Hit the Deck

To get their 1986 Grand Banks 32 renovated in time for spring, the van der Wals sand teak and replace faucets and the breaker panel
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Tenley van der Wal sanded the upper deck on Snow Goose to level off the old caulking and bring new life to the teak.

Tenley van der Wal sanded the upper deck on Snow Goose to level off the old caulking and bring new life to the teak.

Onne and Tenley van der Wal want to get their 1986 Grand Banks 32, Snow Goose, renovated in time for the Northeast boating season. Tenley, who is as eager to get the boat in the water as Onne, asked him what she could do to speed things up. When Onne said deck sanding, she told him she was “an expert” at that because she’d done plenty of floor sanding in their houses.

In the 35 years since Snow Goose was built, the exposed parts of the deck had been worn down by foot traffic and weather. “The teak deck was tired and in need of serious attention,” Onne says. The wood had worn down to such a degree that the black caulking was sitting proud of the teak. “I wanted to take the caulking down and get a smidgen off the wood and get to the yellow color of the teak,” Onne says. “The teak is very thick on this boat, close to a half an inch.”

Armed with a Festool sander rigged to automatically fire up the vacuum and using 60 grit sandpaper, Tenley got to work. “She did that whole top deck,” Onne says. “She worked all day, but by that evening she crashed down on the couch and she was like, ‘Woa. It’s physical.’”

Before he bought the boat, Onne had discussed the deck with his boat surveyor who told him that the teak had been epoxied to the fiberglass and if the sanding exposed any screwheads, he could take the screws out and not need to put them back. That’s exactly what Onne did. When an original plug wasn’t thick and the sander exposed the screw, Onne would remove the Phillips head screw and then make the bung hole a little deeper so it could accept a new bung. “I wanted to make sure the bung hole had enough meat when I glued the new bung back in,” Onne says.

Onne made the bungs out of a nice piece of teak he got at one of his favorite stores, Newport Nautical. He quickly figured out that if he put the TotalBoat Thixo epoxy in the bunghole there was nowhere for the bung to go. “When you put the epoxy on the bung, you keep the hole clean and empty and then the bung slides right in,” he says. A couple of taps with a hammer ensured that each bung was in deep enough.

Onne let the epoxy dry for 24 hours and cut the tips of the bungs off with a sharp chisel. What was left of the bungs was sanded down to deck level. “I was lucky,” Onne says. “I don’t think the deck had ever been sanded before. It came out beautifully.”

The original faucets and sinks in the galley and head had seen better days. Since Tenley wanted single mixing valves, she selected Italian-made Elka faucets from Scandvik to replace them. “She’s very much an interior designer, so the look is important to her,” Onne says.

To get to the plumbing and pipes that were connected to the old galley faucet, Onne had to drop the sink. “That’s the only way you can get to those pipes and junctions and get the nuts off the faucets,” he says.

The next challenge was to connect the flexible pipe from the new faucet to the old existing pipe, both of which had female connectors. He needed a male pipe nipple to connect the two, so he headed to Jamestown Hardware, his local hardware store. “I was really worried,” Onne says. “When you do this kind of stuff there are so many sizes and threads, but the first one I tried fit.”

Left: Because he had to remove the sink to replace the faucet in the head, Onne also replaced the tarnished basin.

Left: Because he had to remove the sink to replace the faucet in the head, Onne also replaced the tarnished basin.

To hide the holes in the counter left by the old faucet, Onne created a small cover out of King Starboard, a marine plastic product that he really likes. “Starboard is so nice to work with,” Onne says. “It’s so easy to machine that stuff.” He used his bandsaw to cut the cover’s shape, eased the edges on his router table and cut the hole for the new faucet on his drill press.

Onne dry fit everything before he applied any sealer. Once he was confident all the pieces fit together he used TotalBoat Seal—an elastomeric marine sealant that can be used above and below the waterline—to finish the job. “It’s a wonderful sealer,” Onne says. “The nice thing is that you take the cap off, give it a squirt and it comes out. 3M 5200 dries in the tube, but you can reuse TotalBoat Seal over and over again.”

With the faucet reinstalled, he took the galley sink back to his shop for cleaning. He used a wire brush wheel on his bench grinder to clean up the edges and then used TotalBoat rubbing compound to scour and polish the inside of the sink. “It has the same abrasive quality as Soft Scrub, but it has a polish in it so once it’s dry it shines like mad.”

Onne also replaced the faucet in the head, but because the area around the sink drain was rusted, he replaced the bathroom basin. The new sink was a bit bigger than the old one, so he enlarged the counter hole with a router.

To top off the project, he installed a matching Elka showerhead with a rail, but that left him with grungy shower valve controls. He used a buffing wheel on the bench grinder to make them shine again. The valve control stems didn’t look good, but Onne had a solution for that too. He measured them and found they were 30 millimeters in diameter. He had some aluminum tubing in his shop that had a 29-millimeter inside diameter. He cut the tubing to length, used a hacksaw to put a slit so he could enlarge the diameter a bit and slipped it over the valve stems. He rotated the tubes so the slit would be out of view on the bottom. “That whole head is all new now,” Onne says. “It shines and it’s clean.”

Next, the new electronics on board demanded a larger breaker panel. “The original panel only had three switches,” Onne says. “They were dodgy and old, and I needed eight breakers.” To make that happen, Onne selected the DC 8 Position Circuit Breaker Panel from Blue Sea Systems.

He removed the old panel and used his jigsaw to enlarge the hole in the side of the steering console. To avoid the structural wood, Onne moved the new panel a little to the right, but that left part of the old opening and some screw holes exposed.

When it comes to plumbing and carpentry, Onne is fine on his own, but with electronics he’s happy to get advice. Fortunately for Onne, he’s made some good friends in the marine industry. One of them is Rufus van Gruisen, the owner of Cay Electronics in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Cay Electronics installs electrical systems on all kinds of vessels, including superyachts, and Rufus and one of his technicians, Adam Hobgood, have been advising Onne on the electronics installation.

Adam drew up a wiring schematic for Onne, and when Rufus noticed that Onne would need a little cover panel behind his new breaker panel to cover the old holes, he told Onne to make a template which Rufus then used to cut a backing plate on a CNC router.

Snow Goose also had an old-style 12-volt cigarette lighter receptacle on the side of the console, which Onne replaced with a 12-volt USB outlet. When he was done, he sent a photo to Rufus, who noticed that the old switches for the windshield wipers and horn now looked completely outdated. He told Onne to get rid of those two “manky little switches” and supplied him with two new ones. They light up with a little blue ring when powered on. “Snow Goose has a proper air compressor horn,” Onne says. “When I push the horn’s button it sounds like a tugboat.” 

This article was originally published in the June 2021 issue.

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