Repair badly damaged bow; PLEASE HELP

Discussion in 'Sunfish Talk' started by Kal-El, Mar 3, 2017.

  1. Kal-El

    Kal-El New Member

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    My wife and I purchased a 1973 Sunfish last summer. It was in great shape and we cartopped it for the long ride home. We got it home with no issues and, after a few minor repairs and a new sail, we headed off to the lake. We are newbie sailors and spent the day practicing. After finishing, we cartopped the Sunfish again and headed back to the campground where we were staying. On the trip back, the strap holding the front of the boat popped off and the boat slide off the van, hit the pavement, and slide across the road. Fortunately, there was no one coming so we were able to get the Sunfish off the road quickly. The only damage to the boat was the bow. It sheared off the tip of the bow.
    Well, now it is time to start the repair process and we are looking for advice and YouTube videos on how to repair the bow. Does anyone have any advice? Step by step instructions? Anything? I promised my wife I would fix the Sunfish for her. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
     

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  2. fhhuber

    fhhuber Member

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    Going to be a bit of a pain...

    You need to find another sunfish to measure and make patterns from cardboard to get the correct shape.
    Heat bend PVC to fit under the lip of the hull and ensure it fit well to an undamaged hull. You'll be clamping that on your hull later.

    I would just saw off the damaged part. fill with a block of styrofoam as a form for the new glass work.
    Shape the foam to allow for the thickness of the fiberglass.
    Carve out the location for the bow handle backer block and set it in the foam with epoxy. Then when you lay up the new deck the block will be waterproofed and more solid than original.
    Bevel back into the old fiberglass about 6 inches from where you cut off the nose so you can have plenty of joint surface.
    Clamp that PVC in place and cover it with plastic wrap (Glad and Saran Wrap release from fiberglass pretty well, ut its easier to sand some plastic wrap out than trying to peel the PVC if it attaches to the hull)

    Lay the new fiberglass on the hull, pulling around the PVC
    Then lay up the new deck

    Slice off the excess cloth hanging over the PVC, remove that and then start sanding and preparing for paint of gel coat.

    Professional job cost would be more than a good used hull...

    Actually I'd just try to find a good used hull because that's a lot of work, used hulls are cheap and we haven't even considered what other issues that hull might have.
     
  3. Light and Variable Winds

    Light and Variable Winds Well-Known Member

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    Probably the quickest way—plus you'd get the piece of trim (and deck) that you're missing. Agreed, that repairs using epoxy are stronger than the original fiberglass part. :)

    I'd try an ad on Craigslist, mentioning, "condition not important". Hulls seem to show up with regularity. If it's defective where yours is not, you could try a "nose transplant".

    Here's three pages (from one discussion) of what we covered recently on "missing-bow" repairs :cool: :
    Shark bite in bow...help! | Page 3 | SailingForums.com
     
  4. beldar boathead

    beldar boathead Well-Known Member

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    My first choice would be to find a decent hull for $100 or so and scrap yours. You could also do a quick, dirty and ugly repair by doing what Huber said, just scrap the foam form for the bow and put fiberglass over the hole (using the six inch grindback he mentions.). It won't be pretty but it would be watertight and not affect performance.
     
  5. Whitecap

    Whitecap Member

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    I restored an old, broken, 1968 sunfish back to health. Before I did, members here told me that it would be cheaper to just buy a "newer, used one" that did not require as much expense and time of repair work. (They were entirely correct). I needed a project to do, so I completed the project myself - it was a great adventure for me.

    -BUT-

    Your repair looks significant (obviously) - and it will take a great deal of time and experience to complete it correctly. Dont forget the expenses: sawhorses, resin, hardner, gloves, respirater, disc sander, orbital sander, sand paper, acetone, fiberglass, filler, silica, primer, paint, etc. These are some of the the things that will be needed to complete this job - that most of the do-it-yourselfers on this forum already have. If you dont have these things already, you need to think about them - because bought all at once, they are expensive!

