Hatch complete in time for June launch

Hardly an entry but wished to at least post a photo of my forward hatch complete and installed (blue tape included). It was well worth the effort and I think it looks quite stately. Also it has proven quite functional and incredibly sturdy.

I hope to back fill the details on the final stages of the build for posterity when time allows.


Finding teak

its been awhile since I wrote laregely due to hibernation tendencies in record breaking snows up in New England but also because I have had trouble finding good teak in workable sizes locally so I have resorted to the Internet. Surprise surprise.  There are a few locations that stock thick block teak. The one I landed on turned out to be an excellent choice – Diamond Teak (diamond teak.com). The owner who sources his own lumber and personally oversees the harvesting and transactions somewhere in South America, is very fair and professional. I ordered teak post 4x4x8 and teak veneer in 1/4 inch for underside panel and in 1/2 inch for topside panel.

I was very impressed with the quality of the wood and the speed in which it was shipped and delivered to my door.  My only lesson learned is that one needs to be aware posts will have heartwood that can interfere with a look and worse a joint or surface that is meant to be flat. Add to that, heart wood is almost like cork so it’s not going to act like teak with regard to water repellence.  

It all worked out though.. I had enough wood where I could work around that issue.

Next post will be down to brass tacks.. The building of the forward hatch! Here is a picture of its current state. Nearly done. Now it’s down to teak caulking, sanding, varnishing and fitting to the boat. 


Windward Passage Alberg Bristol 27 #145 – Best laid plans

The forward hatch design has been drafted and the prism ordered and delivered!

It is a gorgeous thing. The brass is substantial and refined, the prism is chunky and hardy. It is surprising how it truly offers complete privacy yet will bring so much beautiful light into the vberth space.
I was a bit surprised and disappointed by the design between those brass plate and the prism. I had expected that the plate would have an inner lip on which the prism would sit thereby keeping the prism in place and from falling through. Instead, the plate rests on a lip or recess around the outer circumference of the prism. This means that that hatch itself will have to have a lip designed in the plywood foundation layer. I am excited to get going with the build now!


And here are my designs:



Windward Passage – Forward hatch re-build begins

When I purchased Windward Passage, there were a few glaringly obvious areas that needed attention; the engine hatch, the deck paint and the forward hatch. The engine hatch rebuilt and refinished and the painting done, now the forward hatch looks painfully conspicuous and gnarly. I know what they were up to when Clint Pearson and Carl Alberg designed this hatch; to let allow sunlight through a translucent fiberglass layer. Perhaps it looked good at the onset, but now it’s an ugly sickly yellow fiberous panel looking like a portal to hell’s infirmary.


I was convinced that this required starting over rather than trying to making something good from this hatch. Windward Passage was pulled for the season , on the hard and shrink wrapped,
and I proceeded to undo the through-hull hinges and remove the hatch. I tossed it in my car and brought it into my house and stared at it for a good period of time coming up with a better design. As usual I did some online research. Two people are to be thanked for the design I decided on.

Rick Bailey from Burke, VA posted this when building his hatch:
http://www.watkinsowners.com/howto/teakhatch.pdf which included the design created by John Harris.


And Tony Grove @Tonygrove.com posted this lovely hatch that I will largely be modeling mine after.


I emailed Tony to inquire where he found the deck prism and he replied with the following link:

I’m choosing the 6 1/8 diameter plate prism – the smallest of the inventory – so as to not overwhelm the hatch.


I I have decided to make my base a little beefier and inside lip higher with added gasget to add protection from insurgent deck water. The next step will be to draw up my design, estimate the amount of wood I will need and hunt down the teak. I am hoping that Manchester Marine or Crockers boat yard, both in Mnachester by the Sea, MA will be able to hook me up.

Painting Windward Passage

What a difference a bit of paint makes.





