1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Cutting and Fitting Salon Plywood Panels

With the galley pantry panels installed, I moved on to other panels that face the hull in the salon. The cold winter made it hard to keep up momentum, since epoxy doesn’t kick when it’s too cold. But it was 76°F one day last week, then it snowed over the weekend. Today it will be 78°F. On the upside, the epoxy is finally starting to cure. I just wish it would stay warm enough on the weekend for me to get more stuff done.

Cleats for the next panel that will be installed aft of the pantry

Ready to fit the wall panel

Marine-grade 1/4″ Doug fir plywood fitted in place

The idea here is to have the living space sealed to isolate it from the hull envelope. The hull and decks are insulated, and I insulate the backside of every panel that faces that hull. Since metal boats can be difficult to keep comfortable, temperature-wise, this insulation approach should make my boat a lot warm in winter and cool in summer.

This 1/4″ Douglas fir panel was a bit challenging because the hull starts curving in toward the bow here. The plane of the back and front edges aren’t the same. Once I push the panel into place, the forward edge needs to be slightly curved so it fits closely to the upright galley pantry panel. Tight joints will help ensure there’s no air leakage between the hull envelope and the interior.

US Composites epoxy resin with 2:1 hardener is my favorite epoxy product

The back-side is thoroughly wetted out and ready for the insulation

Press the insulation in place and go home

Next day, the epoxy still isn’t cured, but it’s tacky enough

Wet out the cleat contact points and seal the edges

Epoxy thickened with wood flour goes on the cleats

Boom! One more insulated panel installed

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Cutting and Fitting a Toe Rail Vent Duct


1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing Still More Pantry Panels

All the sudden it’s like somebody flipped the Season switch from Winter to Spring. But only for a few days…they say it will snow again on Saturday. So much for getting a bunch of panels epoxied in this weekend. The glue just doesn’t set up very quickly when it’s freezing. But I did manage to get more pantry panels installed in spite of the cold temps.

The PVC plumbing for the black water tank pump-out fits tight to the hull

I used my kerosene heater to heat up the PVC and mold it into shape. It turns out there are electric PVC pipe blankets that do the same thing. But since I’m not a professional plumber, it’s not worth buying another expensive tool I’ll (hopefully) never use again. It’s essential that I keep the pipe as close to the hull as possible so I can maximize the space inside the galley pantry. A big pantry makes for a happy missus, and that’s pretty much my goal in life. 😉

Final pantry wall panel is glued and screwed in place

I also ran the PEX water line that will connect to the original Chris Craft chromed bronze water inlet that I’ll install on the mahogany toe rail, and I put the water tank vent line in position.

Finally! The clamps came off of the first two pantry sections

The first two pantry sections are all glued together. None of the panels there should ever need to be removed, so they’re fixed in place. This back panel on the last pantry section will be removable to give access the hoses and plumbing. I hate it when manufacturers don’t provide access for maintenance.

The 1″x 1″ mahogany backing cleats are installed for the bottom and back panels

Not bad!

It was at this point that I realized I’d forgotten the bottom panel here when I varnished all of the other pantry panels. I’ll get to that soon. I also had to do a bit of trimming on the upper panel, so it can also be removed if necessary. The fit was a bit too tight. Then I applied epoxy to the edges to seal it up. With as warm as it’s been the last two days, hopefully it’ll be cured when I arrive over the weekend. It’ll be nice to finish up this pantry and move on.

Oh…I should maybe also explain that I’ll be making a solid mahogany face frame to cover the edges of the pantry plywood panels and give the door hinges something solid to screw into. But that’s a cosmetic detail that can be done later.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Cutting and Fitting Salon Plywood Panels

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing More Pantry Panels

Another weekend went by without having my truck back from the transmission shop. On the upside, the worst of winter seems to be over. I got some plumbing done and another section of the galley pantry installed.

1-1/2″ PVC pump-out pipe doesn’t quite line up

To maximize cabinet space here, I need the pump-out pipe to conform as closely as possible to the longitudinal framing (stringers), which take a curve here. PVC pipe fittings don’t come in the angles I need, so I’ll have to do some customizing.

