Custom 9' Baby Virages
By Ron Pratt
After a week had passed and the mold had reached it's full cure, it was time to pop it off. I knew I wouldn't be able to just lift it off, so I turned the whole unit up side down, hull and all. I hung the hull from the ceiling and my dad and I started tapping the lip of the mold with scraps of wood and hammers. We had the mold only a few inches off the floor in case it came off easier than we expected. After going around the lip a few times we noticed it was coming off! A few more taps and wahla, it dropped to the floor! Once we lifted the hull out of the way, we noticed the carpet glue that was holding the foam to the gunnels had let loose. Now we had a mold that still had the plug in it!!! We had no way of pulling the plug out now. Loaded with every scraping device I owned, me, my dad, and my girlfriend with fresh cocktails in hand started peeling and chipping styrofoam. After an hour, the foam was out and we were working on the plaster. Dad had enough. He wished us well, and went home. Me and Melodie continued for another hour or so and decided to fill the mold with water and let it sit over night to see if the plaster would soften up. Of course the next day it was still hard as a rock so back at it we went. Once we hit the mold surface, the paint peeled somewhat easy. I was surprised with 14 coats of wax on a perfectly polished surface, the paint didn't come off easier.
With a stuck plug, I was really scared about sticking a part so I drilled three holes in the mold and bondo'ed in 3/8" hose barbs. I ran hoses from these barbs to valves that hook up to a garden hose. I'll cover these ports with scotch tape after the mold is waxed.
After a quick 1500 grit wet sand and polish, the mold was ready for it's waxing. I put on five coats of mold release wax over two days and was ready to lay up the first deck. I met up with Gerald to go over a lay-up plan that would make the decks strong, light, and as inexpensive as possible. He figured after the gel coat was sprayed I would put in two layers of 3/4oz mat, one layer of 10 oz cloth, one layer mat, and one layer of the cloth. This would yield a strong 1/8" part that is equivalent to a kayak. Also 4# density Kleg-a-cell 1/2" foam would be glassed in for extra stiffness in the dash and front deck area. It took about two hours to cut all the fiberglass into the sizes needed to lay up a deck. I used a sheetrock square across a workbench to tear the mat. (like tearing saran wrap) This was really slick as I had several piles of 6", 8", & 10" wide strips.
After the gelcoat had firmed up, I started the tedious lay-up. It took me
6 hours to lay the first deck. First, I laid one layer of 3/4 oz mat.
Then, after filling a few air bubbles, I laid one layer of 3/4 oz mat and one
layer 10 oz cloth. After letting that set up then bed in 1/2"
klegacell foam with thickened up resin followed by one layer 3/4 oz mat and one
layer 10 oz cloth.
The next day I hit the water to the mold and out popped a beautiful deck. That night Melodie wanted to help out so we pounded out another one. With the extra person working the air bubbles, I shaved two hours off the lay up time. The next day at my lunch hour, we popped the second deck out. This was getting too easy!!! Heck, since we were on a roll, that night we laid up the third (and last) deck in 3 1/2 hours.
The day after the third deck was popped out, I was coming to the reality that I was going to have to lay up the third hull over one of the hulls I already had. I had asked everyone if there were any more 9' Whalers in town and it seemed I owned the only two. On a drive that same day, I saw a 9' Whaler in a driveway. I knew the owner and called him. Well after explaining what I was doing and $200.00 later, I had my third hull sitting in the garage.
Now that the decks were done, I focused on cleaning up the hulls. The free hull was in the worst shape so I tackled it first. I saw several round spider cracks in the bottom so I started grinding them out. Once I went through the gel coat, I could see that the boat had been repaired before. I decided to see how far the previous repair went so I kept grinding. 8 hours later I had the whole bottom down to the factory gel coat. (I filled up three five gallon buckets of the grinding dust). Apparently the previous owners wanted to beef up the bottom for durability. I repaired the damaged areas and sanded the rest of the outside with 220 grit sandpaper. The other two hulls were really clean and only required some gel coat putty to fill in some nicks. I then sanded the outside of these hulls with 220 and sprayed white gel coat on all three hulls. To get the easiest workable surface, instead of adding wax to the final coat of gel coat, I sprayed PVA (Poly Vinyl Alcohol) over them. PVA is water soluble and keeps the oxygen away from the curing gel coat. Like wax, it makes the surface hard so it can be sanded easily.
The next step was to lay out the stripes. Once I was happy
with the layout on the first boat, I made a template for the other two. Since
the black was the outer most color on all the stripes, I decided to work from
the outside in. I covered up everything I wanted to stay white with
plastic coated paper. I then sprayed black over the whole area the stripes would
be. After a couple days I covered up the outer edge of the black and then
sprayed the dark gray. After a few days to dry, I covered up the edge and
did the light gray. I kept moving inward to where the red would be. If you
look closely on the sides, the black, and both gray's turn into thin stripes
that run all the way around the transom. The top stripes are 1/8" and
the bottom ones are 1/4". It took 2 1/2 hours to mask off each color
for all three boats. Take this times four colors equals ten hours of masking!
After the final color was dry (red), I had to carefully
unmask all the stripes. The 1/4" masking tape I used must have been
old as it kept tearing. I even tried scribing the painted edge with a
razor blade to get it to peel easier . The solvents in the paint seemed to have
softened the tape. This was a major bummer and added a few extra hours in
unmasking. On the 1/8" stripes, I used 3M fine line tape that was
more of a plastic tape and it peeled off easily. If anyone is planning on
masking off stripes, I would highly recommend using this tape. ( It's green).
I wet sanded all the boats with 600 grit followed by 1000 grit and finishing up with 1500 grit. The gel coat got buffed with a heavy duty compound and the stripes with an automotive compound. Then I polished everything with a foam pad and polish.
The next step will be rigging all three boats, making a fiberglass set-back bracket with a 5" lift (one motor is a 20"), and assembling the trailer.