Anybody who has ever bought a new boat will know that there are always modifications that "need" to be done. If you are an engineer with an interest in DIY then the need to tinker is even greater. The Macgregor26 is built to a price and the price is affordable so the finish is, well lets call it basic.
The very first modifications to Morwenna were needed even before she hit the water since UAE Coastguard regulations require the fitting of a radar reflector and fire extinguisher. That first moment of taking a power drill to your shiney new boat is both nerve wracking and exhilarating. What could I make of this basic shell of plastic? The fire extinguisher is still in place, riveted to the cabin liner, but the aluminium bracket holding the bottom end of the radar reflector has come unglued twice now. Two-ton expoxy? It can't hold a one hundred gramme bracket in place! That will be the next thing to get a rivet through it.
My first proper modification was to connect the water ballast tank vent to atmosphere permanently. When the water ballast tank valve on the transom is opened, water rushes in but the air has to come out somewhere. The designer has placed a vent bung in the bows under the bunks - cheap and it does the job, but it's difficult to reach from the steering position and the forward vision is lousy.... This is not a new solution: drill and tap a hole next to the vent, screw and glue a nipple and plumb a hose through to the little bit of hose that drains the anchor locker. Result - no water slopping about in the vent catch basin, no rushing below to insert or remove the bung whilst drifting aimlessly through the harbour. Much more relaxed.
When you are sailing there is always stuff
everywhere. Binoculars, charts, logbook, pencils, washing up liquid, box of tissues, torch, water bottles, Gameboys, portable DVD player, DVDs, books, magazines, spinnaker, toolkits, flare box, medical box, lifejackets, waterproofs and so the list goes on. Does the average yacht have anywhere to store all that clobber? I don't know - I only have Morwenna and she definitely doesn't. Oh yes, there is storage space under the seats but can you ever find anything again? Put a Gameboy in the locker under the kids' forward berth and you might find it 20' away under the galley - if you found it at all. Organisation - that's the key. Divide and conquor! Five "Utility Shelves" (one per berth and one for the galley), one "Magazine Rack", one "Navigation Rack" and one "Binocular Rack" were imported via West Marine and installed.
Of course fixing something to the wall at home means drill a hole, slot in a wall-plug and screw the item to the wall. When the walls are a few millimetres of fibreglass with the ocean on the other side, things are a little different. Walls in most homes also tend to be flat and vertical, whereas at sea they tend to be curvey in multiple dimensions so a little thought is required. Carefully slice through the fabric liner and glue in position a suitably prefabricated chunk of wood. Wait overnight for the glue to set and then drill the required size of hole, remembering that the wood is 12mm thick, the fibreglass to which it is glued is probably less than that and Neptune is waiting on the other side. Then screw into position the required shelf and fill it with stuff
. Job done.
The next step was the fitting of a large capacity water tank. The Macgregor comes with a small camping water bag which sits rather loosely under the sink, which is where the storage for the galley is. To fill it means taking out all the plates, etc. unscrewing the jubilee clip and so on - not very convenient. The solution was chosen as a flexible water tank from Plastimo to be installed in the space beneath the seat next to the daggerboard. This would also put a bit more ballast in a useful location. As said before, the finish on the Macgregor is basic - not much attention goes into making the bilges look nice so there were fibres sticking out of the gel, sharp edges and other hazards just waiting to puncture the new tank.
First job then - in with the power sander and smooth everything off then a couple of coats of two-part epoxy paint to smooth it even more, seal it off and make it look good. With your head stuck in a locker of paint you start flying pretty quick! Make sure you ventilate...
Every water tank needs a way in and a way out. Theoretically the 1.5" top connection is supposed to be the way in for water and out for air via a deck filler but there is nothing in Morwenna behind which to hide a large hose and nowhere on the deck convenient to put a filler so I decided the large hose would be rapidly reduced in size and serve as a vent. The small hose out of the bottom of the tank would be the feed to the galley tap but would also be tee-ed to a section of hose that could be connected to the garden hose to fill and provided with a self-sealing connector to prevent leakage. After initially connecting the vent to the galley drain (with a loop and a non-return valve to prevent backflow of undesirable waste water) I decided that the position would run a strong risk of siphoning the entire contents out through the drain whilst on starboard tack. The alternative route taken was to route the vent to the ballast tank vent line. Task completed but I just need to find out where that leak is....
After smartening up the locker where the water tank is I decided that all the lockers would look nice cleaned up and painted. I also decided to fit wooden bulkheads to prevent objects 'migrating' around the bilges. Cardboard templates were cut and trimed until they fitted and then transferred to plywood which was painted and finally glued in place. A fairly thick layer of flexible 5200 was used to seal the wood in place but leave enough flex to prevent any problems with a flexing hull concentrating stress. The whole fore-locker has now been sanded and painted although I want to put a longitudinal bulkhead in to separate the two sides.
The joy of boat modifications is that they are never finished - you should see my to-do list!