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Old 16-05-2016, 19:46   #1
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Wood rotting in cabin of 1978 Catalina 27'

We've had our 1978 Catalina 27' for a few years now. This is our first boat and are learning as we go. We keep her in the water all winter as our marina has a bubble system to keep ice from freezing around the boats.

At the end of each season we take out all the seat cushions, etc., in the boat and put in our attic. Over the winter the inside gets pretty disgusting -- a lot of black mold and dirt particularly on the starboard side. So at the beginning of each season we spend a couple days really scrubbing her down with comet to get rid of the mold.

This past weekend we spent our time scrubbing her down with comet. We also scrub over the interior wood as well -- never see any mold on it but figured it was good to give everything a good spring scrub down.

Yesterday we noticed that the bottom of the wood wall between the bathroom and rest of cabin was literally falling apart. As we were scrubbing it was literally all just breaking off; now there's a hole at the bottom between the bathroom and rest of cabin on the starboard side. And it would be easy to continue to break it off by hand but we didn't. Just spraying the comet off with the hose broke off the wood.
  1. Are we supposed to be doing something to maintain this wood other than washing down with soap each spring?
  2. I guess it would be considered rotten at this point?
  3. How should this get fixed?

Thanks!
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Old 16-05-2016, 20:50   #2
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Re: Wood rotting in cabin of 1978 Catalina 27'

lucky for you it sounds like its only one side, and one spot. there are a few ways to fix this, some are easier than others. first will be remove the rotten bulkhead (and everything that is attached to it) use what it left of bulkhead as a pattern, make a new bulkhead, paint,epoxy, varnish (however you like, just make sure it's totaly sealed) replace and re-attach everything. or you can cut the bottom off, remove, use that as a pattern, cut new piece, paint and replace. now use some thickened epoxy (like bondo, but stronger) to fill the seam, sand, paint, and put another piece of wood over the seam, sand and paint. now i'm sure there are other people who have other ways (some of them do this for a living) and they will say so. as for cleaning, comet works ok on fiberglass, but on wood i would not use it. use murphys oil soap and pledge. (just not on the floors, for that i use hardwood floor cleaner/restorer)
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Old 16-05-2016, 21:10   #3
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Re: Wood rotting in cabin of 1978 Catalina 27'

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Originally Posted by fisherman.ben View Post
lucky for you it sounds like its only one side, and one spot. there are a few ways to fix this, some are easier than others. first will be remove the rotten bulkhead (and everything that is attached to it) use what it left of bulkhead as a pattern, make a new bulkhead, paint,epoxy, varnish (however you like, just make sure it's totaly sealed) replace and re-attach everything. or you can cut the bottom off, remove, use that as a pattern, cut new piece, paint and replace. now use some thickened epoxy (like bondo, but stronger) to fill the seam, sand, paint, and put another piece of wood over the seam, sand and paint. now i'm sure there are other people who have other ways (some of them do this for a living) and they will say so. as for cleaning, comet works ok on fiberglass, but on wood i would not use it. use murphys oil soap and pledge. (just not on the floors, for that i use hardwood floor cleaner/restorer)
Thanks so much for responding and for the suggestion on Murphy's Oil for cleaning wood inside cabin -- that sounds good. Just a few questions:
  1. Beyond washing with Murphy's Oil every spring, are we supposed to be putting some kind of varnish on the wood inside the cabin every year as maintenance to prevent rotting?
  2. I don't even know what kind of wood this is. It came with the boat and is original. Do you know what kind of wood we would need (we'd like to match the rest of the cabin of course which has the original wood).
  3. I just wonder why this would happen? You are correct, the port side wood is fine.
  4. So you are saying the easier way is to just cut out the bottom and somehow reattach to the existing wall that's there?
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Old 16-05-2016, 21:46   #4
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Re: Wood rotting in cabin of 1978 Catalina 27'

it probly rotted out because its in the head and you tend to get more water leaking and more condonsation in them (splashes from sink, using the shower ext) you can sand and varnish (8-10 coats) then just dust. i use pledge and murphys, (murphys first, (once) then pledge (2 times )in the spring and pledge once more in the end of july. interior only, outside its varnish.(i have about 10 coats) they probly used marine plywood, you might have to stain it to get it close to match the color. or just paint it white and use the old trim.
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Old 17-05-2016, 05:54   #5
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Re: Wood rotting in cabin of 1978 Catalina 27'

Once you get the wood work fixed/replaced, I would strongly suggest a dehumidifier as a preventative mearsure. My wife and I have our little Catalina 28 in a marina in Florida and I run a small Eva Dry dehumidier anytime we aren't out sailing. You can find them on amazon for under $60 and they do a great job of keeping the mold and mildew from forming by keeping the relative humidity low in the cabin. It has a float switch in the reservior which will shut the unit down if the reservoir gets full before you have a chance to empty it, but I drilled a small hole in mine and carefully inserted a fitting that has threads on one side and a barbed 1/4 inch hose fitting on the other. It's a hard plastic that doesn't lend itself to cutting threads very well, if I recall I increased drill size by 1/64 at a time until I was able to just work the threads in with some silicone sealer. I stand this little unit on the counter top in the galley and run the 1/4 inch hose into the sink, leaving the drain through hull open and it works very well. Originally I had taken a 5 gallon bucket with a lid and cut a hole in the lid for the hose to go through, effectively a 5 gallon reservior, and stood the unit on top of the bucket. When we arrived to go sailing we would dump the bucket and put the dehumidifier in the bucket and leave it on the dock while we sailed but I've since gone to just draining through the sink through hull. It doesn't use much electricity and the cabin never smells damp.

