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Hull repair in rudder area on pre 1970

JMertz

New Member
I have a pre-1970 sunfish that my dad picked up somewhere and which I inherited. The boat is in rough shape, most of the gelcoat is gone (the surface is quite rough so I assume gelcoat is no longer present), but it sails! My kids were thrilled! The sail was old and ripped so I bought a new one last summer along with new mast rings and it sailed fine. The old wooden rudder did not stay down but we just sort of pushed it down and sailed away anyway. This year I'd like to repair the rudder area and refit parts. I was able to get some missing parts and now have what I need to make the old style rudder function properly. However the holes in the hull (deck and keel) have been enlarged / worn so that anything close to original sized screws no longer fit and hold. I'm wondering what you can advise to fill those overly large holes which I can then re-drill / tap for new screws. One person suggested West System 2 part epoxy. The deck at the rudder is also broken off so I would try to use this to shape new decking around the rudder area. Suggestions welcome, and I'm happy to provide more info if you would like. Thanks

John
 

signal charlie

Well-Known Member
Staff member
It appears that the internal wood backer blocks are gone, with holes that big. Can you poke inside the hole with an awl or paper clip and see if you feel any solid wood close to the hole?

If you can feel some block in there you might be able to dowel the hole, held in place with thickened epoxy. Other wise I'd suggest a small inspection port back there so you can work on the innards.
 

wjejr

Active Member
Hi JMertz,

I had a similar problem with my "free" 71 Sunfish. The two screws near the transom were not holding. With the third screw still holding the backer block I probe one of the holes with an awl to see if the wood was rotten. I then heard a disheartening thunk which set me on the following course of repair.

Here are the pictures

1. Drill hole for inspection port and use saber saw with metal cutting blade to gain access. Use a small inspection port. I think mine is 4 inches. I used tape to protect the deck.
2. Remove glass deck round with screwdriver and/or other tool.
3. Pry out end of rudder backing block. Note that it was still in place and the clunking was something else.
4. Foam
5. Cutting the foam with a hacksaw blade
6. Backing block out and on deck to show why screws did not hold.

I will post the rest shortly.

Hope this helps.
 

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L&VW

Well-Known Member
Gonna use a polypropylene cutting board section for a replacement backing block?
 

wjejr

Active Member
Continuing from my earlier post.

The backing block was still attached to the hull with a strip of fiberglass. It was a bear, but wearing work gloves to protect my hands from the fiberglass, I was able to pry/pull the block out.

A few more pictures:

06b. Looking inside the hull you can see the hole where the screw had been. I forgot earlier that I had used brass threaded inserts with the idea of using machine screws to hold the rudder fitting in place. That's why the hole is larger than you would expect. The backing block was up against the wood you see on the left side of the picture.

07. I decided to make a model of the backing block out of pine before tackling the project in oak. Note that the semicircle cut out in the model is not in the middle of the block.

My guess is that when the boat was being built, the piece of wood you see in 06b was placed too far center. No problem for me, as I am making the model after the boat was built, but in production, the original piece would have already had the cut out in the center, which is what you see, but because of the other piece is too far center, it wouldn’t fit properly.

07b. The backing block could not be placed far enough back in the boat for the screws to properly attach to because the cutout would not fit to the stern. To fill the gap, the builders “cheated” and stuck a glob of resin (upper right) at the end of the block. Resin does not hold well to end grain, however, and water and/or humidity caused the end grain to rot a little and the screws, being so close to the edge, would no longer hold. The "thunk" I heard was this piece of resin.
 

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signal charlie

Well-Known Member
Staff member
There is supposed to be that cutout section under the rudder assembly horizontal hinge plate, however, it is not supposed to be that chowdered up. I'd clean that deck/hull seam area and inject thickened epoxy into the voids, leave a little extra and then file to shape. You can mix epoxy resin, hardener and structural filler to thicken OR just buy a caulk gun cartridge of TotalBoat THIXO or Pettit Flexpoxy. I'd buy syringes also, sold at your local marine supply house or order from Jamestown Distributors.

Just to throw other options out there, the factory repair for that would be to remove the aft sections of trim, split the deck/hull seam and repair the backer blocks from inside. We do this on a lot of boats because they usually have wet blobs of yellow expanding foam aft that we remove while we're in there. Since it sounds like your gelcoat is shot, the easiest approach is an inspection port....unless your boat is heavy...she should weigh 139 from the factory, 144 is not uncommon. If you decide to get inside and do that, DO NOT remove the white foam blocks, they are impossible to replace.

Hoops blob.jpg

35 pounds of wet expanding foam came out of HOOPS.

hoops foam.jpg
 

JMertz

New Member
I like the split the hull idea but only if I decide to make a larger project out of this. Right now I’m doing the finish work on a wood / canvas canoe I built so that’s going to take most of my project time. But there are gaps when varnish and paint will be drying where I could tackle this, maybe.

