When Is It Time To Throw In The Towel?

Arthur Kill

Member
I picked up a "basket case" Sunfish today, for free. (Wanted one for a while now.)

It's pretty beat up and has some clearly shoddy repairs. I'm good with my hands, have many tools, experience (home repair, cars, motorcycles, small engines and more) and knowledge -- but none with boats.

When do these animals become, "not worth fixing?" I'll give it a good look-see tomorrow.

What tell-tale signs should I look for?




PS - this thing is HEAVY, waaaay more than the 120 pounds annotated in the online Sunfish spec pages. I'm thinking that's probably a bad sign?

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It's fiberglass it can be repaired, glass is easy to work with. Take some pictures of the damaged spots so the experts on the site can take a look.
Thanks 'flow - I sure will post some pics in the light of day tomorrow. The area around one of the "injuries" to the hull was springy/soft to the touch. Is that a bad sign?

Thanks for replying!

:)
 
The weight is probably not an issue - water is soaked in the foam blocks but that can be fixed. There are many, many prior posts on that subject. Need to see damage pics to assess the soft spots.
 
I don’t like that port between the mast hole and the halyard cleat, but since it’s there I’d start by unscrewing the small deck drain on the starboard deck, see if any water comes out while it’s on its side. Then attach a muffin fan to the open port and start drying it out while you assess repairs. It certainly looks salvageable! Do you have all the rigging?
 
I don’t like that port between the mast hole and the halyard cleat, but since it’s there I’d start by unscrewing the small deck drain on the starboard deck, see if any water comes out while it’s on its side. Then attach a muffin fan to the open port and start drying it out while you assess repairs. It certainly looks salvageable! Do you have all the rigging?
Did that, all the water is out but it still weighs like 300 lbs.

I removed that port and it had some type of thread sealer on it. I don't like it either, it's obviously a good place for water to get in. Tell me your concerns and how I should remedy it. Thanks.
 

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I turned it hull up, opened the main port and put a small computer fan on it like I saw in YT. They say it takes like 3 weeks. I suppose
I'll know better then, this thing is too heavy to do much right now, just flipping it over takes 2 men. I may cut out one of the bad breaks in the hull now just to get more air in there - but it lives outside so I'm not sure if that a good thing to do, or not.
 

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Here's the sail and the center-board(s) and rudder(s) that came with it. Are they too far gone?
 

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The small daggerboard is for a Sailfish, and the rudder with bronze fittings is for (most likely) the Sailfish or possibly a Sunfish with old style rudder fittings. The rudder is an odd shape but the hardware is probably worth $75 or $100 on eBay. The long daggerboard is pretty far gone but you can get a new knockoff one on eBay or Intensity Sails. The aluminum hardware looks good but a new rudder blade is probably in order too.

The hull will eventually dry out. Putting it outside in the sun with black garbage bags tap d to it will speed things up.
 
It will probably take a while to dry out. I have one that was about 220lbs when I brought her home, after about 3 months it was down to 150, I had the fan, like the one you have, inside the hull with a 40watt light bulb in front of it blowing towards an inspection port I put in the stern. It was upside down on sawhorses with a dark green tarp on it. Like Beldar said it will eventually dry out.
 
It will probably take a while to dry out. I have one that was about 220lbs when I brought her home, after about 3 months it was down to 150, I had the fan, like the one you have, inside the hull with a 40watt light bulb in front of it blowing towards an inspection port I put in the stern. It was upside down on sawhorses with a dark green tarp on it. Like Beldar said it will eventually dry out.

3 months? I was prepared for 3 weeks - which I thought was an eternity. And this thing is WAY more than 220 lbs.

I'm not sure I have the patience to wait 3 months. Especially considering that spring-time in the NE is notoriously rainy which won't help with this process.
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3 months? I was prepared for 3 weeks - which I thought was an eternity. And this thing is WAY more than 220 lbs.

