Fly Bridge

Core Replacement, Bow Thruster Control Cover, Compass Mount, AIS Antenna Mount, Flybridge Removal, Flybridge Painting, Horns


Core Replacement under Helm Seat


The helm seat on Pilgrims with the fly bridge is a small dock box equipped with a pivoting back rest.  This allows you to either face forward or aft and still have something to lean against.  On our boat, if you faced aft, you pretty much slid off the seat.  That was really odd, nobody would actually build something like this and upon further investigation we saw the reason why.  The seat (box) is mounted on tapered shims.  It appeared that the shims were facing the wrong way.  Since the deck is also sloped fore and aft, reversing the shims would cause the seat top to have more slope than if they were turned around.


That should be an easy fix, simply remove the box, turn the shims around and re-mount the box.  However, nothing ever is as easy as it appears.  Removing the box wasn’t difficult (the wood seat back needed refinishing anyhow), and taking off the shims simply required backing out four screws.  What we found underneath was more troubling.  There were four extra screw holes in the cabin top, evidently somebody took the shims off once before and when they re-mounted them they did it backwards.  There was black water gushing up though a hole where we removed the last screw, never a good sign.  A quick check of the area with a moisture meter indicated wet core around one corner.  Great, now we get to replace more core, at least the area is fully accessible. 


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Out came the circular saw and chisel and in short order we could see the extent of the damage.


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Like most core jobs, the “bad” area is confined to a small area, but moisture extends outside the rotten core a fair amount.  It is amazing how much effort is required to remove the core that is damp, yet not rotten.  Slicing the region up with the circular saw and hammering away with a chisel leaves a nice smooth area to re-lay new core, in this case two layers of ˝” balsa.  I don’t have any issue with having to paint decks of older boats as you don’t feel bad about hacking into them to do repair work.  It will be covered eventually.


Ready for replacement core

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Using bags of lead to clamp the core and fiberglass deck skin into place


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Core Replacement Under the Flybridge


After taking off the flybridge to prepare for new deck paint we checked out areas with the moisture meter.   Again, we find an area where screws were driven into balsa core and leaked.  In this case it is a few of the attachment screws for fastening the flybridge to the deck.  Pilot holes were drilled to locate the decomposing region which was then cut out.  By the time we are done, every fastener that pierces any balsa will have been removed, drilled oversize, filled with epoxy and re-drilled.  Any regions that show any indication of very high moisture content will have been removed.  This is simply one more step in that direction.  Fortunately, there are not that many fasteners holding the flybridge on and this was the only problem area.


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Core replaced and the fiberglass skin “clamped” in place.  Again, a non-structural repair so it was easy.


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Bow Thruster Control Cover


A few years ago, the boats bow thruster was replaced (see Forward Cabin renovations for that story as the actual thruster is actually located there).  In the process, they must have decided to replace the control on the fly bridge as it more than likely took a beating from the weather.


The original control had a larger footprint than the new one, so it looks like they needed to cover the hole and used a piece of plywood that somebody cut out with a saber saw.  They forgot to follow the line and if you look close you can see the left side of the “mount” is rather wavy.  It also had a “nice” finish applied. 

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We don’t seem to spend a lot of time on the fly bridge and don’t even want to get comfortable docking the boat from up there, even though the visibility is better.  We prefer to operate the boat from the pilot house as that location gives us instant access to the side decks if necessary, which is especially important when operating the boat shorthanded.  After all, it is a two person boat.


Anyhow, we decided to take the older thruster control from the pilot house and re-mount it on the fly bridge in the hole that was originally cut for it eliminating the wavy, unfinished plywood and putting the new control back down in the pilot house.  We would make a new base plate for below from Plexiglas and retire the plywood (see Pilot House renovations).


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Since Vetus thruster controls don’t come cheap a cover needed to be made.  We have access to a rapid prototyping machine that prints in ABS plastic, had some old material that we needed to use up and access to a CAD system.  The result was a hard cover that would be held in place with Velcro, yet be unobtrusive and protect the control.


Version 5 refers to the number of design iterations, not the number of covers made.



Cover after printing and before finishing


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The control can now live out its life in relative security, protected from the elements.

Later note:  We eventually removed the thruster control from the fly bridge due with the addition of the stern thruster.  Since we had no desire to spend hundreds of dollars for a new dual stick thruster control for a steering station that was rarely if ever used (and never in a docking situation) we simply chose to eliminate it.



Compass Mount


The wood ring that supports the compass looks a lot better in this picture than in reality.  It needed to be either re-finished or replaced.


