CD 33 Refit: Clunck!

I was moving the rudder back and forth one day (on the hard) to check the swing, when I heard a CLUNK below the cockpit sole. I looked around and found this little beauty. This is the rudder stop that was welded to the steering bracket. It stops the quadrant from turning too far either side.

rudder stop
rudder stop

Cape Dory builders made use of generic steel in certain areas. The steering bracket and the horizontal backings for shroud pad-eyes are two such areas. When surveying a Cape Dory, these are two places to check first for corrosion. My chainplate systems were in good shape when I surveyed Sanderling for my own purchase, and still are. Just a little surface rust near the toe-rail edge. The shroud pad-eye bolts are OK. Re-bedding is important if they start to leak.

looking up at the hull-deck joint area port side

I knew from the initial survey I did that the steering bracket was corroded. So the time to deal with it had finally come. Tied to this project was a pedestal renovation and cockpit sole rebuild, since the long standing water intrusion also got into the core (see the post Get Some Sole).

pedestal leaking for many years – serious corrosion (bronze quadrant and ss wires spared)

The stock metal used in these areas was only covered with a slim coating of primer by Cape Dory builders. The leak in this area was due to either poorly bedded pedestal at build (others have suffered this condition), or movement of the pedestal over time, which compromised the caulking. Lots of water came through here. There was most likely galvanic corrosion also.

cable guides
cables coming out of pedestal – not much left of backing plate

The pedestal backing plate on these Cape Dory boats came with the Edson steering solution kit they used, and Edson calls it the cross-wire idler. It was a fairly thin piece of cheap metal in the 1980 version, and was actually a weaker link in this system than the original metal Cape Dory used to fabricate the overall steering support system.

used idler plate
what the original Edson idler plate looks like – someone selling a used one on the internet

I do not believe Edson has any of these older idler plates. They pointed me to the new versions when I inquired. They are $459 (not cheap) and made of aluminum. Edson was really only interested in selling me an entirely new system. There was no way I was going to toss out my bronze sheaves for these cheap aluminum ones.

Edson 6″ Idler $459

When I got my rotted steering bracket out it looked like they just welded the Edson idler plate onto their yard-fabricated bracket that holds three things together ( pedestal idler/backing plate, the four sheaves, and the rudder stop) . You can see below the original Edson idler plate attached to my CD fabricated steering bracket was almost entirely GONE.

rotted backing plate

The two outboard sheaves were still OK. So I had a local fabricator take the entire thing and cut away all the bad stuff, and he made a replica using stock metal for about $400 (New England area price). Down south you can probably get it done for half that.

new steering bracket

I had him embed two stainless grommets as primary wire-guides that were machined to take retaining rings, so the sheaves would mount on them as before and swivel to adjust, but could be removed. These were originally press-fit ss grommets from Edson that allowed the sheaves to swivel but made them permanently fixed to the plate. I also called for a 1/4 inch solid idler plate, and a rudder stop that would be removable for doing maintenance on the quadrant area.

there was enough room to double-up the clip rings on each, so it was snug but could still swivel

I did not get fancy with machining a swing arc for the hold-down bolts like the original Edson plate had. There was no need since it was not going to be critical to adjust the positions of these first two sheaves continually. It was easy to put the bracket in and out via the port lazarette. So I installed the sheaves on the bracket, aligned all the sheaves and wires, marked the positions of these first two sheaves, then removed the bracket and drilled the thru-bolt holes needed.

bracket near outboard sheaves was OK -so that part of the setup didn’t change

That long adjuster arc for the tie-down bolt is really only necessary if you are installing a new system (or building a new boat) and don’t know where exactly your pedestal, sheaves, and quadrant will be in relation to each other. On a boat already built, those are already fixed and won’t change. Being able to still fully adjust the second set of sheaves proved to be more than enough for fine-tuning the wire leads to the quadrant.

two coats of two-part primer

I did not feel this needed to be stainless steel fabricated either. That would have been a much higher cost and difficult to drill, modify or tweak. I gave it 2 coats of epoxy two-part primer. With proper bedding of the pedestal and leak mitigation it can last indefinitely.

first set of sheaves – clearance to swivel but will be through-bolted to exact position needed.

And obviously the pedestal had to come off to do all this. Forty year old aluminum Edson bolts are pretty much ready to break….especially with continuous water intrusion.

this one was easy…..

…but other times you gotta fight with them. If they are aluminum, which is soft, using the correct type and size of bit you can can drill the head off cleanly from above without damaging the pedestal flange. But it will not be fun if those old bolts are stainless steel. You’ll need to go at those from below, and may need to cut the nuts off with a specialized cutter or even a torch.

aluminum Edson bolts – head drills off easily.