    So, now is the time to make a decision - do it yourself after calculating the intensive project and possible significant expense, or save time (and maybe money) by looking on craiglist for a used one. In the Dallas area now, used, viable sunfish are selling between 300-700 bucks. It may be worth it to buy a used one, strip off the parts from the broken one, and make a beautiful new boat using the best parts from each boat. Then send the old hull to the landfill.

    think it through,
    Good luck,
    Whitecap
     
  6. Kal-El

    Kal-El New Member

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    I appreciate everyone's advice about just replacing the hull but we live in Missouri and there is not a lot of Sunfishes on Craigslist here. We traveled to Mississippi to just pick this one up. We understand the cost involved and have some of the supplies already. I've invested too much in the boat already just to send it to the dump. I am trying to make some form of a mold today and then cutting away the debris. Does anyone have advice on what to make the mold with? I don't have access to another Sunfish to model it from so I will be making one from scratch. This won't be my first rodeo with restoring something. I purchased a 1973 Apache pop up camper two years ago and totally rehabbed it. It had a lot of ABS work needed to it. I have just never worked with fiberglass before. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 4, 2017
  7. Demon

    Demon Member

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    Not pretty but fiberglass is easy to repair. Watch a view videos. Make sure you grind back to good glass, clean as acetone and use epoxy. The shape is pretty easy to bring back. The aluminum trim will take a bit to find.
     
  8. Kal-El

    Kal-El New Member

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    Wanted to post pics from the daytime. Damage is still not good but I don't think it looks as bad as the first pictures taken. Fortunately, we do have the piece of trim. It just was not on the boat when first pictures taken.
     

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  9. Alan S. Glos

    Alan S. Glos Active Member

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    Once you get the fiberglass work done, I can sell you a used Sunfish curved aluminum trim piece for $30 + shipping; yours is damaged beyond repair. Also, while the under deck is exposed, be sure to reattach the bow handle with some epoxy resin in the holes or even use stainless steel pan head machine screws with washers and lock nuts. There is probably a scrap wood back-up board under the deck that the original screw screwed into and these boards are prone to rot and the screws pull out under load. Or if the hull is newer, there may be aluminum plate with threaded screw holes to accept the machine screws that you removed.

    E-mail me at: aglos@colgate.edu if you want the trim piece.

    Alan Glos
    Cazenovia, NY
     
  10. Whitecap

    Whitecap Member

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    Here you go.
    Quick Craig's List search shows a fair conditioned Sunfish for $50 bucks.

    Sunfish sailboat

    Sunfish sailboat - $50 (903 Cherry Lane, Kirksville, Missouri)

    Easy stuff bro..

    I hope Kirksville is close enough to you that this deal is worth your while.

    Good luck,
    Whitecap
     
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  11. Webfoot1

    Webfoot1 Active Member

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    Yep, get another hull, even if you plan to fix the first one you need a good hull
    to make a mold. You could just wing it but you would have one funky looking repair.
    Personally, I'd only do it if you are looking for a project an don't care about the cost.

    Advice for the future. All my trailers have a medium heavy chain with shackle attached
    to the winch post. Going down the road this is shackle-bolted to the bow-eye or bow-handle of
    the boat. Never trust a ratchet-winch to keep you boat on the trailer as the ratchet will
    unlock itself. If you get a v-block bow stopper this will help keep the bow from sliding sideways.
    On my smaller boats I also use a ratchet strap over the middle of the boat. Maybe a little overkill
    but I've not lost one yet.
     
  12. fhhuber

    fhhuber Member

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    As i said.. the mold that is easiest/cheapest and actually adds flotation and strength is to insert a foam block., then shape it to lay the new fiberglassing over.

    I have made MANY model aircraft cowls and other parts (high strength and minimal weight are really big here) by carving foam, fiberglassing over it then dissolving the foam out with acetone. In the case of a boat (or pontoons for the aircraft) you just leave the foam in place.