How easy is it to split the deck, how is it reattached, and can I re-gelcoat and / or paint the hull? I imagine my interior would look like that pile of foam too. I like the idea of making it nice, but it would be tempting just to buy a boat in better shape.
 

signal charlie

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Disclaimer: We are Serial Restorers who prefer to tackle the basket cases. We get excited about bringing the boats back to life.

We'd love to see photos of the canoe. We usually have at least 2 projects underway, the primary and what we call the "Moaning Chair" project.

The "Moaning Chair" is described by Howard Chappelle as an essential tool to have, the place where you sit and ponder what you have either just screwed up or are about to screw up with all of your other tools. Moaning chairs come in all shapes and sizes and can be found next to favorite beverages. Moaning chairs should be available for all of the "usual visitors" as well so they can point out any mistakes the builder might have missed.

Right now our 1953 Sunfish repair and repaint is our primary project, and the Moaning Chair project is a new build 16 foot catboat. We have the first keel batten laid out for the catboat and are fiddling with the sheer line.

5DF3FB79-81D0-4644-BF8B-27A7778E95A5.jpeg

It is easy to split the hull with a putty knife and patience, then it is reglued with a strip of 4 oz fiberglass and thickened epoxy, lots of clamps for light clamping pressure (PVC is an inexpensive option for clamps). That seam is a common spot for leaks, esp around corners, so you should consider an air leak test to see if it needs work anyway. Check out our blog on VIPER's restoration for images.

VIPER Audrey Clamps foam pvc.JPG

Post some pics of your hull and folks can chime in whether the gelcoat can be restored. Paint is a last resort option for our basket case boats and we have fun with it, we do tribute schemes a little off center from the normal white boat with stripes.
 

JMertz

New Member
Very funny. I have a very active Moaning Chair with a rich depth of history several generations long. It was in fact passed down from my grandfather, to my father, briefly borrowed by my cousin and his dad, then on to me. I continue to add to its pedigree with each passing day, especially now that I’m retired.

So can you briefly describe how to re-gelcoat, if it’s possible, and how the outside trim is reattached? Mine looks like it’s riveted, a skill which I have never mastered.
 

signal charlie

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Howdy

1. Here is our Riveting Video About Rivets. https://youtu.be/whev0Lm5TQw

The trim is on the boat to protect the hull/deck seam and to make the edge look pretty. The seam forms a flange and the rivet hole goes through the flange, not into the inner hull. You might notice, if your trim is unmolested, that the rivet does not go all the way through the bottom edge of the trim. All the rivet does is hold the trim on, it is not structural. The rivet is removed by using a 1/8 inch metal drill bit to drill off the rivet head.

It is pretty easy to rivet, usually Lowes or HD has the rivet gun and sometimes even the right size rivets, shown in the video. Once you find out how fun and easy it is, you will be wandering around the Casa looking for more things that can be riveted. Rivets in a few different sizes can also be found at ACE or local Mom and Pop hardware stores, and can be ordered from Laser Performance or Sunfish parts dealers like Sunfish Direct or sunfishsailboats.com. I would make a phone call first as some internet places will take your money first and then tell you they're back ordered. The rivets need to be aluminum to be compatible with the aluminum trim, lest dissimilar metal corrosion abound. Steel rivets are verboten, you will know why if you ever try to remove one.

If you decide to remove the trim, let us know, we have a few more tips to get it off without breaking the trim piece. We use a block of wood to tap the trim off in areas where it is snug, and are careful around the corners and around the rivet holes, the trim is thin in those areas and it can bend easily, and even shear in half. All those issues can be remedied as needed.

2. It is near impossible for a non-pro to re-gelcoat an entire boat, and usually prohibitively expensive. Spot gelcoat repairs are the forte of several other members in this Forum.

3. Our moaning chair migrates from deck chair, to garden cart, to kayak, to Sunfish, to....

Crystal moaning chair.jpg
 

Cactus Cowboy

Well-Known Member
Damn, Signal Charlie, that's a nice pirate's den or lair in your garage... should have some sunken wreck posters for effect, preferably with corroded cannons jutting from ports, perhaps a few skeletons scattered around, LOL. :eek:

L&VW, you da man... moi, I LIKE the stainless hardware with the nylon lock nuts, AYE??? ;)

Late to this thread, been busy taking care of business in the real world, LOL... OP, if ya haven't done it yet, I strongly concur with others on installing an inspection port, it'll make your restoration project a heckuva lot easier. And I'd definitely rebuild the glass in the damaged areas, not just slap some cheesy Band-Aids on 'em. You want lasting strength, not some choss that'll pose problems in the future. :confused:

Those enlarged holes, somehow they remind me of Tijuana on a Friday or Saturday night... but you can rebuild those areas after fairing out the surrounding glass, using plastic-wrapped cardboard as backing material as you lay in some new matt, cloth, etc. I wouldn't try to 'plug' the holes with epoxy or whatever, I'd simply rebuild the MIA material and make it stronger than ever. :)

