110 Cookson Lane | Whitefield, ME  04353 | 207-232-7600 |  tim@lackeysailing.com

Waanderlust Project | Monday, August 9, 2010

The light fairing compound on the hull had had plenty of cure time over the weekend, so I got started with more sanding to remove the excess.  This more or less completed the work required on the hull, though while vacuuming and cleaning afterwards inevitably I discovered a few isolated areas that I'd missed.  I marked these for later attention.


With the topsides work wrapped up for now, I repositioned the staging and sanded the deck as required, a quick process.  Now, finally, I was ready to prepare for work in other areas of the boat.  To that end, after cleaning up I applied some heavy paper to the cockpit and port sidedeck to protect against foot traffic.


I turned to the engine room bilge and fuel tank.  There was still water and debris in the depths of the bilge that I'd not yet dealt with, as my focus of late had been on the exterior of the boat, and I still needed to remove the fuel tank.  So I removed the bilge water and some heavily oil-soaked debris from the depths of the bilge, including my now well-lubricated pipe wrench that I'd dropped during engine removal a couple weeks ago.  The bottom of the bilge was as black as the inside of a witch's hat, stained by years of oil spills and non-accessibility.  (According to old boat records the owner had lent me, the Atomic 4 had been installed in 1980, and I doubted it'd been out since then.)


I actually planned to let some of the dust and debris that I'd soon be forming while sanding the interior of the hull and other spaces to act as oil desiccants on the remaining residue in the bilge, so for the moment I undertook no additional cleaning and emulsification steps; plus, I didn't want a bilge full of water at this stage, when I was about to embark on significant interior preparation work.

Over the past several weeks, I'd been considering the fuel tank.  Earlier attempts to drain it seemed to indicate that, against all odds, the tank was already empty, so I pressed on with the tank's removal.  I'd frequently wondered how the fuel fill deck plate in the cockpit sole was actually attached to the tank directly beneath; every time I thought of peering in to confirm, it seemed I was in the engine room where, despite all contortion attempts, it was simply impossible to view the tank connection at the top because of the various angles and obstructions at hand.

Now, snuggled against the tank in one of the cockpit lockers as I began to release the four brackets that held the tank in place, I could finally look directly at the tank/fill connection:  it was a solid, threaded connection; that is, the deck fill plate was threaded over a nipple in the top of the tank.  This meant I'd have to remove the deck fill plate itself in order to drop the tank out.  I didn't like my prospects of releasing the decades-old grip of the threaded fitting without a fight, but knew I'd have to undo it before I continued my other efforts to remove the tank.

I could see that the deck fill was secured to the deck with several very long machine screws, but, fortunately, no nuts.  From above, I removed three stainless steel screws, and then, with difficulty, one remaining rusty self-tapping screw that was completely stripped out, making initial removal challenging till I could grip the head enough to pull it out.

With the screws removed, I used a large pair of Channelocks to grip the slip deck plate, offered a small sacrifice to the rust Gods, and made my first attempt to unscrew the deck fitting.  Imagine my surprise when the fitting turned almost immediately, and showed all signs of continuing.  At this point, very late in the day, I decided to hold off on the final removal of the deck plate till the morning, lest I leave overnight a gaping hole into the unknown gasoline-and-vapor-contaminated tank beneath.  In the morning, I'd continue (and hopefully complete) the tank removal.


Total Time Billed on This Job Today:  7 hours

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