Projects:  2017 – 2020

Freezer, Winter Cover, Vinyl Wrap, Damper Plate, Prop Shaft, Rudder, Prop

As LIBERTY spent the Fall of 2016 through the Spring of 2019 in Florida, not a lot needed to be accomplished during that time frame.  Bringing her back north meant that a winter cover needed to be constructed and the failing green stripe on the hull had seen better days and needed renewed.

In 2015 we decided that one of the downsides to our Nova Kool refrigerator was that the freezer portion was just barely adequate for keeping things frozen.  We decided that a dedicated AC freezer would suite us even though it isn’t the most energy efficient device on the planet.  When under way we have the inverter on and our 175 amp alternator has no problem keeping the batteries up.  At the dock we are plugged into to shore power so that is not an issue.  It is only when anchored out for an extended period does the energy consumption become an issue although more for the refrigerator and not so much the freezer.  If needed we can always fire up the 8kw genset although we don’t often do that.

The space that was vacated by the never used washer/dryer was the perfect location and we built a shelf for the freezer to sit on to keep it level.

Now our ice cream stays rock hard.


Fast forward to 2019….. When we took Liberty south in the fall of 2014 we decided that our shrink wrap days were over and sold the tools for that operation.  Wanting to control our own destiny, in other words covering the boat when we wanted required a re-usable cover.   When we had the 36 foot Marine Trader we had a custom cover made by an out of town place.  It was fairly pricy and I wasn’t exactly happy with the company as they never followed up on a lot of issues that they created.  We knew we were bringing Liberty back north so we purchased a Sailrite walking foot machine to make a Sumer cover to protect our 22 foot C Dory and could bring the machine to Erie to make a cover for Liberty, easily paying for the machine many times over by doing the work ourselves. 

The plan was to use 11.5 oz. Top Gun vinyl material and to make the cover in three pieces, connected by full width zippers and have zippered access doors on each side of the boat.  Having made boat covers before this didn’t seem to be that major of a task although the largest covers we have made in recent history have been for 30 foot boats.

We were able to modify the framework that we used for shrink wrapping the boat and set to work making the cover, at the same time as cleaning out my late fathers house to put it up for sale, helping my daughter and son in law put down a vinyl plank floor in the entire house of their recently purchased home as well as moving back into our “old” house, the one that our daughter was renting before they found a home of their own.

We had calculated how much material we needed, added a percentage for waste and had two large rolls delivered, about 1500 square feet of material.  We also spent a few hundred dollars on zippers, webbing for reinforcement and #3 spur grommets and the tools to set them.  We also purchased an 8 oz. spool of PFTE Lifetime thread and a bunch of bobbins from Sailrite.  The only aggravation was having to unthread the machine to reload a dozen bobbins every once in a while.  At $120 for a single spool of thread we weren’t going to buy two just so we didn’t have to rethread the machine.  In reality we used almost the entire spool on the cover.  The PFTE thread was chosen as we never want to have to re-stitch the cover.

This is all the material that was left when the cover was completed.

The last piece to be made was a small triangular section at the bow and that had to be pieced from nine pieces of scrap.  I guess we cut the material order a little close.


The completed cover.  The boat to the left of Liberty is the 36 foot Marine Trader that I sold to my good friend.

As a side note, my friend had a FORSMAN 36 decal made for the Marine Trader as he has always said that he wanted one of our boats when we were done with it.  I had spent two full summers bringing the 1979 Marine Trader back from the dead.  A lot of people used them as live aboard boats but we find them lacking in a lot of ways as the Pilgrim has spoiled us.  We actually had the Marine Trader for two years while keeping Liberty in Florida.  You need a boat for up north and for down south if you don’t have a dirt home and don’t want to spent months each year underway, moving the boat north and south.  We came really close to purchasing a second Pilgrim for our up-north boat but couldn’t find one that suited us.

With Liberty put away for the winter we could return to the land of warmth and sunshine (Florida) and our C Dory for the winter.

Returning to Erie in the spring of 2020 it was time to get Liberty ready for the water.  In this case it meant re-doing the topside stripe as it was getting pretty sad looking.   It was painted and having compounded it a few times over the course of ten years the paint was getting thin in places and cracks were forming.

Issues with the surface of the paint in quite a few areas:


We thought we could sand the paint off, or at least sand the areas that were cracking down to the original green gel coat.