I can't stress this enough, but when it comes to your boat's rudder, marine hardware, and the entire area where the rudder is shipped, you want it BULLETPROOF, trust me. That's why I recommend doing the job right and fixing those enlarged holes properly, along with the rotten glass which surrounds the holes. Step by step, make it right, so you & your kids have peace of mind. :D

You don't want some cheesy Chinese repair job on ANYTHING which has to do with the boat's rudder, I assure you. Think of it as a MARINE SAFETY ISSUE... moi, hailing from Dago as I do, I don't like the thought of losing my rudder smack-dab in the middle of the channel on a crowded day, with a warship or freighter bearing down upon me and sounding five angry blasts!!! :mad:

Not the best scenario, and it interferes with my partying, LOL. Damn... sometimes I slay myself. Which reminds me, did any of youse OTHER nautical heroes MISS ME? Those who missed me, report to the gunnery officer for additional training, BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Alright, I'm back to my cold beer, I'm playin' poker with the cats and the blasted varmints are cleanin' me out, don'tcha know??? But I still have an ace or two up my sleeve... :rolleyes:

GOOD LUCK, OP, YOU FOUND THE RIGHT WEBSITE FOR ANSWERS... AND YOUR STATUS AS A FAMILY MAN WHO CARES ABOUT HIS KIDS IN THIS DAY & AGE, WELL, THAT JUST LEADS TO RESPECT. CHEERS!!! :cool:

Edit: If you choose to paint, I suggest 2-part LP or Linear Polyurethane primer and paint, it's a good choice for small craft. First-time LP users wind up with a decent finish, first-time gelcoaters, not so much, LOL. Just my $.02, AYE??? The LP is also much less expensive than going the gelcoat route for the entire hull, but we have a whole heap o' PAINT HATERS here... [sob]... I'm thinking they had rough childhoods. :(
 
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JMertz

New Member
Here are some pics of my canoe. It is a 17.5' Atkinson Traveler, currently in "interior finish" mode, which means lots of sanding and 4 coats of carefully applied varnish. The ribs are eastern white cedar and the planking is western red cedar. Decks and outside gunwales are cherry. Thwarts oak. The outside of the hull has been primed only and is awaiting paint.

IMG_6415.jpeg

IMG_6471.jpeg

IMG_6477.jpeg
 

JMertz

New Member
Yeah I've got lots of time in these boats too. My grandparents owned a Thompson wood canvas canoe that my cousin still keeps in beautiful condition. The whole family grew up with these so we've always had lots of wooden boats around the family. Dad went through several - 3 Yellow Jackets, a couple of Rhinelanders, 2 Old Towns, and a 22' Garwood. I ended up with a 1947 Old Town and one of the Rhinelanders, a 15' version that's really too small for the lake I'm now on. I'm trying to figure out what to do with that one.
 

L&VW

Well-Known Member
Yeah I've got lots of time in these boats too. My grandparents owned a Thompson wood canvas canoe that my cousin still keeps in beautiful condition. The whole family grew up with these so we've always had lots of wooden boats around the family. Dad went through several - 3 Yellow Jackets, a couple of Rhinelanders, 2 Old Towns, and a 22' Garwood. I ended up with a 1947 Old Town and one of the Rhinelanders, a 15' version that's really too small for the lake I'm now on. I'm trying to figure out what to do with that one.
My Dad "chipped-in" with four other friends and bought five one-piece [‽] wooden runabout hulls—freighted out of Canada. The empty 14-foot hulls "nested" to save trucking costs. While the term "gopher" didn't exist back then, the two of us assembled the boat, located every necessary wood part, bronze nails, brass screws, and made a very nice example that we used for several years.

The hulls were made from Canadian birch, were five-ply, and bonded into ¼-inch plywood under steam pressure. My Dad broke every standard drill bit for wood. (Drilling this plywood needed bits designed for high-speed steel).

Where did this 5-ply technology come from, you ask? It came from war-time Britain, when they built the fuselage of the De Havilland "Mosquito" fighter/bomber! (The birch wood came from Canada).

Winter Harbor Melanson's Beach 1955.jpg

Later, I learned that cowboy-actor Roy Rogers bought the factory and sold completed "Yellow Jacket" runabouts. Presently, there's one in the water near me.

In the above photograph, note the diagonal plywood grain in the hull my Dad and I built in 1955. (Our Dachshund is retrieving stones tossed into the lake).
 

Cactus Cowboy

Well-Known Member
Nothing wrong with birch plywood, that's some good stuff... I've used it in projects before, and it is definitely superior. A little harder to drill or cut, but worth the time & effort. :rolleyes:

Looks like the dog is working on snorkeling technique for a trip to the Great Barrier Reef... ;)
 
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