Of course that statement oversimplifies the effort undertaken to get it to this state above.  Anyone who has set forth to rehabilitate or refurbish a boat will tell you, there are myriad products and ways to paint your topsides. I won’t get into them but to tell you what I chose after many hours of research weighing the pros and cons of each.  I settled on a one part epoxy paint from Johnstown Distributors (their own brand). I was a little weary of using it as there were not many reviews to go on regarding spreading capabilities, leveling, drying, finish, etc.  But the price was right and most importantly they had the color I sought – Bristol Beige – the actual original color for this Alberg Bristol sailboat built in 1965.  I like how it is cream, rich yet warm at the same time.  It spread very well, and, when done in dry non-humid conditions, the shine was very pleasing.  I ended up putting on three coats.  Of course, I had to consider what I would use for non-skid on all these bristol beige surfaces. Again I weighed the pros and cons of the options out there and decided I was going to try all-natural crushed walnut shell. I found a company that sold them in all different “grind sizes” and chose a medium size.   To evenly distribute them to the surfaces, I took a paper paint cup and punched a bunch of holes in the bottom to use a sieve. I filled the container with walnut shell and then took it along with me as I rolled on the first coat of paint. I would roll a patch, sift on patch, roll a patch, sift on patch.. over and over.  The wet paint was enough to adhere the shell. Once dry, I bushed off the loose shell from the surfaces with a soft brush. I examined the results and found the walnut shell to be a bit too toothy (in the heat of battle dropping to a knee on it would have taken off a good bit of skin) so I took the hand sander with120 grit paper to the top. I also realized as I went that more shell per square inch is better (imagine the difference between 60 grit paper and 200 grit.. the higher the number the more grains per square inch and the finer it becomes).  Once I got the ratios and sanding sorted I put on coat two and three over it resulting in a very professional, good gripping surface.

I was hoping to revive the white original gel coat but its no use. I will be focusing on that this spring.. Taping is the worst part.. By the end of this job I was seeing blue.


In this photograph, the cockpit sole was not yet painted. You can see I had done some patching and fairing where there was some crazing in cracks in the original fiberglass.

Windward Passage – Alberg Bristol 27 Rehab – The Odyssey Begins

Perspective is important to gauge (and value) you where you are, but sometimes it is painfully obvious without completely knowing where it will end up that something must be done. That, doing something will surely be light-years better than doing nothing. As was the case with the engine hatch on Windward Passage.  It surprises me now that I was so fixated on the hatch with so much around it also begging for attention, but somehow the hatch pained me the most with it’s sad aluminum clam shell cowls, remnant holes and caps hinting of a checkered past, half-baked cheap hardware and an pathetic suggestion of a tired coat of paint.


I am also convinced there was added incentive to remove and rehabilitate this as soon as possible due to the fact that it was guilty by association with regard to a most infuriating mainsheet running rigging design.


Pay no attention to that ugly hatch.. just look at that beautiful and civilized picnic plate!

It took only a few sails on her during the first “sea-testing” season to come to the conclusion that this set-up for the mainsheet was an epic fail when it comes to considerate design.  spring swivel blocks port and starboard of the hatch triangulating to the boom tapering as she goes impinges on the opening and closing of the hatch. As if it wasn’t obvious in practice, one only needed to look at the forward corners of the hatch to see this was a violent exercise each and every time as one had to work the blocks (sometimes under significant pressure under sail) out of the way in order to lift the hatch or close it as needed. Perhaps if this compartment didn’t house the outboard it would be tolerable, but as it does one finds themselves in and out of this space constantly. Adding insult to injury, the piano hinged door that gave access to the throttle competed with the tiller space.

And it was an eyesore. Something had to be done. I told myself there was no way I would tolerate it for a second season.IMG_4359

It was clear the hatch had to be removed and taken home for the winter to work on, but before I did I spent a lot of time staring at the stern to work out just how to solve the configuration problem. I knew there was a lot of effort ahead to rehabilitate the hatch and door and the last thing I wanted to do was put it back into the same predicament  and since it was off why not go all the way and and solve the problem for good. I did enough reading and research to know that, with fiberglass boats, “If you will it, it is no dream”. Once you understand the basic chemistry behind fiberglass, epoxy and resin, and you are willing to be patient and methodical, you understand that it affords plenty of possibility alone or in conjunction with wood.

