Whitby Rendezvous 2015

CA did it again. Another wonderful rendezvous. Food. Friends. Fellowship. Fascinating Stories. 

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We had only two Whitby’s at the docks. The nor’easter and Hurricane Joaquin intimidated many of us, keeping folks away from the West River Sail Club docks.

Here’s a summary of what we did:

Monday 5 October

  • Crews arrive during the day; lunch on your own; boat visiting.
  • Social hour: cash bar, hors d’oeuvres provided by the Rita T.
  • Supper — from our caterer, Real Food. 

Tuesday 6 October

  • Coffee and Continental breakfast
  • Welcome/Introductions/Boat Card exchange
  • Latest and Greatest Communication and Applications. Your iPad and Tablet can do a lot of useful things.
  • Writing for Fun and Profit
  • Patrick Tewes of Marine Electric Systems, LLC
  • Lunch
  • Davis Craven of Waterway Diesel Center
  • Water Tank Replacement on Joie de Vivre. Removing the old aluminum tanks and replacing them with Dura-Weld Fabricated Tanks.
  • Center Fuel Tank Replacement on Allegria. Removing the old (leaky) aluminum tank and replacing it with a new aluminum tank with a better cap and no foam to trap moisture against the aluminum.
  • Social Hour (cash bar)
  • Supper 

Wednesday 7 October

  • Coffee and Continental breakfast
  • Cruise Director's Corner. Solutions to a number of cruising problems. Cooking. Cleaning. Guest Accommodations.
  • Cruising the Western Coast of FL. Popular destinations. 
  • Lunch
  • Sales info and Trends — The State of the Fleet
  • www.whitbybrewersailboats.com
  • Whitby Brewer Sailboats Association business meeting. CA, Terry, and Scott were re-elected unanimously.
  • Social Hour (cash bar)
  • Supper

Thursday 8 October

  • Coffee (leftovers, if there are any) and Clean Up
  • Crews Depart. Hugs and Farewells. Plans to meet again.

The chance to connect with the other Whitby (and Brewer) owners is a wonderful thing. There’s a lot to learn from the other folks. 

The Center Tank Issue

We’re going to see what we can do about our center fuel tank. Leaving it empty is not a good option: more experienced sailors have pointed out that a Whitby handles better with a full 80 gallon (about 600 pounds) load of fuel in the keel. It’s only 7.5% of the keel weight, so it doesn’t seem like it would be noticeable. An empty tank, however, is buoyant to the tune of about 680 pounds; so we’re talking a shift from -8.5% to +7.5%. A 16% swing in weight becomes a far more serious consideration.

We can fill the center tank with water. We have to be careful because we’ll eventually want to pump it back out again when we try to rebuild the center tank. We don’t want to have any of our fuel system contaminated with any water.

As an interim solution, I may be able to work out a better dam to redirect water around the tank. We can then fill it with diesel and see if it gets contaminated with water or not. The weight is helpful. Fixing the fuel plumbing and sensors is always beneficial. Right now, the tank is completely disconnected — no pickup, no return, no filler, and no vent.  

Dee’s pictures of assembling a proper fiberglass cap over the tank was instructive. If the tank is capped, seawater can’t rust through the cap and contaminate the fuel. A cap over the tank can be installed by hauling the engine. It can also be done by cutting away the keel and replacing the tank. 

Most of the job is pretty straight-forward. Most of it.

Removing the old tank means locating the boundary of the tank and cutting into the fiberglass. This is only the first step. Then the foam needs to be scraped out. The aluminum tank won't lift out easily: it needs to be cut up and pried out in pieces. It’s a lot of messy Sawzall and crowbar work.

The space needs to be cleaned and painted. The bottom needs to be filled to bring it up create a usable flat floor with a lower drain sump under it. The choice is sand (and gravel) mixed with epoxy. The low spot can have a couple of bilge pump strainers dropped into it. It will be inaccessible when everything’s assembled, so a spare strainer and hose makes sense. 

Some folks have put the sump under the middle of the tank. I’m inclined to put the sump at the stern end of the tank. If the tank is made 4”-6” shorter than the available space, I think this void might allow some access to a bilge strainer that would be positioned under the tank.

Once the old tank has been removed a cap can be installed that will direct all bilge water over the top of the tank. More importantly, a dam should also be fabricated to protect the access panel from seawater. 

One possible modification to Dee’s design is to use rectangular FRP tube stock to create a structure so that water can flow through the tubes over the tank cap and around the access panel. I think that two tubes on each edge and a flat sheet in between would be ideal. A dam at the forward end would assure that water is directed into the tubes and can’t get to the top of the tank.

A new tank can then be designed to fit the available space. It’s about 80 gallons, and the new tank’s top access panel has to precisely match the opening under the engine. An aluminum tank can be covered in Petit Aluma Protect or similar product to prevent future corrosion.

We don’t want to foam the tank in: it’s far better to use something like rectangular FRP tubes. These can be stuck to the tank with thickened epoxy. They can also be stuck to the walls of the keel to both keep the tank in place as well as support the wall of the keel.

A custom polypropylene tank can be used instead of an aluminum tank. I’m intrigued with plastic because it doesn’t require any barrier coat to protect it. Nor does it require a cap to keep bilge water off of it. It does require more support than an aluminum tank does: we’d have to assemble a fair amount of FRP channel to cover an approximately 4’ x 4’ surface of each tank. That’s about 96” of 2”-wide FRP channel to completely block in one side of the tank. We can’t simply bond a support to polypropylene, so we need to wedge the tank in firmly rather than use adhesives. 

The Hard Part

Once the tank is in, and the keel skin glued into place, then the really difficult parts begin.

The seam where we cut the skin needs to be ground down at a 12:1 or 15:1 ratio. This will lead to about an 8” swath on each side of the seam. This will expose over 20 layers of glass. The filler will use a combination of fiberglass fabric — something like 3 sets of four layers — roving, cloth, mat, and cloth. The roving is considered to be equivalent to about three layers of cloth or mat. Each layer is smaller than the previous. We’d start with a 16” wide piece and after 12 layers, we’d be putting on a 4” wide piece. 

Dee says this is a three-person job. One person mixes epoxy. The next wets out a strip carefully and rolls it into a cylinder. The third unrolls that cylinder into the hull, using a small paint roller to mash the material it flat and air-bubble free. If the team works quickly, they can get back to where they started when the previous layer is still a little tacky. If it sets up hard, there’s a break while they sand it down to make a rough surface for bonding.

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One the glass is in place, we’re down to an easier jobs of sanding, fairing, barrier-coating, priming, and painting. 

It’s a lot of work. It gets us 80 more gallons of fuel. And possibly much better boat handling by trading some buoyancy for ballast.

  © Steven Lott 2016