This is about as close as I could come to a before and after shot. Notice the dirty teak, dirty compass mount and a half full compass. At the end of last season I put this on the to do list for the winter. I took everything off the pedestal, put the teak in the cabin for refinishing and took the compass home. I started to research old Ritchie compasses from the 70s and 80s and stumbled across Viking Compass. They had parts! After reading about the difficulty involved with repairing compasses, I wasn’t sure if a rebuild was the best approach. Many folks complain that the job isn’t as easy as it looks and that they received sub optimal results doing the repair themselves. I thought I would give it a go.
First, I removed all the compass oil and saved it in a clean container. Then I removed the top and the globe. At first I guessed that the gaskets were gone. However, when I removed the globe, I noticed a crack on the flange. This was definitely how the oil was escaping. I ordered a new globe and new gaskets from Viking. I guess to me, the interesting part of this project is that the compass was produced by Ritchie from 1980-1984. The way I could tell was that the globe had a flange where the gasket fit inside. The older style didn’t have a flange that the gasket fit inside. So what happened to the original 1975 compass? Was it a bad design and replaced soon after production? Was this a used boat supply replacement? Mysteries.
While the compass was being repaired in the comfort of my home, the teak cupholders were left in the cabin. I tend to work on the boat a fair amount over the winter on nice days. So every trip out there, I put a coat of varnish on, hoping that by spring I would have it built up enough. Although there are a lot of folk stories about how to do varnish well, just read the can. There are really three things:
- 50/50 thinner/varnish during the first 2-3 coats
- Sand between coats 4+, takes the tops off
- Use a foam brush for the later coats, it really fills in the valleys
The housing was somewhat problematic. The inside was painted and chipping and the outside was a damaged gel coat. I looked online for the best all around option and I found Epifanes Mono-urethane, which is able to bond to fiberglass without primer. Sounds good. This stuff is really made for painting decks, like Awlgrip. I sanded it, cleaned it and painted it and left it. When I came back the next week, the paint had run. Urgh. Sanded it down again. I did some research and others had this problem. What was recommended was tipping the paint after it became tacky, roughly 15-20 minutes. I did this and I thought I was going to ruin the paint, because it left pronounced brush marks. So I left and when I returned a week later, it was smooth and glossy. Perfect!
The last step required a little bit of electrical work. The compass light didn’t have a proper connector plug. I think the previous owner had just stuck the replacement compass in and never bothered to connect the light. I got some heat shrink butt connectors (so many jokes) and a marine grade connector plug. Let there be compass light.