1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Helm Station Dashboard

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.

The gauges will come out and go to Kocian Instruments for reconditioning.

“Roamer Cruise Control”
Gotta love the ’60s!

Cruise Control-ometer…how cool is that?!?!

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.

With the gauges out, it was time to strip the dashboard.

Preliminary stripping revealed some trouble.

Shabby previous repair on the port side.

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.

Other areas of the dashboard needed help as well.

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.

Small cracks at every sharp corner revealed problems in the FRP below.

The edges of the dashboard had been damaged back when the boat was in regular use.

Resin-heavy FRP layup resembles prehistoric amber.

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.

The underbelly of the windshield base repair area.

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.

Pock marks…no surprise what’s below that.

Pits under where there used to be pock marks in the gelcoat.

Starboard side windshield base repair.

This repair, which is under the starboard center windshield upright, is nowhere near as extensive as on the port side.

Stripped and ready for a new FRP skin.

First, we brushed US Composites 635 epoxy thickened with wood flour into all of the seams and across every blistered area.

We used the same mix to fill any voids that remained, then we rolled on unthickened epoxy to wet out the old FRP layer.

Next came the Kevlar, but only at the base of the windshield where it’s strength is needed most.

Next comes the layer of 1708 bi-axial fiberglass cloth.

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.

Rolling the air bubbles out from under the new FRP layer takes time.

Bullet-resistant windshield base.

Fairing compound “hot coated” over fresh FRP on the dashboard.

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.

The dashboard is ready for sanding and a final coat of fairing compound in the low spots.

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 next steps in the project will be to:

1) transform Tent Model IX from a winter storm tent that survived Hurricane Sandy to a paint shed;

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.


14 comments on “1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Helm Station Dashboard

  1. John Longwell says:

    If you want replacement tachometers, I have a pair I took out from my 38′ Roamer.

  2. frontierhermit says:

    So I’m guessing that this free project is costing you some hair colour? 🙂

    • 1969roamer46 says:

      The Japanese have an expression: There’s nothing more expensive than something that’s free. 😉

      Some people spend thousands to watch guys play ball for a few weekends per year, others spend thousands buying bows and arrows so they can go out in the forest with a bunch of other guys and try to shoot some food. Me…I actually like spending time in the boatyard. It’s challenging and surprisingly peaceful. If anything, it’s keeping the color IN my hair! lol

      • Just razzzin ya Q… I know white it a colour! Haha. She is coming along great. I’m reminded of the story of the hen that started out to bake a pie and asked numerous times for help and no one did until it was time to eat the pie! When are “we” splashing? LOL

  3. 1969roamer46 says:

    Thanks! It helps to have a production crew of Boatamalans who show up at 8am and work like they don’t know what “weekend” means.

  4. gratefultwo says:

    Wow – working on weekends – you are making amazing progress! Great job!

  5. frontierhermit says:

    When you have this complete I think I am going to copy this blog to the CEO of Chris Craft and suggest they feature your efforts in their annual report and send you a trophy for Crazy Chris Crafter of the Year! Perhaps they will send you a new dingy! 🙂

  6. Marty Molloy says:

    Hey! Just get the project done so I can water ski behind the Roamer!

  7. “Bulletproof” – now there’s an appropriate name.

    • 1969roamer46 says:

      Hey! That’s pretty good!
      On the flip-side, my home port is Washington DC. Between the ganstas and overly zealous homeland security types, I don’t know that I’d want to tempt anybody! 😉

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