The Companionway

I am not sure if I have detailed the work that I’ve been doing on the companionway for the past few years.  When we purchased the boat all the “seams” were falling apart.  I think Whitby Boat Works used fairing filler to fill the gaps in between the interior fiberglass pan and the exterior fiberglass shell of the boat.  I am sure this worked well for quite a while, however, its now been 38 years and the stuff has just disintegrated and broken up into pieces.  It’s hard to believe this boat is 38 years old!

When we purchased her this is what the companionway hatch looked like:

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The paint was peeling off and a gooey red ooze was coming out in spots where the filler had presumably gotten wet and broken down slowly.  It looked like someone had painted over it to cover it up but after years of sitting it just looked awful.  I started sanding it down thinking I could sand and re-paint, not really understanding the root cause of the problem.  As I sanded I noticed major cracks and chunks of the filler started breaking apart into pieces.  At a certain point it dawned on me that this soft filler was unstable and needed to be torn out.  I was able to start the process with a pocket knife marlin spike.

As I got further into the demo phase I realized that there were hollow voids where some of the filler work was done without completely filling the space.

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Once I realized this was the case I decided to upgrade to the electric multi-tool from the pocket knife.  I put a cutting blade on and went to town, tearing out most of the perimeter of the companionway, focusing on areas that were degraded and leaving solid areas alone.  This was not easy work and it took a long time.  Working with a multi-tool overhead is really exhausting and dirty but, in time, we got the job done.  Here is an example of what it looked like about mid way through the process:

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Once the demo work was done it was time to mix up a big batch of epoxy and really fill in the voids.  I do not want to have the same problem occur again so instead of using a fairing filler I used a thick mixture of 406 colloidal silica  adhesive filler and 404 high-density adhesive filler.  I trawled the epoxy into the gaps making sure to push it in and really make the companionway solid.  After curing it looked something like this:

After the epoxy cured I sanded it down, cleaned it with acetone, and then recoated with another thick set of epoxy, trying to build up the surface to level:

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I would then sand again, a very time consuming, labor intensive project, and then coat again.  Finally, I got to a place where I started mixing in some 407 low density fairing filler with the 406 and started using it for what I like it for – fairing an already worked on surface.  Since the cured 407 epoxy is so easy to sand I really laid it on thick so that I could mould a nice new companionway form.

Then it would be back to sanding…. to make this clear – I have been working on this project for over 2 years.  It is just so time consuming mixing up the expoxy, waiting for it to set, sanding, mixing, waiting, sanding, and so on.  Here is what it looked like about mid way through where you can see I was able to get some sanding done down at the bottom but the top was still pretty raw:

After it would set up, I would get back to sanding:

Then I would do some detail sanding by hand:

Here is what it looked like about mid way through the fairing process:

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next week I will get into more of the detail phase and put down the first coats of paint!! I can’t wait to share it with you!


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