What To Do?

After getting Leda to Juneau we spent a year getting to know the boat and getting in a few good sailing trips.  But during that first winter I had gone down to the boat to get some sort of project done.  In those days, Leda had two bulkheads that provided a space just aft of her mast.  This space had originally contained the “lou” (reportedly the first inboard lou in Auckland to accommodate the ladies) and the wireless radio.  This may seem an odd combination but both activities required some privacy.  The bulkheads were thick and full of insulation to deaden the sound to aid the wireless operator who may have been using Morse code.  By the time Leda came to us, the lou (“toilet” for landlubbers, “head” for sailors) was still there but the rest of the space was open with the exception being a small sink opposite.  This is in the widest part of the vessel, so this represented a large space.  As a result, lots of stuff got stored there.  In the instance of my pending project, I was after my tool box.  When I found it, it was frozen to the floor.

Water inside a boat is bad no matter what the cause.  It should be noted that wooden boats don’t rot from seawater.  If you keep the marine borers out, seawater is a pretty good preservative.  Think about it, have you ever seen rotten driftwood on the beach?  Boats rot from the top down.  Not to mention the wet bunks and gear do not make for happy sailors.

So we spent the spring and summer sailing and goofing off and doing as well as possible to keep things dry below.  But something had to be done.  Leda originally had a canvas covered cabin top as one would expect.  Her deck was finished off with oil.  It looked like a traditional planked deck, except most decks do not have diagonal planking as an inner skin.  What the Wilson boys had done was to take wide kauri planks and sawn kerfs into them to give the appearance of strip planks.  These kerfs were then filled with rubbery calking to seal and provide traction on the deck.  The wide planks were nailed to the deck beams and riveted between in a fashion similar to the hull planking.   By the time Leda came to us the canvas had been removed from the cabin top and the deck and cabin had been covered with polyester resin and fiberglass cloth.  

Sometime in the years after Leda arrived in the U.S. she had been given a make-over.  I discovered a number of things dated to 1964 on board.  Her Perkins diesel engine and her refrigerator unit (miraculously still working) were both dated to ’64 by using serial numbers.  Her windlass could be traced to that era, but not pinned down precisely.  The same for her Edson binnacle, as her tiller had been replaced with a wheel.  Many of her sails could be tracked to this era by looking at who had made them.   She was owned in those days by a man named Pouteau who sailed and raced her out of San Francisco.  I suspect he was responsible for the shortened mast as well.  This is all sort of an archaeological dig.  No exact proof, but the evidence is that a lot of effort had gone into “upgrading” the boat.  So I don’t know exactly when the fiberglass was added to the deck and cabin, I’m comfortable with the estimate.

In the 60s, fiberglass was new and space-aged stuff.  It was probably seen as permanent.  It had survived well over twenty-odd years and had been on a seven year south Pacific cruise.  The problem was that when the cloth and resin were applied none of the hardware or wooden cabin trim had been removed.  Instead the canvas was cut away (in the areas that had it) and the cloth and resin were run up to any feature or piece of hardware that was bolted, screwed or nailed to the boat.  The appearance was not bad.  They had done a decent job cosmetically.  The problem being that once it started leaking, the fiberglass overlayment delaminated faster and further.  Compounding the leaking deck was its construction which could help the water travel a long distance before gravity delivered it to the interior of the boat.  As an example the fiberglass had been run up the side of the cockpit coaming and terminated at the wood cap.  As it came loose it provided a funnel for any water to get under the skin.  That was a pronounced example but this was happening everywhere on the deck and the cabin.  Even the cleats had been given this treatment.  The glass had to come off.

I once had photos of all this stuff.  I can’t find them.  The years go by and apparently my method of dumping stuff into a box and ignoring it hasn’t fared well.  But suffice to say we had to do something about the problem.  It was decided to pull the mast, haul the boat and strip her down.

Leda, circa March 1992, in West Juneau, her mast at her side

In the autumn of 1991, we pulled Leda from the water and built a cradle to hold her in a construction yard in downtown Juneau.  She spent that winter sitting out, her mast and rigging laying on blocks in the yard next to her.  I’m fairly sure when we pulled her that I really had no clue as to what I had bitten off.  Just the weather in downtown Juneau alone would prove to be a big challenge.  Her mast had been showing signs that the glue joints where giving up.  Once the compression came off the mast, it started coming apart.  About the only thing that took place that winter toward our goals was to haul out her engine for rebuild.

One of my favorite photos of Ginny, working on Leda’s bottom spring of 1992

Spring rolled around, and it was obvious we were not going to get anywhere with the program we had.  The only real bonus to having her out of the water over the winter was that her bottom paint had lifted and crazed.  When Frank Hyland had owned the boat, he was diligent about having her hauled and painted every year.  I can’t fault his determination, but the paint used was a hard bottom paint and it had built up to be about an eighth of an inch thick.  It needed to come off.  Amazingly after the winter with a few freezes, we were able to remove the bulk of it with putty knives.  We cleaned up the bottom, put some putty in seams where it was needed, and painted.  But a different plan was needed.

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