My kerosene bazooka is a room heater, epoxy warmer, and now PVC pipe softener

The key is to keep rotating the pipe and moving it back and forth so the entire area that needs to be bent gets equally heated. Move too slowly and you’ll cook it. If you’re moving fast enough, it’s hot enough to bend when the pipe starts to get shiny. It’ll stay hot and flexible for a minute or so.

Not bad. Two more bends and it’ll be ready to install

Second upright pantry panel gets glued and screwed in place

Running light wiring gets secured at a convenient spot

Top, bottom, and back panels are all insulated on the backside

R3 Buffalo Batt insulation is epoxy-bonded to the back of the panel

Buffalo Batt polyester nonwoven fabric will keep the inside space nicely insulated, which should practically eliminate the condensation that’s very common on fiberglass and metal boats. By sealing the backsides and edges of every panel with epoxy, I believe it will also stabilize the varnish on the pretty side of the panel.

After wetting out the contact areas with epoxy, everything gets clamped

I use long sticks to keep the top panel in place

More clamps for the bottom panel to pull it in tight

Looking good!

The PVC pipe turned out very nicely. I just have to wait for the epoxy to cure before I remove the panel clamps. Unfortunately, overnight temps have been well below freezing, so once I turn off the heater it starts chilling down and that brings the epoxy curing process to a near stop. If I had an unlimited supply of clamps, that would be less of a problem. But with these two pantry sections I’ve used all of them.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing Still More Pantry Panels

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing the Pantry Panels

I got my truck back from the transmission shop. The shifting problem it was having appears to have been resolved, but I couldn’t tell for sure because before I got to where the roads are smooth the engine threw the same crankshaft position sensor code as before. GAAH! I’m really getting sick of not having  my truck and making repeat trips to and from the shop.

That said, I am pleased with the way the pantry on the Roamer is turning out.

All panels got three coats of Minwax Spar Urethane clear

Top and bottom panels

Insulating the back-side of all the panels

A buddy of mine sold his wooden Pacemaker 43 last year and got a 41′ Marinette aluminum boat. There’s very little insulation in the Marinette, and he said it’s been a rough winter. They can’t get enough power in the boat to keep it warm. That’s bad news for him, but it makes me more and more convinced that insulating the back-side of all cabinet and wall panels that face the hull envelope is worth the effort. It takes an extra day to cut the Buffalo Batt insulation, wet out the panels with epoxy, press the insulation in place, and wait for the epoxy to cure. But it makes a big difference.

Once the insulation is in place, I press it together with whatever heavy stuff is laying around

Wood flour-thickened epoxy is a strong glue for the complex panels

This top panel will box in the pump-out plumbing

Last prep step: build out the floor at the step to the V-berth

Next day, the epoxy is cured and the panels are finally ready to install

Gluing and screwing the framing

After wetting out the cleat framing with epoxy, I apply wood flour-thickened epoxy, then screw each cleat in place. Then the panel edges and the corresponding attachment points get the same treatment.

Galley Pantry #1 is glued, screwed, and clamped in place

The back panel is 1/8″ cabinet-grade, rotary cut mahogany plywood. It’s pretty stuff, but it doesn’t stay flat on its own. At the top, there’s a 1″ x 1″ mahogany cleat that the top panel will butt up against, and that cleat keeps the top edge of the panel flat. But I had to glue and clamp another cleat onto the back-side at the bottom to keep that edge flat, too. It looks like that will work out fine.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing More Pantry Panels

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Salon Entryway Panels

I haven’t been posting articles at my usual pace, and it’s not just the cold winter that’s slowing me down.