I'm not sure I have the patience to wait 3 months. Especially considering that spring-time in the NE is notoriously rainy which won't help with this process.
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Well, the deal you got on the boat is amazing although it does require some new parts. Adding another port on the stern deck will help with airflow altho it’s still probably a 3 month process. But if you are new to small boats like the Sunfish, the water will still be cold in NE in June, so having her fixed up by July will be good timing. You will likely go in the drink learning to sail it, and you will certainly get splashed a lot, so warm water is nice!
 
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Well, the deal you got on the boat is amazing although it does require some new parts. Adding another port on the stern deck will help with airflow altho it’s still probably a 3 month process. But if you are new to sailing the water will still be cold in NE in June, so having her fixed up by July will be good timing. You will go in the drink learning to sail, so warm water is nice!

Thanks for the encouragement, bel. Imma stay with it for now. The guy I got it from said that he "filled it with water to see if it leaked." :confused:
So, I suppose that's why I am where I am, but who knows? The weight of this thing is untenable - and I'm no weakling.

I think it's time to get out the Dremel and do some cutting, get some air flowing. This "waterlogged" issue, is VERY frustrating and it sure seems like a Sunfish design flaw - then again, I never owned *any* sailboat, so what do I know?

Gonna start with this crack - that's a chop-stick stuck into it for reference - the surrounding area is very flexible and "spongy." I figured I'd cut a rectangle that is about 10" X 3" - sound about right?
 

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That's hard to say, where on the boat is that located? If it's in a spot that an inspection port could be located, then you'd want the hole to conform to the size of the port, if not you'd want it as small as possible to put a backing plate behind and fix the hole. Search out some threads on hull repairs to get ideas on how to go about your repair options.
 
That's hard to say, where on the boat is that located? If it's in a spot that an inspection port could be located, then you'd want the hole to conform to the size of the port, if not you'd want it as small as possible to put a backing plate behind and fix the hole. Search out some threads on hull repairs to get ideas on how to go about your repair options.

It's on the bottom, towards the back - about midway between the center board and the tail rudder - and about midway between the center-line and the right-side edge. (Sorry, my nomenclature for parts names is not very extensive yet, but I'll get there.)

I'm thinking a big cut is better for 2 reasons - 1), to get the air flowing to speed-up the dry-out and 2) the area seems problematic to me right now because of the flex and sponginess of the surrounding area. I'm guessing it needs to be built-up? Feel free to tell me if my thinking is wrong.

And yep, I watched a some videos about the backing plate method and feel confident i can do it.

So soon, I'll need the fiber-glass repair supplies - and that backing material (I don't remember an explanation as to what exactly that is?). Where do I start with the purchasing process? Are kit's available or do I buy seperate for the best prices, etc. Money is always the main issue.

Thanks! :)
 
The area you're describing is about opposite the (metal or plastic) drain in the hull? There's likely not enough "empty space" between the hull and the floor to justify making a larger hole there. (But there IS empty space).

Older hulls tend to flex: introduce a crack, and it'll be worse. I'm hoping the softness you've noted isn't of the "crunchy" variety.

In a sense, you're lucky. A crack in the keel (just inches away) requires much more attention.

Fiberglassing kits are available which include plenty of fiberglass cloth. The downside is that they introduce you to epoxy repairs, and there's not enough epoxy resin to finish a typical small repair. It stores well, and I like epoxy, but with high demand, the prices are daunting. Plenty of repairs are accomplished using polyester resin.

You can start by sanding the area--out about 2-inches.
 
The area you're describing is about opposite the (metal or plastic) drain in the hull? There's likely not enough "empty space" between the hull and the floor to justify making a larger hole there. (But there IS empty space).

Older hulls tend to flex: introduce a crack, and it'll be worse. I'm hoping the softness you've noted isn't of the "crunchy" variety.

In a sense, you're lucky. A crack in the keel (just inches away) requires much more attention.

