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Old 17-09-2017, 10:32   #1
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Bad News - Wet Balsa Core

As I was replacing the access cover for the steering quadrant, I got an ugly surprise: whoever installed the existing access (which is not original to the boat) port did not glass around the rim, so water has been getting into the cockpit sole for years. Borrowed a moisture meter, and, yup, the entire sole is wet, wet, wet. So now I have another project.

The binnacle will have to come off, and then cut the sole out with a dremel saw, scrape out old balsa, replace, glass, etc, etc. Kind of pisses me off - I've had the boat for two years, and while the pre-purchase survey did find a few limited wet spots on the deck, the surveyor said nothing about the cockpit sole. Oh well.

While I would like to do this myself, or with a little experienced help, I am limited on time available to get the boat ready, and given the other projects in queue, I may want to pay to have this done.

Any idea how much a job like this would cost? Know of anyone in the Beaufort-Oriental, NC area who is really good at that sort of thing?
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Old 17-09-2017, 10:43   #2
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Re: Bad News - Wet Balsa Core

Consider using glassed coosa board or another durable product to replace the balsa.
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Old 17-09-2017, 10:58   #3
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Re: Bad News - Wet Balsa Core

Talk to Dave at Wayfarers Cove marina in Minessott Beach.
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Old 17-09-2017, 11:01   #4
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Re: Bad News - Wet Balsa Core

I'll guess two to five grand, depending on how the job is done, how much structure has to be remade, and whether they've got to remake the cockpit sole to add a "lip" and drain channel around the opening, etc.

No idea who works around there, but ask them about using a sheet of G10 (fiberglass structural board) instead of new wood coring under the sole. That also ensures that if you get water in the future, there's nothing to rot out.
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Old 17-09-2017, 13:02   #5
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Re: Bad News - Wet Balsa Core

Thanks to all for the replies. I did not need this additional project, but now it's here so I'll deal with it.
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Old 17-09-2017, 13:31   #6
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Re: Bad News - Wet Balsa Core

AJ,
The first rule in this type of discovery is: don't panic. Secondly, determine if the entire cockpit is bad or just a portion. You can easily drill test holes emanating away from the known saturation until you get to dry/semi-dry core. If the core is not destroyed, you can dry it out, fill it with injected epoxy and repaint. However, if the core is degraded, you must cut out the bad core and replace. Always save your upper skin to reuse after repair. I have replaced a couple small areas in my boat. They are ,now, as good as new. I hope this helps. Best, Rognvald
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Old 17-09-2017, 16:37   #7
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Re: Bad News - Wet Balsa Core

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AJ,
The first rule in this type of discovery is: don't panic. Secondly, determine if the entire cockpit is bad or just a portion. You can easily drill test holes emanating away from the known saturation until you get to dry/semi-dry core. If the core is not destroyed, you can dry it out, fill it with injected epoxy and repaint. However, if the core is degraded, you must cut out the bad core and replace. Always save your upper skin to reuse after repair. I have replaced a couple small areas in my boat. They are ,now, as good as new. I hope this helps. Best, Rognvald
Thanks Rognvald. If the meter is to be believed, the entire cockpit sole is wet, so it looks like the upper skin of the sole must be cut out to repair. But I'm going to talk to a local expert first.
AJ
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Old 17-09-2017, 17:53   #8
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Re: Bad News - Wet Balsa Core

i am not familiar with your boat's design but if you can get to the under skin and dremel or drill a few holes to drain or ventilate it may give some clues. if there is a putrid rot odor or just some clean water dripping for example, does the area reek? if the port is removed and no obvious rot is visible then tape up all but a portion of the cut-out and put a shopvac on it to help dry it, maybe the meter will show a difference,

also consider that the binnacle may need to come up even if the wood is okay, they tend to need resealing periodically like most deck fittings exposed to weather
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Old 17-09-2017, 21:43   #9
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Re: Bad News - Wet Balsa Core

Pulling the water out with a shop vac will take a long time
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Old 18-09-2017, 06:16   #10
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Re: Bad News - Wet Balsa Core

I can reach my finger into the gap where the access port was and feel wet balsa - I pulled some out. And the meter indicates that every bit of the sole is very wet, so I'm pretty sure it's the whole cockpit sole. Yes, I can get to portions of the underskin to drill holes. And I agree that the binnacle will need to come up.
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Old 18-09-2017, 06:54   #11
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Re: Bad News - Wet Balsa Core

To start off, I hate balsa on a boat. We had the same problem on our cockpit sole. I hired a very thin friend to go underneath and cut out the skin with a dremmel. He found it easy to scrape off the soggy balsa. We then cut marine grade plywood in various shapes and sizes and dry fitted them. Then we sealed them with resin. Then we used more resin to glue the pieces to the cockpit sole, but instead of using braces down below, I used screws from the cockpit itself to pull the plywood to the sole. My thin friend then put a few layers of glass matt over the plywood. Also a couple of stainless steel C channel bars underneath the binnacle. It is a thankless job.
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Old 18-09-2017, 07:58   #12
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Re: Bad News - Wet Balsa Core

Ok, no expert here but do you know if its salt water saturated or fresh? If its salt the balsa is most likely not rotten. I read an article once that the compression strength of balsa dosent deteriorate when wet or once dried again.

My point is , if its not rotten you maybe able to dry it out someway and it will be fine.

Just a thought.
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Old 18-09-2017, 08:16   #13
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Re: Bad News - Wet Balsa Core

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Ok, no expert here but do you know if its salt water saturated or fresh? If its salt the balsa is most likely not rotten. I read an article once that the compression strength of balsa dosent deteriorate when wet or once dried again.

My point is , if its not rotten you maybe able to dry it out someway and it will be fine.

Just a thought.
Pretty sure it's fresh water saturated. The PO installed new access ports and did not seal the gap where the port went through the sole. That's been at least three years. The balsa core I can reach with my finger is mush, and the meter says the entire sole is wet.
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Old 18-09-2017, 08:29   #14
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Re: Bad News - Wet Balsa Core

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Originally Posted by Allan S View Post
To start off, I hate balsa on a boat. We had the same problem on our cockpit sole. I hired a very thin friend to go underneath and cut out the skin with a dremmel. He found it easy to scrape off the soggy balsa. We then cut marine grade plywood in various shapes and sizes and dry fitted them. Then we sealed them with resin. Then we used more resin to glue the pieces to the cockpit sole, but instead of using braces down below, I used screws from the cockpit itself to pull the plywood to the sole. My thin friend then put a few layers of glass matt over the plywood. Also a couple of stainless steel C channel bars underneath the binnacle. It is a thankless job.
Thanks, good input. Because of the extremely tight conditions under the sole, it may or may not be possible to cut and remove the belowdecks portion. I'll just have to evaluate. An easier approach may be to cut with a dremel along the edge of the non-skid on the topside of the sole, replace balsa with other media, glass, replace, try to make it look pretty.
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Old 18-09-2017, 08:40   #15
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Re: Bad News - Wet Balsa Core

Sounds like an easy fix. Do you have access from below? If you do you won't need to be so tidy. If you must go from the top, just cut the floor with a circular saw only to the depth of the glass. Peel the glass up and scrape out the old balsa. You could use foam but it is very expensive. Must balsa core is 1/2 inch. Think about using 2 layers of 1/4 ply. That way you can overlap the joint. Should take a couple of days.
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