December Discoverer Update

December 19, 2012 – Day 254

Sorry for the long layoff, but we’ve been super busy standing behind the sanding machine for the last three weeks. Matty has grown fond of his new Porter Cable electric DA sander and has been wearing out lots of 80 grit and 40 grit sanding discs.

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During the sanding process we discovered a flaw in our front deck installation (see previous posts). The bulk of the deck set up perfectly, however some significant air bubbles formed on the outer edges of the installation.

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Matty used a grinder to expose the affected area and to rough up the surrounding area to accept the repair:

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Then Craig went around the area with a compressed air blower to clean all of the dust out of the crevices; any trapped sanding dust could create more air bubbles and put us right back at square one.

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We mixed up a load of resin / hardener with a bunch of chopped-strand fiberglass for thickness, then Craig worked quickly to fill the voids before the material set-up.

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Here’s a look at the finished application of the raw fiberglass material:

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Craig followed up with a double-thick layer of fiberglass tape to secure the area and to provide a better surface to begin finalizing the curved lip of the deck.

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The next day Matty came back with the sander and knocked down all the high spots to match the level of the deck. The low spots remain, and will be filled up to level by the forthcoming layer of resin and fiberglass mat.

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We are getting close to finalizing all of the fiberglass repair and will be shooting our first layer of gelcoat very soon.

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Clearly The Discoverer Project is gaining momentum as we near 2013.

December 27, 2012 – Day 262

Craig rolls into the office the day after Christmas and throws the fishing calendar down on the table. “We need another big boat!” he exclaimed, pointing at the line for the Wanderer.

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He’s right! A quick look shows the blue beauty fishing every single day except Christmas (and that wasn’t due to lack of demand) and clearly the market is primed for the arrival of the next great Costa Rican Sportfishing vessel. The only thing standing between the Discoverer and the blue water is about 1000 hours of labor and God-knows how many dollars.

Nothing to it but to do it, so Craig got back to work on the new front deck of the Discoverer. Here is how we left things before the break:

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The high spots have been block sanded down to the same level of the rest of the foredeck, and the spots that are still shiny are lower than the surrounding level. Craig applies liquid resin / hardener with no additives (also called a ‘hot-coat’) to the low spots, then we add another layer of fiberglass tape over top of the resin.

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The idea is bring everything up to the level of the foredeck, and if we accidentally build it up too much that’s no problem because we can always bring it back down with the sanding block.

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After an overnight cure and some early morning sanding, Craig returned to repeat the process; there are no shortcuts when it comes to building up levels of glass like this, just lots of time spent on a sanding block.

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Finally the entire deck is at the proper level! All that is left to do is a final touch with the block sander, then clean it up and add our final layer of chopped strand.

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Here is last bit of this deck that will ever see the sunshine:

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Craig is fired up to keep this thing moving so he began forming the chopped strand sections even though Matty had one more round of block sanding to go:

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Meanwhile Charlie came around and added another coat to his hole repairs by the bathroom and the rear transom. He moves like a ninja and makes this stuff look easy, but trust us this is high-level detail oriented work:

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We are stoked for the final coat of chopped strand and you know where to find the pics…right here baby!

Discoverer Update – November 21, 2012

It’s Thanksgiving week and with all the talk of stuffing, and getting stuffed, etc. Charlie decide to ‘stuff’ some more holes in the Discoverer. As we rapidly approach the final prep sanding phase and look forward to applying paint, we keep finding more and more little issues like these that need addressing.

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These holes along the top of the aft gunwale are a pretty straightforward fix. The fiberglass and wood are still sturdy this far above the waterline so the fiberglass is truly ‘plug and play’.

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Up near the head was a whole different story. The pair thru-hull fittings were (Surprise, surprise) lacking any 5200 sealant so water has intruded around the holes. The damage extends about 4 inches outward from the hole so Charlie had to scrape out the damaged wood, stuff the crevice with chopped strands of fiberglass, and push the hot resin up to fill the void.

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So far the inside of this pair of holes is all patched up and the outer layer is coming soon.

