Website and Forums Upgrade

Hopefully I was able to do the upgrade of the website without impacting to many people’ access to it. It and the forums were down for a little while this morning. I have had people bring to my attention a few features that were acting up or not working over the last month or two and noticed a couple more myself. In response I have done a major software version upgrade to the base wordpress website as well as the forum software. As always I don’t anticipate this going perfectly smooth. Experience says that there are always small issues. Please let me know of you notice anything.  I am anticipating that some of the forum plugins will possibly need to be upgraded also. If so I will do that over the next day or so as we figure out which ones no longer work. Sadly those are not free. I need to check that if I have already purchased them once can I re download the the newer versions of them for free. I don’t think that will be the case as it was more of an annual service contract the last time I did this. No worries though as the donations that have given over the last year or so will go a long way to covering the cost. For those of you that have donated please feel warm and fuzzy as I wouldn’t have been able to purchase the new updates without your support.

It is kind of irksome that we are having to pay for these plugins. When we started using this forum software many years ago it was all open source and free. About 4 years ago? the developers went to a new version that the core forums are still free but that plugins that handled stuff such as the image uploading plugin, wysiwyg editor, and other features that we were using became paid for plugins. It would be a major project fraught with potential issues to try and start using a new forum software and keep all the existing posts and content. Many thousands of posts and pictures by hundreds by members. Just for that reason we paid for the plugins the last time we upgraded. Though I feel a bit hostage to the developers at this point seeing as it was all open source and free to start with, I do acknowledge that the writing of the forum software is a huge task and they have made significant improvements, bug fixes and performance enhancements over the years. I have the feeling that they might have moved on years ago and mostly quit developing on it if they were not getting some sort of money out of it now. We all grow up and start to have bills that seem to drive our lives toward income producing jobs. 🙂

As always I depend on you guys to let me know when something isn’t working right. Don’t just ignore it. Sometimes I can’t fix it as soon as you notify me as it needs an upgrade like this to resolve but I do listen and note those things down and address it sooner or later. Sometimes I get it fixed in a few hours. Sometimes it is something in the software that requires a developer update to address and we have to wait.

So in my rambling way this is what has happened if you notice differences and or the site was down for you this morning or had major glitches when you tried to access it. As of now I am not currently working on it and it should be working.

Reinventing the Headliner: Done! DE38 s/v Sanpatricio


This past weekend marked the completion of the new headliner (cue trumpets), a much awaited milestone indeed! I could lie and say we did it all in a few weekends with minimal effort and planning, but nothing could be further from the truth. It was tricky and there were several setbacks along the way, but having a classy looking overhead that is both easily removable (for deck maintenance) and easy on the eyeballs is reward enough.


The fictitious "Nauga" was part of a 1960s ad campaign for Naugahyde.

The fictitious “Nauga” was part of a 1960s ad campaign for Naugahyde.

First things first – the DEMOLITION! We had the great intention of carefully removing each headliner section to preserve for template making…a lovely thought, but we quickly learned it’s impossible. The headliner was affixed to the cabin top and sides with roughly 1,000,000 staples, most of which were rusty, brittle and stubborn. The staples numbered as many as stars in the Milky Way. Seriously! It took the better part of 2 days to remove them, our hands tender from prolonged plier gripping. We surmised that the original installer must have been paid per staple. Curse you Staple Man!

In the wake of battle, we found mold in spots, mummified insects and several suspect areas where thru-bolted hardware had likely been leaking for decades. These problem areas needed to be addressed before going further but with the headliner out is was considerably less complicated to do so. Additionally, It was a good time to remove the handrails and secure them with proper SS washers and fasteners and the dorade boxes had to come of to access the brass thru-deck flanges underneath.

In the meantime, I scoured the web for inspiration and information for a handsome and practical headliner replacement. Of course in our case, it was really a headliner/cabin side/underdeck replacement – given the original headliner wrapped around the cabin sides and underneath the side deck. My eureka moment came when I happened upon John Stone’s Far Reach Blog. After reading over his wonderfully detailed process write up a few times my tenuous grasp on what needed to be done turned into an informed confidence and know-how. Without it, I think I’d still be doodling on graph paper and scratching my head.

