I started to notice something a little odd up on the foredeck when I took off the shrink wrap last June. I thought I felt a little soft area up there. But I attributed that to my cushy sneakers. The season progressed and other things occupied my mind. We still went out and anchored, and I started getting that feeling again every time I went up on the bow. I remember the day in August when I was sure we had a problem. Going up on the bow to pull up the anchor, I was sure I saw the deck flex under the strain. I started to worry that the windlass would rip off and splash into the bay. It was time to get serious about this.
It just happened that as I was on the dock one day doing something on the boat that I met Will K, who happens to be the Service Advisor of Strong’s Yacht Center. I mentioned that I had a soft spot on the bow of my boat and he came aboard and took a look with me. We both hammered some on the deck and found a likely area that sounded different from the rest, and then I stood on it while Will looked closely at the deck. Sure enough it flexed, and please no weight jokes! We spoke some about it and he said he had someone that would be able to repair it. I told him I would be hauling the boat out mid October and after I winterized it we could trailer the boat to his shop.
And that is what I did. Rich hauled the boat out, and his crew power washed her and blocked her up. I came out and winterized all the systems, then my wife and I removed everything we could from the boat. After that Dean and Kevin loaded her up on the hydraulic boat trailer and took her to the Yacht Center. The very next day Joe and Dawn of J. Roger Marine, contractors working for Strong’s, started cutting into the deck. They managed to remove half of the foredeck and what they found was scary! The little soft spot was fully half of the foredeck, and it also went down the port side deck about five feet or so. Surprise! Not really what I was hoping for, but something that had to be taken care of.
Will K sent me pictures of the progress almost daily, and one thing stood out to me immediately. If you look at the pictures after all the rotten coring was removed, you can see a composite board where the windlass was mounted to the deck, as well as a cleat in front of the windlass.
You can also see with the deck removed that the windlass and the cleat were both only mounted on half of the board and the other half of each was bolted through the coring material. not a good way to install either of them and certainly inviting water intrusion. I happened to be on vacation as Will sent me those pictures, and wanted to make sure that when those two items were re-installed that the board was extended to make a more secure mounting area. I did not need to worry, as Joe and Dawn had seen that problem and went ahead and corrected it. After talking with Joe and Dawn, I understand that this is common in most modern vessels that are cored with balsa wood.
Great care must be used to properly seal the holes when drilling through coring material.
Joe gave me a sample of new balsa coring, and a composite coring called Coosa. Balsa is supposed to be very good when sealed properly, key word being properly. The Coosa coring is supposed to be stronger and lighter than balsa, and that is what they used in my deck repair. I guess time will tell!
As the project comes to an end there are a few more things I want to add. I made a template for a stainless steel plate roughly 4 inches wide by 36 inches long to protect the bow from the chain and also to help prevent flexing of the foredeck. I also want to make a larger backing plate for the windlass for the same reason. Finding polished stainless steel is not easy, and cutting a piece is very hard. I have access to a plasma torch, but that could easily turn the edges blue. I have found a supplier of stainless, and they cut custom sizes. As soon as I can get a template made I will mail it to them for a price. If it gets too crazy I will consider making the plate out of aluminum and powder coating it. But I doubt that it would hold up with the anchor chain rubbing across it.. When all the fiberglass work is done, the boat will be loaded back onto the trailer and Kevin will deliver her to Dickson’s Marine. There, Rick Stettner and I will plan a comprehensive overhaul of some of the mechanical systems including removing both engines,and modifying them in ways to make service points more accessible. But that is another story!