C'est la Vie is a 1966 Charlie Morgan 34.

Her home port is Everglades City, FL. Our typical cruising area is Southwest Florida, the Florida Keys, the Southeastern Atlantic Seaboard, and the Bahamas. We are C'est la Vie's third owners and purchased her in 2005. We continue to maintain and update this classic vessel. Please post any questions or comments about C'est la Vie or our travels via the comment links below.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What is hidden in your mast?

The newly fabricated compression post arrived late last week.  The 3 1/2" stainless steel pipe capped with a 1/2" thick stainless steel plate certainly appears stout.

We were surprised by small diameter, approximately 1", tubing that is meant to pass all our mast wiring through the plate an into the boat.  Only 1"?  The wiring for all the lights on the mast consisted of seven 12 guage wires housed in a 3/4" section of flexible conduit.  Add to this the oversized VHF coaxial cable plus the new NMEA cable and we realized replacing the old electrical wiring in the mast is the only option.

Thanks to the efforts of the previous owner all of the wiring in the mast runs through a 2" section of PVC.  The  PVC pipe is riveted to the mast.  Running the wiring through the pipe eliminates wires slapping the inside of the mast, reduces the risk of wires chafing, and greatly eases the addition of new wiring.

Anne and I converted all the mast head, steaming, and deck lights to LED a couple a years ago.  The low draw of the LED bulbs allows us to reduce the gauge of the wire running up the mast. We decided to run separate sections of 16 gauge, 3 strand wire.  One wire to the mast head lights and a separate wire to the steaming/deck lights at mid mast.  Fortunately Barbour's Marine Supply in Beaufort had a 100' spool of 3 strand, 16 gauge boat wire.  By lunchtime we had made our assessment and had all the supplies in hand.

Since fishing wire or rope through the mast is always a two person job, I elected to move on this project while Bud was  visiting.  We disconnected all the wiring and attached messenger lines to the wires at the masthead and midway up the mast.  Pulling out the existing wire and messengers should be easy, remember the PVC pipe that serves as a conduit through the mast?  Bud took station at the base of the mast and pulled the wire with such force that the mast began to slide across the saw horses.  What?  We did not wish to damage the new NMEA cable or the VHF coax with our struggle to purge the old wiring.  We attached additional messenger lines to the NMEA and the VHF cables.  With a little difficulty midway through the mast were retrieved the NMEA cable.  The large VHF cable gave more struggle than the NMEA the wire, but finally pulled through the masthead.   Now with no additional wiring left in the mast to damage we returned to the bundle of electrical wires.

I grasp the spreader mounts to keep the mast in place.  Bud heaved on the wires.  After a brief game of tug-o-war the wires released.   With ease  the remaining seven wire bundle, towing two messenger lines, slipped free of the base of the mast.  And to what should our wondering eyes behold?

A woven wire Chinese finger trap of a device used in industrial settings to pull wire.  This definitely explains why we struggled to pull additional cables through the PVC conduit.  Now we are home free!

But, wait - where is the masthead messenger line?
You tied it off right?
I thought you tied it off!
Well you were working up there!
@*&%, break out the fish tape.

"If there is a will there is a way", and we were successful in re-threading the new wire through the masthead.  The other wires all had messenger lines in place and installed easily.  By days end we had rewired and tested  a new mast head tricolor/anchor light, the steaming light, and the deck light.  We also tapped the attachment screws for the Garmin wind indicator on the mast head, re-installed the NMEA cable, and re-installed the VHF coax cable.  Thanks for your assistance Bud.

Here is an image of the current state of the masthead.

The hole in the mast with two lager rivets on either side is the attachment point for the removable inner stay. In the background is our growing pile of salvageable metal.  This pile now includes the lower mast section; the boom; and, the latest addition, 350 feet of 12ga braided copper wire.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Final steps on the step?

Sunday, Oct 4, Anne had the day off work and joined me on the boat to apply the final 2 layers of mat on the new mast step.

After laying up the cloth on the step we turned our energies toward the wind generator post.  We pulled new coaxial cable for the AM/FM antenna.  The existing wire was loosing it's insulation due to UV exposre. We installed a Davis Mega Light that we will use as a second, lower anchor light. The mega light has a built in photo eye that automatically cycles the light on at night an off in the day.  Immediately upon purchasing the light we ordered an LED bulb for the unit from Sailor's Solutions.  We cut the cigarette light plug off the end of the Mega Light and plan to wire the light directly to a switch on our electrical panel.  The combination of a Davis Mega light $45 and a LED bulb $20 gives us a unit equivalent to what Lopo Light, Orca Light, or Allied Signal would sell for $300+ dollars.  We will provide a report out on the endurance of the light in the future.

I returned to C'est la Vie solo today, October 5.  Before opening ports or hatches, I suited up, grabbed the grinder, and ground level the mast step.