My solution was to do away with the swivel blocks and replace them with a track spanning the cockpit along the stern-end of the cockpit benches. This would allow for a direct connection to the boom freeing up the back hatch. It would also end up being a better angle relationship between the mainsheet cam cleat and the boom connection (more straight up and down as opposed to reverse angle).  The only way this configuration would work is if I did away with the piano hinged throttle access door since the track would obstruct it from opening more than an inch or so.  I decided I would remove the hinge, rehab the door and build a slot with accent wood that would accommodate the door. To gain access, the hatch would be lifted and the door panel would simply be pulled up and out and tucked into a holding slot in the inside of the engine hatch compartment.  This would be a clean, orderly and logical solution.


Hatch and door removed. Also revealed in this picture is the fact that I embarked on an even more ambitious project of removing and rebuilding the entire toe rail. A story for another day.

My goal was to repair the trauma gouges and and fill the remnant cap hole and random holes on the hatch, add a handle to aid in lifting under sail and replace the clam shell cowls with something a bit more functional and attractive. Finally it was to be painted along with the rest of the topside.

I removed the cowls and then i began removing the remnant cap. As in began unscrewing it, I knew I was in for a bigger project than I expected because it was coming up too easily which alway implies the adhesive and sealant is long since shot and therefore water has been having its way with this spot for go knows how long.  Sure enough, the plastic cap and collar came of without any fuss and revealed and unsealed sandwich (fiberglass back-core-fiberglass top).



Probing with my finger inside the sandwich, it was undeniable there was significant core damage.  I was not entirely upset since this hatch was the perfect practice piece to perfect my fiberglass and core reconstruction skills since it i could work in my basement and I could work from the back.  I flipped it over and began cutting away a circle of fiberglass to get at the damaged area. Not knowing exactly how to but it away, I drilled a series of holes and dremeled between the holes. And it was clear I had underestimated the extent of the damage. I had to go bigger to encompass all the rotten soggy core.


This is what delamination and rot looks like

I got comfortable using the Dremel as a direct cutting tool. Fiberglass is pretty easy to cut through it turns out. I fretted a lot about this and now, after cutting all sorts of holes throughout my boat I chuckle when I think about

how much I fretted.  Its very straight forward and exact and if you do happen to screw up, epoxy, fairing material and fiberglass will solve any problem.

I cut out a bigger circumference and still felt it wasn’t enough but rather than cutting out yet another circle I took the hatch and put it near the furnace to dry out. But you can really see in these pictures how soaked and rotten the core was. Healthy balsa should look blond. Dark color signals core damage – moisture and rot.


rotten balsa with no structural value and no hold strength – flattens with the slightest finger pressure and completely delaminated, falling away with no effort.

I then traced the size of the hole and transferred that  to the balsa sheet i purchased. once cut out with a box cutter, I saturated the underside of the top and circumference with straight (West Systems) epoxy, painted on epoxy to the underside of the balsa and married the two, putting heavy weights (bricks) on top.  I injected epoxy using a syringe around the balsa patch making sure to fill slightly lower than the top of the balsa and left it to cure (straight epoxy is very difficult to fair). Once cured I painted the open surface of the balsa with epoxy and the underside of the “doughnut” and placed in on top in its original position (there was no reason not to recycle this as it was quite solid and strong). Once cured I tapered the edges of both the doughnut and the hatch circumference. This was to make sure the lay up of fill fiberglass had plenty of surface area to adhere to.


note the drill holes in the removed circle. This was where I was probing for the edge of the rotten core. You can see I was grossly underestimating the extent of the damage at first! The second hole was made to accommodate for cowl upgrade

Unfortunately there are no pictures that illustrate the process of adhering the top piece, layering a series of circular pieces of fiberglass – small first and increasing in size up to flush with the surface. This was then covered with an epoxy and fairing mixture and sanded with ever finer paper to create a seamless surface.  The same was down to the topside. In the picture below you can see there is no sign the hole ever existed.  Once faired, it was ready for painting (discussed in a future entry).


The two holes seen here are for the new cowls. I had to make the existing holes bigger and epoxied the circumference to defend against any water egress even if the cowl sealant gives way.  This should have been standard with core construction boats but it seemed it was rarely if ever done. Now it seems regular practice to bore out any hole greater than the size you ultimately need, fill with epoxy, then drill or cut the size you actually need resulting in a wall or barrier of epoxy protecting your core.

