Cockpit Structural Repairs (Page 2)

This page was last updated on January 20, 2002.

Strengthening the Cockpit Sole and Seats  |  Fairing and Sanding  |  Filling the Gauge Holes

Cockpit, Part 1  |  Cockpit, Part 3


March 15-16, 2000

The next step in the cockpit was to install new 1/2" balsa core over the cockpit sole.  The existing sole was very thin, weak and poorly supported, and required substantial stiffening.  I had originally intended to use Coremat for this purpose, but decided that--for the sole--new core and glass would make for a better job.

I cut the balsa roughly to size, allowing room at the edges where the cockpit sole curves up into the sides of the well; any gaps will be filled with epoxy during the installation.  I also cut out the front corners where the cockpit drains are (I'll reshape and fair the drains later).  This done, I wet out a couple small pieces of cloth and glassed over the old access port hole and the hole where the gearshift lever used to be.  This thin layer of glass is intended only to support the core and, especially, the thickened epoxy I am going to use to set the core.  I waited overnight for the resin to kick before proceeding.

Next day, I first scrubbed the new fiberglass with water and a Scotchbrite pad to remove Amine Blush, which forms on the surface of cured epoxy.  I then sanded the area with 40 grit to rough it up and smooth out any rough spots.  Then, I mixed up more of my epoxy slurry, fairly loose, and troweled it on the sole with a notched trowel, being sure to completely fill the small depressions where the cloth from yesterday sank into the old cutouts as it kicked.  Then, I set the core pieces into the epoxy mess, pushing down firmly to ensure that they were well seated in the epoxy.  With any leftover mixture, I filled the gaps around the edges and around the rudderpost area.  I let the core and epoxy partially kick before proceeding; the epoxy was set, but still "green", which means that any further epoxy laid over the top will chemically bond.  Because there was a thin coat of epoxy over the entire top of the core, this chemical, primary bond should mean that the fiberglass over the top will be firmly attached.  Time will tell.

To cover the core and add even more strength, I cut out two layers of mat and woven roving, and a single layer of 6 oz. cloth.  (Please click here for a lesson in pattern making that will make the job more accurate and easier.) The mat and roving will provide the strength and impact resistance, and the fine cloth over the top will make for a smoother surface and easier fairing.  I laminated the material on top of the new core, rolling out the cloth with a plastic air roller to ensure a void-free laminate.

The end result of this procedure is a strong, stiff cockpit sole that needs no stiffening from beneath.  I will be adding a large inspection/access hatch to the forward end for access to the rear of the engine and the stuffing box.  Details will be posted when this project is underway.

A few days later, I was able to begin laminating new material over the cockpit seats and locker covers.  I made a pattern of the seats and cut out two layers of 2mm Coremat, and two layers of fiberglass cloth.  This laminate schedule should provide adequate additional strength to the seats.

To prepare, I first resanded the seats to remove remnants of resin from doing the sole repair, and cleaned then with acetone.  Then, I laminated the material on with epoxy resin--two layers of Coremat followed by two layers of cloth over the top.  The Coremat is difficult to wet out and required a lot of resin.  Doing this on a relatively cool day--around 60 in the shed--prevented the resin from beginning to cure too quickly as I laid up the relatively thick laminate.  Any material that extended beyond the edges of the seats was trimmed off a couple hours later when still in the "green" stage to make for less grinding later.  Click on the thumbnails below for some full size pictures of the cockpit right after laminating the material on top of the seats.

cockpit1-32000.jpg (35948 bytes)    cockpit2-32000.jpg (36196 bytes)    cockpit3-32000.jpg (30788 bytes)    cockpit4-32000.jpg (33388 bytes)


March 24/30/31, 2000

Fairing the cockpit is exactly like fairing the sidedecks, only somewhat more difficult because of the many inside corners.  I spread a relatively even, fairly heavy coat of fairing compound (#407/406 as usual) over most of the surface, after cleaning the blush and sanding.  When this first coat dried, I sanded it thoroughly, leaving the low spots untouched.  Then, I applied a second coat of filler over the low spots (picture, right).  When this kicked I was able to sand once again.  Any further low spots will be filled a third time, with more sanding to follow.

I spent a fair bit of time working on the edges of the cockpit seats, to provide a decent, fair radius there that will be comfortable and will stand up to the abuse that the cockpit takes.

I also had to recreate the deck and cockpit scuppers.  Click here to see the steps involved.

With the rough fairing and sanding done, I can move on to final sanding of the deck and cockpit.  This sanding, beginning with 80 and 120 grits on my rotary sander, will be followed with final finish sanding with a palm sander for the smoothest surface.  Applying mist coats of laquer between sandings will highlight any low spots, which can be filled as necessary.  All in all, the fairing of the decks and cockpit was a much more labor-intensive and time consuming job than I had anticipated.


gauges33100.jpg (35144 bytes)Once the gauge holes were backed up with cloth (see Cockpit page 1) it was a now-routine matter to fill the voids with more thickened epoxy.  I used two coats to completely fill the gauge holes, throttle hole, the hole where the old blower intake was (port side) and three holes in the forward end of the well, including the old icebox drain.  With a little more finish sanding, these areas will be ready for primer.

I will be adding a large hatch through the cockpit for access to the stuffing box and the like.  I have not yet chosen my hatch, but I have my eye on some nice commercial aluminum ones at Hamilton Marine.  I'll post details when I get into the project.

Tasks remaining:  final sandings of the deck and cockpit, building a storage locker in the fantail, and constructing a new gauge panel.  Click below to continue the cockpit project.

Please click here to continue the cockpit project.

Glissando, Pearson  Triton #381

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