INSTALLING NEW PANELS
To cut the boards I installed my miter saw in the cockpit, which sliced through them like butter. Unfortunately it only makes a 6 inch long cut, so I had to turn the board over, then very carefully finish the cut. A sliding compound saw would have been better to cut straight through a 7 inch wide panel, but on boats you learn to use the tools you have. The lazer guide on the saw proved invaluable, firing an accurate red line down the cut. The material can also be cut with a box cutter, but that is a slow process and hard on the hands.
I first cut a piece off an 8 foot board, slightly longer than the space between the beams. I then held it up between the beams, exactly down the center line of the boat, which I had marked with a thin string fastened from one end of the saloon to the other. I found the beams to be remarkable parallel, but each panel still had to be checked and sometimes trimmed for a close butt-fit to the beam. I marked the other end of the panel using a wooden ruler against the beam, then scored a line with a pencil.
Then it was up the six steps into the cockpit, carefully cut to the line, then back down to try the fit, then back up to make minute adjustments, sometimes less than a millimeter, to seat the panel snugly between the beams.
I then drilled pilot holes with a 1/16 inch drill into the corner tongues of the panel to stop them splitting, then nailed the panel with brads at an angle into the wooden bead. I had to hold the small brads with long nosed pliers, then finish them off with a nail punch. I did consider also gluing the panels, but then they would have been practically impossible to remove if I ever needed to bolt another fitting through the deck.
Subsequent panels were measured and cut exactly the same way, then tapped into the grooves of the adjacent panel, covering the brads, then secured with brads on the other side. This way I slowly in-filled a section.
It was all easy enough, and I soon got into the swing of measuring and cutting, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t make a few wrong cuts, and even found myself trying to mount a panel upside down more than once.
When I came to the ends of a section, where the panels met the saloon sides, I had to make accurate cardboard templates because these were irregular, with tapers and rounded sides, the edges of which also needed chamfering. The central corridor section also had to have a template.
The lights had been removed with the cloth, then re-installed into the new panels, which also helped to hold the panels in place. There is a butterfly hatch in the center of the saloon and the sides had to be extended before I could infill that section.
It was gratifying to eventually see a complete new clean section of panels, between the beams.
The saloon took a week, full time to complete, and another two weeks to work through the whole boat.
The longer panels in the bathrooms and bedrooms had to be supported to stop them sagging. I did this by screwing up into the under deck and covering the screw with a small collar and white plastic snap-on cap. The section under the aft cabin was tricky. I had to lie on my back to measure, then nail the panels in place, but it was worth it to have such a clean overhead.
It was tedious work, continuously reaching upwards, and my arms ached for days afterwards. I used ten packs and cut about 200 panels. I removed more than 4000 rusty staples, and pre-drilled and nailed some 400 brads. But we now have very professional looking overhead panels throughout the boat.
We have also noticed a reduction in the heat felt through the deck on blistering hot Florida days.
The effort has greatly improved the inside appearance and probably the value of the boat.
The total cost of material was around $250.00, but I shudder to think how much it would have cost to have had it all professionally installed.