Enhancement Projects for Niagara 35 or Rainbow 24 [revised 12/09/2008]
Since I purchased Segel [Hinterhoeller Niagara 35 hull number 26] as a business project in December 1980, she has been in full time charter on Chesapeake Bay. Over the years I have made many upgrades and fixes that have maintained this 1979 sloop in top condition, even enhancing her significantly over the original design. I must be doing it right because Segel is routinely booked for more than 15 weeks use during the April through November sailing season. Most of my customers have repeated for years as timesharers [contracted 14 to 21 days use during the season].
I belong to the Hinterhoeller Niagara 35 Yahoo discussion group [go to http://ca.groups.yahoo.com/group/niagara35sailboatowners. This group moved from sailnet.com to Yahoo on August 13, 2008. I highly recommend that other Niagara 35 owners, who are not already members, join the group. I have benefited from discussions with other Niagara owners and I have contributed a number of upgrade ideas. There are about 135 members of this group. Originally photos could not be posted, so I developed this web page to share information and projects I have done on this specific sailboat brand/model. The upgrades and "fixes" done to my sailboat may be suitable to many other brands. If my description is not clear, you need more details, or want to share feedback with me, please email me or call. I enjoy knowing if my descriptions have been useful so please let me know. If an item on my planned list below is of immediate interest, let me know and that should spur placing it in immediate priority for posting. The published projects may be revised from time to time.
Project List [installed/posted to web (date code yyyymm)]:
The Niagara 35 was built with a properly installed propane locker in the stern accessed by a hinged lid in the helmsman seat. It has a vent overboard in the bottom and was designed to hold two Canadian style 10 pound propane steel bottles. Effective in 2001, all portable propane tanks were required to be fitted with safety valves to prevent overfilling. The cost of converting the steel Canadian 10 pound style tanks was nearly as much as buying new steel American style 20 pound tanks that could be either refilled or exchanged for filled tanks [typically in year 2008 an exchange of tank cost $16-$18]. After careful measurement I determined that the existing propane locker could be modified to allow 20 pound tanks. Removal of the teak plywood spacer in the bottom of the locker and cutting an access panel hinged in the front of the locker allows switching of the tanks.
As the photo shows, the front of the locker was carefully cut down 7" on each side with a width of 21.5". I used a saber saw with a tungsten carbide grit blade [RemGrit jig saw blade] that made a clean cut in the fiberglass. I installed a full width piano hinge with stainless nuts and bolts across the bottom at the ends and pop rivets as the remaining fasteners to avoid scratching the tanks. On the sides I used scrap fiberglass strips about 2" wide and attached them with 3M 5200 adhesive [WEST epoxy with filler might be better]. The strips were the backer to hold the hinged flap flush with the locker sides. I originally used bolts with wing nuts to hold the panel closed. However, I converted to stainless steel slide bolts on the upper area of the hinged door as being much easier and not getting lost.
This was a very inexpensive but very significant upgrade of a Niagara 35 Mk 1 model that ensured easily available propane tank refills with twice the capacity of the previous installation. During the visit of a Canadian Niagara 35 Encore model headed to the Caribbean in 2005, I assisted in its propane locker conversion. The propane lockers have different deck moldings but that was not a problem.
Safety aboard is especially important when you sail alone or have inexperienced crew aboard. Segel has a conventional canvas dodger over stainless steel 1" bows. I had noticed other dodgers with hand rails on their sides and across their aft edge. Even though the Niagara 35 has good passage forward alongside the dodger, you never have too many handholds aboard sailboats. I looked for ready made railings in Boaters World and West Marine but found the maximum length was 24". They were very nice with a single, welded on bolt stud on each end and a graceful curve, but the location I wanted to install them was just above the side windows and that measures about 31" on Segel's dodger [caution: your dodger will probably be a different measurement and might vary from side to side as mine did]. Options I considered were having the local fabricator extend them by welding in a piece as I had done with Segel's pedestal guard [discussed in Project 6] or to have them make up custom bent rails with welded on studs, similar to the commercially available ones. The commercially available ones were oval shaped tubing, not round, so extending them was not practical and custom fabricated rails with 31" stud spacing would have been at least $100 each. I had 7/8" stainless steel tubing left over from my years as a TowBoatUS tower doing salvage work so I looked for fittings to make up my own. I bought 7/8" stainless steel [caution: don't buy the pot metal cheaper version] "angle rail ends" from West Marine for about $19 each. These have two mounting holes and a set screw.
