which was on loan from my buddy Chip. Beg, borrow, or buy (and quickly return to Home Depot for a full refund) is my motto – but I digress.

One of a kind, prototype handle boring jig. Patent pending...

One of a kind, prototype handle boring jig. Patent pending…

I removed the base from the router and screwed a piece of 1/2″ ply in its place and let the 3/4″ bit carve through to the other side. Based on the location of that hole I scribed some measurements to center the base of wood handles around the 3/4″ hole. I took another piece of thicker ply and screwed in two rails to align and hold the handle firmly in place and screwed that down as a permanent fence. If my measurements were right, I could drop each handle into the jig, clamp it and plunge the 3/4″ bit to the desired depth – one after the other like an assembly line.

"Just a bit outside!" 1/16" off wasn't a big deal, but I took the time to fine tune things to get it as close as possible.

“Just a bit outside!” 1/16″ off wasn’t a big deal, but I took the time to fine tune things to get it as close as possible.

The first handle came out cleanly and straightly cut but the center was of by 1/16″ so I took a few measurements and fine tuned the jig accordingly. I wasn’t all together unhappy with the initial alignment, but it wasn’t a big deal to make the adjustments so the rest of the pins were within 1/32″ or less. After all, what’s the point of making a jig if it’s not reasonably accurate. The anal-retention paid off, as every subsequent handle emerged from the jig within a reasonable standard. The jig took all the guess work out as intended and certainly sped the process along favorably.

Now we're gettin' somewhere!

Now we’re gettin’ somewhere!

Moving right along, I picked up some red oak dowels and test fitted them into the new 3/4″ diameter holes – perfect fit! But before I could cut them to size and glue them in place I needed to determine their individual length based on the thickness of the rail itself. In other words, I wanted the same amount of pin above as below the rail.

Scrap 2" x 3" Pinrail layout.

Scrap 2″ x 3″ Pinrail layout.

Instead of experimenting with a prettier and more expensive wood I procured a few 2 x 3 pieces from the scrap lumber at work and began laying things out. Dimensionally, the 2 x 3 looked just right for a stout pinrail – not too wide but not too skinny either. The lower, inner shrouds where the rails will be secured measure approx. 40″ apart at waist height on deck and angle closer together on their way up to the spreaders. I would have to find the sweet spot in terms of placement, so a 44″ long pinrail was a good starting point. Additionally, I played with the spacing of the individual pins along the rail and found the height of the handle (approx. 5″) spaced between each pin acheived the golden ratio most pleasing to the eye. I marked all the necessary lines and went to cutting, drilling and glueing.

Pieces cut and ready for glue - Assembled belaying pins!

Pieces cut and ready for glue – Assembled belaying pins!

Finishing of the belaying pin assembly was a breeze. I cut the dowel pins to the desired length with the miter saw and beveled each end with the belt sander. While I had the sander plugged in I did my best to roughly plane the handle bases and deburr any splintering from the trim cuts. Add to that some trusty Gorilla Glue and the pins were ready for finish sanding and sealer. Although, I may still round off the handle tops for a more traditional look.

The pinrail prototypes - making slot holes for belaying pins and the grooves for the shrouds.

The pinrail prototypes – making slot holes for belaying pins and the grooves for the shrouds.

On to the rail or rather the rail prototypes, I cut 4 holes in each rail to half depth with the plunge router and a 3/4″ bit (same bit used for the handles) and finished of the holes with a 3/4″ spade blade bit. I had to do it that way due to the bit depth bottoming just shy of the other face and had I only used the 3/4″ spade cutter my holes most likely would have wandered a bit off center. I did however use the first rail with holes drilled and clamped atop the other as a jig of sorts with just the spade bit. Next I had to cut grooves in the ends of the rails which the shrouds run through. Due to the angle an incomplete table saw cut makes I opted to use the ban saw with a terminal point made with a 7/32″ drill bit (one size under the shroud wire gauge. With the terminal points made 5″ inward at each end of the rail I made some ban saw cuts down the center of each rail end to make the grooves. The final task was to drill counter bored bolt holes at each end to insert bolts to tighten and secure the rails in place along the shrouds. With that we were ready for a test fit!

Need to make some minor adjustments...