That turned out to be hopeless, sanding the top layer(s) of paint was like sanding a stone and trying to fair in the paint to the gel coat was proving to be difficult.


On to plan B.  It turned out that a heat gun was an effective tool to removing the paint.  Note that the failure was in the material under the paint.  I am not sure if they had used multiple coats of easily sandable primer as fairing or if was simply pure fairing compound of some sort.


Old paint at the bow, between the ladders the paint has been stripped down to the fairing compound, aft of the ladders the fairing has been sanded off down to the original green gel coat.  It takes a long time to strip off an 18” wide stripe (about 90 linear feet) with a 1” putty knife.


We had decided before we started this project that we weren’t going to repaint but to use marine grade vinyl (contact paper 😊), in our case ORACAL Series 970RA Gloss Fir Tree Green Vinyl Wrap Film with Rapid Air technology.  On our last trip north from Florida we stopped in Vero Beach to visit with Scott and Deb, owners of Firefly.  She had recently gotten a vinyl wrap job that looked terrific.  Outdoor spray painting in getting to be more difficult considering weather conditions, proximity to other boats and environmental regulations and the vinyl wrap business seems to be going strong.  The cost is less than half of what a paint job costs and dings are easily fixed.  Cut out a small section and stick in a patch, easily a DIY job in a few minutes.  You can’t tell it was fixed from a few feet away.


You can have anything you want printed on the vinyl, although at a price.  The owner of this boat doesn’t let the cost bother him.  Bubba’s is a restaurant in south west Florida.


This was a good time to pull the opening ports in the forward cabin and re-bed them as well as fixing the delaminated wood on the inside.  We are not sure if the damage was caused by the port leaking or by old gasket material that was not seating and letting water in.  Either way it had been hidden by curtains but now was the perfect time to fix it.


We had some scraps of teak plywood from another job years ago so we used that to cover the damaged wood.  The different colors don’t bother us, we find that going through a lot of grief trying to match stain that after a few years the woods age differently and it looks worse than if you made a contrast to start with.  It is a “feature”.


Clamping in the new piece:


Rather than work around the hawse hole/cleat fittings it is easier to remove them, buy new fasteners and send them out to get tumble polished.  It is nice having friends who are in the stainless ring business and have such equipment.


As we knew there was a learning process involved we decided to start at the stern and incorporate a vertical overlap that is almost unnoticeable.


Firefly was done by pro’s who know how to apply heat to bend and stretch the material to conform to the sweep of the sheer.  As we are rank amateurs we bought more material than needed and made paper patterns so as not to have to try to stretch the material.  We were also in the middle of working on our back deck at this point as evidenced by the unpainted deck boards.


The break at the bulwarks door openings make an ideal stopping spot when applying the material.  I really wished I could have watched somebody do this live, the Youtube videos make is seem so easy.  Maybe you shouldn’t do a 40 foot boat on your first try.


This is a bit of an oddity.  There was no green gel coat hiding under the paint on the doors.


Finished doors:


New name and hailing port lettering for the stern:


Put back together and ready for launch


The stern facing camera that served us faithfully for seven years finally gave up the ghost.  We have been carrying around a spare (different brand) for the last four years and finally got to install it.


Our current Raymarine Chartplotter accepts video input so we were able to retire our small, dedicated video screen and move our tablet PC that runs Coastal Explorer (functions as a second chart plotter displaying information at a different scale) into that space.  We programmed one of the pages on the Raymarine unit to include video output and can easily switch to that page if required.


Of course, a “simple” change usually creates work somewhere else and this was no exception.  Originally our camera was switched on and off from a lighted toggle switch on the top of a cabinet located at the rear of the saloon.  Since the new camera activates when the Raymarine unit is turned on this switch was no longer needed.  Not being one to leave a new boat owner scratching his head wondering what this switch did, or used to do we removed it leaving a hole in it’s wake.  As a stereo speaker was mounted here and because previous owners had drilled holes in the location we decided to face the surface with some thin, black plastic material we had.  While we could have cut it using traditional tools we chose to use a laser cutter/engraver that my daughter recently purchased.  It leaves a very nice, clean edge and if you have the technology you might as well make some use of it.  It also forced me to exercise my brain a bit as I had to remember how to do something on my CAD program and transfer it to a laser cutter, something I haven’t had to think about for about five years.



