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Realizing this may be a bigger project than intended

MW47

New Member
Hi all, my wife picked up a sunfish and our family is all eager to learn how to sail. The boat initially could not be lifted by the two of us so after reading around on here I cut two inspection ports and ran a computer fan at the end of last year. It had to be stored outside under a covered deck with a tarp over the winter and back in garage now, out for sunny days. We've just weighed it now that we can lift it and it is 209 pounds.

Our goal is to have a boat that our whole family can learn on. We certainly are not going to be racing it, and I'm not looking to make it beautiful, just functional. There's a lot of gelcoat cracking and I see fiberglass in only two small places. I'm starting to think that after reading over the forums we may have bitten off more than we can chew. I'm looking for advice and some kind of order about how one would approach the rehab. It came with two sails and mast, one sail has a very small tear but the other is in good working order (took it out briefly last year).

Any advice would be greatly appreciated, even if it's scrap it and move on.

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signal charlie

Well-Known Member
Staff member
She's a cutie, a 1968 based on her deck plate SER. NO. 50784.

Her Alcort factory weight would have been 139 pounds, so with water at 8.33 pounds/gallon you have 8.4 gallons trapped in the foam somewhere. I'd say that a good portion of that might be in the stern. Reach inside and cut out whatever yellow 2 part expanding foam that you can, up front also, leave enough adhered to the hull to hold the white XPS (extruded polystyrene) structural blocks in place.

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We also split the seam on some boats to pull out excessive old yellow foam, and replace with modest amounts of new foam. That yellow foam's primary purpose is to adhere the white blocks, secondary is extra flotation but keep in mind that a properly sealed pontoon hull is the primary method of flotation, and advertised unsinkability. Do NOT split the seam around the entire hull, leave the seam attached abeam the cockpit. And do NOT remove white blocks. This method is a quick way to reduce weight over a few days, vs 2 off seasons of the fans/tarps/heat method.

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You can replace backer blocks for bow handle and bridle eyestraps while inside, if needed.

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Gel coat cracking is not a short term issue unless there is soft crushed or fractured fiberglass underneath, press on it with a fingernail or flat blade screwdriver to see if there is any give. Damaged fiberglass needs to be replaced.

We would tape up the holes and do an Air Leak Test to see where she is leaking, and develop a plan to repair those areas. Common leak areas are the mast step, daggerboard trunk, bailer hole seam, gudgeon and deck/hull flange, up forward. We have several videos on Air Leak Tests our youtube page: https://www.youtube.com/user/kentblairl/search?query=air leak test

The hull is not scrap, but I would keep an eye open for a second hull that is closer to 139 pounds. Keep in mind that the hull is rated to carry 500 pounds, so what you are currently losing is 70 pounds of that capacity to water weight, usually not an issue for 1-2 crew but it does make the hull harder to move around.

Last note, those 1960-1969 Alcort hulls are well made, nice thick woven roving, easy to repair and they last forever. Sometimes they come in weighing a few pounds over 139. Racers seek out the light, stiff 129 pound hulls and with proper care and maintenance, they might last as long as the sturdy Alcort hull, but what you have is a hull that will be around for another 50 years with proper repair and care.
 
I agree with SC, if you are that much overweight there has to be some major leaks in the hull. From the interior photos it looks like they got carried away with the foam in some places. If any of that foam is damp, remove all you can up to where it is actually attaching the foam blocks to the hull / deck. Run an air / leak test ASAP, as that will lead you in the right direction for the next steps. Good looking boat. Congrats
 

Wavedancer

Upside down?
Staff member
Maybe Signal Charlie will prove me wrong, but the front of the hull bottom looks like it hasn't seen major water. Typically, the Styrofoam will turn beige after absorbing water.
I did notice a strange angle near the bottom of the mast step/tube though.

PS: Signal Charlie already came to the conclusion that the leak most likely was near the stern; or maybe, the hull rested stern down. All in all, I think that the boat is quite repairable.
 
The mask tube does have an odd angle ( could be the camera angle) but it appears it has had some repairs attempted. I would fill the mask tube with water and recheck the water level after a few hours. Both halyard backing blocks look like they may have seen better days as well.
 

signal charlie

Well-Known Member
Staff member
I think the mast tube looks strange because of how the expanding foam has wrapped around it. ANd Wavedancer has a good point about the white foam blocks, they look pristine. They can still have water though, if the hull sat full of water for weeks/months. They take quite while to dry, but will dry eventually.
 

L&VW

Well-Known Member
With the sailing season approaching, I'd change out the computer fan, and move up to something more powerful. Move the whole works out into the sun.

Very nice Sunfish! Wish one of the six I'd bought was as spiffy. With those two minor hull fixes, buy a tube of THIXO.
 

L&VW

Well-Known Member
Two of you can probably straighten the white plastic bailer, and not have to loosen it. A small plastic check-valve ball should reside within it.
 

MW47

New Member
Definitely good to hear it is a good boat! We're all pretty eager to give this a shot.

I filled the mast tube with water and definitely didn't have to wait a couple of hours to see the results. The water dropped quickly and highlighted a pretty large crack in the mast tube with a hole at the base probably .5-1cm across. You can see it on the top of the inside mast tube and right side where the water is beading up. I cut back some of the sprayed in foam just to see how dry it was and surprisingly it felt pretty dry both by the mast tube and the stern. The bases of the styrofoam blocks are certainly still holding water as I can feel it with deeper compression. Next up will be the actual leak test.

