After removing the windlass we checked the exposed core with our moisture meter and found that it was 100% saturated. This was no surprise as we had already marked out the area to be re-cored based on soundings with the ball peen hammer. Once all the deck hardware was removed (windlass, foot pedals, water tank inlet, and cowl vent) we marked out the general area to remove in straight lines and got out the angle grinder! Just a note here, we are using the angle grinder because its fast, efficient, and can fit into the small spaces we need to navigate. If we were working in a more un-restricted space a circular saw or router which you can accurately control the depth of would be the better choice. As it is, we are just trying to be very careful not to go too deep and just try to cut the top fiberglass layer.
Erin and I carefully peeled back the top layer of fiberglass using several chisels as wedges, hammering them in in an alternating fashion to apply even upward pressure. It took five or ten minutes but the last little bit came free and we got to see the true mess underneath! The core was sopping wet and black rotten. You can see the area we cut up last week is nice and dry now. We will let both of these sit with the air dryer until we get very low moisture readings at which point the repair will begin.
A note to other Alberg 37 owners:
One of our major concerns when purchasing any boat but especially an older boat such as our Alberg and our 1986 Catalina is the condition of the cored deck. It is a basic fact of life that too many older boats suffer from core rot and delamination mainly due to careless hardware installation. This is easily seen in our last post about the windlass. Luckily our Catalina is in bristol condition all around but we bought the Alberg knowing that the deck would need work. We were very concerned about the stanchion bases as they are deck mounted and their installation leaves something to be desired. After talking with the Alberg37 International Owners Association who are excellent resources and great people we felt comfortable knowing that there was solid fiberglass extending at least three inches inward of the toe rail all around. Since we were so close to the toe rail for this last cut we intentionally cut along the four inch line coming in from the toe rail. We were pleasantly surprised that the balsa core actually starts 5 inches inward of the toe rail! This is up at the forepeak, we don’t know how much the fiberglass extends inwards in other locations on our boat and I just received word from another owner that theirs did not extend as far on the side decks. We are going to do our side decks as well so I will make sure to take measurements there as well.
We took some pictures from the port and starboard sides respectively as a resource for others who may need to do this down the road: