“Hey, how do you fix leaks?” this ridiculously-too-handsome of a man asked me as we ran into each other at a boat store a couple of months ago. I’d met him before, a new resident of my old ‘hood. 22 years young and just bought his first boat (a wooden 35’er). I just wanted to give him a hug and apologize. I knew my answer wasn’t going to be what he needed to hear.
I remember that feeling. Whenever I got complex answers early on in my boating endeavors, my eyes glazed over and somehow my ears closed shut. I wasn’t hearing a “get this product” or “do this and that”. I was more being asked questions I didn’t have answers to, and it was frustrating.
My dear Coconut has her fare share of leaks I have slowly been working on over the past couple of months. I’m happy to report progress has been made! My strategy has been like so: find the worst offender, try to fix it. If you can’t fix it, cover it really well when it rains. There are way too many leaks and it’s overwhelming to attempt to correct them all simultaneously, so I figure one set of problems at a time should do the trick. Of course you can only repair these areas when it has been dry for at least three days, so it’s a fun game of waiting for mother nature to start repairs and then test out your work. (You could spray the area with a hose upon completion, but I find if an area is still dry on day two of rain you did good son.)
Let’s dig in to where my baby girl is a bit leaky, shall we?
Exhibit A: 3″ holes on both port and starboard sides of the boat. I’m assuming, because of the old screw holes, at one point something had been here to cover the holes. I bought two clam shell covers and used butyl tape to 100% keep moisture out. I’ve also epoxied the wood on the inside. Incase water does get in, there is no chance allowing it to rot.
Exhibit B: Hatches. I can’t even get into taking apart the hatches right now, so covering them with plastic found in the shop has done mighty fine in the aft cabin. Not so much in the forward cabin, which tells me there’s a fiberglassing issue or something else that remains a mystery. Cover with tarp/plastic.
Exhibit C: Portholes. I don’t really want to talk about these right now. I found dry rot behind the exterior frames. (starts crying) Cover with a tarp and go to bed early.
Project in progress.
Exhibit D: Exposed screws in the toe rail. The toe rail has been sanded down so much over the years that the bungs (that’s what they’re called! don’t laugh) came out and the screws are exposed. I can’t fit bung holes (stop laughing!) in most of the areas, so I could try to make my life miserable by attempting to remove the screws and rebidding them. Or I could pour some GloveIt resin over the offending screws. Success! Many previous “where the f is this water coming from?” areas are staying dry now. Also, the photo below is bare fiberglass. The steady stream of water already did cause quite a bit of water damage.
Project complete… (but I’d like to rebuild this area one day when I’m rich!)
Exhibit E: Improper previous caulking/repairs. This part of the cockpit used to be a hatch that opened up to the shop area. Someone closed it off for some reason but didn’t do a good job of it. Somewhere water is leaking in and I have to remove all the caulking anyways and redo it, so I might as well open the sucker back up while I’m at it. Again, not something I can get into right now, so covering it with plastic does the job and keeps this area dry.
Exhibit F: Random hardware holes. There aren’t too many of these offending areas on the deck, but one cleat had been ripped off and with all the water I was getting in the aft cabin I thought I’d jam some balled up butyl tape into the remaining holes. If no hardware will be going in, I will epoxy the holes to seal them for good.
Exhibit G: Deck hardware. Stanchion bases, cleats, tracks. I’ve found removal of these offending pieces to be next to impossible. The bolts come off easily down below. The screws up on the deck 100% of the time will. not. budge. (grabs tissues) I spray them down with PB Blaster. I have an impact driver. Manual AND mechanical. I’ve had several people attempt to help me with this. They won’t budge. I’m thinking dynamite might work. What do you think, guys???
Project in progress….
Exhibit H: Missing appliances, etc. So Coconut used to have a Charlie Noble (coal heater) that I decided after months of relocating it that I just didn’t want it. It wasn’t installed, as the previous installation had been done improperly and (guess what?!) leaked and caused water damage. The hole for the chimney is still there, though. It is covered by the tarp when covering the portholes and forward hatch.
There was also something (possibly a metal channel?) where the wires would run from the mast to the interior of the boat. I’ve simply stuffed that with some plastic, although it doesn’t entirely work.
I’m also missing a dorade box. I’ve elegantly covered the area where the box should be with a bucket. There’s even a sandbag on top to keep said bucket from flying away. It works for now! I’ve got a guy on speed dial who can custom make a dorade box whose construction matches the other boxes already on board. I’m just waiting to win the lotto (that I never play).
BONUS! I installed a drain. One improvement I made wasn’t quite a repair, but it was necessary to allow water run off to keep running into the bilge. At some point in Coconut’s boat life, something happened in the head (bathroom) area. There should be a sump pump here to remove excess water, as this is where the shower is located. There were a lot of repairs made in the area, but it’s a mystery as to why. Anyways, I found that a cutesy little hole (these have a name, I’m blanking on what they are) was allowing water to drain from the aft cabin but it was pooling up in the head and I was having to vacuum it out after getting rain. For a few bucks I found a drain at the Blue Pelican (favorite boat store!) and bought a hose to fit on the other end of the drain. I cut a hole to size, epoxied it, and voila! The water run off is no longer my problem-o.
Seeing all the work I still have ahead of me is a bit daunting, but I’m feeling much more in control when the rain does come to visit because at least I know where it is coming from. The boat stays dry for the most part and is much more comfortable to be on during a storm.
May all our boats be dry one day!