I had planned on replacing the backer blocks for all the hardware and the gudgeon is missing it's backer block entirely. I've seen some people switch to the new bracket? The boat actually came with two rudder assemblies so I was thinking keeping the original gudgeon would be more useful. I'm guessing press the backer blocks to the fiberglass with some 5200 and screw in the hardware once cured? Is it the same with the coaming?

If I can get away without splitting the hull I'm sure it would get me in the water a lot quicker this year, but I'm starting to wonder with the mast tube hole if it will be necessary. I saw one forum where someone mentioned running a dehumidifier taped to a piece of dryer vent tube run into the hull to dry it, would create airflow and dehumidify all at once. We haven't been leaving it outside yet as we're still hitting 30's - 40's at night (snowing while I'm writing this). Would you just turn it upside down to leave it outside?

Thanks for all the help, I can't believe how much info I've pulled from this website so far.



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Well the mast tube test gave you some good info. Watch using 5200 unless you already have it and if so use sparingly, that stuff is almost impossible to remove. 4200 seals well and can be removed , although it still requires effort. I agree with L & VW , I would step up the air flow as much as possible. Welcome to Sunfish restoration.
 
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Wavedancer

Upside down?
Staff member
No doubt the mast step needs some TLC!
This kind of repair is commonly needed on Lasers; if necessary, search the Laser Forum for advice.
 

L&VW

Well-Known Member
Definitely good to hear it is a good boat! We're all pretty eager to give this a shot.

I filled the mast tube with water and definitely didn't have to wait a couple of hours to see the results. The water dropped quickly and highlighted a pretty large crack in the mast tube with a hole at the base probably .5-1cm across. You can see it on the top of the inside mast tube and right side where the water is beading up. I cut back some of the sprayed in foam just to see how dry it was and surprisingly it felt pretty dry both by the mast tube and the stern. The bases of the styrofoam blocks are certainly still holding water as I can feel it with deeper compression. Next up will be the actual leak test.

I had planned on replacing the backer blocks for all the hardware and the gudgeon is missing it's backer block entirely. I've seen some people switch to the new bracket? The boat actually came with two rudder assemblies so I was thinking keeping the original gudgeon would be more useful. I'm guessing press the backer blocks to the fiberglass with some 5200 and screw in the hardware once cured? Is it the same with the coaming?

If I can get away without splitting the hull I'm sure it would get me in the water a lot quicker this year, but I'm starting to wonder with the mast tube hole if it will be necessary. I saw one forum where someone mentioned running a dehumidifier taped to a piece of dryer vent tube run into the hull to dry it, would create airflow and dehumidify all at once. We haven't been leaving it outside yet as we're still hitting 30's - 40's at night (snowing while I'm writing this). Would you just turn it upside down to leave it outside?

Thanks for all the help, I can't believe how much info I've pulled from this website so far.



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Disclaimer:
I've never had to do a repair to the mast step, but the challenge has me thinking!

If that's a crack near the starboard base (that might have been caused by freezing) I have a procedure for you. :)

Using your mast, check that there is some "slop" between mast and step. It's probably ample for this repair. :cool:

Cut the top and bottom off a smooth-sided 2-liter plastic bottle. Cut it lengthwise. Test that this plastic "sheds" the (prepared) resin you will be using. (Epoxy should shed readily, but check anyway).

Using four-inch fiberglass tape, attach a 6-inch long patch using resin. Swab or brush ample resin to the suspect area inside. (A toothbrush will work better than the usual flux-brush). Collapse (twist) the plastic bottle to make it smaller, slide it inside the step, and let it expand against the cracked area.

Now...years ago, it was suggested that a balloon—filled with water—would provide the necessary pressure to smooth the patch—but, I'm thinking of something made of latex :oops: would be less prone to breakage. :rolleyes:

After the resin has set, pull out the balloon and plastic bottle. If it resists, a few voyages will eventually loosen it. Fill again to check for leakage.
 

MW47

New Member
Those are good ideas! Thanks! The tips on here have been really helpful. I’ve been looking over as much as I can about the mast step repair. There’s a lot of info but it seems like most people crack at the top or the bottom of the step and ours is right in the middle. One question I haven’t really found an answer to, do we need to sand down through the resin to fiberglass to prepare the area prior to repairing? We found something that said lay out several pieces of patch on Saran Wrap with epoxy on it and wrap the entire mast step from inside the hull. I’m thinking a combo of both the technique you mentioned L&VW as well as wrapping inside the hull. We had to leave for a few days so connected a fan through a dryer vent, which seems like it might even work for our air leak test if on high. I can feel air blowing out of the bow handle holes.
 

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signal charlie

Well-Known Member
Staff member
For mast step repairs we chips away any loose polyester resin and then apply a thin layer of thickened epoxy over where the outer layer of polyester resin has flaked off. We use a paint stick or a 1 inch chip brush taped to a paint stick to apply the epoxy. We like buying TotalBoat THIXO or Pettit Flexpoxy in a caulk cartridge and use that for the job. The key for this job is to not have extra epoxy that later just gets sanded off. ALan G has a sanding drum trick that would work if it did, or use a good old fashioned half round file or rasp.

If you can reach up far enough inside, you could apply a thickened epoxy to the inner portion of the tube as well. What really matters for strength of the tube is that the deck part (Thwart) and the lower cup (Step) are well attached, the rest of the tube is there to keep water from getting inside the pontoon hull.

You can see a variation on this theme in the mast step reair video for our wooden Super Sailfish TRACKER:


Insert random photo here: 1843 US Navy Centerboard Schooner ONKAHYE, the model for modern American racing yachts.

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