    You can get pink builder's foam, layer it using Gorilla foaming polyurethane glue and use the Gorrilla glue to glue the foam into the nose of the hull.
    If you are not happy with the shape after carving/sanding, just use a saw to put a flat on and add a new layer of foam (held in place with toothpicks as the glue cures) to carve again.

    The PVC I mentioned is to match up the lip around the hull as easily as possible.

    Someone who has done a fair amount of fiberglass work could make the end result hard to detect that the hull was ever damaged. As a first attempt at a relatively major project I doubt it will be invisible, but it is not hard to make it good enough to not show from 10 ft away. (just a lot of work)

    You can use the Bondo fiberglass repair kit from Wal-Mart This stuff requires a peel-off film to be applied to final cure the fiberglass. It remains sticky forever if you don't exclude air from the surface.
     
  13. Light and Variable Winds

    Light and Variable Winds Well-Known Member

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    A replacement hull has about $200-worth of hardware :eek: and a lot of "pre-preg" panels :cool:. (Should you choose to cut some out and save them). In many locales, "The Dump" isn't a free place to get rid of an unwanted Sunfish. You have to pay. :oops:

    Not so bad, but keep in mind that fiberglass damage can extend several inches from the obvious damage. :(

    With some outdoor temperatures still "unfriendly" up there, I'd be tempted to cut off the bow behind the bow handle, carry it indoors, and work on the repair in comfort. :cool: (West System epoxy is nearly odorless).

    Then add a few layers of fiberglass tape (my preference for a tidy repair), and build up the damaged bow section from the inside.

    Bolt
    on the bow handle with aluminum or stainless-steel reinforcement inside. (My choice would be oval-head S/S machine screws—epoxy the nuts securely in place for a painless bow handle replacement—some years from now).

    Buy the replacement trim from Alan Glos. He's prompt, reasonably priced, and the trim arrives without shipping damage.

    Sand to taper all those new cuts to paper-thin, locate some sail battens, cut them to 5-inch lengths, then secure them with epoxy to reposition the bow section accurately. Align the new nose, then fill with layers and layers of tape and epoxy. Using tape, you can roll it around and around and around, rolling (or pressing) out the bubbles as you go—and not have to sand between layers—as you must when using epoxy that has hardened. Use slow-set hardener for extended work-times and ease of positioning the new nose.

    Otherwise, if you have an inspection port, you could pull heavy screening* forward to form a base for your new artwork. ;)
    *Or a fine grade of galvanized "hardware cloth"—as below:

    [​IMG]
    I have two grades of S/S screening, and find that neither is flexible enough for this particular use. :(
     
  14. Roller

    Roller Member

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    I'm with fhhuber & Light & Variable here. I would never scrap this boat if the nose is the only significant damage to the hull. A grinder and some polyester/vinylester/epoxy + mat and/or cloth and you're good to go. You're not rebuilding the Space Shuttle. Working with fiberglass is not rocket science.
     
  15. Webfoot1

    Webfoot1 Active Member

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    This problem comes up often enough that it would be nice if someone
    could make a mold off their boat. The mold could be passed around to
    forum members for the cost of shipping.
     
  16. Roger K

    Roger K New Member

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    Possibly cut the seem between the deck and the hull back a couple of feet or cut an inspection hole in the top of the deck so you can get behind the damaged area to work....
     
  17. Light and Variable Winds

    Light and Variable Winds Well-Known Member

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    Making the mold would be the easy part. :oops: (Unless you leave-off the deck).

    Of what materials would you make it of—and how to proceed when "casting" a new bow? :confused:

    .
     
  18. Roller

    Roller Member

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    fhhuber's is the best suggestion. With a hacksaw blade or skilsaw you cut away all the badly broken/mashed laminate from the bow. With a grinder, or sanding disk on a drill, or hand sanding block with coarse paper you grind/sand away the gelcoat and some of the laminate for 3-4" back from the cut off, trying to somewhat taper the thickness of the deck and hull from the good area toward the cut.