Discoverer Update – October 18, 2012

It’s been another crazy week on The Discoverer Project as we have moved ahead with sub-floor fabrication in the cockpit. Craig and Jack made a heck of a mess grinding and cutting out the fuel tanks (see last post) so the first step was to clean up the evergrowing mess of fiberglass dust and wood shavings.

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Charlie has already cut replacement rails for the holes in the floor and now begins the process of glassing them into place. The red clay-like material in the foreground is actually millions of microballoons that (when mixed with hot fiberglass resin) turn into a putty that can fill gaps much better than fiberglass alone.

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Charlie laid his first round of fiberglass tape around the two large central openings, then cut six pieces of marine plywood that will be encapsulated in glass and eventually become the new floor for the Discoverer

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That night disaster struck as a fog bank rolled through Jacksonville and wrecked havoc on the fiberglass resin setting up. When Charlie showed up to check his test section of fiberglass the whole piece detached.

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There is no avoiding moisture-related setbacks when you are working on a boat outside in Florida. Fortunately we are getting to the time of year when the temperature and the humidity are on the decline and hopefully we can get through all of the fiberglass and paint work before the summer starts again in February.

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On his second attempt Charlie achieved adhesion and could move on with enclosing the forward deck holes. Since the forthcoming fuel tanks are significantly smaller than the old ones we will fill this dead space with marine foam; you can never have too much foam in a hull.

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The next trick up Charlie’s sleeve is to build a fiberglass arch intended to tie the fighting chair directly into the stringers. On the Wanderer we struggled with the best way to secure the fighting chair; not only must it withstand the abuse of reeling in 600+lbs. Marlins, any fighting chair gets grabbed alot by anglers and crew seeking balance. Sometimes the weight of three people are yanking on this thing so through-bolting it to the fiberglass floor is just not strong enough for us.

On that boat the solution was to screw a 3/4 stainless steel plate into the stringers horizontally. It did the trick strength-wise but weighs alot and is not very elegant. Charlie has proposed a dynamite solution with which we are quite happy.

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This arch will receive another coat of glass that will fully secure it to the stringers, and once it does we will have a perfect spot to secure the fighting chair on the Discoverer. Speaking of fighting chairs, check out the rebirthed Wanderer chair:

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First Mate Alex really outdid himself on this project. I can’t wait to see this baby in action come November 1!

Next up for Charlie is finishing the covering decks for the fuel tanks and running final surface coats of fiberglass to the cockpit floor and the front nose deck.

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Meanwhile we are waiting for our fuel tanks to arrive and getting our ducks in a row for the upcoming month of hanging the transom deck and painting the boat. Stay tuned for more fun as it happens!

Discoverer Update – October 6, 2012

It’s been a dirty week of work on The Discoverer Project as we moved below decks into 20+ years of diesel-flavored sludge and muck. Charlie has taken the next step in fabricating the floor by installing these 1″x2″ runners along the edges of the fuel tank compartments and the center compartments.

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These will be encapsulated in fiberglass to ensure that they are watertight and Charlie has an idea that is common among expensive custom boats: in every spot that will receive a screw, we will drill out about a 1 inch hole and fill the hole with epoxy resin. This way the wood never gets penetrated by a screw.

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It’s a little tricky to line everything up, so stay tuned as we progress on this element.

In the last post we removed the deck plates over the fuel tanks, and to our surprise these tanks are much larger than we anticipated. The tanks run flush to the transom and extend all the way forward, almost to the seat pedestals. We estimate that each tank holds 120 gallons of fuel.

Jack began the delicate work of cutting an access panel into the top of the tanks to allow for our friends at Independent Waste Oil get their sucker hose into the tanks.

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Remember on every aspect of the fuel tank work everything must be done twice.

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Handy trick: Raise up the front of the boat as much as safely possible while draining the tanks; this ensures that a maximum amount of sludge and fuel make it out of the boat.

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The Discoverer will feature aluminum tanks similar to those on the Wanderer. Aluminum tanks are far more lighter and durable than their fiberglass counterparts, plus by having them fabricated to fit we free ourselves from the existing dimensions of the holes in the floor. We are very pleased with the tanks built for us by Atlantic Coastal Welding in Jacksonville on the Wanderer, so we plan on using their services again.

