Part of the fun in my search for a boat was determining which of a vast roster of sailboat poxes and maladies should count as a plus on the scoresheet and which a minus. From hull blisters to fiberglass delamination, rot, soaked cores, decayed fasteners and decrepit systems, these boats had them all. But which were desirable features? (Hint: don’t pick hull blisters!) I could count my purchase budget on one hand in less than a hand’s worth of figures so I knew I was going to have to settle for a few ailments. Fortunately some common problems will greatly depress a boat’s value while creating a minimum of repair hassles. Deck core damage can be one of these but it can also cause much more serious problems.
Often all it takes is a poorly bedded fastener or two to rot out the wood core common to most fiberglass decks and/or delaminate the upper and layer skins, resulting in a spot where the deck feels ‘squishy’. Even when not bad enough to detect underfoot water in an airless deck core can quickly lead to corrosion of stainless steel fasteners or through-deck chainplates. Doesn’t sound good, huh? But there’s a plus side to this – squishy decks are a huge value-killer on a used sailboat seemingly regardless of where they are located. And as long as the water damage has been contained to the deck itself it is a relatively easy and cheap repair. As I recounted in this post my boat turned out to have a few more issues than we first realized, including quite a bit of water damage to the cored decks. Conveniently (for you, not me) this provides a good picture of a few common causes and effects of deck core damage. Here’s an illustrated guide to what I’ve learned on the subject. Maybe you can avoid the mistakes I made?
First, lets look at the simplest case:
Supposedly one of the previous owners was a very large man. This is the section of deck where he would step on and off of the boat. Apparently it wasn’t up to the task!
|Very bad news!|
|Once upon a time this was bone-dry end grain balsa..|
Looks pretty bad, huh? Actually, this is a great example of core damage which will slash the value of a boat without being a particularly serious problem. Despite the size of the damaged area (around 6’sq.) this turned out to be a relatively simple and cheap repair.
This, on the other hand, was not:
Here then is an important lesson: It is absolutely essential to properly bed all through-deck fittings and fasteners! One foolish mistake made by whoever installed that pumpout fitting (and a few similarly ill-placed mistakes) has given me the task of replacing all the chainplates on the boat, probably my single biggest task in the entire refit. It is a little infuriating, to say the least.
Along with near the chainplates another key area to look out for water damage is near the base of a deck-stepped mast. This almost always means major structural repairs are needed. Fortunately this was one bullet we managed to dodge- the base of my mast is sturdy and dry because the builders prudently eliminated the core in favor of solid laminate in this critical area.
So what lessons did I learn about water damage? Well I still believe that for someone willing to do some repair work a wet deck core can be a real selling point, allowing you to buy a boat otherwise out of your means. However, and this is a big one, it is imperative to determine whether the water has damaged anything in addition to the deck itself. We failed to do this and I am still paying the price in added labor and costs.
Up next I’ll walk you through how we repaired the damaged areas of the deck.
This article was syndicated from Safe At Harbour But Meant For The Sea: DIY Sailing with Paul Calder