While in full fiberglass grinding mode I also ground out an area of deck on the port side that looked as if it was allowing water intrusion.  It discovered a wooden plug in what must have been the original waste pump out fitting.  I also used the disc sander to prep the area around the windlass and the chain plates for some epoxy repairs.  By the time the dust settled, I had nine different spots on deck that were prepped for fiberglass repairs or filling.  The projects ranged from filling screw holes to repairing the deck to fairing the mast step.

Here is a shot of the faired, smooth, and level mast step just before climbing down the ladder and calling it a day.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A new counter top the centerpiece of our head rebuild

After of morning of running about town to purchase boat supplies (see our last blog entry - The Day the Resin Died), I got late start on C'est la Vie projects.  Despite the delinquent start, I made great progress and completed all the plumbing below the counter top.    Now two of our ongoing projects conflict.  The access to the chain plates (metal work that joins the mast rigging to the hull of the boat) is obscured on the port side by the upper head plumbing.  Since we still have work to do on the deck fittings for the chain plates unfettered access to the below deck hardware is important.

I could not resist the urge to install the center piece of our efforts to refinish the head. Using both liquid nails and #10 wood screws with fender washers, the new counter top went into place easily.

We never used the sink in the head -the water pump has been broken for at least two years and we keep the sink drain closed to prevent flooding when heeled to port.  Thus we removed the sink and incorporated the cut out into a hatch to provide better access to the lower plumbing and storage below.

With the afternoon waning I carried the momentum through and installed the doors on the lower lockers before calling it a day.

If anyone is interested in a more detailed pictorial of the creation of the countertop check out our photo album: Refinishing the Head - Summer 2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

the day the resin died

Sunday morning Anne and I headed out to the boatyard eager to apply the final 5 coats of fiberglass mat to the deck mast step.  Anne jumped directly into prepping the mast step for the new epoxy - wash down the area, dry the area, sand the area, wipe down area with acetone, tape off the area around the step, spread out drop cloths on deck, and align all the materials and tools.  While Anne progressed thru the preparation, I focus on installing the locker doors in the vee berth area.

When Anne called the all ready, I joined her on deck.  25 layers of mat into the construction of the new deck step we have developed a system for the application.  Anne mixes the two part West Systems epoxy.  The epoxy containers have hand pumps so measuring out the correct ratio is simply a matter of counting out equal numbers of pumps.  For this project we use 4 pumps of resin and 4 pumps of hardener.  Once the epoxy is mixed together Anne pours the mixture over the precut dry fiberglass mat.  Anne purchased a large turkey basting pan that fits our mat sections perfectly so we use this vessel for saturating the mat.  The mat transforms from white to translucent when it fully saturates with the epoxy.  The process now becomes a two person job.  One of us holds the cloth in the pan while the other uses a plastic squeegee to remove surplus epoxy from the cloth.  I then apply the saturated mat to the mast step.  Once the mat is in place I work out all the bubbles and wrinkles to ensure a solid buildup.  Meanwhile Anne begins mixing up the next round of epoxy.   As the epoxy cures is gives off heat, an exothermic reaction.  A massing too many layers on a sunny day can generate enough heat to compromising the strength of the assembly or even ignite a fire.  Dependent on conditions we are limited to applying 4 to 7 layers at during a session.  Since the entire process is sticky hands on work (we do wear gloves), there are no clean hands to take pictures.

Back to Sunday morning,  we are two layers into our final round of 5 layers and the epoxy resin pump rudely belches air.  Anne tries again and gets a mixture of air and resin.  Damn!  I knew we were getting low, but we are out?  In the middle of our final layup?  I finish working layer two onto the wet mast step and then make hasty lap through our section of the yard in an attempt to "borrow" some resin.  No luck.  Anne continues to use the epoxy remaining in the pan and her last mixture to wet out layer three.  By the time I return to C'est la Vie empty handed Anne has successfully wetted out the next layer of mat.  I apply the mat while Anne rigs a cardboard box as a sunshade in an effort to slow the curing.  We deglove and jump in the car.  Our mad dash to the Beaufort Ace Hardware is on.  We need to return with new resin before our currently layup cures beyond the point of being tacky.  Otherwise we must wait for the layup to fully cure and then go through the entire prepation process again.

We did not even question weather Ace would carry West epoxy.  This is a coastal town with heavy commercial and recreational boat traffic.  Quick survey of the glue isle - no.  Quick survey of the paint section - no.  Quick search for anyone wearing a red Ace Hardware vest - yes.  Bad news - our local Ace Hardware does not carry West Systems products.  Closest alternative?  West Marine Morehead City.  Our next course of action? Head home and enjoy a turkey sandwich over a game of Spite and Malice.

After being defeated, again, in Spite and Malice, I return to C'est la Vie in the afternoon.  I clean up the remnants of our morning epoxy session and then make good progress on plumbing the head.