The pedestal guard (the cockpit oh-shit handle) has these two feet to hold it in place, which were through-bolted (piercing through the steering bracket below). These are also a huge potential for leakage onto my nice new bracket, so when I redid the cockpit sole I made it thicker overall, with a synthetic core, and solid glass in those footer bolt areas, so I could get the holding power I needed for these footers using lag screws instead of through-bolts.

During a cleanup and wash-down after that cockpit sole project, I also noticed a little drip coming from one of the cockpit drains. It was not the hose connection, it was trickling down the outside of the bronze fitting, so the cockpit water was actually getting around the glassed in drain fitting. I didn’t rebuild that area of the cockpit sole, so I may be able to deal with it using caulking applied into the gel coat cracks around the drain. I’m not sure why Cape Dory glassed those in, they could have just used a typical flange thru-hull with backing nut and hose barb.

CD 33 Refit: Bottoms Up!

Forty years of new season paint applied over last years scaling paint can make quite a mess, so one of the first projects was to remove the old paint, apply a barrier coat, and start over with fresh bottom paint. It does not make sense to remove the old paint and *not* apply an epoxy barrier coat as prevention. But I know people who have skipped that part. In my opinion it is one of the best sweat equity projects you can do on a fiberglass hull, as it increases the boats value and doesn’t break the bank on materials.

pic of scaling old bottom paint
old paint just falling off (left side CD 24 Trawler, right side CD 33)

On boats where the scaling paint is just falling off in large pieces, like on Sanderling, it is relatively easy to scrape the bottom clean down to the gel-coat with my tool of choice, a scraper. But my ability to do this was dependent upon the flaking-off condition of the paint, and because I did not mind leaving her on the hard drying out for several seasons. I worked for a sailing school and was out on those boats enjoying the bay when I was not scraping.

2 sided hardened steel blade (change blades often)

If the bottom paint had been old but still sticking to the hull I would just clean, sand, and apply new paint. But with the cost of bottom paint, I can’t justify applying $120 a gallon paint to something I know it won’t stick to for even a week. I’m just feeding the fish in that case, and risking water intrusion past the gelcoat into the hull laminate.

previous refit of CD 24 Trawler – scraping bottom

For anyone who finds evidence of blistering, bulging, or de-lamination of the fiberglass, those owners may need to forcibly remove even the stubborn layers of paint in order to mitigate or diagnose. Those projects require a peeler, blaster, or solvent stripper solution. Lucky for me both my Cape Dory boats were perfect candidates for the scraping method. With these conditions (dry and scaling), all layers just come right off with one swipe of the scraper, held at just the right angle and pressure. But it is serious aerobic work. I was held up in Annapolis once on a delivery waiting for parts, and a van drove up to a 40 footer in the marina yard, four guys got out, and in two casual days they stripped the bottom clean.

kept this garb and used in when covid hit

The gel coat applied to Cape Dory boats is pretty thick both above and below, as well as the layup of the hull. But I noticed that the condition of the below waterline gelcoat on Sanderling was much poorer than that of my previous 1984 CD 24 Trawler Viola, which had been of similar age. The gel coat on the 1980 CD 33 was brittle with small divots falling out even with gentle scraping, whereas the CD 24 Trawler gel coat was very hard and smooth.

pitted gel coat after scraping – will be sealed with Interprotect 2000 system and then filled with fairing

I attribute that to build variables, or infrequent use of cheap and poorly applied bottom paint on the 33. Neither of my Cape Dory boats revealed voids or blisters once stripped, although the 24 Trawler had a couple of 2 inch round spots where the gel coat had not adhered fully to (or had separated from) the hull – mostly likely due to an air pocket when layup was applied to gel-coat. But it was solid fiberglass behind that and with zero trapped moisture. I’ve never seen a true blister on a Cape Dory hull but exposing the gel coat and fully inspecting/tapping the hull will tell you exactly what is going on (better than a moisture meter in my opinion). The sound of a void, saturated, or delaminated fiberglass is distinctly different.


Build standards were not an exact science during the recreation boating boom of the 80’s, and this is hull # 8 so she is an early one. The original owner told me she came complete in 1980 with a small 1 degree list to port which they tried to solve with lead ingots . It never worked so she still had the small list when I purchased her. But that’s nothing a little re-arranging of fresh water storage, provisions, or crew can’t fix!

scraping complete, ready for sanding

There was also a strange layer over the gel coat, under the years of paint, which seemed like a polyester resin layer. It was yellowed and in some places very adhered to the gel coat, and other places came right off. This may have been intentional at Cape Dory, or just remnants of the mold release layer the gel goat was sprayed on to. I did not find that yellow layer on my previous Cape Dory Trawler.