A while back I was moaning and groaning about how my life is a country western song. I’d replaced my beater Ford F150 with a much newer Nissan Frontier, and in no time the automatic transmission went out. In November 2015 I got it back from the shop with a two-year warranty. But within a few weeks the engine lost power. It turned out the catalytic converters had come apart, and there was evidence that the transmission shop caused that to happen by beating on the exhaust near the converters with a big hammer hard enough to dent it. Ceramic from the converters got up into the engine, and the compression had dropped pretty low. But then, as I explained at the end of My Life WAS An Old-School Country Western Song, compression came back up to normal after a few weeks of driving and everything seemed fine.

Fast forward 1,100 miles and I noticed the oil pressure gauge was dropping very low when I went around corners. I stopped to check and found there was no oil on the dipstick! I figured I must have made a mistake when I changed the oil, so I added 3.5 quarts to top it off. Fast forward another 1,000 miles, and the same thing happened again! While all of this was happening, I also had a problem with hard shifting between 2nd and 3rd that you wouldn’t notice on rough roads, but it was very obvious on the smooth roads on the way to the boatyard every weekend. So I took the truck back to the transmission shop, showed them the broken catalytic converters, pictures of the low compression readings, and the still fresh dents on the exhaust system. They took the truck, and a few days later claimed they did something to the transmission, topped up the oil, and told me to come back in 1,000 miles. Same thing happened…rough shift and very heavy oil consumption. When I called the shop, they told me to take it to the dealer to see if they could diagnose the problems. The dealer topped up the oil and told me to come back in 1,000 miles. 500 miles later, the oil had dropped to the ‘add’ line on the dipstick, so I went back. The dealer’s estimate said I needed a remanufactured transmission (they don’t recommend rebuilding) and an engine long block. They didn’t recommend replacing the engine with a used one, since you never can tell how an engine has been used or abused. They also said that since several gallons of oil had passed through my new catalytic converters, they were contaminated and should be replaced. The estimate total was $16,000.

I went a few rounds with the transmission shop before they finally accepted the warranty claim. They replaced the engine with a used one with 95,000 miles, and they replaced a part in the transmission. The engine seemed fine; it felt as powerful as when I first bought the truck. But after driving on smooth roads to the boatyard, it was clear that the transmission problem was still there. I was considering just living with it when the Service Engine Soon light came on. 50 miles later, the truck started stumbling…top speed 60mph on the flat. It was throwing codes for powertrain and crankshaft position sensor.

So…back to the transmission shop once more. I also did some poking around online and found that the hard 2-3 shift is a known problem with these transmissions when they’re rebuilt. There are articles on transmission industry group websites that explain the clutch pack clearances are super critical, but they’re not normally set during a rebuild. Also, some O-rings deep inside the tranny need to be upgraded to nitrile. I shared that info with the shop, and they claim to have fixed everything. I’ll go pick it up today. Hopefully, this will be the final episode in my life as a country western song. This busted truck has been a huge time sucker.

That said, I have been getting things done on the boat when it warms up enough for epoxy to kick. I recently put mahogany veneers on the salon entryway panels.

When we got the boat, somebody had altered the original entryway

The original door was still there, but they’d removed the bi-fold panels that close the dashboard and added an upper door and a plexiglass enclosure. It was very unattractive. So I’m going back to the original configuration, with a piano hinge between bi-fold panels.

The upper entry panels are 3/4″ Tricel

Tricel is lightweight and structurally robust. I’m using it instead of 3/4″ plywood for the interior doors on the boat, and I had just enough left over to make these panels.

I’m on the last pieces of veneer, so efficient layout is essential

US Composites epoxy with 2:1 no-blush hardener is a great product

Roll on just enough epoxy to wet the veneer backing surface but not so much that it pools

Next, wet out the Tricel panels

With clamps, thick lumber, and a bunch of heavy old zincs, press the panels and veneer together

A vacuum table is what I wish I had. I just can’t justify one for the limited veneer work I’ll be doing.

Next day…the clamps and zincs come off


Trim the excess veneer, then do the other side

Be very sparing when epoxying the veneer, otherwise it bleeds through

Position the veneer on the panel

Use a squeegee to remove air bubbles

Repeat on the other panel

I use shrink wrap plastic scraps left over from the tent to separate the two panels

Final pressing

That’s not a wrap for these panels. I still have to make solid mahogany edges for them, which is something I’ve never done. That’s not a top priority, though, so I have time to think through how I’ll do it. In the meantime…I’m off to get my truck!