However before we start designing the new tanks, the old ones gotta go!

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This is tricky because of the limitations of the situation. First off, you can’t use a sawzall or any other ‘deep-cut’ tools because of the tight clearance between the bottom of the tanks and the outer hull; one slip and we are patching a gash in the side of the boat.

Also, you can’t generate too much heat because of the low flashpoint of the leftover diesel fuel mix, so forget about torches, jigsaws or body saws.

The only tool for this job is a low-RPM cutoff grinder borrowed from Jack’s automotive toolkit. Jack kept the RPM’s low and made long scoring cuts rather than digging in and dragging.

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This is an arduous and nasty process, but Captain Jack ain’t scared of a little grinding dust. In the above picture he has already cut away the 3/4″ lid of the tank and proceeded to cut out the horizontal baffles. Here is a close-up of the baffles:

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Jack and Craig then cut horizontal grooves into the bottom of the tank (carefully!) so the tank could be removed in sections. The tank is way too big to come out in one piece…quite frankly I think they built this boat around the tanks!

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Even with the sectioned removal approach, we battled a layer of foam insulation that held the tanks in place. No exotic way to knock this out; just the old fashioned prybar and balls.

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With the tanks gone, Charlie can begin fabricating the new covering boards for the forthcoming aluminum fuel tanks. Meanwhile we will begin cleaning our sanding dust and wiping the hull with acetone. It won’t be long until we are prepping for paint and then it is off to get the transom installed. Stay tuned as we continue work on The Discoverer Project.

Discoverer update – September 29, 2012

Well the team is back together as Matty, Craig Jr., and Craig Sr. put the finishing touches on the refit of the Wanderer and made it back to Florida last weekend. We finally got our hands dirty on the Discoverer again after a barnstorming trip to Tampa for the Florida Sportsman Expo the day after we got back from Nosara.

So through the hazy fog produced by jet lag, culture re-acclimation, and soothing wives/girlfriends angry with us for always being gone, let’s take a look at the current state of the Discoverer:

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You can see that the DA sanding of the hull is moving along nicely, and we almost have all of the shiny spots roughed up. One more day of sanding and she will be nearly ready for paint.

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Charlie Keen has worked his magic on all of the holes in the rear transom as well as the pickups under the boat; last post we mistakenly reported that the boat was being lifted on pipe jackstands when in fact those stands were holding in the fiberglass plugs.

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Notice anything missing in that last picture? If you said “half of the floor that covers the fuel tanks” then you are correct.

We weren’t sure the size or conditions of the fuel tanks until Craig and Jack started cutting, and what we found is shocking. This pair of 120 gallon tanks are the largest I’ve ever seen in a T-Craft and getting them out will be a challenge.

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Notice that in the rear these tanks butt up to the transom, and up front they are covered by the side benches. These benches are fiberglassed directly to the hull so their ain’t no removing them except via the sawzall. On the Wanderer the 100 gallon tanks lifted right out through properly cut access panels; on the Discoverer we will have to get more creative.

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Our working plan is to drain the tanks then cut them into small enough pieces to remove.

 Afternoon Update:

Just ran outside and shot some up-to-the-second pics. Here is the aforementioned jackstand that is holding in the bottom fiberglass plugs:

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Here we see the starboard side bench cut out to allow for removal of the tank. This cut killed our cut-off grinder, so it’s off to the hardware store to buy another…bummer.

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May 8, 2012 – Day 28

Matty and Captain Jack have really bad luck when it comes to rainstorms during FishingNosara projects. Let’s check the highlights:

Loading 10 golf carts into a container with only a pickup truck and one set of ATV ramps? Freezing rain.

Building a pallet with all the gear for the Adventurer? Hot muggy rain.

Pulling the tower off of the Discoverer? Lighting storm with ample rain.

Unfortunately we didn’t get many pictures of this deal since Marcus was bolding defying logic by operating the megacrane in a lightning storm; I love the guts on a guy who says, “The radar says we gotta shut down in 10 minutes…I think we got time!”