Using Mr. Stone’s ideas I went to installing overhead cleats to screw the new headliner panels into. I ripped 3/4″ marine ply into several 1.5″ strips and pre-coated them with Smith’s Penetrating epoxy. While those cured, I roughed up the FG where the cleats would be glued with 50 grit and cleaned with acetone. Some of the gel goat on the stringer tabs needed to be ground off before cleats could be glued but the disc grinder made quick, albeit messy work of it. To affix the cleats, I used some 1.5″ self-taping screws and liberal amounts of PL Premium. Once the PLP cured I removed the screws and filled the holes with epoxy.

After weighing the pros/cons of a few different materials we found a promising product over at CaliBamboo made of thin, finished sanded bamboo paneling on a mesh-backed 4′ x 8′ roll. After estimating the square footage needed I ordered 6 rolls and went to work making templates out of cardboard. When the bamboo arrived it was obvious that the mesh was not rigid enough to hold the form of the cabin top curvature – in other words, it sagged a bit during the rough install. The simple solution was to cut matching panels from luan and glue the bamboo panel atop those to add rigidity and hug the curvature of the cabin top. In the end, there were 14 panels making up the new headliner – coated with clear polyurethane.

(Unfortunately, CaliBamboo has since discontinued the 4′ X 8′ bamboo rolls I used. They do however now offer 1/4″ bamboo plywood with the same planked look and no need to double-up with luan backing.) 

Holding it all up are 1″ red oak battens fixed through the panel edges and into the 3/4″ overhead cleats with #6 brass finish screws and #6 finish washers. I found the battens pre-made at our local Ganahl Lumber for a reasonable price, freeing me up from lots of work with the router. Most sections have 3 battens holding them up – forward, middle and aft. Not only do the battens hold the panels securely in place, but they hide any gaps and trim the overhead to the stringers. I tapered the end edges of the battens so they’ll fit snuggly in place once the top cabin side moulding is installed. Once they were all cut and sanded they got a few coats of Epifanes clear varnish. The original teak trim rings for the dome lights had to be shaved of a bit to accommodate the 3/4″ drop in headliner height.

With a 3/4″ gap between the overhead panels and the bare FG cabin top we considered installing some insulation in that space. So far however, that pocket of air has kept the cabin very comfortable in our So. Cal climate. It is nice to know it can be added easily if the need arises, as each section takes less than minute to unscrew and take down.

With the overhead complete I’m moving forward with installing wood panels under the side deck and getting started on the really fun part – ultimately trimming everything together to create a seamless work of wooden art!

Article Courtesy of s/v San Patricio at

DE 38 Fuel Tank Replacement

When we bought our Downeast Cutter 38’ in March 2014 we knew were in for a project. The boat had actually taken on a considerable amount of water partially submerging the engine, flooding the transmission, and fully flooding the aluminum fuel tank in seawater. The seawater had risen to about 18” into the salon between the two sofas. The owners agreed to get the engine running, pump out the water, and clean up the boat. I spent a few months doing various repairs, including a complete transmission removal/rebuild, as the salt water had gotten into some critical parts of the engine room. In the end, the damage seemed worse than it really was. However, after one particular day out, it became evident to us that the fuel tanks were in need of replacement.

The Downeaster 38 has a large Y-shaped fuel tank directly beneath the floor in the galley. The original tank appears to have been made from aluminum and was installed before the furniture was built in an effort to maximize the capacity. Beam-to-beam, the wings on the top of the tank extend as far as underneath the stove and part of the navigation station. Fore to aft, the tank is between the galley sink and the engine room. What’s particularly interesting is that the keel for the boat drops off abruptly into the deep sump under the engine, so the center of the tank is not flat on the bottom. Rather it follows a stair-stepped shape on the bottom to accommodate the keel which protrudes partially into the space below the galley.

Previous Owner's Sketch of Tank...