Fiberglassing kits are available which include plenty of fiberglass cloth. The downside is that they introduce you to epoxy repairs, and there's not enough epoxy resin to finish a typical small repair. It stores well, and I like epoxy, but with high demand, the prices are daunting. Plenty of repairs are accomplished using polyester resin.

You can start by sanding the area--out about 2-inches.

Thanks for that, LVW.

Just to clarify, are you suggesting I don't cut out the hole in the above pic? What is the issue with the lack of "empty space?"

Very new to fiberglass/resin/epoxy/polyester - but I'm anxious to learn more and try my hand at it - it looks like it can be fun and satisfying.

But I'm very confused about what exactly to buy. Could you point me in the right direction as to the best "bang for the buck" as money is always an issue. Especially at this stage when I'm not sure if this boat even has a future just yet.

Thanks!


:):D:)
 
In this video, the guy is cutting the hull directly under the foot-tub (00:50) and it appears he has sufficient room.

Hearing no objections, I suppose I'll go ahead and cut that piece out.


:D
 
Yes, there's sufficient room, but you need to move a lot of air to dry out the Styrofoam. Make a big cut to exhaust the moisture-laden air.

We were introduced to the Shoreline method back when member Whitecap started with his epic thread:


I'm still using West Systems epoxy resin (one gallon) I bought 15 years ago! It's found many other uses around the house.

To get started, get this kit:


My kit came with "flux" brushes, which adequately spread the resin on small repairs, and are handy to "stab" at the bubbles as they form. A roller is nice, but costly.

You'll very likely need more resin. At that time, I'd suggest buying the slowest catalyst to allow more setup time.
 
Yes, there's sufficient room, but you need to move a lot of air to dry out the Styrofoam. Make a big cut to exhaust the moisture-laden air.

We were introduced to the Shoreline method back when member Whitecap started with his epic thread:


I'm still using West Systems epoxy resin (one gallon) I bought 15 years ago! It's found many other uses around the house.

To get started, get this kit:


My kit came with "flux" brushes, which adequately spread the resin on small repairs, and are handy to "stab" at the bubbles as they form. A roller is nice, but costly.

You'll very likely need more resin. At that time, I'd suggest buying the slowest catalyst to allow more setup time.

Thank you, LVW.

Dumb questions:
- What are the fiberglass "battans" they use in this method and where can they be obtained? What is a suitable substitute for battans that I may already have or can fabricate?

- When purchasing the gallon of West Systems epoxy resin, does it come with the required hardener? Or does that need to be purchased separately? Does the hardener determine the drying time?

Much appreciated!!

:D
 
I've used battens from two different boat sails. Optimist-class sails have flat battens, which is what you want. Catamarans have large numbers of battens, but only the older cats have flat battens. Others have cross-sections of a diamond shape--and unsuitable. They're made to be light in weight, so strength isnt a factor. Some are a "bendy" sandwich with a Styrofoam interior. :rolleyes:

For the budget-minded, you could use yardsticks instead. In a pinch, short stubs of yardsticks or paint-stirrers can be used. The idea is to keep the repair sections straight and parallel to each other.

You'll need clamps, but can substitute clothespins--available at Dollar Tree stores. I'd love to have birthday presents of clamps!

Epoxy is expensive. A gallon costs over $55, and the catalyst is extra. A pint may be all the epoxy you'll need.

You may have as many as three choices of "speed". As a beginner, the slow hardener is best to learn with, as the cloth and clamps may have to be adjusted or moved. Ambient temperature is also factor: Cooler is slower. In hot climates, even the slow hardener can "cook-off", and you can lose the batch you'd just made. (And the brush).
:(
 
I've used battens from two different boat sails. Optimist-class sails have flat battens, which is what you want. Catamarans have large numbers of battens, but only the older cats have flat battens. Others have cross-sections of a diamond shape--and unsuitable. They're made to be light in weight, so strength isnt a factor. Some are a "bendy" sandwich with a Styrofoam interior. :rolleyes:

For the budget-minded, you could use yardsticks instead. In a pinch, short stubs of yardsticks or paint-stirrers can be used. The idea is to keep the repair sections straight and parallel to each other.