barrier complete
first layer of Interprotect 2000 barrier coat

The Interprotect 2000 two part epoxy system worked great for my 24 Trawler, so I used the same system. I have since begun using the Interlux two part primers for any other job that requires a good primer base (emergency tiller protection, wood priming, etc. ) Interprotect as a barrier coat on the hull can usually be built up to the required manufacturer’s thickness with three layers, so that’s what I budgeted for.

two part fairing compound over entire hull after second coat of Interprotect

These layers were alternated blue/grey/blue. The fairing goes on after the second coat, before the last epoxy layer. I used a two-part fairing compound (Total Boat from Jamestown Dist). Per Interlux, the layers of barrier coat are cured before the next goes on, and I lightly sand off the tits and wipe the hull down in between layers with mild TSP and then rinse and dry.

crysis mixer
mixing epoxy – for CD 33 it came out to 1 1/3 gal of product per coat (4 gal total)

The final layer of barrier coat and the first layer of bottom paint need to be fused. That’s called hot-coating the first layer of bottom paint. This requires doing the last barrier and first bottom coat both on the same day. While the last coat of epoxy is still tacky to the touch, you start rolling on your bottom paint (you need to work fast if the ambient temp is 75 or above otherwise the last barrier coat dries before you get all the first coat bottom paint on) . I have found ablative bottom paint to work well and not break the bank, so I went with ACT.

finished bottom
ready for an early splash in April 2021

The fairing compound was an extra step but I’m glad I did that, the bottom is very smooth and consistent, will be easier to clean mid-season, and might even give me fraction of a knot more of speed while I dodge the foil boats in Newport Harbor out to break the sound barrier!

minion #1
thanks to my #1 minion (helped me avoid a real life cry-sis)

1980 Cape Dory 33 Sanderling

I purchased Sanderling in 2011 from the original family who had ordered her from Cape Dory in 1980. Aside from the fact that she was a Cape Dory with lovely lines, teak joinery below, and blue-water able, there were a few other points that interested me. She had been updated with a Yanmar diesel, which I had experience with and preferred over others.

splash for sea trial and purchase

Previously I owned and refitted a Cape Dory 24 Trawler (see Viola refit post). The Trawler was my first real boat. I had looked at many Cape Dory, Allied, and other boats back in 2006 before eventually buying the CD 24 Trawler instead of a sailboat. It was a say day when I sold Viola, but I was pretty psyched to trade up to a larger boat that could potentially sail anywhere.The owners of the 33 in Oxford (Stan & Mary) were wonderful, it was an emotional closing as Sanderling had been a huge part of their family for decades.

Stan and me, Mary taking pic

Since I had experience as a delivery captain, sailing instructor, and merchant mariner, I knew what to expect in a used recreational boat. I did my own survey and knew where to look and found pretty much what I expected. I took a huge bag of tools expecting to have issues, and headed to Oxford, Maryland. Below is my proud new owner face. Sanderling and I sailed from the Chesapeake to Narragansett Bay without a single hitch.

pic of smiling new owner
proud new owner of Sanderling CD 33 Sloop

Though my dreams included blue-water sailing, I was pleasantly surprised at home much I enjoyed sailing my new Cape Dory 33 in light wind. On a gentle June day in 2011 on my way home from the purchase in Maryland, we had 5 kts of SW wind in Long Island Sound, and gently moved along at 3 kts wing and wing (full main and 120 Genoa).

view of sails wing and wing
wing and wing northeast bound long island sound 3 kts

As we entered Block Island Sound the late afternoon sun penetrated the first 10 feet of water with dancing golden rays. We glided through a thin group of dogfish swimming upwards toward the surface. The visibility of the surface water was crystal clear. You could see their subtle green and black coloring vividly. It was one of those oceanic moments (they looked like miniature whale sharks from above in that clear water). The afternoon sun shot through the companionway and lit up the teak & holly sole.

cabin sole afternoon sun
afternoon sun

I sailed Sanderling on Narragansett Bay for the 2011 season. She weathered Irene in August on a mooring in Wickford, with just a little bit of Easterly exposure which abated after Irene’s rotation tracked to become S where she was fully protected. She has been on the hard ever since, being refitted ever so slowly.

pic of sanderling on the hard
snug in my yard

I only had the patience for the extended refit because I worked as a delivery captain, taught sailing, and crewed on commercial boats. Those activities kept me out on the water a lot. So some big projects were started that I knew would take longer than I wanted, but not feeling pressured made it work. I grew to really enjoy losing all track of time and then having Amber knocking on the hull saying “let’s eat”, or one of my nieces climbing up the steps and poking her head into the cockpit and saying “whatcha doin?”.

Amber keeping me company on a delivery in 2014

But ten years is enough, the below waterline work is all done, and this boat is going in this season not matter what.