Installation required careful measurements that vary with exact positioning of the handrail on the dodger. I positioned mine just below the zipper area on the back of the dodger. Once sure of my position I marked it with a piece of masking tape and used a spring loaded marking punch to dimple the location through the dodger covering, being sure of the proper angle. Otherwise, you will be very frustrated. You don't want the drill bit to slip and tear the material and you want to go through the tubing perpendicular to the tubing. Because of the design of the fittings I angled the cut ends of the tubing so that they were shorter on the top allowing a short bolt with nut to secure the fitting to the tube only. The outer bolt does extend through the stainless steel dodger bow and is captured by a lock nut. I also drilled holes for the set screws to ensure that they were flush with the fitting.
Because of the very tapered design of the fittings, I cut off the ends that were just beyond the outer screw and filed down the raw edge. I found the file tool in my Super Leatherman to be excellent for the final dressing of the end. Take care, if you do the cutting/filing aboard the boat that the stainless steel filings will make rust spots if left behind. I did put some heavy, rubber type weather stripping under each fitting for padding and had the areas on the dodger reinforced by my local sailmaker/canvas shop. Obviously, the handrails must be unbolted to take the dodger off for repair or storage.
Now that I have given you all this information, next time I would seriously consider having custom made handrails with a stud on each end fabricated for a more clean look. I have about $120 in fittings and material for the ones I made. I saved an estimated $200 by making them my self compared to having custom ones made professionally for about $300. I guess what drove me is when I think of a project I like to get it done and not be on some ones wait list. I call that "instant gratification."
Project 3. LED bow running lights for less electric drain [200312/200410/2006]
Original equipment on the Niagara 35 was Perko brand port and starboard running lights recessed into the hull at the bow. The fittings use colored glass 1/2 globes for a lens that sits in recessed fittings. The bulb socket unit sat on the glass flange and was held in place by a ring cover with two screws. Parts of the socket unit had deteriorated and were no longer reliable. Replacements parts could not be found. On Segel these lights were a double bayonet 10 watt incandescent bulb. This amounts to nearly 1 amp draw per bulb. Years ago I added a tricolor light at the top of the mast [with anchor light] that uses one 10 watt bulb to power the sailing lights as an option to the original bow and stern lights. However, I still had the original lights available and were used when motoring. With LED [light emitting diodes] now on the market I looked for a method to upgrade to obtain less battery drain [about 1/10 of the original lights] and nearly an indefinite bulb life. It is tough to see if your bow lights are working and the 100,000 hour rating seems forever! At the time I started this project in 2003, purpose made LED navigation lights had not appeared in the boating stores. USCG listed LED running lights are now on the market. These early lights were marketed for bait well lights.
The replacement LED lights were purchased at Boaters World. The ones I used [they had 2 brands] were bought in September 2004. They were a pair of Innovative Lighting [Innovative Lighting Inc, 109 Progressive Ave., Roland, IA 50236, (proudly made in USA!)] Bulkhead Light [white] at About $12 each. They are made in amber, red, blue, green, or white LED's, but Boaters World only stocked the white. They are rated for underwater use and have a 11/16" hole requirement with a screw on keeper nut. They were brighter and had a more rounded lens than the Seasense brand by Unified Marine, Inc. that had I installed the previous winter. One of the first set failed [don't know why] and the distributor did not reply to my email about the 10 year warranty. It is not worth additional follow-up as they only cost $10 each.
In my installation I used a piece of Formica laminate scrap [laminate only]. I cut with a saber saw to be big enough to cover the two mounting flanges on the Perko light fixture. I then drilled holes for the two mounting screws and a center hole for the 11/16" LED mounting shaft, screwed on the keeper plastic nut, and the mounted the unit in place. I did seal up around the glass lens with silicone. I was careful to hook up with proper polarity to leads from the old wiring system.
As a bonus, I have also replaced Hinterhoeller's original use of unsealed crimped butt connectors to make branch circuits. I installed small screw terminal blocks where ever I found butt connectors being used as a method to branch to fixtures. The original butt connection used for branching off fixtures were all beginning to fail from moisture corrosion over the years and were not convenient for doing replacements or modifications to the wiring.
Project 4. Replacing wire rope lifelines with high tech braided line [200307/200410]
Segel's stainless steel lifelines had been replaced in the 1990's due to deterioration of the plastic vinyl coating and some rusting areas. The lines were sagging due to some deforming of the bow pulpit [remember this is a full time charter boat] and, at least for appearance sake, shortening to reduce sag or making new ones was necessary. A number of articles have appeared in Practical Sailor during 2001-2002 about the practicality of using modern high strength braided line that nearly matches the strength of vinyl coated stainless steel for comparable dimensions. I undertook this project in July 2003 when Sailnet.com had 1/4" New England Sta-Set polyester braid on sale. Sta-Set 1/4" braid has a breaking strength of 2000 pounds compared to 7x7 1/4" wire rope with vinyl cover breaking strength of 6000 pounds. Recognizing that the stanchion would probably break first and that Segel is used on Chesapeake Bay, not oceans, and always within sight of land, I considered this adequate. If Sta-Set X had been used, its breaking strength would have been increased to 2700 pounds and a price about 50 percent more. Higher tech 1/4" lines now available can exceed the breaking strength of comparable wire rope, however, eye splicing may be a problem and cost would triple.
