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Repairing an odd hole in the cockpit and separating deck/hull joint

zbeekman

Zaak
Hi all! I am embarking on a laser restoration project and could use some advice. I have been watching quite a few videos from Boat Works Today over on youtube and have some ideas about what the right way to enact these repairs is but I wanted to get a second opinion to check my work. I'll try to give a brief overview of the problems I would like to fix up front and then save additional context and discussion for more dedicated readers.

The Problems:
  • Leaky mast step
  • Very leaky hull/deck joint at gunwale where pressure point from Seitech laser dolly is created
  • Strangely circular and symmetric hole in interior front cockpit wall, a few inches up from the cockpit sole, but under the forward hiking strap attachment on boat centerline
  • Replacing and re-sealing inspection ports
  • Addressing very discolored cockpit grab rails through cleaning/bleaching or replacement
  • Inspecting for further damage to FRP hull, deck and core
How the Damage Occurred
My laser (hull/sail no. 170142) circa ~2000, has been sitting in my parents yard in Connecticut on a Seitech laser dolly for the past ~13 years. (My parents didn't want it in the garage even though its a large two car garage that only ever has 1 car in it and is otherwise generally used to store things. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ) Originally I had a cover for the hull, and I put it on "the wrong way" to cover the deck spars and foils, but over the years the cover started to disintegrate. The cockpit and mast step filled with water and leaves and the inside of the hull as well. The cockpit and hull probably froze and thawed a number of times over the years. Fortunately I had an inspection port installed forward of the mast step, because the bow of the boat was impossible to lift---much to my surprise---despite it being on a well balanced laser dolly. When I opened the forward inspection port I found that the hull was completely full of brown water which I had to siphon out with a hose since the boat could not be tipped to drain the water from the stern drain plug.

Notes After Initial Inspection
I was a bit confused as to why there was so much water in the hull. I wanted to completely flush the inside of the hull with clean fresh, soapy water, and also determine where the hull might have any leaks or holes. With the hull cradled in a hull shaped depression on a gently sloping portion of lawn, I rinsed and filled the hull again with fresh soapy water. To my surprise I found a very large leak where the deck to hull bonding compound has cracked and started to separate, but also a very oddly sized and placed hole in the cockpit. It appears to be on the centerline of the boat and virtually circular. It seems like this was a hole in the fiberglass that was either drilled or molded with the original manufacture of the boat that then only had a thin layer of gelcoat disguising its presence. Very curious indeed. The weight of the water in the cockpit and/or the thermal cycling and freezing of water in the cockpit might have caused the gelcoat to fail. This hole, along with a formerly-slightly leaky mast step were probably the main means that hull filled with water.

I am wondering if anyone else has had a similar hold develop in the cockpit, since it seems like it was the result of the manufacturing process or, perhaps even designed this way---maybe as a mechanical pressure fuse?

Open Questions and Advice
  • Epoxy vs Poly resin: I know that gelcoat won't bond to epoxy very well, so I was planing to do all of my repairs using poly resin. This should match the original manufacture of GFRP hull and deck, and allow me to apply gelcoat over any exterior repairs like the hole in the cockpit. Is there a reason I should consider using Epoxy instead?
  • Gorilla Glue vs "Peanut Butter" vs Bondo for Gunwale deck/hull splitting: My initial instinct was to use "Peanut Butter" (resin with colloidal silica and fibers from CSM glass) to perform the repair where the original bondo (or other) adhesive compound is separating and falling out. However I have seen some other methods of fixing this proposed on this form. Things from either using gorilla glue with a weak vacuum to suck it into the cracks, or applying bondo.
  • Gunwale Grinding/Surface prep: I've seen people advocate replacing the bonding compound around the entire hull/deck seam to cleaning up the localized area with a dremel cutting disk or oscillating multi tool, to doing no additional surface prep. My plan (when using the "peanut butter") was to remove the cracking and weakened bonding agent in the vicinity of the repair only, and ensure a rough enough surface for good bonding.
  • Gunwale Clamping Pressure: I know the gorilla glue repair will definitely need strong clamping as the glue foams and expands as it cures, but I'm less sure of how much clamping and clamping pressure to use if I follow a different repair approach.
  • Cockpit Hole Repair: The hole is relatively small but my current plan is to sand/grind down the exterior surface around the hole and lay down some glass to patch it. I don't have interior access so I wasn't going to do anything besides ream out the hole with a drill bit slightly larger than the hole diameter. Should I install an additional inspection port next to the centerboard trunk so I can get at the back of the hole? Is there any reason I should explore a different approach than laying down some glass followed by sanding and fairing and gelcoat?
  • Where else should I check for rot and damage? I have two inspection ports installed but they don't provide great access to all interior portions of the hull. Is there anything I should be particularly weary of with a boat that has been sitting with a hull, cockpit and mast step full of water (and mud other than the hull) for 13 years?
  • Any tips for cleaning or replacing the grab rails? They were white originally, but now they're stained and a muddy red-brown. I haven't looked into how they're attached (rivets vs screws or something else). I also don't know if I could sand them and then wet sand and polish them to restore they're color use some sort of bleaching agent vs just buy new ones as they are fairly inexpensive.
  • Sealing Compound Choice for Inspection Ports and thru-hull/deck Hardware: I have some white 3m 5200 marine sealant that I was going to use for the obvious parts (inspection ports) but I was wondering if people have other recommendations, especially for the screws holding the inspection ports and other hardware.
A Few Pictures:

