1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing the Starboard Salon Bilge Vent Duct

I’m happy with the way the starboard salon bilge vent duct is turning out. A fiberglass duct is a far better approach than the pressboard and painted mahogany that Chris Craft used. It only took another weekend to wrap that up. But I’d rather spend time now to do it right than to have to fix water damage in the future.

The panels are dry-fitted

Next, I need mahogany cleats for the insulated ceiling panel to butt up against.

The ceiling cleats will be perpendicular to the cabinet wall

Fitting upright panels over the engine room main vent

The ceiling panel

Not a bad fit

Good and tight

Disassemble everything, then seal the faces with epoxy

Next day, cleats get glued and screwed in place

I wet out the surfaces then apply a bead of epoxy thickened with wood flour as the glue.

Insulated wall panel is installed

I’m using Sikaflex 291 LOT to seal the duct face panel.

Lots of sealant all the way up to the vent hole

The face panel comes up from the engine room

The panel is too long to be slid in from the salon. But there’s plenty of room coming up from the ER.

Lookin’ good!

Fully sealed and waterproof vent duct

Upright panels over the main ER vent are installed and ready for more ceiling cleats

That’s one more bilge duct that’s wrapped up. There’s one more in the salon, and four in the aft stateroom. I’ve just got to keep knocking them out one-by-one.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing the Starboard Engine Room Main Vent panel


1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Starboard Salon Bilge Vent Duct

I keep hearing from the mobile paint and fiberglass repair guy that the estimate for repairs for the big Nor’easter damage is almost done. But…alas…I’ve still not received it. So I continue working on weatherproofing the bilge and engine room vents on the starboard side of the salon.

Chris Craft’s approach to bilge vents

What we have here is two 3/4″ solid mahogany boards on either side, with 1/8″ fiberboard for the face and back. I don’t know where this one came from, but I removed it a decade ago  because it was failing when we began this project. For some reason, Chris Craft put a piece of 3/4″ plywood over the top of part of the fiberboard on this particular bilge vent. It’s all sealed up with what looks like grey primer and held together with rubbery sealant and some bronze staples. I’m sure it worked fine for ten years or so, but it’s got its problems.

Fiberboard really stuck in some spots

When I pulled the fiberboard off the mahogany, you can tell the rubbery sealant really stuck on the spots where it left some fiberboard behind. But you can also see where the rubbery sealant didn’t stick to the mahogany at all.

Bronze staples are still holding fast 50 years later

The side of the fiberboard that faced the weather

Again, you can see where the sealant really stuck, and where it didn’t stick at all.

Now let’s look at that starboard salon forward bilge vent

I left the forward vent duct in place because it looked like it was in serviceable shape. Turns out it wasn’t in quite as good shape as I first thought.

Moldy white paint on the outside

But up at the top, just behind the longitudinal deck frame, you can see daylight through the pressboard

I’m glad I took off the face panel

Lots of gaps at the top

So, in addition to the hole in the salon-facing pressboard face panel, you can see that the back panel isn’t even touching the mahogany side board. The gray primer/sealant is also gone from the mahogany in spots. And at the toe rail, the rubber sealant is only there for appearance’s sake, apparently. There’s no actual contact between the rubber sealant and the pressboard.

I considered removing the duct and rebuilding it, but the mahogany sides are very firmly attached to the underside of the deck. So I decided to fiberglass what’s there instead.

First, rough up the surface and remove anything that isn’t well adhered

I also confirmed that I can use sticks up against the hull to press the back panel into full contact with the mahogany sides.

Ready for epoxy and fiberglass

Wetted out glass cloth and epoxy thickened with cabosil

I spread a bunch of epoxy out on a piece of scrap shrink wrap plastic, then laid on a sheet of lightweight fiberglass cloth to soak it up. While the ‘glass was still soaking, I wetted out the duct with epoxy

Epoxy thickened with fumed silica to the consistency of whipped cream

Thickened epoxy fills every gap and corner

Longtime readers will know what came next, after I jammed sticks in to force the back panel into contact with the side panels.


I do love my fillets. They look nice and also give a radius to the corners, which makes it easier for the fiberglass cloth to have full contact, and water won’t find any nooks or crannies to hang out in and cause havoc.

Next, I laid on the fiberglass cloth

Next day, the epoxy is cured

The duct needs a face panel

I’m using 1/4″ Douglas fir marine plywood for all of the duct face panels I’m making. I cover them with a layer of fiberglass on the weather-facing side to ensure they’re watertight.

