Tuesday, August 19, 2014


It may be that nothing will focus a sailor's attention more than chopping a giant hole in the deck of his or her boat.  Even when the hole is about as far above the water line as it is possible to be, cranking up the saw and slicing through the fiberglass that carries the load of the fore deck and separates one from the elements seems a drastic kind of thing.

With The Floating Bear floating peacefully on her mooring ball in Dinner Key, and a day or two of not doing much of anything at all, it is time to turn some attention to Kintala and her own project list. At the top of that list is the soft spot not far aft of her bow, favoring the port side, and encroaching on the cleat.  It has been there since we bought the boat and reminded me of a task that needed done every time I went forward to attend to dropping or pulling the hook.  Time to take a deep breath and crank up  the cutter.

Hammer taps outlined the area of ugly needing to be uncovered, though thought was given to the finished product.  The soft spot spans two sections of non-skid across a band of gel-coat.  The call was to make the cut inside one section of non-skid and assault some of the bad core, as it were, from the side. I like the idea of chopping in such a way as to save the top piece for later, glassing it back down on the new core to complete the repair.  This requires not butchering it up when slicing it out and easing it off of the core.

By the way, assaulting the bad core from the side is not in the books anywhere, at least not in any of the sailboat repair books I could find.  According to the sailboat experts solid, un-compromised core has to be exposed in order to do a good repair.  Since I have long lost faith in sailboat experts, some of this is getting made up as we go.

Anyway, tape lines laid down, the saw went to work.  The trick is to cut deep enough to free the top layer but not deep enough to cut the bottom layer of the composite deck.  (Or, in this case, deep enough to cut through the interior and open the V-berth to the sky.)  It isn't nearly as hard to do as it sounds. There is a clear difference in feel when the blade slices through hard fiberglass into mushy wood. Once the cut was complete the task was to ease the top layer off without breaking it into several useless pieces.

The trick to that is to use a multitude of prying tools; screwdrivers, putty knives, picks, hacksaw blades, whatever works to separate the glass from the wood.  Throw in a ton of patience.  When something starts to crack, stop and take a different approach.  It took more than an hour of being careful, but the top layer of deck came away as clean as could  have been hoped.

The ugly lay underneath, exactly as expected.  Water actually ran along the putty knives, screwdrivers and, eventually, vacuum cleaner attachment, as the work went on.  Rotten wood covered a good bit of the fore deck before it was over.  Eventually most of the evil core was gone and a DA sander went to work, smoothing out the top of the bottom layer of composite and the bottom of the top layer.  So long as the sun was baking the repair it was left exposed to dry out.  It gets covered at night in case of rain, but for the next day or two it will be left opened to dry.

That will give me time to plan the sideways attack on the bad core.  There are several options. Latest and greatest would be to fill the undercut deck with structural foam.  I worked with the stuff years ago while building experimental radar jamming drones to be launched from Nuke attack B-52's whose purpose was to give the Ruskies too many radar hits to shoot at.  Once mixed it swells up like the Blob of horror picture shows then dries sin hard. But it isn't cheap and getting it in the right place at the right time can be a challenge.

Old school would be to make this part of the fore deck a solid laminate using glass mat and resin, stuffing the voids using any tools that work.  Middle school would be to mix up some resin and thicken it with silicon to fill the voids.  The concern with both of these is, given the angles and areas involved, getting a solid fill. I'll have to think on this one a bit.

All in all though, the focus is back on Kintala and getting her ready to  go cruising again.  And that is a good kind of focus.


Jeff Lovett said...

We did a similar repair on C'est la Vie in 2007 and successfully used Plascore to replace the rotten balsa.

Your in Ft. Lauderdale correct? Head over to Seafarer Marine -
3100 S.W. 3rd Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315
Great shop with knowledgeable they stock Plascore.

Here is a link to the photo album from re-coring C'est la Vie's deck. -

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the process.

Rharriscpa said...

Ouch, I am sure that hurt but I agree with the way you are going about. Hopefully, the good core isn't too far away from the cut. Maybe it's a combination of the resin and silica for the bad stuff you have to dig out and plasticore for the nice even area you have cut out. Either way I have seen how you two do things and it will be better than ever when finished. Good luck and I admire your perseverance.

Rharriscpa said...

PS. Have you figured out where the water is/was getting in? Guess that's key before finishing.

Robert Sapp said...

You've got a nice square hole there. Maybe you should just slap a hatch in it and call it good? More ventilation in the V-berth could be a good thing in the islands.

TJ said...

A new ch wouldn't be a bad idea, but it would be off center and partly in the anchor locker ...

TJ said...

The water got in through a botched repair of the anchor locker that was part of the water spout hit / repair that we didn't learn about until just before we left to go cruising. Part of the core repair will be fixing that original botched repair.

ch = hatch. Somehow most of the word got dropped into cyberspace somewhere and is now lost forever.

Paul Bryan said...

That's one hell of a way to refocus.

TJ said...

True Paul, but at least we are working toward getting off this dock and underway as soon as the hurricane threat is past. As pleased as I am that the kids are settling in to their new life on The Floating Bear, it is good to be back working on Kintala. The deck repair was kind of the elephant in the room, and I am kind of a believer in taking the big stuff head on. It always seems to get smaller once the first cut is made.

Lynn&Lawrence said...


Long time reader, first time poster. I've read from the beginning but started late, caught up now. Thank you for the inspiration.

Have you checked out Tim Lackey's work. He has several examples of doing this and I'm sure would discuss with you. www.lackeysailing.com

Deb said...

@Jeff - thanks for the input. We'll have to check that place out. So far we've been able to score what we need from a mechanic here on the dock that helped us with The Bear project but I've heard good things about them from multiple people.

@Lynn & Lawrence - welcome to The Retirement Project. Feel free to chime in anytime. We love comments and particularly those willing to speak up when we're wrong (which is frequent for sure)