Replacement of Bowsprit Shrouds and Bobstay

In 2009, I got all the standing rigging changed except for the chain plates, bowsprit shrouds and bobstay. Now that I was getting the chain plates changed, it made sense to change the 33 years old bowsprit shrouds and bobstay.

Both jobs escalated to the associated hull fittings. Bolts of the shroud fittings broke, and the bobstay fitting and associated bolts were affected by pit corrosion. The bolts and nuts of the shroud fittings had to be changed (the bronze fittings themselves were fine), and the whole bobstay fitting had to be changed.

Replacement of the bowsprit shroud fittings escalated to fiberglass work. The initial intent was to try to get to the bolts from the inside, but there just wasn’t enough space for access. Access holes had to be cut in the bulwark. I considered a removable panel for future access, but decided to get it closed-up flush with fiberglass. Water ingress could have become a problem later in life, and hopefully it should be quite a while before these bolts need changing again.

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Osmosis Treatment

Osmosis! No big deal! No boat has ever sunk because of it! The hull of Hans Christian boats is so over-conservative in terms of thickness that osmosis cannot threaten its integrity! Either take care of it just before you sell the boat, or offer a discount for the next owner to deal with it! I’ve heard it all.

When I bought Slim Jack, it was about about 28 years old. The condition survey, performed by a good surveyor but under conditions that were probably less than ideal, said:

Signs of old repaired blisters were seen on the hull. A moderate level of
moisture was found but was not considered conclusive due to the short
duration of haul. It was reported that the vessel had a cold tar epoxy
coating but when inspected at the sight of a filled osmotic pit, none was
sighted. The bottom showed a few irregular layers of antifouling bottom
paint and a number of filled pits. No current osmosis was seen.

In the first 7 years I owned the boat, I hauled it out about once every two years, each time for a week at most. In each instance, signs of osmosis appeared within a day, but I did nothing about it. Good contractors are hard to find in Langkawi where I keep the boat, and I guess this is one can of worms I did not want to open whilst I was there.

When I got to Phuket last year, which is the regional spot to get serious work done, I engaged a marine surveyor to support me during the refit. At first, he had a view aligned with the initial statements above, suggesting that the situation would have to be very bad before osmosis treatment is considered required. Well, it did get very bad, gradually. The hull humidity checks were bad all over at first, so we gave the boat a few weeks on the hard to give it a chance to dry up. Nothing changed, so we did a chemical stripping of all layers of antifouling, thinking that moisture may be trapped in there. Nothing changed; the humidity readings were at the wet extreme of the meter all over the hull below the waterline.

Next step was  sanding off the gelcoat and giving the boat a few months to dry. Nothing changed. Next came the removal of a fair thickness of GRP and a few more months. Heat lamps were also applied where readings were highest.

In the end, half of the GRP thickness was removed, and it took the boat 13 months in the hot weather of Thailand to dry to acceptable humidity levels for application of the new glass and epoxy.

 

The whole process was long and painful to watch. It is not something that an unhappy owner would do before selling a boat, and I would not have gone through it just after purchase. Was it required? Depends on how we value ownership I guess. I view mine as a long term plan, so I say yes. The boat would not have survived another 25 years in the condition it was in.

 

 

Bronze

Like most Hans Christian owner, except maybe retired ones with a short season, I gave up on the idea that bronze should be gold and shiny. There is so much of it that you would have to live aboard to maintain it in that condition, and it is just not worth it. You get used to the dull brown and green, and there is no integrity issue with letting it go.

All external bronze onboard was green when I purchased the boat. Some portholes had signs of leaks at seals, and as a result had thick crusted green oxydation matter in places indoors. We tried to polish the portholes inside as they were, but it took forever. I’m working and there was no way I was going to spend my precious weekends and holidays polishing bronze. I took one porthole off and brought it home to polish by hand. Even on a workbench, it took forever.

I had most of the bronze removed as part of the refit. I got all the portholes rebedded, and all fittings attached to the external teak had to be removed to replace the wood. I took the opportunity to have most of these polished. I also replaced all the porthole glass and mosquito nets.

This post is essentially a reminder of how good it looked at one point during the refit, because it will never look better again as long as I own the boat.

Teak Decks

Teak decks are an emotional subject for me as I’ve had them redone TWICE in the past 4 years. However embarrassing it may be for me to say that I have wasted all this money and exotic wood, I feel I need to share my experience.

