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Progress on Smilodon!

Posted by Tom Benedict on 07/04/2012

I worked on two major projects on Smilodon today. (I’m loving the name of this boat!)

Early in the morning I broke out the West Systems epoxy and filled all the oddball screw holes in the hull. A bunch of fittings had been moved over the years, and there were several gaping screw holes. Also, I needed to fill the holes from the old jib hardware. When I removed it, I found there was yet another set of holes for an even older set of jib hardware hidden underneath. More holes!

Here’s how I did the epoxy work:

First I drilled the holes out using a pistol drill to clean up all the rough edges on the fiberglass, and to get a clean surface to work from. Then I used a Dremel with a flame tip grinding bit to chamfer the edges of the holes. (“Flame tip” refers to the shape rather than to any actual flame.) Once the holes were opened up and chamfered, I cleaned each one out with an alcohol soaked q-tip.

To fill the holes I started with West Systems 105 resin and 205 hardener. I wetted each hole with the as-mixed epoxy using a fresh q-tip for each hole. Once all the holes were wetted out I took my remaining epoxy and mixed it with West Systems 406 colloidal silica until I got a consistency just between mayonnaise and peanut butter. This was then loaded into a syringe. Back out to the boat!

Each hole was filled, starting from the bottom of the hole and moving toward the surface of the hull, using a syringe. When I ran out, I mixed up more and kept going. The thickened epoxy held its form well enough not to droop. Once all the holes were filled I emptied the last syringe back into the mixing cup and used a spatula to fair the filled holes.

The working time on the West Systems 105 mixed with 205 hardener is plenty long to make this repair on several holes at a time. I was cautious the first time and did ten holes. The second time I filled more at once along with several spots where the gel coat had cracked away to expose raw fiberglass. Everything went very smoothly.

Epoxy Repair

The second project was to finally FINALLY paint that @#$% trailer. In some of the earlier pictures you can see the state of the trailer as we got it. It had sat out in the rain for years, and was rusted through. But because the guy who made it used such thick stock, it was  still structurally sound. So rather than replace it, we stripped it, put it through several sessions of Ospho to convert the iron oxide to iron phosphate (a rust inhibitor), cleaned it thoroughly, and finally painted it.

The previous owner gave us a gallon can of Zophar. This has to be, hands-down, the nastiest paint on the planet. It’s basically coal tar, binder, and solvent in a can. This makes it extremely waterproof once it’s on. But it is a seriously unpleasant substance to work with. The cool part is you really don’t want primer. You don’t want to sand. You just want to slap the stuff on and not leave any pinholes. So my son and I grabbed our brushes and went nuts. It’s ugly, but it’s DONE.

Trailer Painted

I had already removed the wheels, axle, springs, and third wheel for the Ospho step, so we painted those parts separately. One part that wasn’t painted at all is the upright at the front of the trailer that supports the mast while in transit. I couldn’t paint it because a friend is welding it up at the moment. There are a couple of spots on the trailer where I’ll need to do touch-up work, but that’s ok. I’ll also have to Ospho and paint the mast support and then paint over the welds where it’ll be attached to the trailer. But that’s a couple of weeks off. Everything in good time.

Toward the end of the day I went by the Post Office and picked up a package from Sailrite: A new headboard for the larger main, a new zipper for the genoa, and three packs of telltales. Rydra is going to install the headboard, I’m going to sew the new zipper on the genoa, and the telltales… Well, they’re another story. A fellow cat sailor shared Arvel Gentry’s writings about telltales with me, and I’m a convert. I can’t wait to try his telltale system out on the water. But that’s a post for another day.

– Tom


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