You'll need clamps, but can substitute clothespins--available at Dollar Tree stores. I'd love to have birthday presents of clamps!

Epoxy is expensive. A gallon costs over $55, and the catalyst is extra. A pint may be all the epoxy you'll need.

You may have as many as three choices of "speed". As a beginner, the slow hardener is best to learn with, as the cloth and clamps may have to be adjusted or moved. Ambient temperature is also factor: Cooler is slower. In hot climates, even the slow hardener can "cook-off", and you can lose the batch you'd just made. (And the brush).
:(

Thanks again LVW, your expert advice is invaluable.

The boat felt a little lighter today. It had been too heavy to weigh on a bathroom scale (fear of crushing the scale), so I gave it a weigh today - 255 lbs.

It's lost probably a good 45 lbs already as I estimated the initial weight to be slightly over 300. It's still to heavy to manipulate/move around freely and get much of anything done, but I am going to cut the hull this afternoon or tomorrow. I'm hoping that will hurry the drying process along.

Any and all advice or suggestions are always welcomed.

Thank you!

:D
 
My procedure, while close to the Shoreline technique, involves sanding relatively deeply around the marking before making the cut. When sanding, if you start to see the "roving" pattern of quarter-inch squares, stop sanding there. :oops: ("Roving" is the heavily-woven fiberglass material used in the Sunfish--and the cars and boats of the fiberglass industry).

The reason is to allow room for layers of fresh repair cloth and resin to grip the edges better.

If you don't use a repair kit, three-inch fiberglass "tape" can be substituted. Lighter four-ounce tape is available (and all the rest) through Amazon.

Ventilation is recommended in using all resins.
 
My procedure, while close to the Shoreline technique, involves sanding relatively deeply around the marking before making the cut. When sanding, if you start to see the "roving" pattern of quarter-inch squares, stop sanding there. :oops: ("Roving" is the heavily-woven fiberglass material used in the Sunfish--and the cars and boats of the fiberglass industry).

The reason is to allow room for layers of fresh repair cloth and resin to grip the edges better.

If you don't use a repair kit, three-inch fiberglass "tape" can be substituted. Lighter four-ounce tape is available (and all the rest) through Amazon.

Ventilation is recommended in using all resins.

Thank you again, LVW - all good information, much needed and much appreciated!

I did the cut before you posted (pic below). I'll repair the back first, "glue" it in and then do the topside, like in the videos. But the next one, I'll be sure to do your way - it makes more sense, less mixing.

Battens: I saved these slats (pic below) from a ventician blind I was throwing away years ago (hoarding tendencies) knowing that I could use them someday. LOL. They're some sort of light-weight, plastic composite. I think they'll work fine for this purpose.

Think?

Also, I noticed a few videos where the repairer used Bondo as a final skim coat. You do suggest? AND, at least one video stated that fiberglass repairs do not need to be painted. If that's true, I only plan to paint if all repairs are successful and the boat functions. It'll just have to look like a "rat-rod" during the testing process/before paint.
 

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The venetian blinds you've hoarded are the same as those I've hoarded. ;) They came in handy once by holding some ceiling tiles overhead while I glued some sections back in place. (Used clamps to extend two). I don't think resin will stick to them, but you can try a small sample. (Stick=good).

'Looks like you've got some real ventilation going! The rate of water loss will slow to "asymptotial-nothingness" eventually.

"Bondo" is new to the field, after decades of ridicule as "Bondo", a cheap body-filler. I haven't used it.
 
The venetian blinds you've hoarded are the same as those I've hoarded. ;) They came in handy once by holding some ceiling tiles overhead while I glued some sections back in place. (Used clamps to extend two). I don't think resin will stick to them, but you can try a small sample. (Stick=good).

'Looks like you've got some real ventilation going! The rate of water loss will slow to "asymptotial-nothingness" eventually.