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IMG_1979.pngIMG_1978.pngIMG_1976.pngIMG_1975.png
 

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LaLi

Well-Known Member
Just commenting on two points for now:
1) The hole in the cockpit below the hiking strap is the "breathing" hole - do NOT do anything to it! It's both mandatory and beneficial.
2) The grabrails look just like ones on every Vanguard-built boat of that vintage; the colour wasn't identical to the deck to begin with. Of course they're replaceable (they're fastened with screws only), but unless they're broken, I wouldn't touch them. (New ones are grey by the way.)

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zbeekman

Zaak
Just commenting on two points for now:
1) The hole in the cockpit below the hiking strap is the "breathing" hole - do NOT do anything to it! It's both mandatory and beneficial.
2) The grabrails look just like ones on every Vanguard-built boat of that vintage; the colour wasn't identical to the deck to begin with. Of course they're replaceable (they're fastened with screws only), but unless they're broken, I wouldn't touch them. (New ones are grey by the way.)
_
Concerning (1), the breathing hole, that's great to know! Repairing that was going to be unpleasant! There are some cracks in the gelcoat around it, so I may sand that down and apply some fresh gelcoat if I have the gelcoat out anyway. But that will save me boat loads of work not having to worry about that! It's been far too long since I've been in a laser that's in good working order!

As for the grab rails, I like the idea of grey. I'm not sure the pictures do them justice for how grimy and gross they look. The originals were close to the white of the gelcoat of the deck before they sat out in the muck.

My biggest remaining questions now are:
  • poly vs epoxy resin for the mast step repair/upgrade?
  • Deck/hull bond repair technique at the gunwale: Bondo vs gorilla glue vs thickened resin (poly or epoxy) "peanut butter"
  • Sealant to use for inspection ports (3M 5200 vs other)
  • Compound to use to make hardware screws/bolts waterproof
Misc Updates:
Today I used a power washer to clean the deck, hull, foils and grab rails. Things are looking a little better but still not great. I'm going to need to take at least some gelcoat polishing compound to the hull, if not also a fine wet-sanding to remove the stains and repair some dings and scratches. I'm at a bit of a loss as to what I should do about the staining on the deck. Perhaps some boat soap with a circular brush connected to a rotary buffer/sander might help or even some gelcoat oxidation remover compound and wool buffing wheel, but I'm skeptical that the fine concave features of the non-skid texturing will get any better.
 

Jason Rucker

Active Member
  • poly vs epoxy resin for the mast step repair/upgrade?
  • Deck/hull bond repair technique at the gunwale: Bondo vs gorilla glue vs thickened resin (poly or epoxy) "peanut butter"
  • Sealant to use for inspection ports (3M 5200 vs other)
  • Compound to use to make hardware screws/bolts waterproof
1. Use epoxy resin for mast step repair.
2. Use epoxy resin for deck/hull bond repair, thickened.
3. I use 3m 4200 without fasteners on my ports.
4. I use 4200 for bedding hardware.
 

zbeekman

Zaak
1. Use epoxy resin for mast step repair.
2. Use epoxy resin for deck/hull bond repair, thickened.
3. I use 3m 4200 without fasteners on my ports.
4. I use 4200 for bedding hardware.
Hey Jason, thanks for the great advice!

