The same problems we saw on the cabin top were apparent on the helm station dashboard: completely degraded enamel paint over old gelcoat with some cracks, pock marks and blisters. The plan was to strip off the gelcoat, fill blisters with wood flour -thickened epoxy and apply a single layer of light boat cloth fiberglass over the whole thing. While stripping the gelcoat, we found that a previous repair under the windshield was completely inadequate. So we shifted gears, brought out the Kevlar and 1708 bi-axial fiberglass cloth and made the whole thing much, much better than new.
None of the instrument shops I spoke with had ever seen one of these before, but Dale Kocian said he should have no problem making it as good as new.
In fact, the repair under the windshield on the dashboard side of the cabin top was even more poorly done than it was on the exterior side. When we started, the only visible problem was a crack running top to bottom immediately under the port side center windshield upright (on the right side of this pic). As we stripped away the old gelcoat, the sander went straight through the left side of the repair! Turns out there was only ONE layer of light boat cloth here and it wasn’t wetted out very well. The gelcoat and paint over the top didn’t show any hint of what lay below.
When we found this, I made the decision to ramp up the new FRP schedule for the dashboard to the “bullet-resistant” standard we used on the rest of the cabin top: Kevlar and 1708 bi-axial fiberglass.
It is now absolutely certain that the missing fasteners I mentioned in my article on removing the windshield were, in fact, not the fault of Chris Craft. This windshield has been out before to repair a pretty significant break in the fiberglass at the base.
My guess is that the boat was significantly faster after the 1973 repower from 427 Fords to 534ci twin turbo and intercooled Super Seamasters. Bashing through rough seas, something Roamer hulls excel at owing to the deadrise that carries all the way back to the transom, the higher speed put more stress on the FRP superstructure than what the relatively low-powered 427s were capable of dishing out. Something had to give, and that something was the resin-heavy FRP layup at the base of the windshield uprights.
Even places where the gelcoat showed no imperfections before being stripped revealed voids and dry fiberglass cloth once we hit it with a grinder. You simply cannot see these things without grinding off the gelcoat.
With the gelcoat removed, the resin pool at the underside of the base of the windshield lights up to reveal all of the fractures in this brittle material. It’s a shame, really, since there were spots where the original fiberglass mat could have used a bit more wetting out.
For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the people who repaired this even bothered leaving this piece sort of hanging there underneath. It’s only tabbed in place in a few spots with 9oz boat cloth. It serves zero purpose.
This repair, which is under the starboard center windshield upright, is nowhere near as extensive as on the port side.
We used the same mix to fill any voids that remained, then we rolled on unthickened epoxy to wet out the old FRP layer.
After rolling the air bubbles out of the Kevlar layer, we brushed more wood flour-thickened epoxy across the edge of the Kevlar to make a smooth surface for the 1708 layer.
We used the same approach with fairing compound on the dashboard as we did on the rest of the cabin top: using the same US Composites 635 epoxy, we mixed 3M glass bubbles with Cabosil to make fairing compound that we applied over the still tacky 635 epoxy in the FRP layers. This results in a perfect chemical bond and eliminates the need to sand the fiberglass after it cures and then apply the first layer of fairing compound.
Unfortunately, I ran out of 3M glass microballoons, so I used some phenolic microballoons I had laying around, which is the red fairing compound you see in this pic. Phenolic microballoons are somewhat cheaper, but we find they don’t sand as nicely as glass.
This work on the dashboard took place on March 1, 2013. Since I’m only able to work on weekends and holidays, this means we’ve come to the end of all of the historical work on the boat. Things have come a long way since we first acquired this 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46. I’m reasonably pleased with the progress I’ve made since clearing up the paperwork SNAFU that almost sank the project. Since August 2012, when I finally got the paperwork cleared up, I installed the Cummins 450 Diamond engines and have completed almost all of the necessary major superstructure repairs and revisions:
- the bow seat is vastly improved over the original;
- the salon roof hatch is stronger than anything Chris Craft originally built into any of their various models;
- the cabin top is bullet-resistant and will almost certainly never crack again; and
- now the windshield base is fully bullet-resistant, too.
The next steps in the project will be to:
2) finish the wooden structures for the helm roof supports and sliding doors; and
3) fiberglass the wooden structures around the helm roof supports and tie them into the cabin top structure.
Once that’s done, we fair the decks, prime the decks and superstructure and then…paint with Awlgrip starting at the helm station roof and working down to the bottom paint.
Unless something catastrophic happens (hey, it’s a big project and I’ve got grandkids–you never know what life will throw at you 😉 ), she should be painted by the end of May.
Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Fairing the Cabin Top.