With the Sta-Set I was confident of my ability to do the splices using excellent 20 year old instructions from West Marine's predecessor [when they were only a rope dealer]. These instructions show how to make a wire puller made up from stiff wire and use it to make the splice. I do have a set of the New England Uni-Fids which is the traditional tool for this splicing, but I keep going back to the made up wire puller. I splice braid only every few years so I have to ponder the directions for each one I make. But, what a joy afterwards when it turns out ok.
The existing turnbuckles were reused with just replacing the previously swaged wire terminal end with a jaw end [clevis pin type] for the eye splices. Hardest problem was estimating the length to allow between eye splices, recognizing I had to allow for stretch and the adjustment ability of the turnbuckles. The turnbuckles are now at the bow pulpit allowing for tension adjustment. Originally they were at the gate area. I found that at the gate area, the turnbuckle was subject to being flexed and thus fatiguing the jaw bolt. Short jaw ends are used through the gate post to make the connection for the gate hook with its original wire rope. Just under that a collar is used for attaching the rope eye to the gate post.
Project 5. Replacing leaking aluminum diesel fuel tank with plastic [200203/200410]
Niagara 35's were built with aluminum 30 gallon diesel fuel tanks easily accessible underneath the port quarterberth. For those of you who subscribe to Practical Sailor, the Consumer Reports for sailors, you know that aluminum tanks can develop pin hole corrosion leaks from water contamination that sits at the bottom of the tank. Segel developed this problem. The final solution was to replace the aluminum tank with a plastic tank. In March 2002, I replaced it with a plastic Polyethylene tank designed for diesel fuel. I ordered the tank from BoatUS [also carried by West Marine and Boaters World]. It was a Tempo 24 gallon tank model TP24T [36"Lx16"Wx13.5"H]. It came with a fuel sender. For diesel engines you also need the diesel conversion kit that includes a fuel return line fitting on the fuel sender fitting. This was the best compromise I found at the time for fitting under the bunk and capacity. I considered the loss of 6 gallons not serious as the Niagara 35 uses less than 1/2 gallon per hour at cruising speed [my 27 hp Yanmar 3GM30 averages 0.4 gph]. The West Marine price in 2004 for the tank was $160 and $39 for the conversion kit. With the addition of a properly sized "curved radiator hose bend" attached with an internal plastic hose connector and doubled hose clamps the existing fuel hose reached the fill fitting. The diesel fuel return hose from the engine was long enough to reach the nipple on the fuel sender fitting. The existing wood cleats were reused to hold the tank in place. The photo shows the installation and hoses.
Project 6. Instrument pod at Edson helm guard [200212/200503]
I had a home made mounting board at the helm pedestal to mount the autopilot, GPS, and depth sounder for some years. It did not look elegant as shown in the original installation photos below. In 2002 I got brave and redesigned the area.
For a guy who does not pride himself with workmanship but likes to get the job done, this installation came out quite professional.
Project 7. Replacing copper propane lines [200607/rev 200607]
The propane lines in Segel [NI 35, hull 26] were stiff copper tubing with flared connectors. Most were original equipment. The only hose was at the propane tanks and behind the gimbaled stove. The one behind the stove I found badly abraded due to rubbing as the gimbaled stove moved it against the cabinet. I have made sure it will not abrade again. You do need to check yours! After heavy use since 1979 and the addition of a flash hot water heater, I decided to upgrade. I replaced the copper with professionally prepared swaged hose by the local propane distributor to my measurements. Segel has three propane fixtures [stove, cabin heater, flash hot water heater]. With the installation of the flash hot water heater in 2006, I redid the propane lines to have the two T's located in the propane locker and each line run directly to each appliance [propane stove, propane cabin heater, and propane hot water heater]. This avoids any extra connections inside the vessel. The new 3/8 inch propane hoses are 20 feet to galley stove, 30 feet to cabin heater, and 33 feet to the flash hot water heater. These lengths of hose were very adequate and each could have been several feet shorter. The hoses with fittings and tees came to a total of about $300 included 5% tax. See Project 13 for details on installation of the Excel flash hot water heater.
