Deck organizer install
23 January 2008 | Port Louis
The deck organizer installation was a challenge much like the rope clutch installation. If we drilled a hole in the deck it was going to come out right in the middle of the leather finished saloon roof. I like to see backing plates on everything, yet installing a backing plate in this application was going to be messy because the interior ceiling here had not only the foam/fiberglass liner but also a piece of ply covered in leather every few feet. The organizers needed to be installed in a spot that would cover a leather slat, a bare spot and another leather slat. After looking into the structural makeup of the internal headliner we discovered that none of this stuff is structural and thus could not support a backing plat anyway.
After considering many options I decided to leave the interior untouched. The approach we took was to mark the deck where the organizer bolts would need to be installed, hole saw out the top skin enough to be able to clear out the foam core in the general vicinity, and then replace the core with epoxy and high strength filler. This attached the inner fiberglass skin to the top skin with a solid core of epoxy creating a strong and incompressible area of the deck. When pouring in the epoxy we set in the bolts with nuts and washers attached so that the nuts and washers would become a permanent part of the deck. We coated the bolts with release wax so that once the epoxy set up we could remove the bolts and cut them to size so that they were secure in the nuts and pressing firmly down on the deck organizers.
Brent and I installed the port side first. We used various tools to clear the core out from around the bolt holes but a bent nail in the cordless drill seemed to work well. Once we had the four holes cleaned out we layered in the West System epoxy/404 blend in half inch batches. This kept the temperature under control as the mixture kicked off. Once set up we removed the bolts and taped up the holes to protect the installation from the inevitable over night rain and let the whole thing cure for 24 hours. After curing we installed the deck organizers with 5200 bedding and used the Harken isolator washers to protect the organizers from the stainless washers holding everything down with bolts.
The starboard installation required one do over. When cleaning the core out on this side we discovered that a screw driver worked very well also and we ended up creating one large hole connecting all four bolt areas, instead of four separate holes as was the case to port. Unfortunately due to the slant of the deck, the epoxy mix amount that was fine on the other side all ran down into the lowest hole this time, making a pool about an inch and a half thick. Anyone who knows epoxy knows that an inch and a half with standard hardener is going to get really hot really fast. We rapidly cleaned out the epoxy as it vulcanized itself. Our second, much slower pass on this side worked out perfectly.
In the end we had two sheets of fiber glass connected by a solid plug of epoxy with perfectly threaded holes and embedded lock nuts against the bottom skin. Initially I wanted a through bolted solution with backing plates but ultimately this installation seems to be effectively equivalent. The bolt would have to rip out the entire epoxy plug to tear a nut free, much as it would with a backing plate. You could argue that the lower skin is not in play but it is epoxied to the entire assembly and it is fairly thin anyway. On the other hand the lateral strength of the assembly is impressive and this is the strength required by a deck organizer. Only someone accidentally tripping over the organizer would threaten to pull it up through the deck. The working force of the lines will be a lateral load. The bolts act as cemented studs keeping the organizer from slipping sideways, and the epoxied plug allows both layers of glass to contribute to the systems stability.
We installed the organizer so that the lines run as close to straight back as possible. The main sheets barely touch the sheaves which is great because they are always under load when sailing. The lines from the mast do have a bit of deflection but are still pretty fair. Once finished I was very happy with the result.