May 12, 2017

DIY Teak panels

N 14° 27.952', W 60° 52.225'

If you have read our previous blog you have realized that we had to find someone to finish the teak work in our cockpit. Unfortunately we didn't find anyone here in Martinique to finish the job, so I had to do it myself.

Fabricating a teak panel begins with making an epoxy fiberglass base. I did it with two coats of very thin fiberglass mat. I put protective plastic under the epoxy stuff, epoxy won't stick to it.

Next step was to make measurements for the panel. I preferred to make cross measurements. Cross measurements give you error management. If measurements don't match you have made an error. Drawing half angles at this stage makes life much easier later.

When you start to arrange your jigsaw puzzle, you should start with the frame.  First you screw in the stoppers for the frame. Then you make the frame. After this it's easy to fabricate the pieces you need for the rest of the puzzle.

The real boat carpenters use this kind of models. I was told that they handle the 3D dimension of deck. Cross measurements do that too...

The real work is making the teak strips. I suggest starting with the longest. If you make a mistake you can still reuse the piece.

Carpenters have big and fancy tools in their workshops. I used these improvised tools. Jigsaw was used to cut the teak strips to correct lenghts. Belt sander was rigged sideways on plywood with cable ties. I also placed two guides to easily sand the right angles. (Note! Rigging your belt sander sideways on a piece of plywood might void the warranty.)

I decided that the seams would be 3 mm wide and bought some 3 mm plastic batten. When the jigsaw puzzle is ready, you rip it all apart. Degrease the base and teak with lots of acetone (use good mask and gloves). Then carefully spread the epoxy resin to both teak and base. Make sure that the epoxy doesn't cure too fast, use the slowest possible converter for it.

I used pieces of plywood and screws to press the teak strips to the epoxy base. Screws must be very thin so they don't scratch the teak. Gluing is a messy job. Try not to get too much epoxy onto plywood pieces. 

Next step is caulking. Try to put that stuff deep in the seams. It's not very easy but you can also repair it later. Over caulking the new panels is preferred. If you are fixing old teak then use masking tape.

After 48 hours the panels are ready to get rid of the extra caulking. I have to say that this phase needs good nerves. It takes time. Do it lightly. After a while you get a nice peace of teak. If you rush it and use too much force you will ruin all your hard work. Doing things yourself you save money, which you can then use to buy more quality tools.

After the teak panels are sanded and perfected, they must be glued in. We had rehearsals for all the pieces before the gluing. Make marks in the masking tapes, to get the panel back to it's right place. 

We thought that the bending of one the of teak panels to a locker cover would be the most difficult one for gluing. We were wrong.

Deck panels were much more difficult. Especially those angled side areas.

I made a special support for the angled panels.

But it was not only the angles areas that were difficult. Everything that you have to glue in with weights and not with clamps are challenging.  If the surface is not absolutely horizontal the panel gets very slippery for at least an hour. If there is a possibility for the teak panel to slide somewhere, it will.

You need to mask the deck and the teak panel. This is important for handling the excess glue and also to mark the right place for the panel. When the panel is put in it's place the glue starts flowing. It's very difficult to see the edges of the masking tape because of the overflowing glue. Using a cocktail pick you can feel the edge of the the tape, but it's not very easy. Be very patient.

This very same cocktail pick can also later be used to determine the readiness of the glue. The time for removing the masking tape is very tricky. If it stays for too long, the excess glue will be very hard and also very hard to remove. If you try to remove the tape too fast, the glue is very stretchy and can make a big mess. For us in the Caribbean climate it was after about 3 hours that we could remove the extra glue. Then it was easily cut with a knife, but it was not stretchy anymore.

Materials used: Epoxy resin, acetone and fiber glass mat can be found in any marine chandlery. Glue and caulking were products of Teak Decking Systems, these might have to be ordered in.

This project is not the easiest DIY project, but it's still far from the most difficult ones.

Mar 3, 2017

Grenada Marine - Boatyard from hell

N 14° 27.952', W 60° 52.225'

This story starts and ends with teak. 

Our 27 year old cockpit teaks were in bad condition and needed to be renewed. We were also worried of the aluminium under the teak panels.

We found Ben Jefferies who was doing teak work in Grenada Marine. He also had recommendations on Facebook, so we contacted him.

We got a proposal of teak work, which didn't cover treatment of aluminium. Blasting, filling, rectifying and painting. It was our error not to ask for proposal and recommendations of this work. We were stupid to trust Ben.

We made a deal and paid for the teak. We were supposed to go to the boatyard as soon as the teak arrives and they are ready to start sand blasting. That day came and we sailed to Grenada Marine. The first problem with the yard was when they tried to haul us out with double straps, which are too wide for our bottom. They didn't fit between the rudder and the propeller.  After a long argument they got a diver to help with the straps.