Project 8. Raising lifeline gate stanchion mounting to solve leakage [200304/200505]
Except when under sail, the internal deck scupper drains do
not drain the aft deck scuppers due to placement of the drains. During winter I
have often placed a water filled trash can on the bow to make it drain. The
drain location is especially bad when the water tanks are empty and genoa is removed
for the winter. To design a deck mold to consider all aspects of engine
selection, loading of gear, fullness of tanks, is probably not possible with
internal deck drains. The other design option would have been to have external
drains through the gunnels with the resultant stains on the topsides. Life is a
series of compromises!
Project 9. Fixing capillary deck leaks with Creepy Crack Cure [2004/200602]
Deck leaks on Niagara 35's, as well as most other fiberglass sailboats, can be pesky to fix as the working of the hull over time allows capillary leaks to occur. Because of cabin liners, the leaks can be distant from where the leak shows up. One cure that has been found effective is Capt. Tolley's Creeping Crack Cure [~$13 in 2006 at boating stores]. It is a penetrating copolymer sealant that, on the Niagara 35, is applied at the eyebrow trim on the coach roof and at bolts holes, etc. on the hatches. It travels by capillary action and cures to a clear flexible seal. In my experience, annual treatment is necessary due to working of the boat.
Project 10. Easy fix for gelcoat stress cracks [200304/200602]
Hull #26 came with cosmetic stress cracks at sharp bends in the deck contours, especially around the cockpit coaming. Rather than the customary practice of routing out the crack and repairing with gelcoat, I found that use of small tubes of single part gelcoat scratch patch can make them visually disappear. One brand is Evercoat Marine Gel Coat Scratch Patch in buff white, ~ $10 from boating stores. The area should be first scrubbed with bleach to remove discoloration and than a small bead of the "paint" from the tube spread into the scratch by rubbing with a cloth.
Project 11. Replacement of cracked plastic domestic water tank with new Ronco tank [200509/200605]
For some reason the port, 40 gallon Kraco plastic water tank on many classic version model Niagara 35's has cracked. Most likely there is a stress point at the middle of the tank on the outboard edge of the bed. The port and the starboard tanks are identical but just reversed from each other. Kraco no longer produces the tank for the Niagara 35 but they suggested a method of repair. Strips of milk carton plastic can be melted with a heat gun to fuse with the existing plastic. I tried this several times over a couple of years but the crack continued to come back over time. I finally gave up and installed a smaller Plastima bladder tank designed for water storage. I was not happy with this replacement as capacity was smaller and it caused the side wall of the location under the bunk to bulge due the the pressure and the top of the bladder had to be also constrained with bracing to keep the compartment lid in place.
I finally did a Google search of the internet for plastic tank suppliers and got a hit on TankDepot.com as a supplier of Ronco tanks. The Ronco listed tanks had an exact dimension replacement tank but without the internal baffles of the Kraco tank. The catalog number for this tank, labeled as a 37 gallon tank, is RW-B489 and was listed as $189 [2005 price]. I was concerned about the standard fitting location so I ordered the fitting relocation kit [90-2218, $22] that would allow me to custom install each fitting plus an access port in the top for inspection and cleaning. Shipping cost at the time from California to Maryland came to $56.
The port side Kraco tank fittings are at the bow end of the tank and the aft end of the tank is slightly lower, at least in Segel [I do not have chain anchor rode thus this orientation and probably accounts for the deck scuppers not completely draining the deck at rest]. By having the outlet fitting at the aft end would allow more complete draining of the tank. Installation of the fittings was easy but I caution you to not crowd the edge of the tank as the inside nut to secure the spout of the fitting must rest flush or you will have leakage problems. The port tank now has the water outlet at the rear but with the water inlet fill and air vent at the forward end as in the original Kraco installation. Not being one to toss much, I am still storing my old Kraco ~40 gallon cracked water tank!
12. Replacement of leaking deck hatch gaskets [200605/200605]
The two Atkins and Hoyle deck hatches on Segel, a 1979 Niagara 35 classic, had never been replaced. With heavy rains, both hatches dripped some and the bolts for the adjustable clamps were frozen in the aluminum frame. Time to investigate new gaskets. A Goggle search found an Endeavor discussion group saying that Bomar 9/16 inch round gaskets worked on theirs. Atkins and Hoyle wanted $38 for the smaller hatch and $45 for the larger hatch and $23 for their tube of adhesive. A Google search for Bomar 9/16" hatch gasket found several suppliers, one of which was Boaters World online website for $27 for 10 foot lengths. When it arrived I found it came with an adhesive strip covered by a pull off plastic strip and good instructions for installation.
