TAP-TAP-TAP, THUMP-THUMP-THUMP: CORE ROT IN THE DECK
If there was anything I thought was daunting about renovating this boat it was the prospect of repairing the deck. I
had heard tales of great expense and difficulty for this process and I wasn’t sure I was up to it. But actually,
it was not at all that bad.
When I had the boat surveyed, so I could get it insured, the surveyor was
nice enough to let me tag along as he did his work and explain things as he went. While he was at it I also wanted him
to bless my fuel tank and bulkhead installations before I covered them up, which he did. Everything was checking out
fine until he got to the deck. Not surprisingly he found several spots where he suspected or was sure that water had
gotten into the wood core of the deck. The first was on the starboard side near the toe rail just forward of the winch
island. This he determined from using a moisture meter. Then he got to the bulged deck by the starboard chainplates
and just pointed down as he looked at me askance. I explained what happened with the deck after the bulkhead broke and
told him the bulge was already on my to-do list.
Bigger problems arose as he got near the bow. The pulpit
was loose and he could see that there was not much material, either fiberglass or wood, between the pulpit mounting feet and
their nuts and washers under the deck. That was write-up number 3. The fourth and last place he found problems
was around the aft foot of the pulpit on the starboard side – an area about 1½ square feet was pretty punky.
Fortunately the fall of ’01 was wonderfully dry and mild – a small offset for 9/11. My plan was
to drill many closely spaced holes in and around the troubled deck areas and let them air dry for however long it took.
Then I would fill the holes with epoxy and hope it would wick into the wood core surrounding the holes.
I started with the area near the starboard winch island, the one the surveyor deemed bad by his moisture meter reading.
I drilled one hole in the middle of the area and the wood chips from the drilling came up looking dry and like new wood.
I filled that hole with epoxy and moved on to the foredeck. I learned later that moisture meters are not foolproof and
this one might have been fooled by the imbedded aluminum strip that anchors the genoa track bolts.
the foredeck there was no doubt about moisture penetration as the drilling drew out black, wet pulp. I drilled maybe
35 holes before I was sure I got the entire bad area. I vacuumed the holes with a wet-vac to draw out as much moist
wood pulp as I could. Then I let the sun and air dry the core for about 3 weeks. Every evening I covered the holes
with a plywood lean-to to keep dew and rain from getting to the holes, and every morning of days no rain was predicted I removed
the plywood before leaving for work in order to let the sun light shine on the area. A bead of caulking compound around
the repair section acted as a dam to deflect any water that might run across the deck toward the holes in the event that it
While this area was drying I moved on to the pulpit area where the rot was confined to the small areas
under the mounting feet. These I routed out to what was left of the fiberglass layer on the underside of the deck and
left four roundish deep holes with straight sides. I ground the top edges of the holes to make them more dish shaped
so I could layer fiberglass cloth and mat in ever-larger sizes.
Next was the bulge around the starboard chainplates.
My plan here was to remove the top layer of fiberglass and the wood core under it altogether, and replace it all with fiberglass.
First, I removed the chainplates, and then I endeared myself to the neighbors early one Saturday morning by removing the bulge
with a router. The noise was earsplitting and fiberglass and wood chips flew all over the place. I made a shallow
hole radiating about ten inches around the chain plate holes.