Need to make some minor adjustments…

Upon placing the pinrails on the portside shrouds it became immediately obvious some minor adjustments had to be made. I think my initial measurement may have been too high on the shrouds and thus yielded a shorter length for the pinrail overall. The rails will need to be extended 4″ overall and the grooves accepting the shrouds will need to be wider. It was key to have something resembling the final pinrails to play with and fine tune before making cuts in expensive wood. I’ll hold off on purchasing some nicer mahogany or teak for the final rails until the next prototype is 100% dialed in. In the meantime, I’m going to drink a cold beer and stare at the fruits of my labor.

A few days later, I grabbed another 8ft 2 x 3 and cut it in half, yielding two 48″ pieces. With the order of operations well established, I bored the holes for the belaying pins, drilled and counter bored the side bolt holes and cut larger grooves for the shrouds.



Although the length was perfect, the larger grooves I had cut where now too big – making the rails impossible to tighten along the shrouds. The final rails will have to have a groove just barely wide enough to except the shroud wires. It may also help to wrap the shrouds where the rails attach with some rigger’s tape or rubber sleeve of sorts to help the rails grip.

To be continued…

Shorepower Overhaul

Projects & Maintenance

If I had it my way, I would eliminate our AC shorepower system all together. Alas, with the gadgets and conveniences we’ve come to appreciate dockside…it’s a necessary evil we’d rather not sacrifice. The trouble is, like everything else on nearly 40 year old sailboat, the vintage shorepower set-up was sub-par by modern standards. More to the point, the more I inspected the original system in place, it became shockingly clear (pun intended) that it was “iffy” to begin with.

The old breaker panel and battery charger...scary stuff!

The old breaker panel and battery charger…scary stuff! Can you here the telltale voltage buzz?

Enter exhibit A – the panel box pictured above that houses our residential grade circuit breakers. The only thing remotely marine-grade on it – the battleship grey paint color. Naively, we never really questioned it as our surveyor checked it off with little hesitation before running to the bank with his check. But if I had a dime for everything our surveyor missed…..

Hey, at least it's not speaker wire.

Hey, at least it’s not speaker wire.

The scariest thing – the AC circuits were grounded to the panel itself. I know, I know. WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT?!!! So, for the better part of 3 years, we’ve been living on a boat with an energized panel inches away from human contact. Without question, a MUST FIX! …And we should go buy a lotto ticket.

Also in need of an upgrade was the terrestrial style romex cable connecting the panel and outlets – deemed inadequate for the rigors of a marine application by ABYC standards. The first obvious difference is the wire composition; marine-grade being stranded and residential being solid cored. The second distinction being price, and you can take a guess at which is more expensive. Additionally all the terminals were simply looped/wrapped and tightened instead of being properly secured with spade terminals of appropriate gauge. That, we shall have to remedy too.

Out with the old - in with the new.

Out with the old – in with the new.

Of course in the spirit of doing something right the first time, (read re-doing something right the second time) we figured it was time for new moisture resistant outlets (15 AMP) a new, more efficient battery charger (ProMariner/ProNautic 1220P)and a galvanic isolator(ProMariner FailSafe30) to keep all our metal bits under the waterline from corroding so quickly. Hot Damn! The planned improvements would bring us out of the 19th century equipment-wise and more importantly, make the AC system as safe as possible from accidental shock and fire.

Now, my electrical expertise was somewhere on the scale between programming a VCR and engineering an interstellar robot…leaning left. I figured it best to become learn-ed in the tasks ahead of me to minimize all the horrible outcomes of faulty wiring. It suffices to say, I found several varying opinions on the subject; confusing my endeavor greatly in the beginning. In the end, I took all the rational advice and culled all the unorthodox principles to plan out the new schematic. Surely, my insurance company will be pleased.

Captive spade terminals, wired, and ready for juice.

Captive spade terminals, wired, and ready for juice.

While I awaited the arrival of all the new electrical goodies I ran all the new 12/3 AWG wire and installed the new 15 AMP outlets and GFCIs. Initially, I had planned to install 20 AMP outlets, thus the 12 AWG, however without a dishwasher, washing machine or hefty appliance aboard it seemed overkill to have t-blades on all the outlets. We certainly won’t have to worry about voltage drop. To port, there are two GFCIs on the circuit – one in the galley and one in the head. The starboard circuit has a single GFCI outlet starting the daisy chain up to the v-berth. I also took the time to secure the wire with cable clamps along its new path.

With the circuits in place it was time to replace the garage box panel with a proper marine AC panel. When I saw the Blue Sea(8043) panel with analog voltmeter I fell in deep, deep nerd love. It reminded me of the old “Smoking Spaceman Robot” toy.

