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Old 12-10-2015, 23:02   #1
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Major Refit of a Columbia 43

I am starting a major project to refit my newly-acquired Columbia 43. It's an ambitious project, and I welcome comments, suggestions, etc.

Here is my high-level project list:[LIST=1][*]Hull-deck joint. It leaks. Worse, it is the dreaded H-Channel construction, the hardest of all to repair. And you can't tell which part of the joint leaks, because the inboard side of the joint is covered with a flattened aluminum tunnel thing that simply transports water from wherever it enters the boat to wherever there is a gap in the tunnel. Oh -- and I have 86 feet of hull deck joint to repair.[*]Through-hulls. Some are frozen solid. Others need servicing. No big deal. But others are located under parts of the cabin sole that are non-removable. If they ever leaked, I will own a submarine, not a sailboat. But that's OK, because the cabin sole is ugly, and I plan on ripping it all out anyway.[*]Electrical. Rewire the whole boat. Existing wires are not labeled, and don't have watertight connecters. And I have about a dozen switches scattered about that don't seem to do anything, and are not labeled. But rewiring won't be so bad, given the next item...[*]Gut and rebuild the interior. The original Columbia 43 was designed as a racer-cruiser, but was laid out more like a racer. There is plenty of interior space, but it's not well used. So I plan on redoing most of it. Just not all in one go, because I want to use the boat during the summer, and I won't have time to rebuild the entire interior in one winter. Redesigning the interior has been a lot of fun, and I hope I get some comments on what I have in mind.[*]NMEA 2000. I bought a fairly robust set of NMEA instruments (B and G Zeus2 plotter, Lowrance 4G radar, wind instrument, DST sensor, etc. Plus a nifty component that lets you connect the engine instrument panel to the network. The boat has an ancient Cetek autopilot that doesn't work - but I hope to salvage the hydraulic ram, rudder position indicator, and maybe the electronic compass. We'll see.[*]Numerous miscellany. A new 40 - 50 gallon holding tank designed so that it will not ever, under any circumstances, ever, ever smell. Ditto for the gray water tank. Build a new companionway door, beef up the fresh water system, install a diesel cabin heater, sew new sail covers, dodger, and bimini, reinstall four large solar panels that came with the boat (but were located on a huge arch that I disposed of), and lots more.
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Old 13-10-2015, 06:25   #2
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Re: Major Refit of a Columbia 43

Congrats on the project! Very nice descriptions on the hull deck joint. That "H" design does look problematic .

Problem I see with your solutions to the hull deck joint is that they could be temporary. I might think about just grinding the whole aluminum "H" extrusion out from the outside using a 4 inch grinder with 36 grit flap disc. Grind nearly all the way though the fiberglass at the joint. Tapering out to the rivet holes then permanently joining the hull deck with a layup of fiberglass and epoxy. Leave what is left of the extrusion on the inside. I would do this in sections as you suggested . I nice clean solution, no trim pieces needed.
Fairing and repainting the area would go quicker than you think. The whole job would take 2 to 3 weeks full time work I would think.

The inaccessible through hulls can also be ground off and removed and the holes repaired from the outside. Saving your ripping out the flooring. Have fun


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Old 13-10-2015, 07:38   #3
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Re: Major Refit of a Columbia 43

Thanks, Chuck -- very helpful. If you don't mind, I'll copy your comments to the blog, to keep a complete record there.

Serendipity - Columbia 43
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Old 13-10-2015, 12:10   #4
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Re: Major Refit of a Columbia 43

LW--good luck. It sounds like you don't have much to start out with. Be aware that the finished boat will likely be worth much less than the amount you put into it.
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Old 14-10-2015, 07:39   #5
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Re: Major Refit of a Columbia 43

The inequality between money in and resale value is a fact of life, I agree. But I'm doing this mostly because I like building things, and I love the challenge of making something better. I'm not likely to be selling the boat any time soon.
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Old 14-10-2015, 08:00   #6
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Re: Major Refit of a Columbia 43

The “H” joint is one of the hardest to fix. You can’t really take it apart and expect to get it back together without a great deal of difficulty. The hull and deck were assembled in a jig. If you remove the channel, both will be unsupported and floppy.

Most joints of this type are fastened with pop rivets. Each fastener, as well as the top deck and bottom hull joint, are possible sources of leaks.

First step is to eliminate any leaks from the pop rivets. If they are still tight, you can try sealing the head of each one with 3M5200. If they are loose, you can carefully drill them out and replace them. Make sure you use aluminum pop rivets with closed ends. The closed ends eliminate another potential source of leaks. Dab each rivet with sealant as you replace it.

The outside top and bottom edges are another potential source of leaks in this type of joint. You can try “Captain Tolleys” if you feel lucky. Otherwise, clean the sealant out of the seam as well as you can. Use a thin blade to scrape out as much of the old sealant as you can. The edges of the fiberglass deck and hull won’t be uniform, so the gap will vary from place to place.