Once fully painted I sealed and screwed the cowls and new handle into place. I was very happy with the results.  The door design was a pretty straight forward process (next entry).


Thinking with the Wrong Head

July 2013:

No boat intended for long trips is going to do without some sort of head.  Windward Passage had accommodations for a toilet and it was obvious it once had a marine toilet owing to the holes in the forward bulkhead and the un-corked through-hull petcocks conspicuously and perilously peering out from under the port side v-birth. I am guessing that, once environmental regulation caught up and banned direct sewage pumping, the owner of WP decided just to never relieve himself again, pulled the toilet to avoid fine and what I was left with was just a seedy platform where once a head sat.


The Head

Even though I knew I needed to address this situation I avoided as much as I could opting for any other project i deemed as priority.  However the day came that the platform had to be dealt with and removed.  It was somewhat of a bear removing this  half-assed, odd angled, and desperately anchored wood apparatus and once I managed to pry it off and lift it up I was met with a lovely layer grayish black which I quickly realized was MOVING. Thriving on moisture and god knows what that was lurking under that platform, the party was over. The wood was thrust out of the cabin onto the cockpit and the fiberglass foundation was decontaminated. I put a pin in the job of figuring out what would be best moving forward – port-potty or airhead.


DIYP (Do it yourself poorly) Marine Toilet Platform: this is the pretty side believe it or not. You do not want to see the other side.

Windward Passsage – Car Lot Camping

July 2013: The ink has dried on the title and now the question loomed; should I sail this vixen from where it sat in Portland, ME to its home in Manchester, MA as a sort of ultimate sea trial embracing a sort of “devil may care, cold depths be damned” attitude or call the trucking company and arrange for transport.  I extracted my romantic head from my nether regions and opted for transport. Of course it was a good thing I did since there was a laundry list of things that would have caused false starts and a potential watery grave had I chosen to sail her back.  Once in the water I sailed her gently for the remainder of that season but it was the first hard sail trial at the end of October that revealed what may have presented itself had I put her to the test out of the gate. That is a story for another day (a later entry). Trust me, it is one for which it is worth the wait. Pick-up date set, the clock was ticking and I wanted her to be at least presentable for friends and family (and co-owner) on delivery. This meant taking care of some glaringly obvious bright work on the coamings, companionway boards and tiller.  I couldn’t wait for just the right weather so I ended up doing a half-assed job. It was about 90F and far too humid with threats of light rain and inevitable dusk dew to even think of varnishing but nevertheless that is exactly what I set forth to do.

I pulled the coamings and sanded them down to bare wood and put on about three coats of Epihanes. At this point I was completely ignorant to the art and technique of varnishing. I didn’t dilute even the first coat with mineral spirits and worried not a lick sagging, dust, dirt and debris in the final coat. I mean just look at the environment I was working in! Ignorance is bliss. All things considered they came out “presentable” and a far cry better than they started.  I re-installed them and realized that about a quarter of the screw holes in the boat were sheared but could only make note that the coamings would have to come back off in order to epoxy the holes and start over (and so the list ensues).





The companion way panels were a little easier to handle and I was happy with the result at the time.  I have learned so much about varnishing since this job. After a hasty 3 coats and a couple of IPAs… IMG_3899Although I knew not perfect, I was pleased with the marked improvement (aka lipstick on a pig). The companionway itself will have to wait.


Feast your eyes on that tiller and pay no attention to that crack in the coaming. .. add it to the list.

After all that work, I slept like a baby aboard Windward Passage on those musty cushions, got up the next day to put a coat of bottom paint on to throw another coat over tacky varnish that could have used another day to dry. IMG_3894

First Date with Windward Passage – Spring 2013

Money changed hands and title signed over, Windward Passage (WP) was officially mine. WP was on stands in a car storage lot up in Portland ME. I had some time before arrangements were made to bring her down to Manchester, MA where she would be moored so I quickly got to work assessing, cleaning and prepping her for the truck ride south.

I think I spent hours blinking and rubbing my eyes and stumbling around the boat trying to get used to the fact that this boat was now my ward.  I knew there was work ahead but had I truly known in that moment just how much I likely would have had a panic attack.

