Bowsprit replacement project

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  • June 08, 2012 6:34 AM
    Message # 958152
    After 8 months I finally received the wood to replace my bowsprit.  Total cost for the wood & lamination, $300. Total cost to get it shipped from Pennsylvania to my doorstep in Guatemala $590.  Maybe the high shipping cost is due to them sending me a 12' piece and not the 10' length I specified (my original bowsprit is 9'6").

    I dunno but the $490 to get it trucked from Pennsylvania to Miami seemed high.  In fact, I was later informed the final bill for shipping to the lumberyard was $771 (fortunately the lumberyard honored their quote and I didn't have to pay the extra).

    I suppose it was worth it though because it is some beautiful wood (clear, vertical grain kiln dried Douglas fir).

    After removing the old bowsprit and examining it I found much more dry rot than I suspected in areas not visible while it was in place.  Bud was right...  it would very much likely have been a rig losing proposition had I tried to sail in almost any wind.

    I (or rather my helper/worker) just finished tapering the 'blank'.  Today we're going to shape the end for the end cap and drill the hole for the bow tang, staysail boom neck, anchor rollers and bow platform. 

    Next step after today is to treat the the wood with thinned West Systems Epoxy followed by a coat or two of white Interlux Interprotect 2000E, a 2 part epoxy 'barrier coating' intended to seal & protect against blisters.  All that should provide 'bulletproof' protection against any/all future elements.

    Once it is ready to install the rest of the holes needed (sampson post, thru deck wedge, etc.) will be done once the bowsprit is in place and using the bow tang to correctly position the bowsprit.

    So far its really not been a hard job, just really 'involved'.

    Last modified: June 08, 2012 6:39 AM | Anonymous member
  • June 08, 2012 6:44 AM
    Reply # 958162 on 958152
    Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Hi Mike: 
    One thought is that if you use a "clear" finish - you will be able to see the potential rot and fix whereas an opaque finish will hide any future issues... just a thought. 

    Fair winds
  • June 09, 2012 8:09 AM
    Reply # 959095 on 958162
    That is an excellent point and one I am definitely taking under consideration.  Given the extent of the damage I found after removal I have to think the White (epoxy) paint on my old bowsprit indeed hid damage. It was only when the paint (as well as wood) started flaking off due to dry rot underneath that I discovered the damage occuring.  By then it was far too late to effect any minor repair/scarfing.

    However, I also believe the problem was exacerbated by three things:

    1. I left my hank on jib bag stowed on the bowsprit. Similar to what happened to my tiller the constant 'soaking wetness' from rain was the perfect environment for dry rot to occur.  I should have known better as I had to replace my tiller because I'd lashed it to the gallows with some folded cloth as a 'chafe guard'.  The cloth got/stayed wet during the rainy season and caused the softer mahogany laminates (only) next to the rag to rot.  Note to others: don't do that.

    2. Other than re-painting it a couple years ago I doubt the underlying wood had ever been treated...'impregnated' with epoxy.  Once the surface protection was compromised (anchor beating against it, failing caulking under the backing washers, etc.) water wicked under the paint and thus trapped, started the dry rot  (ergo your excellent point about using a 'clear' surface coat.). I plan to take great care in 'soaking' not only the exterior surface with low viscosity epoxy but the drilled holes as well.

    3. Last but not least is the discovery that my old bowsprit appears to be made of laminated pine.  I'm fairly sure it is the original since I had to cut the end of the bowsprit off to remove the end cap because it was still 'glued' to the wood with Dolphinite.  The appearance of the wood, aroma & 'sticky pitch' of the sawdust (and chips from digging it out of the end cap) made us conclude it was plain ol Pine (Bud want to chime in here?).  Point being, Pine is a soft wood that I'd think very prone to dry rot in wet/humid environments anyway.

    Had I known pretty much 'any' wood would have sufficed I might have been able to save considerable money when sourcing replacement wood. Or maybe even sourced it locally. And/or not having to take 6-8 months to even find a source for clear, kiln dried vertical grain Douglas Fir (that in addition would ship it to me).  I simply followed the build plans specifying either Douglas Fir or Philippine Mahogany.

    That said, now that I have it I'm extremely pleased with the quality and appearance of the replacement wood.  That alone might be cause enough not to cover it up with opaque paint :)

    Whatever I end up doing, either way I have to think it'll last longer than me.

  • June 09, 2012 4:44 PM
    Reply # 959395 on 958152
    If it was the factory built bowsprit, it would have been fir or mahogany.  If it has been replaced by some owner, then who knows what wood was used.
  • June 10, 2012 5:11 AM
    Reply # 959744 on 958152
    Thanks Bud... That's good to know.  I'm 99.99% sure it was the original factory bowsprit.  The 'nose' for the end cap was just too perfectly round (how they do that, lathe?) and the dolphinite too uniform to have been done by some previous owner.

    Took me all day yesterday just to get the edges routed, knock off the sharp corners.  You would think in a country where everyone is a 'carpenter' (mainly because they own a hammer and a saw) there would be a router within 25 sq miles of me.  Not necessarily so.  But I finally got it done.

    Thank goodness all the 'heavy lifting' is done. It's been in the 90's here with 90+% humidity.  A neighbor just returning from Canada suffered heat exhaustion pumping/putting his new dinghy in the water.  I'm a bit more acclimated but I have to jump in a cold shower every couple hours to reduce my 'core' heat.

    So today (Sunday) it's just sanding and hopefully I can apply the first coat of West Systems Epoxy.

  • June 17, 2012 7:31 AM
    Reply # 974813 on 958152

    Don't check here often, but just saw your post.  I just had a one piece fir bowsprit lumber sent to florida from washington state for 180 bucks.  I wish I would have known you were in need, I could have helped you.