"Bondo" is new to the field, after decades of ridicule as "Bondo", a cheap body-filler. I haven't used it.
Haha! Same brain. I did use the venetian-blind slats a time or two for a straight-edged shield while painting. I didn't realize that fiberglass resin will not stick to plastic.

When the drying slows to "asymptotial-nothingness," will the boat be a manageable weight? Because right now, at 255 lbs, it is not.

Wood is okay to use for battens, right?

I can buy a pack of paint stirrers at HD for like $1.50 - will those work okay?

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Yes, theres still too much water in your hull. When the weight gets down to 140#, you'll be ready for sailing! (Earlier hulls have been listed at 125#). Your sunfish's weight should be closer to ideal as we approach summer; however, evaporation will slow.

Wood would rot away eventually, likely clogging the deck drain. Maybe search West Marine for an Optimist non-tapered fiberglass battens?
 
Can you take a picture of what it looks like since you cut? If the section is not too wide and you have good glass taper on the edges you could acetone and glass some support straps across the hole and let dry. After a light sanding and acetone you could put a layer on the hole and the straps would support. You will need several layers for the repair and strength. Layer the cloth in different directions. Tape around the hole to keep the resin off the good parts of the gelcoat to protect. You will have some filling. I use marine tex. Get it level, prime and paint.
 
I've used battens from two different boat sails. Optimist-class sails have flat battens, which is what you want. Catamarans have large numbers of battens, but only the older cats have flat battens. Others have cross-sections of a diamond shape--and unsuitable. They're made to be light in weight, so strength isnt a factor. Some are a "bendy" sandwich with a Styrofoam interior. :rolleyes:

For the budget-minded, you could use yardsticks instead. In a pinch, short stubs of yardsticks or paint-stirrers can be used. The idea is to keep the repair sections straight and parallel to each other.

You'll need clamps, but can substitute clothespins--available at Dollar Tree stores. I'd love to have birthday presents of clamps!

Epoxy is expensive. A gallon costs over $55, and the catalyst is extra. A pint may be all the epoxy you'll need.

You may have as many as three choices of "speed". As a beginner, the slow hardener is best to learn with, as the cloth and clamps may have to be adjusted or moved. Ambient temperature is also factor: Cooler is slower. In hot climates, even the slow hardener can "cook-off", and you can lose the batch you'd just made. (And the brush).
:(

I'll echo that West System is great stuff and well worth the cost. It's more or less the standard for both hobbyists and many professional shops. We use the slow hardener for carbon fiber composite layups, and it has about an hour-ish of working time at room temperature, we can usually remove parts from the mold about 24 hours later. If you're working outdoors this time of year or in an unheated garage, you might get a little extra working time and longer cure time. They do make an extra-slow hardener; I would avoid it. Never used it myself, but I have an experienced friend who says it takes an eternity to fully cure.

Good luck with the project, these boats are an absolute blast on the water! I know the pain of a heavy boat, I've been drying mine out all winter. I wish I would have weighed it before I started drying, but it was probably similar to yours. It's noticeably lighter now, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it handles on the water. Yours will get down to something more manageable eventually.
 
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U.S. Composits has on line ordering for retail consumers and are less expensive than any other source we researched. Good quality products and quick shipping. They carry everything you need to make fiberglass repairs. Good luck!
 
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Can you take a picture of what it looks like since you cut? If the section is not too wide and you have good glass taper on the edges you could acetone and glass some support straps across the hole and let dry. After a light sanding and acetone you could put a layer on the hole and the straps would support. You will need several layers for the repair and strength. Layer the cloth in different directions. Tape around the hole to keep the resin off the good parts of the gelcoat to protect. You will have some filling. I use marine tex. Get it level, prime and paint.

Yep, pic above. Whatcha think?

Is Marine Tex a final/skim coat? I've seen YT vids where guys use Bondo to fill leftover "pinholes" after the fiberglass process. Same or similar?

:confused:
 

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