If i squinted hard I could see what it could be..

Spring 2013


Looks worse than it is


the only thing that has shine potential on this original boat is the companionway hatch.


Beyond the leaks this eyesore was my first order of business. Pulling this to work on during the winter of 2013 turned into a pretty significant project (stay tuned for a blog entry on this)


Beyond its fugly look, this piano hinged door had to be reworked for logistical reasons (a blog entry in the future)

It had all the important elements; it was solid, largely original and there were no hull issues.  The decks showed no signs of sponginess or delamination and it seemed that it could be sailed “as is” if an owner could turn a blind eye to all the areas that required attention that, if neglected further, would turn into big problems.

Most evident was the need to re-seat all standing hardware and rigging. I estimated that it was likely only done once in its whole lifetime and it was only thanks to the fact that these first generation boats were over-glassed since they just weren’t sure how little they could get away with in the early days.

Then there was the glaringly obvious neglect of all things wood. The toe rail was clearly going to have to be removed and re-seated if not replaced and the companion way, hatch tracks and coamings were desperate for some TLC.

Down below it was pretty damn clean and well cared for with lots of original wood. However it was obvious that there were topside leaks. The cushions were mildewed and there was standing moisture and tell-tale rush trails of water from here and there. I just went with the assumption that everything was the cause and that it will all need to be re-seated. Ultimately It all had to come off anyway since I planned on repainting and it would be easier to not have to tape everything.

What lured me most was the fact that it was kind of an empty canvas without a lot of hidden nightmares (or so I thought)…then the fun began.

As she stands a year and a half later (without missing a sailing season). Blog entries to come that will attempt to record all the work done so far to this point:


On the hard in Manchester, MA. The best (latest) picture I could find taken June 2014. But of course she now has both hand rails, stancions, new lifelines pulpit to stern gate and varnished toe rail. This winter I pulled the hideous original forward hatch and will be rebuilt in all wood with stainless steel hinges. Topside beige newly painted with one-part Jamestown epoxy Bristol Beige paint with crushed walnut shell for grip. There will be a post devoted to this odyssey! For the white I will be following the lead of Matt of Alberg35.com and trying my luck at Interlux two-part epoxy (gulp)


New engine hatch cowls, hinges and handle and reconfigured throttle door ready for the mainsheet track install (forthcoming entry on that)


Just prior to varnishing the new toerail.

Although it has been hard work to date, ultimately it has been very rewarding and humbling work.  I wouldn’t take it back for a minute and I am excited about continuing the process to make WP a first class pocket-cruiser.

WindWard Passage – 1967 Alberg Bristol 27

Inspired by Matt’s blog (Alberg35.com) of his refurbishing of a 1962 Alberg 35 Sloop, Magic, I thought it time to finally put down my experiences with my renovation project of my recently purchased 1967 Alberg Bristol 27, Windward Passage.

I began sailing in earnest in 2008. Tired of waiting for friends or acquaintances to take me out and teach me, I took it upon myself and enrolled at the Charles River Community Sail Center in Boston. The fleet consisted largely of 14′ Mercurys. These were affectionately known as “mad squirrels” since they were fairly nimble for the size and weight yet were incredibly unforgiving when it came to accidental jibs and capsizing that were all too likely in these waters. There is no greater incentive to learn the sailing fundamentals than the prospect of finding oneself plunged into the cold dirty Charles River clinging to the bottom of a slimy hull waiting for rescue and tow back to the dock. And learn I did. This stretch of sailing ground is positioned at the mouth of the Charles as it funnels into the Boston Harbor. The old timers who lived in Boston’s Back Bay in the 30’s dubbed the stretch of the Charles, “Devil’s Alley”. The winds are highly variable and fickle in intensity and direction. It was not uncommon to have stillness then sudden gusts that originate at 0 degrees and shift mid-blow to 180 degrees. Add to the landscape the John Hancock Building, the comparable Prudential tower – wind beacons standing 100 stories tall buttressing the Charles – and you have yourself a recipe for some serious white knuckle sailing. Polite conversation was not something that occurred when you took someone out for a sail there unless it was dead calm. It was said, “If you can sail there you can sail anywhere”. I am sure Cape Horn gives it a run for its money but I have to say after sailing there for three petulant springs, I believe it.

