February 20, 2014 – A Hole in the Boat?!?

Yeah. Two, actually. One on the starboard deck and another on the portside. And they were big, too. About 2 feet x 2 feet.

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Okay, so we created them. Sort of. I guess you can more accurately say we cracked them open. We’ve been chasing leaks on the boat, my friends. For some time now. Like any other boat that has been cruised offshore and subjected, at times, to high winds and waves, our 1985 Niagara had flexed enough to develop a few hatches and tracks that drip and trickle in the rain. We particularly think the sea state we encountered during the Gulf Crossing, heavy heeling right and left, pushed the older seals to their limits. Think of it like an old re-fillable ice tray that you bend and stretch to break the cubes loose. We used to have a pretty steady drip in the vberth from the vberth hatch. A good strong rain, and we would usually find a puddle the size of a small kitchen rug on the bed. Only on one side, though. Phillip’s of course. Anytime we were anchored out in rain, it was another round of Chinese water torture for him. I don’t know what the big darn deal was. Everything was dry on my side – I was sleeping like a baby. “What’s your problem? Stop fidgeting around over there and go to sleep!”

So, we rebedded the vberth hatch a while back to stop the insomnia drip. That fixed the leak in the vberth, but we still had several that were trickling down from the starboard and portside hatches in the saloon. A little annoying, and not good for our recently re-covered settee cushions. So, it was time to re-bed the starboard and port hatches, too. Thankfully, the vberth re-bedding had gone well, so I wasn’t too nervous about it. But, I mean, we are creating two whopping holes in the deck of the boat and then sealing them back up again. Let’s do be careful.

Often, how hard a seal is to break is a good indicator of the kind of shape the seal was in. I hate to say the starboard hatch popped clean off with minimal effort – a good sign that the seal had deteriorated, causing water intrusion.

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The portside hatch was a bit tougher, but still not too much trouble to crack open. But, that was not the real bear of this project. Phillip has told me time and again, the key to a good seal is in the prep. You want to make sure you get every bit of the old sealant off.

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Yeah, that stuff. The gunk. The goop. You have to get in there with some real high-tech scraping equipment. I personally like to go with an old flat-head screwdriver.

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The goop on the deck actually wasn’t much of a problem. With a little gumption and elbow grease, we had the hatch bases clean in no time.

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The gunk on the hatch itself, however … not so much.

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I went with another fancy gunk-removal product. One of Phillip’s old toothbrushes. Figured he wasn’t using it anymore.

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And, that did the trick. Then came the messy job of squeezing some 4,000 on both the outer ring of the hatch, around the screw-holes, and then on the deck where the hatch would lie and in the screw holes. We made the big mistake, when re-bedding the vberth hatch, of just using the squirt tube 4,000.

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By the time we finished the job, both of our forearms were shaking and quivering so much, we couldn’t even hold forks for dinner. I think we slurped porridge that night or something.

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“Please sir, may I have some more?”

This time we got one of those caulk guns and did it trigger style. Much easier on the arms, and much easier to guide and apply the 4,000. We also decided to go with the 4,000 (as opposed to 5,200) to allow a little flex and movement. After some research and asking around, it seemed the 4,000 was a better choice to allow some slight movement when the boat is under stress, rather than a crack in the seal. We did go a little crazy with the new goop, however, and had a time wiping and swiping it clean. I feel sorry for the trees that were felled just for our project. We went through gobs of wet paper towels trying to get the goop that oozed out down to a nice bead. But, it was worth it. I mean, it’s our boat. Anything’s worth it.

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Ahhh … look at that perfectly-bedded hatch. I particularly like to admire it on a sunny day – mimosa(s) in hand – but that’s just me.

And, us? Eat porridge?? Not with this Captain’s primo cooking skills. It was filet mignon, seared to perfection and drizzled with red wine sauce, coupled with creamy lobster mac and sauteed spinach to celebrate the big achievement.

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Cross that one off the list. What’s next?

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6 Responses to February 20, 2014 – A Hole in the Boat?!?

  1. Robert says:

    Here’s one of boating’s best kept secrets (not for lack of trying by some to get the word out!) – Butyl Rubber Tape. Low margin high volume builders (you know, the companies that build the boats that we mere mortals can actually afford) use bedding compounds that squeeze out of tubes. It usually lasts about five to ten years (i.e. longer than the warranty) and most often results in wet decks due to improper installation (failure to take the few minutes to taper the fastener holes).High end builders use butyl rubber. It’s funny, because butyl is better, faster, and cheaper for the individual do-it-yourselfer. There’s no waste, it’s easy and foolproof to apply and remove, and it will outlive you. It’s the only bedding compound allowed on S/V Eagle. Here’s a link with some info:

    http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/rebedding_hardware

    • anniedike says:

      Thanks Robert. We have heard good things about Butyl and will likely be ordering some very soon for our next fun re-bedding project. For this one, we had about 4,000 reasons to use the 4,000, namely, we already had it and had a good weather window to get the job done. Thanks for the info, though. Always eager to hear more from the DIY-ers.

  2. Robert says:

    You’re most welcome. We love sharing the knowledge and experience we’ve picked up along the way, but I don’t want to come across as “that guy who thinks he knows everything.” Butyl is really good stuff though. We installed a new hatch on Eagle last summer, and after we got the old one out and scraped off all the goop the factory used, we applied strips of 1” butyl tape to the lip of the hatch (after also tapering the screw holes and wrapping the screws with little balls of butyl) and then pressed it into place. During the subsequent leak test, there was actually a small drip, which turned out to be from a chip in the deck under the hatch flange that I hadn’t noticed. So we just popped the hatch back out, applied another thickness of butyl where the chip was, and pressed the hatch back in place. Problem solved! Try doing that with squeeze goop.

    BTW, we’ve started blogging now as well. If you’re interested, you can find us at http://www.lifeonthehook.com. Cheers!

  3. Donna says:

    I think we need to get you guys a supply of duct tape!!! That will repair any leak, right??? As for the cook, sounds like he knows his way around a kitchen!!! 🙂

  4. anniedike says:

    Ahhh .. the wonders of duct tape. I am a HUGE fan and would probably be considered, clinically, an addict to the stuff, particularly when it comes to leaks on the boat: https://havewindwilltravel.com/2013/09/10/may-25-2013-the-crossing-finale-duct-tape-and-dasani/. And, yes, hats off, always, to the chef. I am one lucky mate and I know it!

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