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Old 29-06-2011, 09:26   #1
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Dealing with a Soggy Cockpit Sole - The Story of My Repair

(yes this is a cross post, but I figured you guys would appreciate the post as well.)

This past weekend I had a few friends (with better tools than I) come up to St Augustine to help me out with a few big projects on Windsong. The most important task was to start repairing the waterlogged core in the cockpit sole (floor). When I took Windsong around the state, I noticed that the cockpit sole was pretty mushy, and obviously delaminated. I figured I would have to either stiffen it, fill it up with some epoxy, or completely re-core the sole depending on the extent of the damage.

When clearing and cleaning the bilge, I would dump buckets of dirty bilge water into the cockpit so it would drain out. Otherwise I would need to bring a 5 gallon bucket of bilge water out and up the companionway to dump over the side. Since I currently don’t have any stairs and getting in or out of the boat is a chore…the cockpit sufficed for drainage. Unfortunately, the dirty bilge water did a good job of staining the gelcoat. Luckily we were able to clean much of that off before this project began. Picture of said sole from the outside, after the steering column was removed:



Sometime after I removed the engine and began to tear apart the engine room, I finally got an idea of the actual problem in the sole. I always noticed some drips of water coming from the underside of the sole, and could never figure out where the moisture was coming from. I eventually decided it was just condensation, and oh how was I wrong! I discovered the true extent of the water logging after I removed the overhead engine room light that was screwed into the bottom of the cockpit sole. Once I removed the two little screws holding the light in place, I released the floodgates:





Water flowed out of these holes for a good 5 minutes straight, no exaggeration. The cockpit sole was a complete water tank full of wetness. I knew then and there that I needed to do something about it, not just a quick repair.

My plan was to remove the bottom layer of fiberglass from the inside (engine room), replace the core, and glass back in. Working from the underside would ensure the top skin is undamaged and finish work would be minimized. The glass underneath is rough and unfinished, so the repair work need not be super neat.

This weekend I was able to get my friend’s router to use for cutting the bottom layer of glass out. I’m not sure if this was the right tool, but it worked nonetheless. First we had to remove the cockpit drains, something I was hesitant to do since they drained out a lot of rain. While I was busy underneath, I had one of my crew make a plastic covering so rain wouldn’t enter the cockpit anymore. They plumbed to the only remaining seacock/thru-hull.

Here are the drains pre-removal:



Here I am all bundled up and ready to make a mess cutting up the glass. It is the only “before” picture of the sole’s underside I have:



I used the router to cut around the edges. After some prying, the bottom glass layer came off:



Wet, wet core…had to use a scraper and hammer to really get it all out:





After much scraping, most of the core has been removed. Only a small layer is still remaining which I will grind out before adding the new core.



The most incredible part was the fact that even MORE water was hanging out in there. After removing the glass, there was a stream of water coming out of the lowest corner for another 5 minutes or so. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, so I made sure the crew witnessed it.

After a day, the area is mostly dry but I’m going to let it fully dry out for another week or so before attempting to add the new core. I will update this post as the project comes along.

UPDATE!

This past week I finally finished the repair work and am excited to have it done. Aside from the hull blisters, this is probably the biggest repair job on the boat. The next step was to grind down the remaining core and get a fairly smooth surface to glue in the new core. Here is the surface post grinding:



I purchased some end-grain balsa to use as the replacement core. Here is the first piece measured and cut. The board underneath it is the backing plate I will use to hold the core in place while the epoxy dries. I covered it in wax paper so epoxy wont stick to it.



After measuring and cutting the core, I painted both contact surfaces (core and sole) with unthickened epoxy to penetrate, then slathered on a ton of thickened epoxy to the core:



Next I smushed it up against the sole undersides, put on the backing plate, then used shower curtain rods to snug it up.





I filled in the edges with thickened epoxy and let the first piece cure. Here it is after it dried:



I then performed the same tasks on the second piece of core. Here are both pieces in place, with the edges sanded round:



Next up I applied a few progressively larger layers of biaxial cloth to the undersides. I used smallish (1 ft or so) strips to keep it manageable while laying up the glass overhead.





Job finished! I will sand it down and paint it along with the rest of the engine room ceiling. I stood on the cockpit sole for the first time in a while and it is solid as a rock!

Lessons learned: doing the job from the underside was a mistake. My initial idea was that working from the underside would ensure the top skin is undamaged and finish/fairing work would be minimized. The glass underneath is rough and unfinished, so the repair work need not be super neat.However, I underestimated the effort it took to glue in the core overhead with gravity working against me. It was extremely messy, with epoxy getting all over me, in my hair and everywhere. My arms were noodles after each work session working overhead. If I had to do this again I would definitely go from the top and just take my time with the finishing work, particularly since I am fairing and painting the decks regardless. Gravity working for you is a good thing. All in all, I am happy with the repair and glad to be moving forward!
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Old 29-06-2011, 09:30   #2
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Re: Dealing with a soggy cockpit sole: the story of my repair.

Very Nice! Doing a bit or re-coring myself, fun times indeed!
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Old 29-06-2011, 09:32   #3
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Re: Dealing with a soggy cockpit sole: the story of my repair.

