Finally Fiberglassing

The winds were fickle this morning and projected to be very erratic and gusty for the rest of the day so we decided not go sailing but work on the Alberg instead.  With a big storm coming our way, I was slightly relieved to be fiberglassing the deck.  Our winter cover hasn’t leaked yet but I’m always a bit nervous about it.

To be honest, I thought this was going to be a lot easier than it turned out to be.  Grinding down fiberglass is no joke – I am 100% exhausted and my entire body aches.  All I could think of all morning was Cap’n Fatty Goodlander grinding down the hole in the hull of Wildcard preparing the repair.  The yard guy would walk by every day as Fatty tirelessly ground and he would just say “keep grinding.”  Day after day it seemed endless to the poor Cap’n!  That is exactly how I felt this morning.  Luckily our repair is smaller and we were able to do it in a day.

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To give some background, we basically have two big puzzle pieces epoxied over some puzzle piece balsa wood.  Just like a puzzle, if you poke a piece with enough force, it falls out and the  whole puzzle falls into pieces.  This would certainly be bad, so what we have to do is grind down along the cuts to create a beveled edge radiating out from the cut on either side.  We then fiberglass this bevel using bi-axial fiberglass which is very strong.  Its recommended that the bevel be a 12:1 ratio to the thickness of the fiberglass but I am a true believer of overkill on boats so mine is more like 20:1, a good two inches on either side of the cut.  This will require a bit more fiberglass and epoxy work but it will be stronger as a result.  Since this is a high load area of the boat with the Windlass, Forestay, and Inner forestay we want it all to be as strong as possible.

Grinding down this bevel was nothing at all like cutting or drilling through fiberglass which is not “easy” but is not hard either.  This was definitely hard, very hard.  To make things a lot worse, the fiberglass dust was so thick it was like freshly fallen snow.  There must have been at least 1/4 inch fiberglass dusting on EVERYTHING.   I opened up a large section of the winter cover and put the box fan blowing out to try and help.

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In addition to grinding there was a lot of sanding with the orbital which helped fair the aggressive grinding marks and also, thank goodness, could be hooked up to the vacuum to get rid of some of the dust!

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So, after hours of grinding we had a 4 inch bevel around both repairs.

The next part Erin was thankfully able to help and she did an excellent job!  It’s very difficult fiberglassing by yourself because of the epoxy cures if you just let it sit.  So while I cut the fiberglass strips erin mixed up two big batches of epoxy, one standard and one thickened with 404 high density adhesive filler.  It worked out perfectly – by the time the fiberglass was cut we had a batch of unthickened epoxy to wet out the surfaces and by the time they were wet out we had a batch of thickened epoxy!  Erin was critical of her epoxy mixing skills but I think she did an great job and it would have been a real pain trying to do it without her.  (A note for the technical- we are using 404 only on the first fiberglass layer, then we will use 406 for subsequent layers and finally fair the surface with 407 low density)

And there you have it! The first layer down!  Tomorrow I will head back out and lay down the rest of the fiberglass.  After much internal debate and a ton of research I have finally come to terms that the first layer of fiberglass should be the entire width of the bevel.  The subsequent layers are smaller and smaller as you move towards the center and they build up the surface to the correct height.  The biaxial cloth is quite thick (15oz) so I estimate it will only take about three layers.


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