Home - Project Just Right
Chapter 1 - My goals and Requirements
Chapter 2 - Choosing the Boat to Build
Chapter 3 - Preliminaries, What I Did Before Starting
Chapter 4 - Setting up Frames and Building the Hull
Chapter 5 - Interior
Chapter 6 - Deck and Exterior
Chapter 7 - Topside Details
Chapter 8 - Keel, Centerboard, and Rudder
Chapter 9 - Mast, Rigging, Sails, Outboard & Anchors
Chapter 10 - The Electrical System
Chapter 11 - The Trailer and Trailering
Chapter 12 - Sea Trials and Cruising Pictures
Chapter 13 - Future Projects ... When is a Boat Finished?
Chapter 14 - Useful Information... Sources and Links
Chapter 15 - Questions and Answers
Chapter 16 - Other Vagabond Builders and Aficionados
Chapter 17 - A Few Good Ideas
Chapter 18 - Chapter 18 - Specifications and Equipment

Chapter 7 - Completing the Topside Details

This chapter shows some of the details as I finished the rest of the hull.

I Always Wanted to Have a Hatch Like This

I've looked at a lot of sliding hatches and wanted to have a hatch that reduced the chance of leaking. The first picture shows the basic sliding hatch. The second picture shows the side rails that I laminated from four layers of clear fir. I found that it was easier to laminate the few larger wood peices like the floors from multiple layers of clear fir. I was able to find good quality lumber by carefully selecting the peices I needed at local lumber yards. Since I planned to flowcoat and paint the entire exterior, the fir was less expensive than say mahogany. The third picture shows the hatch cover that covers the front of the hatch. The fourth picture shows the structure that holds the hatch board in place. Notice the openings in the outside bottom edges to allow drainage. What you can't see is the trough between the large slide and the trim board on the insides of the companionway. These troughs drain into the hatch board slides and out through holes in the hatch rails. Notice also that the hatch opening is above the seat level. This is definitely a safety factor in any boat. The extra height is not a problem for us when going below.

I found by experimenting that I could stand on 9 mm panels about 2 feet square with some deflection but no apparent fracturing. I carefully laminated the aft crosspeices to the hatch slide to add extra rigidity. The forward crosspeice is screwed on since it has to be removed to remove the sliding hatch for repair. The forward cover is also fastened with screws for the same reason. As an aside, these were the first screws or fasteners used in the boat. Everything else is epoxy bonded.

You can see a portion of the forward hatch framing. I wanted to build a wooden forward hatch but discovered that I could buy a standard Bomar plastic opening hatch for a reasonable price. The hatch is located about 2 inches off center. This gives a few extra inches over the head below. The other advantage is that I can stand on the starbard side of the mast when hauling the anchor. I built in an anchor roller on the port side of the bow stem fitting.

I keep the anchors, chain and line in fabric bags stowed below decks. We usually drop the anchor off the stern and after it is set, shift the line to the cleat on the bow. We find that communication between the person steering and the one dropping the anchor works well this way. It is much easier to power forward to set the anchor than to try to back down.

Sliding hatchHatch railsHatch topCompanionway

Doesn't Every Boat Need a Dorade Ventilator?

I had several of the Nico mushroom vents on my Vega. I never had any mold or mildew problems all the time I owned the boat. I probably could have used one of these vents on this boat but I decided to build a classic Dorade ventilator on this boat. The vent supposedly can be left open and is designed to avoid taking in water in all but the most severe conditions. I epoxied a peice of plastic pipe through the deck. The air inlet is over the stove and galley. The box with the offset vent has drain holes in the sides to drain any incoming water before it can go down the stand pipe. I can remove the vent top when I trailer the boat. If I were doing it again, I would probably reduce the size of the drain holes which I predict would force more air below. Our sailing experience so far has shown that the deck of the Vagabond stays mucy drier than I would have expected. We've only had water on the deck once in a very unusual situation. Occasionally, lines do tangle on the vent but it is fairly easy to reach forward and free the vent.

Dorade shellDorade topFinished dorade


I liked the looks of the elliptical rather than round or streamlined shape for the windows. I used one of my computer programs to lay out a full size paper template for the window opening, plastic covering and bolt centers. I elected to follow the specifications of the designer for the window size, bolt size and material. I choose the thinner 1/4 inch Lexan polycarbonate rather than the 1/2 inch Plexiglass. I also used the 1/4 inch pan head bolts specified. At least one of my friends remarked that he would have used #8 bolts since the 1/4 inch bolts seemed like something an engineer would specify. I have a friend who just bought a Catalina 42 with similar style windows and sure enough, those windows are held in place by #8 bolts about twice the distance apart.

There are few hints in order for working with the Lexan. It is easy to work with power or hand tools but use slow speeds to keep the heat down. I sawed the Lexan blanks to shape on my improvised saber saw shown in the first picture below. When all four blanks were cut, I stacked the blanks and used my disk sander running a slow speed to smooth the edges and make the shapes identical. I polished the edges with fine sandpaper. Next I moved to my drill press and using a 1/8 inch drill at slow speed, I drilled pilot holes. The drill can bind up in the hole with the slightest movement so I was careful to clamp the peices to the table. I drilled the final holes about 1/32 inch larger than the bolt to allow for any expansion of the plastic.