Amazon.com: Eva-dry Edv-1100 Electric Petite Dehumidifier, White: Home & Kitchen
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Old 17-05-2016, 08:36   #6
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Re: Wood rotting in cabin of 1978 Catalina 27'

You probably should look for the leak that may be causing the rot. I sure would not be willing to assume that the rot was due to spillage in the head. As for repairs, remove and replace is your only real option
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Old 17-05-2016, 09:30   #7
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Re: Wood rotting in cabin of 1978 Catalina 27'

many times bulkheads are actually structural members of the boat. also the plywood can be weakened by stress which also degrades similar to wood rot. at least you should remove all rotten wood and see what can be done to fix it. the best solution is to replace the entire piece but that may not be possible if the builder put the plywood in before attaching the deck to the hull
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Old 17-05-2016, 09:47   #8
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Re: Wood rotting in cabin of 1978 Catalina 27'

I'm pretty surprised an interior panel would get that rotten. I suspect more than just a bit of moisture. What's the boat history? ever been partially sunk? Is this a structural bulkhead on that boat or just a divider panel?
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Old 17-05-2016, 09:47   #9
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Re: Wood rotting in cabin of 1978 Catalina 27'

Just removing and replacing wood in the immediate area whereit has decayed is not enuff. The mycelium of the fungus will radiate out from the affected area in search of further food sources and the spores of the fungus will, as the individual fruiting bodies mature, be spread through the air.

If the boat is worth it, then have all interior surfaces treated with pentachorophenol or similar fungicide. You DON'T want to mess with Penta yourself, and the EPA would be very unhappy with you if you do it. You prolly couldn't even buy it if you tried, unless you are a licensed pest exterminator. Hire a licensed professional to do it

Given that a 35 year old Catalina 27 can be bought for three kilobux, the sensible thing to do, IMO, would be to just buy another if it were not for the fact that where you are, like here, the cost of destruction and disposal of a pile of cut up fibreglass would likely be yours to bear.

In wooden boats of yore where "dry rot" (which is a result of excess moisture) is always present, the remedy was to sink the boat in salt water for a year or two.

Once the fungus has been eradicated you can begin to think about replacement of damaged parts of the interior.

Best to have a pest control professional give you an estimate on the rot remediation, I think.

TrentePieds
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Old 17-05-2016, 10:16   #10
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Re: Wood rotting in cabin of 1978 Catalina 27'

Check your chain plates!!!!!!!!


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Old 17-05-2016, 11:00   #11
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Re: Wood rotting in cabin of 1978 Catalina 27'

If memory is correct, that is a marine ply bulkhead. If it is rotting at the base, then you got normal water being splashed around from the head, windows, and folks just being messy. Unless it would offend aesthetics, just saturate with epoxy and then put a rubber molding along the base to keep further water away from it. Its an old boat after all.

If the water is along the hull area, then chainplates, hull/deck joints, etc are leaking. Bigger issue.

If the "rot" which is probably more likely delamination of the plywood, is in the center of the panel, you might have a leak down through the deck core. Ugh.
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Old 17-05-2016, 11:09   #12
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Re: Wood rotting in cabin of 1978 Catalina 27'

The fact that you have to clean all the mould up in the spring should be telling you that you have a really damp environment. It is not normal to have to do this!

You need to take measures to prevent all this damp. Heater, dehumidifier, ventilation, whatever.

Now you need to repair the wood that rotted. The problem is that plywood is like a sponge for damp, and then it rots from the inside out. You probably need to replace the rotted bulkhead.

I had a similar problem with a bulkhead that was sitting in water all the time at the bottom.
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Old 17-05-2016, 11:14   #13
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Re: Wood rotting in cabin of 1978 Catalina 27'

If you have power available these things are amazing. I used to use 100 watt bulbs but of course they would burn out between visits. These units go on forever. I just helped to sell a boat that had sat unused for 7 years. It had one of these on inside and it was still going. Boat was a mess outside but nice and dry inside. Well worth the money. ... and only draw like a 100 watt bulb. Davis Air-Dryr 1000 Mildew Fighter-Air-Dryr Davis - Star Marine Depot
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Old 17-05-2016, 12:12   #14
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Re: Wood rotting in cabin of 1978 Catalina 27'

A little more detail please. How big is the area, is it just the face of the plywood that is delaminating or is it a hole all the way thru? I would be surprised if you needed to replace the whole bulkhead as some has suggested. The dehumidifier ideas are good. Also vinegar works very well on mold.
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Old 17-05-2016, 13:13   #15
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Re: Wood rotting in cabin of 1978 Catalina 27'

I agree with Schrewsburyduo , unless your head is leaking lots - the water is coming in from the chain plates -- with that much rot on the partition - I suspect you will also have to pull the chainplate and take care of the rot between the deck and the inside liner.

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