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1984 Sunfish -- Water in Hull :(

Sarah Follett

New Member
Hello all,

We recently discovered that after only a few short sails, the boat we bought used but dry as a bone, despite being 27 yo, has begun to take on water. We suspect it's because the previous owner replaced the self bailer without caulking around the hole in the hull. We removed the self bailer and gently propped open a small gap btw the layers of the hull with a screwdriver, propped the boat up and got much of the water to drain out. Needless to say, we will be installing a central deck plate to ensure the remainder of the water drains out and to keep the hull dry going forward.

But, just curious, has anyone had this problem? And if so, any tips on how we can create a good seal to prevent this from continuing? Also any suggestions on what type of deck plate to install?

Thanks, SF


I don't think that the bailer installation should technically require caulking, as long as the o-ring is used. That being said, it could have been installed incorrectly somehow, and could cause some leaking.

Did you try to tip the boat up on its side and use the drain plug on the deck (right near the end of the coaming/splashguard on the right side of the boat) to drain the water out? In general, you might want to try doing a leak-test, to nail down exactly where water is getting into the boat, as it might not be only at the bailer.

For installing an inspection port, check out this guide at Windline Sails. I went into some detail on installing mine here - I put one up on the deck, between the daggerboard slot and the coaming, and then a second port in the front wall of the cockpit. I would probably use at least a 5" port, maybe even a 6" one, depending on if you think repairs will be required through the port.

I've seen Duckworks recommended as a place to buy the inspection ports, but I haven't used that site yet. You can also get them from the usual places such as Sunfish Direct, APS, or Intensity Sails.

Good luck,

Sarah Follett

New Member
Thank you, Thad! I am not too keen on drilling holes in my boat either but maybe we will start with one on the front wall of the cockpit so it's not that visible.


Upside down?
Staff member
To get the bulk of the water out of your fish, please use the 'official' drain, the one to the right of the splashguard. Then weigh the hull to see if a lot of water has been absorbed into the inner structure. If so, there's a lot of advice on this Forum to dry the hull.

As tag pointed out, the bailer installation doesn't require caulking. And the gap that you created with the screwdriver should be closed again. You can use MarineTex (or another epoxy) for that.

Finally, and most importantly, you need to find out how the water enters the hull by doing a leak test (with soapy water). Details are on this Forum as well.


New Member
Thad, I scanned Duckworks site as I, too, will be needing to dry out my boat over the winter. I thought I read in this Forum something about an inspection port that would also have an attachment for an interior gear bag or water bottle holder......have you seen anything like that offered anywhere? (Not at Duckworks.)


I had a similar situation with my 79 Fish. She was dry as a bone, but after four hours on the lake there was a half a cup of water from transom drain. I installed a deck port to remount the coaming, different project, so I would use that to dry the hull between outings. I did the pressure test with a small shop vac in the blow mode with tape over the deck port opening and taped the only other factory hole in the footwell on the forward wall under the deck lip. With soapy water and medium air pressure I hit an extreme bubbly spot right at the bailer hole. I had the bailer out so the air leak and bubbles where coming from between the footwell bottom and the hull bottom fiberglass faces. The two meet together at the bailer. I used a carpet knife to open the edge and lift the two fiberglass faces apart enought to dry. I used a coarse grit sand paper and nail file to rough up each face to accept thickend West epoxy and get a good mechanical bond. Sure enough..... she has been dry as a bone ever since. I do swipe vaseline on the o-ring of my deck port to keep it from drying out and keeping a good seal. Keep the interior of your hull dry, but have fun getting everything else wet while sailing :)