I ultimately wanted to sail in salt water and open ocean and give my white knuckles a break so I joined a small club out of Charlestown, MA on the Boston harbor for a season, called Corageous Sailing. There I spread my wings a bit on j19s and tooled around the harbor out to castle island and back. The next season I joined Boston Harbor Sail Club lured in by their comprehensive fleet – the larger cruisers attracting me most as I envisioned overnight jaunts and beyond. The idea of sleeping on board in an anchorage, waking around dawn and drinking a hotplate coffee in peace was very quite romantic. I learned a lot at this club in the one season I was a member – navigation, charting, night sailing technique, anchoring technique, safety, etc. – but ultimately the poor management and shoddy upkeep of the boats left me fixated on owning my own boat.

I went in with eyes wide open that owning a boat as opposed to chartering had significant downsides – mainly cost and headaches – but the upsides were far too attractive to me. Mostly, to truly know and understand a boat you have to own a boat. In the two years I have owned Windward Passage I have exponentially expanded my knowledge and skills with regard to construction, anatomy and maintenance of a fiberglass boat. I have to say though, that the cost I did not truly factor in was the cost of time that it would take to learn my boat inside and out and to accomplish all the work that I felt I needed to do. Quite honestly some of my other interests and pursuits have suffered thanks to this venture, but, now that the big hump is over (now that the boat is now deemed safe and dry top to bottom) I feel I can balance the work ahead without getting overwhelmed and/or burying my other pursuits. A boat should enhance your life, not take over your life. When you realize it does, sell it.

2012 was a year of sailboat research. Certainly I had the fundamentals and a pretty good grasp of sailing terminology, but with sailing you can undoubtedly employ the paradigm, “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know”. I immersed myself in grasping the different sailboat types (from Sloop, Clipper, Ketch, Yawl to pocket cruiser, cruiser, power cruiser), rigging and terminology – because without the terminology you cant speak the language and if you cant speak the language you cant make educated decisions on which boat is actually right for you and your lifestyle. I knew it was easy to adopt a nightmare and this was not happening to me.

Paramount to this exercise was purchasing the book “This old Boat” by Don Casey (read reviews here). If I met this man I would kiss him on the lips. The breadth and depth of his knowledge about old fiberglass sailboats is unrivaled and I owe him a debt of gratitude for the amount I learned from reading his book and teh amount of aggravation I dodged through what would have been trial and error. First and foremost, how to inspect a used fiberglass sailboat and the signs for hidden nightmares. Once I had a good foundation of knowledge I set forth in searching the classifieds for the right boat. I was looking for a Sloop built between 1965-1975 that was between 24′-30′ anywhere from 2k-6k and it had to be OUTBOARD engine and tiller steering. I wanted a boat that was not overly complicated yet took sailing seriously. I was bedazzled by the Cheoy Lee but was scared of all that wood. I was charmed by the Vinyard Vixen but she was too much boat, I was wooed by the Quickstep 24 but they were too rare, I was smitten with the CE Ryder Sea Sprite but she was out of my league, so I set my sights on a Cape Dory, Pearson Triton or Alberg Bristol. I looked at a lot of promising boats that turned out to be nightmares up close. I was getting discouraged at the state of most boats in the age and class I sought . Then I found Windward Passage on, of all places, Craigslist in Maine. It was a tax write off ditching donated to the “Friends of Portland Harbor”. It was clearly neglected for the last several years but overall she seemed to have been cared for more than not and her bones were solid and strong. The Alberg Bristol possesses that Hinkley elegant bow line, a stately stern with roomy well proportioned cockpit and surprisingly spacious cabin with plenty of mahogany and teak accent wood. I got her for a song with the knowledge I was going to dump at least that much into her right out of the gate.

And so the bitter-sweet adventure began. I said goodbye to my wife and turned my attention to that demanding mistress, Windward Passage. The following entries will attempt to capture as much of the work and milestones as possible that have occurred over the last two years but hopefully not enough to bore the reader senseless. I relied heavily on blogs and youtube videos and articles toward accomplishing my boat projects, it is my hope to give back to the community that has been so helpful to me.