Category Archives: Uncategorized

PSS Shaft Seal Bellows compression made easy

I recently replaced a PSS shaft seal on my new to me boat (Freedom 45). The shaft log area does not have good “two hands” access due to a water heater sitting on top (can’t be seen in the photo). Very good access with one hand at a time. I was pondering how I could do the bellows compression step safely with one hand. I figured the opposite of a standard ratcheting clamp would be perfect but all of the clamps I had my collection did not seem reversible without destroying them.

I started browsing around and found the DeWalt line of ratcheting clamps are designed to be reversible with a simple screw lock on the end. I picked one up and it worked perfectly. This PSS install was done completely with one hand. I marked the initial position of the rotor with a sharpie. Tightened the clamp until I had the required 3/4″ of compression then leisurely inserted the set screws to lock it. A spare zinc then provides a backup against rotor slippage (not in position yet in the photo). I believe this was the 12″ version of clamp. I liked the reversibility so much I added a few sizes to my tool collection. If your shaft log is hard to reach then this a perfect no stress way of getting the required compression.

Sabre 36 Shower Support and Cabin Sole Repair (Part 2)

After the demolition was complete I let the area dry out for about a month.  I ran a boat Caframo Air Dryer right in the hole.  The strength of the stick built cabin sole is amazing.  I could walk around the unsupported area with little flexing.

I could feel a challenge coming up.  The sole curves up from the center and the existing floor thickness is variable from top to bottom due to the filler.  There is no way to simply lay in a single piece and have it easily align on all sides.  I decided to build it back up in many pieces. There is also the issue of how to match the coloring and grain.  I decided to take it one step at a time and see how things materialized.


I had to come up with a way of supporting the new underlayment and bonding with the existing floor.  I decided to make some brackets out of 1/4″ G10 epoxy board and bond them to the existing sole.  I used 1/2″ Meranti ply to make a new shower support.  I decided to double it to improve rigidity.  I templated the new support before cutting and sealed it with a few coats of straight west system.

1/4" G10 epoxy board brackets to support sub-floor

1/4″ G10 epoxy board brackets to support sub-floor


Fitting new shower support

Fitting new shower support

After the new support was fitted and brackets installed, I templated using a piece of 3/16″ luan ply and transferred to the Meranti 1/2″.  To deal with clamping and curvature I drilled and tapped 10-24 holes in the G10 for mechanical fastening.  For fastening into the mast support beam I reused the 1.5″ slotted wood screws that came out during demolition.  Note that I filled all the old screw holes with west in an epoxy syringe.  I also did some drill samples in the beam and step to make sure there was no water damage inside.  Everything looked pretty dry.

I used epoxy on the brackets, shower support and subfloor edges (not where it is attached to the beam).  This will allow the patch to be removed if I ever opt for a complete sole replacement in the future.

Patch installed.  Edges were sealed with two coats of epoxy.

Subfloor patch installed. Edges were sealed with two coats of epoxy. Things looking better already.

After I fastened the ply I cut a slot in the center and inserted a small piece of ply as a center support.  The piece was epoxied to the hull underneath.  I also epoxied in the new shower support and screwed the subfloor to it.


Poor shot of new shower support with thickened epoxy seal. This will be covered with cloth later.



At Dawn on the Sea

I have always enjoyed night passages especially the morning watch.  Seeing the sun come up on the water reminds me of the boundless aspects of sailing a small boat on a big ocean.

Nothing like enjoying a nice cup of coffee while shaking off the night chill as the sun comes up.

Perfect conditions for reflections on life.


Unknown tall ship at dawn in the Gulf of Maine 2009


Headed East at dawn


Motoring at dawn in the calm waters of Long Island Sound during an overnight delivery 5/2013


Morning coffee off Nova Scotia – Marblehead to Halfiax


Sabre Sailboat Yahoo Group

BTW – For those interested in Sabre Sailboats, please check the yahoo group.  I noticed that yahoo does a terrible job with SEO for their groups and it doesn’t really show up in a Google search for Sabre Sailboats.  There is an active community along with a rich archive of messages, photos and files that covers everything you want to know about Sabre Sailboats.  

Below Decks Autopilot DIY Part 2 (of many)

Project List

This project has many facets.  My posts may bounce around a bit but here is the list of specific sub-projects:

  1. Build/install platform for drive.
  2. Install tiller arm on rudder shaft
  3. Align and install drive
  4. Modify rudder stops for 35 degrees
  5. Install rudder reference sensor
  6. Install autopilot control head in binnacle pod (will replace old ST4000).
  7. Install autopilot computer + power
  8. Install compass
  9. Wire up everything (head, compass, reference sensor, computer) on the NMEA2000 bus
  10. Modify below deck steering system cover to fit over ram

This is not a project for the meek.  From what I understand pros could charge up to $5K labor for this type of job.  There is quite a bit of custom fabrication.

Drive Selection and Installation

If you have a typical quadrant/cable steered boat then you will probably need a linear drive and tiller arm.  There are some quadrants designed to have linear drive attached but my Edson quadrant is definitely not one of these.  It is aluminum and not designed to be subject to point load forces from a ram.