See the similarity? Pretty cool, eh?

See the similarity? Pretty cool, eh?

In addition to the nostalgia, the 3 breakers and main switch were perfect for our needs – SOLD! A bit of smart shopping got us a deal well under the laughable MSRP. The only bummer was the panel came stock with three 15AMP breakers…which we had to pony up for two 20 AMP breakers to install for the new outlet circuits and one 10 AMP breaker for the battery charger…but again, smart shopping saves beer money.

1, 2, 3, Done!

1, 2, 3, Done!

The Blue Sea installation instructions were straight forward. I had it in and wired up in no time at all. The only bummer was the backlight for the voltmeter was not lighting up…so I may have to return the panel for one with a working backlight.

Once the panel was in place I installed the new 20 AMP/3 bank battery charger and all the corresponding wires and cables. By this point, the sun was going down so I made the decision to delay the installation of the galvanic isolator until first light. I crossed my fingers and plugged in the shorepower…no smoke, no fire. Success!

Now it's just a matter of neatly looming wires and cleaning the clutter.

Now it’s just a matter of neatly looming wires and cleaning the clutter.

Ah. But there was one minor problem…the panel was indicating Reverse Polarity on the main breaker. I checked to make sure the source hot neutral and ground were hooked up correctly…yep. Then I remembered removing the shorpower receptacle a while back and checked to make sure it was wired correctly…nope! All it took to fix was switch the hot and common wires and we were golden, just like the sun setting upon a long, but productive day. Jackie was thrilled to have working outlets again!

The juice is loose!

The juice is loose!


It's ALIVE!!!

It’s ALIVE!!! Blue Sea Systems gets an A+ for customer service.

I placed a call to Blue Sea Systems a few days later and informed them of the faulty voltmeter light. There tech asked a few questions to verify that I had installed everything correctly. Then, without hassle or proof of defect they sent out a new AC voltmeter free o’ charge and it arrived in just a few days. I took 8 minutes to swap with the in-op meter and when I turned the juice back on I witnessed the full splendor of all the lights illuminated as intended. I was grateful I didn’t have to remove the panel for exchange and the quickness of Blue Sea Systems customer service will ensure more purchases from your truly in the near future…possibly a DC panel.


Side-deck Paneling

Projects & Maintenance

Still euphoric from the new headliner results, I immediately started making cardboard templates for the panels under the side-deck/ breezeway. The cardboard & Gorilla Tape method I’ve adopted for template-making has served me well, keeping dimensions and corners adjustable on the fly but robust enough to hold the shape. After making templates for the headliner in the same fashion, I anticipated asymmetry in all the curves and I knew better than to expect any straight lines. The difference in the port and starboard side were different enough to require variant shapes, because it would be too easy if they were mirror images of one another! All the templates were cut and double-checked in a 3 evenings after work. Ready to transfer to wood!

Cardboard and gorilla tape template for the pilot berth/Nav table sections

Cardboard and gorilla tape template for the pilot berth/Nav table sections

I opted to use some 1/4″ mahogany for the panels. With the templates traced out onto the wood I went to work cutting the giant puzzle pieces. I had all the shapes cut with a jigsaw in one evening! The following day I slathered on two coats of Epifanes clear varnish.

Mahogany panels cut and varnished with 2 coats of Epifanes clear varnish.

Mahogany panels cut and varnished with 2 coats of Epifanes clear varnish.

I was rewarded for my diligence in precise template making when it came time to put the panels in later that evening. There was only one small piece that need trimming, and that was easily remedied with a utility knife and straight edge. I screwed them in place temporarily until I could rip some 1″ African Mahogany battens.

The following day I went to Austin Hardwoods bright and early, and scored a nice piece of 5/4 African Mahogany and ripped 10 strips 1/4″ thick to serve as battens to secure the side deck panels in place and add some structural detail too. I got about halfway done with cutting the various lengths and the rough installation before I came to the conclusion that it would be better to wait until the final drip-rail moulding was installed – to alleviate any short cuts or misalignment.

V-berth and Head side deck panlels with battens.

V-berth and Head side deck panlels with battens.

So with that on hold, I switched gears and got to work on installing the salon cabinetry. The first step was installing the framework flush with the settee backrests. With those ostensibly level, I made a few templates for the angled pieces I needed to cut to marry the top of the cabinet frames to the bottom of the deck and paneling. Luckily, I had an ample piece of 1/2″ marine Mahogany ply waiting in the back of the truck for just such an occasion.