You can tell by the rain slick on the floor that we barely made it in time. It’s too bad they don’t put forklift driving in the Olympics because Marcus would bring home the gold every time.

Captain Jack and Matty utilized the forklift to hold the tower up while they built a pallet-style support for the tower to rest on. This level platform will be the canvas upon which Craig Jr. executes his welding magic so it needs to be strong and keep the tower square.

Once the rain cleared up we used a borrowed trailer to haul this monstrosity back to our shop. We’ll be setting this aside for a while as we continue to seek out a buyer for the inboard motor and settle on just the right trailer for this boat. For now we are one step closer to getting this boat on the road!

April 14, 2012 – Day 4

Shortly after the glow of finding our new project hull wore off, we had to address some very tangible obstacles. First off, we had nowhere to store this boat and even if we did, we did not have access to a boat trailer capable of hauling it.

Even if we could haul it, the flying bridge on this boat when fully deployed brings the overall height 26 feet. We plan on modifying the tower to fold down into the cockpit so we can trailer this boat through the narrow winding road around Garza, but as she sits today the top is permanently erect.

Here’s what we can surmise about the Slick Cricket as she was purchased. This is a 1982 T-Craft 30 foot hull with a Cummins B Series Diesel inboard powerplant backed by a TwinDisc Transmission; this vessel was formerly flagged as the Miss Jessi until 1994 when this high-end motor/trans combo was installed.

It’s clear that the former owner sunk all his time and money into the motor and then ran out of both because the rest of the boat shows signs of sloppiness and shortcuts. The rod holders, rubrail, and other through hole fittings are secured with wood screws rather than through-bolts. Virtually none of these important fittings have 5200 sealant in place making this hull a potential sponge of water intrusion.

Also all of the marine fabric throughout the boat is mildewed and rotted so there will be significant sewing needs. Lastly there is a ton of layout changes in store from the rod holders to the fuel fillers…everything must go!

Basically this boat feels ‘slapped together’ and presents a different challenge from our last boat build. The Wanderer was a tight drum of a vessel when we began tearing her to pieces; the Discoverer must restored to a level of strength and quality that she has never known. I must say it is exciting and daunting to breathe life into a hull that has had such a rough existance so far.

This seems like a good time to discuss the most chronic obstacle we will be facing on this build: We have virtually no money for this project.

The revenue generated by FishingNosara and Nosara Paradise Rentals barely covers the overhead, maintenance, staff and expenses inherit in running a resort in Costa Rica.


The reason we are building another boat is not that we have $100,000 burning a hole in our pockets, but because there were too many times this last season where we had to turn away clients because the Wanderer was already booked. Though we predict that the Discoverer will likewise be successful it will not begin generating money until she is in the water.

Like most of you readers, the last few years have been tough financially and the last thing we want to do is go into debt or put any of this boat build on credit.

Why am I telling you this? Well, if you want to see the perfect way to do boat work in a perfect shop with an unlimited budget then you may want to look elsewhere.

The FishingNosara Build Team consists of car mechanics, handymen, IT professionals, and other oddball characters and we build our boats with hand tools and guts. We’ve built world-class vessels in a patch of dirt in the rainforest, in an empty warehouse, and this time we’re doing it in the backyard.

Naturally you can take away lots of boat building knowledge from this project and hopefully it helps you on your own boat build. However it is our hope that all marine enthusiasts can draw inspiration from our commitment to hard work and creativity in overcoming obstacles rather than just throwing money at them.

In that spirit our good friend Marcus over at Ft. George Island Marina came through for us huge. He offered us a slip for the boat in his warehouse, use of their megacrane, and space in the yard to knock out the first phase of the project. All he asked in return was that we tear out all the moldy fabric before we make a mess of his facility.

After four sleepless nights of knowing our boat was sitting unprotected at a rickety wooden dock, Craig fired up the diesel and took her up river to the newly-built Ft. George Island Marina. Marcus tucked her into her slip and we all slept a little better that night.

The Discoverer was safe and sound, and we begin to search for a boat trailer and a permanent home for our new prize.