Trawler Flybridge Makeover

A major project that had been on my to-do list for a very long time was the renovation of the flybridge. I knew this was going to be a lot of work, and other more pressing projects had kept this on the back burner. But at some point, it really needed to be done and recently, it reached that point. The "You Have to Do It Now" list was blank for the time being, and I had found the extra time away from the work stuff to get it done. But it was not one of my more pleasant projects.

The built in fiberglass seats were looking really bad and had to be completely removed. They leaked every time it rained and the gelcoat was in bad condition. We considered painting them and making new cushions, but in the end, decided they had to go. Removing the teak baseboards made it easy to just pull them out. They were only fastened to the deck by a handful of screws attached to three glassed-in frames on the inside.

Once the seats were out, I glassed in the flybridge gunnels to the deck, eliminating any possible water intrusion. Many traditionalists will have a fit about this, since now the flybridge can never be removed. But we see no future plans that would require the removal, and this eliminated an ongoing problem for us. The space where they meet was filled in with thickened epoxy, and a 2-inch strip of fiberglass cloth was applied over that. Epoxy with fairing compound thickener was the final coat, and once the epoxy kicked off, it was sanded to a rounded corner.

With the edges glassed in place, the inner frames that held the seats in place had to be cut off flush with the deck. A reciprocating saw with a long blade did most of the work. Then there was a lot of grinding to get it level. Once everything was satisfactory, the cut off area was covered with a layer of one-inch wide cloth and epoxy to cover and reinforce the deck.

Once the starboard side was done, the entire process had to be done on the port side. Did I mention that this was really messy and no fun at all? Eventually all of the glass work was done and it took lots of sanding, starting with 80 grit and moving up to 125, until all of the surfaces were smooth enough to think about painting.

Of course, with any project, there are those unforeseeable little details that drive you crazy. The new seats were going to be in a different position and they were slightly larger than the old ones. That meant the speakers would have to be moved about 3 inches aft so they were not behind the new seat backs. The old holes had to be glassed in and fared so the sides could be painted.

Now that ALL of the fiberglassing was done, the surfaces smooth and sanded to 125 grit and the surrounding areas taped off, the first of 3 coats of white AwlGrip 545 primer was applied. Each coat was sanded with 220 grit before the next was applied.

After the primer, 3 coats of AwlGrip Cloud White were applied, also sanded between coats with 220 grit. Awlgrip recommends at least 300 grit, but I have had better luck with the 220 and the paint looks just as good. The tube sticking out of the deck leads to the exhaust in the galley and will have a fan attached later. At this point, we have not done anything with the decks except sanding.

For some time now we have had two 36-inch bench seats on the aft end of the flybridge and these were always meant to be the replacement for the old seats. They were installed back to back, caulked along the bottom and securely fastened to the deck on the starboard side. These seats have lots of storage space in the base. They are vinyl covered with high density foam and plastic bases.

There is not enough space to put 36-inch seats on both the port and starboard side, so we put two 27-inch wide seats on the port side. They are very comfortable and so much more attractive than the old fiberglass seats. Once all of the seats were installed, the decks had to be re-done. Our plan was to coat all of the decks with the same Tuff Coat non-skid material we used on our previous boat.

We have posted the details on doing our non-skids on our sailboat here, and this process would be exactly the same. The preparations take much, much more time than the actual application. First, all of the edges have to be carefully taped and any surfaces covered over that will not be coated.

Once the edges are taped, I like to apply the provided primer with a small roller, being careful not to get the primer on other surfaces. The primer dries completely clear and should sit for 24 hours before the non-skid coating is applied.

The non-skid is tenacious and will stick to anything it comes in contact with. It is nearly impossible to remove once it dries. To keep the spatter off everything, we use a 9-inch wide painters tape around everything.

The secret to getting the texture even is to make sure the material is thoroughly mixed, and a mixing paddle and drill will do this just fine. The material also needs to be stirred even in the paint pan while working.