    You go to an appliance store, big box, or furniture store and beg to walk through their service area or look through their dumpster. You're looking for the white, coarsely surfaced, somewhat flexible foam that's commonly used inside cartons when shipping biggish heavyish stuff. This is ethafoam--closed cell foam made from polyethylene. It often comes in 2" thicknesses. The foam should be free.

    You glue pieces of ethafoam together, and glue them into the hole in the bow. You can easily cut the foam to shape with a hacksaw blade. It doesn't matter how many pieces you use. You can glue the foam to itself and into the boat with 3M spray adhesive or Gorilla glue, but my favorite is a hot melt glue gun (be a little careful--too much hot melt in one spot will melt into the foam).

    Once the hole in the bow is filled with foam you shape it to the missing profile with your grinder or disk sander, or with a knife, Surform, and coarse sandpaper. The ethafoam will fuzz some when you sand it, but you can get a surprisingly smooth surface. If you don't like your progress, cut back the foam, glue in another piece, and start again.

    Now the beauty part. Polyester (or vinylester) will not dissolve ethafoam, so you can go to Walmart or the local auto parts store and buy a quart of polyester resin (no need to mail order expensive epoxy). It would be best if you started the layup using CSM (chopped strand fiberglass mat). Mat builds thickness quickly and is easy to shape to complex curves. Turn the boat so that you're laminating on a horizontal surface(work on the hull with the boat upside down, then turn the boat over to do the bow, etc). Make the laminate over the foam rather thick (more layers), thinning it as you lay up over the sanded areas of the hull and deck. You don't have to be super neat. If there are ragged edges of mat left after the resin kicks just grind them off and laminate over them.

    The polyester with have wax added so that the surface fully cures. Not a problem. If it's only an hour or two between laminations just keep working. If it's days you can wash what you've done with acetone, scuff sand the surface, and lay up more glass.

    The bow is complex in shape and so your lamination will be quite rigid. It would be a good idea to let into the foam some kind of backer block for the bow handle etc. before you begin glassing.

    Keep working with the mat (and maybe a layer or two of cloth) until you're happy with the result or tired of the process. If you sand into the glass reinforcement at the end you should give the area another coat of resin--raw glass reinforcement should never be exposed to water or weather. I would not mess with gelcoat. Sand the reconstructed bow when you're done to a finish you're happy with and paint it with a reasonable quality exterior enamel (obviously not latex!).

    It's taken me longer to write this than it will take you to get started on the repair. This is not that difficult or expensive... you can do it and the boat will be fine. Post a beauty pic when you're done.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2017
  19. mixmkr

    mixmkr Active Member

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    I agree with roller. Many make this project out to be waaaay more than it is. The existing lines of the boat will tell you how the shape needs to continue. If it's off a 1/2 inch...big deal. The people with experience just know the short cuts and how do make it look GOOD in the end, rather than looking like it was finished with a tooth brush. Matching gelcoat colors is an art and typically the hardest part of gel repairs. Therefore, think of potentially painting the bow in a unique, creative and pleasing way... (think like a car "bra"... but having a similar design if it was on the bow of the boat). That would be the easiest. Otherwise do as best you can and just use the boat. YouTube is your friend, but don't get all "legalistic" about the methods and how it HAS to be done. Poly resin is fine as many people will tell you to get the MUCH more expensive West System epoxy. Believe me, I've repaired holes in the sides of boats you could walk thru. Just a bigger job.
     
  20. fhhuber

    fhhuber Member

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    There is no fiberglass damaged so badly it can't be repaired... its just easier to cut off the crushed stuff than to piece it back together most of the time.

    I had a 12 inch long fiberglass cowl crushed down to 1 inch long. I pulled it out and repaired it with no new cloth. Sanded and painted... and it looked better than original.
     

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