Previous Owner’s Sketch of Tank…


The first step was to get all of the fuel out of the tank. This was important not only to make it possible to work on the tank, but to prevent any potential fuel from leaking into the bilge as it would present quite an environmental hazard if the bilge pump were to kick on. To do this, I obtained a 55 gal. fuel storage drum and used a hand crank pump to extract all the fuel. We had about half a tank of fuel in there. The easiest way to do this was to pull out the fuel sensor in the tank, stick the tube from the extraction pump into the hole and pump it all into the drum. We just left the drum on the salon floor while we did the rest of the job, with our plan being to replace the fuel as soon as we finished.  I don’t know that I would do it this way again, as I’m not sure if the weight of the drum had done some damage to the salon floor.

One we were able to get all the fuel removed, and I was able to see what we were dealing with I decided that the project was bigger than me and it was time to get the help of a pro.  I found a mechanic who came highly recommended by some friends, and I gave him a call…

The perfect addition to any salon...

The perfect addition to any salon…

With the fuel out of the tank, we could sleep a little easier knowing that we weren’t keeping fuel in an aging tank.  We enlisted the help of a mechanic and boatwright to get us through the rest of the process.

The challenge we faced was removing the tank without having to cut apart the furniture or the cabinet beneath the galley sink, but we didn’t exactly know what we were dealing with until we were able to actually get a good look at the tanks. For those of you who haven’t had to do this yet, the floor of the galley is constructed from what appears to be a piece of ¾” marine plywood wrapped in fiberglass on both sides. The decorative finished floor is a piece of ¾” marine plywood with a teak and holly veneer screwed to the top of the solid fiberglass sole. Luckily this can be removed in almost one piece which gives you access to the fiberglass below. From there it was a matter of simply cutting a large rectangular hole so we could get a good look at the tank.

Upon closer inspection, we were able to see exactly large the tank is. We could also finally view the inspection sticker showing that the tank was built in 1979 (two years before the boat was built) and had a max capacity of 81 gallons. The decision was made to actually cut and remove the tank from the boat.  The tricky part was to keep the tank pieces in shape so the fabricator could make a new tank using the pieces as a reference. Cutting a tank in the boat can be very dangerous. In spite of the fact that diesel fuel is far safer than gasoline, it is still very possible to ignite the vapors while cutting. Because of this, it is necessary to purge the tank of any fumes as well as fill the tank with some inert or non-flammable gas in the tank while cutting. This is no joke, as many metalworkers have been killed accidentally igniting vapors in tanks they thought were safe to cut or weld. It was also important to make sure the fuel sludge did not spill into the bilge, as it would have created an oil spill hazard if it got into the bilge. This is without a doubt, the dirtiest part of the job.

Is that a

Is that a “7” or a “9”?

With the tank out in pieces, the it was off to the metal shop for the fabricators to assemble a new set of tanks. After review, the mechanic recommended building the new fuel system as three tanks that would be plumbed together as one.

In order to avoid doing demolition and fiberglass repair work on the various furniture pieces in the galley and navigation station. The three tanks would be inserted in the boat in pieces, then plumbed together using large diameter fuel hose such that they behave as a single tank. This design may seem counterintuitive at first, but keep in mind that tanks are built with baffles to avoid sloshing of fuel while underway. In effect the separate tanks with fuel hoses acted as additional baffling; though each of the three tanks did have internal baffling on their own.  I do believe baffles are required per ABYC, but I could be wrong. In total, we sacrificed 10 – 15 gallons of fuel capacity to save some money and headache during installation. The original tank sticker showed 81 gallons of capacity, and the new tanks showed 75. Unfortunately, the new tanks tanks did not fit properly, so we had to have them cut and re-welded for extra wiggle room. We estimate perhaps a total 5 – 12 gallons of capacity was lost from the original 81 on the tank sticker, but it really is anybody’s guess.

Staring down in the abyss...

Staring down in the abyss…


The final installation of the tanks was to replace the fiberglass sole and the flooring on top. Once installed, it took the mechanic a day or so to fit the newly modified tanks, plumb them together, prime the fuel pump, and get the engine running. We were almost ready to go!

