REFIT UPDATE #2: News from the Covered Wagon


“I’m looking for a boat named Moli,” said a friend, Burt Richardson, as he stepped up to the KKMI front desk.

“You bet,” said Emmy, “just head to the back of the yard, make a left at the water, and keep an eye out for the covered wagon.”

The first order of business on Mo has been largely cosmetic, to refasten the non-skid tread and lay down new deck paint, jobs any novice knows would be better timed for a drier month–June rather than January, for example. But the boat and I have the opportunity to present ourselves at the Pacific Boat Show this April, so appearing ship shape has moved to the top of the list and creating a protected workspace, paramount.


Thus the shrink-wrap.

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In a normal Bay Area winter, and by normal I mean the kind of warm and sunny drought years we’ve come to expect these last seven, “shrinking” the boat might have been unnecessary. But not this year. As I type, we are just exiting another (I’ve lost count) major storm, and annual rainfall is already well above our 30-year average (I’ve recorded over 28 inches to date at my house in Oakland where 25 inches is the average; last year’s total, 14 inches).

“Not seen this much rain since that El Nino in ’86,” says pretty much everyone who’s lived here that long.

Without the cover, these jobs would have been an entire bust. But even with the cover, I’ve missed one day in three due to the wind that accompanies the rain, driving water in the gaps below the stanchion wire.

Here’s what the wind/rain combination looks like at night from within the covered wagon…

Just so, the projects move forward in spite of the weather.


Even since Homer, it’s been obvious that tread repair would be necessary before the big voyage. The non-skid material on Mo is French-made TBS, a plastic sheeting that is adhered to the smooth-painted deck, and over years of waves and sun, the panels have begun to delaminate.


I’ve had to clean under all the edges of all 26 panels, which puts one in mind of the famous quote, “Never has so little fun been had by so few so interminably.”


Next step: tape the outside edges.


Then squeeze in a bit of Sikaflex 291…


…before weighting the perimeter with bricks while the Sika hardens.

Bricks are such an oddity in a boat yard that on the day I hauled them down the dock, guys stopped what they were doing to watch. “You building a fire pit on that boat?” asked one. “No. No,” says another, “she’s aluminum–too light–needs more ballast.”  Hoo-hah.

The tread job took two weeks.


Next, paint. Where aluminum and paint are concerned, opposites do not attract, and it’s a testament to the quality of the original construction that the topcoats are generally sound 28 years after application. Still, there is a fair amount of surface corrosion at weld corners and hardware fastenings, indicated by small blisters…

IMG_9817 (1)…that were ground down to bare metal with a stainless wheel.


I then primed the bare spots with Interlux 2000E (white in above photo) before filling the divots with West 410 Microlight (flesh-colored in above photo). That sequence, prime then fill, and that product, 2000E, were recommended by the yard, the former because primer does a better job of affixing to the aluminum than epoxy fill, and the latter because of microplates that enhance this primer’s waterproofing qualities.

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The spots that needed grinding were typically small but evenly distributed over the whole deck.


Next came sanding to smooth.

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Then more priming and more sanding.

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The result of which has been long in coming but very pleasing.

It’s been a month since I started on the decks. By my own estimation, I have two more days of prep before I can begin to apply the topcoats. Today starts a spell of dry weather. Rain is slated to return again on Saturday.

12 Comments on “REFIT UPDATE #2: News from the Covered Wagon

  1. A job well done Randall. A true labour of love. The end result will be a pleasure…and you’ll be able to to admire it all the way around the Figure Eight.

    • Thank you, sir. Labor of love as you well know, having done both these jobs on this boat yourself. Love to one side, I’ll be glad to be done with them.

    • Hey Gerhard, glad you’re still following along. Me too, re sailing. Boat work has its charm, but not these projects.

  2. Nice Job Randall! And good recommendation to use the West Systems 410. Those micro-ballons make it easily sandable – a good choice for any epoxy based paint job. See you at the boat show.

  3. So NOW you develop expertise in bodywork. Where were you in 1979 when I needed help repairing my 240Z?

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