The rainy, chilly weather over the Memorial Day weekend didn’t bother me.
Truthfully, it made me feel better about not being able to take our boat out for the first long weekend of boating season. Meridian, our Passport 40, is currently in a state of chaos as we rush to get a few projects done before we move aboard for the summer at the end of June.
So while Marty was busy over the weekend working on our head overhaul, I finished redoing the companionway ladder, a project that has sucked up a considerable amount of time over the past few weeks.
I’d wanted to redo the ladder since we bought the boat last April. The non-skid treads were worn out and dirty-looking. The wood was nicked, discolored and missing varnish in places. Looking at it, and the beat-up companionway hatchboards, irked me. Down below the wood is in great shape, but getting to and from there required passing through the shabby-looking companionway. To me, it was akin to keeping the interior of a house beautiful but letting the entryway fall into disrepair.
So I decided that redoing the companionway was a priority before moving aboard. The first step was to strip the ladder down to the bare teak. Given the number of surfaces involved, it was a time-consuming task.
Then came the varnish, around five coats of it.
The non-skid treads were a little trickier. We’d originally considered repainting them, thinking that removing them might be difficult or damage the wood. But they were worn down and really needed to be replaced. A little heat gun action was all it needed to loosen the epoxy, then scraping them off was easy. (A heat gun and a random orbital sander are two items I now consider absolutely necessary for brightwork; they save massive amounts of time and wrist strain).
I got Treadmaster Self Adhesive Grip Pads at Fisheries Supply, which stocks two different pre-cut sizes in several colors. I chose the dark grey ones, since they seemed least likely to show dirt. But they were larger than what I needed, so I had to cut them to fit. Given the cost — $54 for a pack of two — I wanted to make sure I didn’t mess it up.
I first made a paper pattern by putting a sheet of paper over the shallow indentation where the old pads were and running my fingernail around it, then cut out a pattern and used that to make a sturdier template out of posterboard. I taped the pattern to the back of the pad, since cutting on the flat side would be easier than on the textured front, and cut the pads to fit with a utility knife. The curved edges took some careful trimming with a light hand.
When I was done, the pads didn’t quite fit perfectly within the indentations and I didn’t want to risk making additional cuts and ending up with uneven edges. So on Marty’s smart suggestion, I used a sanding block covered with 180-grit sandpaper to take off just enough to make the pads fit and smooth out any uneven parts. It worked perfectly.
As for that “self-adhesive” part, not so much. The material used on the backing was about as sticky as envelope glue. It was a joke. We seriously doubted it would keep the pads in place, so to be on the safe side, we used Treadmaster’s two-part epoxy to glue them in place (thereby prompting us to buy another Treadmaster product; nicely done, Treadmaster).
I was thrilled with the end result. The ladder looked like new, its teak warmly glowing and the non-skid pads clean and fresh. The hours of scraping, sanding and varnishing had paid off.
And then … I looked at the outside of the ladder and saw something. A sag in the varnish. Bugger. I’d been so careful applying the varnish, but somehow missed this when I put on the last coat.
“It’s on the side,” Marty said reassuringly. “You won’t see it.”
“But I’ll know it’s there,” I replied.
So on its side the ladder went, for one more sanding and what I hope will be the last coat of varnish. It’s time to put this project to bed and finish redoing those hatchboards.