1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Butterfly Effect

butterfly effect: noun;  the idea, used in chaos theory, that a very small difference in the initial state of a physical system can make a significant difference to the state at some later time (source: thefreedictionary.com)

Project management on a refit like this one isn’t chaos theory…it’s chaos reality. For some things the order of operations don’t matter: you can put mustard on a sandwich before or after applying the cheese because the timing really isn’t all that critical. For other things, though, it’s all got to be done just so and at the right time. If either the quality of the job or the timing isn’t right, it can have profound effects later on the project. That’s pretty much what I’m dealing with right now.

Back in May 2012, I commissioned a mechanic to get the engines and shafts installed in our Roamer. He’s a busy guy  but said I was on the calendar for mid-September 2012. I had spoken to several people who recommended the guy, so I figured it was worth the wait. September came and went, though, and still no progress was being made in the engine room. Since I can only work weekends on the boat, that means that four times I went to the boat expecting to see progress, and four times I contacted the mechanic to ask WTF.

Finally, in mid-October 2012 I came to the boat and found the ER hatches were leaning up against a wall in the salon. A big gantry was set up over my starboard Cummins 450 Diamond, with all sorts of timber braces to support everything.

“Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!” is what I thought.

But for the rest of October and into November, the ER hatches stayed up but nothing more happened. Since the ER hatches are also the salon floor, that meant we couldn’t get the salon roof hatch hole closed up because there was no floor to stand on. Instead of building the frames for the roof hatch, which was the top priority, the carpenter and I instead killed time doing bulkheads in the v-berth (order of operations: bulkheads go in before foam insulation can be sprayed, but this can be done while the fairing and paint is happening outside). Every week, the mechanic had some excuse for not getting the work done, and every week he promised he’d get to it the following week. Every week that he failed to do his job pushed the salon hatch job back another seven days, and it made no sense to start on the fairing and paint work until the hatch was closed up. The engine install falling off schedule was delaying the paint job.

Finally, in December 2012, I got sick of waiting. I spent half a day disassembling the gantry and pulling out all the timbers, moving the whole shebang out of the way so I could put the salon floors back in. Rebuilding the salon hatch began in earnest in December and was completed in early January, fully two months late. Once the last sheet of 1/4″ marine plywood was on the roof, the Boatamalans moved in and started the FRP work, including my bullet proof cabin top and all of the other prep work that must happen before primer and paint can be applied.

Fast forward to July 2013. The paint job that could have have been done by May 2013 (if the mechanic had finished his work on schedule) is still not done, mostly because since early June it’s been too hot in the tent to get a full day’s work in. Even with all of the vents open and six large fans on, it’s roasting in there. The Mid-Atlantic humidity makes it doubly brutal. While the environment in the tent is tough on the human body, it’s especially bad if you’re trying to lay on nice, wet coats of Awl Grip primer and paint. The protective gear you have to wear when sanding and especially spraying adds to the human misery, and the heat makes it a real challenge to get the primer and paint to flow smoothly.

Last week, I finally got around to firing the mechanic completely; the engines and shafts are still not installed. He apparently feels wronged because he sees no connection between failing to complete his task as promised and the paint job being delayed. The guy doesn’t realize he’s the allegorical butterfly whose fluttering wingbeats  in scheduling way back last autumn resulted in the storm that has upset my carefully timed plans. Now that we’re into the heat of summer, there is no way the boat will splash this fall, as planned, which means she’ll be on the hard until the spring of 2014. And that means there’s yet another year when harsh winter storms might damage the boat while she’s land-bound. It happened before, after all.

I suppose I could have just fired him in September 2012 and found somebody else, but I have the bad habit of taking most people at their word. The challenge is striking that balance between gettin’ ‘er done reasonably on schedule while being tolerant of minor delays vs becoming an intolerable prick and firing everybody at the first sign of trouble. The latter approach won’t make any friends, but I’ve already got friends, and time is money.

With that said, we are still making progress on the paint, but it’s brutal hot work. The boatamalans have stopped working whole weekends, though they do come in very early and work a few hours.  Progress has slowed to a crawl, but it still is getting done. As of July 5, 2013, the decks are final primed in Awl Grip 545.

Awl Grip 545 Primer on the deck and toe rail fillets

The work we did on the fillets when installing the mahogany toe rail was really worth it. No hard edges anywhere to catch dirt or keep water from running off the boat. We’ll prime the outboard side of the toe rail when we do the hull.

The fillets on the new aft enclosure look great in 545

The long view down the port side deck

The helm door openings took a lot of effort, but I’m really pleased with the way they’re looking.

Looking aft down the port side deck

Lovin’ those fillets

The fillets around the cabin top look sooo much better than the quarter-round mahogany that Chris Craft used originally.

White Awl Grip 545 in a white PVC shrinkwrap tent = no contrast!

It’s hard to see in this picture, but the bow deck looks absolutely awesome. Props to the Boatamalans for their outstanding work.  🙂

Looking down the stbd side

Stbd side looking forward

The next step is to once again cover all of that lovely Awl Grip 545 primer with black rattle can paint as a guide coat, then machine sand everything from the dashboard to the bow seat  and then the decks with 320 grit Mirka Autonet. Once sanded, we’ll give a good washing to the whole boat, scaffolding and interior of the tent, then tape up the Sharkskin plastic and wait for a relatively cool morning to spray the shiny.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Final sanding the cabin top


4 comments on “1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Butterfly Effect

  1. Bob says:

    I am mine and mine alone, When it goes in the dumper there’s nobody there but me.

  2. Feel your pain.
    “Tin Tonic” all sanded and ready to go – months after EYE had to do ALL the prep work.
    Truly frustrating.
    Why bother in the first place I sometimes ask; all the expenses & work – then: wait.
    Hang in there.

  3. Bob says:

    Concerning the mechanic. I have found that if a persons word is less than stellar before the job, they will be a real pita after the job if you have an issue.. Like baseball three strikes and your out.

    • 1969roamer46 says:

      Bob…you make a very good point. I think I gave this fellow far more than three strikes. Time to move on and absorb the cost of his failure. After the SMIB failure and a carpenter wanna-be disaster from earlier in the project, I’m getting sick of the clowns. I find myself time and again coming back to the belief that the Boatamalans are the highest performing, best workers out there (excluding yours truly, of course! ;-))

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