After a few coats of varnish on the angled pieces everything came together pretty quickly. With the side deck panels and cabinetry in it’s starting to look like a home again, and not and endless project. It’s hard not to notice that we’re nearing the end of the project, and the final stages of trimming it all together are what I’ve been looking forward to the most. I could very easily make the inside of this boat look like a gothic church if I’m not careful!

This is clearly a feline signal to stop work for the day.

This is clearly a feline signal to stop work for the day.

Portholes & Cabin Sides

Projects & Maintenance

The OEM port lights that we inherited on s/v San Patricio were leaky, scratched and crazed. What’s more, they were fixed/non-opening ports that did little for ventilation when we craved it. Our decision to replace them coincided with removing the headliner – some of which had started to pull away from the ports from years of hidden leaks. So when the headliner came out, so did the ports. Good riddance!

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It was surprising to see how little effort was required to remove the port lights. They popped right out. The compression rings were thin plastic, hardly robust enough to effect a proper seal. At best, these things were made to be RV windows and never meant to be permanent in a marine application. The new ports would have to be far better.


We had heard great things about New Found Metals both on quality and value. With some discussion we decided to spend the extra money on their 5″ x 12″ Stainless Steel oval ports rather than the Tri-Matrix composite ports that retailed for less. The 4 new smaller ports arrived fast, along with all the stuff needed for installation.

DSCN2387For the larger fixed windows in the main cabin we followed the recommendation of other DE32 owners who had new port lights made by Bomon. Their man Alain was very helpful through the process of template-making and measuring cabin curvature. Of course, these being precise custom windows it came as little surprise that they would take 6 weeks to be delivered. I was not put off as I still had some work to do on the cabin sides before the new ports could be installed.

The one parameter I had to keep in mind was the final thickness of the cabin sides. The maximum allowance for cabin thickness for the NFM ports was 1.3125″ otherwise we would have to buy the painfully more expensive ports with extended 2″ spigots. With the cabin sides measuring .8125″ that meant I had 1/2″ or less to work with. After thinking over a few options, I settled on affixing some 1/2″ mahogany plywood to the cabin sides. The first step was creating some templates for each of the side panels – cardboard and gorilla tape did the trick.

The makings of the port cabin side template.

The makings of the port cabin side template.

With all the templates made I had a better idea of how many 4′ x 8′ plywood panels we would need. Because the grain had to run horizontally to look right, there was a bit more waste than I would have preferred; ending up with 5 panels at $65/sheet. Once all the panels were cut I rough fitted each one in place before, coating the backs with epoxy. After the epoxy cured I roughed up the surface with 60 grit paper and cleaned with acetone. Then, with the faces covered with packing paper I glued them up with 5200 and an arsenal of clamps.

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After 48 hours for proper curing time I held my breath removed the clamps…only one panel popped off on the starboard side; the very same one I forgot to clean with acetone before applying the 5200. A quick job with the oscillating flexible scraper had it ready to go back up.

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Once all the panels were affixed in place I removed the protective paper and wiped them down with a tack cloth. For the next few days I applied Epifanes varnish to the panels – first coat thinned 50%, followed by 3 more coats thinned 25%. After the second coat the wood began to sing!

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In between varnish coats I focused some attention on back-filling the original portlight holes in preparation for the new (smaller) stainless steel ports. With the mahogany up on the inside I sandwiched some 1/2″ foam plugs in the holes with thickened epoxy. While feathering the edges with a grinder I found a large void in the forward port-side area. One more thing to fix…and better done now than later.

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With the holes all faired, sanded and primed I went to cut the new holes. I printed out some paper templates and checked the alignment, and also had a few passers-by confirm the placement. Then I used a 2″ hole saw to cut out the rounded spigots, followed by a plunge cutter for the straight cuts and a roto-zip tool for the smooth curves. Following the steps outlined in the NFM instruction I had the ports all installed the following day.

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It took a few extra weeks of fiberglass repair work to fill the old portlight holes. Sure, I could have ordered bigger square ports but it just didn’t look right to me when I compared some printed templates. The smaller elliptical ports just looked better to me and fit within the lines of the cabin top. I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out!

But with little time to celebrate it was onward to the next phase of the project – headliner replacement. More pics and project notes to come!……