1. I agree, I've come to this conclusion after doing further research, thanks!

2. I think this is *probably* the best idea, but a bunch of the gunwales were pretty chewed up in some places so I ground out a bunch of the glass. I'm going to have to lay some new glass in there. It will be challenging to lay the glass on both sides (i.e., hull mold and deck mold) without some sort of filling or shim between them. (Epoxy sticks to PE but not vise versa.) Everywhere I need to do glass work on the gunwales I've gouged out the bondo/factory sealant deeper into the joint than the edge of the glass work. I'm toying with the idea of using a bead of thickened epoxy in the deepest parts of the exposed joint because the bond will be stronger between the hull and deck and for it's superior water resistance, but I'm thinking that I can get away with a thickened PE resin over this epoxy bead in the joints starting from just below where new glass needs to be laid (because existing PE glass from hull and deck are in close proximity) and between the new deck-side gunwale glass and hull-side gunwale glass.

3. & 4. Oh, glad to hear 4200 is working well for you. I guess I might give that a try, especially for bedding hardware. Still on the fence about 5200 for make the inspection ports permanent.
 

Jason Rucker

Active Member
All of the hul
Hey Jason, thanks for the great advice!

1. I agree, I've come to this conclusion after doing further research, thanks!

2. I think this is *probably* the best idea, but a bunch of the gunwales were pretty chewed up in some places so I ground out a bunch of the glass. I'm going to have to lay some new glass in there. It will be challenging to lay the glass on both sides (i.e., hull mold and deck mold) without some sort of filling or shim between them. (Epoxy sticks to PE but not vise versa.) Everywhere I need to do glass work on the gunwales I've gouged out the bondo/factory sealant deeper into the joint than the edge of the glass work. I'm toying with the idea of using a bead of thickened epoxy in the deepest parts of the exposed joint because the bond will be stronger between the hull and deck and for it's superior water resistance, but I'm thinking that I can get away with a thickened PE resin over this epoxy bead in the joints starting from just below where new glass needs to be laid (because existing PE glass from hull and deck are in close proximity) and between the new deck-side gunwale glass and hull-side gunwale glass.

3. & 4. Oh, glad to hear 4200 is working well for you. I guess I might give that a try, especially for bedding hardware. Still on the fence about 5200 for make the inspection ports permanent.
All these hull/deck repair repairs were made with west systems epoxy and cloth. I built it up with thickened and then put cloth on it. Then gelcoat. Just wet sand off the blush residue from the epoxy before gelcoat.

Resources:



 

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zbeekman

Zaak
Hi Jason, yes I've been following Boatworks Today for a while now and have browsed some of the total boat videos too. (I get most of my supplies from them.)

FYI, since gelcoat is PE based Andy at BWT and other folks including West Systems IIRC do not recommend gelcoating over Epoxy based repairs/compounds because, apparently, even after removing amine blush and wax/dirt/etc. PE resins like gelcoat don't stick well to epoxy.

Fortunately my repairs appear to be much less extensive than yours so at this point I'm probably just being indecisive: for the gunwales I can probably figure out how to layup the glass repairs with PE resin and then fill the joint with thickened epoxy after wards or just use thickened PE resin.

Perhaps that "flexible" epoxy would be even better for bonding the deck and hull joints since it will be crack resistant. I suspect the way you propose doing it will probably work as well as my ideas if not better, but I can be stubborn...
 

Jason Rucker

Active Member
Hi Jason, yes I've been following Boatworks Today for a while now and have browsed some of the total boat videos too. (I get most of my supplies from them.)

FYI, since gelcoat is PE based Andy at BWT and other folks including West Systems IIRC do not recommend gelcoating over Epoxy based repairs/compounds because, apparently, even after removing amine blush and wax/dirt/etc. PE resins like gelcoat don't stick well to epoxy
Fortunately my repairs appear to be much less extensive than yours so at this point I'm probably just being indecisive: for the gunwales I can probably figure out how to layup the glass repairs with PE resin and then fill the joint with thickened epoxy after wards or just use thickened PE resin.

Perhaps that "flexible" epoxy would be even better for bonding the deck and hull joints since it will be crack resistant. I suspect the way you propose doing it will probably work as well as my ideas if not better, but I can be stubborn...
Hello Zaak,
Regarding different ideas about boat repair all I know is that if you ask five people you’ll get 20 different opinions. I’m just a DIY sailor who has always had to do my own repairs ...,,
I hear ya on the gelcoat over epoxy thing although I’ve never had an issue. This I found involving both Boatworks today and the west systems guys...

Good luck
 
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