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing the Pantry Panels

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Flagship Marine Air Conditioners Have Arrived

A few months back, having spent a lot of time researching products from the various marine air conditioner manufacturers, I decided Flagship Marine appeared to offer the best quality for a fair price. There are other manufacturers whose products appear to offer better short-term bang for the buck (i.e. low initial price) but I concluded that if anything ever went wrong with those units they’re basically throw-aways. Flagship uses top notch parts and they’re serviceable with parts you can buy at your local HVAC supplier. So I ordered a 9kBTU unit for the V-berth, 12kBTU for the aft stateroom, and 16kBTU for the salon. Both the V-berth unit and the one in the aft stateroom will be ducted to contribute to salon/galley cooling, since the salon is what tends to get hottest on these boats. I also went with 220v units with integral heater coils rather than reverse cycle heat. Where we keep the boat, reverse cycle only works for a couple of months of the year, and with my 42′ Commander and previous 52′ Constellation, we  schlep oil-filled radiant heaters on board during the winter. With these integral heat coils, we should be plenty warm in fall and winter without annoying radiator heaters.

The 9kBTU unit is apparently not commonly ordered, so they had to make that one up special. Flagship also indicated that they were swapping out the standard compressor on the 18kBTU unit, so there was a bit of a production delay there. None of that bothered me, given how much time it will take before the boat’s ready to splash. Six weeks after ordering, a large box appeared on my doorstep.

Pretty little things, and well packaged, too!

Getting the 9kBTU unit up the ladder and into the V-berth wasn’t too bad

The AC shelf in the V-berth

Looks good!

The ducting will go something like this

Flagship recommended MSI Products for ducting and outlet grills. The diverters are slick. Inside the Y is a rigid flap that you can adjust with detents into the circular dots you see in the pic above, directing more air in the direction of the longer run that will have more resistance.

Unfortunately, it was around this time I found a couple of niggling points on this AC unit.

The problem areas on the top side are the raw water inlet and the blower outlet

Insufficient clearance for double-wall raw water hose

The raw water inlet is oriented very close to that little capillary tube. I’m using Shields 200 Series no wire water hose, which is a proper, double-walled hose. I’ve used the single-walled hose before, but it always reminds me of garden hose. I’ve never had a problem with the 100 Series, single-wall hose failing, but for this boat I don’t want to have any problems, and I’d prefer to use the higher quality hose. Flagship responded on this issue and indicated that they spec these out for single-wall hose and indicated it’s OK to gently push the capillary tube out of the way. But I can’t install the 200 Series hose on this inlet without snipping the wire ties and relocating the capillary tube, which is up against the stainless evaporator housing. It’s not a big problem, but the copper water inlet has plenty of room on the other side. Leaving an extra 1/8″~3/16″ gap at the factory would have avoided the issue.

No place to put 2 of the 4 plenum mounting screws

The two screw holes at the top of the blower outlet in the pic above are easy to access. But the lower two have…issues. The one on the left sits directly on the stainless evaporator housing. Now, maybe I can drill into it without hitting any vital parts, but without partially disassembling the unit it’d be a blind drill…very risky! On the right side, the hole is directly over the copper heat exchanger tube. There’s actually just enough space between the two that if a bolt had been installed before the unit was assembled and tacked in place, there wouldn’t be an issue. Flagship’s response here was that they’d discuss this with the production line, and that drilling a hole in a different spot on the right side should suffice. But I’m not keen on having to drill holes in brand new equipment that’s powder coated for corrosion protection. Sure, I can apply touch up paint, but these things aren’t cheap…so the work-arounds I’ll have to do are just a bit disappointing. But Flagship did commit to addressing these issues on the factory floor, so I give them credit for that.

