We’ve been working on the headliner for weeks upon weeks now, its slow going because there is a lot of epoxy work, grinding, fairing, sanding, fairing, and sanding again. Here’s where we are at: the hatch bases have been completely gouged out. We still have no clue what this compound that Whitby Boat Works used and I’m sure it was great stuff because it has lasted 30 years but its time has definitely come and it was falling apart. We’ve filled the multitude of little holes in the headliner with thickened epoxy, completely filled in and faired the hole in the coach house for the mast, and we’ve just finished up removing the handrails which are bolted through the deck – a harder job that I anticipated.
To start with the most pretty of the progress here is how our filling and fairing process went with the mast hole:
You may remember from The Headliner! this area was in pretty bad shape. We gouged out all the red compound and were left with a sizable hole. This is an area that could see a good bit of pressure from the mast so we filled in an area about four inches around in all directions with thickened epoxy starting with adhesive high density filler and moving into colloidal silica for the part that we can see for easier sanding and fairing. This is the part that took the longest amount of time.
These pictures do not show the final product but more of a rough step by step. We still have some more sanding to do which we have been unable to complete due to the massive rains we’ve had lately. Once its sanded we will give it a few coats of paint and sigh a big sigh of relief!
While working on this we removed all of the teak battens, hardware, lights, and handrails and filled in all the holes:
To be clear about the above pictures: we’re only putting a little thickened epoxy in each hole, enough to seal it all up for some good sanding and painting – we aren’t trying to fill in the whole gap between the headliner and the deck! That would be hundreds of pounds of weight in the end and probably a very bad idea for a boat that already likes to heel over a bit 😉 Maybe I’m exaggerating a little, maybe not – I definitely don’t want to find out.
After everything was all sealed up came the major surgery: removing all the compound from around the hatch bases on the interior. This is the same concept as around the mast hole but it was a lot messier and unpleasant in general.
As I know of at least two other A37 owners who are doing this right now here are some insights that I have come across (and I welcome any comments with insights you have!!!): The compound stuff is soft, so you can jab a knife in there and find where it ends and the fiberglass headliner begins. Mark around the whole perimeter along this line and you have a cut line. No need to cut the fiberglass and get all itchy, I tried to run my saw right next to it all the way around. On the hatch in the saloon there is another fiberglass edge for the hatch base – same concept here. If you cut on both sides I found that I can just pull the compound out – it will have separated at the top as it doesn’t look like it ever properly bonded there.
Whats interesting is that since the forward hatch has the teak base, there is no fiberglass base, the whole thing is made out of this compound! I found out the hard way, as you can see I unknowingly took a chunk out of the mold – OUCH! I saved the bit and I’m going to epoxy it back together, I’m not interested in fiber-glassing a whole new hatch base mold. My plan is to gouge out the perimeter just like I did with the saloon hatch base, fill that with thickened epoxy, sand the whole of it down and epoxy over all of it before repainting. This eliminates the problem area of that gouged out soft section, saves the existing flange and base, and improves on the whole of it by making it watertight (which I do not think the red stuff I’m gouging out is).
As an alternative to the above, I know that at least one other A37 owner purchased a fiberglass hatch base from Alex Magnone who worked for Whitby and did a lot of the initial work on our boats. I have tried to get in contact with Alex unsuccessfully to price out this option. Another option I’ve considered was creating my own fiberglass mold but I just don’t see the value in the added work and money. I plan on re-doing the interior as stated above and building a new base out of teak out on the deck.
Atkins and Hoyle, who made the hatches for the A37 has excellent customer service and still supports our hatches, I will detail the specifics in another post but I was quite impressed when I spoke with them and have decided to keep our hatches and replace the acrylic and seals.