The corners and edges where the roller does not quite reach need to be done with a brush. The trick here is to "dab" the materials and not to brush it like paint. I use the brush to stir the coating in the paint pan also.

The non-skid coating is applied with the roller provided by the manufacturer. I like to roll about a
2' X 2' section, first in one direction and then the opposite direction. It takes a short time to develop a technique that leaves an even pattern in the coating.

Two coats are needed, and as soon as the first coat is dry to the touch, the second coat should be applied. The material dries very quickly. The person applying the material should be covered, too, since getting it off skin after it dries can be painful.

Another very important step is to get the paper and tape off IMMEDIATELY. If left on too long, it will pull the edges up as the tape is removed. The material can be walked on, but shoes should be discouraged.

The results were astounding and we really love this material. It is truly non-skid no matter how wet the surface gets and no matter what kind of footwear. We have found it to be very durable no matter how much we abuse it, and it is easy to clean.

The finished flybridge looked absolutely amazing and we were so pleased at how it all turned out. It surpassed all of our expectations and made this one of our favorite spots on the boat.

The final steps are to re-bed and re-install any hardware that was removed. The aft deck cabin top was the third section done this time.

The only problem was we needed to get some new deck furniture to go in our new flybridge. The walk around section of the deck had not yet been done. We wanted to wait to finish a few other things first so we didn't mess up the new surface.

On to the next project.


  1. Wow Chuck,
    It does look like a ton of work went into this...but what a difference! It looks great!
    Went back and looked at some of your old pictures of your boat when you first got it and the you have nearly made it look brand new!! Kudos on all you have done...and thankyou for all your posting. They make my day!
    George Routt
    Blind Faith
    (36' Gulfstar 1972 Single Lehman 120 Trawler)

  2. Got one crazy question. I am sure there is a logical reason ... but why were the seats installed before the bridge deck was painted with nonskid??
    George Routt

  3. Thanks George, we always appreciate the comments and compliments. Once finished, we really like the results and since we spend a lot of time in the flybridge it feels more comfy now. As for the seat installation, I wanted to be sure the bottom was well sealed so water could not get under them and stay trapped. We had an issue like this with the other boat. If water gets under it and can't dry, it will eventually lift the non skid material. I just felt more comfortable with the seal in top of the original fiberglass rather than the non skid. And I didn't have to use quite so much material. We will have another posting this weekend. Glad you enjoy the site. Chuck

  4. On my Defever 41 the sides of the flybridge have tracks with weep holes to drain the water. One stupid thing is that the slop on the flybridge goes forward so water will puddle under the middle seats. I corrected this by putting a sunbrella cover over the whole flybridge so water cannot enter. I am in the process of stripping the teak on my boat and painting it with awlgrip. I am also going to remove the teak decks and fiberglass them. I've already done tons of mechanical and other cosmetic things like new a/c's, new gen, rewired the whole boat with new panels, etc. The wiring on old trawlers made in Taiwan is not that great. If you ever get a new gen I recommend Northern Lights - very quiet and efficient. I've been working and having work done on my boat for close to 2 years. If I had it to do over again, I would have bought a newer boat but that is not an option now. I will continue till everything is right. The boat is an incredible sea boat - full displacement - draws 4+ feet and single Ford Lehman 120HP. Went 260 miles and only put 43.8 gallons of fuel in which is incredible.

    1. I feel for you. These boats can be a lot of work. The old seats we removed trapped the water in the corners which was annoying. We had to use a brush to get it out every time it rained or we washed the boat. It sounds like you have done a lot and still have more to do. Good luck with all of the projects and at least when it's all done you will have the satisfaction of knowing you did it the way you wanted. Chuck

  5. Hi Chuck,
    I really like the seats. How did you attach them to the deck?

    1. Arch, The seats are attached with very short stainless lag bolts so they don't go through the entire deck and we also used large washers. It addition, the edges are sealed under the base of the seats with Sikaflex 295 caulking. This keeps water from sneaking under the base and helps secure them too. Chuck


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