I’ve been ruminating on the best course of action to bring the deck back to life, and I have a plan. There are a few areas where the old non-skid is so shot that it will have to come up…
For the rest of the deck, I intend to paint on a coat of epoxy- much like the barrier coat we did on the topsides and the hull below the waterline. My thinking is that the epoxy will flow into the hairline cracks (aka crazing) in the deck and lock everything together. I considered using polyester resin- which is half the cost of epoxy, but polyester is a laminating resin as opposed to an adhesive. I also considered using a high-build epoxy primer- but since this coating will require some strength I think it’s best to use a product specifically designed for bonding. My one concern is that epoxy is fairly brittle on its own- but I think a solid deck and a thorough paint job will protect it. With that in mind I took advantage of a warm day last week to do a little test.
I chose two sections that looked equally crappy- they were right on the border of having to be ripped up. On the first I applied a coat of epoxy, on the second a coat of epoxy thinned out considerably with acetone. Until the temperature hits about 80 degrees F, epoxy is pretty viscous stuff, which I thought might prevent it from flowing fully into all the cracks. The addition of acetone lets the epoxy flow nicely, and also results in a thinner coat.
I’m quite pleased with the results- both sections are smooth to the touch and withstood vigorous attacks with a handheld scraper- the scraper pulled up thin shavings of excess epoxy and that’s it. The normal coat bubbled a bit in places and was perhaps 1/64″ proud of the deck. The thinned coat covered a significantly larger area and dried pretty much flush, so I will most likely go in that direction. I need to read up a bit on how acetone affects the physical properties of epoxy before making a final decision.
All of this takes much longer to describe than to to do, so I figured while I was at the boat, I’d do a little scraping and tackle a small project. It doesn’t take long to get tired of scraping paint, so I decided that I’d just pop the old diesel tank out and call it a day. The most dangerous words when working on a boat- “while I’m here…” The most useful words- “Oh well.”
I managed to cut through the steel straps holding the tank in place in relatively short order. The fill hose too came off without a hitch. I then discovered that the tank was still mostly full- full enough at any rate that I couldn’t easily manhandle it. So I set up a siphon…
It was at this point that I realized that there was more fuel in the tank than I had buckets for, so I combed the boatyard and “borrowed” a few. With the tank empty all that was left was to pull it out of the cockpit locker, and of course it didn’t fit. To make a 3-hour long, profanity laden story short, the only way to remove the tank was to tip it on end and slide it through the forward end of the hatch (the hatch tapers as you move aft and the tank didn’t fit). The only way to tip the tank on end was to remove the old fuel filter housing- which I eventually accomplished by beating it to death with a hammer.
Then the tank came out, the fuel went back in (having nowhere else to put it), and I got the hell out of Dodge.
It was definitely a pain in the ass and one of the more challenging geometry problems I’ve encountered while working on the boat, but this is the sort of thing I signed on for when undertaking this project: knowledge won through experience. And some bruised knuckles. And a headache from paint chips and diesel fumes.