Using the inside hole of the paper template, I cut the holes for the windows in the boat decksides. I carefully drilled two alignment holes for the window and mounted the Lexan on the deckside as a pattern for the rest of the holes. I set the Lexan aside until the openings were filled and faired and the boat was painted.

The recommended material to bed Lexan is silicon. Since I had worked with this misable material before, I decided to minimize cleanup by masking both the wind and the deckside surround as shown below. I buttered the surface with marine grade silicon and applied the window. Notice that pan head or round head bolts are used, not countersunk heads which would cause the plastic to crack as tension was applied. The usual recommendation is to leave the screws just a little loose and come back the next day and tighten after the silicon sets but once I had the air bubbles out of the silicon, I tensioned the bolts and cleaned up the remaining ooze. So far, the windows haven't leaked a drop.

Cutting Lexan windowSealing windowFinished window

Sheathing the Deck and Adding the Toe Rail

Although the hull sides are covered with DB120 fabric inside and out, the deck is sheathed with a single layer of 6 oz. fiberglass cloth. The cloth was filled, sanded and primed.

The toe rail was built up in two layers. I was able to use weights to hold the first layer in place while the epoxy set. The second layer was glued to the first and the toe rail shaped. The rail is about 1 1/2 inches high, just enough to hold my foot when going forward. I left enough room forward of the toe rail for chocks to hold dock or anchor lines. Notice also in the second picture the solid wood build out for the headstay tang and base for the anchor roller.

Gluing the toerailToerail and bow woodworkSanded toerail

Paint and Varnish

I started out planning to use Interlux Brightside on my Vagabond+. I primed both inside and outside with multiple coats of Interlux two part epoxy primer. It fills sand out nicely. I continued on the plan and used two coats of Brightside inside the boat. I added a flattener to the paint since I like a semigloss inside. We applied two coats inside. Both the primer and topcoat have potent fumes. Working inside the boat was unpleasant with a vapor mask required and forced ventilation. Even a year later, the boat interior retains some of the Brightside solvent smell. Edith volunteered to sand the primer and paint the inside. You can see that I had to bribe her with an occasional pretzel to take the edge off the job.

Pretzel time

On the outside, I switched plans and went with the System Three water reducible polyurethane paint. I was able to choose just the color I wanted from the color chart. I decided just to be safe to apply several coats of the S3 primer over the Interlux primer. The primer is a two part catalized mix. It is diluted with alcohol and water... much cheaper that the specialized Interlux solvents and no smell. The primer has slightly less "build" but you can probably apply two or three coats in a day. The primer sands out just fine and provided a uniform gray color bas for the top coat. I expect that you could add a filler to the primer like West 410 or talc to increase the build up.

We put on four topcoats on the hull, the last being a clear coat with cross linker. We used foam rollers and a good quality brush to roll on and tip off since I didn't want to spray. The brushes wash out in water, very easy compared with the solvents needed with other products. CAUTION: The paint drys VERY fast especially in the low humidity, high temp environment of So. Cal. in August. We sprayed lots of water in the air and wetted the floor to raise the humidty. We had only one chance to tip off the paint before it set. The finished product was satisfactory but was a "three foot" paint job. Spraying would probably be better. I did sprinkle the S3 nonskid on masked area on the deck. It worked very well. Best of all, the boat was painted in one day with no offensive odors. Probably hundreds of people have walked all over my boat at two annual boat festivals. We don't ask people to take off shoes and the paint had held up well under these testy conditions.

I had occasion to do a repair paint job this last year. I was able to reuse the paint and primer. It has excellent shelf life. The repair looked and blended in very well with the original paint. I did try a few spot touchups. Where I had sanded and primed, the repair paint stuck well. Where I just painted over the top, it tended to peel off. The weather was cooler and I didn't have the instant setup problems of the August environment.

Incidentally, the S3 topcoats are very thin and even with multiple coats you won't need much paint. The secret is to put on multiple coats. Any of the high quality paints will show every imperfection in the fairing so preparation prior to and during the primer buildup process is critical. (That's what Sam Devlin does so well. But after 500 boats you too could make your boat look perfect.) For me, a boat that is used will develope dings. I want to use a paint that can be repaired. Ultimately, when the boat is repainted remember that it will look better than new in the second painting since the surface will have the old paint buildup underneath.

I think the S3 paints offer an amateur a way to get a high quality finish without a spray booth, positive pressure mask system, and exposure to fumes throughout our shop and house which is usually where we build our boats. Some guys get good results with the 2 part LPs but the process can be very technical and the product and specialized solvents are expensive and some of the materials are very hazardess.

I liked the looks of a prominent cove stripe on the boat and was pretty sure that a painted stripe would be had for me to get right. I purchased some striping tape but discovered a real professional sign specialist who took on the job of a high tech computer generated stripe. In the picture below, he is shown applying a test sample. The finished product added a lot to the looks of the boat and can be seen in lots of other pictures at the site.

Here are a few pictures of the completed interior.

Fwd port side

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