    The lumber was 65 bucks.  going to put it on the next time I am down at the boat.  It is sitting at a friend's garage in orlando.

    Keep us posted on your progress.  keep dousing yourself with cool water!

    sv Jasmine
  • June 18, 2012 10:53 AM
    Reply # 975727 on 974813


    For future reference don't do that.... tell someone after the fact 'I wish I had known, I coulda saved you $1000 bucks easy'. 

    Just kidding.  Actually I kinda felt all along the lumberyard (FYI, Middletown lumber in Penn) was gouging me but after searching for months What could I do? They were the only yard I found that apparently a) had the Fir and b) was willing to crate it up and ship it to me.  I was getting desperate and I think they knew they had me by the gonads.  I didn't think the wood itself was that expensive ($300 for 4"X5"X12' of pressure laminated kiln dried clear vertical grain Fir) but the shipping was crazy expensive for what reason I'll never know. That is where I think they 'padded' the bill. Your shipping is more what I would have expected (and 'verified' by others having similar shipments va truck). Oh well... it is what it is.

    The bowsprit itself is done (except for a final finish) and I could probably have it all back together in a day or so but I have now entered the 'Snowball Phase'. You know, the part where you think 'well, while I've got this apart I might as well do this/that'.  Little stuff actually... polish all the stainless, rewire the bow lights on the pulpit, lay a few more coats of varnish on the platform & Sampson posts, repaint the windlass, etc..

    I'm still trying to decide whether to leave the finish clear or paint it white like my last one.  It makes absolute sense to leave it 'clear' so as to detect any problems early but it's just not aesthetically pleasing to the eye... it just looks weird as the only light colored wood on the boat and especially in contrast with the (darker teak) platform.
    Last modified: September 03, 2012 5:44 AM | Anonymous member
  • September 02, 2012 8:26 AM
    Reply # 1062783 on 958152
    DONE!  Whew... what a project.  Not complicated, just involved as other things tended to 'creep' into the base project (what I call the 'snowball effect').  Here are a couple lessons I learned 'The Hard Way' for those of you that are currently replacing their bowsprit.

    1. Instead of measuring the distance between the holes for mounting the platform, use the platform itself as a guide.  If at all possible drill the holes with a drill press.  I measured the distance by 'hand', double checked numerous times and hand drilled the holes.  When it came to final assembly (after treating with West system Epoxy & painting the bowsprit) the platform just didn't want to fit.  Trust me, it doesn't take much error at all in any of the holes for the three lengths of all-thread to become truly cantankerous when fitting the platform to the bowsprit (I could get any two of the all-thread to work but not all three, or one side but not the other).  I ended up having to 'adjust' all three holes (then re-treat with epoxy) before I could assemble the platform to the bowsprit.  Not much to really matter but it did fight me tooth & nail all the way.

    2. I replaced the wedge 'spacer' under the bowsprit as the original one was far too old/gone.  Again, the replacement was 'exactly' like the original (as measured) with two exceptions: I widened it to the width of the bowsprit (4") to eliminate the 'gap' behind the winch supports and lengthened it to the aft end of the bowsprit. I did this because all the gaps & 'pockets' created by the narrower/shorter wedge made it hard to keep dirt/gunk out of the spaces (plus making it easier to maintain the caulking. See below).

    When dropping the bowsprit into position it fell right into place...  Just touching the bow tang (with a 2" SS flat washer between sprit & tang) and resting nice & flat on the spacer. Although the angle of the spacer was *exactly* the same and I placed the replacement in the 'exact' position of the original spacer when I began re-rigging the bobstay and whisker stays were too short (by an inch plus) and the forestay/staysail stay was too long (!!!).  Not enough to need new rigging or turnbuckles but the lesson learned was the wedge spacer (dimensions & placement) is *critical*.  It couldn't have been measurably off by +/- 1/4" but it was enough to initially think I had a true disaster on my hands.  Fortunately the turnbuckles had enough remaining play to accommodate the resulting gap,  My conclusion is the new wedge angle wasn't as precise as I thought and/or I must have not placed the spacer in precisely the same position fore/aft as the original.  And again, trust me...  even 'misplacing' the spacer even a minimal amount it couldn't have been off +/- 1/2 degree for the fore end of the bowsprit to be raised enough to alter the dimensions/lengths needed for the bobstay & whisker stays.  I must say, for a time there I really thought I was screwed :)

    3. General lessons learned.  I had to replace the bowsprit due to dry rot.  My own fault having left my hank-on jib/bag 'stowed' on the bowsprit.  During the monsoon season the bag stayed wet and thus created the perfect environment for dry rot.  However, having dug into the project I also discovered similar damage to the caprail, wedge/spacer, anchor locker bulkhead, etc.. All due to not paying attention to caulking.  Again, my fault but because it is 'hard' to get to all the places needed it is easy to put off maintaining all the various gaps/holes/nooks & crannies etc. found in/around the bow & bowsprit.  Thus, my final 'trust me'... pay regular attention to that area or you might be like me and find yourself having to replace a very critically 'structural' element of your Westsail. 

    Finally, I have much respect for the original Costa Mesa builders for putting all the Westsails together with the precision they did.

    Bottom line though, after all the headaches, cost, work, etc. my new bowsprit looks gorgeous.
    Last modified: September 03, 2012 5:43 AM | Anonymous member
  • September 02, 2012 12:50 PM
    Reply # 1062887 on 958152


    You gotta remember these boats were not built with the precision and calculations to make it to the moon.  Only around this world.

  • September 03, 2012 4:48 AM
    Reply # 1063271 on 958152
    Deleted user
    Well said Bud. Whether sailing one or working on one, it's more of an art than a science.
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