The final niggle: bolt heads on the underside protrude

The Flagship installation/instruction manual doesn’t mention that rubber isolators are required to install their air conditioners. But the round heads for the carriage bolts that secure the compressor to the base stick out on the bottom side, so you’ve got to elevate them somehow. You can’t mount them directly to the plywood. The AC units in my other Chris Crafts all attached directly. Now, in retrospect, I can imagine some potential benefits to mounting these on rubber, but since they don’t supply the isolators and since the manual didn’t mention them I hadn’t gone looking for them.  If I was ready to head out on a cruise once these were installed, it’d be frustrating to have to wait while I located isolators to finish the install.

I don’t want to give the impression that Flagship’s product is inferior with these few observations I’ve made. They’re very nice and with the exception of these few niggling points they appear to be very robust. The fact that they can be repaired with off-the-shelf parts could be a big help one day, and I like the idea of integral heater coils. And I’m also glad to hear the company raised the issues with the production floor. I suspect that once the units are fired up and working, I’ll have completely forgotten about these niggling points.

OH! And another thing! I mentioned a couple of times that I was having trouble finding one of my 2″ Schedule 80, straight-threaded raw water stand pipes for my Cummins main propulsion engines. I’d gone through the boat stem to stern several times, and rummaged through my garage (which is packed full of all sorts of stuff) trying to find the thing. I’d about given up hope when, over recent weeks when the temps were way below freezing, I decided to organize my garage, sell some compressors and other redundant tools on Craigslist, when I found the long-lost stand pipe!

GOTCHA, ya little bugger!

Now that I’ve got both of them, I can weld them in and finish the raw water supply installation. Then, the only remaining engine system I need to finish is the engine room fuel lines!

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Salon Entryway Panels

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Last Galley Pantry Panels

It warmed up for a few days, but over the weekend temps once again crashed below freezing. It’s snowing outside now and the Potomac River is still frozen over. But I did manage to get the last galley pantry panels cut before my kerosene heater ran out of fuel over the weekend. Gotta remember to bring a jerry can of kero next weekend!

Galley pantry #1

Pantry #2, with a big step down to the right, where pantry #3 needs to go

First, I built up the floor

Next I installed 1″ x 1″ mahogany cleats

The straight edge shows me where the plywood base panel should stick out to, so it aligns with all of the others.

Next, I put in the upright cleats that the back panel will attach to

It might seem easy, screwing sticks to plywood panels. But the thing is, nothing is square here…so nothing is easy. If I just made square or rectangular box cabinets, like you’d see in a house, it would be easy. I could even buy them pre-made at a big box retailer. BUT, I’d lose relatively huge amounts of storage space that the missus tells me is essential. To maximize storage, I’m trying to keep the back panels as close to the hull as possible. The hull is curved here, so the cabinet depth varies from side-to-side and top-to-bottom. The cleats need to be installed just so AND they have to be cut on a bevel, otherwise the plywood panels won’t lie flat on them. I’m sure it’d be easy for a pro, but you’d be surprised how long it takes for a weekend woodworker like me to get eight cleats attached in the right spots.

Bottom panel fits well

That one little tiny panel took me 30 minutes to cut and fit.

45 minutes later, the back panel fits pretty good

Getting the top panel cleats installed took another hour

Though you normally wouldn’t use a level on a boat that’s floating, I can use a level for cabinetmaking because I check the level of the whole boat about once a year. Once the floors are level, everything built on the floors can be checked for level, too.

Upper cleats are dry fitted

In the pic above, it looks like the cleats are part of an M.C. Escher print. But, in fact, the bottom surfaces of the sticks are all on the same plane.

30 minutes later, the upper panel is close to fitting

After a few more slices, it fits pretty good!

I just need to bevel the back edge a bit to close that joint

I’ve used my Shopsmith jointer before to bevel plywood panels

Unfortunately, the HHS jointer blades Shopsmith requires don’t hold up when jointing plywood edges

The jointer blades held up well enough to finish the panel. And since that was the last of the pantry panels to fit, the next step was to disassemble the whole thing and take the panels in for refinishing someplace warm.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Flagship Marine Air Conditioners Have Arrived