It is often said that most projects in life are 90% preparation and 10% execution, not to mention that some suggest that 80% of success is often just showing up. Combined, this suggests that a lot of work goes into a project just preparing for the job.
So, as I think back on all of the projects that I’ve done on Pandora, it does indeed take a REALLY LONG TIME to prepare for just about any project.
First, as there were only three of these boats built and the company folded up shop shortly after commissioning Pandora, hull #3, there is nobody to call and ask about what is attached to what or how the boat was put together. This means that I often have no idea of what I am getting into and what “lies behind the curtain.” In every way, and I’ve said this before, working on Pandora is a scavenger hunt.
Last fall I showed the rigger the corroded heads on the bolts that held the mast step in place and after only a moment he said “They don’t look to good Bob, you’d better pull one and check it”, Ok, got it but that proved to be way easier said than done. For the first order of business I spent months sweating about exactly how I was going to do that as the space where the step is housed is impossibly tight with wires and hoses snaking every which way and all very close to the bolts that needed to come out.
Obviously, the first thing to do was to put a wrench on the bolt and try to back it out. No good, as the heads were pretty well corroded and the wrench just turned and turned. No movement at all. So what to do? Finally, after several months of “thinking” but not “doing” along with a good deal of applications of various products designed to release corroded bolts, I decided to drill into the head of one a bolt and tried to pull it out with a screw remover, a sort of reverse screw that you thread into a hole drilled in a stuck bolt, used to “extract” the bolt.
I know that I have gone over much of this already in prior posts and you might be asking yourself “Why Bob, why go over this all again now?”
Because, of all the projects that I have done on Pandora this was one of the toughest and surely the most frustrating I have done. More than once, over the winter, I left the boat after hours of frustrating work, without making much progress, feeling like Pandora was “executing” me. How many times I said to myself and anyone who would listen that “I wish I had never tried to get those bolts out” they were so well secured it was clear that they would NEVER come out on their own, a fear that motivated me to tackle this “fix” in the first place.
However, I kept going as the idea of the base of the mast coming loose and banging around down below was a terrifying thought.
In order to get a decent purchase on the bolt with a wrench, I drilled into the bolt heads and pulled with an extractor, drilled bigger holes and put in larger extractors and pulled some more. I tried everything I could, abrasive cutters, cobalt drill bits, all broken and still the bolts wouldn’t move. There was simply nothing that I could do would loosen them. and it wasn’t until I just gave up and ground the heads off of all four bolts, with a carbide burr run by an air compressor, that I was able to lift the step up and cut off the remainder of the bolts flush with the step.
Finally, FINALLY, I was able to get the step out of the boat but the old bolts were still there, if ground down flush and I still had to somehow reinstall the step. This meant that I now had to drill new holes immediately adjacent to the old bolts and do that in a very tight location. First I took the aluminum step to a welder who filled the old holes. Then I ground them flush. They didn’t look pretty at all and there was some electrolysis from the stainless bolts that had not been properly bedded against the aluminum. As I could not get the old bolts out, I had no idea about how thick the mast step was. First I marked the step to be sure that I could drill the new holes as close to the old bolts as possible and yet not too close to the edge of the step casting.
The rigger predicted that the fiberglass step would be at least 2″ thick, perhaps more. I drilled and he was right, 2.5″. With that in mind, I used 2.5″ lag bolts. I marked the spots where the old bolts were and drilled as close to them as I dared and “dry fitted” the bolts in place. Everything fit. Good to go…One of the problems with the old stainless bolts and why they corroded so badly, is that they had not been properly bedded to insulate them from the aluminum in the step. Stainless is a more “noble” metal, and when you attach two different types of metal, the one that is “less noble” looses. In this case, the stainless bolts won and the aluminum corroded badly. That is caused by a mild electric current that flows between two dissimilar metals. The result of this is a process of “electrolysis” that causes a lot of corrosion to both metals, especially with aluminum, which it did.
There are products that can be used to “isolate” dissimilar metals and keep them from corroding and I lubed up the bolts carefully before snugging them in place.
All done. Note the electrical cable in the upper right. That’s to direct power to the sea, from the mast, in the event of a lightning strike, something that I don’t want to think about.
Anyway, the step is back in place and it took less than an hour. Wasn’t that easy?
No, not really, and a perfect example of how many things in life are indeed 90% preparation…
I guess that goes double for boats and with Pandora add the fact that I have nobody to call for advice so I have to just stumble my way around. Well, at least I can take satisfaction in knowing that the job is done and I did it myself. Yea, I cling to that.
Next project. The lists is long and time is short. Less than two weeks till launch.
Sure hope that the canvas guy shows up on Tuesday. Talk about 90% prep. I don’t even want to think about how many hours it took to prep for the replacement of the headliner.
As I’ll be paying him to put it all back together, let’s hope that it’s only 10% of my prep time.