I need to install an insulated panel to the left of the duct, too

Framing out the backing cleats

Next day, the epoxy on the panels is cured

Excess fiberglass trimmed off nicely

Duct panel marked off for screw holes

Countersunk screw holes every 6″

The insulated panel needed a bit of trimming to fit


Just about ready for installation

Dry fit is done

These panels are behind the electric panel, so I’m not terribly concerned about appearance.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing the Starboard Salon Bilge Vent Duct

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Starboard Engine Room Vent Panel

To get the boat waterproof, I need to do some work on the ducts between the mahogany toe rail and the engine room. I did that on the port side of the salon already. I started on the starboard side by cleaning out the space and then waterproofing the main ER vent panel.

The starboard main ER vent

Chris Craft used pressboard panels to enclose the main air intake vents to the engine room. Not surprisingly, water comes in through the gill vents on the outside of the hull, and water does bad things to pressboard. I decided to use 1/4″ marine-grade Douglas fir plywood instead of pressboard, and put a heavy coat of epoxy on it before screwing the panels in place. As with the port side, I want to extend the lower edge of the panel further down than Chris Craft did so it goes fully below the salon subfloor and framing. If any water gets in, it’ll run all the way down below the salon floor and drop into the bilge.

The OE flexible hose for the ER vent fan is a bit…worn

The vent fan itself still works fine, but the housing has some broken tabs

Inside the cabinet, looking forward

Inside the cabinet, looking aft

The ER vent panels are out

Ready for fiberglass

The small 3/4″ thick plywood panel in the pic above will be used in winter to block off the exterior gill vent and keep cold air out.

Wetted out with epoxy and covered with lightweight fiberglass cloth

Trimming off the excess fiberglass

If you look closely at the face of the plywood, you can see cracks in the veneer. Those cracks had telegraphed through the heavy coat of epoxy I put on a few years ago. This time around, I used US Composite’s 635 epoxy, which is less viscous than the 150 series stuff I used the first time. It wicks in much better, and no cracks telegraphed through the fiberglass layer.

New extension panels installed and topped with fiberglass

Next day, the excess fiberglass got trimmed

Upper panel gets a layer of fiberglass

I’ll leave the ER vent panels to cure for a while and get busy on the other bilge vents on the starboard side.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Starboard Salon Bilge Vent Duct

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing the Last Varnished Mahogany Panels in the Forward Salon Cabinet

I decided a while back to shift from closing up bilge vent ducts and start using up the remaining 1/8″ mahogany plywood. There was one 4′ x 8′ sheet and a bunch of big cut-offs, and I was getting sick of moving them around to get to other stuff. Fortunately, there was just enough of that plywood to veneer the OEM cabinets in the galley and salon. I finished the galley cabinet interior first, then wrapped up the aft salon cabinet (which I think turned out really nicely). Next I wrapped up the forward salon cabinet.

The salon forward cabinet before the veneers

The same cabinet interior with a mahogany floor and back panel

Chris craft didn’t make a closed cabinet box here, so you can see the hull from inside the cabinet. Since I’m trying to create an insulated envelope in the living spaces, I need to make an interior wall panel for that cabinet and then insulate the backside using R3 Buffalo Batt before installing it.

New outer cabinet wall

Framing out the new wall attachment points

Because there is a vent fan in this space, the wall I’m making will need to be removable just in case the fan needs service sometime in the future.

Test fit looks OK

Upper panel fits tightly to the wiring without pinching

As you can see, I didn’t bother with veneering the parts of the cabinet that aren’t visible unless your head is inside of it. I don’t feel it’s necessary to buy another sheet of mahogany just to make practically invisible parts of this cabinet pretty.

Backside of the panels got insulated

I also saturated the panel edges with epoxy to fully seal them. There’s little chance of water ever getting in to this panel, but I want to be consistent throughout the refit so I don’t get surprised with a panel failure sometime down the road.

Cleats and the panels are ready to install

As with everywhere else, I’m using epoxy to glue and then screw the cleats in place. Once it cures, they’re much more rigidly attached than when you only use screws.

Test fit the mahogany veneer panels on the newly installed wall

After wetting out the plywood with epoxy and then applying a bit of wood flour-thickened epoxy, I used a bunch of sticks and plywood scraps to press the panels in place.

Pressing the inner and outer mahogany veneers in place while the epoxy cures

Next day, the sticks come out

Last up: the shelf


The hole you see at the top of the mahogany panel in the cabinet is the opening for the 1968 Edison brand toaster that was on the boat when we started this whole thing. I sent the toaster off for rechroming a few years back, and it’s a real thing of beauty. I look forward to the day when I install it.

Anyway, that’s a wrap for the OEM cabinet interiors. I only have to make fiddles to cover the leading edges of the plywood shelves and install the doors, which are already sprayed in ICA base and top coat clear urethane. Next, I’m going to start on the starboard side of the salon.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Removing the Original Electric Panel

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing More Varnished Mahogany Panels in the Aft Salon Cabinet

The OEM galley cabinet interior is done. The forward salon cabinet interior is almost done. So I installed a half dozen mahogany veneer panels in the salon aft cabinet to wrap that one up.

