SV Pilgrim - 1979 Morgan 382 - Homeport: Beaufort, NC

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Removing the Original Ice Box

We are visiting family in New Hampshire for the holidays.  Over 600 miles from Pilgrim and I finally find a bit of time to post some updates.  

What began as an attempt to replace a leaking drain in the ice box… lead to the discovery of just how inadequate the 35 year old, original insulation… lead to the decision to completely rebuild the ice box.
Looking down into Pilgrim's ice box with Alder-Barbour evaporator on upper left.
The obvious plan of attack would be to make the repair through the opening in the counter top.  This approach provides limited access and plenty of opportunities to damage the countertop.  My second thought was to remove the counter top, but I felt that this would lead to replacing all the counters and galley cabinets.  Fearful of too much project creep, I eliminated removing the  the counter top as an option.

Currently, Pilgrim’s engine and the partition separating the engine compartment and the cockpit locker are removed.  This provides unfettered access to the bulkhead aft of the ice box.  Additionally, this bulkhead was a mess when we began our refit.
So many issues here I am speechless..
Wires ran asunder.  A defunct manual pump for the ice box hung from the wall.  A previous owner sprayed a silly-string-esque foam on the bulkhead in an attempt to either insulate or dampen sound.  We were all too happy to rid the boat of this abomination.  Thus our plan of attack for rebuilding the ice box was via the removal of a section of the aft bulkhead.  

NOTE...I do realize that the bulkheads are structural.  I consulted with a couple experienced marine carpenters prior to initiating the first cut.  We have a plan that I am confident will result in a stronger hull once completed. 

I removed the Alder-Barbour condenser and evaporator prior to making the first cut.

The Alder-Barbour condenser resided on a shelf in the cockpit locker.  Note the silly string is gone.
Fortunately identifying the height of the countertop and location of structural members at the inboard corner was easy due use of screws in the original construction.  Based on the fastener layout I marked out the section to be removed.  Along the hull I used the top of the tabbing as a guide.  Using a combination of jigsaw and circular saw I cut away the ½” plywood bulkhead and discovered…
Surprise... another bulkhead!
a second ½” plywood bulkhead.  Both bulkheads were tabbed to the hull and were separated by a ½” to ¾” gap.  The forward bulkhead extends from the hull to the underside of the galley countertop.
Ice box insulation exposed.  The insulation along this side of the box was less than 2" thick.
Removing the second bulkhead exposed the feeble ice box insulation.  In most areas the insulation was less the two inches thick and consisted of crisp, disintegrating open cell foam.
The open cell insulation crumbled when handled.
The insulation was not bonded to the exterior of the ice box and was easy to remove with a razor knife.
After cutting around the insulation with a razor knife it fell away from the box.
Our plan is to re-insulate the box with a minimum of four inches of foam.  This will result in a smaller but vastly more efficient ice box.  A smaller box will hopefully allow us to reuse some of the original ice box walls.    

The initial wall to go was the aft. 

Looking into the ice box from the cockpit locker.
In an effort to preserve as much of the original walls as possible, I discovered that by drilling a pilot hole and then bridging the base of the jigsaw on opposite faces allowed me to cut along the corner. 

NOTE… A standard jigsaw blade is not adequate for cutting fiberglass.  The Bosch T341-HM1 blades are designed for cutting fiberglass.   The T341 blades are 5-1/4” long.   I had to use a cut off wheel to shorten the blade to 3” for making these cuts.
My technique for cutting the ice box walls into sections.
The final outboard cut required some awkward hand sawing.
In small spaces I resorted to hand sawing. 

More images and notes are available in our Ice Box Rebuild Album


  1. Jeff, I have been following your posts here for a few months now. I admire your craftsmanship and the way you approach a project. I just bought a 1979 382 in June 2014 and am working on similar projects as you, although much smaller scale as I currently have little time to spend on it.

    I know this is unrelated to this particular post but what type of white paint do you use to paint over your fiberglass tabbing repairs? Is it gelcoat or a polyurethane?


    1. Tim,

      Thanks for following along with our progress on Pilgrim. Where is your M382 and what is her name?

      I've tried many different paints... water based, oil based, epoxy. I have settled on...

      For interior areas that are not immersed in or frequently exposed to water, I use two coats of latex Kilz2 primer followed by one to two coats of high quality, exterior grade, semi gloss latex paint.

      For interior spaces like bilges, engine beds, cockpit lockers, etc. I use two to three coats Interlux Pre-Kote followed by two to three coats of Interlux BilgeKote.