I pulled off the existing gasket without trouble but it left a layer of gasket rubber behind that was not easy to remove. Best tool was a proper sized bolt with the threads being used like a rasp. I also tried copper tubing of right diameter but the bolt was better. After cleaning the bare half round channel with alcohol, started the installation.
Remember, I was not able to remove the adjusting bolts for the clamps so my first attempt to have it thick by not stretching it out was a mistake as I was not able to clamp the hatch closed. I had to pull it back out, stretch out some and put back in. The adhesive still was tacky enough to grip. However, the corners were difficult to keep in place, but I persevered. Instant glue probably would have solved the problem if I had not been successful. The hatches no long leak. The two deck hatches had their crazed plastic inserts replaced by Maritime Plastics in Annapolis [410-263-4424] in 2007 at a cost of about $500. The hatches were easily removed and delivered them.
13. Installation of Excel Flash hot water heater [200607/200607]
An 'Excel' brand automatic ignition, tankless, water heater was installed in July 2006. This heater [model JSYD 5.5] does not require a vent as it uses electronic ignition [no standing pilot light] and has an oxygen depletion safety shutoff device. This new heater was purchased on an eBay auction in July 2006 for $268 plus shipping. However, it can be direct purchased from ExcelAmerica.com for $299. With the cost of the new propane hoses, I have about $600 in the total installation. Some of my charter customers remember fondly their use of some of the Niagara 35's and Nonsuch 30's that I managed in the 1980's that had the Paloma instant hot water heaters that had a constantly lit pilot light when being used.
The 1/2 inch intake water hose [located in the head's sink cabinet] was connected to the water line that comes from the hot water tank in the engine compartment [heated by heat exchange with the engine cooling water or shore power connection]. It was then snaked under the galley area behind the galley sink and connected to the instant water heater through the counter [1 inch holes]. The outlet water hose went down through the counter over a couple of feet and teed into the hose that goes to both hot water supply connections for both galley and head faucets.
New propane hoses and fittings were installed so that all tees are located in the propane tank locker. This reduces the connections to only the connection at each fixture. These propane hoses were made up by the local propane supply firm and cost about $300 for the hoses and tees. The heater was installed on the galley counter wall under the storage cabinet as shown in the photos. I did have to install a heat shield under the cabinet. I used a piece of 1/2" thick cement board [left over from a shower stall tile project] spaced about 3/4 inch below the cabinet. The air gap helps on the insulation. When a hot water faucet tap is opened, the automatic electronic igniter lights the heater, if the propane valves are on. My charterers say it works great. They leave the controls at the lowest heat setting for this installation.
14. Replacement of fixed port plastic [200611/200706]
Segel's four fixed ports in the cabin were showing their age requiring replacement to maintain Segel in Bristol condition. The procedure I used was:
15. Replacement of Cabin Sole [200302/200707]In October 2002, a charterer failed to secure the CQR plow anchor on Segel's bow with the safety line and the anchor went overboard while motoring and got in the propeller. Segel ended up anchored by the propeller! She was towed to a Tilghman Island marina where a diver removed the fouled line. No one checked the engine room for potential leaking. The charterer returned to Segel following an hour visiting ashore and found water 3" deep over the cabin sole. They were able to make emergency repairs to stop the flooding at the stuffing box and pumped out the boat. She was towed back to Zahnisers Marina in Solomons for stuffing box repair. Following repairs of the stuffing box and replacement of the anchoring gear, I evaluated the situation. The cabin sole had been replaced professionally in 1992 for about $5,000. After 10 years of full charter use the sole was showing some discoloration and had two sections of progressing rot from a head shower water leakage under the head door sills from failure of the caulking. As a quality charter boat, appearances are critical so replacement was necessary. In December 2003 the marina estimate for replacing the sole was in the ballpark of $10,000 [10 years of inflation!]. I elected to do it myself over the winter at a cost of about $500 plus my labor.
The Niagara 35 teak and holly [not really holly] cabin sole uses a special 1/2" plywood panel [mostly mahogany plies with a thin teak surface laminate with a feature strip to approximate holly]. The source I used for the 4' x 8' sheets was Harbor Sales in Baltimore, MD [www.harborsales.net, 800-345-1712]. In 2003, the sheets cost ~$150 each. The 2007 price is almost $200 for the 1/2". One quarter inch and 3/4" thick sheets are also available. The procedure I used was:
Cabin Sole Replacement Picture Gallery:
As always, I enjoy feedback and inquiry on any of these projects. If you have interesting write ups on your projects on the web, send me the link to them and I will do that linking here.
Visitors since August 1, 2008