Along those same lines, we were removing the power wires for that switch which was fed by a “buss bar” located in the bilge directly below that cabin.  The boat once had a SSB with the attendant wiring and this so called buss bar was a piece of aluminum with stainless bolts for the power studs.  I often wondered about it but since it had been functioning for a lot of years I let sleeping dogs lie.  When removing the wires for the switch it fell off in my hands as the stainless screws into the underside of the deck had dissolved.  Deciding that this wasn’t the greatest arrangement in the world, replaced both with proper buss bars that at least afforded some protection for the ends of the wires.


After a Covid impacted season with only a short cruise into the western portion of the Erie Canal it was time to haul out for the fall.  We had noticed some magnetic “dust” that was showing up under the Twindisc reduction gears.

We cleaned up the dust earlier in the year but after a few months it was reappearing


  This was going to require us to dig into that issue and we also wanted to pull the prop and shaft.  The rudder needs to come off to get the prop off, we wanted to do some work on the rudder over the winter anyhow.  The night before we were to be hauled out we moved the boat over to the haul out well and proceeded to pull the rudder head off the shaft.  We have had the rudder out at least once before and remembered that it was a chore getting the head off through the use of multiple wedges and a lot of hammering.  This time was no exception, working in the dark in the wind and rain.  I finally figured out that maybe a gear puller I kept on the boat might be useful.  While I had to cut the arms down a bit as they were running into the underside of the deck it made the job infinitely easier.  If I have this picture included, it might jog my memory for the next time.


With the rudder out and the boat on jack stands we could look into the gearbox issue.  As the gearbox is attached to the bell housing on the engine from inside the housing, this must be removed as a unit and weighs a ton.  Maybe not a ton but a lot.  A tackle was rigged on blocking that could be slid on the saloon floor to move it up and out of the way to access the damper plate that we hoped was the source of the dust.


Once we had opened things up we could see what the issue was.  The inside of the bell housing was rusted and the dust was leaking out a small vent hole that was under the Twindisc.


While we had things apart we figured we should pull the damper plate and inspect it for wear even though the engine only has 1542 hours on it at this point.  Another easier said than done operation.  The thing fits with zero clearance around the perimeter and putting some chain wrenches on it in attempt to help remove it was impossible.  After talking with Beta Marine they suggested a large socket stuck in the center hole on a ½” drive ratchet with a piece of pipe on the handle of the ratchet wrench to give it some leverage and then pry it out.  That worked.  However, while it was out I drilled and tapped three holes in the plate so next time you just have to run three bolts into it to work it out.


The damper plate works by having elastomer material on both sides of the slots that pins bear against when the engine is turning.  They didn’t show any signs of wear so we were able to re-assemble things after spraying Boeshield on the inside of the housing to keep any rust from forming.


We condemned the 1-1/2” prop shaft as there is evidence of corrosion and with out x-raying it you don’t know how bad it really is.    It was replaced with an Aqualoy 22 shaft from a place in Fort Lauderdale.  We had it shipped to our condo in Florida and brought it north when we came up for the Christmas holiday saving $20 in shipping costs.  Hey, it is a bottle of wine……


While home for a few weeks we busied ourselves with stripping the paint off the rudder and fixing a small crack on the bottom edge where water had seeped in and froze.  We reefed out this area and packed it with fiberglass cloth and epoxy and then drilled and tapped a hole to act as a drain when the boat is hauled for the winter, in case any water gets back into the core.  A coat of epoxy on the rudder completed the job and it only lacks bottom paint.


The stack didn’t get wrapped when we were doing the topsides as we had bigger fish to fry at the time.  It was another good holiday basement project.  Try as I might I couldn’t figure out how to wrap the top with one piece although it probably can be done.  Those Youtube guys seem to be able to wrap a car side view mirror with no issues.  I guess I better not quit my day job.

The 22” prop was sent out to a place that has a Hale MRI to be reconditioned and one blade was out ½”.  I had them average the pitch of the four blades and they re-pitched them to that value.  They also did a nice job of smoothing up the blade surfaces as there was a lot pitting on the back sides due to cavitation.  Of course, the prop is 14 years old and probably has around 20,000 miles on it.  The crab pot line we picked up in the Albemarle Sound when it was blowing 25 probably didn’t help the prop any as it sounded like a gun went off in the boat.  There was still a bit of line on the shaft when we hauled out that winter.  When we picked up the prop the lady at the desk told the shop guy our prop was “the little one”, and it was, compared to what they were working on.


Return to the Projects Page