However, at this time we had a bit of a problem. We had terminated our lease at the marina because the waiting list for a better location had popped up.  For those of you who know San Diego, the South Bay is nice but it is far from the ocean. We like to do most of our sailing on the open ocean, and it would take and hour or two of motoring, sailing through dirty wind, and dodging other boats to get to blue water. So we actually had to sail the boat out of San Diego Bay, around Point Loma, and back into Mission Bay while the floor had a huge hole in it. To do this, we quickly dropped the floor back in with nothing attached and set out.

The final steps were completed in the new marina. The boatwright attached large plastic tabs to the hole in the fiberglass sole rather than to re-glass, or use the aluminum repair studs. I requested this just in case I needed to get to the tanks for maintenance later. It’s nice that the galley floor simply pops out in one large singular piece and is only held in by some screws. I opted to leave the teak plugs out of the floor, again, just in case. I have thought about drilling the holes wider and putting some sort of bronze plug or something in there to allow for easy access to the fasteners but so far nobody has really noticed the holes in the floor.

A job well done.

A job well done.

Well…that’s it. This brings this saga to a close. I’ve included pictures along the way, in case anybody is curious or wants to see the process.  Having been caught up in it so much, all the pictures you see are the ones we have.  Next time (which I hope isn’t for a while) I ‘ll try to get a better shot on how the three-tank plumbing system works.  It was rather quite clever on behalf of the fabricator.

Have fun out there, and be safe!

Web server issues over last couple days

If you have been trying to use the website over the last couple days you might have gotten messages saying there were to many connections or various other error messages involving the sql server, and have been unable to actually use the website. I have been troubleshooting it for the last two days and with a bit of troubleshooting help we found that someone in Russia was using a standard ping back feature of the xmlrpc.php file in wordpress on a couple of the other websites on this server to reflect an attack on a couple of servers here in the US. It was a bit of a conundrum for us as we were not hacked as I had initially believed, they were taking advantage of a supported feature of wordpress, but it ended up creating a denial of service for us as the attackers were opening as many ports with their spoofed pingback request as the server would support. This blocked other users such as you from using the website. Our options were to remove the xmlrpc.php file in the root of all the wordpress sites on the server. This would fix the issue but also break some functionality inside wordpress. IT would have been livable but still not optimal. Luckily we found a plugin for wordpress that addresses this exact situation and allows us to turn off pingbacks while not breaking other functionality.

Everything should be back to normal. As of a few minutes ago we weren’t seeing any more connections being opened up for these pingback DOS attack packets.


If anyone is having any issues please let me know. I don’t think that implementing this fix should affect your usage of the website but you can never tell.


Thank you,

Scott Carle

Webmaster and general server dogsbody 🙂

Major website upgrade

As everyone will be noticing the website has had some significant changes. I have done a long overdue upgrade to both the basic website software and the forum software. I guarantee that we will have some teething issues. Please let me know if you find any bugs or stuff not working. I am actually working through stuff just like you guys as this is such a major version jump that I am learning to use it now also.

Right now I am trying a new layout for the forums. Let me know if you like this or not.. It is a minor matter to change it back to a standard layout. Also this upgrade is problematical in that the developers removed some features according to them as part of the free download forum. Those features I will need to purchase to re-implement them.. I’m not to worried about that but I’m not sure what functionality is missing in this new version. Let me know if you run across stuff we could do before and now can’t..

One of the major bugs I was trying to fix with this upgrade was the posting of links in forum posts being broken. This is now fixed. I have tested it and it works.. If you still have an issue with it let let me know. But as of right now I am considering it fixed.

There seems to be an issue with the TinyMCE editing controls for creating posts. I am working at resolving that. Normal posting with basic options still works. Also there is a totally new image and media uploading subsystem. The controls for that are under the text area when you are creating a new post.

Just let me know what issues you run into if any and we will work through them.


Update… I have fixed the editing menu issues. It was a bit of brutal work to figure out what the issue was.. An incompatible wordpress plug-in. i will have to create a new contact page on the main website as it was the form generation plug-in used there that was causing the issue.