Over a week passed and sand blasting didn't begin. Then we got two proposals. US$2.500 for the areas under the teak panels and US$6.500 for the whole cockpit. The price was much higher than we had expected. The whole cockpit really needed painting and Ben said that the painters are very good, so we accepted the offer for the whole cockpit work.

During blasting and painting we couldn't live in the boat, so we moved from the boat for a few nights into a hotel. Because it was only for a few nights, we chose a nice hotel nearby, where they took us by car to and from the boatyard. If we had known that we would spent 24 days in the hotel, we would have chosen a much cheaper accommodation.

They did the blasting. We could see that they didn't blast all the old paint and they also blasted things that they shouldn't have.

It was not so dustless as they promised and the masking work was very badly done.

Days went by and we waited for the paint job to be finished. It was also raining very often. Well, that's not boatyard's fault. Then one Friday afternoon they told us that this was the last paint coat. Next day we could move back on board. We did not check out from the hotel the next morning, because we knew that there was a lot to clean up after the blasting. Our plan was to clean the boat for a day or two and then move back home. We were in very good spirits and full of energy on that Saturday morning. But when we entered the cockpit and saw the paint job, we were chocked!

I started marking paint runnings, but after more that ten I gave up.

There was an unfilled hole on the bottom the cockpit.

Surface was not smooth.

Old paint was not sanded before painting.

When we arrived to the yard the following Monday morning they were already working on the boat. Sanding and preparing to paint once more. Ok, that was the right thing to do.

After the second "final" paint coat there were still few paint runnings.

Paint quality was still very bad.

Now that the maskings were taken off, we could see all the places that were blasted.

It was obvious that we couldn't accept the job. It was very very difficult to get them to paint for the third time. Now I wish that I had checked all the possible things that still could be wrong. 

After third painting we didn't find big problems with the painting. They polished the stainless steel tubes that were blasted. We were so tired of complaining that we let many things pass through.

It was a happy moment when they started to bring new teak panels to the boat.

Oh no! They didn't rectify the floor! There is quarter of an inch gap at the center of the floor. It was filled before, but the blasting removed the fillings.

We wanted to discuss this with Ben. It took two days. 

It's normal. Whenever they smell that something is wrong, they start to avoid you. They get their lunch pack from backdoor, when we are sitting in the front etc.

Ben said that he is disappointed that the surface is not rectified. They cannot bend the teaks. They could fill the area under the teak and paint the edge. It would be "almost good". 

We had already paid for the rectifying and were paying a lot of money for this project. We cannot accept "Almost good". At least not without a compensation.

We demanded that they rectify the floor. Ben told that he had to talk to his boss Jason Fletcher. Next thing Ben told us was that Jason doesn't put any more money in this project. 

Hey! I thought that I was putting money into this project. Even though they have done a lot of warranty work, I am still sure that Jason makes profit out of this. You might have guessed, so far, that the painters are not professionals. They don't really pay them much.

We spent more than half a year in Grenada and hardly ever met any unfriendly people, until we came to Grenada Marine. Most workers were very friendly, but the management was either aggressive or passive. They did not say "Good morning" and they never took eye contact. We found out the reason when we met the yard manager and owner Jason Fletcher. He is aggressive and behaves like a gangster.

We were just chocked about the way they deal with their customers. Our case was that Jason Fletcher told us that we are complaining too much and that's why they are not finishing the work we have ordered. They are charging everything, even they did not do the work. We have to pay or they don't launch us.

It was also obvious that Ben had told Jason a different story than he told us.

Jason should think about the sailors who are not complaining, are those that are hardly using any yard services as we did. We have used rigging, mechanical and woodwork services without complaining anything. We spent more than $10.000 US. Still Jason treated us like scum.

The minute you are hauled out, you are robbed!

We were defeated and we started minimizing the losses. I told the boatyard that we stop all ongoing work there. We pay the ransom and leave.

Of course we took all the unfinished teak work with us.

The very nice guys who had been doing our teak work, were sad that they could not finish their work. However, Ben was smirking: "Are you going to finish that yourself. We woodworkers know each other and no one is finishing this work for you on this island" 

There were also some serious problems with the teak work.

This is the cover of the port locker. It's damaged but never been glued in. We have seen the locker cover ready with the glued teak on it. But not this one. Something has happened to the first one and also to the second try. The aluminium cover is now repainted. So they had build two teak panels and destroyed them both. They also might have been very close to Jason whistle the work finished. We had payed for the teaks beforehand but we never got any of it with us. So they must have spend it all already?

The main reason for bad quality is that they do have professionals in every department, but the professionals don't do the actual work anymore. We had recommendations for Ben and Ben recommended painter Jimmy. Neither did any work on our boat.

Ben was right about no one finishing this job in Grenada. We tried to get Driftwood to finish the job, but I guess the owner was too good of a friend to Ben and declined on doing the job.