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Replacement with a no-maintenance material seemed to be the lesser of the evils so we used Starboard once again, one less thing to varnish.


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AIS Antenna Mount


LIBERTY came to us equipped with rip-your-leg-open-if-you-brushed-against-it AIS antenna mount.  Maybe it was designed to be placed where no one would come in contact with it as there was no attempt made to round any of the sharp edges.  This had to go before there was blood on the deck.



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We designed one to be machined from aluminum but in the in the end we modified the design slightly and simply printed it in ABS on a 3-D printer.  There are times we simply need to print out something just to keep the printer active and this was good exercise for the machine as any other part.  It doesn’t have the strength of an aluminum part but it shouldn’t see much load, and it won’t tear your leg open.


















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Fly Bridge Removal


The more we thought about things, the more evident it became that the flybridge was going to have to be removed so we could do a proper job of refurbishing the roof of the pilot house.  Trying to work around it would be impossible; so off came the flybridge.  One can see how badly the gelcoat has faded and is almost bleached white in the picture below relative to the region that the flybridge covered.


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Quick disconnects were used on the hydraulic lines for the steering and there was a junction box for most of the original electrical hook ups.  There are only a few dozen screws holding the flybridge on so removal was somewhat painless.  Some wet areas of core were found where the screws were simply driven into the balsa core.  Minor repair is required in these areas.  We over drilled the location for the attachment screws and back filled these with epoxy, something that should have been done when the boat was built.



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LIBERTY with her temporary crew cut.  I rather like how she looks without the flybridge but I know the additional space the flybridge affords will become invaluable once we become (hopefully) full time cruisers.


While the picture below doesn’t show it, the wood work is in pretty bad shape.  The current thought is to replace it with something that is not as maintenance intensive such as Starboard.

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We have our own chariot sitting in the driveway at home.  I doubt that one person in one hundred recognizes what this actually is.  We like to keep the neighbors guessing.


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Now that we have the flybridge where we want it (convenient place to work on it), it is time to do a little (lot) of clean up.  While we could simply remove the teak trim, run it through the thickness planer to clean it up and re-install it, we are thinking a more maintenance free material might be in order.


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Fly Bridge painting

The flybridge was disassembled into sub-atomic particles for complete refurbishment.  We only plan on doing this once in our lifetime so it is best to do it right.

Sanded and waiting on the paint:


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After the primer:


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The main field was done in matching beige (2 coats.


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After two coats of green:


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After moving the part to the garage for final assembly we decided that we didn’t like the green paint job as there were some light spots as well as a few runs.  We sanded all the green down and shot it again.  This time it was better but still not perfect.  The problem is that we haven’t touched a spray gun in 20 years and were re-learning things with expensive material.


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We decided that rather than trying to clean up or re-use the opening doors in the flybridge area that we would use Plexiglas panels instead.  These are low maintainance and we don’t need access to these areas that often.


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There originally was teak trim on the sides of the flybridge.  When we got the boat it was obvious that it had seen better days.


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We first replaced it with white oak and then finally replaced it with stainless when giving the flybridge the full treatment.


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I know I threatened to not put the teak trim back on but relented in the end as the helm seat back is teak.  If that was the lone piece of teak on the flybridge, it would have looked pretty silly.  Acrylic covers are on the flybridge most of the time so maintenance shouldn’t be too much of an issue.


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The almost finished result.  You might notice the wheel is nowhere to be seen.   It was still hiding in the basement waiting to be fully refinished at this point.  Since we don’t pilot the boat from up here it hasn’t been a problem.  We might be spending more time up here if somebody would get on the stick and make some cushions for this area.



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During January of 2014 we tackled refinishing the wheels.  The upper station wheel needed to be stripped to bare wood as it was in such bad shape.  The lower station wheel just needed some sanding to prepare it for varnishing.


We used a (disposable) Preval sprayer to spray the lightly thinned Captains Varnish.  I had never used one of those before and was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked.



  I already have machined the tapered piece of Starboard that will be the base of a nicely varnished cockpit table for this region (in reality a mahogany coffee table I rescued from the trash).


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Eventually we found a suitable post that is height adjustable to mount it and attached it to the flybridge, shown here with it’s acrylic cover before the cushions were made for the seats.




The air horns, while working perfectly fine were rather weather beaten, with the chrome plating in sorry shape.


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We took the horns and the one throttle/shifter cover into a local chrome place and had them taken back to brass and polished.   We then sprayed them with lacquer hoping they will keep their shine for a while.  In reality we could have bought replacement horns for less than we paid to have them stripped and polished, but we like the look of polished brass better than chrome.  The picture below doesn’t do them justice.

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