      Good luck with your projects.


    2. Jeff, thanks for the info!

      My boat is in the process of being named far no name. I keep her in Treasure Island, Florida, near John's Pass. Where do you keep yours currently?

      I have another question/issue I was hoping you could provide some advice; right after I purchased my boat I replaced the bilge pump with a Johnson brand 2200 GPH. This one has the electronic sensor/switch. Sometimes it comes on and stays on but does not pump any water....I think it may be a priming issue because if I turn it off and quickly back on it primes itself and pumps the water out. Also if water trickles in very slowly it will not trigger the auto switch, water needs to flow in fast in order for it to activate the pump.I called the place that sold it to me and they said I could return it even though I have had it over 6 months now.

      So my questions are;

      1) Should I return this and get a different brand pump? If so what brand?
      2) Is there something I may have done wrong on the installation that would cause these problems?
      3) Maybe the electronic switch is not the way to go, is an actual float more reliable?

      Thanks and look forward to hearing back from you on this.


    3. Tim

      We are currently located in Beaufort, NC.

      It will be difficult for me to diagnose your issue from afar. I'm guessing that the 2200 GPH Johnson pump is a centrifugal style pump, yes?

      From the West Marine Site...
      Centrifugal vs. diaphragm pumps
      Centrifugal pumps are submersible and non-self-priming, so they must be sitting in the water in order to pump it, and can usually remove all but the last inch of water. They work the best when the bilge has a small sump where water collects. Centrifugal pumps use whirling vanes to draw fluid into the center of the pump and then push it outward from the center through an outlet port. They have a built-in strainer in their base that can be removed quickly for cleaning, which is important because the small impeller can get clogged with debris.

      Diaphragm pumps are self-priming, which means they can lift water up an intake hose and expel it outside the hull. They use a membrane to increase and decrease the volume of a pumping chamber, drawing fluid in and pushing fluid out through a set of one-way check valves. Diaphragm pumps require an external strainer at the end of the intake hose, since a small amount of hair or bilge debris can cause the valves to clog.

      If the base of the centrifugal is not fully immersed then it will not build a prime. If you have a centrifugal pump that will not pump water and the lower portion is under water, then you should return it.

      As for the float switch... Something does not sound right. The switch should activate based on the level of the water in the bilge not rate at which water is entering the bilge.

      I suggest a smaller volume diaphragm pump with float switch as a primary bilge pump and a large volume centrifugal pump (over 2000 GPH) as a emergency pump.

      Have you come across the book - This Old Boat by Don Casey? Highly recommend owning this book. It is an excellent source of information on sail boat maintenance and repair.

      Good luck,


  2. Jeff, thanks for the info on the bilge pump. I took your advice and bought the Don Casey book. Great Book! I am sure I will get much use out of it! Last weekend I noticed my port center chainplate had been leaking so I decided to re-bed. I found wet core in one of the holes and am now I the process of cleaning it out, drying it out, and then going to fill with Epoxy and re-drill. I am hoping the wet core does not go too far across the deck. Did you finds any issues like this when you re-bedded yours?

    1. Good to hear you like the book. Our first boat was a work in progress when we purchased it. The guy we bought the boat from included a copy of the first edition of the book with the boat. I've been restoring and repairing sailboats for over a decade now and I still return to the book at least once a month. Got the second edition for my birthday last year.

      I'm guessing you've seen our post(s) on re-bedding Pilgrim's chainplates? Fortunately we did not find any wet core material. The area around the thru-bolts was filled with thickened epoxy. By the manner in which the core on Pilgrim was filled I assumed it was done at the factory.

      It is a good sign the wet wood was only in one hole. Hopefully that means the moisture has not spread far. Can you tell if the wet wood is end grain balsa or plywood? The majority of the deck is cored with end grain balsa, but on Pilgrim I believe the area around the chainplates is cored with piece of plywood. The plywood would better distribute any load applied to the deck and it would be less susceptible to moisture intrusion than the balsa.

      If wood is visible in any of the holes, then it would be prudent to check them all and seal up any with exposed core. Is you mast currently in the boat?

      Good Luck.

  3. I have scheduled a surveyor with an infrared camera and moisture meter to sound the deck just in case there are other issues. The mast is in place and the boat is currently in the water. The mast was removed in 2001 (prior to me owning it) and new wiring was added.

    I don't think the wet wood is plywood since it is coming out looking like black sand or very fine dirt.