Mask off the edges of the channel and the deck or hull with tape. Then force sealant into the seam with as much force as you can. Clean off the excess sealant for a smooth seam.

Wish yourself luck.
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Old 14-10-2015, 08:35   #7
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Re: Major Refit of a Columbia 43

See also ➥ 600 Outfit & Furnishing
Particularly ➥ Rub Rail Repair

And ➥ http://www.columbia26mk2.com/c26hude.gif
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Old 14-10-2015, 09:08   #8
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Re: Major Refit of a Columbia 43

The deck of a 43' sailboat held on with pop-rivets?!

Plan A from your blog seems temporary at best. Plan B seems labor intensive and still a little lacking in the strength and longevity department.

Depending on your ultimate goal and plans for the use of the boat, plan B may or may not be adequate.

If I wanted to fix it as permanently as possible, I'd ditch the whole aluminum H-channel system completely. I would replace it in six to eight foot sections, by grinding the outboard flange off completely, then pulling the remaining piece out from inside. I would then grind the inside of the joint to down to raw glass and lamiinate a 3" X 5/16" (or so, ideally it would be the same thickness as the hull in that area) strip of G10 over the joint with epoxy/milled fiber putty. Then I would mechanically attach the hull and deck by bolting the flanges to the G10 with 5/16" SS countersunk bolts and lock nuts and washers, Finally I would grind the outside and cover the whole joint, bolts and all, with fiberglass and epoxy resin.

I only suggest something this involved because of the extensive nature of your other outlined work. If you're gutting and rebuilding the interior, what better time to fix it permanently?
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Old 14-10-2015, 10:11   #9
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Re: Major Refit of a Columbia 43

It might help if you post photos, here, of the hull/deck joint.

The removal of a portion of the original extrusion will have somewhat compromised the joint. So, in addition to re-sealing it, you must be concerned with reinforcing the joint, once you have removed the rub rails. Adding sufficient fiberglass reinforcement will make a big job to cover or fair it. Adding a teak rub rail won't do much to reinforce the joint, but might cover most of the repair. The joint must stand on its own merit.
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Old 14-10-2015, 10:19   #10
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Re: Major Refit of a Columbia 43

Yes please post pictures.

We have toe rail/deck "issues" as well but are built differently (ferrocement).
I'll be very interested to see your fix and processes. We've done a 2-5 year fix because it'll take years to correct this problem at it's source and I WANT TO GO SAILING.

Good luck, it looks like you have a good plan.
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Old 14-10-2015, 14:34   #11
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Re: Major Refit of a Columbia 43

Like these.
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Old 15-10-2015, 22:43   #12
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Re: Major Refit of a Columbia 43

Gord -- that last drawing looks very much like mine. And everyone -- thank you for the comments. All very helpful.

Some comments.

Chuck: If I grind off the H-channel from the outside, and grind the glass almost all the way, I could then build it back up just like repairing a crack. But with a 12:1 bevel, this would require a 6-inch grind above and below the joint (assuming a 1/2" hull thickness). That's no problem on the deck side, but it would intrude about four inches into the Awl-grip hull paint. Even if I fair it beautifully, the transition will be pretty clear. I could get around this by adding a decorative stripe along the lower edge of the repair. But the repaired area wouldn't be Awl-gripped (unless I take that on myself -- yikes!). So overall, I'm a bit worried about the final cosmetics.

Jim: Removing the complete H-channel including the inside extrusion, installing a G10 backing strip, etc. would make for a very strong, permanent solution. Two problems in my case: one, the visual transition from the repaired area to the existing Awl-Grip (as described above). Two, although I will be redoing the entire interior, I was hoping to do it in stages. The aft cabin one winter, the main saloon the next, and the forward stateroom the winter after that. So the entire insides won't be "available" all at once. But I think if I could solve the exterior cosmetic issues, the strength of your suggested solution is very attractive.


Thanks again to all -- please keep the comments coming!
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Old 16-10-2015, 12:29   #13
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Re: Major Refit of a Columbia 43

OK, team -- how about this. If I bolt on a strip of G10, I have a major external finishing job. But would this be strong enough:



I have no problem getting a 12:1 bevel below the joint, but there may not be enough room above the joint. Epoxying on a G10 backing strip to span the whole works should add sufficient strength to make up for the reduced bevel. After all, if I did have 12:1 bevel above and below the joint, that would be good enough even for a hull repair below the water line. This one is far above the waterline. For extra strength, I would glass in large G10 knees between the hull and the deck about every 8 or 10 feet.

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Old 16-10-2015, 12:39   #14
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Re: Major Refit of a Columbia 43

Forget the G10.

And I see nothing in your sketch preventing you from using 12:1 on both sides of the bevel, and, in fact, carrying the glass way past the edge of the bevel. But what you have not shown is that there are interior liners in the way of making this repair from the inside, are there not?
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Old 16-10-2015, 13:15   #15
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Re: Major Refit of a Columbia 43

Have you checked in with the Columbia Owners Group on Yahoo groups? It's pretty active and others there with 43s.
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