The original teak deck was screwed in and was still in a reasonable state after 29 years. There still remained a reasonable thickness, but some screw heads started to show and I had a few leaks I suspected were linked to infiltrations through screws. Something had to be done.

I guess I could have explored more the option of sanding down the deck and set the screws deeper. I also could have explored more the option of removing the teak planks, fill the holes and add a layer of fibreglass. I didn’t. I went straight to a new glued down teak deck.

My boat is in South East Asia where Burmese Teak is still available at reasonable price and where labour is relatively cheap. That explains in part why I went straight to the new deck option. One contractor was working on another boat in the marina I was in, and I got what looked like a reasonable quote for my boat.

The work got done in a couple of months. I wasn’t there but I had someone keep an eye on progress and quality. The job ‘looked’ good and I was satisfied with the outcome. The screws were off, my leaks had stopped and the deck surface was soft underfoot.

It took a couple of years for problems to develop. I was getting new leaks in a particular deck area and suspicions started to creep up in my mind. I started to get worried over the possibility that some of the screw holes had not been sealed properly before installation of the new deck. I communicated my worry to some know-it-all’s of the marina and got soothed by the argument that the bonding Sika would prevent ingress even if the holes had not been sealed properly.

Evidence that the screw holes were at the root of the new leaks came up when the ceiling over the starboard settee came off to access the chain plates (see separate post). Some screws (then removed) had previously penetrated the bottom fibreglass layer of the deck and water was dripping at these locations. Upon realising this, I had a few teak planks removed. It was clear that the screw holes at that location had not been properly sealed, and high deck core moisture levels were detected.

Not knowing if other deck areas had the same problem, and whilst I had a reputable contractor at hand, I had the whole teak deck removed. The good news was that rot had not set. The deck core was vacuumed and dried, delamination in the main area of concern was repaired, the holes were properly filled and the whole deck was sealed after moisture check.

At this stage, I could have opted for a fibreglass deck, but again I went ahead with teak decking. Not only does it look good, I never slip on it, it is resilient to shocks, and it does add rigidity to the overall deck structure.

I could go nasty and start blaming people for what happened, but the fact remains that I did not do a proper background check on the first contractor, and I did not ensure enough supervision of the work. I’m now done with cheap contractors. I now pay for the best, once.

 

 

 

Chain Plates

 

Chain plates on Slim Jack were glassed-in (as they are on all original Hans Christian 33T boat I understand) such that integrity could not be verified.

It was an issue from the start. The survey done prior to purchase recommended an inspection of the chain plates, but it could not be done without ripping out the interior and the seller obviously did not want this done. He got from the net somewhere that Hans Christian boats have ever experienced a chain plate failure, and I naively believed the unrealistic myth that these boats can withstand the test of time indefinitely. I got a discount on the purchase  to address this point. I don’t remember the amount, but I’m sure it did not come close to the actual cost of fitting new ones.

Note that I have not experienced a chain plate failure, so I cannot prove that chain plate failures are possible on Hans Christian boats. I read about a guy that knows a guys who pulled a chain plate out, but evidence and details were lacking. In any case, it’s a matter of time before it happens.

My chain plates had been in the hull and cap rail for 33 years. It was time to have a look. Their integrity was always on the back of my mind in a good wind, and I wanted peace.

Since the cap rail was coming off as part of the refit, It was time to do something about the old chain plates. I had the time of a reputable Thai contractor, and knew that the wood work would be restored to original after the intrusive work. Actually, the lead Thai wood worker on the project worked for some years at the Hansa yard building Hans Christian boats in the 80s.

When the cap rail came off, corrosion and signs of water ingress could be observed, but there was no way to determine from the top how bad the situation was. Off came the nice panelling inside the boat to expose the plates.

Other than the corrosion at the top entry points and one bulge, the plates were found to be in generally good conditions. The bulge resulted from water ingress next to one of the chain plates. The cavity was exposed from the outside, cleaned and filled.

Even if the plates were in generally good condition within the hull, their bad condition in the cap rail had to be addressed. I was given two options: 1) change back to original; 2) fit external chain plates bolted through the old chain plates. I opted for the latter. It was cheaper, but more importantly it is a scheme that I can inspect without too much difficulty. It affects the look of the boat of course, but I believe it should add value overall.