Lotsa mahogany panels to install

The 1/8″ mahogany plywood is down to just a few small scraps. The plywood stack in the salon is getting smaller every week. When it’s gone, the Roamer interior should be done. Boooyah.

Wetting out panels with epoxy

Installing the panels in the cabinet

Truth be told, I pretty much ran out of 1/8″ mahogany plywood. So I had to use three leftover scraps to make the last interior panel inside the lower aft cabinet. I was able to match the grain pretty well, and the seams turned out just fine. If anybody ever notices this, I’m going to either give them a beer (if they’re friendly about it) or toss ’em off the boat for being too picky. 🙂

Last panels are clamped in place

After pressing the veneers in place, I wiped the joints down with alcohol to remove the epoxy that squeezed out. Then I used F-clamps and plywood scraps to keep pressure on the panels while the epoxy cures. To the right of the cabinet is the helm service chase, where all of the wiring, cables, and hydraulic lines run. There are cover panels that go over the open space you can see in the pic, and like everything else they were painted white.

You can see part of the white helm chase panels in this “before” pic

Not exactly pretty, eh?

Clamping mahogany veneers to the helm service chase cover panels

Cutting out the stereo hole

Looking good!

There was also a narrow strip of white paint just inside the cabinet, too

Clamp the last veneers in place then go home and let the epoxy cure

Next day, the clamps came off and I installed the service chase panels

The stereo panel went in nicely.

The cabinet will look even better with the doors reinstalled…someday.

And finally, the upper chase panel is installed

I need to install a fiddle to cover the leading edge of the plywood shelf, then install the doors. Other than those little details, the aft salon cabinet is a wrap.

I cover finished areas in corrugated paper for protection

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing the Last Varnished Mahogany Panels in the Forward Salon Cabinet

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing Varnished Mahogany Panels in the Galley Cabinet

I’m on a roll with these cabinet interiors. There was a bit of a learning curve on the salon aft cabinet, but the salon forward one was a relative breeze. The galley cabinet is the most complex, though. There are lots of pieces and they only fit in the one spot each one was fitted to…nothing on this boat’s square!

The ugly galley cabinet

I roughed up the interior with a grinder and corner sander

Wetting out all the panels with epoxy

Just a couple of panels left

Varnished panels warp

I’ve learned that thin mahogany plywood warps when you put varnish on only one side. Even perfectly flat panels get a wow to them if you varnish one side. It’s not bad with urethane-based varnish, like the Minwax Spar Varnish I’m using here. They get a real banana in them when I used water-based Minwax urethane (which I’ll never do again). So once the panels and cabinet interiors were nicely wetted out with epoxy, I troweled on just a bit of wood flour-thickened epoxy as glue, pushed the panels into position, wiped up the joints with alcohol, then clamped everything in place.

Maximum clampage

Next day, F-clamps for the leading edge of the next panel

The 1/8″ plywood scraps also make good push sticks for places where conventional clamps don’t work. They’ve got just the right amount of spring.

More clamps for the last of the galley cabinet interior panels

With everything clamped in place, I headed home and came back the next day.

Clamps off!

Good lookin’ cabinet!

All I need to finish these panels are two solid mahogany fiddles to cover the leading edge of the shelves. That’s a super low priority that I’ll deal with after the boat splashes … someday.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing More Varnished Mahogany Panels in the Aft Salon Cabinet

1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing Varnished Mahogany Panels in the Forward Salon Cabinet

The salon aft cabinet looks a lot better with mahogany veneer panels installed in the interior. The forward salon cabinet turned out pretty good, too.

The forward cabinet is under the galley counter

First I roughed it up with a grinder

That mahogany plywood inside is very pretty. Too bad Chris Craft slathered white paint on it.

3/4″ Douglas fir marine plywood is wetted out with epoxy, then topped with wood flour-thickened epoxy

The interior of these cabinets are framed out with 1″x1″ mahogany cleats that are also painted white. I’m using the Doug fir plywood to raise the floor of the cabinet so the mahogany plywood veneer will cover the cleats.

Wetting out the mahogany plywood with US Composites 635 epoxy

Next, I applied epoxy to the cabinet interior

Every stick serves a purpose

After installing all of the panels and pressing them into place, I wiped down the joints to remove any epoxy that squeezed out. Then I used plywood scraps as springy braces to keep pressure on the panels. It looks like a Rube Goldberg contraption, but every single stick serves a purpose.

Next day…good lookin’ cabinet!

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing Varnished Mahogany Panels in the Galley Cabinet