There are a few choices in autopilot tiller arms.  I decided to go with the Edson bronze arm.  It is not cheap but it is one fine piece of bronze alloy.  Edson will custom bore it for the rudder shaft diameter.  The Sabre 36 factory spec for my boat is 3.475″.  I used a micrometer to double check and found it to be within .003″ at the top so I went with the factory spec.  It fits perfectly.  Required a twist to work it on and snugs together when the clamp bolts are tightened.

One fine piece of bronze

One fine piece of bronze.  Took about a week to get from Edson.  Because I have hollow rudder shaft and no keyway I went with the through bolt.

Test fit over the top of the rudder shaft.  Should be perfectly snug

Test fit over the top of the rudder shaft. Should be perfectly snug with no gaps when clamp bolts are tightened

For the linear drive I choose a Raymarine Type 1 Linear drive.  When shopping around you have options for hydraulic and mechanical drives.  I went with the Raymarine Mechanical for a number of reasons: low power consumption, widespread usage, flexible mounting options and flexible installation tolerances.  It also has a decent manual.

Raymarine Type 1 in the box

Raymarine Type 1 in the box

I wanted to tackle the drive install first.  The Sabre 36 has a fairly cavernous area aft of the helm.  I can lower myself completely into the lazarette and get good access to the rudder shaft and the mounting surfaces.   I spent some time in there visualizing the work and decided to install the drive on the port side, perpendicular to the center line.  The arm will be installed facing forward.  The drive will be mounted to a wedge tabbed into the hull.

The first step was to attach the tiller arm and get it on centerline.  I then clamped a 48″ level to it and worked on determining the wedge location.  I accounted for the height difference between the drive mounting foot and drive end using some blocks of wood between the level and arm.  For distance I used the mid-position measurement from the drive manual.  I used a sharpie to start marking:


Marking Locations

After the measuring was complete.  I did some scribing and built a wedge shaped platform using 1/2″ meranti marine ply.   This will be built up and tabbed in with west system and glass cloth.

Dry fitting everything

Dry fitting everything

Trying to keep the drive mid-extension for final dry fitting.

Trying to keep the drive mid-extension for final dry fitting.

Finally I was ready to start thinking about adhesion.  I decided first to install a mini-stringer to give the platform more attachment surface and stiffness.  The old paint and surface roughed up with a Multi-master and carbide grinding tip.

Stripping paint and roughing up the glass.  Using a vacuum to minimize dust in the boat.

Stripping paint and roughing up the glass. Using a vacuum to minimize dust in the boat.

Mini string epoxied in with first layer of tabbing

Mini stringer epoxied in with first layer of tabbing

Platform bonded to hull plus 4 #10 screws into stringer.  More tabbing coming soon

Platform bonded to hull plus 4 #10 screws into stringer. More tabbing coming soon.  Inside has been stiffened with a layer of cloth and west system before installation.

All bonding with done with West System and High Density bonding filler.  All tabbing done with no fillers.

Below Decks Autopilot DIY Part 3 (of many)

Working on the boat in the New England Winter

Most non-obsessed owners put their boats away over the winter.  From the fall to a reasonable point in the spring (mid-April?) the boats are covered, stuffed in a boat yard somewhere and  remain untouched.  The better heeled crowd may have their boat stored inside at reputable yard where pros may be doing larger projects.

For me working on the boat is therapy year round  so no reason to stop when others head for  Florida or the ski slopes.  I am lucky because I have the boat stored on my property (actually my driveway), I live in a town where this is allowed and acceptable (I am sure some of my neighbors are like WTF) and my wife lets me keep it there.  Also, I can do it because I drive a car with a low roofline and have a boat with nice bow overhang.  So the car goes under the boat about six feet, fitting like two puzzle pieces.

The boat stays plugged in with the battery charger on float and a few small space heaters are at the ready for when a project starts calling.  Yes, you do get strange looks from the neighbors when they see you on the ladder climbing in during a snow storm.

Using the heaters I can get the cabin warmed up for general work.  I have also done some epoxy/glass work by keeping one of the heaters focused on the work area until the epoxy is completely set (10-12 hours).

Today was a good example.  Relaxing Saturday – I wanted to get a few hours in on the autopilot project.  Patagonia thermals under the work pants, thermal socks and heavy hoodie pulled over a winter hat.  Put a heater down in the aft lazarette and I am ready to go.ImageImage


Welcome to my blog.  I have been working in IT for over 20 years.  During this time I have seen the internet happen.  I have benefitted in countless ways from information garnered on the net.  This includes tons of stuff that has helped me professionally and in my personal pursuits.  This blog is a little space so I can give something back about something I am highly passionate about: boats.  More specifically sailboats.  I have owned five boats (so far) and maintained all of them in a DIY style.  During ownership of my first boat (1993-1995), a 63′ Pearson Triton, I did call in in the pros a few times but if I knew then what I know now it wouldn’t have been necessary.  

This blog will cover some interesting projects, sailing stuff or ask me anything.  My current boat is a Sabre 36′ which I have a deep affection for.  Anyway, on to the good stuff.Image