Wow, great write up on a substantial repair. Just a fabulous job and she looks like you'll be having no problems for a lonf time. Congratulations.
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Old 29-06-2011, 09:51   #4
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Re: Dealing with a soggy cockpit sole: the story of my repair.

congrats on completing a job well done that you never planned on doing!! the downeasters are great looking boats but usually need some work. good luck with your forward movement
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Old 29-06-2011, 10:23   #5
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Re: Dealing with a soggy cockpit sole: the story of my repair.

Nice job, a lot of work.

From the photo of the bad core removal, the original scored foam core cubes were never wetted out properly in the first place - all the interstitial spaces are simply air voids, and instead resin and mash (aka spooge) should have filled all the gaps.

When I've done the kind of work you've done, I usually vacuum bag the new core and glasswork - makes it somewhat easier to hold the materials up against gravity trying to pull them down.

well done.

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Old 29-06-2011, 13:24   #6
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Re: Dealing with a Soggy Cockpit Sole - The Story of My Repair

thanks everyone!
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Old 29-06-2011, 14:22   #7
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Re: Dealing with a Soggy Cockpit Sole - The Story of My Repair

Nice job.

Does the admiral miss her shower curtain?
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Old 29-06-2011, 14:25   #8
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Re: Dealing with a Soggy Cockpit Sole - The Story of My Repair

I cannot let a post like this go by without.........BEERSMITH---YOU DA MAN!!!

WOW!!! What an accomplishment! Your work looks excellent!

Foggy
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Old 29-06-2011, 14:34   #9
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Re: Dealing with a Soggy Cockpit Sole - The Story of My Repair

Nice Job! The curtain rods were a neat trick. Thanks for documenting the process so well.
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Old 30-06-2011, 06:29   #10
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Re: Dealing with a Soggy Cockpit Sole - The Story of My Repair

thanks for the cudos!

hehe I promptly returned the shower rods to the admiral, improved with a fresh protective epoxy coating!
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Old 01-07-2011, 11:52   #11
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Re: Dealing with a Soggy Cockpit Sole - The Story of My Repair

Nicely done Sir!

Soggy cockpit sole are a fact of life with older Grampians, most of the boats in our fleet either need them repaired or have had them done. The most common method used after a series of hit and miss attempts appears to be using a skill saw to cut around the sole, set just to the depth of the glass. Once the cut is made, a chisel is inserted and the fiberglas sole is pryed up, inverted and cleaned. The remaining soggy mess is also chiseled out and the pan cleaned up. New end grain balsa is glued to the underside of the removed section of sole, which is inverted on a known flat table. Then the removed piece of sole is reinstalled with lots of syrupy epoxy and the seam finally filled with paste. Since there is a border of flat glass around the perimeter of the nonskid, it mostly works out that all you have to fill is flat areas. You need a small skill saw for this. One of the sub size cordless jobs works best as the floor plate is only about an inch wider on the side of the blade.

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Old 01-07-2011, 23:39   #12
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Re: Dealing with a Soggy Cockpit Sole - The Story of My Repair

I have done a few decks with re-coring. Just a question but wouldn't it be easier to cut the upper skin up and use gravity in your favor?
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Old 02-07-2011, 04:27   #13
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Re: Dealing with a Soggy Cockpit Sole - The Story of My Repair

What was the source of the leak? The pedestal base?
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Old 02-07-2011, 18:00   #14
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Re: Dealing with a Soggy Cockpit Sole - The Story of My Repair

i dont come here much and dont own boat.
but sure do appreciate you sharing your repair work with us.
very interesting
thanks for your time!
good luck!!,and keep the top-side up.
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Old 02-07-2011, 18:22   #15
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Re: Dealing with a Soggy Cockpit Sole - The Story of My Repair

Why replace balsa that rotted with more balsa? Next time you might consider using ridgid urethane foam. If you didn't solve the source of the leak while re-coring, something it's hard to be sure of, you'll be back at it in a few years. If you use foam it's done forever. Especially in a cockpit sole, which is likely to have a binnacle with handrail installed. Those always get reefed on a lot while sailing and often end up leaking as a result. As a person who has replaced acres of rotten balsa, I hate the stuff.
As for not doing it from underneath, it took me years and lot's of messy jobs to convince my boss that that is almost never the way to go. For some people it seems counter-intuitive, but it is definitely easier from above, and faster.
For those who insist on using balsa core, I think vacuum bagging your core in core-bond is the only way to insure you have no voids. Anything else weighs too much when you've filled all the voids. Core bond is tricky to catalyze just right and you only get one shot though. I've had some spectacular failures on a hot day.

http://www.atc-fp.com/pdf.aspx?t=1&id=246

For a small cockpit sole like this where weight isn't really an issue I'd use Coosa Board. It's super strong, never rots, and resin bonds to it like crazy. We use it a lot to replace plywood block outs in deck cores where they put in the ply in way of thru-deck fasteners, mast steps, and other fittings like winches.

Coosa Composites, LLC - Manufacture of high-density, fiberglass-reinforced polyurethane foam panels
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